Retired and Golfing Canada and USA 2013 Blog 3


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North America » Canada » Alberta » Jasper National Park
September 3rd 2013
Published: September 3rd 2013EDIT THIS ENTRY

Victoria Harbour FrontVictoria Harbour FrontVictoria Harbour Front

Crowds gathering on the harbour waterfront for the Symphony Orchestra Concert
Vancouver Island to Whistler (2 Aug – 13 Aug)

Friday 2 Aug – Start of the Canadian National Day Long Weekend

Joined a big queue of tourists and caught the ferry at Anacortes – beautiful town 3 hours north of Tacoma. The 2 hr 15 min ferry crossing bought back great memories of our 2010 cruise to Vancouver Island. The big difference this time was the islands in the San Juan Strait were sunburnt and brown – not green and misty. Arrived at the port of Sidney and drove into beautiful Victoria City. After the 7 lane freeways of Seattle the driving was so calm, quiet and relaxing – easily located our hotel - just one block back from the waterfront. Found a terrific Thai Restaurant and spent the evening wandering the waterfront with its markets, hundreds of yachts, families enjoying the warm evening and tourists riding passed in horse drawn carriages. As darkness settled the lights on the Fairmont Empress Hotel and the Legislative Assembly Building created a scene like a fairytale – it is really one of the loveliest harbours in the world. Finished the night off with ice-creams and thought how lucky we were
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Distracting views made it hard to focus on the tee shot
to visit Victoria again.

Saturday – breakfast on the waterfront and golf at Olympic View. Well what an experience that was. We were paired with two young guys who had big hang overs as well as vicious hooks and slices. The parkland course was a nice change from the links courses we had been playing. Add to that a group of ten guys in front of us who were part of a wedding that was taking place that evening and you can imagine the pace of play. It took us 5 hours 40 mins. The guys with us were very unhappy – rang the pro shop to ask for a marshal only to be told that he had gone!! So we played on – hitting some great shots and some poor putts on very slow greens - it was another travelling experience.

Dinner that night was in the Bengal Lounge at the Fairmont Hotel. It is a famous old colonial style lounge that came from Queen Victoria's role as the Empress of India. I had a great gluten free beer called Bards. The background music was fantastic – terrific pianist and sax. Wandered back to our hotel through
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Yachting or golfing - take your pick here!
the Empress Hotel shops and gardens – got a little surprise when we came upon a badger and her two cubs in the garden near our hotel. She didn’t like us and did a lot of hissing etc before hiding in the shrubs. We found out later they are vicious when they have cubs and may also carry rabies – good to stay away from them.

Sunday – Golf at the beautiful Victoria Golf Club – an old private club established in 1890and quite a step up from Olympic. The club is situated right on the southern tip of Vancouver Island and the locals call it the Monterey of the North. There are a lot of similarities with Monterey in that the whole area just drips with money – flash cars, stunning homes set in lovely gardens and beautiful deep blue ocean views. The golf course follows the ocean and rocks and the course views are really something. The greens were a much better pace and we had a terrific day of golf. Playing as a twosome and enjoying the views was really nice.

In the evening we joined 40,000 people on the harbour front for the annual
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Joining the conga line to walk the bridge
Victoria Symphony Orchestra ‘Splash’ performance. What a great night. The Orchestra was located on a stage set in the harbour. It was a terrific venue and of course the music was really amazing. The final piece was the original version of Amazing Grace written by a Scotsman in the 1700’s. The Royal Vancouver Pipes and Drums joined the Orchestra and between them they played the most stunning version of Amazing Grace we have ever heard. Wow it was a wonderful night of music!

Monday - spent the morning wandering through the exhibits at the Royal British Columbia Museum. The exhibits are fantastic and they explain so much about the history of the people and the ever changing geology of the region. Found the First Nations People exhibits interesting – they were so skilled in the use of stone, wood, weaving, carving etc but diseases and booze took a nasty toll.

All too soon it was time to drive to the ferry at Swartz Bay to cross to back to the mainland to Vancouver. The terminal was crowded with people heading back to Vancouver after the long weekend. Imagine our surprise when the lady at the booth said we
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Happy tourists on the suspended walkways of the clifftop
had no booking and we would have to get into the ‘drive on queue’. Turned out we had made a reservation with no deposit for a month earlier – not to worry – it was a huge ferry and there seemed to be plenty of spaces. So we just kicked back and enjoyed cruising the San Juan Islands in the summer sun – next stop the city of Vancouver.

BIG TIP – Don’t go to Vancouver on the Sunday of their National Day long weekend. The traffic was very heavy. Vancouver is quite famous because it is one of the few cities in the world that does not have a freeway through it – so we drove though the city centre with trusty old Tom Tom on the job. Also didn’t realise that Vancouver sits on both sides of a large and busy seaway. We crossed the seaway to the north side over the beautiful old Lion’s Gate Bridge. The waterviews from the high bridge were really something and worth the effort in the traffic. Lions Gate is an older bridge with only 3 lanes of traffic - in the morning two lanes go into the city and in
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Views to Lions Gate Bridge in the evening sunlight
the afternoon it is reversed with two lanes going out. This causes huge traffic jams if you are in the single lane going into the city!! Arrived out our hotel, hot and exhausted after a long travelling day.

