A Weekend in the Canadian Rockies

Well I used my 3 days of Annual Leave to go and visit the Canadian Rockies.

A good friend of mine; Ginger not only offered to pick me up and take me, but also put me up in her house, made all arrangements, lent me gear, and the list goes on.   I’m forever in her debt as this was an amazing experience.

Although I’ve been to Alberta many times, I’ve never really visited the Alberta side of the Rockies  (Although, I have been into the Alberta foothills when I visited RMNCSTC).  I have been to the Rockies in BC, The Yukon, Colorado and New Mexico.

Friday was my first day of leave.  It started in the PACSTC Mess where I received my 3 year mug.   This is a great military tradition receiving a mug from a Mess.  I will cherish my mug.

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After the mug presentation, Ginger picked me up and we drove to Calgary.   Now just to help illustrate how great she is, she had just came back from a two week work trip to New York.   She flew home, went and dropped off her belongings and then drove the 150 km (one way) to come and get me.   We got into her house shortly after midnight.

Day two of leave – We woke up near 7 and packed and got ready for our weekend.   By 9:30 we were on the road.

First stop was the National Biathlon Training Center at the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park.   I really do love the sport of Biathlon, it was great to get out here and see somewhere that I’ve heard a lot about.   It was even better as there were athletes out training on their roller skies, and shooting targets.

I was surprised to see how close the Banff and the Mountains were to Calgary.   The people of that city are fortunate, and congrats to the people that have figured out how close the mountains are and take advantage of it.

Next we continued north to Lake Louise and then the plan was to backtrack to Banff

Lake Louise; I consider to be one of Canada’s National Treasures.   I knew it was a popular tourist destination, but was not prepared for the number of people that would be there. We hiked the trail around part of the lake, I took some pictures and enjoyed a truly beautiful scene.

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MoraineLake – The view off the old, old $20 bill.   I don’t remember hearing of MoraineLake, but am sure that I must have.   It is funny since the visit how many times I’ve seen its picturesque view of the mountains.   There were less tourists here, but still enough.   Here we hiked the trail to the end of the lake.   I really enjoyed this stop.   It was beautiful, not a lot of people.

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I had fun climbing the rock pile near the lodge.  Although there is a trail (I didn’t know it at the time, I’m guessing it would have been easier, but not as much fun; besides I saw many other people using my method) I used the less conventional way of scurrying across the log jam, and then bounding my way up the boulders.  I was surprised with how quickly I climbed.   From here the view was amazing.  This is where the $20 pick was taken from as well as others I’ve seen since.

We drove back to Banff, this time along this time instead of sticking to the Icefields Parkway which we just drove, we used the Bow Valley Parkway which was also beautiful with much less traffic but a bit more ‘mountainous’.

Once in Banff we went to the Cave and Basins, we got there moments too late to enter, but hiked around the grounds.   I had heard about the famed Banff Hot Springs, and knew that in the past people had travelled to Banff for the medicinal properties of the Hot Springs.   The current hot springs that people visit have been moved from the former cave and basin site.   The past site is beautiful, with much to offer.   I loved the smell of sulphur, looking down into the caves, which I’ll have to return and enter at another time.  The environment is unique and home to an endangered little snail; The Banff Springs Snail, that is only found here.

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We then went and bought our lunch for the next day and went out for supper at the Grizzly House Restaurant; Banff’s famous Fondue restaurant!   It was a good evening we were joined by two of Ginger’s friends, one of whom was staying to join us for tomorrow.  The food was good, the company better.   I must admit I was trepidatious, and still not sure how I feel morally about eating at a place that had some ‘rare’ meats on their menu such as SHARK, Alligator and Rattlesnake.  The moral dilemma was due to the SHARK; The world population of sharks has been decimated in recent years due to the disgusting practice of finning.  To learn more I strongly suggest watching SharkWater; a documentary by a Canadian who is passionate about his SHARKS.

Part of me though did want to try the rattle snake; although I am not sure about how stable the population is; I do know that spending some of my early life growing up on the shores of Georgian Bay that the once endangered Mississauga Rattler is making a come back.  There is something alluring about flesh from an animal I was taught to fear, was told was deadly.  Something I always wanted to do was drink snake blood (I think I saw the movie and read the book The Beach too many times.), but not in Banff.   Lol

After eating far too much it was time to tuck in at the Banff Park Lodge.

The next morning was what the trip was all about; hiking to the Burgess Shale.

The hike itself is 20km through YohoNational Park with a gain in elevation of about 900 meters.   Now 20km did not sound bad to me.   An easy hike at home; not so in the Mountains.   I had looked at a trail profile and knew that from kilometre 1-2 would be bad, and a little near kilometre 8, as well as the very end.   Wow I was wrong, for the most part from kilometre 6 on was a bit of a bitch.  My cardio should have been better so that I could truly enjoy the hike, but I did survive, no pain, no gain right.

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Ginger had done the hike the year before, and when I saw her pictures on facebook, I knew I too wanted to do it.   Leading up to the trip, it became a bucket list item that I didn’t know would have been.   I’m not sure entirely what drew me to it.   I remember hearing about the ‘kicking horse’ growing up, and this hike was through part of the kicking horse valley.   I loved the mountains as a kid, and think I fantasized about the days of yore and being a mountain man.   More recently I use the Burgess Shale in discussing fossils when teaching Evolution.   So this trip had a lot of appeal to me.

It started at TakakkawFalls. The drive was wonderful, as the road wound along the KickingHorseRiver.  The parking lot at the base of the falls was great, and offered a wonderful view of a truly magnificent waterfall.   We met our group which was organized by the Canmore Museum & Geoscience Centre (of which Ginger is a Board member) as a fundraiser, but ultimately the hike was hosted by the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation.   Our guide was Rob Taerum, who did an excellent job.

The hike up the mountain took 6 hours, and was interspersed with a few breaks where we ate lunch and were also given talks about the geology and history along the way.   It was really enjoyable, but difficult, the altitude and lack of cardio truly had an affect for me.

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Once we got to the top, I was tuckered.  Although I looked at the fossils, they did not have examples of some of my favourite precambiran species; Sanctacaris, Pikaia, and Hallucigenia.   But did have some examples of Canadaspis as well as many other species.   However, I quickly learnt that I was not overly impressed with the fossils, yes they were cool, but not as fascinating as the view.   Maybe because they did not have my favourites, and/or maybe because I was tired.

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To learn more about the Burgess Shale, Charles Walcott, and the species found there visit these two links;

http://www.burgess-shale.bc.ca/   and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgess_Shale

The hike down was fast and easy, and took less than two hours.

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Ginger then drove me all the way back to PACSTC; 350 KM where I picked up my phone and was back on duty before she turned around and drove the rest of the way home where she would have to start work in the morning.

What an excellent last adventure to end my summer at PACSTC.

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One Response to A Weekend in the Canadian Rockies

  1. Pingback: A Weekend in the Mountains… | Mr. Mitchell's Biology

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