02 November 2018

Somewhere in the Swamps of...South Carolina

Some pics from last week:

Gyrfalcon with its handler at Stone Mountain Highland Games. Largest falcon in the world. Amazing eyes!
Salt Marsh on Kiawah Island, SC. A unique ecosystem.
Bike path on Kiawah. Note the Live Oaks with Spanish Moss. 
Live Oak, Saw Palmetto, Deer. What the biking is like on Kiawah.
Some sort of spongey thing on the beach at Kiawah in the rosy light approaching sunset.
Kiawah Sunset!
Cypress Trees in the Swamp at Congaree National Park.
Kayaking along the Cedar Creek in Congaree NP.
Tupelo and Cypress on the Boardwalk Hike in Congaree NP. Note the Cypress Knees.
Congaree Denizen. What a beauty!
Another contribution to my 'Things Growing on Other Things' collection.
This brought back all the feelings. My first job, at the age of 13, was picking cotton. Picked for 2 or 3 summers. My cuticles have never recovered! (If you've ever picked a boll of cotton, you'll know what I mean.)
Beagle hunting with attached radio collar so his owner can locate him.
Someone suggested an upscale restaurant near Santee where we were staying. But when I saw this place, I insisted on eating here. Country Cooking: Beef hash with local rice, BBQ pork, Fried Chicken, Fried Okra, Corn Bread Hush Puppies, Apple Cobbler, Banana Pudding. Just like mama used to make!
Approaching twilight on Lake Santee.

22 October 2018

Northwest Passage — Pt. 9: Whistler/Blackcomb, BC

The last big hike of the trip. We stayed overnight in Whistler, a major ski resort in British Columbia. In summer, the slopes and the area around them are turned into mountain biking trails and hiking trails. There was a major BMX championship going down in the town itself. The gondolas and chairlifts were packed with bicycles and their riders, who rode down the precipitous slopes on groomed trails. Not my thing, but looked like tons o' fun if that's your thing.

We opted for the High Note Trail, described below. Very few other hikers. Cannot recommend this hike enough. It was glorious. The altitude was not so high that it was totally disorienting, but the air was rarified. We were above all the smoke and haze from the wildfires. The day was, in a word, perfect.

As sometimes happens, I opted for a short-cut trail back to the main lodge. The trail somehow petered out in a jumble of rocks. I negotiated my way across the rubble and up a small slope only to discover it was the wrong slope in the wrong direction. After a brief discussion with the kind, helpful folks on the Emergency Hotline, I re-oriented, backtracked down the slope and back across the morraine, skirting a few glaciated patches, and back up the slope on the other side of the saddle until I found my way back to the trail which led to the lodge where I met up with the rest of the crew who were already there! Turns out my short cut was longer than their hike. HaHa. LOL. Silly me! That'll teach me a lesson!

A very important photo. After I got "lost", i.e., the trail disappeared into a pile of rocks, I called the number there, and they helped orient me. Thanks!
Precisely the sort of thing that activates the amygdala fear response region of my brain. Yet, reader, I crossed it!
Distant glaciers. Mid-August.
Hiking the slopes and rocks. (Not my stick, btw. Don't use one.)
Patches O'Glacier.
What is this I see down in the valley?
Cheakamus Lake, tree line, distant glaciers.

Typical trail view.
Wait, where'd the trail go? Guess I'll just have to negotiate this rocky rubble and maybe I'll come across it.
Alpine meadow back on the trail again.
Waterfall near Squamish on the way back to Vancouver.
And...ketchup flavored potato chips. Don't try this at home.

12 October 2018

Northwest Passage — Pt. 8: Jasper NP, Wells Gray PP

The drive from Banff to Jasper is regarded as one of the most beautiful drives in North America. Smoke and haze from surrounding forest fires obscured much of our enjoyment. Glaciated peaks were browned out, distant waterfalls barely visible.

Two days of easy hiking: glaciers, waterfalls, canyons, and lakes.

