Category Archives: International

Ucluelet and Tofino, BC, Canada 8/9/17 – 8/10/17

 

Wednesday and Thursday, August 9-10, 2017

Ucluelet and Tofino, British Columbia

 

We made the long drive from Jasper down to Vancouver through the thick smoke of myriad forest fires.  We spent a quick night in Vancouver at a B&B and then took the ferry over to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and drove for 4 hours over to Ucluelet.

On the way out of Jasper we made a quick stop at the Mt Robson visitor center and then some random (and beautiful) falls and a fruit stand when we got closer to Vancouver.

 

Once on Vancouver Island, we stopped at Cathedral Grove to walk through the Douglas Firs that are hundreds of years old.  They aren’t as big as sequoias, but still impressive.

Biggest tree in the grove

 

After a winding three hour drive, we arrived at Ucluelet and our lodge, right on the foggy beach.

Deck view

 

We drove up to Tofino, a more touristy surf town about 30 miles away, and had dinner and booked a whale watching tour.  Both towns are awesome.  We came in an interesting time of year where the warm air off the island meets the cold Pacific air, causing fog almost all of the time, except for the afternoons.  The locals call it “Fogust” instead of August.

Sea planes that Doc loved

Fog in the distance

 

The next morning, I woke up early and went for a hike along part of the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet.  There had been wolf sightings along the trail in the past year, so there were signs warning about hiking with dogs.  That was an interesting way to start the hike.  Hike was about 3.7 miles.

Trail Head

Map

 

It was nice hiking along the rocky shores and cliffs in the early morning chill and fog.  I saw a bald eagle as well, but barely got a photo before he dove out of view.

Bald Eagle is there, you just have to squint

Lots of these guys

Tree growing out of another tree

 

When I got back to the cabin, we ate breakfast and headed to the Ucluelet Aquarium, which was really cool.  It is just a small, one-room building on the water, but is very informative and gets all of its animals and water from the surrounding bay.  It is a “catch-and-release” aquarium and species are released back to the water each fall.  Highly recommended if you’re ever in the area.  Here’s their website: https://uclueletaquarium.org/

 

We went on our whale watching tour that afternoon, but only saw a couple of Gray Whales from a long distance.  They were in shallow water, so we never really saw their tails.  I got a good shot of a sea otter though, which are my favorite anyway.

Whale watching in the fog

Sea otter!

Steller sea lions

 

To end the trip, we drove down for a quick evening in Victoria (we will be going back there for sure) and then across the strait to Seattle and home.

Morning at the hotel in Victoria

This entire trip could certainly be labeled once in a lifetime, but we definitely want to come back to several different spots and spend more time.  Thanks to Doc and Suz for enjoying it with us and thanks to Canada for just being all around awesome.

Jasper and Maligne Lake – Alberta, Canada 8/6/17 – 8/8/17

 

Sunday – Tuesday, August 6 – 8, 2017

 

Jasper and Maligne Lake – Alberta, Canada

 

Jasper Park Lodge

 

We drove into Jasper from the Icefields Parkway and checked into our hotel before driving up to Pyramid Lake and checking out the town.

I have a thing for trains

Main street in Jasper

 

We took in the sunset over Beauvert Lake, just outside our room and then got to sleep.

Beauvert Lake

Our room opening up onto the lake

 

The next day we tackled a short, but steep hike up to Old Fort Point and then explored the various lakes around the area.  The color of the waters are incredible.

Canadian geese outside our room in the morning

Climbing up to start the trail

Old Fort Point – lodge and Beauvert Lake on the right

View of lodge across Beauvert Lake

 

The highlight of the day was the cruise on Maligne Lake out to Spirit Island and back.  This was one of the more beautiful sights on a trip filled with many.

Maligne Lake boathouse – built in 1928

Our tour guides – one Kiwi and one Canuck

Glacier that feeds the lake

Hall of the Gods

Getting dropped off at Spirit Island

Spirit Island

Zen

 

The next day we would make the long drive over to Vancouver for one night and then over to Vancouver Island and Ucluelet and Tofino.

