Friday, October 15, 2021

Take Me To The River: A Surprise Calgary Riverwalk

We don't really have a lot planned out for our time in the city of Calgary. Last night's train ride through some of the dingier blocks of downtown kind of put a damper on things. Our biggest plans are to see a hockey game at the Saddledome, an arena that is visible from our hotel window.

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Deciding that we should get out and about, plus it'd be nice to know where we need to go, we hop on the C-Train (Calgary's light rail) for one stop to the Stampede stop.

This deposits us at the edge of the fairgrounds that host the world's largest outdoor rodeo each summer. Today, it's a ghost town of closed buildings and empty parking lots. We notice it's quite a walk from the train station to the Saddledome at the other side of the grounds, about as far as if we'd walked all the way from our hotel.

Walking around the arena, we notice that the building is a bit dated and access ramps are not to be seen. We're guessing there must be elevators inside. That is something we'll have to find out tomorrow when we return for the game.

Blowing tumbleweeds would not have been out of place here, so empty, and a bit windswept on this cool Canadian morning. I pull out my phone to see a map of the area to see if there's see while we're here. It's way to early to return to the hotel for the day.

I notice that there's a river on the map behind the Saddledome. I tell Letty and Tim that we should go over there and, if nothing else, we can get some river pictures.

At the far end of the parking lot behind the arena is a pedestrian bridge. We go out, take some pictures (great fall colors on the day we're there, by the way), and notice a park on the other side.

Another map on the other end of the bridge let's us know that there's a walking path that continues down this river, the Elbow River, all the way to it's confluence with the Bow River and beyond to downtown Calgary.  We might as well follow it and see where it leads.

First thing we notice is the fine view we have of the Saddledome that we just left.

Next, moving just a little downstream on the river, it's a spectacular skyline view of Calgary.

ENMAX Park, the riverside area we're walking through, is much nicer than the down-in-the-dumps stretch of downtown we were in last night. This is much more of the Calgary we thought we'd see.

The bridge into the Inglewood neighborhood shows us a block of pubs and shops we'll need to explore later. 

Walking under a moving train crossing the bridge overhead, we get to the end of the Elbow River.

A pedestrian bridge provides a great viewing platform to see the merge of the two rivers.

To the left, a windmill and a garden mark the spot of Fort Calgary, the Mounties post where the city was founded.

We've got some time, so we go in and check out the museum here. It's twelve dollars (Canadian) to enter, although your AAA card will get you an additional discount. After paying, the counter lady gives us a brochure and I start to walk away.

"Wait, we're not done," she admonishes.


"No, I have to explain some things to you first."

With that, she tells us which direction we need to explore the museum and, as a special exhibit today, not to miss the original Treaty 7 which is on display here for a very short time.

Treaty 7 is the treaty between the British and several First Nation governments...mainly the Blackfoot tribe...delineating what would belong to each group and the price the British would pay to the natives for encroaching on their land.

Although it's been violated several times since it's adoption in 1877, it's still the basic governing document of this area of Canada.  It's kind of like a constitution of the area.

She also tells me we're allowed to photograph and film anywhere we want in the museum except that pictures and video of Treaty 7 are off limits.

We wander through, seeing exhibits on how the bison used to sustain the population. How they were decimated when the Europeans arrived. How the First Nations people suffered when diseases and whiskey were introduced.

The fort was an outpost for the Canadian government and the Mounted Police (the Mounties) and the soldiers, families, and support personnel eventually spread out into the surrounding area, becoming what we now know as the city of Calgary.

Inside, we see recreations of a telegraph office and a house of the era. 

I throw Tim inside a recreation of the post's jail. Calgary's Palace theatre is recreated here and shows videos on the history of Calgary.

Tim and I board a replica street car before we have to leave.

With that, we're only a few blocks from the hotel where we go to meet up with a friend and have a beer at the little pop-up beer garden nextdoor.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 11, 2021

On Top of the World! Jasper Skytram - Alberta, Canada

This journey to the top of the world didn't exactly start at the bottom. We're around 3,500 feet in elevation at our cabin by the Athabasca River. It's not exactly chilly this morning as I cook breakfast but we imagine on top of the nearby Whistlers Peak it will be cold so we put on our thermal underwear, take our down jackets, and the beanies that Letty had knitted for us before the trip.

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After three days of sketchy accessibility and parking on our daily adventures, it's nice to great handicapped parking right at the entrance of the Jasper Skytram. Tim goes up the big ramp to the ticket office and gift shop while I buy the tickets.

We have about twenty minutes until our allotted time (they call it a 'flight' and you're given a flight number). Tim picks out a shirt in the gift shop, which will be held for us until we return, and we spend a minute looking at the machinery that runs the tram.

