Category Archives: Canada

A Walk Through The Forefield Of The Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Canada

Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, CanadaThe approach to the Saskatchewan Glacier at the Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Canada.

Lying almost on the border of Jasper and Banff National Parks alongside the highway that bears its name, the Columbia Icefields are the most visited attraction in Jasper National Park, and the second most trafficked destination in the Canadian Rockies, only bested by the more convenient Lake Louise.  Were it not for the distance involved in getting here, and the lack of a luxury hotel (though you can stay here in relatively basic but clean accommodations for upwards of $270/night in the high season and as little as $140/night in the low season), its visitation numbers might be higher.

Mountains in the Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Canada

Here you have access to the land above the trees, where you can pick over rocky scree slopes that were once previously glaciated, and feel the bone-chilling glacial water that populates the outlet rivers and lakes formed by the nearby Saskatchewan Glacier.

Mountains in the Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Canada

Walking along this relatively barren landscape, your mind shifts to the introspective aspects of its mission, evaluating one’s life to this point, and focusing on what one needs to do to advance to greater things in the future…

Mountains in the Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Canada

Staring up at the ice that has accumulated over centuries and millennia of cold, snowy winters, one can’t help but be in awe of the chilled beauty that supplies that dry portions of the Canadian West with the water they need to survive from year to year, while providing them a legendary place to go and be at one with the wildness of nature.  All the more reasons to do what we can to reduce our impact on a warming climate to the lowest extent possible!

Ever been to the Columbia Icefield?  Have a humbling glacier in your backyard? Tell us about it in the comments below! 

In Motion: The Power Of Athabasca Falls In Jasper National Park

Athabasca Falls In Jasper National Park is a sight that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated

After a fun-filled long weekend catching up with friends in Hinton and Jasper, Alberta, Canada, it was time to head back to the big city of Calgary.

The great thing about this is that the way back home traveled on one of the most beautiful drives on Earth, The Icefields Parkway.

One of the first major attraction of this scenic byway is the powerful Athabasca Falls, which inspires and humbles the soul all in one go.

It is a sight to be admired, but from a distance: many people over the years have slipped on the wet rocks and fell to their untimely deaths.

The water is ice-cold and the gorge produces a washing machine-like effect.  Appreciate this force of nature, but respect the barriers and don’t get too close!

If you can’t get away to the Canadian Rockies anytime soon, watch the video and feel the cool mist of this glacial river on your face…!

What is your favourite waterfall?  Feel free to link to your blog post on it, or anybody else’s in the comment section below!

Maligne Lake – The Hidden Gem Of The Canadian Rockies

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park CanadaMaligne Lake, as seen from a viewpoint on the Lakeshore Trail, in Jasper National Park

During my transformation from your average working man to a global and outdoor adventurer, I took a job driving boats and giving tours on Maligne Lake, located at the end of 55 kilometre dead end road in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies. The nature of its location, away from the main tourist trail further south near Banff, and the journey to get there turns off most time-constrained or lazy travelers … that is their loss, as Maligne Lake is a place of raw beauty, of peace, and of abundant wildlife.

Those that plan ahead and make the trip are amply rewarded … this post will aim to get you to steer your sails in the direction of this emerald-green gem in Jasper’s crown, for she will seduce you with her beauty, leading to many returns in the future and rave reviews to family and friends!

Tour boats at Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

After buying a ticket from the head office, stroll down the brick pathway and be boarded by very friendly and knowledgeable guides (many of which I know personally still at this time of writing!)  Take your seat aboard one of seven possible boats, all of which are heated, because it gets cold here …

Snow in July 2010, Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

… even in July (23 centimetres fell over two days in 2010 when this photo was taken)! Most of the time, the weather is quite enjoyable, if a bit brisk.  Maligne Lake is at 5,500 feet (1,700 metres) in elevation, so it is a hill station in terms of weather when you compare it to Jasper, as temperatures are 3-5 degrees cooler than in town.  Bring a hoodie or a coat, just in case.

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

The cruise takes you 14 kilometres down the 22 kilometres long lake, with ample vistas of towering snow-capped mountains everywhere you look, as the boat heads into a rare example of a box canyon (where a mountain range wraps around in a “U” shape) that has a lake in its core. The second photo above shows where our boats cannot go, as Parks Canada limits our operations as a compromise that keeps part of the lake away from the noise impact of our diesel motors.

