Kings of Leon in Calgary

Last weekend a very excited Layla and I headed up to the city to see Kings of Leon at the Scotiabank SaddledomeI had seen them many years before at the O2 in London but was really keen to see them again as I love their latest albums Mechanical Bull and Walls. It was Layla’s first time seeing them and she was super excited as they were on her bucket list of bands to see!

We left in Fergus’s car around 4pm and picked up Selena from Germany, a rideshare, from up on Tunnel Mountain. Chatted and listened to KOL on the 1.5 hour drive through the mountains and plains and into the city to the HI Calgary City Centre Hostal where we all had stayed a few times before. HI Calgary is a great hostal in the East Village. It’s only a few blocks from the City Centre, the River and the Saddledome so makes a perfect place to stay when attending concerts or hockey. We paid $45 for a female 6 bed dorm with free wi-if and breakfast. 

After a quick drink at Cowboy’s Casino we headed off down to the stadium. Got our tickets at the box office before saying bye to Selena. She was in seating and we were in the pit, we befriended her on Facebook and promised to meet up in Banff. 

Got some ciders and headed down to the front of the stage. At first it wasn’t all that busy as most people were milling around in the back getting food and drinks. The support band, The Dawes, an LA based Folk Rock band were late to start so by then we had made some friends in the crowd, Ashley & Ian from Calgary, Ashley was from Calgary and had 2 children and Ian was originally from the UK.  We had also made a few bar and toilet runs before Kings of Leon appeared. Caleb told us the reason for them being late was due to their flight from Edmonton being cancelled so they had to drive down to Calgary. Fair play.They started off at a slower pace with Conversation Piece from Walls, Taper Jean Girl and The Bucket from Aha Shake Heartbreak, a song about them returning from a tour in the UK where they were huge to the US where there were still relatively unknown.  They then hit us with Eyes on You from Walls, a bouncy, upbeat tune that got the crowd moving. Next up came 2 songs off my favourite album of theirs, Only By The Night, released in 2009. Revelry and Notion. Caleb’s voice is stunning, it’s so raw and sounds exactly as it does on the recordings. Next came Fans from Because Of the Times and the huge anthem Use Somebody, a song Caleb wrote while recovering from a shoulder injury and realising he was dependant on those around him.The mood went a bit quieter after the rousing excitement of Use Somebody, the lights went down and Caleb appeared on the stage on his own for some slower songs, Milk, Talihina Sky and Walls. This band is just as talented writing slower songs as they are writing big rock anthems. Closer is one of mine and Layla’s all time favourite songs but unfortunately it wasn’t included on the nights set list. Find Me, another song from Walls I like was up next and got the stadium on it’s feet again for Crawl and Radioactive, The Immortals from Come Around Sundown and On Call, all fantastic songs I knew almost to the point I could remember all the lyrics. Around The World, a song I can relate to, was up next and by then we had met a bunch of others in the crowd from Golden and Edmonton and were all dancing and singing 3 rows back from the stage. It was unbelievable how close we were. Following Around the World they finally played a song from Mechanical Bull, an album that reminds me of travelling on the Tube when I first moved to London. Family Tree was followed by Reverend, a gritty song from Walls that was released as a promotional single for the album. Back Down South then followed Pyro, a song written about the Ruby Ridge shoot out.Next was Knocked Up, an upbeat tune about an illicit relationship ending in pregnancy, followed by No Money and finally the big ones we had all been waiting for.  Supersoaker, the lead single from Mechanical Bull is a punchy fun tune that sounds similar to the bands older stuff. It’s a great song to dance to and by then I had pealed some layers of and was loving the sweaty unruliness of the pit. My feet were stuck to the floor, cups, paper and god knows what else was being trampled on and the crowd was pumped, hands were in the air, hair was being thrown about and we were all moving as one. Next up was Sex On Fire, the bands most well know, if not overplayed song from Only By The Night. Everyone went wild and jumped up and down to the mesmerising guitar rifts and the chorus we all knew. They finished the night off with Waste A Minute from Walls, a feel good upbeat song with a message.

