Vancouver Day 1

I flew from Toronto direct to Vancouver, the flight wasn’t too bad, about 5 hours long. West Jet is a really good airline with friendly staff. A funny trick they like to play is coming around with food and drink that costs money, and then 15 minutes later coming by with free stuff. I watched Dragon’s Den on the plane (they have live TV … in the sky!! Wow!). Landed and met up with Anne and her folks pretty quickly. Then Nate showed up and we were driven home by his roommate Justin. They live about 15 minutes from the airport, right on the University of British Columbia campus. We took a night time walk around campus and saw a 25m blue whale skeleton, as well as their two beautiful libraries. UBC campus is pretty incredible. They only had one building, Education Studies, which came close to the 1970s architectural travesties of UWaterloo. It was really great to see Nate again, and he knows his way around Vancouver like the back of his hand, so he was an excellent tour guide as well! We made our way back to his apartment and then Anne and I went to sleep around 12, which was 3am in Ontario time. Nate slept in the living room. Poor Nate!


Vancouver Day 2

We woke up pretty early and went for breakfast at this cool place that was a bus trip away. Nate knows that the express bus (the 99 along Broadway) doesn’t check tickets, so we got to ride that one free for most of our trip. Can’t remember the name of the breakfast place, but it was in Kitsilano near the beach there. We went to the beach, I think I had seen it before in my mom’s pictures of Vancouver. There were big logs on the beach and you could see massive ocean liners docked in the bay. On the other side you could see a hint of downtown Vancouver as well as Stanley Park and North Vancouver across the bay. Very picturesque. The weather was drizzly, and slightly cold but I wore flip-flops because I’m hanging onto summer with tooth and nail. The flops turned out to be a bad idea because that day we walked many, many, many kilometres. We hit Granville Island next, and spent some time there looking through the market. I bought a 2L glass container of cold milk and drank the whole thing. My favourite store in the entire place was this hat store which sold old fashioned hats of all sorts. It was like you had stepped back in time, they had ladders on rails to reach the higher hats, the music was from the 1930s (The Ink Spots, my favourite!), and the staff there looked straight out of old Time or Life Magazine covers. I also found those banana protectors I had seen on Dragon’s Den. I think it’s just the silliest idea I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t believe these people were making money off of these things. In the thousands of years people and apes have been eating bananas, I think it’s a strong sign of a bad idea, that no one has needed a banana protector until 2010. It’s not too far off inventing a device to twiddle your thumbs more effectively.

Next we took the Burrard Bridge into town. We walked around for a bit and found a Chapters. I wanted to buy Stephen Hawking’s new book, The Grand Design, but it was too expensive so I think I’ll give it a miss for now. Another book I really thought was interesting was the new Richard Dawkin’s book on the proof so far for evolution. I can’t remember the name, but it’s got a really beautiful cover and lots of pictures inside. We made our way towards Stanley Park and that’s when my flops started to kill me. I went into about 10 shoe stores, but eventually my cheapness got the better of me and we just kept on trucking. Every now and then it would start drizzling for a while and we’d stop under an awning for a few minutes. We took the counter-clockwise trip around Stanley Park. It was really beautiful. I can’t believe there is this massive forest in a big city. We saw the aboriginal totem poles, which I thoroughly enjoyed. They were all replicas, which was kind of sad, because the British settlers, explorers, and missionaries basically stole, or told the natives to destroy, the originals. The four main animals shown were the wolf, the orca whale, the eagle, and a frog. The kings of the land, sea, air, and the transition between land and sea. After Stanley Park we made our way back into town, passing the statue of Lord Stanley and his plaque reading, “To the use and enjoyment of people of all colours, creeds and customs for all time – I name thee Stanley Park”. However, from the statue and the fact that Vancouver is perpetually drizzling, I’m pretty sure Lord Stanley was saying, “Do you feel any drops?”. In fact, studies* have shown that this is the number one saying for Vancouverites.

We then made a long walk to grab some sushi that Nate said was amazing. The place was called Koyoba (sp?) and it was really fantastic sushi. I highly recommend it to anyone in Vancouver. Apparently their Davie Street location is far better, so check that one out. We also passed these hilarious statues on the way there. I also found it cool that a lot of buildings had grass on the roofs. In fact one building (see below), had a massive tree on the roof! Cool, I love that concept of making these huge high-rise condos, but not actually decreasing the amount of greenspace in a city (at least from Google Satellite view).

