Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Lakes National Park is in southern Alberta, Canada, bordering Montana’s Glacier National Park. It’s known for its chain of lakes, including the large Upper and Middle Waterton lakes, flanked by the Rocky Mountains. Waterton was Canada’s fourth national park, formed in 1895 and named after Waterton Lake.

I have always wanted to visit Waterton Lakes, mainly to see the stunning Prince of Wales hotel but also because it’s a mere 4 hours drive from Banff.

During the Summer of 2017, the same time as the Verdant Creek fire raged in BC, close to Banff, the Kenow forest fire developed from a lightning strike in Southern BC about 10km from the Park boundary. In all, 19,303 hectares of the park burned and it’s a miracle the town survived.6The town of Waterton is very small and unlike Banff, is not overly busy in the Winter, it basically shuts down apart from one resort and restaurant that caters for snowshoe and cross-country skiing enthusiasts. The Summer season starts properly in June so it was very quiet when we arrived.

The drive is pretty cruisy, its mostly long straight roads through the Southern Albertan prairies. After leaving the Park we headed towards Calgary on the Trans Canada and turned South at the Cochrane turnoff and onto the Cowboy Trail. We passed through the towns of Redwood Meadows and Bragg Creek which were heavily wooded areas, the road lined with grand entrances to the various ranches we passed along the way, real Cowboy country!After heading East for a few kilometres, we turned South again at Priddis past green fields full of cows and patches of snow still melting after the long Winter.3At Turner Valley we took a wrong turn (I should say, didn’t take the turn-off) and ended up on a wooded area on the edge of town. As we went to turn around I looked to the side and saw a large brown figure in the woods. On closer inspection I saw it was a Moose! We stopped the car and jumped out to try and get a better look. There was a wire fence between the road and the large Male Moose, but we kept our distance all the same. What a treat! Moose are few and far between and I’ve only seen 3 since I arrived in Canada nearly 2 years ago.2Most of the towns were small, flat farming towns that were littered with farming machinery businesses with ranches and farms on the outskirts. Black Diamond is very pretty with all its storefronts decked out in Western Style. Heading away from some of the towns we passed through were large housing estates full of beautiful new houses on large plots of land. Although I personally prefer living in the mountains, I can understand why you would want to buy land out here. The prairies are stunning, and the land is vast and the views over to the Rockies stretching North and South as far as the eye can see is quite an amazing sight as well. I’d certainly appreciate that view from my kitchen window!1From Black Diamond to Pincher Creek, the last major town before Waterton Lakes, the highway is a long, mainly straight, 152 kilometre stretch heading South. The land down here is barren flatlands and rolling hills, the colour changes to a light, sun scorched shade of brown that rolls away into the distance meeting the grey and white peaks of the Rockies to the West.

At Pincher creek we stopped for gas, food and took photos of a very funny message we saw out side a church. “Blah, blah, blah, Just come to Church”4We continued down Alberta highway 6 another 44 kms to Waterton National Park Gate. Past the Bison Loop (just outside the park, which was unfortunately closed) the road passed through the marchlands and swamps beside Maskinonge Lake and then Lower Waterton Lake, The Golf Course (closed), Red Rock Canyon (closed) and finally to the magnificent Upper Waterton Lake.  We passed the historic Prince of Wales hotel on the left and headed down into the townsite.5There was a lot of roadworks in town, so we had to circle around our hotel before finding a way into the car park. I went to the reception of Waterton Lakes Lodge Resort only to find the front desk closed, luckily a staff member pointed out my keys in an envelope stuck to the wall outside reception. We found our Lodge named Red Rock House just out the back of the main reception and we were pleasantly surprised we had been upgraded to a suite with a full kitchen.7We unpacked and settled in with a beer or 2 and searched the internet for a place to eat. We had arrived just after 8pm so after showering we headed into town to find somewhere to have dinner. Unfortunately, even after checking online and seeing places were open, the whole town was dark apart from one restaurant that we managed to get into 30 minutes before they closed. The Lakeside Chophouse is one of Waterton’s premier dining establishments and a bit pricier than we were looking for, but it was a wonderful experience.  Fergus and I ordered the Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich and Kurt and Zeke got the Prime Rib Mountain Burger. The Chicken Burger was HUGE! 3 big pieces of mouth-watering fried Chicken smothered in cheese, honey cayenne mayo and rocket, YUM! It was probably the best (definitely the biggest) Chicken burger I have ever eaten.8 On full tummies we wandered back to the resort and settled in for the night.