It was a brilliant night, when the acoustics in a venue are on par with the musisions and they sound like they do on their recordings you can’t be dissappointed. I knew 90% of the songs and the atmosphere was great. The crowd was friendly and we met a load of cool people. The setlist was really great too, old and new, fast and slow, all in a good order. 

I’ll definitely go and see them again someday, somewhere Around The World.

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Hike to the ‘Lakes in the Clouds’

Winter is nearly here and a lot of the Summer activities are closing for the season. Sunday was the last day the Lake Agnes Tea House was open so my colleague Layla and I went for a hike up there in the morning. Layla is British so loves a cuppa. Funnily enough she grew up in Basingstoke, just over the hill from Newbury where I lived for many years, it’s a small world indeed!

We left my house around 8am and drive up to Lake Louise and managed to park in the first parking lot due to it being so early in the day. Even the lakeshore wasn’t that crowded which made a pleasant change.The trail starts just past the Chateau and quickly rises steeply up through the forest zigzagging all the way up to Mirror Lake. The path is well worn and wide and mainly consists of dirt at the beginning but gets a lot rockier as you ascend upwards towards the treeline.  
There is not a lot to see most of the journey up, the forest is beautiful and sheltered from the weather and you do get the odd glimpse of the bright blue lake in places and views of the surrounding mountain ranges and the Big Beehive.Once we got 2/3 of the way up we came across Mirror Lake, a small frozen lake at the foot of the Big Beehive. It’s a pretty spot for a rest and a sit down before you head up the steepest bit of trail up to the Teahouse and Lake Agnes. Up here the trees thin out and you start to get views over the valley to the Lake Louise ski resort and down the Bow Valley towards Banff. It’s impressive and a nice reward for the hard slog up.After 15 minutes or so you turn a corner and come across a small waterfall and a flight of stairs. Sitting atop these stairs is the Lake Agnes Teahouse. The building is a small log cabin with a large, covered verandah that houses the kitchen and tearooms on the lower level and the staff accommodation in the loft. Staff stay there over the Summer and hike up with fresh supplies 2-3 times a week, they also do 20-30 trips by helicopter at the start of the Summer to bring up the majority of the supplies. All the garbage is carried down by staff and guests who wish to help. (We carried down a bag of rubbish)It’s a quirky little place, we sat inside and had a pot of tea and a Mars bar while we chatted to a young couple from California who had hiked up with their 2-month-old baby, and what a happy wee thing he was, all rugged up and smiley.

We walked past the Teahouse along the lake for a better view of the surrounding mountains, Mt Whyte, Mt Niblock and Devil’s Thumb. The trail continues from Lake Agnes up to the Big Beehive and I would have loved to go up there but Layla had to work at 3 so we didn’t have enough time. You can also hike a further hour on to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House which looks amazing too.The way back down probably took us longer than it did to get up as the weather turned while we were up there and it was snowing quite heavily on our decent. The path had become extremely icy due to footfall and snow so we were slipping and sliding all over the place. Layla was first to slip over in a style that can only be described as cartoon like, she was on her back in a flash as both feet went out from under her, it looked very sore.  In one particular spot we were joined by a guide from the Chateau and 2 of his guests who had ice cleats on so they offered a steady arm for each of us to grip onto to prevent us sliding down the path. There were a lot of other hikers slipping over and the guide was warning people about the hazards. Apparently, a woman had been airlifted to hospital after slipping over on the trail the day before! They helped us down until the path became less icy and we chatted quite a bit. They were lovely, very helpful people.Once down on Lake level we walked around the end of Lake Louise, past the Chateau and the 1000s of visitors that had now descended on the place and back to the carpark. A great day with more than a few laughs along the way.

