Canada Trip 4/8/2000 - 1/9/2000

Unbelievable 4 weeks in an unbelievably phantastic environment.

Sea, forest, mountains, cities and desert - all in one country.
Respectively 2 states- Bristish Columbia and Alberta

The planning ...

The journey was well organised, as Barbara, my wife, spent quite some time with planning the recent months - thanks again for that. And that is definitely what you should do to get out most of a trip like that with least stress. Our first trip to overseas, definitely not our last, that I dare to state now.
The trip lead us through 2 states (only!?) - mainly Bristish Columbia and partly Alberta - as you can see in the map above. Even if it looks like a quite small part of Canada - we drove 6031 km in those 4 weeks!


Starting point was Vancouver, where we had 3 interesting days in this beautiful, truly multicultural city built on a hilly terrain with many bridges. Beyond activties like visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge (137m long), which needed all my braveness I could take together as I'm afraid of heigth, one -from our point of view- most interesting things in town is Stanley Park. Possibly as it provides beyond scenic views over the sea and on the skyline of Vancouver a lot of photo objects - squirrels, racoons, birds, tourists (?), even a feeding hawk. I can recommend to have some walks around Stanley Park and particularly the Lost Lagoon, a small lake with a rich population of birds. For information on animals or plants you can find the Nature House, also located at Lost Lagoon. And Stanley Park provides a nice "habitat" for joggers and inline-skaters. Don't miss the view from "The lookout at Harbour center", also by night, and don't forget to pass by Gastown area with it's steamclock!

  Vancouver Island

From Vancouver we took the ferry to Vancouver Island, which is another part you should include in your planning. This 450 km long Island has many opportunities for hikers, e.g. in the Pacific Rim National Park with it's trails through rainforest.
Also recommended: A whale watching tour at Telegraph Cove. These tours are from a nature lover's point of view recommendable, as the boats don't follow the whales, but wait for the whales to come to the boat. A biologist on board gives a lot of interesting information - and knows each animal by name (at least number).

  Up North

Next step was to take the inside passage ferry from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert up North (you can save quite some way compared to driving the road). "Via" Stewart and Hyder (our only visited town in Alaska and the "friendliest ghosttown in Alaska" - by the way bear country in it's best form with Black and Grizzly Bears)  we left the coastal area and moved towards the Rocky Mountains and it's National Parks.

155_32_web.jpg (19374 bytes)

Here some pictures from some very kind people we have met in Hyder- photographing enthusiasts as well and very good ones, too.  With some help from this "experienced personal" even I got the chance to make some real Black and Grizzly Bear wildlife pictures ...

155_33_web.jpg (27279 bytes)

On the way Fort St.James, a reconstructed trade location from around 1800, invites for a visit. Even more interesting is a also restored gold rush town, called Barkerville, with its 125 old houses and actors in ancient dresses walking around and having a chat with you about the newest Barkerville stories ...



  The Parks and Columbia Icefield

Next stop was Wells Gray Provincial Park with it's waterfalls (Helmcken falls are three times higher than the Niagara falls!)  and nice possibilities for horseback-riding. This was followed by an intensive visit of the Rocky Mountains and it's National parks Jasper, Banff, Kootenay and Yoho, where we also crossed the border to Alberta. In these more touristic NPs, we sighted a lot of Elks, fantastic lakes, Japanese tourists, Dall's sheep, ground squirrels, moose and glaciers (most interesting - Athabasca Glacier, which you can walk on after taking a tour with specially equipped busses from Columbia Icefield Center). 
Hiking is pure fun in these parks, don't forget the bear bell and your camera! Even if you are nature freak - don't forget to pass by Banff and Jasper city, try Banff by night! And don't forget to drive the Bow Valley Parkway between Lake Louise and Banff, a high chance on elks is the reward, besides the nice nature views. Banff's turquoise Moraine lake is quite idyllic, but also very touristic.

  The way back ...

After that we continued via Glacier and Revelstoke National Parks. At Mount Revelstoke you find another fascinating part of nature: "Meadows in the sky" with its short up to day-long trails and the meadows with an incredible amount of well assorted flowers. At least if you are there - like us - in a time after the snow has melted away. Don't forget insect repellent!

The last, huge step was then towards Osoyoos in the very south part of Canada. Try like us some wine on the way in the area of Okanagan, where the mild climate helps growing grapes. At Osoyoos you find the only desert area of Canada (a small part of the Sonoran Desert in the USA). We had luck enough to see a Western rattlesnake there!

After that we returned to Vancouver where we stayed some more days before returning home!

If you like nature, wildlife, some loneliness and a fantastic mix of different types of landscapes from Desert to Glaciers, and you have enough time (think about the distances) - try Western Canada with a good pre-planning as we did. It's more than worth it! Don't think you always find untouched nature. Even here people must earn their money and one of Canada's big cashcows is logging. Still - at least for any European mind - it is amazing how much real nature is left compared to crowded Europe. Take enough rolls of film and time!

For me it was the first "real" nature photographing trip. Never ever I have seen so many animals in such a short time as well as all types of landscapes.

Suffering only my wife - from me taking some 52 rolls of film. Due to very co-operative personal at Vancouver Airport I could get these 52 rolls safe home, as they accepted handcontrol.

I can't even give you a slight impression what we felt during this visit to the "Wild West" of Canada, and I'm not able to write down all the sights or areas we were and which are worth a visit, neither I am to give more than a glimpse of the animals or the friendly people.
Still I hope to make you interested and to give Canada a try.

Cheers, Stefan