Mark took this photo of me at Lake Louise as I seemed really deep in thought. In reality I was navigating some stones in the lake and was watching my step. That being said I like this photo a lot.
First of all, thanks to Mark for the photo. I generally hate photos of me being taken which is why I am always behind the camera but the problem with being a part of a family of photographers is that they have cameras as well.
Now you will notice the pockets in my shorts being wet. It has just poured and was cold so I put my hands in my pockets. This resulted in them looking like this. You win some, you look like an idiot in others. Thanks to Mark for capturing the essence of what it means to be a dad.
I am off to find my cool, from this photo it looks like I lost it.
This is why we came to Yoho National Park. “Takakkaw”, loosely translated from Cree, means something like “it is magnificent”. The falls are fed by the Daly Glacier, which is part of the Waputik Icefield. Its highest point is 302 metres from its base. The falls drop a total of 992 feet in four distinct steps, first dropping over two narrow plunges hidden within the slot canyon at the top of the falls (neither of which can be seen from the base of the falls). The river then hurtles 853 feet over the side of the Yoho Valley wall, then cascading down a narrow flume-like stairstep for an additional 94 feet.
Yoho is where the big mountains are. The drive to Takakkaw Falls both terrified and inspired the family. It was worth the trip before we even got there. I have never visited the park before and I can’t wait to return next summer.
Some of Parks Canada famed red chairs.
The appropriately named Cathedral Mountain.
The tradition of dunking one’s head in frozen water continues on.
While driving in Yoho National Park I saw a sign for The Natural Bridge. I would have sworn under oath that it was in Kootenay National Park but I have happy to be wrong and so we went and checked it out.
It was pretty cool and as we were leaving, a family asked if they could have a family selfie with Marley. Again, who takes selfies with strange dogs in strange countries as part of their Canadian Rocky experience? Apparently quite a few people do.
Wendy pointed out that it does look like a giant toilet bowl being flushed.
So after a fun morning in Moraine Lake, we went to Laggan’s Mountain Bakery and Delicatessen for lunch. That place is amazing and if you are ever driving by Lake Louise, make sure you stop there for something.
Instead of turning back towards the Johnston Canyon Campground or Banff, I went west towards British Columbia and we spent the rest of the day in Yoho National Park where the plan was to see Takakkaw Falls. Soon after heading across the border into B.C. and the park, I saw the sign for the Spiral Tunnels. The inner nerd in me forced me to turn out as we checked them out.
Quick nerd break to explain why this was so cool.
To complete the Pacific railway as quickly as possible, a decision was made to delay blasting a lengthy 1,400 feet (430 m) tunnel through Mount Stephen and instead build a temporary 8-mile (13 km) line over it. Instead of the desired 2.2% grade (116 feet to the mile) a steep 4.5% (some sources say 4.4%) grade was built in 1884. This was one of the steepest railway lines anywhere. It descended from Wapta Lake to the base of Mount Stephen, along the Kicking Horse River to a point just west of Field, then rose again to meet the original route.
Three safety switches were built to protect against runaway trains. These switches led to short spurs with a sharp reverse upgrade and they were kept in the uphill position until the operator was satisfied that the train descending the grade towards him was not out of control. Speed was restricted to eight miles per hour (13 km/h) for passenger trains and six (10 km/h) for freight, and elaborate brake testing was required of trains prior to descending the hill. Nevertheless, disasters occurred with dismaying frequency.
Field was created solely to accommodate the CPR’s need for additional locomotives to be added to trains about to tackle the Big Hill. Here a stone roundhouse with turntable was built at what was first known simply as Third Siding. In December 1884 the CPR renamed it Field after C.W. Field, a Chicago businessman who, the company hoped, might invest in the region after he had visited on a special train they had provided for him.
At that time, standard steam locomotives were 4-4-0s, capable enough for the prairies and elsewhere, but of little use on the Big Hill. Baldwin Locomotive Works was called upon to build two 2-8-0s for use as Field Hill pusher engines in 1884. At the time they were the most powerful locomotives built. Two more followed in June 1886. The CPR began building its own 2-8-0s in August 1887, and over the years hundreds more were built or bought.