After that it rained pretty heavily for the rest of the night which made our trip back pretty difficult. We stopped at one of the 17 million Starbucks locations and I finished a Sudoku before we realized that the rain wouldn’t let up. Running below overhangs we made our way to the Sky Train which they built for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Slightly disappointing in the respect that it was quite far removed from the sky (essentially a subway), but thrilling in the respect that the train was completely automated. You could stand up at the front and just watch the train go by itself. Cool! We also didn’t have to pay because the ticket machines were broken. So after a completely free ride back to UBC campus, we got home and hit the hay after a long days trip.


*Sample size: Nathan Belliveau

Vancouver Day 3

Day 3, now what happened in Day 3? Oh yes, Nate had to get up and go to his weekly group meeting at about 11. We went with him to campus but then parted ways and Anne and I headed to the library (like good Engineers). I checked up on some emails and surfed the net for bit while Anne worked on her application to McGill. The old library is beautiful. They’ve taken an old building (not sure how old) and modernized it whilst preserving the antiquity of the old building. It reminded me of the Baden Center at UofT. They had big old comfy leather chairs and Apple iMacs everywhere. All in all, very impressive. Oh – and quiet! Like a library should be. I won’t gripe about the DC library at Waterloo right now, but that place is a zoo! Then we decided to stop being nerds and went to go see the sights around campus. We checked out the rose garden which on top of being beautiful, has an amazing mountain vista in the background.

Next we went to Timmies (and paid 1.80 for a coffee … yeesh) to wait for Nate. One Sudoku and half a crossword later he showed up after a successfully boring group meeting. We hopped on the bus towards town (me wearing proper shoes this time), and our first stop after getting the Sky Train again was Japadog! A famous Japanese hotdog stand in Vancouver has several locations, ours was on Burrard and Smithe Sts. The hotdog was about $9 with a coke, expensive as with all Vancouver food. But! It was really original and something I’ve never seen before. You get seaweed on it and wasabi mayonnaise. Pretty groovy. I can’t remember what # I ordered, but the caption mentioned “the Kobe beef of hotdogs”.

Then we went for a beer at Doolins Irish Pub and had a few local beers. Delicious! Okanagan Hefweizen is a great wheat beer and one I definitely recommend. There was a real Irish band playing so that was a good change from the usual pub music. Then we made our way to Granville Island again. We walked around for a while and saw that the Fringe Festival was going on, and one of the spots was Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog. I was really excited, but unfortunately we couldn’t make any of the shows L bummer. Next we went to an awesome restaurant called Sammy Chili. The service was fast, food was cheap (for Vancouver), and the gin and tonics top notch.

After that we hummed and hawed as to whether we were going to see an improv comedy show on Granville. Some random drunk guy convinced us that going downtown was the place to be. So with a whisk of our capes, and a tip of our hats, we started trekking back to town across Granville Bridge. Once we crossed we saw this bar that also had a comedy show! This one was really cool and I had read about it online before I came to Vancouver. It was the “Standup for Mental Health” show. All of the comedians had some mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar, OCD). Hilarity ensued and we had a lot of good laughs. Many of them were amateurs but it was great to see budding comics. The star of the night was Mike Macdonald (from Just for Laughs fame). He really killed, I liked his set, it was very comfortable and laid back.

After the show we made our way back via our Sky Train and bus route. Nate and I played some guitar, we all separately did some crosswords/computer work/reading and then went to sleep.


Vancouver Day 4

Wedding day! The reason for the trip. Anne and I got up early and prepared our stuff for the wedding. We were getting picked up around 12 and the wedding was at 2:30. In the morning we found time to watch “My Super Ex-Girlfriend”. It’s a not-too-bad comedy whose shining gem is the fact that Eddie Izzard plays the evil mastermind. Brilliant!

Will and his mom and dad came to pick us up on time. We went to their hotel and got ready. Actually I’m not sure why we went to the hotel now that I think of it? Anyway, that’s how things go sometimes. Then we left for the wedding. It was in Stanley Park at a part of the park that Nate, Anne and I already walked past on Thursday. It was a short and sweet ceremony. Bees abound. The sun was out briefly, but most of the ceremony was overcast. This was quite pleasant as it was neither too hot nor too cold. Also Anne’s side of the family was quite relieved as none of them had brought their SPF 8000 sunblock that day. Everyone was fascinated by the bridesmaid’s dresses having secretly pockets massive pockets. Other than some microphone troubles it was a great time and their wedding vows were very honest and lovely. By the way, it is Stephen and Raylene wearing the groom and bridal outfits respectively.