• Time: half-day hike (1-2hrs one way)

• Distance: 7 km (4.5 miles) return or 3.5 km from Lake Louise

• Elevation Gain: 400 m (1300 ft)

• Altitude: 2135 m (7005 ft)

 

 

Sunshine Meadows – Fall Hiking

The first time I visited a ski resort in summer was when I was about 13 and my Mum, my cousin and I went up to Coronet Peak in Queenstown, NZ for a walk. It was hot and dry and I wore a vest top and a mini skirt. (Hey, it was the 90s!) I remember the main building being open but apart from hiking there wasn’t much more to do apart from enjoy the views over Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables.The next time was Whistler Blackcomb in 2016. This time the mountain was geared up for the Summer with mountain biking trails, hiking, the Peak to Peak gondola, lots of restaurants and bars and concerts going on all the time. I admit Whistler is a much bigger resort but I think ski resorts these days offer much more in the way of Summer activities.This week Fergus, our flatmate Kurt and I visited Sunshine Meadows. After skiing all season at Sunshine Village, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit the ski area in the off season. It was the beginning of Fall when we visited so there was plenty of snow covering the ground but the trails were mainly snow free and we were able to enjoy the Autumn colours and warmth on the last open day of the hiking season.

Upon arrival, we bought our discounted tickets (due to having a season pass last ski season) for the shuttle bus and Standish chair from guest services. We got on the old yellow school bus along with a swarm of tourists and started up the ski out to the main village.

Travelling up the ski out in a bus made it look a lot steeper than it looks and feels when skiing down it at high speeds after a long day on the slopes. It was also a lot bumpier and at some points I was concerned the old bus would burst a tyre or stop altogether and slide back down the mountain. It was an enjoyable ride despite this and it was great to be up high and look down onto the Black Middle and Lower Canyon runs and of course see the waterfalls and mountain streams, without snow cover.

We hopped on Standish chair which felt a bit odd without skis strapped to our feet but it was great to be heading up the familiar slope again, seeing the ski area to the left of us and the mountain ranges in front of us stretching out as far as the eye could see. It was a tad chilly going up but once at the top the wind died down as we headed out towards the Standish Viewing Deck. This is a large wooden deck situated on the ridge about 400 metres from the top of the Standish chair, the view from the deck is just incredible. You lookout over the whole of Sunshine Meadows, including Rock Isle, Laryx and Grizzly lakes, Simpson River Valley, various mountain ranges and peaks including the impressive Monarch and famous Mount Assiniboine. To the left, the Angel and Divide chairs rise up Lookout mountain with their empty chairs dangling, waiting for the Winter crowds. Its just breathtaking.We quickly started to descend the steep and slippery trail down to Twin Cairns Junction to avoid the crowds, most tourists are not used to walking in snow and we were just as bad, Fergus and Kurt wore Vans, not so good in the snow, I had my North Face Hiking boots on but still managed to slip over onto my knees at one point but that’s just incoordination on my part I think. The view over the Valleys below The Monarch were very autumnal indeed, the oranges and yellows of the Larch trees and the dark green of the evergreens contrasted with the bright white snow covering the ground.We arrived at Rock Isle Junction and carried onto the Grizzly/Laryx Loop trail. En route we passed the beautiful Rock Isle Lake, the most well known and largest Lake at Sunshine Meadows. The lake gets its name from the rocky island in the centre of it where a few trees call home. Behind the Lake, Lookout mountain towered above the meadows and you could clearly see the Divide chair and most of the runs coming off it. They looked much steeper from way down in the valley. Some of the mountain was covered in snow but it was patchy and hard to imaging opening day is only a month and a half away.We carried on down the hill to Grizzly Lake where we were happy to find a few hikers enjoying their lunch. We hadn’t seen anyone for a while and arriving at a lake named after the most feared animal in the Rockies we were a little relieved to see people. Grizzly lake was a different colour than Rock Isle. Rock Isle is bluer and is more out in the open whereas Grizzly is quite sheltered by steep banks and forest. On the far side and head of the lake you could see where the recent forest fires had burnt away the trees in huge areas. The Verdant Creek fire had come very close to the ski resort and during the Summer the lodge was used as a base for the firefighters who were working on fighting the huge fire.Continuing past the lake the trail rose up onto a cliff face and we came upon Simpson Viewpoint. This lookout was probable the highlight of the day for me, the huge Simpson River Valley spreads out before you far into the distance, the different shades of greens in the hills, cliffs and mountains make the valley look even deeper and I was sure I could see all the way to Radium. The most interesting yet sad feature of the valley was the amount of burnt forest there was on both sides of the valley. I’m so glad we had some snow recently so the fires were able to be put out and we were able to visit Sunshine Meadows, it was closed for hiking for a lot of the summer.We walked down the hill to Laryx Lake, the 3rd lake in the Meadows. We were able to walk almost the entire way around Laryx on the stony trail, across narrow log bridges and over the grassy plains. Laryx was quite calm and was sheltered from the wind so we were able to see the reflections of the surrounding mountain peaks in its shallow water which was beautiful. Sat down for a bit and watched a young Chipmunk scurry about looking for dropped food.After a short rest we climbed back up to Rock Isle Lake and at Rock Isle Junction we turned onto the Village to Lake Trail and headed up towards Divide Chair and the runs that come off Stawberry. After stopping at the Rock Isle viewpoint we continued down the path beside the Rock Isle Road green run back to the village. It was nice to actually walk along a ski run we had all been down many times. Being back at the Village when there was no snow was odd, we saw stairs that are usually buried under the snow and paths, roads and signposts that are not normally there, the place looked quite different. Waited for the shuttle bus for around 30 minutes before being informed it had broken down on the way up so we were driven back to the base in a small van. 

