Canada in Summer
Size: 9,985,000 sqkm
Time Zone: GMT -8 to -4
Land of Mountains & Big Skies
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We flew into Vancouver Island on the first of August 2015 and spent a lovely week staying with the families of Jana’s siblings who live on the island. We spent some time in Victoria, the capitol of British Colombia, and one of the older towns on the west coast. The weather was great with temperatures in the high twenties and glorious sunshine every day, so we could enjoy walks in the parks and along the waterfront. Victoria has a much more European feel than many other cities on the west coast and is famed for its great weather and flowers, which were in full bloom during our visit. We spend time in the city and visited Beacon Hill Park as well as visiting the beach and exploring some of Dean Park, a larger wooded area to Victoria’s north.
We then travelled north to Nanaimo, passing through Duncan to try some native Canadian cuisine as well as seeing the largest hockey stick in the world. Nanaimo is another nice sea-side town with amazing view over the Salish Sea to the mountains on the mainland. We had a day here before flying to Vancouver.
We only had a day in Vancouver as we were planning to push east and spend as much time by the lakes and mountains as possible. We had a nice walk around Stanley Park and after lunch headed north to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Whilst quite expensive the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a nice afternoon out, the bridge is the main attraction, spanning the gorge high above the river, but there are also many small forest walkways and trails to look around. We also had a quick evening excursion through down-town Vancouver when we took a wrong turn and had to travel all the way from the north shore and into the city before we could turn around, however this gave me a change to get a bit of driving practice in and get used to our hire car which was a nice V6 Dodge.
The following day we drove over the Salmon Arm, again the weather was good and the roads quiet so we made good time. Jana’s parents own a cabin on the edge of the Shuswap Lake and we made this our base for the next few days. We had a sail that evening and then the following day motored across the lake to Margaret Falls. The last time I had been here was mid-winter and we had had to snow shoe up the trail and the waterfall was close to being frozen over. This time the weather was lovely and we even braved the still-freezing water to climb up into the small cave hidden behind the falls. The next day I had a kayak with Tony around Gardom lake, where there were many turtles sunning themselves on every available log, and then we had a canoe on Shuswap Lake in the evening.
We started the next day by heading to the Spiral Tunnels look out. From here it is possible to see the immense trains that carry the coal from the mines around Calgary down to Vancouver. The trains are so long and the mountains so steep that it is possible to see a single train at 3 separate locations on the mountain as it spirals through a range of tunnels and cuttings. Whilst interesting, the Rockies are more famed for their scenery and our next stop was somewhat more impressive from that perspective: the Takakkaw Falls. Nearly 400 m high this spectacular waterfall in the Yoho national park. We spent the morning walking around the base of the falls and then travelled over to Emerald Lake with a brief lunch detour to see a Natural Bridge spanning the kicking horse river. This is also impressive with the water forced to travel through an outcrop of particularly hard rock.
We had the afternoon walking around Emerald Lake. Again the sun was out and the lake gleamed in an emerald green colour. The walk passed around the exposed western side of the lake where the trees were thin and the ground hard, through the northern alluvial fan where there were wild flower and then to the eastern side where the mountains formed natural protection and the ground was boggy and ideal for wetland habitats. We finished with a drink in the lodge and then headed back to Wapta Lake. After dinner we had an evening walk from the Lodge. We were aiming for Sherbrooke Lake, which is some way off the main tourist trails, and looked nice on the map. The sun was setting and the going slower and so, with the increasing threat of bear encounters as the sun dropped over the mountains we turned around half was and headed for home.
The following day we headed over to the Lake Louise Ski resort. In summer one of the gondolas still runs and provides a serene ride up into the higher mountains. It is said that Grizzly bears can often be seen from the safety of the gondolas, but we didn’t see any. However the views from the top were great and wild flowers covering the mountains were amazing.
In the afternoon we travelled on Moraine Lake, this is a beautifully bright blue glacial lake to the south of Lake Louise. We had a walk around the lake and climbed over the impressive moraine from which the lake gets its name. We had thought we might go for a further walk but at the trail head there was a sign warning of bears and saying a minimum of four people should be present in each walking group. Luckily we met another couple from London who also wanted to do the walk and so hiked over to Consolation Lake which was much quieter and really pleasant.
After a drink and cool down we pressed on to see the sun set over Lake Louise before heading on to Banff. We had an amazing meal to cheese fondue and selections of Canadian meats before retiring for the night.
The following day was our last and we drove over to Johnston canyon. Again we had been here in the winter and the short walk to the falls had be tough with temperatures below -20 and the waterfall fully frozen over. In summer things were quite different and whilst the weather was turning and we got caught in some light rain the paths were easy and we could walk to the upper falls and have a much better look around.
The following day we drove to Calgary to catch our flight home.