Day 2

The manager of the resort was on the reception desk when I wandered over in the morning, he was a charming man with lots of stories to tell from his time in the Navy and working at other bars and hotels. He told me a bit about the fires and the National Park and gave me a few ideas of what was open in the area.1I went to the only shop open in town that happened to also be a gas station and bought eggs, bread and milk for breakfast. Cooked the boys eggs on toast and made a pot of coffee everyone hated, luckily a trusty Starbucks was open in town, why am I not surprised?

We headed up to the Prince of Wales hotel for a look in the morning. The Prince of Wales is a historic railroad hotel located on a bluff overlooking Upper Waterton Lake, it was constructed between 1926 and 1927 in a Swiss-chalet style by the Great Northern Railway of the U.S. This stately hotel offers 86 guest rooms and a traditional British atmosphere complete with Afternoon Tea, the Royal Stewart Dining Room, Windsor Lounge, and the Princess Gift Shop.63The hotel had not yet opened for the season, so we were unable to go inside but the outside was spectacular. Swiss chalet motifs, including steeply pitched gabled roofs, intersecting gables, two-storey dormers, tiers of continuous balconies supported on large brackets, a lantern cupola, and the use of contrasting finish colours of green, red and yellow make it really stand out against the surrounding mountains.5The wind up on the ridge was unbelievable, why the 4 Big Horned Sheep we saw sitting up there thought it was a lovely place to have a sit down I don’t know, but the views were amazing. From the hotel you can see all the way down Upper Waterton Lake, over the township and back in the other direction toward Linnet lake and the prairies. The location couldn’t be better for a hotel.24We then decided to go up to Red Rock Canyon. The guy at the hotel had told us the access road was open but when we arrived there was a barrier across the road. It was about 14km to the actual canyon, so we decided to walk a little way up the road to see what we could find. We entered the trail that ran parallel to the road and the river and after climbing a small hill we came out onto a grassy area where we could see quite clearly over to the opposite side of the river to the golf course. 2Fergus was the first one to spot what liked like a Black Bear walking along a snowbank on the course and we all quickly rallied around to spot it as it walked along the snow. It looked quite large, so we were happy it was on the other side of the river which had steep cliffs on either side. After that Bear disappeared behind some trees we carried on up the pat a bit before spotting another 2 bears, one tan and the other a very deep brown, foraging on a grassy mound. These 2 were closer (still on the opposite side) and looked like big cubs. Seeing 3 bears in the space of 10 minutes was a bit much for us so we turned around and headed back to the car, we certainly didn’t want to meet any on our side of the river!3We carried on back out of the park to the Bison Loop to see if we could see any Bison from the start of the road. The view was cool but there was not a single Bison in sight! Boo! We went to the Bison Paddock twice to see if we could spot any but I later read all the Bison had been relocated before the fire. 6We decided to get mover provisions (booze) so headed back to Pincher Creek, a 30 minutes drive away. Bought some Palm bay and beer and Fergus bought a jar of Moonshine (When in Rome I suppose…) and we headed back to Waterton.7Went for a few drinks at Vimy’s, the bar and restaurant in the resort. We sat at the bar and had a few pints while watching sport and chatting to the friendly new barmaid from Ontario. Exchanged travel stories and enjoyed the sun on our backs through the sunroof.

In the late afternoon we went for a walk to Cameron falls which is right in town. The crystal-clear cascading mountain water rushes steadily over 1.5 billion year-old Cambrian rock, throwing off a mist that dusts your skin as you pass by. We walked up the easy paved pathway to the right of the falls to get a better view and take a few photos.1098.jpgThat night we decided to eat at Vimy’s so after an early evening nap we headed over at around 9:30pm. We were met with the waitress (not the one from earlier) telling us the kitchen closes in 20 minutes! Charming. So we just ordered poutine and a pint each. The poutine wasn’t great and had too much gravy and not enough chips or curds. When we got the bill, we had been changed for jugs and not pints, so we had to get her to redo it. Not the best service from a restaurant that is the only one open all year round!10.jpg

Day 3

After a breakfast of bacon and eggs we headed down to the lakeside for a wander. I had originally wanted to camp at the town campground right beside the lake but was a week or so too early. I’m glad that was the case as it was so windy down there, there were still big snowbanks scattered around, some as tall as me and it was pretty cold. But I bet its a fantastic place to stay in Summer when the weather is warm and the lakes calm. 1.jpg

2Walked along to some Red Chairs and got a photo before meandering with our thoughts back to the car.3The drive home was long and uneventful. It also seemed shorter as we knew where we were going.