Spirit Island Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwi_cam/

The destination of your journey is the world famous Spirit Island, which graces the desktop backgrounds of many computers around the world, and after Lake Louise is one of the images most strongly associated with the Canadian Rockies.  Which is amazing, considering how many fewer tourists make it up here compared to Lake Louise, but shhhhhh!  Don’t tell anybody else that, ok?  Don’t want to start a stampede or anything…

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Credit: http://www.whyvisitcanada.com/

If you have a canoe and some camping gear though, you can get a camping permit from Parks Canada and go back there yourself to Coronet Creek, where a backcountry campsite will have you leaving with the idea of what it truly feels like to be alone in an expansive wilderness, apart from all other influences of man!

Canoeing in Maligne Lake Jasper National Park

If you not up to the 22 kilometre in, 22 kilometre out epic paddling journey, you can still see a lot within the northern confines of the lake within an afternoon.  Rent a canoe, kayak or rowboat from the boathouse and explore numerous hidden coves and islands.  Don’t forget to take a rod and reel if you are a fisherman/woman (get a license from Parks first though) and stake out a hidden spot and pull in one of the many brook or rainbow trout in the lake – they were stocked in the lake many generation ago and have thrived since then!

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park

If you’re planning an itinerary to the Canadian Rockies, leaving this place off your list would be a sin.  Even you just hike around the head of the lake and have lunch at the cafe on-site, it will still make for a very memorable afternoon!

Have you ever been to Maligne Lake?  Feel free to share your stories below!

Back To The Canadian Rockies – Part 1: Miette Hot Springs

My beasty rental: getting lunch in Hinton before heading to the Miette Hot Springs in my Jeep Grand Cherokee

After several months of working hard at my day job after having moved back to Calgary, I was overdue for a trip to the mountains to rest and relax.  Before my last trip overseas, I had ditched my terminally ill Cavalier (RIP Blue Rocket 1999-2012), so I was without wheels.  What to do?  Rent one, of course!

Except for one little problem … reserving a car online doesn’t guarantee you the car you select, it’s only a preferred vehicle.  In other words, they give renters ahead of you whatever they request, and only hold what’s left over for you.

In my case, I wanted a Toyota Versa … I got a Dodge Grand Caravan.  A turbocharged beast with tonnes of space I didn’t need, and extra girth I had to account for when making turns and parking and such.

Had I encountered a situation where I had to make a tight maneuver, I would have risked damaging my tires. At least in the United Kingdom, I would have been able to use Tyre-Shopper.co.uk tyres to replace them without the rental company being the wiser.

Failing that,  National.co.uk tyres would have had exactly what I was looking for.

But I digress.

Good thing I had experience driving giant tour boats at Maligne Lake prior to this 😛

The Miette Hot Springs is is a pretty chill place

After dropping my bags at my friend Steph’s place and enjoying a wonderful evening catching up post-Maligne Lake (I was a tour guide there for three summers, hence the earlier remark about driving tour boats), I had a full day ahead of me.  The first place decided to drop in on was the Miette Hot Springs area.  Located an equal distance from the towns of Jasper and Hinton, it is a wonderful place to soak away an afternoon in 40c waters, all while admiring the scenery of the Front Ranges of the Canadian Rockies, soaring thousands of feet above you.

The old pool complex at Miette Hot Springs

On this day, though, I intended to earn my time in the hot springs, as I set out on a hike down the trail that led to the source of the Miette Hot Springs.  The old bathhouse was in an even more starkly beautiful area than the current one, but overcrowding issues due to the popularity of the site, and natural erosion led to its closure in the mid-1980’s, and the opening of the current pools.

What remains today of the old bathhouse at the Miette Hot Springs

Still, it’s quite cool to have ruins of this nature in the middle of a narrow mountain valley!

Mountain stream, Miette Hot Springs

Mountain stream, Miette Hot Springs

The natural beauty of my surroundings just improved from there on, a glacially cold creek tumbling down the hanging valley from where it spawned, overlaying a source of water almost hot enough to scald at first touch.

Natural source of the Miette Hot Springs

You know when you’ve reached the source of the Miette Hot Springs.  Depending on the prevailing winds on the day that you stroll down the trail, you can smell it many hundreds of metres away.  The sulphur and calcium laced waters deposit their solid particles on the rocks over which it flows, creating a stone known as tufa.  Underground pipes carry the waters from this aquifer to the hot pools themselves back near the parking lot, which is where I headed with great anticipation, shortly after the shot I took above! 🙂

Bonfire with friends outside Hinton Alberta

After the day’s tramping and soaking had run their course, there was only one proper way to end an active day in the Canadian Rocky Mountains … have a bonfire and beers!  Heading out to a campsite with friends, meeting interesting new people and sitting by a bonfire that offset the chill of a high country evening was the perfect way to cap off my first day back in the mountains since I had lived there!

