This is the only photo I took in/of Jasper, Alberta.
It's not Jasper's fault. I had a nice dinner there and a nice sleep. It was just the end of the line for my Highway 93 Paradise drive. It wasn't nearly as flash as Banff, but it I suppose it deserved more than this random drive by shot.
Turns out all the voices of Calgary steered me a little wrong. I should have gone up to Edmonton, then I would have started at Jasper amazement increasing all the way to Banff, and more, I would have had a fantastic right turn taking me through a veritable Hogwarts of new-to-me national parks: Yoho, Kootenay, miniGlacier, and Revelstoke. No regrets. I will be back to give 93 its proper time and respect.
One of my favorite things about the stretch of road I was saying goodbye to were the many places to stop and watch water with purpose. Flowing and falling and squeezing and stretching, moving as if it were late for an important meeting with the next big thing.
The spot below was very hard to photograph but a thrill to be there and see what water can do. Welcome to Mistaya Canyon.
Those are the views from that bridge in either direction.
The area in this last picture creeped me out. I'd gone off path as usual to follow the incredible twisted majesty of the canyon and at this point, I would have had to either lower myself slowly or take the tree bridge. The thing about that perfectly placed log was, who put it there? It certainly didn't fall like that. And a bear would need it to get up and down at this point. Was it a trap?! Did some hiker do that just for kicks? If bears can build wood freeways, or subcontract beavers to do it, is it only a matter of time until they build WMDs?!
I ran back to tell Solomon about it, but he was deep in meditation and I thought it best to not mess up his perfect Nothingness with questions of bear supremacy.
Not a National Park!
*sob sob sob
Hello! It's been a little while, but we're back. And to get things rolling again, below is a little treat. A kind and talented Finnish blogger got in touch to ask if she could use a few of my photos and to write about us briefly in her blog. I've put a link below to her awesome blog, which features puutarhointia, oriental cats, hand work, travel and everyday life experiences. Now, my dear English-reading readers, you may be wondering what an oriental cat is. No? How about a puutarhointia? Yeah, me too. When I went to her blog, her text about Solomon and me was in Finnish and English, but no help with that word. Then I noticed the comments she'd received. They were all in Finnish! I clicked the handy "translate" button on my browser and below are the results. (illustrated with photos from the history of Hoboxia) Enjoy!
TRANSLATED COMMENT 1: It is the duo of miles driven in one. The cat will be just nice travel features :)
TRANSLATED REPLY TO COMMENT 1: Seems to be largely car decorated in cat terms ;)
TRANSLATED COMMENT 2: Time sounds a bit overwhelming. Adaptable mobile guy, but why not when making a trip when the car is tuned cat comfortable. Quite a confidence they have with each other. I dare to open the door in the middle of nowhere, and let the cat paws explore and investigate the scenery? Just be sure I do not! Tuommoinen vagrancy in good company is obvious manner man's dream come true.
TRANSLATED REPLY TO COMMENT 2 : Rattling the couple and also search our. I do not, I would dare to set free a cat somewhere in the middle of nowhere, or really far away from home. Well, maybe it is the thing, the car is their home!
TRANSLATED COMMENT 3 : A lovely pair! Lots toured together and have seen all kinds. Thanks for the nice link!
TRANSLATED REPLY TO COMMENT 3 : I agree. Oleppa good hard link below and welcome to the reader, Hanne :)
[I know I know, Ikea is not Finnish! - fink]
TRANSLATED COMMENT 4 : Funny coincidence: just today I was talking with my daughter car trip through the U.S. .. just a dream ..
TRANSLATED REPLY TO COMMENT 4 : For this model, then ;)
TRANSLATED COMMENT 5 : A wonderful trip report wink, thank you! :) I am one of the international koratinomistajien FB group, and there has sometimes been a story reissaajakissoista. Confused, I read cats, who enjoy recreational and caravaning, and is there as a man dreaming road trip with his cat. I would not our kiljukaula-motorists with a road trip ever!
TRANSLATED REPLY TO COMMENT 5 : Not to mention that the change for the year with a cat in the car which would be constantly on the road ....