Court and the bears outside the lodge

Icefields Parkway – Alberta, Canada 8/5/17 – 8/6/17

 

Saturday and Sunday, August 5-6, 2017

Icefields Parkway – Alberta, Canada

 

Warning: Long blog post coming!

We left Lake Louise and drove what is considered one of the most beautiful drives on the planet.  Luckily the smoke stayed away again and we had spectacular views.  We had an app that I found before the trip that followed us using GPS and would tell us interesting facts and history about where we were on the drive and what points of interest were coming up, so we made many stops.

First, we headed down to Johnston Canyon, which was actually back towards Banff, but not too far away.

 

After Johnston Canyon, we loaded back up and headed north again, with the big objective of the day being the Columbia Icefield.  Along the way we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls (Why are so many falls named this? Be more creative people!) and got an unexpected surprise – see video.

Bridal Veil Falls

Just another view

Panther Falls

 

We got to the Icefield around 2:30 and it was PACKED.  Luckily, we already had reservations to go up onto the Athabasca glacier in a “snowcoach” and didn’t have to wait in line to buy tickets.  Icefields feed glaciers.  They are likened to a huge lake of ice and glaciers are like rivers coming off them.

We had a quick lunch on the patio of the visitor center and then caught a bus up to the snowcoaches on the glacier.  We then took the coach up to the glacier and were able to walk around on part of it.  It felt like standing in a giant freezer and we drank melt water directly off the glacier.  The experience was pretty incredible.

Packed parking lot, Athabasca Glacier on the left

Sadly, the only mountain goat we would see on this trip

Lunch

On the glacier

Filling up on glacier water

The water was amazing

 

After this we got back to the car and drove to the Skywalk that hangs over a 1000 foot cliff.  I am working on my fear of heights, but that thing moves when you walk on it and is packed with tourists who are oblivious to others.  It was not my favorite.

Great view of the Icefields

 

Our lodge for the night was a little place called Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge.  It was a bit kitschy and not the greatest rooms, but the food was fantastic.  I feel like if I were a kid in the 70s this place would have been awesome.  Reminded us of a Jellystone lodge or something, if you know what that is.

Teepee out front

 

The next morning we woke up and made a quick walk to Sunwapta Falls, just down the road from the lodge.

Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls

 

We loaded back up and continued up the Icefield Parkway towards Jasper.  After a quick stop at Honeymoon Lake, we stopped at an overlook and saw some elk crossing the Athabasca River.

Honeymoon Lake

Mama and baby

Bucks

 

Then we hit the impressive Athabasca Falls.

 

Wow.  From there we headed into Jasper where we would stay at the Fairmont Jasper Lodge, which may have been our favorite of the Fairmonts.

Eiffel Lake Trail – Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada 8/4/17

 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Eiffel Lake Trail – Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada

7.2 miles (11.6 km)

 

This may be the most beautiful place I have been in the world, up to this point.  I had seen photos before, but it is just jaw dropping in real life.  Moraine Lake is located the so-called Valley of the Ten Peaks.

Court, Doc, and I woke up at 6am in order to get a parking spot, as the lot fills up in August by 7 or 8 am and then they shut the road down.  We arrived a little after 6:30am and the lot was about half full.  The color of the lake is more vibrant in full sun, but it was still beautiful before the sun had fully risen and the canoes weren’t out yet.

Parking Lot

Trail Head

Canoes ready to go

 

I knew this trail started out steep, but I underestimated it.  There were 10 switchbacks going up over 1000 feet in roughly half a mile, which was tough.  We took our time though and once we got to the top, the rest of the trail was fairly flat along the contour of the mountain going towards Eiffel Lake.  The wildflowers were in full bloom and the views of the lake through the trees were spectacular.

Starting the climb

Head of a switchback

Resting at the top

Flatter trail

Looking back at the lake

 

About halfway through we came along a marmot literally about 3 feet off the trail.  I froze and stopped Court and Doc, thinking he would frighten easily, but he just kept munching away at the grass next to the trail.  We said hello and went on our way without him missing a beat.

