THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JAMES A. BONDOUX

ESCAPE TO WESTERN CANADA
GLORIOUS WILDERNES
(2011)

Vancouver waterfront

The view from our hotel room over Vancouver's seaplane port.

FoodService

The Gold Coach service on the Rocky Mountaineer provides gourmet meals.

Jagged Ridge

Spectacular jagged formations, but not the granite shape of the US Rockies.

Icefield

The Columbia Icefield, target of mountaineers and backcountry skiers. Source of rivers on both sides of the Continental Divide.

Roggemann

Dan and Linda drove up from Montana to meet us at Lake Louise. It's easy for Dan to get a smile out of the ladies.

Poutine

It seems that this Quebec delicacy has found its way west.

Black Cliffs

The Rocky Mountaineer snakes its way past the lava flows of the Black Cliffs.

Headwaters of the South Saskatchewan River

We explored the headwaters of a couple of Canadian rivers, the South Saskatchewan and the Bow.

Nonchalant Elk

The wildlife is pretty nonchalant. Besides Elk like this one, we saw Black Bears and Bighorn Sheep.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise as seen through the grand windows of the very elegant shoreside hotel.

Over the years we have made many visits to Western Canada, primarily coastal British Columbia. Vancouver is a favorite city, and we are always delighted to return.

More recently we widened our exploration to take in the Canadian Rockies, which divide the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.

Our 2011 summer trip plan included a stay in Vancouver and an exploration of the Jasper and Banff National Parks. In between, I was able to squeeze a rail voyage on the Rocky Mountaineer (Kathryn is always leery of rail trips as she prefers not to feel confined for long stretches. She survived the Copper Canyon, the Silk Road by rail and the Alaska Railway, so she agreed to sign up for this short trip – only two days with an overnight in a hotel room in Kamloops).

New discoveries while in Vancouver include the Bug Zoo in Victoria, the Whistler ski area, and the best Thai restaurant we have yet experienced (Khunnai Chang – Madame Elephant – on Denman Street. Phenomenal Tom Kha Gai…).

Rail trips access scenery not available from the highways, and the Rocky Mountaineer provided plenty of things to watch along the way, as it followed the Fraser and Thompson rivers – lots of railway traffic, elaborate bridges, the Hell’s Gate rapids, the snowcap and crown of clouds on Mt.Robson, Pyramid Falls, Yellowhead Pass- with interesting commentary by the onboard guides.

We then spent several weeks hanging out in Jasper (large village and doorway to the back country), Lake Louise (elegant, isolated resort), Banff (vibrant popular visitor destination), and Canmore (working town), the main settlements along that part of the Big Divide. All four are surrounded by National parks which are on the World Heritage list.

With a rented car we were able to explore the detours into the parks, sighting wildlife, waterfalls, mountain peaks, lakes. The highlight was the drive down Alberta highway 93, named “The Icefield Parkway”.

The magnificent grandeur of the jagged peaks, dense forests, and solitude of the mountains never fail to exhilarate, and are especially intoxicating to Kathryn who is always enraptured in the mountain environment.

This very rewarding visit induced us to arrange for a return visit the following year. This time around, we spent several weeks on the Western Slope of the Rockies, staying in Radium Hot Springs and then in Fairmont Hot Springs, two small towns separated by the trading center of Invermere.

Kathryn brought her clubs and was able to add the pleasures of a few rounds of golf to her deep enjoyment of the imposing wilderness.

I think we are likely to return yet again, since this part of the world exerts such a strong pull on both of us.

Sunwapta

The crashing Sunwapta Falls somewhere near the Icefield Parkway.