Archive for the '3. Columbia Gorge to Canadian Rockies' Category

Days 13-19 – A Long and Quiet Visit With Good Friends

Magic Sky at Dungeness Spit

Magic Sky at Dungeness Spit

Monday August 18 (Muriel)

With Friends (Mait and Doris) in Good Health with Granddaughter

With Friends (Mait and Doris) in Good Health with Granddaughter

Nature's Sculpture and Dungeness Spit

Nature's Sculpture at Dungeness Spit

We left our Hood River hotel in a driving rain….  Well, we tried to leave, but the RX330’s battery was dead.  Allan had driven us back to the hotel from dinner and wasn’t very familiar with the light switches on my car.  With the battery dead, we were unable to open the lift gate to stow our suitcases.  So we waited with our luggage on the sheltered hotel entrance.  Fortunately the AAA arrived quickly and jump-started the car with no difficulty.

We drove west along the Columbia Gorge to Portland and turned north on I-5.  The rain let up after a while.  I-5 through Washington is overloaded with trucks, so we took the slower but more pleasant 101 to the Olympic Peninsula.

We arrived at the home of our old friends Maitland and Doris Hardyman, in suburban Pt. Townsend.  We settled in for a longer stay in their familiar guestroom.  It was wonderful to see Mait and Doris for the first time since his very scary experience with his second heart valve replacement this spring.

Tuesday August 19 – Sunday August 24 (Muriel)

We enjoyed spending these six days at Mait and Doris’s home outside of Pt. Townsend.  We enjoyed chatting, watching the Beijing Olympic Games, going into restaurants in town or out-in-the-country, collaborating on meal preparation at home, and chatting some more.  Weather ranged from very wet and surprisingly autumn-like to beautiful and sunny.

Allan and I enjoyed a trip out to the Dungeness Spit.  We found few birds on the spit, but the walk from the parking area through native vegetation was lovely.  The sandy spit is covered with cobblestones and driftwood, extending five miles into the Straits of San Juan de Fuca.  We only walked a small portion of the spit, with the few birds being barely seen in Allan’s telescope as they were so far offshore.  One of the birds was a Red Necked Grebe which was a real if distant treat.

Another bird and nature search took us to Fort Worden in beautiful weather.  This picturesque former army fort was the setting for the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman” and is now a Washington State Park.  From the jetty we found a few interesting birds and a series of educational signs about Eel Grass and its ecological importance.  Why did Muriel get the impression Allan found the signs less than fascinating?

From Ft. Worden we went to the Pt. Townsend Lagoon, where Great Blue Herons posed fetchingly and a small group of Greater Yellowlegs scampered through shallow water to catch and munch small invertebrate snacks.

Early Sunday afternoon, the Hardymans and Kotins headed to the ferry to Seattle, as the rain became increasingly heavy.  We waited in the monster parking lot to embark on the ferry, each couple in its own automotive cocoon.  Finally we got to drive aboard and travel across Puget Sound to Edmonds in the shelter of the ferry.  Next was a drive along I-5 in driving rain that pooled on the highway and made travel difficult, until the GPS directed us off the highway and to a hotel in the University District.

After we dried out a bit at the hotel, Mait drove us to the home of the Hardymans’ daughter Laura and her daughter Alice.  After a pleasant visit with them and Alice’s dad, we adjourned to an excellent nearby Indian restaurant.


Days 20-23 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on Friday Plus 1

A Glaucous Winged Gull With Rock Art at Cattle Point
A Glaucous Winged Gull With Rock Art at Cattle Point

Harequin Ducks at Cattle Point

Harlelquin Ducks Seen at Cattle Point


Monday August 25 (Muriel with some help from Allan)

Allan and I left our Seattle hotel very early and headed to the local Lexus dealer in the northern suburbs.  It was time for the RX330’s 85-thousand mile service.  We hung out in the dealer’s waiting room with our computers, the morning LA Times on the Kindle, and non-fat lattes.  The service department advised we have some of the 90K-mile servicing done now, so we headed back in a loaner car to the hotel and breakfast with Maitland, Doris and Laura at a nearby restaurant.  By the time we ate, walked back to the hotel, packed and checked out, it was time to bid farewells to the Hardymans and head back to the Lexus Dealer.

