06/2006 - Canada

21-day trip to Canada, British Columbia and Alberta visiting Tsawwassen , Swartz Bay , Vancouver Island , Victoria ( with the Parliament Building, the British Columbia Museum, Thunderbird Park, Fisherman’s Wharf) , Marine Park Island of Discovery , Chemainus , Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Long Beach Unit, Tofino, Clayquot Sound, Wickaninnish Beach , MacMillan Provincial Park , Cathedral Grove , Port Alberni, Telegraph Cove, Port Hardy , Inside Passage, Prince Rupert , Hazelton , Ksan Historic Village, Prince George , Mount Robson Provincial Park, Canadian Rocky Mountains , Jasper National Park , Jasper, Patricia Lake, Pyramid Lake, Annette Lake, Edith Lake, Medicine Lake, Maligne Lake, Maligne Canyon, Whistler ‘s Mountain, Miette Hot Springs, Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, Stutfield Peak , Sun Glacier , Glacier Athabasca , Sunwapta Pass , Banff National Park , Glacier Saskatchewam , Weeping Wall, Mistaya Canyon , Peyto Lake , Moraine Lake , Lake Louise , Victoria Glacier , Lake Agnes , Banff , Lake Minnewanka , Johnson Lake , Drumheller, Dinosaur Trail, Horseshoe Canyon , River Red Deer, Bleriot Ferry , Path Hoodoo , Living Last Chance , Royal Tyrrell Museum , Calgary ( with the Devonian Gardens and the Glenbow Museum ) , Kootenay National Park, Marble Canyon , Roger Pass, Glacier National Park, Lake District, Salmon Arm, Kamloops, Whisyeler , National Park Garibaldi, Squamish, Britannia Beach , Shannon Falls, Vancouver ( with Waterfront Centre , Canada Place, Marine Building, Lonsdale Quay Market , Lions Gate Bridge, Seawall Promenade, Stanley Park , Aquarium of Marine Science, Sam Kee Building, Dr Sun Yat -Sen Park , Granville Island , Museum of Anthropology, Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain )

In the early afternoon we arrived at the airport in Vancouver, coming from Frankfurt. Immediately we transferred by car to Vancouver Island, taking the ferry in Tsawwassen . We got off at Swartz Bay and reached Victoria in a short time.
Victoria, with many Victorian houses, is the most British of the Canadian cities.
The most important monument of Victoria is the Parliament Building, a rich palace dating back to the late 1800s. It is spectacular the lighting obtained using more than three thousand light bulbs.

The British Columbia Museum is a must because through this visit we had an idea of the nation we were going to know. There are numerous sculptures, canoes, and countless other artifacts. The most important room is the one dedicated to the totem poles. The largest ones are displayed in the nearby site Thunderbird Park.

The peculiarity of the Fisherman’s Wharf is given by the countless and colorful houseboats rather than by the typical fishing boats.

The city of Victoria is well worth a walk around the harbor to admire the Undersea Gardens , the market square, and the impressive Empress Hotel .

We took advantage of the services provided by Seacoast Expeditions to go and see the orcas. We crossed Juan de Fuca Straits to arrive, after an hour of fast navigation, to the Discovery Island Marine Park.
It has been exciting our meeting with a group of orcas.

We left Victoria to stop after about an hour’s drive, in the beautiful town of Chemainus , famous for its giant murals .

We arrived to the beaches of the Pacific Ocean after crossing Vancouver Island longitudinally and visited the northern part of the Pacific Rim National Park, the Long Beach Reserve.
It is superb the location of the town Tofino overlooking Clayoquot Sound, whose biosphere is under the protection of UNESCO.
We spent one night at the Crab Dock B & B, an excellent and cheap accommodation .
We walked the Rain Forest Trail nr 6 , an equipped route within the rainforest. Then we visited the Wickaninnish beach and walked along the Shooner Beach Trail nr 8. It is a path equipped with walkways and stairways leading down to the sea and we could walk “under the sea” thanks to the extremely low tide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went back inside the island to visit, in MacMillan Provincial Park, a the place of greatest interest : Cathedral Grove. The forest is rich in huge Douglas pines and red cedar trees , some of them are more than 800 years old .
We spent the night in Port Alberni, an anonymous town which is washed by the sea despite being in the center of the island. The snowy peaks may deceive you but a 35- km-long fjord makes the town a harbour in the Pacific Ocean .

We went northwards crossing Vancouver Island on a fast road that offered us the view of endless stretches of gorse in bloom, beautiful sceneries, curious faces carved into the wood and our first meeting with an American black bear (Baribal)

With a short detour we went to visit a small village, very touristic, with houses built on stilts: it is Telegraph Cove

We slept in Port Hardy, the northernmost town of Vancouver Island, from where, waking up at 3:30 am the next morning, we were going to leave with the BC Ferries .