Tuesday 6 August – another hot sunny day – the daily temp is stuck on 28-30 degrees. Had a really early start to make our 8am tee off at Morgan Creek – one of Vancouver’s premier courses. We really enjoyed the course which also had a golf academy. The practice facilities were amazing and because of the school summer holidays there were lots of kids participating in the golfing classes. The parents were having a hit on the range so the academy was really busy. We played as a twosome and enjoyed the challenging nature of the course – the creek and its hazards came into play on many of the holes and there were a few ‘very challenging’ carries. The lay-up shot got used a few times by Leanne!! We continued to have a few putting issues. Graham hit a solid 73 and Leanne faded a bit in the heat with a 77. Had a relaxing lunch on
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Grizzly bear having a muddy morning swim and a chew on a stick
the balcony after a really hot round of golf.

The locals at the golf club recommended we drive to the coastal town of White Rock. It was a bit like Noosa in that there were many boutique restaurants and shops across the road from the beach. The water was very flat – not a wave to be seen - but running along White Rock Beach was a railway line where some ‘really long’ trains run. They haul huge numbers of oil tankers as well as carriages that are loaded with timber. It took ages for the train to pass and we were very conscious of the Canadian train that had recently exploded and wiped out a town. Leaving White Rock we finished the day with takeaway and a bottle of cold wine sitting on the motel pool deck.

Wed 7 August – same hot weather again! Visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge – thought it would take about an hour – how wrong we were!! Joined the crowds on holidays and met up with a young couple from Noosa – our first Australians since arriving in the US/Canada. After chatting for a while we followed the historical trail, totem
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The other grizzly was thinking about a swim!
poles and beautiful carved cedar canoes to the suspension bridge. Now this is a huge suspension bridge- 137m across and 70m above the Capilano River. It was packed with tourists going in both directions like two long conga lines of people. The heavy traffic set the bridge swaying like crazy - Leanne was very careful to hang on to the steel cable – mind you there were some people being helped by family members to keep walking – one poor lady had a coat over her head and her grandkids were having a good old laugh.

We discovered at one of the exhibits that there was no need to worry about the cable strength as 5 years ago a huge tree came down across the bridge during a big storm and the bridge managed to carry the tree and the cables proved to have strength way beyond the original predictions. The engineers had a big problem to remove the tree without it being catapulted in an uncontrolled way.

After crossing the bridge we did the tree tops suspension bridges walk –this involved walking smaller suspension bridges through the giant cedar and spruce fir trees. These trees are so
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Birds of Prey display - check out the size of this Bald Eagle
tall and it is a lovely way to experience the forests. Came back to earth at the bird sanctuary where two bird handlers were showing a beautiful Barrel Owl raptor to lots of very interested kids - these owls are really great hunters and there were lots of signs warning pet owners to keep small dogs away - the kids were asking so many questions – just like being on a school excursion!!!!

Returned across the suspension bridge and queued up for the cliff top walk on the cantilevered, suspended walkways jutting out from the granite cliff face70 metres above the Capilano Gorge and River. It is high and narrow and, in some sections, glass (very strong glass) was all that separated us from the canyon far below. It was an amazing thing to do – tried to get photos but the shadow of the cliff face made photography difficult. On finishing the walk we headed back to our hotel for a rest from the heat – can recommend the experience at Capilano Suspension Bridge.

Drove to Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park for the evening in very heavy traffic. The park covers many acres and sits on the seaway
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Check out the elevation on the first tee - a really beautiful but tough starting hole
water front where the seaplanes provide great entertainment as they take-off and land. Hundreds of cyclists and roller bladers were making good use of the parks trails. We got great photos over the Lions Gate Bridge and finished the night off with awesome pasta at a tiny restaurant just near our hotel.

Thurs 8 Aug - Our day at Grouse Mountain – another hot fine day in Vancouver. Started at the Cable Car ticket office and knew it was going to be a great day when the gentleman in front of us said he was a local with a yearly pass and it would be his pleasure to use the pass to get us 50% discounted tickets. He said it was his way of welcoming tourists to Vancouver. We rode the cable car with him and headed straight to the Grizzly Bear enclosure which turned out to be a great idea as both the bears were out swimming and playing. They are so big!!! 500kgs and still growing. The rangers provided excellent info about the bears and we spent over an hour watching them play, fight, swim etc – the camera was working overtime.

Moved on
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A hair raising chairlift ride to the Summit of Whistler Mountain with distant views of Green Lake
to watch the Lumber Jack Show - a great mixture of actors with lots of skills with chain saws, axe throwing, cross cut saws and tree climbing. The show sucked us all in with a pretend tourist who climbed to the top of the 60 foot high pole, took off the safety gear, did hand stands etc on the top of the pole – made Leanne feel a bit uneasy watching him!! But then he jumped on a wire cable and slid down safely – he had us all on the edge of our seats (his safety gear unseen to us) this made great entertainment and their antics gave us all a lot of laughs.

Then it was off to the Birds of Prey – Raptor Show. This was really awesome and we would love to visit this again. The bird handlers had a Bald Eagle, a Barrell Owl, the Golden Eagle, a Red Tailed Hawk and the Peregrine Falcon. Each bird individually soared in the air currents over the ridge and then demonstrated how it attacked its prey. One handler would be with the bird a few hundred metres away on a hill and another handler was down in front of us swinging a piece of rope with meat on it. When the peregrine falcon was released it would fly around and swoop at amazing speed. The Falcon was so fast – it can fly at 175 miles per hour and the bird's diving speed can be approximately 200 miles per hour. Imagine Leanne’s surprise when it flew straight over her head as part of the feeding dive!! It all happened so fast she didn’t know what was going on. Can honestly say this display of falconry was exceptional entertainment.

Finished the day with an express bus ride into Vancouver City – the only way to beat the terrible traffic. We walked around this beautiful, clean city, checked out the shops, found two great handbags which are now in my suitcase and had another awesome Thai Dinner.