After retrieving our car from the dealer, we drove farther north to the ferry terminal in Anacortes.   We got in line for the ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, the second largest of the San Juan Islands and the county seat of San Juan County, WA.  Having arrived at the terminal not much more than an hour before the ferry was to sail, we counted ourselves lucky to get onto the first sailing.

The weather cleared and we began to become seasoned ferry users.  The big white ferry with green trim was similar to the ferry we had taken to Seattle.  It can hold 200 cars, or a lesser number of vehicles when some are trucks, as well as the automotive passengers and walk-ons.  The view from the ferry was spectacular:  mostly blue skies, brilliantly blue sparkling water of Puget Sound, and many green and tan islands.   The ferry ride to and from the San Juan Islands is somewhat special as the ferry threads its way between islands and one is never far from land.

Once we disembarked in Friday Harbor, we drove to our B & B, a few miles beyond the small town.  After getting settled in, it was back to town for dinner.

Tuesday August 26 (Muriel)

We spent the morning with Allan visiting Friday Harbor’s one computer center since his computer didn’t get a signal at the B & B, while I visited the local Curves for my first workout since leaving Malibu.

Then we headed clockwise around San Juan Island.  The parking lot at the American Camp unit of San Juan National Historical Park was full, so we missed an opportunity to see where the American forces were stationed during the Pig War with England.  This romantically-named conflict was over whether the San Juan Islands were part of Canada or the USA.  Eventually Kaiser Wilhelm II arbitrated and most of the San Juans are part of the USA.

Instead we continued a bit farther toward Cattle Point at the southwest end of San Juan Island.  There we walked along the top of a cliff, looking down at a couple of rounded rocks that held many gulls and some harbor seals.  Most of the gulls were Glaucous-winged with a fair number of Bonaparte’s and a few Herrmann’s and California.  Cattle Point was as far as we could travel to the southwest, so we turned around and stopped at Jekel’s Lagoon and took the mile long nature trail through dense forest and grassland.  There were virtually no birds until we found a Red-breasted Nuthatch when were almost back to the parking lot.  Driving to the north end of the island, we stopped at a whale-watching point (no whales) and a nearby tiny lighthouse.  The scene was very picturesque, but it was starting to rain fairly hard.  We decided to not head toward the English Camp at the northwest tip of the island (opposite to the American Camp).  Instead we headed south to an excellent dinner at the Duck Soup Inn, on the way back to the B & B.

Wednesday August 27 (Muriel)

We awakened fairly early to the sound of rain.  The rain had almost stopped by the time we were dressed, so we walked along the country lane to the road, hoping to get good looks at the American Goldfinches and other birds we had seen while driving the lane at dusk.  We saw many Barn Swallows, a species we had seen in large quantities during this big trip, as well as Brewer’s Blackbirds, European Starlings, and a couple of Great Blue Herons.  Actually only one of the great blues was for real.  The one sleeping at the edge of the B & B’s pond that looked almost artificial turned out to be a statue.  No wonder he was always there.  There were White-crowned Sparrows in the garden.  Most intriguing were varied bird sounds coming from a small lane that branches from the one leading to our B & B.  We knew we were too far north for mockingbirds to be likely.  Eventually we found the bird:  an African Gray Parrot in a roofed cage.  We had been fooled by a parrot and a metal G.B. Heron on one short walk!