The only stop we made was at the Longview Jerky Shop. We had bought Jerky from a garage in town on the way to Waterton and then passed the Jerky Shop a bit further up the road so said we would stop there on our way home.5 I haven’t been to many Jerky shops, I haven’t really had a lot of jerky but what I have had I’ve loved. This place had all kinds of flavours and different kinds of meats. From Chicken, Elk, Turkey, Pork and Bison jerky to flavoured Beef jerky such as mandarin/ginger, honey/garlic, teriyaki, maple beef and dill pickle. They had everything and for $6 a packed it wasn’t too bad. I picked up some Chicken and Teriyaki Beef to chew on on the way home.6Overall Waterton is a lovely place to visit but as I said above, I do regret not visiting in the previous Summer before the fires. But who’s to know what nature is going to bring?

 

 

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Johnston Canyon Evening Icewalk

Again, we were lucky enough to receive another FAM tour with Discover Banff Tours this week, to do their Johnston Canyon Evening Icewalk.

You may have read my previous posts about doing Johnston Canyon in both Winter and Summer during the day, both were fantastic, so being able to do it at night with a guide was extra special and quite a different experience.

My colleague Layla, our friend Selena and I were collected from the town lot around 6:30 and piled into a minibus with about 12 other local girls from various hotels around Banff and Canmore. Some we had already met from other FAM tours both this year and last. Banff is a small town and you regularly run into people you have been on other excursions with which is really nice.

On the journey out to the Canyon, our guide, Denice told us about herself, the tour company and interestingly, on how unnatural light, such as mobile phones and street lights affects us humans and the wildlife around the world. It was a bit of a shock to see how nature and the human brain reacts to it. The last thing a lot of us do before bed is check our phones and this can affect sleeping, which I was aware of, but I didn’t know the reason why. Apparently this is due to phones giving off artificial blue light. Red light is a way of nature telling us that it’s time to sleep, that is why the last of the sun’s rays are red as it sets, and why doctors tell insomniacs to install a red light in their bedside lamps to fall asleep easier.

Once at the trail head, we were given Ice cleats (much easier to put on that snowshoes!)  and headlamps which we were able to keep.  We headed off into the night, past the resort and down the the Canyon. The 3 of us were eagerly chatting and catching up on each other’s adventures so were constantly behind the group, it was very icy in places and not being able to see too well made it slow going.1Heading down the icy path with our headlamps on.

Once into the Canyon proper and with the metal railing to guide us, we were able to shut off our headlamps to get the full effect of the night sky. Our guide had studied astronomy since 1995 so was well equipped to point out various constellations to us. I found it a bit baffling, it was hard to see where she was pointing at times and most of the time I wasn’t able to figure out what the constellations were, I just saw a bunch of stars, some brighter than others but no pattern. 1Walking on the steel catwalks attached to the Canyon wall.

Something to look into as I think it’s fascinating and she did mention NZ was one of the best places to see the stars as it has such low artificial light. What I did see was Meteorites shooting across the night sky, that night the Geminids meteor shower peaked and apparently as many as 120 meteors an hour could be seen. As we stood there looking up at the stars I saw a couple of bright lights shooting across the sky which I’ll never forget, I could have stared up at that sky for hours and at that point I wished I’d had a decent camera and a tripod instead of an iphone5. Still, its all in my memory.2I think the three of us wished we had better cameras….

On arrival at the lower falls we came across another tour group and stopped for Maple cookies (yum) and hot chocolates. We made our way through the small cave to get a better view of the falls but my camera made it look like a big blob.2I have better photos of this waterfall..

On the walk back we had the opportunity to turn off all of our headlamps and walk in the complete darkness which was eerie but mesmerising as well. The human eye is an amazing organ in that it so quickly adjusts to the darkness. The outlines of the trees and the rocky outcrops of the canyon edges meant we could walk along guided by only the starlight. 3It wasn’t that cold in the Canyon due to it being so sheltered, didn’t even need gloves!