After the ceremony there was the usual hour or so of pictures and then we left for the hotel again. By accident we got lost and by fortunate accident we had to drive all the way around Stanley Park. It was a fantastic drive! When we got to the hotel we ate some quick food and I had one of Will’s beers, Duchess of Vourgogne (I think?). Expensive but really a nice beer. Will is quite the beer buff, and so he knows tons of different kinds of good beers. I was looking forward to this trip J. He can drive the way back and I’ll just drink good beer all day. Unfortunately my looming sickness ruined that dream (spoiler alert).

The reception was at the Vancouver Convention Center West. From the dining room you could see the bay and the mountains, it was a really nice setting. I devoured my chicken dinner and half of Anne’s as well. I sat at the table with the Stephen’s mum. Stephen’s side of the family is from Ontario so they were under-represented there. The bride and groom gave some pretty hilarious and touching speeches later in the night. No one really got into the dancing very much unfortunately, but there was a really great photobooth where you could take pictures for free in ridiculous hats and costumes. Ridiculousness showed a direct correlation to alcohol consumption as the night progressed.

Anne and I left to make our way back to Nate’s place at around 1am and had a rough time of it because it was pouring rain and it seemed there wasn’t a cab in the city. We ran under overhangs and awnings (seems to be a common Vancouver activity) to the Sky Train and made our way alone (i.e. without Nate) back to Nate’s place.


Vancouver Day 5

Long lie in this morning. When we did drag ourselves up we went with Nate to this organic breakfast place a few stops down the road. It was called Aphrodite’s Cafe. A bit on the pricey side, but with incredible food. We all had omelettes, but the salad was one of the best I’ve ever had – and I don’t particularly like salads. When we got back we had to rush to get ready for Will and Anne’s parents to take us to Ernest’s cousins house. There was some confusion as to where this was; Anne was adamant that we were going to Whistler so I was excited. Unfortunately it was nowhere near Whistler and was more of a suburb south of Vancouver. Still a really nice place, and up a relatively big mountain. Gary (Ernest’s cousin) is a camera man. He’s done quite a few big movies including the recent Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and he’s filming a show called Eureka! right now. He had some pretty cool stories. His wife, Monica, is an artist and has tons of cool pottery and glass art in the house. We were there for the whole afternoon and I played some Splinter Cell with their son Lawrence, at least until the Family Timer kicked us off the system. Thank goodness my mom and dad never managed to install one of those … I almost had a tantrum and it wasn’t even my house J

We had a turkey dinner that was delicious. Oh! They also have a golden retriever named Shadow (from Homeward Bound no less) who was really friendly. The dog had some skin problems and had lost a lot of its hair, but recently they tried this new herbal remedy and also put the dog on an all raw seafood diet (lucky dog!) and it’s hair bloomed back. We had turkey and Shadow had a massive piece of salmon!

The neighbourhood had some interesting stories. Apparently they are close to a forest so there are bears and cougars that sometimes come into the burbs. Also, about 1/3 of the houses in the area were marijuana grow-ops!! All related to Taiwanese gangs and other organized crime. The houses all end up ruined in the end and mostly have to be completely renovated.

We left after dinner and made our way back to Nate’s house without getting too lost. I said goodbye to Anne’s parents. They were leaving the next morning at 7am so we wouldn’t see them until we got to Windsor again. Can’t remember what we did this night … I have a feeling I fell asleep ridiculously fast, so I’ll call it a day here.


Vancouver to Salmon Arm

Lazy morning and got ready by the time Will came to pick us up around noon. Once he got there we planned out the trip a little bit … at least as far as we were going to go that day. Our plan was to head to Revelstoke, this town in the Columbia mountains. We left with a whole group: Anne, Will, Nate, Justin and myself and headed out for lunch. We ate at a sushi place around the corner from Nate’s place. Our second and last sushi in Vancouver! I wish we had more while we were there, but I guess we were too rushed. With our bellies filled we parted ways finally. It was sad to leave Nate because I think it’s going to be a long while before I see him again. Three cups of Starbucks to serve as a memory of Vancouver, and we hit the road.