We spent the afternoon on a whale-watching expedition with about 30 other tourists on a fairly roomy boat.  We headed north into Canadian waters for well over an hour and spent a long time watching Orcas.  This particular group of whales has been thoroughly studied and monitored which is possible because both fin shape and the irregularities of the flukes (tails) mark individual whales as distinctly as fingerprints do for humans. Therefore our guides knew that we were seeing  members of resident J Pod and L Pod (but no iPods) surface and dive, occasionally tail slapping the water.   We learned almost more than we wanted to know about the habits of orcas and the problems facing them and their food web, but Allan did get some good pictures, some showing almost a whole whale.

Thursday August 28 (Muriel)

We checked out of the B & B as soon as we could after breakfast and headed to get in line for the ferry to Orcas Island.  It turned out we were 20 minutes too early.  We were told to wait until 10:30 after the ferry to Anacortes left at 10:25.  We were then the first in line to wait to board a smaller but still large inter-island ferry that took us to Orcas Island.  We traveled through fog, mist and drizzle and docked at a tiny town at Orcas Island.  From there we drove to the less tiny town of Eastsound where we had lunch.  Then we explored Moran State Park and some of its lakesides and rainforest in the rain and drizzle.  We elected to skip going to the top of Mt. Constitution with its great views, since it was covered in dense cloud.  We checked out the hamlet of Olga where Allan’s cousins live, while giving Cousin Hannah Alex Glasser time to arrive home from running errands.

While the two islands (San Juan where Friday Harbor is located and Orcas) obviously share the same climate and habitat, they feel very different. San Juan Island is relatively flat with much of the coastline accessible by road.  In contrast Orcas is much hillier and less agricultural.  The island is in the shape of an inverted U with a sound running up the middle.  Most roads follow the spine rather than the shore and one feels that one is in the woods most of the time.

We got to the Glassers home about a minute before Hannah.  We had not seen Hannah and her family for almost 15 years, well before they moved full time from the San Francisco Bay area to Orcas Island 5 years ago, where their kids attended high school.  Their daughter Gemma is now attending Parsons in New York and husband Charlie was in New England helping son Julian, a high school senior, look at colleges.  We had a wonderful time catching up with Hannah and learning about her life on this lovely and remote location.  Their home is fascinating, having been designed and largely built by Charlie and Hannah, incorporating many salvaged and re-used items.  It was built with a major effort to be environmentally friendly and sustainable and as related to its location as possible.  We had dinner at a restaurant in a lovely cooperative art gallery and hurried back to the Glasser home to watch Barrack Obama’s acceptance speech on TV.


Friday August 29 (Muriel)

After breakfast, Hannah showed us her studio in an outbuilding and many of her lovely and fascinating ceramic sculptures.  We were delighted that we were welcome to touch them.  Finally we took a stroll through a nearby woods and meadow before saying goodbye.  Then we made haste to drive to the ferry dock in order to get onto a local ferry that eventually took us to Anacortes, where we disembarked and had lunch.

From Anacortes we drove north and east into Canada, through driving rain and spray raised from the roadway by other vehicles.  Although the rain abated to a light drizzle by the time we reached the border crossing, it soon picked up again with a vengeance.  There was quite a backup of traffic due to flooded roadway, but the squall let up and one of the two northbound lanes of Canada 1 was opened.  We were glad we had decided to take the car with all-wheel drive on the trip.  We passed many waterfalls, wet places, raging streams, a large truck on its side next to the road, and other unwanted excitements.  Eventually, after we had descended the east side of the coast ranges a while, the rain gradually tapered off.  We were able to see the countryside clearly, a mixture of second-growth forest with extensive brown areas, presumably from pine-bark beetle damage, and sage and grasslands.  By the time we reached Kamloops, a city of 77,000 in the eastern reaches of British Columbia, the sky was mostly blue.