As we neared the resort we turned our headlamps back on and continued over the bridge and back to the van where we handed in our cleats. The trip back to Banff was quiet apart from some us us discussing some of the silly questions we have had from some of our guests which was quite funny.

I’d give this tour a 7 out of 10. The walk is easy, not too strenuous and the ice cleats mean you shouldn’t fall over, it was very icy so you definitely need them. I think folks who have an interest in the constellations would get more out of it than I did in that sense.

Johnston Canyon is an activity anyone can do without a guide, day or night, Winter or Summer and plenty do. It is great to learn and be able to ask questions to a professional though.

More info:

Who: Discover Banff Tours

Where: Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park

What: Hotel Pick up & Drop off, Ice cleats& hiking poles, refreshments

Difficulty: 2.2km, 65m elevation gain

Duration: 2.5 hours

Price: $74 Adult / $42 Child

*1st photo is courtesy of Discover Banff Tours

 

 

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

Fogo Island – isolation at it’s best

We left St John’s and after topping up on supplies (food, petrol & water) we headed West towards the hilariously named coastal town of ‘Dildo’. Stopped briefly for a look around the town but there was nothing much there unfortunately, took some photos of the town sign before carrying on. Passed through Terra Nova NP where we had to wait repeatedly at roadworks which increased our journey by over an hour frustratingly, I was keeping my eye out for Moose the whole journey but they still managed to avoid my gaze. Listened to The Dreadnaughts, Cat Stevens, Billy Joel and Frank Turner, a bit of an eclectic mix of feelgood songs. Arrived at the small ferry terminal in Farewell around 5:20 and joined the queues of cars, RV’s and lorries waiting to board. The ferry left just after 6pm and after a look around the 3 decks we shared some chips, attempted a crossword and before we knew it we had arrived in Stag Harbour. Only an hours trip and relatively calm too.Drove 25 minutes to Fogo on the North Side of the Island and found the Brimstone Head RV park and after paying the very nice man $15 we settled in for the night. 

The RV park is located at Banks Cove, the impressive Brimstone Head towers above the cove on one side and on the other side is a smaller headland separating the cove from the next bay. There are showers, toilets, a stage, various snack bars (closed during our stay), a playground and the local Lions club at the top of the park. There is a festival held in the Park in mid August so I’d image all the extra amenities are here for that. It’s a beautiful spot.We watched an amazing sunset on the beach before having some dinner. It was great to be back cooking on our camping stove, I really enjoy it for some reason, I think it takes me back to my childhood and Mum cooking on her wee stove while tramping. Great memories. 

Day 2

Made scrambled egg and frankfurter rolls for breakfast before hiking up Brimstone Heads. The trail starts at the RV park and heads up into a grassy, boggy plain via a series boardwalks before you hit the steep stairs leading up the cliff. The views as you climb the headland are stunning and you can see bays, islands and sea for miles.Once up the stairs you walk over the moss covered rocks out to the very top of the headland where there is a large wooden viewing platform. Brimstone Heads is believed to be one of the corners of the world by the Flat Earth Society and when standing up there, looking out to the vast expanse of Iceberg Alley in the North Atlantic Ocean, I can see where they are coming from. We met some people from Southern Newfoundland up there and had a chat and took photos. Everyone we have met has been so friendly. The man who runs the RV park who’s wife may be a distant relative of Fergus, The French/Canadian man travelling around Newfoundland in his car with all the stickers who we also met on the Ferry back to NF, the lady from London, ON and her 2 dogs, who we met again at the Museaum who also reminds me of Lyn Cameron. They all asked about our accents and our trip and were happy to give us any travel advice and knowledge they had gained.

We then went to visit Bleak House Museam which is one of the original homes on the Island. It was built for the Slade family who ran a shipping company in the area. The Slades are distant relatives of Fergus’s. We had a guided tour of the house from a local lad with a strange accent. I also asked him a lot of questions about the Island and growing up on it. From what I gather most people graduate high school, go away to university and never return. Quite sad. We wandered through the old house following the tour guide while he told us about the rooms and their contents, much of which was original. He was clearly reading from a memorised script, if we asked about anything outside of what was on the tour he was unsure, he was only about 20 I’d say but he did a good job.