About 3 minutes later I spilled most of my coffee on my jeans. I can’t say that I was surprised.

We began the long drive and the scenery was rapidly changing as we left the city. We were in the foothills that kept getting taller and taller. I was surprised at the many trickling waterfalls and streams coming down what I called “mountains”, but really were just hills compared to what we were about to see (yet another spoiler!). It was raining pretty heavily in parts and overall was really damp. This was the windward side of the mountain and so my geography education gave me the foresight to expect this rain. Take that, Mrs. White! For those unaware, she gave me a C- in Grade 4 geography.

It was pretty fun to ride alongside the Canadian Pacific Railway. We saw some really long carriages that spanned for what felt like kilometres.

Eventually we got to a section that felt almost like a desert. The trees had gone away and there were grassy fields. It was still really hill, but we weren’t climbing in terms of elevation very much. I’m not sure what region this was, but I think Will said it was the Okanagan Valley. I’ll have to double check that. It was around Kamloops, BC.

Eventually the sun began to set, which seems to happen more quickly when you’re travelling between mountains and light was low. We realized there was no way we could reach Revelstoke! We had to change the plan and decided to set up camp in the town of Salmon Arm, about an hour away.

Our camp turned out to be a Super 8 motel. Not exactly roughing it. We ate dinner at the next door “Home” restaurant. It seems to have a presence in a lot of the mountain towns. The food was great. I had bangers and mash with some fried veggies. Can’t remember for the life of me what the other two ordered. We went back to the hotel and checked emails, read books, and drink some beer. Will gave me another fantastic one called Old Rasputin.

Eventually we fell asleep. Or so I thought … Tune in next week to find out what happened that stormy night!


Salmon Arm to Banff

Ok, so the stormy night had no lightning. No rain. But you’d be hard pressed to tell Will’s snoring apart from thunder! Anne and I were kept up all night. I think we managed to sneak 2 hours while Will had his face pressed into a pillow (not by my hand … although trust me I was considering it). Eventually we just went to Tim Hortons across the road at 4am and had a tea and just laugh/cried about our predicament. We vowed from here on, Will was getting his own room!

After our 2 hour sleep, Will cheerfully woke us up at 8:00 as we had planned the night before. Anne and I scowling, we got ready at the speed of molasses. Some stale breakfast, a cup of fresh orange juice, and mother nature’s adrenaline, coffee, were wolfed down. Then we hit the mountain road.

Our first stop was the last stop for the Canadian Pacific Railway. We visited the point where the last spike was driven linking the western portion to the one that spanned from the east. The spike was driven on Nov 7, 1885 and connected ocean to ocean. They didn’t show exactly which was the actual last spike … so I just picked one and decided that was the one.

We finally made it to Revelstoke after an hour and a half or so. Right away we headed to Mt. Revelstoke, a national park. When we got to the ticket booth it was Will and I in the front and Anne was in the back. After we said we were going to be in the mountains for a couple of days the nice lady told us that for the two of us, it would be $31. Slightly confused, Will and I looked at each other. I looked back and saw that due to the tinted windows, no one could see Anne. We payed our $31 and I told Anne to keep her head down in a whisper. All was going well until Anne’s cellphone started going off. I then had to pretend to rummage in the back while Anne was thrashing through her bag to turn it off. Suspicion quelled, the lady gave us the ticket and we burned rubber! Thus began the tradition on the rest of the trip – whenever we hit a national park border, the one in the back had to play dead.

Mt. Revelstoke was wonderful! 1600m of crystal clear air, panoramic views, and bear warnings. Something neat that we found out is that the trees at the top are much thinner because it’s a “snow forest”. The trees can’t handle the large amount of snow that falls on Mt. Revelstoke, so they’ve changed to be much thinner versions of their lower altitude relatives. This was the first time we’d seen snow on the trip. It was also very cold! We also saw some birds that we later identified as gray jays from one of the signs on the hike we took. They also have a mini glacier called the “ice box”. There was some ice at the bottom that doesn’t melt year round. None of us really felt any effects of the altitude on our walking or breathing.

When we got to the bottom of the mountain we immediately made our way to McDonalds. So sue us.