DAYS 24 AND 25 – En Route to Jasper and the Canadian Rockies

Saturday August 30 (Muriel)

Leaving Kamloops, we drove north through the valley of the Thompson River and then the North Thompson, past many hay farms, surrounded with mountain slopes in depressing condition.  None appeared to our untrained eye to have old growth forest.  Many had been clear-cut and looked scalped.  Others had been something like 90% logged, looking like the first pass of a military crew-cut.  Others that were covered by what appeared to be secondary forest had huge numbers of brown conifers or dead ones.  This was true on the 90%-logged slopes as well as second-growth areas.  We figured the dead trees were due to pine-bark beetles, but were told by a waiter the next day that it was almost all from a huge forest fire about 5 years ago in British Columbia.

We stopped at a “Fas Gas” station in a small town and used its self-service carwash of the to wash most of yesterday’s thick but uneven coat of tan mud off our car.  We got to play carwash, manning the hose and figuring out how to switch between soapy and clear water.  The car looked considerably bluer after our $3 worth of water time at $1 for 2 minutes.  It was sort of fun to use the carwash equipment and wipe it off with a rag loaned us by Fas Gas, but neither of us plans a future career in car washing.

We stopped for lunch in one of the few tiny towns, Valemount (pronounced Vall-mount).  There were three restaurants, not counting a filthy looking Chinese eatery.  We could not resist trying the “Loose Moose Pub and Bistro.”  Lunch was good, the bar wench-food server was friendly, and we learned how to pronounce the town name.

Fine Dining at Valemount

Up, up, up we drove, through alternating sun and fairly light rain through Mt. Robeson Provincial Park.  By now most of the trees were alive and green.  We enjoyed views of the tallest of the Canadian Rockies and stopped at the nature center.  We learned Mt. Robeson contains the headwaters of the Fraser River, the major river that flows to Puget Sound at Vancouver.  That’s the river that still supports salmon in a major way, since it is not dammed.  We continued to Jasper Canadian National Park.  We paid a hefty fee to be in Canadian National Parks the next four days.  We set our watches an hour ahead; we left British Columbia and entered the Province of Alberta when we entered Jasper CNP.  We were now in the Mountain Time Zone.

Impressed by the views of many peaks, partially shrouded in cloud, some partially covered with snow or glaciers, we reached the town of Jasper.  After checking in at the Sawridge Hotel, we headed for the local information center.  A ranger advised we could depend on daylight until 9:30, so we drove to nearby Pyramid Lake.  There we parked and walked over a short bridge to a very popular, restored island with killer views of water, mountain peaks, and an almost-killer-cold wind.  There were friendly German tourists, red squirrels and only one bird, a female Bufflehead.

Driving out to Pyramid Lake, we noticed a bunch of cars parked along both sides of the road.  Their occupants were out watching and photographing elk that were grazing alongside the highway.  There were around four female and young elk.  Returning to town after visiting the lake, we found an adult male elk with huge antlers had joined the group.  Closer to town we found a second male elk with a less imposing rack.

We had dinner at the hotel, following an opportunity to get our laundry into the washing machine behind the indoor swimming pool.  I interrupted my dinner 45 minutes later, to move the laundry to the dryer.  We were the last diners to leave the restaurant, and headed to our room to sort laundry at an altogether unreasonable hour.


Sunday, August 31 (Muriel)

We drove out of town to Bridge 5 along the Maligne River.  This wide, fast flowing river was named “Wicked” by a French frontier priest for being so evil to cross.  We got to cross on an almost stable suspension bridge that removed the evil aspects for us.  We walked along an excellent path for almost a mile and a half to Bridge 6, a solid feeling wood bridge that was designed for vehicles as well as pedestrians.  Most of the area was forested, but the trees were smaller than those in coastal Washington.  After using the excellent non-flush toilets, we retraced our path to our car.  Noting the good condition of roads, paths, toilets, bridges, and all, we started to think the Canadian National Parks give good value for their relatively higher fees.  And the scenery was priceless.