TRANSLATED COMMENT 6 : Travel-hungry cat. In that confidence must be habit-forming and on both sides. During the week I visited the local scrap store in the city, there was an Estonian woman customer, and she had a cat with a leash. In fact, I could not even imagine such a small trip with a cat, a good vet can be traveled. That distance will probably follow the hook.
TRANSLATED REPLY TO COMMENT 6 : Really need to have your cat (too) well adapted for traveling. I watched one day, a man who walked on the street! with a cat who was wearing a harness.And that cat running it pretty naturally, in the crowd. Not here, no. That's a man and a cat trip is really addictive to follow.
TRANSLATED REPLY 2 TO COMMENT 6 : From that came to mind during late winter before last view: was the first sunny day in a long time, the country began to peep, it was already a little spring feeling. That is, a weather, which was stimulated half Espoo rantaraitille kävelemääm dogs. There, the human and the dog bustle was also one of the brave cat that taapersi forward (human) with his family, even though it was very fluffy and stiff with excitement. The world's cutest and reippain foreign player. <3
TRANSLATED REPLY 3 TO COMMENT 6 : And again, yes I'm slightly annoyed that the cats have the habit of taking people ilmoille. I think we would have been able to teach valjastelijapojista involved pedestrians, if I figured in time. Now they are not, even if you live luuhaavatkin constantly outdoors and go for a walk. PS Not to leave again as soon as a new comment, I tell you, that I ordered it I Could Pee on This cat-poetry book, I hope to have it soon. : D
TRANSLATED REPLY 4 TO COMMENT 6 : Wow, I bet a cute sight. Getting used to it is closed, Koratian herraatkin when outdoor exercise constantly wearing a harness, then you probably would be used to it anywhere. For some reason, cats do not usually carry with you, such as dogs, no cats some doing on my own ;)
Thank you, Pirkko, for sharing our story. So what is a puutarhointia, anyway?
Poor, Poor Jasper!
I removed the audio and about 8 minutes of this because I was talking to this young black bear like it was Solomon. The reason the camerawork was awful is because I expected Mama to show up and I'd walked a little too far from Hobox. The reason the bear gets agitated at the end is because a thoughtless jerk pulls up in a screeching stop right next to the furry forager.
and the rather charming Num-Ti-Jah Lodge sitting beside it.
Very comfy cozy inside. Cool art and fun antiques everywhere.
Solomon got his perfect piece of sunlight while I explored the area.
This was something I saw quite often - one family member left out of the photo. I began insisting on taking pictures for everyone from then on.
Highly recommend the place, especially for a romantic getaway. The surrounding walks are incredible.
Here's a look back as we moved on.
Forgot it's actually called Simpson's Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, which gives it an odd twist. Was that an episode or the movie where Homer moves the family to Alaska?
And the lovely Lake Louise, which comes well before the Columbian Icefield. It's not that far out of Banff.
One more thing about Banff before I discuss Lake Louise - it's lousy with Aussies. I was married to a Kiwi once, and I'm still a proud New Zealander by association, but even if I wasn't, there seemed to be an absurd number of Australians in the area. This is what you get, Commonwealth!
I joke, but that was about the ratio, 1 to 3. The other two kids shown above were vacationing Quebecois. They were my first hitchhikers. I don't normally pick up hitchhikers because I have no seats, but when they're just trying to get up from the highway to the lake, it's not that big a deal, like jumping in the back of a pickup truck. Solomon likes the company too.
Well he would if he'd have noticed.
Lake Louise is stunning. The icy water makes everything else glow a little blue.
There was a fancy hotel (not much to look at on the outside), that framed magnificent views of the lake from every vantage point.
But by far that most exciting thing that happened here was after reading this placard about Georgia Engelhard Cromwell. Her exploits in the mountains of this region make my little glacier excursion look like a drunken stumble to the corner store. She's the first female mentioned on one of these explorers of interest signs in my whole journey. I tried googling her and ludicrously, there's a mountain named after her which shows up in wikipedia, but there is no wikipedia entry for her!
Georgia was awesome, but she just got me talking to these two kind people.
Turns out they are long lost siblings meeting for the first time on this trip! Their story is incredible, including going to school in the same English village briefly without knowing they were brother and sister. He'd moved to from England to Canada as an adult and was at last hanging out with his sis. They were adorable and it was a great joy talking to them.