Our next stop along the highway was the Skunk Cabbage Trail. I wasn’t a big fan of stopping for this one, but Will is the captain. It turned out to be a nice walk along a boardwalk through a wetland. Seriously, this country has every type of wilderness imaginable. Case in point: our next stop was the Old Cedar forest. An ancient forest with trees that were hundreds of years old. At the premier of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, these trees were already 100 years old. The temperature underneath these trees was also a lot cooler than outside.

The scenery continued to become bolder, more lush, and diverse. Eventually all of the mountains we saw were becoming white capped. Each mountain ran its fingers through the clouds. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then seeing these mountains first hand is worth all the works of the English language. Pictures are really just a shadow of their majesty. The mountains seem to breathe deeply, pulling you in; they’re alive.

I literally took hundreds of pictures of the mountains, the ranges, and the foliage, but I’ll just put the one up there. It’s interesting as well because each mountain is completely unique and really stands out on its own. Once we got into Banff National Park I started to see some pine trees that had turned red and had lost all their leaves. After a while I saw entire forests of trees without leaves! They didn’t appear burnt, so I don’t think it was from a forest fire. The only the thing I can think of is the beetle that I had heard mention of a few months ago. If I’m correct, it is really terrifying to see the forests decimated by the beetles. It may be hard to see but in the picture below, all of the forest on the mountain is red and dead.

We kept on trucking towards Banff and I read through some more of “A Brief History of Time” and listened to some great music. Nirvana, Radiohead, The Beatles, and Tragically Hip. Eventually we reached the border of BC and Alberta and this is also the great divide. All of a sudden the rivers seem to reverse direction because on the BC side the rivers drain into the Pacific Ocean, but on the Albertan side they drain either upwards into the Arctic or into Hudson Bay. Pretty cool how instantaneously this happens. Another surprising feature of Alberta is that there is the sudden appearance of ravens! Edgar Allen Poe ravens! They’re massive creatures and kind of aggressive as well.

We saw the spiral tunnel (not sure if that’s the exact name) where if you’re lucky you can see a train entering a tunnel in the side of a mountain, and moments later coming out of a hole above it. We didn’t see it, but looking at the pictures it looks pretty snakey. At this part Anne also took a really nice picture of me, so I’m going to be devilishly narcissistic and post it. Notice my Canada sweater, as well as the glorious man mountain. A few minutes later we also ran into some elk crossing the road. They’re quite comfortable with cars it seems, they mostly seemed to ignore us. Something that Alberta does that’s pretty good is that they’ve got the same bridges for animals covered with soil and grass that Croatia has on its highways. Prevents road accidents and facilitates migrations. Go Alberta!

We also came across a floating mountain. Probably the coolest mountain there is. Probably. As it became dark the moon was also nicely set against some of the mountains. I really want the second picture on a t-shirt … except with a howling wolf in the foreground.

As night fell we pulled into Banff and noticed that one of our headlights had gone out. Luckily there was still a bit of light so we weren’t in bad shape. We’d have to change it the next morning though. We found a hotel pretty quickly. The first one we stopped at actually. Got two rooms, so that Anne and I could get a chance to sleep finally! It was a cool room because Will’s room was adjoining and we were out in the main area. After we got settled we went and walked around town. Banff is sort of like Disney for mountain villages. But it’s really pretty and does actually seem pretty authentic. All of the stores’ signs are made out of wood. Even big chains have to have a wooden sign. There are lots of typical Canadian tourist shops with some very atypical goods for sale. For instance, a $39,999 fossilized cave bear skeleton, or a $25,000 woolly mammoth tusk. Banff definitely caters for the rich and famous. I could afford a small crystal of bismuth which is really fascinating looking. It’s got a crazy crystal structure and makes these step edges which almost look like mayan ruins. The oxide surface gives it an iridescent look. Very cool. We went to an Irish pub for dinner. It was very fancy and the food was really good. After that we headed back to the hotel and I read for a while before falling asleep with my book. I wanted to spend so many days in Banff!


Banff to Jasper

Woke up at an Inn in Banff, Alberta. Round about 8:30. We were out the door by 9:15 or so and went to Safeway (west coast grocery store) to get some breakfast. I got a traditional hoagie, Anne and Will got bagels. We bought some fruit and I got a coffee from Starbucks. Anne and I were feeling really sick so we loaded up on Neocitrine. We first found an auto shop in town to replace the driver’s side headlight. We were worried about having to drive through the night at some point; although to this point we had planned our driving really well in between stops. Oh – I found out from Wendy Darling (the Nano coordinator) that I didn’t have to rush home from my trip to mark those work reports. That relieved quite a bit of stress and I think we’ll change our trip around to go to Edmonton after Jasper so that we don’t have to double back along the Icefields highway.