We headed over to Tilting for a look around then on to Joe Batts Arm, another of the Island’s larger villages on the North side. It’s named after a crew member of Captain Cook and is now famous for its very modern and very expensive Inn. Not my cup of tea as it sticks out like a sore thumb but it has provided the town with lots of jobs so the locals are happy. 

On the entrance to the Joe Batts Point Trail we met a lovely local lady who came out to get her little fluffy white dog that had run out to greet us. We spoke for quite a while about life on the island and our travels before heading off on the stony path towards the point. The trail meanders along the coast past vege patches, ponds, geological dig sites, little bays, streams and at one point a huge black box of an artists residence. These are common on the island and have been popular for tourists and artists alike. We saw 3 on our travels around. They are all modern, boxy and all accessed by walking trail. 

We passed a little green hut and over the next ridge we found the trail end and the large, green, iron bird sculpture that marks the end. Lay on the large flat rocks below the sculpture and had a rest. It was a very muggy day and we were both wearing jeans so had sweated a lot and we were hungry. The return journey didn’t feel as long and we were lucky to see the local heard of Caribou grazing. They were smaller that I thought they would be, a lot smaller that Elk but they may have been young males. They didn’t seem too bothered by us and it was nice to add another animal to our list, we hadn’t seen any Caribou as they don’t live in Banff NP.Returned to the camp for dinner of noodles, fried spam, mushrooms, boiled egg and spring onions. Watched another stunning sunset before retiring to bed to watch a movie. 

Day 28 – St John’s to London

Walked with Philippa in the morning to The Roomswhich is a Museam and archives facility overlooking the city.

Fergus wanted to ask about some family who had ties to the shipping trade in Newfoundland and Poole. Found out his family once owned a very large shipping company who had their headquarters on an island called Fogo, we plan to visit the island on our way back to Banff. There is more information about the company Here. Took some photos of the view and carried on into town.Wandered the streets of St John’s looking at souvineer and craft shops and viewing the massive ships moored in the docks. It’s a very busy and lively city, smaller that I’d expected it to be but very pretty, just like a small fishing village just on a larger scale. Met up with Ben for lunch and he took us to a funky little cafe called Rocket Bakery where we had a chicken burrito each. It was a nice place, quite hipster and lots of  city types and young families enjoying speciality coffee and slightly overpriced food. Fergus and I headed through town to walk up Signal Hill which is  St. John’s most popular landmark. It offers coastal hikes and sweeping views overlooking the Atlantic and is the site of St. John’s harbour defences.We did the North Head Trail which is the oldest and most popular of the trails on Signal Hill. It follows a trail along the narrows to the North Head. 

The trail started off relatively easy, walked around the hills on steps and boardwalks, lots of runners passed us and we passed others going at a more leisurely pace. Stopped to look at Whales a couple of times and watch a ship entering the harbour. The trail winded around the cliffs and at one point the path was so narrow a chain was attached to the rock face for safety, the stairs climbed up to the point where the track dissappared and you could wander around the rocks.We walked around the point and as we did the wind died down and the heat really increased. Watched more whales off the point before climbing a huge staircase to the top of the hill. It was tough going!I went up Cabot Tower, the fortification on the top of the hill where the  final battle of the Seven Years’ War in North America was fought in 1762 in which the French surrendered St. John’s to a British force. Walked back down the trail on the opposite side of the hill towards Quidi Vidi, a small cove with a brewery. That path was not as steep but still had great views of the ocean before descending into forest where Bald Eagles nest and then onto the cute little cove.There wasn’t a bar at the brewery and I didn’t really want to do a tour so went to a very quirky pub called Inn of Olde. It is a funny place, stuff is all over the walks and roof, number plates, hockey sticks, newspaper clippings, Christmas decorations, you name it. I’ll definately return there when we come back to St John’s as I hear it’s quite a lovely place. Just had one beer before the long walk back to the house.once back at the house we packed up the stuff we wanted to take and the stuff we wanted to leave in Canada and cleaned and organised the car. 

We then had a lovely dinner with Ben and Philippa of Salmon, sausages, salad, chips and pasta salad. It was such a nice meal and had a good chat while enjoying an Old Fashioned. Caught a cab to the airport at 9:45 and flew out around midnight. 

Bye bye Canada!