It was a great but tiring day and I’m glad I got to experience it before we leave Canada. 

 

 

Lakes, lakes and Waterfalls

This weekend we took my one of my best mates and former flatmate and his boyfriend, both over from London to some of my favourite places in Banff and Yoho National Parks. 

This post doesn’t contain ellobarate descriptions of the places we went, no detailed accounts of the colours of the lakes or the shadows over the valley from the mountains etc, the pictures speak for themselves in my opinion. 

First we did the 10 minute, short hike to the lookout point overlooking stunning Peyto Lake and the surrounding Waputik Range, Caldron Peak, Peyto Peak and Mount Jimmy Simpson. Photobombed by 2 ladies! Love this photo.Stunning Peyto Lake, amazing colour.One of the best views in the Rockies!

We then headed to the most famous lake in Banff National Park, Lake Louise. Lake Louise is beautiful but it just gets far too busy and I much prefer it in Winter when you can walk across the lake to the Glacier, and it’s far quieter.Lake Louise shorelineLouise Creek

After being turned away from the Moraine Lake turnoff and the overflow parking lot due to it being full we detoured up the Trans Canada to Yoho National Park to visit Takakkaw Falls. It was my first visit to the falls and after a very windey and steep but magnificent drive we arrived at the carpark. It’s a short 10 minute hike to the falls but we decided to scramble up to get a closer look and were awarded with a great view of the 260 metre falls, the creek below and the surrounding peaks.Takakkaw FallsAdam & Gilles Stunning views

Later in the day we finally make it to my favourite lake, Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Unfortunately we were too Lake to go Kayaking and have a bite to eat at the cafe but climbed the rock pile to get some lovely views of the lake and valleys around it. Not many places compare to this.Adam & IAdam & GillesLooking down the valley towards the highway

Overall it was of my favourite days out sightseeing. I just love taking friends to see these amazing local spots and seeing new places for myself. There is still so much to see here in the Rockies. I cannot wait!

Marble Canyon – Kootenay NP

Marble Canyon is in Kootenay NP in beautiful British Columbia. Located on highway 93 on the way to Radium, it’s a great drive out there and there are heaps of stops along the motorway for hiking, lookouts or camping. 

The Canyon hike is a 1 mile loop around the high Canyon that surrounds Tokumm Creek. There are boardwalks and bridges that span the Canyon so you can look down deep into the rushing creek. Tokumm CreekBridge over the CanyonUp at the top of the CanyonRelaxing on the Red Chairs

Johnston Canyon – Summer

The other weekend Fergus, 2 of our flatmates, Tate and Kurt and I went to Johnston Canyon for a look. Fergus and I had been to the Canyon in Winter and it was stunning so thought we’d check in outin the  Summer when the water was flowing, the trees were green and the sun was shining. It was really busy so we had to park out on the road but that was ok, it’s not a long way to the start of the trail. 

