Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Reginald Hill ...

View into Fulford Harbour

Yesterday was the last day of (forecast) sunshine for a few days, so when school was out, we decided to go for a short hike on Salt Spring Island.  We drove to Fulford Harbour at the southern end of the island where we climbed to the top of Reginald Hill, which offers the only public land from which you can peer down into Fulford Harbour.  Of course, the hike has nothing on any of the hikes in the Rockies, but still, it was a very pretty walk.  On the drive back, R. and I got dropped off and ran the 4-5 kilometres back into Ganges.  It was a fun and energetic way to spend a summer afternoon.  Now, the rain has set in and it's time for a fire and a day of board games and reading.

Looking out of the harbour

Monday, 30 August 2010

A different route ...

Flying over the Gulf Islands towards Victoria

I have a newfound respect for single parents travelling with children.  Yesterday, I travelled to the island with two children, a 14 year old overweight Labrador, 4 suitcases filled with books for school and a 25 kilo bag of dog food.  I was slightly nervous about the whole procedure, but it was surprisingly easy.  We took a different route to the family's island, flying from Calgary to Victoria where the kids' parents picked us up.  It was a beautiful 30 minute boat ride in the sunset to Deadman Island.  Now, over three weeks of life on island time await us.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Off to the island again ...

Tonight, I head off to the Calgary airport, headed for Victoria on Vancouver Island, for my second stint on Deadman Island.  We'll be on the island for nearly a month.  I'm really looking forward to getting into more of a school routine (we haven't had a full week of school for about 6-7 weeks).  I also plan to put my head down and get all my uni assignments done because ... my mum arrives in three weeks!!!  We have a very full three weeks planned, so there will be no time for writing assignments.  Over the three week trip, we will visit Vancouver, Deadman/Salt Spring Island, Calgary (and the surrounds), New York and the Lake Louise/Jasper areas.  In the meantime, I look forward to enjoying this view .... 

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Wild Horse Trail ...

Heading out of the trailhead car park

When my boss called me on Tuesday evening and asked if I wanted to go for a horse ride in the mountains the following day, I jumped at the chance.  The summer days here, with temperatures in the mid twenties and blue skies, are perfect for riding.  We set off from the appropriately named 'Wild Horse Trail' in the Bragg Creek Provincial Park, about a 45 minute drive from the ranch.  The national and provincial parks in Alberta are extremely well set up with excellent maps and signage available for all the trail users - hikers, mountain bikers, horse riders and cross country skiiers.

Crossing the fast flowing stream

Wild ponies!

I was excited about the ride because I'd never done a trail ride like this before.  For this ride, I had the luxury of having my horse handed to me, fully tacked up and ready to go, as well as the convenience of riding with experienced riders who are all lovely people.  

"Which way should we be going?"

An open field - perfect for a gallop!

The trail began by crossing a large, stony river flat, where we did see some wild ponies.  Here, we had to cross a huge, fast flowing stream.  One thing I can say about polo ponies is that they are extremely versatile - not once did they flinch as we crossed the raging stream or when we asked them to jump over small logs.  The trail wove around the base of a small mountain and through some open fields where the horses enjoyed a bit more freedom with a trot and a canter.  We then made our way up some steep, rocky paths to where we hoped we would find a viewpoint.  Unfortunately, due to time constraints, my horse cutting her leg and another horse losing a shoe, we decided to head back early.  We headed back down the mountain and back to the trailhead.  I got off my horse feeling very, very sore ... it's been a while since I've ridden for over 3 hours!

Happy horse on the trail

Beautiful scenery

River flats

Group picture - the teacher, the nanny and the polo grooms

Final river crossing

Friday, 27 August 2010

Only in China ...

Last week, I chose the wrong time to head into the city and got stuck in peak hour traffic.  It made me incredibly frustrated and a little stressed ... particularly the idea of being in a traffic jam on the 'wrong' side of the road.  It made me think about when I had last been stressed by traffic - over two years ago, when living in Melbourne.  That thought calmed me as I thought how lucky I was not to have had to deal with traffic jams for several years.  Then, earlier this week, I came across an entry on WoAi's 'I love China' blog (just as an aside, WoAi happens to mean 'I love' in Mandarin) ... a 9 day, 100 kilometre traffic jam near Beijing.  You can read the full article here.  Other articles suggest that the traffic jam will continue for several months.  While the length of the traffic jam itself makes me think, "Only in China ...", what also provoked the same response was the fact that the locals along the 100 kilometre traffic jam are taking advantage of the chaos by selling the stuck drivers overpriced food and water ... instant noodles are four times the normal price, according to this article (which means that they are probably charging $1, rather than the standard 25 cents!).  It certainly is a dog-eat-dog world in China.  So the 15-20 minutes that I was stuck in Calgary traffic has nothing on these poor people in Beijing.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump ...