What would your perfect day in the Canadian Rockies look like?  Hash it out for us below!

Chill Out And Go Rafting In Calgary, Canada Next Summer!

The Elbow River is a great place to Go Rafting In CalgaryRafters float down the Elbow River in Calgary, with nary a care in the world…

In Calgary, summer is a short season. In a part of the world where snow has fallen on the city in August, a warm day is not wasted, nor taken for granted. With its close proximity to the Canadian Rockies, interest in outdoor recreation is much higher than many other urban centres in Canada. As such, one of the favorite activities of locals over the years has been to take a raft, blow it up, and set sail one one of two rivers that flow through the metropolitan area (The Bow and Elbow Rivers) and float along for several hours with friends and family, eventually arriving in the downtown area, where drinks and food are had before packing up and heading home.

If you want to go rafting in Calgary next summer, while making new local friends in the process, follow the steps below, and hopefully, we’ll see you join the Pirates of the Bow/Elbow next season!

1) Tell Your Friends – If you are living in the area and you want to go rafting in Calgary, let your friends know that you are interested in doing this. Usually, many people wait for someone to assume the mantle of organizer, rather than try to take the “responsibility” of doing it themselves. If they don’t glom on like you hoped, or if you are traveling in the area and don’t know anybody, and your hostel mates barely look up from their phone/laptop, then it’s time to get on the internet. Fire up meetup.com and search for groups that get together regularly to go on river rafting trips, like this one. Alternatively, you could also head over to Craigslist Calgary and post an inquiry on the community forum.  Yeah!

poe_rafonsho

2) Get The Gear – Next, you need a raft (probably bigger than the one pictured above if you got friends with you 🙂 ).  To fix this essential problem, there are many sports gear shops in Calgary that rent out rafts and associated gear for the day.  The times I have gone on the river, I didn’t deal directly with the retailer, but this Google search should get you started 😉

3) Get The Raft To The River – This is a two parter if you can swing it.  Ideally, get a friend to park a car at your take out point (a popular place is Prince’s Island Park downtown) so you can have easy transit back to where you started your adventure.  DON’T INFLATE THE RAFT UNTIL YOU GET THERE.  Seems obvious in retrospect, but it makes things easier, trust me! 🙂 If you don’t have two cars, a taxi will suffice, despite the added cost.

poe_parrafcalcanCredit: cuppojoe_trips (flickr.com)

4) Blow Up The Raft, And Go Rafting In Calgary – Get out on the river and have fun!  Just don’t be stupid like the folks above and forget to bring or wear life jackets!  The water of the Bow can be shallow in places, leading to a false sense of security.  It is always ice-cold, so if you get swept away by the current and can’t swim, you’ll be in serious danger of either drowning or succumbing to hypothermia.  Bear in mind that alcohol is also officially banned (as is all open alcohol in public) on the river, and police boats actively patrol looking for lawbreakers.  If you decide to bring some adult pops with you, exercise discretion and don’t draw attention to yourself, again, like these guys (I’m sure they are awesome people otherwise 🙂 )

Calgary is a city that worships the summer when it arrives, as the other 8 months of the year often feature winter weather in part or full effect.  If you want to go rafting in Calgary, just do it – join the locals in making the most of the bright and warm days out on the waters of the Bow and Elbow Rivers!

Have you ever rafted some awesome rivers in your neck of the woods?  Do they have the scene that Calgary does?  Let us know about it all below!

A Must For Sports Enthusiasts In Calgary: Canada Olympic Park

Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaCalgary’s Canada Olympic Park – a place of celebration of Canada’s first Winter Olympics. 2013 marked the 25th anniversary of the 1988 Games.

25 years ago, Calgary hosted the first Winter Olympic Games in Canadian history. It seems so long ago, when as a seven-year-old, I watched the world’s best athletes compete against each other in a sporting and competitive manner … in my pajamas, seated on the floor of my living room. It was to ignite a nascent interest in sport for me, which was vital to an adulthood filled with physical activity, seeing how I was raised in a household where athletic activity wasn’t emphasized.