Walked over the bridge past the lodge and onto the trail proper. There were a lot of people about and most were older and going at snails pace so it took a while to get to lower falls. On the steel walkways we had to stay behind them but managed to pass once we were on the dirt trail again.When we arrived it was very busy at the lower falls and we didn’t feel like waiting to squeeze into the small cave so we carried on up the trail. 

About 200m from Upper falls we diverted off the trail and climbed down a rocky ledge and found ourselves at the waters edge in a big bend in the river. A magnificent waterfall was to our left Anna gentle stream meandered around the huge piece of rock to the right. It is a magical place, like somewhere out of Lord of the Rings. Stayed a while and explored. Carried on to the upper Falls and once there I was a little disappointed, I thought the waterfall was much larger, it definately looks bigger in the Winter when it’s frozen.This time we also went to the viewpoint above the falls, we hadn’t done this as we’d been told it wasn’t very interesting, that is a lie. You really should go to the end. I think it’s worth it.Stopped at the lower falls on our way beck and Kurt and I went in the cave for a look while the others chilled on a bench. A lovely day out. 

Bankhead – coal, trains & amazing views

Bankhead is an old, abandoned coal mining town just out of Banff on the road to Lake Minnewanka. I had know it was there and this week, finally got around to visiting. It’s still very smoky here in Banff due to the wildfires in BC so the views of Rundle, Cascade and the surrounding mountains were limited but it was a great visit all the same. Lower Bankhead is where the industrial area of town was while the residential area was located in Upper Bankhead.

From the Lower Bankhead carpark you descend some stairs to the entrance of the mining shafts that went into Cascade mountain, there were 3, the other 2 being further up the mountain. The entrance was covered when the mine closed in 1922 so you can’t really see where it was but an information board, (these are dotted around everywhere) explains it all for you. 

First you pass the old Lamp House where the miners would collect and store their lamps. If a lamp was missing at the end of the day, there would be a search party sent out for that miner. Following the coal path you pass other structures, machinery, piles of coal deposits and building foundations. Most of the buildings were wooden so only the foundations remain but they looked absolutely huge. The town was bigger than Banff itself in its heyday. The views of Cascade mountain are pretty good from Bankhead, There is so much more coal in the mountain but because it’s in the National Park it’s protected. Some of the concrete building such as the Briquette building are still intact in parts. The compressed air locomotive was used to haul the coal deposits out of the mines. 

The trail is a 1km interpretive loop with adjoining trails that venture off to Cascade Ponds and the lakes. You can find more information about the town, the mine and the other mining towns in the Bow Valley at Ghosttowns.com.

We also went for a stroll around Cascade Ponds, a picnic area at the base of Cascade Mountain. A pretty walk around the ponds gives you stunning views and the water is a pretty green hue due to the weeds, apparently people do swim in there but it was too cold for me. 

Favourite Roadtrip Memories

Looking for dinosaurs in the Badlands, AB  Kayaking in Caliper Lake Provincial ParkMining for Amethyst in Thunder Bay, ONThe amazing sunsets in Sleeping Giant NPExploring Beautiful MontrealSwimming and Sunbathing in Shediac, NBLighthouse trail on Gaspiesie PeninsulaExploring the Maritimes in Nova ScotiaDriving the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton IsExploring Grassy Point in North SydneySeeint Whales and exploring St John’s, NFTracing heritage and hiking on Fogo IslandExploring Gros Morne National Park Ancient Pictographs in Lake Superior.Passing the centre of CanadaThe beautiful Prairies of SK & Manitoba