Our next stop was inside Banff at the Upper Hot Springs! It’s run by the federal government and you can rent towels there. The entrance fee was something like $7. This was really worth seeing! The water is 39 celsius and treated so it doesn’t have the nasty sulphur smell. It was essentially a pool that was warmed up to a hot bath temperature. The setting is incredible with mountains behind you and frosty air above the water’s surface. We stayed for about 20 minutes and then decided to hit the road. When we went back up to go to the car we passed was a running brook with a nice fountain, and I decided to put my hand in to see if it was hot water (turns out it wasn’t). But to my surprise I found these little silver trinkets right where I put my hand in. One is an Indian feather, a tiny buffalo, and a small flower. All of them have small holes so they seem to be for a necklace or something. Fortunate fountain I guess.

After the hot baths we hit the road heading towards Jasper. I was really surprised at the amount of ravens in the Rockies. They’re also massive and quite frightening. Poe really picked the right bird for his creepy poem. Our first stop was Lake Louise which took about an hour from Banff. I slept most of the way due to the grippe. Lake Louise was stunning. Beautiful blues, gorgeous greens, and … brilliant browns. The mountains frame the view so nicely. White snowy caps. There was a faint mist on the water and a couple canoeing. I took some nice pictures like a good tourist would. It was surprisingly quiet and peaceful there even with the other tourists. We went into the Fairmont Hotel right on the lake’s edge. Got a hot water and filled it with Neocitrine. Also bought a metal waterbottle for $9. Got it filled with free lake/glacier water. Even with the tourists there is was quiet and peaceful. There was snow on the ground and some of the leaves were starting to turn yellow already in September!

Next we went to Lake Moraine which is a lake created by a blockage caused by a glacial moraine (I think …). There were tons of rocks and boulders that formed a big mountain at the foot of the lake. I took one of the very flat rocks from the pool as a souvenir. There was a hike to a lake called Consolation Lake (a slightly depressing name), but it required 4 people to go on it because of the danger of bears. Cool! I’ve been yearning to see a grizzly, but I think I’m alone in that wish. Whenever we stop a game we sometimes play is I’ll point out a tree or rock in the distance and say, “If a bear were there, then I’d be worried”. Anne and Will usually pinpoint some distant tree about 15x farther away. I guess I should take grizzlies more seriously. I found a little pamphlet that said you had to be 10 bus lengths away (100m) from a grizzly to be safe. They can run as fast as a race horse. Anne and Will seem to be placing their money on the bear winning the race rather than themselves.

After that we hit the road and started off on the Icefields Parkway. We took some incredible photos on this trip up Banff National Park. We didn’t stop anywhere until we hit Jasper National Park. That’s where we stopped at the Athabasca Glacier. The altitude was 2000m above sea level at the parking lot (higher than the height of Mt. Revelstoke from the day before), so the air was pretty thin and it made the hike a little tough. It was about a 5 minute hike up to the tip of the glacier. Along the way there are many signs warning you not to go on the ice at all. Apparently the last 3 rescue attempts were unsuccessful because it takes hours to get you out of the crevasses and hypothermia usually sets in quickly. It was very cold as well so I can imagine how you would be in some serious trouble on the glacier. Also, along the way there are signs showing where the glacier edge was historically. In 1982 it was about 100-200 meters away from where it is now. A lot of the signs say that this is due to climate change (which is due to human activity). However, when we were on our way back down, I saw the same separation (100-200m) between markings from 1902 and 1925. I wonder how much human activity there was back then that would have affected these glaciers? This was before automobiles, plastics, and multinational oil/mining industries were ubiquitous. Curious … I wonder how this is explained. Anyways, the glacier was gorgeous, and the massive lateral moraines it leaves on the sides of it. The glacier must be about 4 stories high of solid ice. You can also see the large rocks on the ground have deep scratches and gouges in them from the glacier. There are parts of the ice that are bright blue from the extreme compression making dense ice which absorbs longer wavelengths and reflect shorter (blue) back.