Once back to the car, we realized that after we crossed the bridge we had walked in the opposite direction from the one suggested to us.  Was upriver even more lovely?  I was not ready to find out.  Instead we drove along the river, stopping at some fabulous viewing sites.  At one stop, the parking lot effect happened.  In the surrounding conifers and aspens, we finally saw birds other than crows and ravens.  A couple of flycatchers teased us at length, but we ID’d them as Western Wood Pewees.  There were several small birds that may have been chickadees – or not-, a probable Wilson’s Warbler, and pair of probable Western Tanagers.  The birds were fast flying, impossible to see when landed among fluttering aspen leaves, and we had little feel for the size of the trees they were in.

We hoped to find lunch at Maligne Lake at the end of the road, but there were so many vehicles parked in the 3 lots closest to the facilities, we avoided the throng and headed back to town.  Not many restaurants were still open for lunch at 2:30, but finally found a less lovely pub than the Loose Moose.

After lunch, we headed out the old highway, encountering minimally maintained roadway and no viewpoints.  Where the old highway rejoined the new one were the amazing Athabasca Falls.  The Athabasca River flows north, eventually into the Arctic Ocean.  At these falls, the fairly wide, calm river rages as it drops dramatically through slots and canyons it scoured through the rock.  The water carries highly abrasive glacial flour, resulting in rock formations incised into rounded layers all around the falls.  Below the falls, the river is again wide and fairly placid.

We tidied up back at the hotel and headed several miles out of town for dinner.  Our table gave us a view of a lovely lake, as the light faded.  Then it was back to Jasper, a town that was becoming familiar.  Not only does it have many, many hotels, restaurants, and stores selling tourist and regular items, it has a train station, parks, and residential streets with substantial buildings.  Some of the residential and public buildings appear quite old.  Apparently the town is a ski center in winter.



Monday September 1, Labour Day (Muriel)

This was Labour Day.  Canadians celebrate the same holiday we do in the USA, but they spell it with a “u.”  We checked out of our hotel and drove closer to the center of town for breakfast.  After breakfast, we supplied ourselves at a small market with cheese, sliced salami and an organic banana and headed out of town.  We traveled down Icefields Parkway toward Banff National Park of Canada.  We enjoyed a picnic in our car at one of the scenic view areas while it drizzled outside.

A bit farther along Icefields Parkway, we entered Banff NP and soon parked for the Columbia Icefield.  The icefield straddles the Continental Divide and Jasper and Banff National Parks.  We walked the path up toward the current edge of the icefield, reading educational signs about the icefield, glaciers, wildlife and global warming, past the terminus in 1982, then more and more recent dates.  The icefield and its glaciers have been receding for several decades, due to global warming.  With the steep slope and the high elevation, we were glad for all excuses to stop and catch our breath, and I was very happy to have my walking sticks for the trip down.  We found one bird alongside the steep path.  No, it wasn’t anything exotic, just a Savannah Sparrow.

As we continued along Icefields Parkway, there were seemingly endless peaks, many partially or entirely topped with snow or glaciers.  There were dramatic views of the Bow River, sometimes near the road, sometimes far below.  Eventually we arrived in Lake Louise, where we headed to the enormous and famous Chateau Lake Louise.  Allan had heard so much about this hotel that he decided to treat us to a luxurious stay there for two nights.  The first version of the hotel was built in this spot, on the shore of Lake Louise, directly across from Victoria Glacier.  The lake is dammed by a glacial moraine and is filled with melted water from the glacier.  Spectacular!

When we checked in, the hotel staff told us they had upgraded our room from the tiny one we expected to a fairly large room with a view of the Victoria Glacier.  We unpacked, settled in at our computers, and relaxed.  All was delightful until I decided to take a shower before dinner.  The shower door only opened inward, the showerhead was unmovable, and there was no place to stand in the shower without being drenched.  After I got drenched with glacial melt water, I settled for a bath.  That got me unchilled and clean, but there was no way we could shampoo in the bathtub.