Rocky trail

Marmot

Marmot 2

 

Toward the end, the trail came out of the woods and wound through a scree field as we got close to Eiffel Lake.  The silence was amazing.  We could hear the glaciers and ice across the valley cracking as the morning sun’s rays hit the mountains.  The only other sound was the whistling of the marmots hidden among the rocks.  It was incredible.

Hiking in scree

Some remaining snow

Trail on the right along the scree field

Eiffel Lake

 

We turned and made the trek back down to the lake the way we had come.  The lake was even more brilliant than when we had climbed up and we stopped at the bottom to take our shoes off and dunk our tired feet in the frigid glacial water.

Heading back

Down the switchbacks

End of trail pic

 

At the foot of the lake and start of the trail is a huge rock pile that is actually a glacial moraine (it’s not just a clever name) that formed the lake.  The photos from the top of this rock pile are where the iconic shots are taken that are ubiquitous among Canadian tourism brochures, and with good reason.  I climbed to the top of this pile, clambering up and over precarious boulders with other brave (foolhardy?) tourists instead of taking the easier trail around the back side.

Logs dammed at the rock pile

Glacial moraine damming the lake

 

We got back to the hotel in the early afternoon and decided bring Suz back to Moraine Lake for the sunset.  We couldn’t let her miss this amazing place.

Sunset

Sunset 2

 

As I said, the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.  I hope to eclipse this one day, but it will be difficult.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada 8/3/17 – 8/5/17

 

Thursday, August 3 – Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

 

We arrived at the world famous Chateau Lake Louise and were immediately awestruck.  What a view.  Little did we know it would get even better.

There were a ton of wildfires in BC and one big one just south of Banff.  The wind had shifted overnight and the drive to Lake Louise was pretty smoky, obscuring some of the fantastic scenery.  Luckily, the wind would shift the next day for our big hike at Moraine Lake, which is getting its own blog post.  The first day at Lake Louise, we decided to walk the trail on the water’s edge.  This trail is flat and is actually the beginning of the Plain of Six Glaciers trail, but we only took it to the end of the lake and the delta.

People playing with their dogs in the water at the delta

Rock climber

 

After that short hike (only about 2 miles on flat ground), we drove up to Yoho National Park and saw Emerald Lake, which we WILL be going back to, a beautiful Natural Bridge, and Takakkaw Falls, a 254 meter (833 foot) waterfall. We got the falls in just before the sun set and we headed back to the magnificent Chateau.

Emerald Lake

Takakkaw Falls

 

On the morning we left Lake Louise (the day after the Moraine Lake hike), we woke up at 5am to get to the boat dock on Lake Louise by 5:30 for a sunrise canoe trip.  Court, Doc, and I took a canoe out on the still water and watched the sky get light (it was a bit cloudy) over the Chateau.  It was silent, cold, and beautiful.

Boat dock before dawn

Chateau at dawn

View from our room

 

Up next: Icefields Parkway up to Sunwapta and Jasper.

 

Banff, Alberta, Canada 8/1/17 – 8/3/17

 

August 1-3, 2017

Banff, Alberta, Canada

 

It’s been a long time since I last blogged.  Due to the horrid Texas heat and some other life events, the hiking was basically non-existent this summer, but we ended the summer season with a bang.

Courtney and I, along with her parents, went on a 12 day venture to the Canadian Rockies and British Columbia.  This year is Canada’s 150th birthday as a nation and all of the National Parks are free.  What better time to do them all!

Canada is simply incredible and there are more photos and sights than I could ever reasonably put into blog form, so I am going to attempt to pare down the highlights and hikes into a manageable form.  I will include almost all my videos too.

The first stop on our journey was at the southern end of the Canadian Rockies in Banff.  We flew into Calgary, rented a car, and began our journey that would ultimately cover over 1,300 miles (2092 km).  I got pretty fond of the metric system and wouldn’t actually mind it if the US made the switch.  Probably not gonna happen though.

We stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs and it was beautiful.  We rode the Banff Gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain for some incredible views and lunch.