The ship took 18 hours to cross the Inside Passage. It is one of the most spectacular sea and mountain scenery in the world: wild evergreen mountains, often snowy, characteristic fishing villages, impressive fjords .
Many of these places are inaccessible from inland.
Unfortunately, even if many sea creatures live there: seals, killer whales , humpback whales , blue whales…, we only saw the shy puff of a whale.
We disembarked at 24.30 in Prince Rupert where we spent the night.
The next morning, we began to cross the valley that follows the course of Skeena river, among forests and snowy mountains.

We reached Hazelton where we visited the reconstruction of the historical village ‘Ksan. It is a village of Gitksan people where we visited a museum and saw several totem.
We interrupted our trip to Jasper National Park, after travelling 750 kilometers, and stopped in Prince George to spend the night .

We arrived at Mount Robson Provincial Park with bad weather, rain and low clouds, and therefore I was forced to show the highest peak ( mt.3.954 ) of the Canadian Rocky Mountains taking its photo from… a poster (see sidebar)!
We entered the province of Alberta .
We arrived in Jasper, a charming town that gives its name to the homonymous National Park.
We stayed at Miette Guest House. The choice was unhappy : small rooms placed below the street level and high price .

We noticed the “hermetic” bear proof garbage cans.

Jasper is surrounded by numerous lakes, some of them are particularly attractive for the landscapes all around.

We realized to be inside the Jasper National Park because, going along the roads around the city, we could find several animals that were freely roaming.

We drove fifty kms to visit two of the most beautiful lakes of the Park: Medicine lake and Maligne lake .

Returning to Jasper we walked along the path that follows the Maligne Canyon.
The highest part of the canyon is very deep (over 50 meters) with rocks smoothed by the force of water, numerous waterfalls and clear water pools.

CWith the Jasper Tramway we climbed on Whistler’s Mountain, the mountain overlooking Jasper.
The wonderful view allowed us to see the cobalt blue water of the lakes surrounding the town and our sight could wander northwards toward the peaks of the Rocky Mountains among which stands out Robson Mount and southwards toward the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield.

Miette Hot Springs is a resort with hot mineral waters that flow at 54 degrees .
We visited two large swimming pools crowded with tourists.
From the surrounding woods numerous fumaroles raise in correspondence with many natural springs.

We left the city of Jasper along the Highway 93 N, the Icefield Parkway. We visited the Athabasca Falls, quite wide, and Sunwapta Falls that are spectacular.

We began to see various glaciers that descend from the Columbia Icefield, the first two are the one of Stutfield Peak and the Dom Glacier.

The buses of the famous Brewster Company, equipped with huge wheels, allowed us to get on the slopes of the Athabasca Glacier.
After visiting the glacier, we went back to the Parkway road.
We overcame the Sunwapta Pass and entered the Banff National Park.

The landscapes are very beautiful, especially the view of the Saskatchewan glacier.

We met high waterfalls, beautiful snow-capped mountains, numerous lakes and many glaciers. Weeping Wall is a high wall of rock from which numerous waterfalls descend.

Going onwards we stopped to visit the Mistaya Canyon, where the strength of water has carved and smoothed the rocks so that now the river flows in a very deep canyon.

Peyto Lake is one of the most beautiful glacier-fed lakes in the world with its turquoise water and is overlooked by the homonymous glacier which is mirrored on its water. We had the chance to see a beautiful flower: the Western anemone.

We entered an area where it might be more frequent to meet grizzlies. As a warning for the drivers there was the poster on the sidebar. From a panoramic pitch we could see a train formed by more than one hundred wagons entering a tunnel. The locomotive had already crossed two tunnels when the last carriage had not entered the first tunnel yet.

The Village of Lake Louise is the welcome point for the tourists who come to visit the beautiful lakes of the place. Moraine Lake is small, very charming and quiet. Louise Lake is the largest one and is surrounded by beautiful mountains. The Victoria Glacier, 3.459 meters high, is the highest representative glacier. A path (it took nearly an hour to walk it) leads to Agnes Lake in whose calm water the surrounding mountains are reflected. From a small chalet we could admire the intense turquoise water of the underlying Louise Lake and the impressive and famous Hotel Fraimont.
We asked for an hotel at the Visitor Center in Banff: the Banff Avenue Inn has been a perfect choice and was managed by Sandy, a very nice Australian .

We visited the surroundings of Banff: the artificial Lake Minnewanka, the Tunnel Mountain Road and Johnson Lake.

Banff is an important touristic town with beautiful houses, characteristic and very interesting shops.

Along the Bow Valley Parway we reached the huge (800 rooms) and charming Banff Springs Hotel.
It is an immense granite building with many curious towers. Inside there are several shops and spacious and luxurious public areas.