The Big Hill “temporary” line was to remain the main line for twenty-five years, until the famous Spiral Tunnels were opened on September 1, 1909.
The improvement project was started in 1906, under the supervision of John Edward Schwitzer, the senior engineer of CPR’s western lines. The first proposal had been to extend the length of the climb, and thus reduce the gradient, by bypassing the town of Field at a higher level, on the south side of the Kicking Horse river valley. This idea had quickly been abandoned because of the severe risk of avalanches and landslips on the valley side. Also under consideration was the extension of the route in a loop northwards, using both sides of the valley of the Yoho river to increase the distance, but again the valley sides were found to be prone to avalanches. It was the experience of severe disruption and delay caused by avalanches on other parts of the line (such as at the Rogers Pass station, which was destroyed by an avalanche in 1899) that persuaded Schwitzer that the expensive solution of digging spiral tunnels was the only practical way forward.
The route decided upon called for two tunnels driven in three-quarter circles into the valley walls. The higher tunnel, “number one,” was about one thousand yards in length and ran under Cathedral Mountain, to the south of the original track. When the new line emerged from this tunnel it had doubled back, running beneath itself and 50 feet (15 m) lower. It then descended the valley side in almost the opposite direction to its previous course before crossing the Kicking Horse River and entering Mount Ogden to the north. This lower tunnel, “number two,” was a few yards shorter than “number one” and the descent was again about fifty feet. From the exit of this tunnel the line continued down the valley in the original direction, towards Field. The constructions and extra track would effectively double the length of the climb and reduce the ruling gradient to 2.2%. The new distance between Field and Wapta Lake, where the track levels out, is 11.5 miles (18.5 km).
The contract was awarded to the Vancouver engineering firm of MacDonnell, Gzowski and Company and work started in 1907. The labor force amounted to about a thousand and the cost was about 1.5 million Canadian dollars.
Even after the opening of the spiral tunnels, Field Hill remained a significant challenge and it was necessary to retain the powerful locomotives at Field locomotive depot.
Even though the Spiral Tunnels eliminated the Big Hill, the mountains remained and so too did the Field Hill. The Ottertail revision of 1902 and the five-mile (26,518 feet or 8.083 kilometres) long double track Connaught Tunnel of 1916 were other improvements made to the original line in British Columbia. It was not until the late 20th century when a major new project of 20 miles (32 km) including the 9.1-mile (14.6 km) Mount Macdonald Tunnel reduced the grade to a very manageable average of 0.82%, (maximum 1%) opened in December 1988.
There is a hike along there that we did not take but I intend to next year that should be a lot of fun.
I should have posted these sooner. When you take several thousand photos on a trip, you have to edit several thousand photos. When I mean edit, I mean hit the delete key a lot.
In our last full day in Banff National Park, we planned to hike some of the trails around Moraine Lake. Those plans were changed when almost all of the trails in the Valley of the Ten Peaks were closed because of grizzly bears. That disappointed Wendy, Mark, and Oliver but I had a plan B, even if they didn’t know it yet.
As we drove up to Moraine Lake, the sign said the road was closed and three cars ahead of us did the U-turn and drove back down the road. A Parks Canada employee walked up and waved us past the closed sign so upward we went. It’s an amazing drive and show a forest that we had never seen before.
We finally got to the full parking lot and parked about a 300 metres down the road which was pretty good considering at times, that road has people parked on it for miles.
After turning my back on Oliver for about a second, he thinks he is in the Logdrivers Waltz and is jumping from log to log to go up the rock pile. Luckily the kid has skills and made it back to shore.
Canoes can be rented for about $60/hour or you can take a well maintained path to the stream/waterfall at the far side of the lake. We decided to walk.
This is the end of the path but Wendy and Mark decided to test their luck and balance and keep going.
Marley decided to test her luck as well and wandered out into the water, fell in, got wet, hit her head and swallowed some water before getting out. There was a Russian researcher there who had just gotten his permanent residency papers this week and was celebrating with his wife. They loved Marley’s clumsiness and we had a great chat about the mountains, Trump, Putin, and dogs while waiting for Wendy and Mark to return.
