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Logbook:    Summer Travel to Canada, August 2007

An Anniversary Party and Touring the Canadian Rockies (8/16-8/30)

One of the highlights of our cruising life has been the people we've met along the way and the friendships we've forged.  This year, two of our closest cruising friends, Bob & Kay Finlay on Kay II celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  We spent lots of time cruising Pacific Mexico with Bob & Kay, and although we eventually separated due to different cruising plans, we keep in touch regularly.  When Bob & Kay told us that they were planning an anniversary celebration in Edmonton in August, we immediately told them to count us in.  (Although their actual anniversary was in February, we were pleased they planned the party in summer!) 

The two of us have never spent time in Canada, and neither of us really knew where Edmonton was - all we knew was that it was somewhere up north.  When we looked at a map, we noticed it wasn't far from Banff and Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies.  For several years, we've talked about wanting to see those sights, so this appeared to be a good opportunity to do that, too.  The idea of visiting the Rockies got even better when our cruising friends Aly & Iain from Loon III (Canadians from Calgary) offered to join us on the trip with their camper van and show us around.  (We also met Aly & Iain in Pacific Mexico, cruised through most of Central America with them, and they line handled on Slip Away when we transited the Panama Canal.)


Bob & Kay's 50th Anniversary  (August 16-21)

We had two weeks scheduled for our trip to Canada, and we spent the first five days visiting with the Finlay family and celebrating Bob & Kay's anniversary.  

Bob & Kay are like family to us - we've spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and a few birthdays together.  They have five daughters and fondly refer to Jan as their sixth.  The other five daughters welcomed us in their homes and showed us some true Canadian hospitality.  When we flew into Calgary, Lori and Nicki (daughters #3 and #4), met us at the airport.  That night, we stayed at the home of Lori and her husband Arne (who live in Calgary), and the next day they drove us to Edmonton for the party.   

We spent the next couple of nights at the hotel where the party was held.  Two other cruising couples we knew from Mexico, John & Mary from Java and Alan & Mac from Effie, also came to the party, and it was great to see them again.  The party was set for Saturday evening, and since we had no big plans for Saturday afternoon, Java & Effie invited us to go to West Edmonton Mall with them.  The West Edmonton Mall isn't just any old mall - it's the "world's largest entertainment and shopping center."  It boasts over 800 stores, as well as an indoor wave pool and amusement park, a hotel with 350 rooms, 19 movie theaters and lots more.  This seems to be an ideal place to spend time during Edmonton's long, cold winters! 

The party on Saturday night was great fun.  About 100 people attended, and with Bob & Kay's five daughters, five sons-in-law, and something like 17 grandchildren (ranging in age from 12 to late 20's) and their dates, most of the attendees were from their immediate family.  The evening started with cocktails and then dinner.  After dinner, Charlene (the oldest daughter) shared a touching history of Bob & Kay's lives - from their meeting at age 18, marriage and five daughters, a job assignment in Saudi Arabia, cruising the Mediterranean in the 1980's on their first sailboat, a return to Canada and various business ventures and jobs (including Bob's stint as a cowboy), and a return to cruising in Mexico on Kay II .  We enjoyed a wonderful slide show, raised our glasses in a toast given by Kay's brother Joe, and then the dancing got started, went on for hours and got a little wild at times. 


Bob & Kay - celebrating 50 years of marriage


Kay & Bob with their five daughters (left to right):  Nadine, Lori,
Sandy, Charlene & Nicki


Kay, Bob & the cruiser turnout - John & Mary from
Java (left), Mac & Alan from Effie and the two of us

There are more pictures of Bob & Kay's party at, with photos from the past 50 years and a link to party photos. 

On Sunday, the celebration continued with an open house at the home of daughter Charlene and her husband Chris, who live in St. Albert on the outskirts of Edmonton.  It was another enjoyable day with the Finlay family.  Their kids and grandkids live in various cities, and it was a special time to have them all together in one place.  They made the most of the reunion and had a lot of fun with each other. 

We had met Charlene & Chris a couple of years ago at Christmas in Mazatlan, and they invited us to stay at their home for a couple of nights after the party.  Bob & Kay were staying there, too, and the extra time we had with all of them was very special, as we got to hear many tales from the past. 

After a few great days with the Finlay's, we were sad to say good-bye but excited to venture off to the Canadian Rockies.  We had plans to meet Aly & Iain in Jasper, Alberta, at mid-day on Tuesday, so we departed Edmonton early on a Greyhound bus.  (Bob & Kay graciously drove us to the bus station for our 6:45 am departure.)   

Canadian Rockies (August 21-30)

Aly & Iain were waiting for us in Jasper, and we spent the next nine days visiting Jasper, Banff, and Yoho National Parks and Kananaskis Country's Provincial Parks.  We took in a few of the touristy sights, but mostly we did a lot of hiking and enjoyed the natural beauty of the area.  (Our legs were tired and a little sore the first few days, but we were feeling pretty strong toward the end.)  Although Aly & Iain had previously spent time in this area, we went to some places they'd never been before.  In a previous life, Iain was a park ranger in Kananaskis Country, so he was a great guide and definitely the best at sighting and identifying wildlife. 

We traveled, cooked and slept in their camper van, which allowed us to see the area at a fraction of the cost than if we had we stayed in hotels.  (Cheap hotel rooms in that area were over $200/night, and dinner at the least expensive restaurants ran about $25/person.)  Iain & Aly graciously gave us the beds in the camper van, and they slept in a tent.  Traveling with four adults in the campervan was a little bit of a squeeze, but since we all live on boats, we're used to small spaces, and it was no problem at all. 

