From Vancouver to Calgary
Fly & drive British Colombia and Alberta I
From one Nature Park to the other, all the way to the Rocky Mountains. Along rivers, waterfalls, glaciers, mountian lakes and endless forests with squirrels, mouflons, elks and bears. From Vancouver by way of Penticton, Nelson, Golden and Banff to Calgary there isn't just a lot to be seen, but there also are lots of activities to participate in: kayaking, hiking, rafting and swimming in hot springs.
Five men and two women, a group of close friends, arrive in Vancouver, BC, Canada, after transferring in Portland, by propeller plane. Both flights go smoothly and around 4 PM we are ready to go, luggage and all, at Vancouver Airport. We rented a car that is just big enough for all of us and our luggage.
We drive to our first accomodation, the YWCA hostel in downtown Vancouver, opposite the Vancouver Lions icehockey stadium. We all go to our rooms to nap or freshen up.
We have dinner early and go to bed at the regular hour, in order to get our body clocks used to the nine hours time difference.
Vancouver - Penticton
Kayaking in Manning Provincial Park
We picked the right part of Vancouver to spend the night, because we are able leave town in no time at all and now are driving on Highway #11 East. We pass Fort Langley and Abbotsford. After 110 kilometers we arrive at the Bridal Veil Falls, just past Chilliwack.
In Chilliwack we have coffee in one of those typical truckers restaurants. Then we walk to the Bridal Veil Falls, a beautiful and impressive waterfall at a ten minutes walking distance from the parking lot.
After passing Hope we drive through Fraser Valley, along the wide Fraser river, to Manning Provincial Park.
As we go farther north, the Fraser river gets narrower. This isn't just the main salmon river in the world, but we also see lots of lumber float on the water.
Wood is one of the most important export products of Canada. After a tree is felled, it's thrown in the river and the stream takes it to Vancouver, where it is retrieved from the river. A cheap and efficient means of transportation.
At the parking lot of Manning Provincial Park we ask if it's possible to go kayaking in the park. The lake is nearby, but we are still advised to go there by car and not on foot: there's a grizzly mom with cub in the neighborhood.
By the lake is a great meadow where you can sunbathe and even barbecue. René, Theo, Janneke, Arjan and Arjan go kayaking all together in one boat. Albert and I stay on land and enjoy the wonderful view. The weather is nice and warm, the water is clear and the trees in the park are gigantic.
We see our first wildlife: small Columbian ground squirrels. Manning Provincial Park is located in the Cascade Mountains and is a paradise for lovers of the outdoors. Unfortunately the park has been hit hard by the mountain pine beetle plague. Because of the beetle plague there are many withered and dead trees.
We drive to Penticton by way of Princeton, Hedley, Keremeos and Olalla. Many fruit stalls along the road. We arrive in the Okanagan Valley, which thanks to its mild climate is renowned for its wine and fruit. Winters are not too cold here, even though areas for skiing aren't that far away. Spring begins in April, in June there is some rain, followed by three hot, dry, and sunny summer months that make the cultivation of grapes for wine, and other fruit possible.
In September and October there are the incredible autumn colors of the Indian Summer.
There are three lakes in the Okanagan Valley: Osoyoos Lake, Skaha Lake and Okanagan Lake. Penticton, in the language of the Salish Indians "place to stay," lies between Skaha Lake and Okanagan Lake. On the main promenade along Okanagan Lake we find a table in a restaurant with outdoor seating.
We spend the night in the HI hostel in Penticton. Extremely cheap, but no creature comforts at all. Small room, minimal sanitary facilities, which also have to be shared with many others.
Penticton - Nelson
Vineyards and fruit orchards between mountains wooded with firs
Near Okanagan Falls we leave Highway #97 and drive off-road for a while to Oliver. On the side of the road we see some deer nibble at shrubs, apparently at ease.
We drive through a winegrowing region. Oliver used to be a very poor town, but John Oliver's (after whom the town was named) project made it into the wealthy winegrowing capital of Canada. Surrounded by desert in the south, and lakes, mountains, vineyards and fruit orchards to the north, Oliver lies in South Okanagan in British Columbia.
Towards Osoyoos, at Osoyoos Lake, we see lots of fruit stalls along the road. When we have passed through Osoyoos, we enter the mountains. We stop at a panoramic view of the Okanagan Valley, the village of the same name and the lake.
For a long time, we drive along the US border. Part of Osoyoos Lake is in the USA and towards Rock Creek, the mountains to our right also are in the US, in the state of Washington.
The landscape is extraordinarily beautiful: mountainous with many trees and lovely little towns like Rock Creek, Greenwood and Grand Forks. In Greenwood time seems to have stood still. Especially the gables suggest the atmosphere of an old Western town.
We stop for lunch by Christine Lake. In a small outdoor restaurant, near a landing where small boats are let in the water, we eat tasty burgers. The view of the lake is nice, and little boats sail back and forth.
After Castlegar we follow the Kootenay River to Nelson where we arrive at 4 PM. We are too early to check in in the hostel, so we decide to explore the town first.
Nelson was founded around 1880 as a mining town. After the railways were built, Nelson also became a transfer terminal for ore and wood. It has a long main street, Baker Street, and around it - like in many towns and cities in Canada - it is organized in blocks.
We first walk to Baker Street and then to the water. The Kootenay River empties into Kootenay Lake at Nelson. We see Streetcar 23, about which we read already.
The 1906 streetcar had regular services between 1924 and 1949, but now is a museum streetcar for tourists which has daily rides of about two kilometers along Kootenay Lake, with a great view of the town and the Orange Bridge over Kootenay River.
Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park
Walking in the snow and swimming in warm springs
We cross the Orange Bridge into Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, in the Selkirk mountains, northeast of Nelson. We have to drive our Dodge Grand Caravan 17 kilometers uphill on a steep sand road. With sweat in my palms, I hold on to the steering wheel. Potholes alternate with bumps and narrow turns.
It takes us an hour to get to the top. In the parking lot we are warned for porcupines, who are after your tires and brake cables. There is chicken wire everywhere, which you should certainly use to wrap your car in if you're planning on staying overnight.
Camping is allowed everywhere. It seems like a great experience, but not without risk: there are pumas, black bears and grizzlies.
We put on our hiking boots, bring a sweater and go on a 4.5 km hike uphill to Kokanee Lake. It's clear without a cloud, the sun is shining bright.
After a few kilommeters we have a wonderful view of Gibson Lake, where we parked our car. Now we see how much we have ascended in a short while.
We walk on and see some Columbian groundsquirrels and golden-mantled groundsquirrels. On the ground we see hair from larger animals, probably bears. On the way we fill our waterbottles frequently with delicious, fresh and clean mountain water.
At Kokanee Lake we are standing in the snow. We take a break and enjoy the beautiful view of the lake.
After our descent through the wonderful landscape, we drive back on the sand road. I am getting used to it, as far as that is possible. Back on the main road, we take the highway to Ainsworth Hotsprings.
Ainsworth Hotsprings has a swimming pool with naturally hot water from the mountains. It is wonderful to relax in the caves and in the pool after all this exertion. We drive back to Nelson for dinner.
Nelson - Golden
Giant cedars and the Rogers Pass high up in the mountains
We drive back to South Slocan from Nelson and take Highway #6 to Nakusp. We pass the Slocan River when we drive through the Slocan Valley and villages like Silverton and New Denver. These villages on the large Slocan Lake are renowned for their historic silver mines.
From Nakusp we drive along Upper Arrow Lake to Galena, where the ferry to Shelter Bay on Upper Arrow Lake leaves. We wait in a long line of cars, campers and trucks. The ferry is full and we have to wait for the next one. After the crossing we drive to Revelstoke. A rather dull road with trees, trees and more trees.
In Revelstoke we take Highway #1 to Mount Revelstoke National Park. There we walk the Red Cedar Trail, a short route over wood planks through a wood with enormous cedars.
We drive on through Glacier National Park. In the summer it rains often here and during the winter there are almost daily snow flurries. Over 12 per cent of the park is massive ice. The rest is mountains: the Selkirk Mountains and the Rockies. This park is one of the least accessible: the few trails it has, are only suitable for very experienced hikers.
The Rogers Pass was discovered in 1882 by A.B. Rogers during a search for a route through the Selkirk Mountains for the 4,600 kilometers long rail tracks of the Canadian Pacific Railway. With a guide, you can conquer the Illecillewaet Neve glacier on the Rogers Pass.
The Goldenwood Lodge, where we will stay, is 15 kilometers west of Golden. We leave Highway #1 and take a sand road, the Blaeberry School Road. We booked the Howling Wolf Lodge for two nights. It is an amazing accomondation in a wonderful location, surrounded by nature. There is a gas barbecue on the porch and a wood barbecue in the garden. The view of the valley is really stunning. In the evening we see deer.
On the way here we crossed a timezone, so we have to change our watches. It also means we have to hurry to get to the village to shop for tonight's barbecue.
After breakfast we drive to Wet 'n Wild in Golden for a day of rafting on the Kicking Horse River. First a calm leg, then a little wilder and the last leg has really wild water. Tonight we broil the rest of the meat and tomorrow we continue on to Banff. It's a 135 kilometer trip only, but there is a lot to see on the way.
Golden - Banff
Along splashing waterfalls and smooth mountain lakes
We take Highway #1 eastward and then exit onto a sand path to Northern Lights Wilfdlife Wolf Center. The Wolf Center has six wolves who were all born in captivity.
The center educates visitors about the role of wolves in nature, about their behavior and hunting instincts. We learn that wolves hear twenty times better then people. Depending on the terrain, their hearing reaches up to 16 kilometers.
The center also has some bear dogs, dogs who are not afraid of bears and are capable of chasing them back into the woods after they have entered human territory. They are used in some American and Canadian states, but (so far)not in British Columbia.
In BC bears are shot when they enter villages or towns. And that happens thousands of times every year. Using bear dogs could therefore save many bear lives.
We have just left Golden when we see a group of big horn sheep (mouflons). On the way to Banff we visit Emerald Lake, at an altitude of 1,302 meters in Yoho National Park. In and around the lake you can go kayaking, horseback riding, picnicking and walking: there is an "easy walk" aroud the lake and a more difficult hiking trail.
We have coffee and a sandwich and enjoy the view of the mountains and the blue- green lake. This color is caused by the refraction of light on the bottom of the lake. Except for the - already "normal" warning signs for bears, there is also a warning for cougars (mountain lions).
We continue on to Takakkaw Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in Canada. We leave the highway again and take a steep, winding road.
The weather is getting worse and we do not only feel the mist from the waterfall, but also the first drops of rain.
When we get out of the car at a junction near Lake Louise, the view isn't as wonderful as we have seen in guidebooks because the glacier is obscured by fog. The staff on the parking lots at Lake Louise is tense: someone saw a bear between the highway and Lake Louise.
This is not unusual in Canada, but yesterday a jogger was attacked by a bear and she is in the hospital in Banff with serious injuries.
Banff - Calgary
From the Rocky Mountains to cow pastures
We travel from Banff to Calgary, around 130 km, in a day. The road to Calgary is mostly level, we are quickly leaving the Rocky Mountains. Until now, the landscape was mountains and trees, but now we see cow pastures (for the steaks for which Alberta is famous).