Banff Springs Fairmont

Vermillion Lakes

Canada 150 sign at Sky Bistro; Mt Sulphur in background

Looking down at Banff Springs Fairmont from Mt Sulphur

Bow River Valley from Mt Sulphur

 

We also saw the Cave and Basin Park (the inspiration for Canada’s National Park system) and took a raft down the Bow River.

Hot springs

Great pose from a curious squirrel

Main Street in Banff

Rafting down Bow River

Rafting down Bow River

 

On the last morning we woke up early and hiked along the Spray River and made a loop back to the hotel, skirting the Banff Springs golf course, and then hitting the famous Bow Falls on the way back.  About 4.5 miles total.

Trail Head

Hotel view from bridge over Spray River in the morning

Bridge over Spray River

Hiking along the golf course and Spray River

Bow Falls

 

Banff was great, but probably the most crowded of any place we went.  On August 3rd, we headed up the highway to Lake Louise, just about a 45 minute drive.  Continued on next post.

Manuel Antonio National Park – Costa Rica 1/24/15

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

 

Hike: Manuel Antonio National Park – Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Weather: HUMID, warm, upper 80s-lower 90s

Hikers: Ian, Court, and most of the wedding party

Length: about 7.5 miles total

 

Our first international hike!  Courtney and I got married in Costa Rica and the morning of the wedding we went with most of the wedding party down the beach to Manuel Antonio National Park for a self-guided hike of the trails.  The hike was fantastic and filled with plenty of unique plants and animals, most of which aren’t usually found in the US.  Capuchin monkeys, Agoutis, Raccoons (which actually go by another name I can’t remember), Iguanas, and multiple bird species surrounded us.  It was pretty amazing.

walking toward the park

walking toward the park

Court looking at one of the hotels off the beach

Court looking at one of the hotels off the beach

park entrance, $16 each

park entrance, $16 each

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first trail head

first trail head

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We took the main trail from the park entrance and then on to the Cathedral Point trail which looped up a peninsula that used to be an island, but has now been reconnected to the mainland by about a 20 yard wide stretch of land.  On this strip are a family of raccoons that love to steal food from unwary beach goers.  I heard stories of them being in cahoots with the Capuchins as well.  After a couple of days in Costa Rica, I remembered what I learned in Sri Lanka: monkeys are cute at first, but their shenanigans get old really fast.

dense forest

dense forest

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as close as I could get without having a heart attack

as close as I could get without having a heart attack

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Iguana

Iguana

Capuchins hanging out

Capuchins hanging out

views through the plants

views through the plants

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beach trail on the narrow strip connected to Cathedral Point

beach trail on the narrow strip connected to Cathedral Point

trail junction

trail junction

Mom leading the others up the steep path to Cathedral Point

Mom leading the others up the steep path to Cathedral Point

 

Cathedral Point was the highest of the hike, but there were several other viewpoints on the way down as well.  It was very warm and you could cut the air in the forest with a knife, but everyone did really well.

big tree

big tree

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Court enjoying the view

Court enjoying the view

one of my favorite pics

one of my favorite pics

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I got really close to this one

I got really close to this one

big palm leaves

big palm leaves

snake right over the trail.  he was thin, but long.  very pretty.

snake right over the trail. he was thin, but long. very pretty.

As I said, the raccoons were fearless.

We all made our way back at our own pace.  I stayed a bit behind with Greg because he hadn’t put his shoes back on from the beach stop we made and we saw another of the green snakes in a creek.  It was holding itself up out of the water and very still, waiting on food to swim down to him I assume.

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What an amazing hike.  I don’t know if we’ll ever make it back, but I’m glad we had the experience, especially with the great family and friends who made it down.  We are very lucky.

Greg, Ike, and I stopped for a cold brew after the hike.  Well deserved.

Greg, Ike, and I stopped for a cold brew after the hike. Well deserved.

The trail map below is the best I could find.  Our route was a combination of the trails on the southwest corner (roughly down the yellow trail, out to the loop on Cathedral Point, then down the purple trail on the beach, then backtracking back to the yellow trail and out).

map