Friday 9 August – Farewelled Vancouver and headed up the Sea to Sky Highway to Furry Creek Golf Course en route to the ski and mountain bike resort town of Whistler. The highway has great sea views and it looked just like a tourist brochure with the deep blue water reflecting in the sun. Unfortunately it was
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Views across to the Blackcomb Mountains from Whistler Peak
very hard to get photos because there was a lack of safe viewing points.

Furry Creek GC was about an hour’s drive and on arrival we could see it was going to be a course for mountain goats. We played with a couple from New York State who were good fun. The course is rated an ‘extreme golf course’ and it didn’t disappoint. The deep ravines required huge drives and this caused all four golfers trouble at times. The sea views were also very distracting and the cameras were busy. We all concluded that this was one of the most difficult courses we had ever played because of the severe elevation changes which made many of the holes an unfair test of golf – we finished the round minus a few of our own balls but with a heck of a lot of other golfer’s balls in our bags – it was a great ‘one off’ experience and despite the difficulty we finished with respectable scores and feeling exhausted. We all agreed that the course architect knew little about real golf!

Arrived in Whistler an hour later. Our hotel was right in the middle of the Village. Our
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Graham trying out a snow mobile
window opened onto the Village Square and it almost felt like we were back in Europe again. The summer flower baskets added lots of colour and the Village was buzzing with music and mountain bikers. We didn’t realise that it was the week of Crankworkz – Canada’s premier week of mountain bike racing finishing with the Canadian Open X Country races. We almost expected to see Brent and the Aussie Mtn Bike team walking in the village – it felt like we were there to watch them race again.

Sat/Sun/Mon/Tues – Great days of golf at The Fairmont Whistler Course, The Jack Nicklaus North Course and Whistler Golf Club. We ranked the Fairmont Whistler tops followed by the Whistler Club.

As well as golfing we tackled the Whistler Mtn Gondola and secondary chairlift up to the Summit of Whistler Mountain. What an experience this turned out to be. We walked about a km from the Mtn Gondola top to catch the Summit Chairlift, an open chairlift which is a short ride but very steep and over a glacier as it climbs an avalanche site and a wall of rocks to the top. It was quite cold
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The Par 3 Signature Hole
at the summit but what a view we had. The views to the surrounding mountain peaks as well as the bike trails were stunning. We spent ages at the summit trying to photograph the views that were continually changing with the wind, weather and clouds.

After heading back down to the Whistler Gondola Station we then caught the Peak to Peak Cable car across to Blackcomb Mtn. This is the longest single cable car in the world and the trip takes about 14 mins. It is a truly big engineering feat but we enjoyed the Whistler Gondola and summit views more than the Peak to Peak.

Wed – Off to Kelowna via the Duffy Pass – mind blowing scenery crossing the 8,700 ft pass. The trip was quite scary as we were following heavily loaded timber trucks through narrow, single lane avalanche sites. The road was really awful in some places especially around the town of Miller. We were happy to arrive safely in Kelowna situated on Lake Kelowna. It was like an ocean playground for yachts, speed boats and it was buzzing with lakeside restaurants, musicians, entertainers and families enjoying the hot summer days and
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Lots of avalanche sites to negotiate on this narrow, windy road
nights. The marinas were full of really expensive yachts and some of the most amazing speed boats we have ever seen – kept thinking about neighbour Noel – he would have loved the ski boats so we got a photo of a good boat for him! There was no shortage of money in this place. We later learnt that the money comes from the oil, gas and timber workers commuting to work in Saskatchewan and Alaskan areas. We loved our evenings on the lakefront – saw a couple with two ferretts on leashes out for a stroll. It was kind of funny when a dog came along and all of a sudden there was nearly no ferrets!

Thurs – Kelowna - played golf at Tower Ranch, Friday played at Predator Ridge and Saturday was Gallagher’s Canyon – we were really exhausted and ready for a break from golf by then. Tower Ranch was similar to Furry Creek but we did a better job of playing the ravines and big carries. Predator Ridge was a terrific course with amazing greens. It had a lovely resort club house and when we finished our round the
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How good does this place look in the setting sun?
club house was absolutely crowded. We had drinks with the couple we played with – from North Carolina close to Augusta Golf Club. We know have an excellent contact if we want somewhere to stay should we ever go to the Masters at Augusta.

Gallagher’s Canyon turned out to be a great test of golf and we had the added bonus of Fred, the Course Ambassador, asking to join us for the round. His daughter is married to an Australian and living in Melbourne so he felt it was his duty to look after us. He was a bit of character being a retired dentist. His putter head was made into the shape of a white tooth (bit novel and weird!!). Fred’s course advice was very helpful and we had dinner in the Club with him- a lovely day of golf.

Sunday 18 Aug –long day of driving from Kelowna to Banff via Lake Louise. Celebrated Leanne’s birthday with an awesome platter for two and glasses of bubbles at The Fairmont Lake Louise. It was a beautiful way to celebrate a birthday. The sun shone through the famous dining room window and the glacier looked stunning
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It might be hot and dry but they know how to pour the water on the golf courses here. What a great par 3 hole!
as it glistened in the sunlight. It really is a magical place.

Arrived at our Hotel in Banff and soaked away the aches and pains of the previous few days of golf and driving in the beautiful outdoor hot tub. The outdoor gas fireplace made it look very special. Might have to get one of these back home!!

