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Autumn in Banff

Autumn in Banff

Yesterday was officially the first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, a time referred to as the Autumnal Equinox. An equinox occurs about March 20 and about September 22. On this date, day and night are each about 12 hours long. This is an approximation because it depends on where you are on the planet.

The word equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night).

To celebrate the equinox, and just because we wanted to, we spent the day in Banff.

After all the snow we had in the second week of September, the Indian Summer is beautiful. Nights are cool, days are warm, there is no wind and the sky has that haziness of autumn. We drove the hour and a half to Banff townsite and parked by Central Park. Walking along the trail by the Bow River, we passed the canoe docks.

boat house beside the Bow River in Banff

boat house beside the Bow River in Banff

 At this time of year, all the silt has dropped out of the river and the waters are green and sparkling.

The path links with the Fenland Trail, a 2 Km loop that winds through a forest of white spruce along Forty Mile Creek.

autumn in Banff

Forty Mile Creek

Forty Mile Creek

Forty Mile Creek

Forty Mile Creek

Vermillion Lakes, Banff

Vermillion Lakes, Banff

When we reached the creek, we crossed over and followed Vermillion Lakes Drive to the dock.

Vermillion Lakes, Banff

Vermillion Lakes, Banff

Perfect weather. Not too hot, not too cool. No bugs, since we are past the first frost.

Vermillion Lakes

Here I am, at the Vermillion Lakes

We relaxed, watched the ducks getting ready to migrate and enjoyed the sun and sparkling water.

Vermillion Lakes BanffReturning the way we came, we finished off the Fenland Loop.

We completed the day with a stroll along Banff Avenue, had a salad at McDonald’s and then—to make it a balanced diet—we had ice cream at Cow’s, Canada’s best ice cream. They make it in Prince Edward Island and my current favourite flavour is Moo Henry.

I love Banff any day, but on a Monday, it is relatively quiet. There are still lots of tourists, but no crowds for the in between seasons of Summertime and Skiing.

Autumn in Banff

Bow River by Banff townsite

Today, I am back at my desk, refreshed and renewed, and ready to open the Work in Progress.

Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon

Last Friday, my friend Wafaa and I hiked the Johnston Canyon trail to the Ink Pots.

Johnston Canyon is located 25 minutes west of the Banff townsite, and the trip along the winding Highway 1A, known as the Bow Valley Parkway, is picturesque all by itself.

We park on the east side of Johnston Creek. From here, a little trail leads across a foot bridge and we arrive at the Johnston Canyon Lodge and the trailhead. Although Johnston Canyon is a major tourist attraction, with tour buses downloading oodles of visitors, the locals still love this place. I’ve been coming here forever.

This is probably one of the most accessible trails in the Rockies. Much of it involves catwalks built into the limestone cliffs, complete with handrails—but hold on to your children. The view of the cascading waters below always impresses me no matter how many times I come here.

It’s only a 1.1 km walk to the Lower Falls. Here, a little bridge crosses the creek. The bridge itself is an excellent viewpoint, but it’s even more fun to cross over and enter the short tunnel on the other side which opens to an up close and dramatic view of the waterfall. Pause before you enter the tunnel and let a few tourists come out before you try to crowd in there. And don’t use your camera unless it’s waterproof.

Johnston CanyonHere is Wafaa at the Lower Falls. You can see the cave in the background.

Johnston CanyonThis is Wafaa taking photos from the catwalk.

Now we continue up the trail another 1.6 km to the Upper Falls, which drop 30 metres (90 feet) into the canyon. At this point we have climbed 135 metres from the trailhead.

You can take pictures of the Upper Falls from the main trail’s viewing platform which juts out over the waterfall. Note the ice.

Johnston CanyonOr you can follow the trail to the catwalk which looks up at the falls. Again, it’s wet, so if you don’t want water all over your camera lens, don’t photograph from here.

Most tourists only go this far.

Now the trail becomes more like a trail, narrow and less developed, as it moves into the trees.

2014-06-24-P1010152sfwIt’s another 3.1 km from the Upper Falls to the meadow at the top and the Ink Pots. And it’s another 80 metres of climbing. The total elevation gain is 215 metres (700 feet) from the trailhead to the Ink Pots. After the crowds below, we experience a quiet meander up the trail.

2014-06-24-P1010150sfwApparently Johnston Canyon got its name from the prospector who discovered the creek in the 1880s. The Johnston Creek source is north of Castle Mountain. From there, the creek flows between Helena Ridge and the Sawback Range, across the meadow and down the gorge, the Johnston Canyon. Finally it meets the Bow River between Banff and Lake Louise.