The buffalo jump

Crazy name, hey?!  Several months ago when I heard about Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, I knew I had to visit it.  My chance came on Sunday - it was raining when we woke up and our bodies were sore from the hike the day before.  Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump just happened to be a short detour on our way back to Calgary, so we decided to forgo a rainy hike and do some sightseeing instead.  The tourist site, where the Indians used to drive herds of buffalo off the cliff, is now a World Heritage site.  The name comes from the story of a young Indian boy who, wanting to watch the annual buffalo jump, stood beneath a ledge next to the cliff and watched the buffalo come tumbling down past him.  As the buffalo piled up in their hundreds, the boy became trapped against the cliff and had his head smashed, hence the name Head-Smashed-In.

One of the cliffs used for the jump ... it used to be a lot higher but due to the build up of bone over the years, it is not so high nowadays

The base of the jump ... looking out towards the prairies

The process of the buffalo jump is fascinating and the Indians were clearly a highly organised group of people.  When conditions were right and the drive run, a big lane marked by rock cairns and bushes, was in place, several male members of the tribe would dress up in wolf skins and slowly push the buffalo herd towards the cliff.  A 'buffalo runner', another tribe member dressed in a buffalo skin, would move in front of the herd, enticing them towards the cliff.  The tribe relied on the buffalos' instinct to move towards lost buffalo calves ... or in this case, the 'buffalo runner'.  Once the herd were in the drive lane, the 'wolves' would quickly chase them while other tribe members, who lined the drive lane, would wave buffalo skins and shout at the herd.  This created a frenzy and, in a panic, the buffalo would stampede to their deaths over the cliff.  At the last minute, the 'buffalo runner' would leap behind the tribe members lining the drive lane - I sure wouldn't want this job!  Most of the buffalo met their deaths at the bottom of the cliff, however some lived and the Indians were quick to kill these animals because they feared they would return to warn other buffalo herds, therefore ending the 'buffalo harvest' for future years.  At the bottom, remaining tribe members were on hand to quickly begin the process of extracting the innards, meat and bone from each animal.  The leading tribesman had the honour of eating the fresh buffalo kidney.  Every part of the animal was used in some way, whether it be for food, clothing or tools.  A favourite food was made by grinding buffalo meat and wildberries together into a paste and then drying the mixture.  I found the whole idea of the buffalo jump incredibly intriguing and the museum presented this ancient Indian tradition in a very user-friendly manner, giving the viewer a real sense of the annual buffalo jump tradition.

A buffalo skin documenting the events from 1764 to 1879 - The first entry was the introduction of small pox to the Indian tribe, the last entry was 'No more buffalo left'

The symbols used to mark the yearly events

After several hours exploring the fantastic museum and wandering along the top of the cliff, we headed back to Calgary.  Here are some of the sights we saw on the drive home ...

'Only in America ...' - hang on, we are in Canada!  Southern Alberta, heavily influenced by America, with their neighbour Montana just being over the border.  Oh, and check out the spelling - pallets?  Pellets, me thinks

An old grain mill in Nanton

Not bears, but bear ... just the one

Barn with smily face

Big Rock - the rock which Big Rock Beer is named after

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Hiking (and scrambling) up Mount Bertha ...

Google Earth map of our hike - Waterton Lake to the summit of Mount Bertha ... it even shows where we went paddling in Bertha Lake!  In total, we hiked 18 kilometres with an elevation gain of 1100 metres

On Saturday, we spent a lot of time with Bertha ... we visited Bertha Falls, Bertha Lake and summited Mount Bertha.  I wondered who Bertha was.  It turns out that Bertha, whose silver framed picture was nestled next to a cairn on top of her mountain namesake, was a local outlaw.  In the early 1900s, Bertha was known for writing fake prescriptions for alcohol.  Based on this, I'm guessing that Bertha spent a considerable amount of roaming around her namesakes in nature as she hid from the police.