Mon 19 rode the gondola to the Summit Station and climbed the path to the Summit of Sulphur Mtn which looks over Banff. This was a fantastic experience. The wind was howling and we got some great photos looking out over the mountains and Banff. Later in the afternoon we played golf at Fairmont Banff Springs – nearly missed the tee off cause of a timing mix up. Played the course in a howling wind. Graham started with a birdie and 3 pars – the guys playing with us thought we were awesome golfers. They lost heaps of balls and one had to manage the worst slice you have ever seen. It was a fantastic course – excellent design with amazing bunkering and fast greens. We would have loved to have played this course a second time.
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Typical views on the TransCanada Highway to Banff - Rogers Pass was really something

Tues 20 a day touring Banff National Parks. We started by returning to the Fairmont Lake Louise to get morning photos of the glacier and resort. Then we drove into the mountains above Lake Louise to beautiful Valley of Ten Peaks and Moraine Lake with its deep blue color. The mountains surrounding the lake had beautiful glaciers falling of their peak – the ice was a bit like cake icing! It looked amazing in the morning sun.

We then drove along the TransCanada Hwy1 towards Golden to the Spiral Tunnels viewing point. The tunnels are part of the tunnel system that brings the trains up the 8,500 ft mountain pass into the town of Banff.

When the railroad was first built through the Rockies, they had a really difficult time because the grade was so steep. There were problems with run-away trains and they solved this by building a spiral inside the mountain. There are two of these tunnels, one on the south side of Hwy #1 and the other on the north side. From the pull out on Hwy #1, you can see the north tunnel. You can see the trains going into the tunnel
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Birthday celebrations for someone!
and, after a few minutes, see the front end of the same train coming out of the tunnel, above the bottom end of the train which is still going into the tunnel. The tunnels allow the train to loop back as it spirals its way up the steep pass. It is an amazing engineering feat.

We then headed up to the Takakkaw Falls. Along the way we stopped at the viewing point for the confluence of the two rivers –the river coming from the Falls is clear whereas the river from the glacier is milky and loaded with glacial silt called ‘flour’.

The road leading to Tak Falls has two really tight switchbacks and long motorhomes are not recommended (a 25 foot RV is a tight fit!). After walking the river path and photographing the falls we started back down the switchback road – you can guess what we met on one of these bends – a big RV which could not get around the sharp bend. We had to reverse back to the very edge of the next bend to allow the RV to reverse back to our corner so that it could get around
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Views over Banff and the surrounding Mountains from Sulphur Mountain Summit
the corner.

Coming back to Banff we travelled via Johnson’s Canyon and the Bow River Parkway. We chose this route because it was supposed to be good viewing for wild life and bears. The canyon had a great boardwalk making it an easy walk into the canyon and at the end we entered a cave where there was an amazing waterfall. The sound of the water roaring in the cave was quite deafening but the sight was really something. We then followed the Bow River Parkway back into Banff and had our eyes peeled looking to find a bear in the wild but alas there were none to be seen.

Wed 21 Did the hour and a half drive via the Kootenay National Park through Radium Hot Springs to play Grey Wolf Golf Club. Arrived early only to find that because of an overnight frost all tee times were pushed back an hour and a half – not impressed! Finally teed off and found the course to be excellent – Graham hit some ripper drives. The greens were the fastest we had in Canada and we were tested to the limit. Just a shame that the
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What a course - Par 3 Signature Hole with Sulphur Mountain in the background
course was is out in the middle of nowhere.

Thurs 22 – Driving the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper – always at altitudes above 8,000ft. Well the travel documents all voted this as “The World’s most Spectacular Mountain Driver” and we agree. Imagine over 100 glaciers along 65 miles of road lined with turquoised coloured lakes and thundering waterfalls. Add to that a trip on the Ice Explorer Glacier trip on the Columbia Icefields then it becomes easy to see why it took us all day to travel the 65 miles from Banff to Jasper. It is really hard to describe how awesome this drive is. You have to try to imagine a road going from 7,500ft to 8,500 ft with over 100 glaciers on the western side alone (similar number on the eastern side) when Australia does not have even one glacier. Glaciers on the side of mountains provide a spectacular backdrop – add to this the fact that the snow that created them fell over 400 years ago!! As well as that more than 70% of North America’s water is provided by these glaciers – no wonder they have more water than our country.
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Takakkaw Falls - those Aussie tourists again
They have a constant supply of water all year round and to be honest, we were amazed at how it is wasted on irrigating hundreds of thousands of acres of desert land to grow hay to feed cattle. Now we will get off our high horses and back to the trip.

The photos show our stops up to the Columbia Icefields. The winter temperature at the Tourist Centre is -70C – they get on average 30 feet of snow and shut the whole place down for 6 months of the year and then dig it out for the next tourist season. The shuttles that take tourists onto the Columbia Icefield Glacier are made by a mining company and cost approx $1million. The shuttle’s huge wheels are washed before entering the glacier and on each exit. Check out the photos which show us having a great time roaring down a really steep incline into the wheel wash and onto the glacier. The shuttles have massive torque that gets the down on the glacier and then back up on the return journey – sort of like being in a big, wobbly four wheel drive. We spent about 30 mins on the
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Awesome course where we had a 'frost delay'
glacier - it is very cold on the glacier and the people were drinking the icy cold, pristine water.

After the Icefields Explorer we continued north to Jasper driving across wild avalanche sites, deep blue lakes and stopping along the way to look at amazing waterfalls. All the way we kept looking for bears, mountain goats, elks etc but sadly there was nothing – we had decided bears were just a myth invented to suck in Aussie tourists. Just when we thought all the animals were extinct Leanne looked down into the Athabasca River on the outskirts of Jasper and there were 4 beautiful Elk, 3 females and a male, sunning themselves on an island in the middle of the shallow river bend. We stopped and clicked – we tried to find a road to get closer but unfortunately that was not possible.