After that we stopped at two beautiful waterfalls, the Sunwapta Falls and the Athabasca Falls. Athabasca has a lot of unique features such as massive potholes made from circular water flow over years as well as abandoned paths that the water took. These left deep, narrow canyons which you could walk through. Interesting fact: The bull trout is the only fish above the falls, whereas below the falls there are several varieties of fish. It is a mystery as to how the bull trout exists above the falls. It may have been human intervention to create marine life up the river. Second interesting fact: I’ll have to show a map, but the Athabasca Glacier is the source of the water for Falls which then drain into the Mackenzie River and end up in the Arctic Ocean above Alaska. To me it always seems weird when water flows North because it seems as if it’s going uphill (Treebeard reference any Tolkeineers reading this).

OK I’ll speed this up because it’s getting long. We finally got to Jasper just as it was getting dark. The most hilarious hotel we found was called “Lobstick Lodge”. We drove around town till we found the Toquin Inn and stayed in a 2 bedroom place there (so that Will doesn’t wake us up with his thunder-snore). It was $160 for the night, so pretty pricey – but Jasper is more expensive than Banff for some reason. We went to the local town pub, De’d Dog, and I ordered a Keiths Dark and a Game Burger (Elk, bison, and venison) Yum! It didn’t taste like beef at all.

We hit the road and went to sleep pretty soon after we got to the hotel.


Jasper to Edmonton

Up in Jasper at 8:30. Feeling more sick than before. Dropped another Neocitrine and then we hit the road. Again we stopped at a grocery store (Robson’s, for anyone curious). This time I had sausage rolls, yogurt, and a carrot cake. We did a bit of back tracking right away to go to Mount Edith Cavell. On the way we saw a Lambourgini and 5 Ferrari’s driving into Jasper. Taking some of those mountain roads in a sports car has some serious appeal. Some of them remind me of the roads down the coast of Croatia. I’ll have to take my Carrera 4S through the Trans Canada Highway one day. One day …

At the start of the road to the mountain we saw a male Elk on the side of the road. Took some photos and moved on up. We got to the parking lot of Mount Edith but we didn’t hike up to the glacier because it was really cold and I was feeling pretty sick. Will didn’t feel cold at all, so it was probably due to me feeling sick that I felt so cold. Another strong deterrent was the warning signs everywhere of a mother grizzly and cubs in the early as of early September. Even without the hike, it was a beautiful spot to stop and we could see the glaciers from where we stopped.

After that we drove down and headed out past Jasper again on the Yellow Head Highway towards Edmonton. We stopped once on the way to see a small waterfall (who’s name escapes me … I think it was Kettlepot or something). We also saw a herd of mountain goats and took a bunch of pictures. CORRECTION: Turns out the “mountain goats”, were actually female and young big-horned sheep! We checked on the interwebs to find that out. Animal identification skills: -1. At least we can tell a horse apart from a moth I guess. Our animal count goes up; but the grizzly remains elusive. Then we decided to go up to the Miette Hotsprings. These are much hotter than the Banff ones and have to be cooled down for human … consumption. I rented a towel and decided to go for a dip even though I wasn’t feeling the best. The pool was incredible! Very nice setting too. More rugged than Banff and seemed more wild, which makes sense because it’s literally in the middle of nowhere. Will was nuts and did the cold dip, where you sit in the hot, 39 celsius, water for a while and then jump out (already crazy because it’s single digits and windy out there) and then go jump in a 10 degree pool! I don’t think my fragile heart could handle that experience so I stayed warm and safe submerged to my chin.

We ate lunch at a little restaurant up on the mountain. I had a Western Denver which is a green pepper and ham omelette on a toasted sandwich. Cuppa coffee and a filled up Lake Louise water bottle, we were ready to go.

On our way down, we saw a motorcycle which had slid out and crashed on a bend. It was barely visible in the trees, but we noticed it because there were a few cars stopped already. I hope the driver was OK! He must have been going too fast round the bend because the bike was facing uphill, and was on the opposite side of the road. Very scary.

After that I slept. Slept and slept and slept. When I woke up, the mountains had been steam rolled into the earth to become flat Albertan fields. The reason for my wakeup was that a deer had darted towards the road from the trees. Luckily the deer ran back before we came too close. Still gave us a bit of a shock.