When traveling alone, don't forget to talk to people. They are always amazing.
And now ... The Exciting Conclusion of the Supersonic Iceworld Saga !
I wish I could report that I've been blogging from a dark subterranean ice cave this whole time (like the one seen here from Final Fantasy, a video game I worked on in the world before computers way back in 1996, but we both know that wifi is terrible under a glacier.
Before we begin the end, let's review the theme of this series of blog posts: How Not to Hike.
If you are in/on Nature, and you are alone with no supplies at all except for a camera bag, a camera, and the clothing that you will see below - stay on the path. You are a tourist.
If you wish to venture off that path, be prepared, don't travel alone, and have supplies appropriate to the journey.
With all that said, here's how I survived falling away into a cold black sleep: blind panic. I twisted my torso at a speed I didn't realize I could and flopped onto what solid ground there was. My only thought was, "wow thank goodness I put my camera away, but boy this would have been funny to catch on video." I dragged myself up and out, and though I was probably being overly careful (it sure seemed like there was solid ground there somewhere), I lost my penetrative desire and moved on.
I'd finally reached the point I was shooting for. The spot where I'd climb over the ridge to the next glacier. Here's what I was thinking...
I was knackered. And the climb was almost sheer and mostly smaller, slippery rock. It was almost hour 3 and I hadn't even really started. I wasn't actually worried about the boy, the weather was perfect, but I'll blame him and say I had to go back to check on him. Then I'd just go around the "pond" and walk up from the front. If I was still up for it.
This is what I was wearing. Camera bag. Shoes. Socks. T-shirt. Shorts.
Whatever my fate, I hereby claim this rest spot, and name it Fink's Couch™.
So I'll admit, I was pretty spent at this point. Luckily I had pancakes that morning, and I drank glacial water (how I knew it was deathly cold beyond common sense). I was ready to call it a hike and walk back around the pond to Hobox and Solomon and maybe see if there in fact was a parking area closer to my glacier of choice.
Here's one of the curious sights on what I thought was the end of my journey. In the background you can see a little tree that appears to be growing normally, smaller branches near the top and longer at the bottom, but this poor guy wasn't getting any taller and continuing to throw branches outward. Looked bizarre.
I kept strolling along, looking down. Here were some cool overlapping tracks.
And then something funny happened.
I actually said to myself, "Huh, this all you got?" to the glacier, referring to the small glacial lake created from the melting ice. Why I have thoughts like that is beyond me. It's almost as if my mind teases me with shallow thinking like a precognitive warning to think more carefully. I wasn't just taunting the Ice Queen again, I was being dangerously naive (you know, more so then crawling inside an ice crevasse).
The lake wasn't all she had.
This "pond" was an afterthought, a subtle pause where ice water went to collect its thoughts before raging on to feed an endless glacial river.
There was no way back across. Not for miles. It was either turn back through that endless march over miles of shifting rocks, or this thing above.
My photos from here on suffered because I got a tiny bit worried. Well, not until after this next foolish idea, which I didn't document. This is the only image of it I have. In the foreground above, you'll note a white rectangle. If you concentrate, you can see two thinner rectangles on either side. A steel cable stretches between these. This was clearly for crossing over the river. But with a cable car, or mechanical device - not with your hands. I don't know if it was laziness, brain cloud, or excitement, but I decided this was how I was going to cross back to Solomon's side of the river. I got as far as removing my socks and putting them on my hands and hanging over the river, the pain in my palms immediate, before I thought, "What the hell am I doing? If I fall, my body will go numb as its dragged downriver and I will likely die weirdly while trying to command my limbs to swim to either bank and failing."
Hanging there, all these beautiful images flashed thought my head ...
That wasn't true, I just wanted to show some pictures from the trip I forgot to before.
What happened was I turned around, moaned, and made my way back to Solomon an hour and a half later.
I'd been gone for over four hours!
And so, crawling to the Columbian Icefield Visitor Center across the street (where I took many of these big picture photos), I got myself my favorite dessert.
Then I saw a map of what exactly Columbian Icefield meant and at long last that day, after plenty of exhilaration and joy, I got a chill ... and I smiled.