When we were checking into our hotel we were told that bears and goats frequented the road to Maligne Lake so of course we did the drive but never saw a goat or a bear. But, on the way to the Lake we saw our first elk at close range on the roadside. Then on
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Beautiful Peyto Lake with Crowfoot Glacier in the background
the way back into Jasper there was a bit of chaos on the road as a female elk and her fawn ran across the road. Cars were stopping everywhere and we started to think that animals did exist in Canada.

Friday 23 August – a big day in Jasper. Started with another bear hunt to Maligne Lake and stopped at Maligne Canyon along the way – no bears. On the way we passed the disappearing Medicine Lake – imagine a lake that has a major river flowing in but no river flowing out. What happens is water seeps through underground channels in the bottom of the lake and eventually connects with the Athabasca River downstream. The channels show as deep green lines in the bottom of the lake.

Arrived at beautiful blue Maligne Lake, took lots of photos but never saw any bears. On the return journey just near the disappearing Medicine Lake we came on a bunch of cars and people were photographing the wild mountain goats on the road. It turned out to be quite funny because one lady had left the car door open to walk over to the goats and before she knew it,
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Columbia Glacier
one of the goats was in the front of her car, trying to eat her handbag – typical goat!!!!! It was great to see something alive but we were still looking for the big one – the bear.

Headed back into Jasper to ride the Tramway CableCar up to the summit of Whistlers Mountain. The trip begins at an elevation of 1304 metres (4279 ft) above sea level and takes seven minutes to climb to the Upper Station at 2277 metres (7472 ft) above sea level. The Cable Car was staffed by Aussie workers who work on the Tramway in the summer and then work as ski instructors in the winder. They also explained that it was called Whistlers Mtn because the little marmots (like squirrels) who live at the top whistle to each other. They are very cute and seem to run all over the place. We were very lucky because it was a clear sunny day and that meant that we were able to see Mt Robson, the tallest peak in the Rocky Mountains – it was pure white and snow covered – standing so much taller than all the other peaks.

With little time to
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Athabasca Glacier
spare we caught the next tramcar down and headed straight to the beautiful Jasper Park Fairmont Hotel Golf Course. What a course this turned out to be. It had grids and fencing to keep the bears and elf off the course, amazing holes that looked to the mountains and glaciers, terrific greens that tricked us up and ever changeable weather where we got rained on for a few holes and then the sun shone again in the chilly evening. One hole really stood out, a par 3 called Cleopatra which apparently when first built had two bumps like Dolly Parton’s boobs – these bumps have since been smoothed down to make the green much more playable!!

We finished the game late as the sun was setting and as we were heading to the Hotel restaurant for dinner, the elk were out feeding and one cheeky doe was eating the flowers in the petunia baskets that were hanging off the light pole.

Saturday 24 Aug – back on the Icefields Parkway to do the return trip from Jasper to Banff and then continue on to Calgary. How lucky were we to do this drive twice and in opposite directions.
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Our all terrain Ice Explorer vehicle - imagine paying $1m for this - check out the wheels
The difference being the sun was not shining and it was much cooler. But the glaciers were just as majestic and the lakes seemed even prettier. We came on a bunch of cars stopped along one of the lakes – they had spotted wild goats high up on the rocks. We managed to get a very distant photo – it is hard to photograph moving wildlife!

Driving past the Lake Louise turn off we noticed a car pulled off the road so we stopped behind them to investigate – you guessed it – it was a BIG BLACK BEAR down in the bushes eating the ripe summer berries. He was so hard to see and moving quite quickly, pulling the berries off the shrubs and stuffing them in his mouth. We were so excited – out came the camera and we tried desperately to get a clear picture – had to be content with ‘not the best pictures’ but it was amazing to follow him up the road feeding to his heart’s content. We were so happy to finally see a bear in the wild.

Imagine our surprise when 10 minutes later, on the outskirts of Banff we
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This part of the glacier was 'out of bounds'
came across another bunch of cars stopped on the roadside for another smaller black bear that was feeding up on the hill of the roadside. We got great photos and kept thinking how we had been driving for weeks looking everywhere for a wild bear and then when we had given up we came upon two bears within half an hour – now we know that bears are not a Canadian myth.

We finished the Icefields trip feeling fantastic and headed up the road to Calgary – about a 90 minute drive. Unfortunately we had to stop for lots of road work resulting from severe floods that had occurred about a month before we arrived.

Arrived in Calgary feeling exhausted. The tiredness was made worse by the busy freeway traffic – which seemed a little crazy after the quietness of Banff and Jasper. Also it was a bit of a shock hitting a city located on the flat, treeless, open plains of the prairies – we couldn’t help but contrast Calgary with the beautiful mountains and lakes of Banff and Jasper. Quickly got back to earth when the hunger pains reminded us that we needed food – found
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Columbia Glacier - enjoying the scenery
a great Irish pub and had a good night of food and entertainment before hitting the sack feeling exhausted.

Next morning was to be out last day in Canada. We went to downtown Calgary, Alberta – the river area was lovely and there are many walking and riding paths. We eventually found our way out of the city via the Calgary Stampede Stadium – wow this was really something. They love horses, rodeos and everything to do with the cowboy culture here. Would you believe we ran into an Aussie Professional Bull Rider at Yellowstone National Park – he was heading to Calgary for a rodeo. He picked out accents and was desperate to chat to some fellow Aussies. Said he was based in Texas and every time he came to Calgary he got searched by the cops – they were looking for guns in his Texas registered vehicle.