I need to explain these photos. Last year while at Sawback, I told the boys that there is a Cooper tradition of dunking you head into glacier waters the first time you head to a new lake or body of water. There is no tradition, I just wanted to see if I could make them dunk their heads in the water. This time Wendy and I were no so lucky as they made us dunk our heads in the freezing glacier water.
Just before I did this, I think I said, “Mark hold my camera but no need to photograph this.” He listens like his mother.
Solid hat don’t you think?
Did I mention I didn’t wear a hat in the Banff heat (and no shade) the day before. I was burnt.
Me taking a photo of a person taking a photo.
Don’t worry, it wasn’t a real bear.
While in the Gift Shop, I picked Wendy up a Moraine Lake t-shirt while Mark got her two bear figurines that made her day. She was still on a high from seeing the black hear the day before. It wasn’t quite as large as this one.
After a day in Banff, I took everyone for a drive up Mount Norquay because Wendy and Mark wanted to see and sit in a Parks Canada Red Chair and I knew two would be up there. At that point, I didn’t realize the upper Moraine Lake trails were closed because of grizzly bears and I hadn’t thought of going to into Yoho to see Takakkaw Falls yet (nor did I think they would have some red chairs.)
On the way to the chair, I got a phone call asking for Wendy. She just got the word her father had died. While she processed that news, a sports car pulls up and a guy and girl pop out because they want to pet Marley. It was so weird and random but it happened that entire day.
Wendy soon joined us and as a family we walked down to this meadow and took in the views of Banff and the Bow Valley.
I should also take some time to point out that earlier in the day on the way to Banff and Sulphur Mountain, Wendy had her own bear sighting. We were driving down the Bow Valley Parkway and a black bear popped up over the guard rail. We had seen another black bear and we are pretty sure we saw The Boss, a giant grizzly bear beside the road but they were in the middle of a bear jam and out of principle, we didn’t stop. Wendy just mocked people for being stupid. So when we saw this bear and we were by ourselves, Wendy was so pumped up. It was hilarious and she was on a high all day.
I am not sure how it happened but it looks like Mark got a hold of my camera.
I was accused of giving Mark the finger here but I think the photographic evidence is solid, I was just pondering what a bad kid he is.
We met this guy (or gal, I really have no idea) on the way up. Wendy took some photos and we kept going. On the way down he (or she) was in the exact same spot. It was probably pondering what a bad kid Mark was as well.
It’s me so you knew I would post about some architectural photos from downtown Banff. Most of these will appear over on Bridge City but you’ll get to see them here first.
We headed out to Lake Louise for the day while in Banff National Park. We got up early from the Johnston Canyon Campground and headed down the Bow Valley Parkway. The plan was to hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House but my ankle was still swollen, I was still running a fever from being taken off the medication for my ankle. We got there in good time and got a good parking spot (Parks Canada staff running the parking lots makes it run very smooth). As we walked up the path to the Tea House, I realized that a combination of rain, a fever, and a messed up ankle, I needed to understand my limits. We’ll head back up there next year.
Before anyone feels sorry for us, did I mention we were still on the shore of Lake Louise? It’s pretty spectacular view and we were about to find out that our fellow tourists were pretty great.
From there we headed down the mountain and stopped at Laggan’s Mountain Bakery and Delicatessen.
Everyone I know that has been to Laggan’s raves about how great it is. You have to see and smell it to believe it. Wendy picked out some Jamaican Patties and got use some of the best pizza I have ever tasted. The bakery is worth the stop if you are even close to Lake Louise.
After hiking to Silverton Falls and checking out some of Castle Mountain, we came back to the campground while Wendy slept off a headache in her hammock. After dinner, we went back to a now empty Johnston Canyon and hiked up to the lower falls.
As we crossed this, we learned that Marley hates heights and really hates boardwalks. She refused to walk across it unless I told her it was okay. She would constantly look back at me and wait until I told her it was okay and then she would walk very low to the ground. This scene was repeated over and over again throughout the hike. As long as she didn’t look down, she was fine. If she did, she wasn’t happy.
Growing up in Calgary after my dad left, we had no money at all. Johnston Canyon was our summer vacation. We would come up and hike the canyon and then have lunch at Sawback before heading back home. It has always been a special place to me. We always hiked it on a non-peak day so it never was packed like it is most days in the summer with people parked for miles in either direction.