Fast forward almost a generation later, after Canada hosted one of the most successful Olympics ever in Vancouver, and seeing how I was currently living in Calgary, it would be a travesty to leave this city in the future with seeing one of my countries’ most prized pieces of sports history.

After a scramble down a ravine, crossing the Bow River on a pedestrian bridge and a wander through the neighbourhood of Bowness, there I was on the doorstep of Canada Olympic Park. Let’s take a look around, shall we?

Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaThe slopes of Canada Olympic Park, used then and now for skiing events (not the downhill alpine races, though, those were held in the Rockies, 1 hour to the West). Nowadays, in the summertime, mountain bikers tear down the steep pistes of the Bow River Valley.

Trampolines, Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaGot kids? Set’em loose on the bungee trampolines. Kids love trampolines!

Ski Jumps, Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaA close-up shot of the ski jumps, which can be seen at many points throughout Calgary’s NW. Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, a British skier became known forever for his heroic, yet very short jumps here, becoming a legend and inspiration to underdogs the world over!

Hockey Canada training centre, Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaNew construction has popped up at Canada Olympic Park since the conclusion of the 1988 Olympics, as a new arena complex was constructed to play host to Team Canada’s operations in hockey. Here, a practice session for elite girl hockey players is in session on the ice below.

Hockey Canada training centre, Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaThe view of the new arena complex from the outside, as the afternoon wears on, evidenced by the lowering sun.

Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaIn 1988, we hosted the world. What I would have given to have been there!

After remembering the excitement that unfolded 25 years ago, and seeing the tremendous Games put on in Vancouver just 3 1/2 short years ago, it stokes my fire to attend at least one Olympic Games in my lifetime.

What about you? Have you ever attended an Olympic Games in person? If you have, tell us all about in the comments, will ya?

In Motion: Family Fun At The Calgary Stampede

There are plenty of ways to have some good old fashioned family fun at the Calgary Stampede

While there are attractions for people of all ages at the Calgary Stampede, it is a wonderland of excitement for the little people in your life. If you’re a family looking for an ideal place to visit that provides a balance of things that interest adults, as well as your young ones, visiting Calgary during the Stampede is a no-brainer. Just be sure to book accommodations well in advance, because as we mentioned before, you aren’t the only people thinking the same thing.

There are many ways to enjoy some family fun at the Calgary Stampede … for a sample of check out Today’s In Motion below!

A Day In The Life Of The Calgary Stampede, The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth

The sun sets on yet another day in the life of the Calgary StampedeDowntown Calgary as viewed from the Elbow River, in the SW neighbourhood of Mission. Located near the Stampede Grounds, this part of town, along with Downtown and the Beltline, are ground zero for folks partaking and celebrating the Calgary Stampede.

For tourists visiting Alberta from outside Canada, when Calgary is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is its most famous festival, the Stampede. For over 100 years, this event, starting out simply as a rodeo, has come to define the city, to the chagrin of some. Despite the mixed feelings that some people have for this event, it is still one heck of a party and deserving of the moniker “The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth”. Here’s what a day in the life of the Calgary Stampede looks like…

Calgary Stampede front gatesStanding in line for Stampede Tickets … as of 2013, ticket prices cost $16 for admission, a good portion of which goes to charity…

Teepee Village @ the Calgary Stampede The Teepee Village, showing how the First Nations people that resided in this area before us lived.

Walking around the Calgary Stampede Throngs of people stroll the Stampede Grounds, eating the food, enjoying the rides, and taking in the musical acts. Just over 1,000,000 people go through the turnstiles every year, testifying to the popularity of this well-loved festival.

Concession stands @ the Calgary Stampede Just a small slice of the food on offer at the Stampede. So wrong for your waistline, but go on. The Stampede only happens for 10 days a year. Spoil yerself!

Midway Games at the Calgary Stampede Step up. Try your luck. Win a prize.

As if all these traditional trappings of a fair weren’t enough to elevate your excitement level, how about … a wandering marching band? This is the Stampede, remember…

Had enough of the outdoors, or maybe the weather isn’t playing nice? Come indoors and sample some of the attractions located inside the many building on the Stampede Grounds. Like country music? Head to Nashville North, where a nonstop cast of musicians roll on and off stage every day (and beer never stops flowing…) Wanna sample some fine food? Head over to Western Oasis, where you’ll find plenty of elevated treats, along with some excellent wines that pair perfectly with them!