We continued driving as we headed to the Canadian/US Border town of Cardway. Along the way we passed the old US Army Fort MacLeod. We then decided to take a detour to visit the famous ‘Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump near Fort MacLeod. This turned out to be a real highlight
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Elk sunning themselves in the Athabasca River
of our trip across the prairies. The Buffalo Jump is a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site and it explains how a number of Indian Tribes lived here on the prairie for about 6,000 years. They worked together to do an annual herding of the buffalo (also called bison), setting up routes to herd the animals over huge cliffs. The tribes then spent weeks butchering, skinning, salting and drying the meat to sustain them during the long, freezing winters. It was amazing to see how organized and skilful the Indian tribes were to manage these 1,200 kg beasts. Not only did they use the meat and skins but they did things like use the bladders for storage bags for buffalo oil, bones became axe picks, carved brooches and jewellery – every part of the buffalo had a purpose.

We walked out to the cliffs where the animals went over – the cliffs are now crumbling and dangerous – they are now much lower than they were 5000 years ago. Sadly the buffalo/bison were almost hunted to extinction by settlers who used the bones as phosphate fertilizer on the prairies.

The display was truly amazing – things like when the
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Stop - elk (not a roo) crossing the road
settlers brought horses to the prairie, the Indians had greater difficulty herding the bison with the horses than they did on foot. It was also explained that bison had a tremendous ability to smell humans and the Indians who had the job of herding the buffalo to the jump would cover themselves in animal fat and wear the pelts of wolves and foxes to hide their human smell.

Our Canadian part of the trip finished when we crossed over into the state of Montana, USA in the little town of Carway. We cleared immigration and quickly headed down to the town of St Mary, the start of driving the mountain road called, the Highway to the Sun. Unfortunately for us there had been fires in the area and the beautiful scenery was covered in smoke. The narrow windy 85 miles was still amazing and we found it very easy to imagine how beautiful these glacier covered mountains would be on a clear sunny day. This road is only open for the summer months with the road being covered by 25 metres of snow in winter. We crept slowly up the single lane Logan Pass eventually making it to 8,700
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Typical behaviour of a so called 'wild mountain goat'
feet summit. The road was crowded with summer visitors all wanting to be there for the same reason as us. At the end of the road we arrived in Kalispell, exhausted from a huge day of driving. Ate at ‘Famous Daves” Ribs joint and washed the full racks of ribs down with a few bottles of “Angry Orchard” gluten free cider which tasted delicious. Ended up staying in a Motel 6 which had us a bit ‘wary’ but imagine our surprise when we received the best book on tourism in Montana, a great bed, quite air con and good coffee all for $70 for the night. We were so exhausted we would have slept on wooden planks!!

Monday 26 August - Awoke to the cool, autumn, mountain air of a Kalispell morning. We were on the road again heading for Gardiner on the northern entrance gate to the Yellowstone National Park. After stopping for food and fuel at a FoodLovers Highway Service Centre, Leanne took over the driving. Two minutes down the freeway she passed a patrol car stopped on the side of the road with its lights flashing. When the patrol pulls out with its lights still flashing
Fairmont Jasper Golf ClubFairmont Jasper Golf ClubFairmont Jasper Golf Club

A great course and we would love to play it again
and follows us, Leanne says to Graham, ‘what should I do?’ He says, ‘pull over and stop’. So that’s what we did. Wound down the window and Trooper Gain asked Leanne for a driver’s licence. She explained that she couldn’t produce it because it was somewhere in the suitcase in the boot of the car - he was very good and asked for a passport instead and asked where we were from. Trooper Gain explained that Leanne had infringed the law of Montana by not pulling over to the inside lane or slowing down when passing an emergency vehicle. He said he would have to issue a formal warning. Whew!! Warnings are heaps better than fines. What an introduction to driving in the state of Montana.

We spent the day driving through Montana – it is an amazing place – it was the first state where the max speed limit reached 75 mph – this was a lot faster than Canada and mind blowing compared to Australia’s pathetic 100kph. Can you believe it - most of the drivers did the usual trick of 5 over the speed limit and some much more –zooming past us at 80/85mph. We crept
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Can you spot the bear feeding on the berries - on road between Jasper and Banff
along at 72mph looking like the Nana driver on the highway cause we wanted to check out the scenery etc. We passed the National Bison Reserve with its many kilometres of fencing and huge herds of bison. Also, passed beautiful marshes before heading into farming land and areas of heavy industry and coal mining.

We finally arrived in the tiny town of Gardiner just on sunset feeling really happy knowing that ahead of us we had three nights and two full days in Yellowstone National Park and the weather was predicted to be fine and sunny.

Tuesday 27 August – paid our park fee and entered Yellowstone through the northern gate. The other thing to remember is that the park is at a very high altitude so we were always at 7,400 feet or higher. The park road system is called the Grand Loop, a big figure of 8 - this creates two driving loops with speed limits varying from 25 to 45 mph to protect the wildlife. The slower speeds also make it easier to pull over to take photographs – animals such as bison are on the roads and it also helps to safely
Black Bear - Lake Louise to BanffBlack Bear - Lake Louise to BanffBlack Bear - Lake Louise to Banff

30 mins after we saw our first wild bear this bear appeared on the highway.
navigate thousands of other tourists doing the same thing.

We started on the eastern loop with its dry, desert like hills. We followed the Gardner River, winding into the park, up the canyon, past crumbling walls of sandstone and ancient mudflows. The vegetation is much thicker in the canyon than on the open prairie down below. As we climbed into the hills we saw herds of bison, some close to the road others feeding on the plains. One herd had mob of bulls that were rolling in the dirt and making a lot of noise – the rutting season has just started.