I generated this from Google Earth and added my four hour round trip.
Never the End !
Kids are on this lower surface, which seems like no big deal until you look down and note that it's less humans walking on an icecube and more like microbes along the skin of a vast Ice Queen.
A queen who doesn't take very good care of herself at that.
Here, let me give you a hand up on this old girl to have a look.
In addition to the many stunning diamond blue waterslides, (or Ice Queen Tears - she will likely be completely gone by 2030) there are frightening streams like this one just under the surface everywhere.
Even so, the footing seemed pretty solid. I'll point out now that, for the first time on the trip, I was wearing shoes. I gained a 30% bonus to boldness as a consequence. Not that I needed it. I mean, look at all those people way up ahead. Clearly it's safe!
When I reached the point where the furthest person is standing in the photo above, I was about here.
I went as far as this before turning right. There was a level in the strata I was trying to get to to save me a sheer climb.
If you've just joined me, my goal was to reach the glacier on the right of this one and I wasn't able to cross the river so had to go across the popularly visited Athabasca Glacier on the left.
Interestingly, across the glacier, there were dramatic bus tours that brought people down to the edge. Not sure if people could get out there.
I saw no one else at this height, but I wasn't after the top of this easy glacier.
Then I turned the corner and saw this, the Ice Queen's hooha (I realize that messes with the SCALE of my previous metaphor, but things change fast on the surface of a glacier! Don't they?).
I looked back at the bus tours a million miles across the ice, hoping they would see my red shirt and remember to send in a rescue crew after their sightseeing.
I went down. The opening at the bottom was about three feet across and I could hear a roaring river deep inside. The moment I lowered myself, the rocks beneath my feet gave way and I had no footing. I started to tumble down into the abyss...
THE CONCLUSION, WHERE I FACE MY DEEPEST FEAR OR FAVORITE FOOD (ONE OF THOSE!)!!
When last we met, I'd realized my hiking plan might take a little longer than an hour and a half.
I had hiked diagonally towards that pond-like water and then along that stream-like thing on the right.
Turns out it was a lake and a raging glacial river.
Here's a video check-in.
I searched everywhere for a way across that water, but turns out it's really quite cold. This whole enterprise was about getting on the other side and I was already too far along to go back and hike around the pond (lake). I was enjoying the walk, so the slightly maybe possible spots where I could jump across with dangerous ramifications if I slipped, I ignored, thinking there would be plenty of spots to cross.
Let's take a moment to talk about rocks!
Though I've given my character Brink, in my soon-to-be-published-fingers-crossed-eco-epic-novel-series, Leopold & Brink, a PhD in Geology, I think rocks are cool and that's about all I know (more or less). This hike was not a great time to fall deeper in love with rocks, though it gave me a very mellow and pleasant pace.
I mention rocks for a reason (beyond plugging the aforementioned book).
From the distance, the ground looks like a bunch of tiny pebbles, but I assure you, boulders abounded. The alleged pebbles underneath the endless sea of large rocks went unnoticed.
There was never a good place to cross and eventually, I curved all the way back to the base of the boring glacier.
Here are those folks again from our study of SCALE in yesterday's post. They will return, comically. From here, I could tell they were training. I remember foolishly thinking, "Oh, should this be hard?"
And so, after a very long, though enjoyable, detour, I had to use the glacier's frozen surface (and that little plank of wood) as my river crossing.
Little did I know, glaciers are sensitive.
Meet the Glacier, or
THE ICE QUEEN WILL NOT TOLERATE BEING CALLED BORING!
In last week's episode (yesterday's post), we left off with me stopped next to two police vehicles (at least!). Fifteen minutes before this took place, I was asleep. I woke, stretched, turned to wake Solomon and let him know a new day was here. He got in a quick prayer, and we pulled over here to look at the overwhelming beauty of the landscape.
I never know who he's praying to, but I imagine it's either Ra or any of the sun gods. Regardless, he's probably praying that I'll buy a spicy chicken sandwich, of which I give him a few small slivers (the only treat he'll take).
Here's that scenery. I can't understate the awe that Highway 93 inspires. And this is just along the drive. Any hike or step off the road affords endless visual treasures. When I ...