On our way to dinner, we stopped by the front desk just before 7:30, to let them know about the problem shower.  We expected they would say they could adjust the door the next day.  Instead the clerk said he could move us to our choice between two rooms, that he would have a bellman show us the two.  We said we needed about ten minutes to pack our stuff and hurried back to our room and packed.  We waited and waited and waited, Allan making several phone calls to the desk.  Eventually, the clerk showed up after 8:30 and took us to one room – with a door opened to a living room with a perfect view of the glacier from two of its windows.  I guess the delay shamed him into giving us the small room with a view plus the second room that gave us a suite.

We had a very late dinner in the hotel bar while the hotel moved our two suitcases, two computers, one computer bag, loose pair of boots, etc.  After dinner we unpacked a second time and settled in, very, very comfortably.

Tuesday, September 2 (Muriel)




In the morning, we watched the lake and glacier and people strolling along the lakeside.  We went to breakfast in the basement (some basement!) where we watched the lake and strolling people.  We joined the strolling people, walking the short distance to the boathouse on the left, then 2Km to the right to where the terrain became steep.

It was already afternoon.  We drove to the village of Lake Louise where we headed to the information center for where to spend the afternoon and then to a deli where we got coffee and a couple of rolls.  We crossed back into British Columbia to Yoho National Park where lunched on yesterday’s leftovers and a roll at the parking lot of the Spiral (railroad) Tunnels and continued to Takakkaw Falls.  The road to the falls had two of the sharpest switchbacks we had ever seen, but was not particularly frightening.  In very light intermittent drizzle, we walked a fairly short and easy path to the viewing area for this extremely tall waterfall.  Afterwards we returned to Lake Louise and our very cozy accommodations at the Chateau.  We enjoyed the view from our room and later from the hotel’s steakhouse.

Wednesday September 3 (Muriel)

Looking out the window at our amazing view, we could see that it had rained during the night.  The rain had stopped and several people were strolling the lakeside.  We had breakfast and joined the strollers briefly.  We packed and checked out of the hotel.

We drove toward Banff, the other town in Banff NP, along the old route, 1A.  We stopped at several lookout points, getting good looks at Gray Jays.  Our main stop was in the large, crowded parking lot of Johnston Canyon.  We followed the semi-paved path that was sturdy, suspended catwalk in many places along the river to the first waterfall.  Unlike most of the lakes and rivers in Jasper and Banff that were cloudy from suspended glacial flour, this river was sparkling clear.  We searched below us frequently in hopes of finding a dipper, but to no avail.

All along the road the views alternated between almost endless green forest and dramatic mountain peaks. Approaching Banff the views were especially outstanding.  By the time arrived in Banff where we had an excellent lunch, the peaks were disappearing behind clouds but Allan did get one or two shots as we drove into town.


Banff is a much larger town than Jasper.  We found it much less charming, perhaps because it is so much larger.  Allan had wanted to take the gondola to the mountain top there, while I was ambivalent given my fear of heights.  The weather settled the issue.  The clouds were increasing.  We stopped in drizzle at the Cascade of Time Garden, expecting to learn about the wildflowers we had been seeing.  Instead we found an attractive and picturesque garden filled with very familiar plants you can find in gardens throughout the Los Angeles area.  We found a few Dark-eyed Juncos and increasing drizzle.  We drove uphill toward the tramway to see what the terrain was like.  The higher we went the harder it rained.

We turned around, the rain diminished to a drizzle, and we headed southeast to Calgary.  Much of the drive was in very hard rain, but it ended before we arrived in Canada’s fastest growing town of almost one-million people.

We settled into much more modest but comfortable accommodations.  According to the hotel’s website, the local restaurants are McDonalds, Denny’s, Pub, and a few similar others.  Allan picked a Greek restaurant a couple a miles from our hotel from the Auto Club Tour Book.  When we got there, it was out of business.  We saw an interesting looking restaurant across the street, Sun BBQ with part of the sign in Asian letters.  With some help from a patient food server, we picked out a delicious meal made up of dishes we had never had before except for the steamed rice and tea.