The first stop major was Mammoth Hot Springs. The steaming bubbling springs change shape constantly and we followed the boardwalks photographing the unusual landscape.

Continuing on towards Tower Roosevelt we stopped at the Petrified Tree site. This tree was buried in volcanic ash about 50 million years ago.

We then entered the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone area but unfortunately there were major roadworks occurring and we could not pull over to see this part of the canyon. Not to worry - there was more awaiting us a little further up the road at Artist
Prairies south of CalgaryPrairies south of CalgaryPrairies south of Calgary

UNESCO site - cliffs at Smashed-In-Head Buffalo Jump
Point and the Lower and Upper Falls.

Along the way we drove up through Mt Washburn 10,243 ft. The area is covered in severely burnt spruce fir trees. Then came the Dunraven Pass which is the highest mountain pass in Yellowstone at 8,800 feet. It is hard to describe the ghostly sight of the thousands of acres of burnt trees. These resulted from the 1988 fires which affected 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park. Five fires burned into the park that year and the largest, the North Fork Fire, started from a cigarette butt.

Moving on we passed the spot where the road crosses the Gardner River and marks the 45th parallel of latitude. It was strange to think we were at a spot that was halfway between the equator and the North Pole.

We then entered the Canyon Village and took the road to the Upper and Lower Falls and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. This Canyon is one of the park’s best known sites and we thought that overall it was by far the Parks most impressive feature. Both Graham and I could remember reading National Geographic Magazines with this exact view photographed
Highway to the Sun - KalispellHighway to the Sun - KalispellHighway to the Sun - Kalispell

The smoke filled air created an interesting view of these beautiful mountains
and now we had the chance to experience it for ourselves. It is impossible to describe how raw and big and stunning the Canyon is.

We walked two trails to view the Lower Falls, a key feature of the canyon. One trail dropped 600ft from the roadside down a switchback path to the falls. Going down was easy but it was a bit tougher coming back up – a good fitness walk! When viewing the Canyon we noticed an Osprey Eagle sitting on a cliff top. It was guarding its chicks which were in a huge nest at the top of another cliff. The photos of the Canyon, the Falls and the Osprey say it all.

Leaving the Canyon we headed to the Hayden Valley and the Mud Volcano – seemed a little tame after where we had been. Continuing south we entered the Yellowstone Lake area. The Lake is the largest, high elevation lake in North America at 7,733 ft altitude and it covers 132 sq miles. We drove for miles to get around it. The lake water is extremely deep and cold but weirdly, there are hot springs on the Lake’s floor that have been measured
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Logan Pass - check out the road heading up the side of the mountains!
as hot as 250 degrees F. Like we said, weird things occur in this Park.

Arrived at the Grant Village Lodge for our two night stay in the park. We were quickly reminded of the basic service here – no tv, ridiculously priced internet connection fees that we refused to pay and a dining facility set on a stunning lake where unfortunately the quality of the food was no match for the views.

Wednesday 28 August – second day in Yellowstone

Left Grant Village heading to the Old Faithful and Madison thermal areas. Yellowstone contains approximately one-half of the world’s hydrothermal features. There are over 10,000 hydrothermal features, including over 300 geysers, in the park and we were on a mission to check them all out. First stop was The Old Faithful, a geyser featured in many tourist brochures because of its reliable and predictable eruptions. There is a huge semi circle of seating for people to wait for the eruption. We sat for about half an hour and then it kicked off as predicted. We thought the geysers in Rotorua were more impressive than Old Faithfull but many others were in awe. It
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Waterfalls on the roadside
was amazing to see the whole place clear within minutes of the eruption! Like everyone else we walked the boardwalks checking out the thermal mud pools and springs.

Got into the car to drive to the Midway Geyser Basin and had a bit of a disaster. Graham pulled his sweatshirt off and didn’t realise that his glasses had come off with it and fallen onto the road. We drove off and about 100metres down the road Graham says to me, ‘where the heck are my glasses?’ I couldn’t believe they weren’t on his face! But then I remembered hearing a weird noise when he took the sweatshirt off - so we headed back to the carpark and yes there were the glasses, flat as a tack and broken. The lenses were out of them but amazingly they weren’t smashed or scratched. Yep, we had backed the car over them and they were now useless! Luckily Graham’s suitcase was in the boot of the car and he had packed his old glasses in case of emergency!

After getting over the glasses shock we started out again for Midway Basin. We were really keen to see this place because back
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Mammoth Springs - amazing!
in 2010 Lauren and Adrian had taken some stunning photos of the Morning Glory Pool and the Grand Prismatic Spring and we wanted to see it for ourselves. WOW! To reach the pools we had to climb up past the Firehole River. The river had steaming creeks filled with orange algae mats pouring down into it and bubbling springs popping up in it. Then the swirling steamy mist of the springs enveloped us (fogging up our glasses and camera lenses) as we walked up to The Grand Prismatic Spring. The mist would clear for a few minutes revealing the most beautiful colours of the rainbow in the huge bubbling pools. Amazingly there was hardly any sulphur smell. Can’t wait to show L & A our photos!!

Continuing on we stopped at the Fountain Paint Pots and the Clepsydra Geyser. We thought this Geyser was much more impressive than Old Faithfull. We then did the Firehole Lake Drive to Madison which had some interesting volcanic plugs and domes that were intermittently active.

On our return trip from Madison we came upon some Trumpeter Swans in the marshlands. These huge birds were like big brolgas standing over a metre tall. Apparently they are the largest of all the North American Waterfowl. They drew a big crowd of photographers on the roadside.