Moose Jaw – Banff

The very last day of our 2 month long trip wasn’t the most interesting. 90% of the journey was long, straight, flat roads along the prairies. Silos, hay bales, farmers tending to their crops on huge machines, oil drilling sites, small isolated towns, electricity pylons, and the train track were the only sights to see. I think the land has its own beauty though, the colour of the grass and wheat, the patterns and stripes and the contrast of the blue sky is beautiful. There is so much of it. The sky is amazing our here, it reminds me of the song ‘Little Fluffy Clouds‘ by Orb. Have a listen or download it if you are crossing soon. The huge expanse of blue makes you feel really small, it was a cloudless day when we drove through but I can imaging watching a storm brewing out here would be epic.When we finally approached Calgary we felt relieved, the outline of the city skyscrapers in the distance with the Rockies towering up behind it was a welcome sight, not only did it mean the long flats were ending but I meant were were nearly home. We were both tired.we stopped at Walmart do do some grocery shopping and headed West. The weather had taken a turn upon entering Calgary and the Rockies and a bit of rain fell but it was mostly just overcast. We wondered if we would see or smell any of the smoke from the nearby forest fires that had been burning since just after we left. Arrived in a very busy Banff and it immediately felt like we had never left, it was hustle and bustle and full of tourists (it’s a bank holiday weekend so this was to be expected) and it must have taken us close to an hour to get some beers, get our rent from the bank and drop it off at our landlord, Mercy’s place in Otter street and get over the bridge to Lougheed Circle. On arrival we were greeted by our wonderful flatmates who we had missed dearly. They had been preparing a lovely dinner of Meatballs, Pasta sauce, pasta, salad and bread for us as a welcome home dinner, it was just delicious, and great to all sit around the dinner table and catch up.Unpacked the car into our new room which is huge! We have a walk through wardrobe which is twice the size of our old wardrobe and a big ensuite bathroom. We love it! 

Had some drinks, chatted, laughed and watched Wonder Woman. It’s great to be back. 

Agawa Bay – Dryden – Moose Jaw

Left Agawa Bay and headed around the North shore of Lake Superior to Thunder Bay. Stopped briefly but decided to carry on as we were making good time. Took motorway 17, the Northern Route through Upsala, Ignase and Dryden, an area best know for its remote fishing and hunting. There wasn’t much about but the landsacape was beautiful. Mostly flat with rolling hills in places, large lakes and rivers, and lots of thick forest. The last hour to Dryden was driven in the dark and with lots of Moose warning signs and heavy rain it was a tad scary, luckily there was a lot of traffic so we stuck behind 2 other cars. 

Stopped in Dryden and it was raining heavily, had a very basic dinner at Husky, a diner attached to a garage. Parked in Walmart and had to organise the car in a thunderstorm which ensures us and some of our gear got wet. It was a shitty night.

The West of Ontario was hilly, there were lots of lakes, big and small and rocky outcrops that had been carved out to make way for the road. The first inklings of Autumn were starting to show with some of the trees bright red, yellow and orange, It must look amazing in full blown Autumn. We listened to the last part of the audiobook ‘Crack House’ by Harry Keeble, a very interesting book about an ex policeman’s time in the Harringay drug squad. I had no idea crack was such a problem in London, I am glad I don’t live anywhere near the scummy areas of North London featured in the book. It is hell. We then went on to listen to the autobiography of Kevin Bridges. Another very funny tale. I love his Scottish accent. Audiobooks really do seem to make the time go faster. 

We have travelled a long way in the last 2 days, we are ready to be home now. The fun, exciting and interesting journey has ended and we are on the prairies. They are still beautiful in their own way but they get boring very quickly.  Passed the town’s of Winnipeg, Brandon Moosomin, Indian Head and Regina, all places we had passed on our outward journey 2 months ago, much of the roadworks we had sat in on the way over were now finished and are shiny, black, flat roads, good job fellas. Decided to stay our last night in Moose Jaw ant Capones Hideaway Motel. A basic motel in the centre of town. The room wasn’t bad, the air conditioner made a slight noise and the bath was slippery but overall it was good. It was a lovely balmy night and after a well needed shower I enjoyed a couple of Palm Bays and spoke to Dad. It was Father’s Day in Australia and we chatted for a while before he had to leave to take Jena to see her Dad. Fergus and I headed to a Scottish pub called Bobby’s Place and had a couple of drinks and shared some nibbles, sausage rolls and breaded mushrooms before heading off to the Casino. I stupidly blew some money on the pokies but Fergus won $250 on the Roulette table so we came out on top. Yippee! Had an Aperol Spritz at another very empty bar then went back to the motel to bed. 

One day to go.