Bow Lake with distant glaciers and waterfall
Sign on Columbia Icefield that no one seems to heed
Columbia Icefield: Strolling on the glacier
Browned out Columbia Icefield: The largest glacier south of the Yukon & NW Territories & Alaska
Sign at the entrance to campground in Jasper
Athabasca Falls - Jasper NP
Sunwapta Falls - Jasper NP
Maligne Canyon
Maligne Canyon - Jasper NP
Maligne Canyon - Jasper NP
Same goes for me - Fraser River, furthest inland salmon spawning grounds
Afternoon dip in Clearwater Lake - Wells Gray
Hazy day at Helmcken Falls - Wells Gray Provincial Park, Fourth Highest in Canada
Spahats Falls - Wells Gray Provincial Park

30 September 2018

Northwest Passage — Pt. 7: Banff National Park: Lake Louise OMG

If you learn only one word from me and my crappy travel blog post, it should be 'Banff'. Banff National Park in the Alberta, Canada Rockies.

And the summertime highlight of that park is Lake Louise. (There is, apparently, great skiing there in the wintertime also.)

Lake Louise is pricey, especially the Fairmont Chateau which commands the spot. We camped some 55 kilometers away on the outskirts of Banff town for like $40/night Canadian, drove in early, arriving before 8:00. Even so, we got one of the last parking spots. Otherwise, we would have had to park about 10 km away and ride a shuttle. Instead of fixing breakfast in our camper as we did every other morning, we splurged and ate at the Chateau's breakfast buffet. Fresh caught smoked local smoked salmon, waffles, bacon, coffee, and pretty much anything you might ever want for breakfast fueled our long day's hike. Totally worth it.

Walking out of the Chateau's restaurant toward the lake, I gasped. It was one of those rare moments in my life when I had to stop walking and catch my breath at the beauty and splendor of the setting. Took my breath away—I know, a cliche, but dammit, it happened. High, distant glaciers were emerging from the low mists rising out of the turquoise colored lake. I'd never seen anything quite like it in my life. The first picture below is that moment. Taken with iPhone X camera, it cannot possibly capture the moment but does serve as a reminder.

For the previous couple of days, the sky was brown and cloudy from the forest fires. Once we crossed into the Banff high country, a large bowl surrounded by high, glaciated peaks, the skies cleared. This was, except for Victoria, the clearest, most perfect day of the trip.

I hiked about ten miles, about 2000' of elevation. The fam took an extra loop and hiked a bit longer and higher. Once again, I found myself hiking alone, at the sort of pace I prefer so don't have to watch each foot placement and can take in everything around me and even take a few snapshots. Occasionally, I would hear the boom and crash of a distant avalanche.

At the top of one hike sits the Teahouse on the Plain of Six Glaciers. They serve hot tea and soups. Supplies are hiked in daily by staff. Every week or so, propane and other supplies are helicoptered in. There's a sign on the porch requesting hikers to carry out garbage bags.

If you ever get the chance...

(Click pics to embiggen)

A moment of awe.
Let's go hiking.
Lake Louise from the trail.
Just can't get enough.
Heading higher. We reached a level with the bottom of the glacier you can see there.
The iconic hiking picture from Lake Louise, Banff, and the Canadian Rockies. (At least to my mind)
Currently the wallpaper on my computer.
If you enlarge the picture, you can see the narrow, rocky trail cut into the side of the hill.
Ever looked under the lip of a glacier? (For scale, it's about 10-12 ft high)
Gaining some elevation.
The Chateau across the lake on the return trip.
The color of the water! (Canoe in the lake for scale)
Cooling off our tired feet after a long day of hiking.
Last longing look at lingering sunlight hitting the eastern peak above Lake Louise.
One of many wildlife crossing structures over the TransCanada pioneered by Banff NP. Used by moose, elk, deer, bear, and many smaller animals.
Banff town sign, so as not to forget.