In Banff there are also sulfur springs, inside a cave, with healing thermal baths.
We left Banff and, passing Calgary, arrived in Drumheller; this city is the capital of the most famous area in the world for the large amount of prehistoric fossils found

Drumheller is located 127 meters below the level of the prairie.
We went through the Dinosaur Trail, long a little less than 50 km. We met the Horseshoe Canyon, the most spectacular precipice of the Badlands area and then we crossed the Red Deer River on the Bleriot Ferry, a cable ferry working since 1913. We drove along the Hoodoo Drive to see Hoodoos, sandstone pillars that, as a result of wind and water erosion, have taken the shape of petrified mushrooms. We stopped for dinner at the legendary Last Chance Saloon.

Near Drumheller at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, fossils and skeletons of numerous prehistoric animals are excellently presented.

We went to visit the Dinosaur Provincial Park, the largest cemetery in the world of prehistoric animals, dating back to 75 million years ago; it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Unfortunately, the fatigue of the trip was not worth the result of the visit since there is little left.
After two hours on the motorway we reached Calgary which, with its skyscrapers, stands on the Alberta prairie.

The center of Calgary is characterized by ” Plus 15 skywalk” . This is a network of tunnels and bridges that links, through weather-protected walkways, several buildings approximately 15 feet above the street level.

On the fourth floor of the Toronto Dominion Square, we visited the Devonian Gardens, an indoor botanical garden with waterfalls, fountains, and more than twenty thousand plants.

We visited also the important Glenbow Museum which witnesses the history of the native peoples of the area.
We left Calgary going back to Banff National Park, we passed the homonymous town and entered the Kootenay National Park.
We left the State of Alberta and entered in the State of British Columbia.
A fire in 2003 destroyed the suspension bridges that gave access to the Marble Canyon.
We crossed the Roger Pass, within the Glacier National Park. In winter the snow exceeds 20 meters in height causing landslides and avalanches. The road is open in winter only thanks to the construction of many tunnels.

Leaving the Canadian Rocky Mountains, we began to cross the lakes area, from Salmon Arm to Kamloops. The lakes, artificially connected one to the other, allow boats to sail for several hundreds of kilometers. After an overnight stop in Kamloops we took the scenic road which brought us on the HWY 99, called ” Sea to Sky Highway”.
We passed through Whisteler, an important winter resort with numerous and challenging ski slopes, in the Garibaldi National Park.

In the Squamish area we could see many flying eagles and several climbers busy on high walls of granite rock . A little further on, near Britannia Beach, we could admire the high (over 300 meters) and spectacular Shannon Falls .
Vancouver welcomed us in a warm sunny day

Vancouver is a coastal seaport city in which the people of Asian origin represent more than half of the population. The city deserves to be “experienced ” visiting its most peculiar and characteristic places.
We began our visit along the City Center where we could admire the most important buildings of the city.

Facing the sea there is the Waterfront Centre whose heart is Canada Place, unique with its white sails.

Nearby there is the Marine Building, an art deco palace, with numerous bas-reliefs which represent subjects of the marine environment.

North Vancouver is noteworthy.
From the city center it can be reached:
– by sea, with the sea-bus which leads to the Lonsdale Quay Market , a typical food market with shops and restaurants;
– by land, crossing the Lions Gate Bridge

The Stanley Park, in the middle of a cedar forest of more than 400 acres, is on a peninsula near Vancouver.
The Seawall Promenade runs around the perimeter of the park and is a pathway that is considered among the most beautiful urban walks in the world.

Inside the Stanley Park we visited the Aquarium Marine Science Centre. There are very interesting pools where we could admire belugas, dolphins, but also seals, turtles and more.

It is wonderful the Chinese Garden ( Dr. Sun Yat -Sen Park) within the large Chinatown (there is a very high percentage of Asians in the city). It is curious the Sam Kee Building, the narrowest building in the world

VThen we visited Grandville Village, formerly it had been and industrial quarter, which houses restaurants, galleries and theaters.
Its main attraction is the covered market with many street stalls that offer food specialties from around the world

In the Museum of Anthropology there are very interesting collections of works and totem poles of indigenous peoples.

In North Vancouver we visited Capilano Suspension Bridge. It is a 70-meter-high bridge that crosses the homonymous river. It gives access to the rainforest in which we found an equipped path of walkways which is placed at an height of ten feet; the path has been built linking huge Douglas pines.

Vancouver offers plenty of pubs and restaurants where we could enjoy heterogeneous meals .
In Steamworks Gastown Pub we found excellent dishes and delicious local beers and it was possible to follow all the matches of the FIFA World Cup.

Another great restaurant is the Joe Fortes Chop House which serves tasty dishes of fish and seafood as well as top quality wines .

The citizens of Vancouver in winter go skiing a few kilometers from the city center.
We took the aerial tramway to the Grouse Mountain, 1.100 meters high.
We could enjoy the spectacular sight of the city and the games of two huge grizzly cubs.

Before leaving Canada and, in particular, this wonderful city I want to conclude with a series of photos that show some of its most unusual aspects.