The weather was a fair bit cooler than normal (most afternoon highs in the 50's instead of the normal 70's), but we packed fleece, long underwear, hats and gloves, so we were prepared.  We didn't get much rain, which would have been a bigger issue, but we did have a snow shower one afternoon.  We're sure this is the first time we've ever been snowed on in August!   Nights were quite chilly, but we had good warm blankets.  Jan slept next to the heater controls in the camper van, and when she woke up in the morning, her first order of business was to turn on the heater, and shortly thereafter it was warm enough to climb out from under the blankets to put the kettle on the stove to heat up water for coffee and tea. 


Iain & Aly were excellent traveling companions (but then we already knew that), and they showed us more of the area than we'd guess most visitors get to see.  The natural scenery was nothing short of spectacular.  We also learned a lot - about icefields and glaciers (icefields are like large lakes which feed glaciers, which are like rivers), how to tell a grizzly bear from a brown bear (look for the hump on the back of its neck), how to quickly convert Celsius temperatures to Fahrenheit (double and add 32), some new Farkle rules (a dice game), and much more.

All in all, we couldn't have asked for a better trip, and what a nice diversion for us after a summer of full-time boat projects.  We have lots of beautiful photos and great memories. 

Here are more details and photos:

Day 1 - Town of Jasper & Mt. Edith Cavell (Jasper National Park).   Aly & Iain had lunch waiting for us when we arrived in Jasper, and shortly thereafter, we drove to Mt. Edith Cavell, where we hiked to a pond at the base of Cavell Glacier.  Mt. Edith Cavell was named to honor a heroic British nurse, Louise Edith Cavell, who was executed for helping Prisoners of War escape Belgium during the First World War. 

Mt. Edith Cavell and its glacier


Aly, Jan & Rich by pond at base of Cavell Glacier

Day 2 - Maligne Lake (Jasper National Park).  Maligne Lake is the oldest attraction in Jasper Park and the largest lake in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. We hiked the Opal Hills Loop Trail and were warned that grizzly bears had recently been sighted in this area, but fortunately, we didn't see any. 

Aly & Iain on Opal Hills Trail


Columbia Ground Squirrel -
these little guys were all over on this trail


Scenery along Opal Hills Trail

Day 3 - Drive south along the Icefields Parkway, with stops at Sunwapta Falls, Athabasca Glacier and Icefields Center. (Jasper National Park).  The Icefields Parkway runs along side the Continental Divide.  Ironically, last December, the four of us were on the Continental Divide together in one of Costa Rica's National Parks. 

Athabasca River / Scenery along the Icefields Parkway


Upper Sunwapta Falls


Athabasca Glacier

Day 4 - Wilcox Pass Hike (Banff National Park) & tour of Athabasca Glacier (Jasper National Park).

View from Wilcox Pass Trail -
Big Horn Ram in the foreground with glaciers in background


Close-Up of the Big Guy


Another view from Wilcox Pass Trail -
Big Horn Sheep grazing in front of the Columbia Icefields


Taking a break for lunch and seeking shelter from the wind

Two of us on Athabasca Glacier

A totally touristy thing to do - the Snow Coach Glacier Tour

Day 5 - Parker Ridge Hike and Drive down Icefields Parkway with stops at Peyto and Bow Lakes (Banff National Park).  Emerald Lake & Natural Bridge, town of Field (Yoho National Park).  The lakes in the Canadian Rockies are a beautiful blue color.  Fine particles of rock called "rock flour" scatter the blue-green rays of light giving the lake its special color. 

View of Saskatchewan Glacier from Parker Ridge


Aly on Parker Ridge Trail


View of Icefields Parkway from Parker Ridge Trail


Two of us at Peyto Lake


Emerald Lake


Natural Bridge

Day 6 - Takakkaw Falls - one of Canada's highest waterfalls (Yoho National Park) & Lake Louise (Banff National Park).  After a walk around Lake Louise, we spent some time wandering through the posh Chateau, which is now a Fairmount Hotel. 

Takakkaw Falls


Chateau Lake Louise

Day 7 - Moraine Lake and Valley of Ten Peaks (Banff National Park).  This was a favorite - a long hike in a stunning valley.  . 

Incredible natural beauty at Moraine Lake


Iain & Rich on trail through Valley of the Ten Peaks


Caught in a snow shower


Hoary Marmot just off the trail


The sun comes out for our end-of-hike beers

Day 8 - Town of Banff and drive to Kananaskis Country.  The town of Banff is pretty touristy, but we did stop to see the famed Banff Hot Springs Hotel, which was built in the late 1800's by the Canadian Pacific Railroad to encourage customers to travel on their newly completed rail line across the Rocky Mountains.  When the hotel opened in 1888, rooms rented for $3.50/night.  Our tour book told us summer rates at this hotel can run $700/night - wow!  We spent the morning walking around the town, did a little shopping, and then headed off to Kananaskis Country. 

Banff Hot Springs Hotel


Moose by the road on our way to Kananaskis Country

Day 9 - Rawson Lake and Olympic Village.  After a hike to beautiful Rawson Lake, we visited the village near the Nakiska Ski Area built for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.  This was the last day of our trip, and that evening, we went out for a nice dinner at the Kananaskis Country Golf Course, where the food and views were both excellent. 

Mountain reflection on Rawson Lake


There were a bunch of these little picas at Rawson Lake


Some final photos:

The only bear we saw on the trip -
fortunately, we were in the car


The four of us with our camper van and tent


Iain finds a place in the sun
for a short nap