Hiking it after dinner when the hordes have left was the Johnston Canyon that I recalled growing up. Only about 20 people on the trail, let’s of room to explore, no idiots with selfie sticks whacking me on the head. There were just a few people wanting to pet Marley which was a trend that would only escalate as the week went on. It was a lot of fun.
If you are going to go in July or August, don’t go during the day. Go early morning (before 8 a.m.) or in the evening (after 7:00 p.m.). It is a way nicer hike on an empty trail.
After hiking up to Silverton Falls, we drove further down the Bow Valley Parkway until we got to the base of Castle Mountain and stopped at the site of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp used in World War I. It’s not a proud part of Canada’s past.
Life at the camp was brutal. Rations were poor, abuse was widespread and some froze to death during the winters. They were essentially used as slave labor to build the Banff National Park infrastructure.
From there we checked out the Castle Mountain lookout which had a Canadian Pacific rail line go by it.
I am not sure what happened here but both Mark and Oliver just stared for ages at Castle Mountain. For Mark it was almost a spiritual experience. Finally he goes, “So this is why you love the mountains.”
Then as we were talking, you could hear the familiar sound of a eastbound Canadian Pacific train coming in the distance.
On the second day there, we had planned to hike Johnston Canyon in the morning and then do Silverton Falls in the afternoon. As Wendy blogged, I ran a high fever with an ankle feeling like it was going to snap for most of the trip. She was exhausted as well so we slept in. By the time we got up and going, the line to Johnston Canyon went a kilometre or so down the Bow Valley Parkway in each direction. We hiked it last year and it was insanely packed with tourists.
Instead I drove down towards Castle Mountain and pulled into the parking lot for Rockbound Lake. There is a short hike to Silverton Falls which I had never done and it looked like fun. As we pulled into the parking lot, we met this camper from Wicked Campers. The paintjob stood out just a little bit.
With Mark turning 16, he is thinking of the kind of vehicle he wants, in part so he can travel with it. We had a long discussion about GMC Safari’s and Chevy Astro vans on our way along the trail.
After 400 metres or so, you come across this stream running down from the waterfall.
Then you start to climb up to the falls.
A rockslide took a toll on the trail at this point.
Finally you get the falls which unlike Johnston Canyon, have no safety railings along the path.
It’s a great view across the Bow Valley.
Finally it was back down the flank of Castle Mountain and back to the parking lot. The hike is under a kilometre long and we met a total of 12 people on it which is far different then Johnston Canyon.
Well we are back from vacation in Banff National Park and later Yoho National Park. It was a great week but once that almost didn’t happen. A few weeks ago they took me off my antibiotics because they thought they had killed the infection (again) and of course we know what happened. In three days I was overwhelmed with fevers and extremely sick just before the holidays. So I was back on my medication but it takes weeks for it to catch up to the infection.
The day before we were to leave, I was really sick. It had gotten worse and I was really suffering. I went to be knowing that all I wanted was to sleep for the next week.
I got up early last Sunday and felt even worse. I talked to Wendy and said that her and the boys should go without me.
They loaded the car and went to leave. I had gotten some sleep and felt a little better. I didn’t feel strong enough to go but I had some food and talked it over with Wendy and decided to go. I did warn her that I may do nothing more than sleep all week. She was okay with that.
We had intended to leave Saskatoon, contact some friends and grab some coffee as we passed through town. Now we left Saskatoon really late and it was going to be a rush to get to the campground before nightfall.
Sadly we were very early onto a horrible motorcycle crash. Guy on a road bike, wet highway, looks like he lost control. When we got there, he was lying on the highway and being held down. It was a horrible sight but ambulance was on route and First Responders were already there.
This was Wendy’s and mine tent. I know it’s massive. It is an eight person tent that I picked up at Walmart a few years ago. I am not a big fan of Walmart tents but I bought some Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarProof and applied it. The SolarProof protects the tent from UV radiation at higher altitudes while making it waterproof. We did get some heavy rain a few days and nights and we never had a leak all week. Several times I found myself laying in it and going, “this should be leaking” but it wasn’t.