Oh right, the cops!
They were just parking there to catch speeders. I did think I was being trapped, but they hardly noticed I was there and when I asked what's up, they smiled and said, "Catch you sleeping?" Then explained about the speed trap, so I slowly pulled away. Don't worry, that wasn't the drama. That's now ...
This was the first day on the trip where the weather in the daytime was nice enough to leave the boy in Hobox without melting him. I normally never leave him for more than two hours (I go to films sometimes after all), and I thought I could finally take a nice long hike for an hour or two.
Here's where I picked. I'll name it later. Right now, it's The Glacier. The one on the left that is. I wanted to hike the one on the right.
Note that I took this photo after the battle, though I saw something like this view driving by. Before I knew The Glacier was the one that tourists flock to, I fell in love with the one on the right. It's much smaller but the high cliffs made it irresistible to the mountaingoatlike climbing style of mine. Here's another series of photos I took after the fact ...
That middle photo is the view most people get when visiting this part of the world. It's incredible and worthy (I say this trembling now. Obviously Solomon was praying to the God of Anti-Tourism Snobs not to kill his meal ticket). Even if I had seen any of these signs, I would have gone ahead with my "plan."
My plan was simple. Park, make the boy comfy, go up and to the right.
And then I came face to face with one of mankind's greatest enemies ...
FINK vs THE GLACIER - Round One
... because I can't. Back in Calgary, while scanning through local radio, I heard a talk show dude reading out the results of some highly scientific survey of the most Manly Cities in the U.S. Why they were reporting this, I have no idea. The most manly city: Charlotte, North Carolina. The curious part to me was that I've spent most of my life in the #2 and #3 LEAST manly cities: Miami, FLA and Los Angeles, CA. (Portland #1) [I just googled about this and there seems to be another trending winner for most manly: Oklahoma City, OK. But LA et al still grabs least.]
And so, take a deep breath, slip off your shoes ... and taxonomize these for me.
Buttered Popcorn Burst?
Powdered Welding Sparks?
Slow-mo Purple Sneeze?
Small Red Flower?
Messed-up Purple Target Ribbon On Sale?
The Devil's Snot?
Purple 80s Glam Rock Band?
Communism Defeated By Light Purple?
Easy Blue Hussy?
Pink Ballerina Trumpet Ghosts?
Fluffy Transparent Dream Killers?
Army of Purple Sneezes?
Am I close on any of those?
Solomon, having been born in a more manly California town, grew perplexed at all the stopping for flower photography.
AND THEN THIS HAPPENED, AND EVERYTHING CHANGED!
Stay Tuned for Tomorrow's Post - Fink vs The C.I.
My most dramatic and ridiculous yet!
We said goodbye to lovely Banff and began our voyage north towards Jasper.
This sign either means horseback riding and hiking available to the right, or centaurs and backpacking giants please go that way.
Banff was full of wonderful things .... like this field where I hope to build a football pitch one day.
There was a beautiful little farm, mostly for tourists, but full of two of the best things in the world: horses and gay women.
I learned about my camera's panorama feature while in Banff (yes, I know). I have since gone panorama crazy.
And then, a bit up the road, one enters Alberta's Highway 93 ...
I hiked to this waterfall off path in flipflops (all I've worn up to this point), and the ground was very muddy and it was a bit of a slapstick routine.
One of the endlessly diverse and gorgeous mountainscapes.
A couple Canadian Ranger-types were beside the road welcoming folks to this incredible drive.
They warned of the results of poor driving and reckless treatment of the environment. Also they claimed Solomon as an honorary adolescent lynx (living example).
Canmore is a little resort town before the big resort town of Banff. I had a waffle at this farmer's market from a Belgian girl who explained that the TinTin cutout was recognized by everyone. Would never happen in the states. There was a special sugar cooked into the waffle so it supposedly didn't need syrup or anything. It didn't. Delicious.
"Hi honey, I'm home (and once again took for granted the 10,000 foot high, stunning mountainscape in our back-fricking-yard).