And now we reach the top, and the seven pools known as the Ink Pots.

Ink PotsFed by underground springs, the Ink Pots remain at 4 degrees Celsius throughout the year. If you see them while cross country skiing in the winter, the blue green water looks like a giant’s ink pots sitting in the snow. Notice the patterns created by the underground springs.

Ink PotsHere we sit and have our lunch.

hiker's lunchThe day is mixed sun and cloud. There is a light rain shower at the top and we put on our rain gear jackets. But we only need them for about 15 minutes and the sun comes out again.

2014-06-24-P1010166sfwMy walking sticks are necessary for the down trip. I can hike up just fine, but on the return trip, my knees don’t like going down. So I’m glad they invented walking sticks and  I use mine.

Ink PotsWhat’s your favourite hiking menu? Are your knees happy with steep downhill hikes? Do you find it annoying when waterfalls splash your camera lens?

Cheakamus Lake

Cheakamus Lake

While visiting Whistler last week, I did a solo hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park on the Cheakamus Lake trail. When I arrived at the parking lot at 7:30 in the morning, the temperature was 11 degrees Celsius. Perfect hiking weather.

This is a 14 Kilometer round trip that follows the Cheakamus River and goes part way along the lake. The trail rolls up and down but is relatively flat.

Cheakamus Lake, Whistler

Cheakamus Lake is a glacial fed lake surrounded by mountains. I stopped here at the trailhead for a lunch of tuna, cheese, cherries and contemplation. By now, it was a quarter past ten and the sun was coming up over top of the trees and filling the lake. I was the only one here.

On the return trip, the sun made it warmer but I was sheltered by the trees for most of the way. I met some late hikers on the trail as I got closer to the parking lot. Some not wearing hats. Some not even carrying water. Some asking “Are we almost at the lake?”

My car’s thermometer gave an outside temp of 32 degrees. Inside the car, my extra water bottle was hot. I was very warm myself but I felt good. I drove back to Whistler with the air conditioning on full blast, parked at Market Place and went to Starbucks for an iced coffee. Then I headed back to the hotel to join Rolf for a swim.

And that is a typical vacation day in Whistler. Do you have a favourite vacation spot?

Sunshine Meadows

Sunshine Meadows

Last Saturday, we hiked the Sunshine Meadows trails which take you along the Continental Divide.

The Continental Divide is the dividing line or “backbone” of the continent.  On one side the streams will eventually drain into the Pacific Ocean; on the other side, they will drain into the Atlantic.  Since the Divide is the boundary between southern Alberta and southern British Columbia we can stand with one foot in each province.

The Divide is also a ski run in the winter.  For a short time, the chair lift crosses into British Columbia and a sign on lift tower #16 says, “Welcome to Beautiful British Columbia”.  The sign on tower #18 says,  “Welcome Back to Sunny Alberta”.  On cloudy days when the winds are blowing and the snow is flying, it’s a local joke.

Today, the weather is perfect.  At the base of the mountain, it’s about 26 degrees Celsius.  Up at the Sunshine Meadows, it’s a little cooler and there’s a breeze.

The gondola doesn’t run in the summer, but a shuttle bus leaves the gondola base station and takes us up the 6 km service road (the “ski out” in the wintertime) to Sunshine Village.  Part of the day lodge is open – selling maps, sunscreen, light snacks and t-shirts that say you hiked at the top of the world.

Rather than go up the Rock Isle Trail, we decide to do the whole loop (about 12 km) and begin on the Twin Cairns Meadow Park Trail which crosses Wawa.  It’s interesting walking the terrain we ski on in the winter.  We head toward the Monarch Viewpoint and eventually head back toward Rock Isle Lake.

This is the view of Rock Isle Lake from the Standish Viewpoint, just behind the Standish Chair.


Rock Isle Lake from the Standish Viewpoint
This is a little closer.
Rock Isle Lake

We also hiked the trails to Grizzly Lake and Larix Lake.  Larix is named for the botanical name for alpine larch – Larix lyallii.  Grizzly Lake is named for the Grizzlies that frequent the area.

And I am wearing my little bear bell . . .

Healthy Hiker

Healthy Hiker

Last Wednesday, we hiked the Spray River Loop in Banff National Park, Canada.  Notice the Sun Protection: long-sleeved shirt and pants rated SPF 50, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and Beko.
Plain of the Six Glaciers Trail
On Sunday, we hiked the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.  Here I am, standing in the snow on a beautiful July day.  That’s Lake Louise in the background.
Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
And 365 metres below (that’s 1,200 feet), we are back at Lake Louise.