Or, if you are fortunate enough to witness this spectacle as I did during the 2012 Stampede, slap some board shorts on, get wet, and ride some waves more than 1,000 kilometres from the sea on the Flowrider…

After all that activity, it gets better still. Many of Canada’s leading and up and coming acts are attracted to the Stampede’s free stage every year, so you can find yourself a spot on the lawn and listen to the musical stylings of bands such as The Trews for $0 (well, it’s included in the price of your ticket but c’mon … keep up the illusion here!) 😛

After all this, if you still have the energy, head off the grounds and partake of the many offsite parties throughout urban Calgary that are all well-attended by the locals. Even during the week. Seriously. Many people get little or no work done during these ten days, as the city grinds to a near halt. The Stampede is that big of an event, guys. If you attend one festival during your time in Western Canada, make time for the Stampede.

Just be sure to book well in advance, as places as far as an hour outside the city can disappear months before the event.

After you tie up all your loose ends, pack your ten-gallon hat, your Alberta-sized belt buckle, and start practicing your Yahoo! … you’re headed to one of the greatest public celebrations in Canada!

Have you ever been to the Stampede? Share your experiences below!

Isolation In The Midst Of A Big City: Nose Hill Park, Calgary, Canada

Optimized-DSCN2269An entrance to Nose Hill Park in Calgary, Canada, accessible off John Laurie Blvd.

After travelling Southeast Asia a second time in the winter of 2012, I decided to settle down in the Canadian city of Calgary, Alberta for a while. My motivations were twofold. One, to spend some quality time with my sister’s family, who I felt I hadn’t been seeing enough during my time in the mountains and travelling overseas. And two, to give myself time to save up some badly needed cash while considering my next move.

Being a lover of the outdoors, it took me little time to seek out the many expansive parks that this city has to offer. Nose Hill Park in Northwest Calgary is chief among them. It is one of the largest parks in North America, and features undulating buttes, pocket valleys with tight, thick brush, and killer views of downtown Calgary, and the Rocky Mountains.

Optimized-DSCN2271The wide open grassy plains that comprise most of Nose Hill – yes, you are the middle of a city of 1 million people … but you’d never know it here.

Optimized-DSCN2306The long, lonely path leads you through a land of sweetgrass, puffy clouds, and nobody else to keep you company but your own soul (except in popular areas, where you will encounter dog-walkers and joggers 😛 )

Optimized-DSCN2281Looking Northwest, we see the low density of suburban Calgary, and the beginning of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Calgary is within visual range of the Rockies, but sometimes, it can be hard to see, depending on atmospheric conditions. Strain your eyes, and you might see the silhouette of them in the distance 😛

But it is by walking around to the south side of the park, that views of Calgary’s formidable skyline of gleaming glass skyscrapers can be had in abundance…

Optimized-DSCN2309Seemingly sprouting out of a field of daisies, Calgary’s urban core stands in stark contrast to the nature that will surround you on your meaderings through Nose Hill Park. It makes for a killer photo opp though, so bring along your telephoto lenses and snap a much better pic than I did (NOTE TO SELF: Get a DLSR ASAP!)

How do you get here? If you have a rental car, drive north on 14th Street until you’re in the N.W. The park should be unmissable, rolling up on your left after driving approximately five minutes north of the downtown core.

For those without a car, you could take the train to Brentwood station and either walk along Charleswood Drive until you reach the park, or then catch the #72 bus, and then get off as soon as you cross 14th Street N.W. From there, it is a short walk to the park near the Calgary Winter Club.

Have an urban park that you are dying to share with the world? Tell us about it below!

In Motion: Vancouver’s True Nature (In 15 Seconds)

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In the weeks leading up to my departure to Korea this past Spring, I was as busy as a beaver, gathering together a collection of documents a mile long to qualify for my visa. All the while, my projected start date loomed on the horizon, adding urgency to the proceedings.

As such, I didn’t want to risk anything going wrong by sending my passport through the mail; placing my trust in Canada Post didn’t seem like the best idea with time running short.

Instead, I made the journey to Vancouver, passport in hand, to have my work visa processed in person. In the week it took to get a slip of paper in my passport saying that I could work legally in another country, I did a fair bit of exploring and hiking that allowed to uncover Vancouver’s true nature.

Below, for your enjoyment, is a Vine-esque summary of the beautiful nature that awaits you in the Greater Vancouver area…