The main street of Banff and the local fuzz. She was very confused that I didn't want to be in the picture with her. I was rather aggressively interested in her outfit and story and then she explained she was a for real law enforcement person and part of her local gig was public relations and awareness. L.A. could use this sort of thing.
While walking down the main street, I was confounded by a store with this symbol on the outside. My first thought was, huh, someone bought the rights to use this old amazing brand, The Hudson's Bay Company, the organization that was the de facto government of the region, a veritable empire. Turns out HBC, founded in 1670, is in fact STILL IN BUSINESS, is owned by Americans now, and exists as a string of department stores!
Solomon was not at all interested in the gondola ride, though they said he was allowed to jump on.
The town of Banff was a joy, plenty to do and see. I'll go into more detail in Part Two but here are a few of the casual activities enjoyed by the hoi polloi ...
tennis with the chalet and mountain view, or other mountain view, or beautiful forest view ...
... golf - this hole is at the base of a great German restaurant hidden in the woods. To complete this Par 4, you have to clear a river ...
or a little pool time ...
When I came up out of Yellowstone, Bozeman, Montana, was the first big population center I hit. I wanted to mention and say thanks to this yogurt/coffee shop that was open till midnight, enabling me to relax and work in a comfortable space. It was only a couple weeks old when I arrived. Hope it does well.
Culture on College St.
Next up was Butte, Montana, where I had a super pizza here, at the Broadway Cafe 302 East Broadway Street.
And yes, Butte is as adorably bleak looking as that. But it has real charm. This what an old folks home looks like.
The one on the right.
And a general shout out to, I hate to admit, Starbucks, who beyond being ubiquitously reliable, always provides that one thing I need more than anything else when working: big windows. If what's out them is beautiful, great, but it can be a parking lot as long as the walls are mostly transparent. I wish I could be one of those back of the dark restaurant writers, but that just makes me drowsy. The image above was from a Starbucks along this path towards the Canadian Rockies and I think some kids were having fun with the pins. Or not!
Next up was Missoula. I used to shower exclusively at the Y, but I've only used their services once this trip so far (I have showered more than once, fyi). The facility in Missoula was, as usual, top notch. Not sure if they've all updated their branding like this, but the whole place felt brand new.
"Daddy, I have an idea," is how I imagined this project started when one of the kids saw their barn from the freeway coming home on the bus one day.
Whoops! Almost forgot back in Butte, one more charming local stop: The Berkeley Pit
Also charming. Though I think this was Bozeman.
This was on the way to the Glacier, just after stopping for fresh cherries.
Here was a weird thing. Before you start into Glacier, an American National Park, there's an official Canadian welcome center. Turns out their connecting National Park, Waterton Lakes, combined with ours is known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
This is from the Solomon vs Baby Tree morning. We camped in GNP and he had a lot of fun exploring the campsite. He normally eschews the nature stops, preferring back alleys or park benches, places he can score spider webs (his favorite food).
This is what he does, lit by lantern, while I work at night in Hobox.
And then, after Glacier and the ordeal at the border, the first little town is Cardston, which turns out to be the hometown of Fay Wray! Here is her lovely tribute :( The town is rather small, so when she was born here in 1907, it must have been her farm and the saloon.
WARNING! Fill up your tank in Babb, Montana, or before, because Canada uses metric gas, which is somehow WAY more expensive then real, American gas!
Eventually you will get to a city. And that city will be Calgary, Alberta. And you will see something like this if you accidentally drive to this weird business park high and south of the city. My original plan was to check this place out, mainly to see if their bookstores had bande dessinee (they don't) and then check out Edmonton because, well, I was in the neighborhood. After Edmonton, I'd be lateral to Jasper National Park, so I'd head west into it then down to Banff and out towards Vancouver. However, I was anxious to get back to GlacierNP-like environs. Luckily, every soul I questioned said, "don't bother going up there, Edmonton sucks." So we crashed here ...
That is the high ski jump from the Calgary Olympics that Solomon is considering trying out. The Olympic compound was cool and still very active.
I play soccer in L.A. with someone who I think was created in this building. He is a gymnast for Cirque de Soleil and told me he was from Calgary.
Also on the premises was the Canada Sports Hall of Fame.
And so we turned West towards Banff ... and the real adventure began!
Next up ...