Sunday, July 31, 2011

Southern Alberta

While studying the atlas prior to our trip, we recognized the name of a historical site in Alberta.

Some years ago we read about it in Dave Barry's insightful essay on the delightful culture of Canada, "What Has Four Legs and Flies," (be sure to go back to page 47 for the full effect) from Dave Barry Talks Back.  We had to stop by. 

The story goes that the Blackfoot people used to chase buffalo over the bluff for more efficient hunting. A young warrior wondered what it looked like from below. His friends could not dissuade him, and he watched. They found him later, under the beasts, with his head smashed in.  Thus, the site was named Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.

We arrived at closing time, so we didn't have much time to look around.  But the center is built onto the cliff, with a couple of stuffed bison looking down on the main floor.  Perhaps one could get a better idea of the event if there was a recording of thundering hooves playing, or if the buffalo looked like they were about to slip. 

Outside, the wind was blowing hard enough to keep unwise buffalo from falling off the cliff.  I had to make some effort to walk back down the hill to the parking lot, anyway.

The wind seemed to be trying to remove the doors from our van as we drove along.  I felt grateful to not be driving a covered wagon, or pushing a handcart in that sort of wind.  But some of the pioneers did.  Our next stop was in Cardston, founded by Mormon pioneers in the late 1880s. 

In spite of wind and snow and wartime, they built this beautiful temple. 

 Actually, the wind was not so bad when we stopped to see the temple.  We enjoyed a peaceful visit in the visitors' center.

Then we pressed on to Montana, and continued home.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Johnston Canyon

The Johnston Canyon Campground was the least occupied when we arrived in the area, so we were surprised to see cars lined up to park across the street.  It seems the Johnston Canyon Trail is one of the more popular trails around Banff.  We just followed the river from the campground, skipping the whole pain of parking, and headed on the hike.

The green glacial river has been carving these rocks for centuries.

In some places it flows placidly,

then takes a tumble over sterner shelves of stone.

Some hikers experience similar mood swings.  D2 decided early that he was not in the mood for walking.  Then he'd get distracted, and move along nicely.  Then another storm would break out.  Dandelionslayer provided this photo opportunity as a diversion.  Pleased with the picture, D2 walked contentedly on for some time.

The map referred to Lower Falls and Upper Falls.  I think these were some Middle Falls.

After dramatic displays of sedimentary rock, we were surprised to see this curtain of travertine limestone.  A rock fall, just across from . . .

. . . the Upper Falls.  The catwalk extended over the water so we could feel the spray.  It was a warm day, and we were ready for its refreshment.

This small cave led to the more drenching spray of the Lower Falls.

At thumbnail size, I think this looks like a picture of the boys climbing on a stone robot with wild hair.  Stand back, and see what you think.

Dandelionslayer finally found a bow worthy of his might,

and a stream to cool his feet.

After lunch, we went in search of warmer water.

We found it at the Upper Pool, Banff Hot Springs.  It looks like a swimming pool, with a lot of people sitting still around the sides.  It smells like sulphur, and feels like a very hot bath:  39 degrees Celsius.  That's 102 degrees, for those who prefer Fahrenheit.  (But can you spell it?) 

I took no pictures of the pool, but this is the view from within the enclosure.  Our boys shook things up a bit, but we tried to keep the splash zone contained.  And they weren't the only children present.  We soaked and splashed until more soakers came, and there was no room for splashing. 

Then we went back to camp and ate ice cream while the grill heated up for dinner.  Yum!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Moraine Lake

We were lucky to find a parking space at Moraine Lake.

It was easy to see why. 

This jewel of a lake is surrounded by ten sharp peaks.  Their glaciers feed it a steady supply of water laced with rock flour, turning the lake this gorgeous turquoise blue.

We walked around the edge until one of the larger streams blocked our way.

Then we rented a canoe, for a closer look.

D2 had to get even closer.  With permission for wading, he managed to fall right into the frigid water.  His hair turned crusty with rock flour.  He loved it.

When it wasn't his turn in the canoe, Scoot explored the huge rock pile at the end of the lake.

We outstayed most of the other tourists.

But it was still hard to leave.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Banff National Park, AB

We took route 1A through the park in order to reach our campground. 

It turned out to be a great way to meet the neighbors, like this elk.

And this little bear, who likes to eat wildflowers.

You can see why they called the elk wapiti, a Shawnee word meaning "white rump."

This ram watched over the intersection of 1A with the highway.
Thanks for looking out for us!

Glacier National Park, BC

Then we drove through Canada's Glacier National Park. 
A pillar commemorating the opening of the road through the Rogers Pass bears this quote:

"Let all who use this highway look with awe and reverence upon the majesty and God-given beauty of these mountains."

It's hard to do so when you're driving.

So I just had to stop.

Only God can sculpt something like this.  Who else can handle a tool as powerful as a glacier?

Shuswap Lake

Having a time constraint, we couldn't be quite as spontaneous as we would have liked.  But we did take some time to observe Shuswap Lake from a roadside pullout near Salmon Arm, BC.

I'm not sure where Scoot focussed his binoculars, but the panoramic view was worthwhile.

I pulled out my Field Guide to Wildflowers, Western Region, to identify this sweet-smelling shrub:

It's a mock orange, as you Idaho natives will recognize.  I didn't bother to look up the giant dandelion, and I refrained from bringing its seeds home.  That's illegal, you know.

The boys enjoyed some bouldering,

and I soaked up the sunny scenery.


We spent the first week of July camping in Canada.  Here is some of the scenery we enjoyed.

This is a view of Kamloops, BC, from the Information Center.  The hills have a sagebrushy sort of landscape.

Our waterfront campsite was moist and green.  The skinny girl with the short shorts in the office said that there is usually a beach here, but the Thompson River was testing its bounds. 

We had no fear of rain that night, and we cheered for the bats who came out to feast on mosquitoes.

Don't let the penguin drive the bus!

Friday, July 15, 2011


Much ado is made, particularly in the Christmas season, about "a child's sense of wonder."  If you've spent any time with a toddler, you know this sense is vigorous and motivating.  "Why?" the child asks.  "Why?  Why?  Why not?"

Equally marvelous, though, is a child's sense of acceptance.  The other day, while ferrying Scoot to yet another activity at the local fairgrounds, I noticed that many RVs were parked next to the stadium.  They did not have the distinctive look of the usual Destruction Derby crowd.  With my own, however depleted, sense of wonder, I was curious.  As I drove along the fence, I checked my peripheral vision for clues.  Just as I was pulling up to the drop-off point, I noticed something. 

"There is an elephant!" I said, and quickly reversed for a better look.  There were, in fact, two elephants standing under an awning, next to a large trailer.  Scoot, Mr. Punctuality himself, soon asked if I'd let him out, so I pulled up again and dropped him off.  Rollo asked for another look.  I parked, and we walked to the fence.

I quickly imagined a conversation like this:

"Mom, why are there elephants here?"

"They are part of a circus."  (I had just remembered the lone circus sign on the corner.)

"A circus?  Can we go?"

"Well, we're pretty busy . . . ", and much whining would ensue.

But this conversation did not come to pass.  Perhaps Rollo had seen the sign, too, and figured things out.  D2 wouldn't have noticed.  As we quietly watched, the boys admired the sinuous curves of the trunks, and asked why the elephants were swinging their tails.  Neither asked why two large, exotic mammals from India would be standing around at our suburban fairgrounds.

Why not?  It's an amazing world.  These things happen.