We drove into the West end of Edmonton which is the farthest thing from mountain beauty you can imagine. Square concrete industrial buildings, factories, and run down stores. Yeuch! Luckily the main part of Edmonton was quite a bit nicer. There’s a big river running through the middle of the city with nice yellowing trees throughout. It isn’t as attractive a city as Vancouver and seems to suffer from incurable urban sprawl, but it is a relatively nice city. Anne and Will were very impressed and could not stop talking about the fact that the streets are all numerical. The North-South ones are Avenues, and the East-West ones are Streets. The house numbers also correspond to the nearest Street/Avenue as well which makes it quite easy to find houses without an address. And in this grid-paper method we made our way to Josh and Liz’s house. They were friends of Will and went to his elementary school and high school. They have a great dog called Stuckey that’s a mix Lab/Retriever and it’s very fun and well behaved. Josh works at NINT (National Institute of Nanotechnology) doing his PhD with the University of Alberta. He’s been building a holographic electron microscope. It sounds really cool, I want to read up on it if there’s any information out there. Theoretically it should be able to obtain structural 3D information about a sample from a single electron point source. Making a hologram, similar to the ones that you see in some credit cards. Neato! Liz is training to be a nurse here at UofA as well. We all went out for dinner to a buffet Indian place which was very stylish and cool. Ate a lot and loosened our belts a few notches. Next we went and bought some beers and spent the night hanging out at Josh and Liz’s place. Hit the hay around 12, feeling pretty sick (from the flu!) and hoping to feel better in the morning.


Edmonton to Vulcan

Woke up sicker than ever. Sucks! I dragged myself out of bed and packed up. We said bye to Josh (Liz had gone to class already). We drove around town for a bit to find this restaurant where we were meeting Will’s other friend, Joe. Joe also works at NINT but doing MEMS and NEMS. More specifically doing magnetic microstructures from permalloy and seeing how quickly they switch polarization after being biased with an outside field. Interesting stuff! He’s also almost finishing up his PhD. The place we originally wanted to have breakfast was packed, so we walked around the block to another place. The staff barely spoke English but were quite nice. I had a bison sausage + eggs breakfast. I found out that bison is not the best thing to have in the morning. Really dry. Makes you feel like you’re turning into a bison a little bit.

We said “Bye” to Joe and then made our way to the West Edmonton Mall, consumer Mecca. WEM is almost funny in terms of it’s size. I literally saw 4 of the exact same hat store, Lids. There were two Radioshacks, two Fido booths, two of most things. It almost seems like they were trying to get big with being big as the only goal in mind. There is no functional benefit to having several of the exact same store in the same building. Unless the bovine shoppers can’t roam to the other side of the mall. Anyways, all insults aside – the mall is fantastic! There are several rollercoasters, a theme park, a water park with a HUGE wave pool, a sea lion demonstration that was actually pretty top-class, a shooting range, oh and did I mention two of every store? There are also a lot of cool stores that you don’t normally see which are more dedicated to a specific brand. There is a Lacoste store, Tommy Hilfiger store, and many more brands. I had a good time there actually.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then hit the road towards Calgary and Vulcan. I am not expecting much from the drive as it seems to be very barren according to Google Maps. We shall see.

The drive turned out to be quite nice, and seeing wide open fields as far as the eye can see is actually a beautiful complement to the staggering mountain ranges. It really is “big sky country” out here. The moon was red and massive because it was so close to the horizon. Usually you never see the moon rise from that close because it’s always obscured by buildings or hills. There weren’t too many stars out though. I guess it’s partly because it was pretty cloudy and partly because the moon was so bright (full moon). I’m reading ‘A Brief History of Time’ by Stephen Hawking, and I’ve made it quite a few chapters in. It’s very interesting and so far I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the formulation of our modern view of the universe. The book has a lot of historical information on scientists and theories which is one of my favourite things to learn in science. I like to learn about how scientists came to discover things about the universe; the poor judgements, the brilliant moments of clarity.

Pulling into Vulcan was hilarious because the town is very heavily Star Trek themed. Pulling into town they have a massive starship Enterprise with plaques written in various Trek languages such as Klingon. The visitor center is designed like a starship but looks creepily like a new-age cult’s headquarters. The pharmacy in town has a huge mural of all of the doctors from the Star Trek seasons. “Jim, man, this man’s dying of lurgee! Five lurgees!” –Eddie Izzard

We drove to Will’s apartment and watched some TV before bed. I’m still feeling sick, but fingers crossed this is the last day.


p.s. My cross-country beard is coming along nicely. Well, scraggly as all hell, but that’s nice enough for me.