A grey and cloudy Waterton Lake

Bertha Falls

C.'s friend, E. was responsible for choosing the path we hiked on Saturday.  The trailhead was just outside the township of Waterton and gradually wound its way around one mountain and up the side of another, crossing over Bertha Falls in the process.  The hike up was fairly easy.  The end point of the official hike was Bertha Lake, where one can choose to complete a 4 kilometre circuit of the beautiful lake.  We stopped here for lunch with a stunning view over the Waterton Lakes.  Into the distance, you could see the prairies.  Over lunch, E., a super fit mountain man, innocently suggested that if we were feeling good, then we could climb to the summit of Mount Bertha.  "Sure!" was my response. 

First glimpse of Bertha Lake

Bertha Lake up close

We walked part of the way around the lake before leaving the track to scramble up the side of the mountain on our way to the summit.  The scramble consisted of, as the name implies, plenty of scrambling up loose scree, clambering over rock cliffs and more bushwhacking than I've done since I was 10 years old.  Most of the time, there was no track to follow and we blindly followed E. and his fancy GPS system (which provide the Google Earth picture) up the mountain.  The steep slope required plenty of breathing and rehydration breaks, which also gave us time to admire the stunning views.

And another shot

A noisy trickle comes down the mountain

Once we reached the summit, it took several moments before I was able to regain my breath sufficiently to fully appreciate the view.  In one direction, the Rockies stretched out towards the US.  In another, the Rockies gave way to small foothills and then stretched out into the prairie.  And, in a third direction, the view looked towards mountain high lakes surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  It was spectacular.

View from our lunch spot - looking out towards Waterton Lake, our starting point

And another view ... looking down towards Bertha Falls

After much admiration, a photography session, lots of water and some snacks, we headed back down the steep mountainside.  There was little conversation on the way down as we all concentrated on placing our feet in safe spots and avoiding a tumble.  At the bottom of the scramble (and after a few wrong directions, resulting in some serious bushwhacking in serious bear country), we soaked our feet in the chilly mountain lake, before strolling back down to the trailhead with nothing but cold beer on the mind.  Bertha would have been happy. 

View from the side of Mount Bertha - Bertha Lake is on the right, Waterton Lake towards the upper left

The guys leave the rock cliff and begin bushwhacking

The hill we scrambled up

View over Mount Bertha, half way up the mountain

... and a bit higher
... and even higher

The view we were rewarded with at the summit

A portrait shot of the same view

Looking towards Waterton Lake

The tribute to Bertha

View away from the lakes

"Look Mum! It's America!"  Looking towards the mountains in Glacier National Park in the USA

Heading back down

A refreshing paddle in Bertha Lake

No, we're not looking for bears, we're eating the delicious wild berries ... that's the mountain we climbed in the background

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Waterton National Park ...

Looking across Waterton Lake to the Prince of Wales hotel

Now that the excitement of the bear sighting has lulled somewhat, I can return to the beginning of my weekend in Waterton National Park.  The Waterton NP is one of Canada's smaller national parks but it has several unique features.  The most significant one is that it shares its boundaries with the United State's Glacier National Park.  Together, the two parks form the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, promoting peace and cooperation between the two countries.  The International Peace Park is also a World Heritage site.  The other unique feature of the Waterton NP is that there are hardly any foothills surrounding the Rockies.  They simply emerge out of the prairie, which makes for an incredibly striking view.

The campground

View into Waterton NP from the campground

Waterton NP is about a 2.5 hour drive from Calgary, so we were able to leave after work on Friday and arrive in plenty of time to set up our tent at the Waterton Springs Campground.  We were told that lots of people had requested our 'cosy' tent spot.  'Cosy' it was ... to fit the tent and car in the spot, we had to move the picnic table so it sat over top of the fire place.  Camping is all about gadgets, most of which we didn't have, so we declared ourselves 'yuppy campers' for the weekend - a thick mattress and comfy pillows ensured a good night sleep, dinners out and a morning stop at the cafe for a cup of tea were all in order.  We vowed to do it 'properly' next time ... smoke covered clothes, dirty hair, burnt dinners, the works.

A buck struts across the street

Mother deer and fawn graze on a Waterton intersection

The town of Waterton is very quaint.  It sits on the banks of the Waterton Lakes (Upper, Middle and Lower) with the famous Prince of Wales hotel overlooking the small town.  There weren't an overwhelming number of tourists but there were a huge number of deer roaming the town.  Waterton is  a great place to spend a weekend or even more - there are a huge number of hikes for all fitness levels available well as all the creature comforts in the township.  Next year, I plan to return to do a two week camping trip through both the Waterton and Glacier National Parks.

Waterton at dusk