The tent doesn’t come with a ground sheet. So I decided to pick up some tarps. I measured the tent spent $3 on tarps from Dollarama and used Gorilla Tape to fasten them together created one. The ground sheet saves the bottom of the tent and acts as a bit of a vapor barrier between the tent and the ground.
We had some tents already but my brother Lee gave this tent to the boys when he upgraded. The 8 person tent served as home for Wendy and I while Mark and Oliver lived in the smaller five person tent. It’s a three season tent with a big vestibule. They loved having their own space. The fact that it came from their uncle and aunt made it even cooler for them.
The only complaint was we never had a night where I felt 100% confident that we would not get rain. Oliver really wanted to “sleep under the stars”. Either that or he really wanted to see what else was going on while he slept in the tent.
An eight person tent is too big for two people but one can stand up in it and there was room for our queen sized air mattress. Since I had a dog sleeping in my arms every single night, all of the space we could get was needed.
I had purchased Wendy a hammock for Mother’s Day. I gave strict orders to the boys that this was Wendy’s hammock.
I had my hammock as well.
According to this, I was late giving the edict that this was MY hammock. By the time I went to lay in it, it had already been infested.
You have no idea how hard it was to get them out of this tent. There was one of them in it the entire time we were there. Mark called it a Bear Taco.
This is Wendy getting everything set up.
Something is wrong with this photo. There are only three lawn chairs. Obviously they were packed when I wasn’t planning to come out.
Wendy had some help from Marley in setting things up.
This is the view from the back of the campsite. Just through the trees is the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway which thrilled all of us when it rolled through between five and ten times a day/night. Some might have found it bothersome but we loved it. The railway were such a big part of the story of Banff National Park, it was cool to hear them roll through, even if it didn’t make for the best alarm clock.
I had originally wanted to stay in the Castle Mountain Campground because of it’s location but you can’t reserve there. In hindsight staying in a place with a hot shower was the right decision.
There were only four showers for 100+ campsites but it was enough. There was a bit of a lineup in the evenings but most people took really quick showers (although Wendy waited as a women took a 40 minute shower one morning). The one oddity of the campground was there was two plugins in each washroom which were always being used as people charged everything from laptops computer to cameras and phones.
Parks Canada staff kept the washrooms immaculate although one of them said, “It’s not that hard, people are really good here.” I’ll take her word for it but the fact remains those washrooms were the cleanest of any campground we had ever seen.
The campground wasn’t that large and was extremely quiet. We were surrounded by Americans and Europeans for most of it. It was hectic in the morning as everyone got up and got going, then it was silent for for most of the day as everyone was gone. It got slightly busier at night but mostly people flaked out after a long day of hiking. There were two cycling clubs there who were working out together in the mountains all day long. Most of the noise was people slowly cycling by. If you are looking for a nice campground, this is it.
I have been asked a lot lately if Bridge City is now fixed. For those of you not keeping track at home, I crashed Bridge City a few months ago and lost about 500 posts and photos. I was devastated and felt like giving up on the project to document most of the important buildings and landmarks in Saskatoon.
Since then I have been uploading and putting back parts of the site that I had thought I had lost. It’s a slow process but one that is making progress.
Right now there are 373 posts on the site with a new one going live each day from now until basically early 2017. If I keep shooting at this pace, we should be okay through the end of 2018 in a few months. That is awesome. I am also backfilling a lot of posts on the day that I took them. So if I took a photo in 2012, I am uploading it the day I took it in the timeline. The good news is that it gives the photos their correct chronological context, the bad news is that I didn’t do that with version 1. So a photo that I once posted in 2015 may be now posted in 2011.
Some of you have criticized the travel sections because they are not from Saskatoon. To that I say, “meh”. I travel, I like taking photos and I like reading about the architects who build stuff. You can deal with it.
I have also been asked what is the local response. Traffic is up but engagement with builders, property owners and architects is also up. I have also had some question the accuracy of what I have written here because their documents are different. Those conversations are a lot of fun because mysteries or contradictory information is fun to resolve.
The goal is 1000 posts by New Year’s Day. 90% of that will be Saskatoon. So if you want to keep up to date, check back daily and browse the archives. It’s a ridiculous project and in some ways I wish I had never started but someone had to figure out the history of every building in the city didn’t they? What’s that? They didn’t?! Darn it.