Finished at the geysers and bubbling pools of the Black Sand Basin. This turned out to be really interesting because we found bison and elk walking and resting in the steaming pool areas. Also a bald eagle was perched up the top of one of the treetops. The animals just know how to manage these hot, sulphurous areas.

Thurs 29 August – Two big days of driving across the desert state of Nevada to get back to San Francisco. The first part of the drive was fantastic. We left the park via the Southern gate heading to Jackson through the Grand Teton National Park. The Grand Tetons refer to one of the most beautiful mountain ranges we have ever seen. Yes they have a glaciers and are very high but it is their soft mauve colours and shapes that make these mountains so beautiful. The irrigated green pastures support big cattle herds and it was such a contrast to Yellowstone.

We just had to stop for coffee and a walk in old Jackson Town
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You'd look like this if you were 5 million years old!
– this place is so famous and used in lots of cowboy movie sets. Leaving Jackson we headed up the steep Teton Pass on the way to the cities of Idaho Falls and Twin Falls in Idaho State. These falls are now severely reduced because they have dammed to use the water for irrigation on the prairies.

Then crossed into Nevada State on our way to Wells on the Interstate 80 West heading to the mining and casino town of Winnemucca. Apparently Butch Cassidy won his money in a Casino in Winnemucca. On this part of the trip the boredom really set – smoke from the San Francisco fires filled the air and it was quite hot. The Nevada desert is only good for one thing – shoving a big 4 lane freeway through it to get out of the place as fast as possible.

Arrived in Winnemucca and stayed at a great little motel. The proprietor recommended we eat at the oldest Basque (Spanish) restaurant in town – serving Basque food since 1885. It was excellent and really tasty and served with carafes of light red wine. We really enjoyed it after the rubbish food served in Yellowstone.

Friday 30 August – Left Winnemucca and spent another day driving still driving across that dam Nevada Desert. Must say Winnemucca and surrounds has some amazing mining happening – mostly gold so there is plenty of money being spent in that town – funny that it was also full of casinos as well. The smoke haze was really bad for most of the trip until we got to the outskirts of San Francisco. The trip through San Fran and south to Half Moon Bay near Santa Cruz should have been quick and easy but the Bay Bridge which carried traffic into San Fran from the west was closed for huge reconstruction work over the Labour Day long weekend. The best thing was that we were going in the opposite direction to the main flow of traffic – we could not believe the massive traffic queues out of San Fran for the holiday – heaps worse than the Sydney Freeway at Easter!

Arrived at the Half Moon Bay Resort feeling wrecked – yet again. Thankfully it is a beautiful, quiet, ground floor apartment with a golf course off our courtyard.

Saturday saw us getting out early to drive the coast road down to Pasatiempo Golf Course which is in Santa Cruze. Now you must remember we were tired from the previous few days of heavy driving and we were taking things easy so we left early to have plenty of time to find the place. Luckily we did because unknown to us there were two addresses with Club House Drive in Santa Cruz and we had selected the wrong address on our TomTom. After driving up and down for a bit we asked a local for advice only to learn we had to get to the other side of Santa Cruz. We reprogrammed TomTom and this time ended up at the locked gate residential entrances rather than the course.

By now we were seriously in danger of missing a prepaid and very expensive round of golf so the BP was climbing! After dodging heavy traffic we stopped at a Motel to ask for directions. It turned out we needed to get back to the other side of a really busy main freeway and manage a few exits. The kind lady who helped us also rang the course and advised them we were
Midway Basin - Firehole RiverMidway Basin - Firehole RiverMidway Basin - Firehole River

Check out the 'steaming hot waterfall' pouring into the Firehole River
going to be a little late.

Then as we left the motel, a kid on a skate board fell off and his skate board shot across the road just as we came zooming passed. It somehow went under the car and I don’t know how we didn’t smash it up. Poor Graham did so well to miss the darn board and the kid - considering all the earlier problems and missing the golf tee time. We finally got to the course and the Club guys were fantastic – they rearranged the tee time which wasn’t easy because it was heavily booked being the Labour Day holiday. After all that, the game was really good. It was a lovely older style of course that was as tough as hell (and $$$). The pace of play was also slow but that suited us just fine cause it gave us time to relax and figure out how to play the tough holes. The reason we chose this course was because it was designed by Alistair Mackenzie who also designed Royal Melbourne GC. He actually regarded his course design at Pasatiempo as his finest work so we thought that was a good reason
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Morning Glory Pool at Firehole Lake - just could stop taking photos of this awesome scene
to try it out. Some of the holes were awesome but his subtle use of bunkering really made the course. It was also very different because it finished with wonderful par 3 across a ravine, a big deep back bunker and a super fast green that fell away back into the ravine – a really tough and unusual finishing hole. We played some great shots but as usual let a few bad shots reduce our good overall scores.

Sunday – was to be golf free but could not resist the temptation of the Old Course at Half Moon Bay. Played in the twilight and we both put together some of our best golf. The last two holes finish on the ocean cliff tops in front of the Carlton Ritz Hotel. We finished in fine form with a big gallery on hand to watch us both put our second shots on for birdie putts. We both just missed the putts by a few millimetres but easily put the par putts away. Finished our golfing holiday feeling really happy with what we had achieved.

Look forward to being home on Thursday and catching up with everyone.

Leanne
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Algae mats within the pool
and Graham


Additional photos below
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Midway Geyser BasinMidway Geyser Basin
Midway Geyser Basin

more views of Morning Glory
Black Sand Geyser BasinBlack Sand Geyser Basin
Black Sand Geyser Basin

The orange colours are the result of algae mats living in the hot sulphur springs
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Black Sand Geyser Basin

The bison enjoy sitting on the warm ground alongside the geysers


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