Monday, 19 July 2010

Of Moose and Mountains: Rummel Pass

Last year, one of our favourite hiking persona "finds" was the route to Rummel Lake & Rummel Pass. That was the day we saw 3 moose. Saturday was nearly the perfect hiking day, so we chose to get up high by going back to Rummel. And along the way, we saw... a moose.

Last year when we tried Rummel the first time, we ran into a bus load of Japanese tourists, so headed elsewhere. This time, just as we were about to start, up pulled a convoy of 7 cars, with +35 members of some hiking club. So it wasn't a terribly quiet day, but at least these folks were well prepared (unlike the folks climbing Ha Ling).

The perfect blue sky made for fantastic views of Mt. Birdwood, Commonwealth Peak and the lake itself.

The lake is nice,, but for me the best part of the hike are the upper meadows, with the endless views back to the Commonwealth Peaks.

The various tarns are also very cool, especially at this time of the year when the snow is still around in dribs and drabs.

It's so windy up here that the snow (and maybe even the rocks) are carved into cool shapes.

I come here for the million dollar view down to Lost Lake and the Galatea Valley, which today was even more spectacular courtesy of the perfect blue sky day.

There weren't a lot of critters around today. Columbian ground squirrels up high (in the meadows) and down low (at Spray Lakes road)...

...and a golden mantled ground squirrel in the middle.

The 100 mile visibility and the perfect temps made this to be a perfect day to be in the mountains.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Weekend at the Wet Wing

The forecast for the weekend couldn't have been more wrong. Saturday was supposed to be cloudy with showers in the morning, and sunny in the afternoon. Accordingly, we planned a bike and hike trip into West Wind Valley for the afternoon. The access to the valley is literally 5 minutes drive up the hill at the Banff Gate resort, which we figured we could bike up to.

Well, it dawned sunny, but by 11 AM, the forecast had changed to cloudy in the afternoon with a chance of showers. We got the bikes out after lunch just as it started to cloud over. We rode part the way up the road to Banff Gate Resort, then opted to ride back down and drive up as it was a steep gravel road grunt that was no fun. As we unloaded the bikes at hike start, it started to spit rain. Fifteen minutes into the ride it was raining hard, so we gave up and rode back to the car. But the rain didn't last, and had stopped by the time we got back to the car. So we turned around again and rode back into the valley. We got to the hike part, and ditched the bikes. We had not hiked more than 10 minutes when the heavens opened and it started to pour resplendent with thunder and lightning, so we turned around a second time and headed back to the bikes and to the car again. By the time we made the car this time, we were drenched, but the rain had mostly stopped again. Once bitten, twice shy: we gave up, only to have it start raining about 15 minutes later and rain for most of the rest of the evening. No, I took no photos of the biking or the hiking.

Today was forecast to be sunny and warm. Looking at the sat photos, I thought it would by cloudy and cool, and I was right. It seemed like a good day to climb Ha Ling, a very popular hike in the Canmore area that is very exposed on a sunny day.

I don't know why this hike is so popular. You gain 810 m in a mere 2.8 km, meaning it's a relentlessly steep uphill drudge. The trail's in awful shape, braided down low and with loose scree up high.

There's pretty much nothing for views for the first hour or more until you hit treeline. Okay, I will admit from treeline up the views are pretty stellar. Just note that there's a cliff edge that is a vertical drop of 1,000' if you take one step too far.

There's little chance to see critters on this hike because of the crowds. At one point, we counted 17 people on the last 300 m of the hike, between the saddle and the peak. At least 100 people hiked the place today, including folks in running shoes with no water nor daypack. No self respecting bear or sheep would be seen anywhere near the place with all the noise. But there were chipmunks and ground squirrels begging for food. We have trained them well.

And just as we finished for the day (and 5 minutes after some folks had started the hike) it started to rain and thunder. Again. As we drove back to Calgary, we ran into the storm a second time.

We had to stop by KC's office on the way home, and ran into a HUGE downpour with hail that made rivers flow down Bow Trail and had a vortex of water swirling in her parking lot.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Europe Part 5: Cannes & Monaco

Apologies for this being late with this post, as I was in Dallas twice in the last two weeks.

As I mentioned in my Nice post, while Nice is OK, the reason to go there is to visit Cannes & Monaco. And next time, I would skip Nice and just stay in Cannes. Though home to a world class film festival, it's more picturesque than Nice, just as accessible, and no more expensive. And the beaches are nicer.

It has a great set of markets. There's one that includes clothes as well as food, and here Chesley bought a bikini, I bought a sweater and I should have bought a great pair of Italian shoes.

It's home to movies. Here's two filming locations from the movie "French Kiss": the Hotel Carelton. Luc (Kevin Kline) and Kate (Meg Ryan) stay here...

...and eat here. In fact, it is in this restaurant that Kate sees her ex-fiance (Timothy Hutton) and his new fiancé (Suzan Anbeh), falls over a cart, and crawls around on the floor trying to hide.

Cannes is home to beautiful models, who just seem to want to pose in trees.

Okay, that was Chesley. But she's still beautiful.

Cannes, like Nice & Monaco, has an old section...

...and a magnificent harbour full of zillion dollar yachts.

What it doesn't have is a casino like Monaco's.

Where Cannes is laid back, Monaco is opulant. You see a lot of this.

Monaco is home to a fabulous aquarium (which one day I hope to have the time to go in) and a beautiful palace (where we missed the changing of the guard because I didn't get us off the bus at the correct stop).

Monaco is also home to the Grand Prix, which took place about a week before we were there. The track is made up of the city streets. Run since 1929, it is widely considered to be one of the most important and prestigious automobile races in the world. Curbs in Formula 1 are red and white. They were still there when we were there (maybe they are there year round; I'm not sure). We got to the Mirabeau hairpin...

...the tunnel and the entrance to the chicane...

...and La Rascasse corner (named after the restaurant at the corner).

Monaco is indeed pretty.

Next Europe post: Venice.