The operator lets Tim on first when it's time to leave. It's pretty easy for him to roll on board. After the rest of the passengers step on board, we're off while the operator tells us about the tram and the scenery we're seeing as we go up.

Seven minutes later, we're exiting the tram at the upper station. A combination of paved trail and boardwalk let's Tim wander around this section of mountaintop near the upper lodge. 

We take in the sights, take some pictures, and look down on our cabin, several thousand feet below next to the ribbon of the river.

I point out Mt. Robson, the tallest of the Canadian Rockies, to Tim. It's over in the distance in British Columbia.

Most of this upper chalet is accessible but the restaurant is upstairs and we can't reach it so we browse the gift shop, take some more video and pictures, then queue up to take the tram back down.

Back in town, we do a little shopping before retiring to the Whistle Stop Pub, a friendly little joint across from the train station that Tim bugged us to try. I'm glad he did because it's a neat place to hang out with the locals before heading back to the cabin.

Our cabin resort has it's own gourmet restaurant that we've neglected to try. Since this is our last night here, we decide to give it a go. 

A table by the front window gives us a view of the Athabasca River and a herd of elk decide to wander across the far bank.

The chef has a special of locally caught wild boar, which we take advantage of. Tomahawk style chops come out, filling us up very nicely before we retire back in the cabin for the night.

Tomorrow, we check out and head back down the Icefields Parkway to finish up our trip in Calgary.

Darryl Musick

Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick

Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Cocktail Hour: Canadian Beer Taste Off

This was so much harder to put together than our recent Canadian Whiskey taste off. Canadian beer is pretty darn hard to find here. Originally, I had wanted to pit Molson Canadian against Moosehead but I really could not find anyone selling the Canadian here.

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A trip to the beach last week meant we could stop at Total Wine and More, our local 'everything' liquor store...much more selection than, say, I was able to put together three bottles from our neighbors to the north.

The contenders...Labatt Blue, a pilsner from Toronto; Moosehead, a lager from St. John's; and Blanche de Chambly from Unibroue in Quebec.

Moosehead was the smooth, skunky smelling beer I remember from my younger days. It's good, it's smooth, but the importing time in those green bottles definitely skunks the beer.

The less said about Labatt the better. Just nothing to taste there at all.

Unibroue's Blanche de Chambly, a Belgian style white ale, was delicate, flowery, and delicious. A great beer for a hot day you can see in our video was 84 degrees when we tasted.

Watch the video above for more in depth reactions, we'll catch you next time.



Friday, October 8, 2021

Falling Into the Abyss: Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park, Canada

Our next big adventure in Jasper National Park does not require clear skies but it would be really helpful. There are some clouds hanging around today, obscuring some views, so we decide to switch it up a bit and do a short hike that doesn't require great weather.

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It's maybe a 20 mile drive from our cabin to the parking lot of Athabasca Falls. The Parks Canada website says the trail to the falls is wheelchair accessible. There is no handicapped parking that we can see, however. We end up parking in the RV section, which is the only place where I can park and still have room to get Tim and his chair out.

The weather is fall crisp, not too cold and maybe even on the edge of warm. Tim rolls to the edge of the Athabasca River with no problem.

Getting to the actual falls is a bit trickier.  Yes, there is a paved trail to a platform overlooking the main cataract but boulders and tree roots stick through at random points. The trail leans to the left when it isn't leaning to the right. To get to the main walkway overlooking the falls requires going down about a dozen steps. This tight and crowded platform is as far as wheelchairs can go.

Tim makes it through but I definitely need to guide him around the obstacles and keep my hands on the chair to keep it from veering off to the side. Let's just say that the Canadian Parks service has a bit of a different definition of 'wheelchair accessible' than I do.

Once the work of getting Tim to the viewing platform is done, we get a magnificent view of the top of the falls.

There seems to be three tiers of falls, this upper fall...

...a mid point fall as it enters a narrow slot canyon...

...and the end where the falls exit the canyon into a stunningly turquoise colored lake.

Of course, Tim can only see the upper portion.  Afterward, I take him back out of the parking lot and to the highway bridge that goes over the falls so he can see some more of it.  There's no sidewalk here and you're exposed to traffic but, being careful and watchful, I help him out to where the view is better.

When Tim's seen enough (happens pretty quick with this city guy), we head back to the car to hang out and listen to music while Letty goes over the inaccessible parts of the trail to get some more pictures.

As with every adventure we take in Jasper, we head back into town to have a pint at the Whistle Stop Pub and to browse some of the shops in downtown Jasper.

Tim and I take some time to visit the historic Jasper train depot. A big adventure for a lot of people is to take the train across stops here for a couple of hours so passengers can get a taste of the town. Others just take the train up from Edmonton for a Jasper vacation.

There's the pretty waiting room and an old locomotive out front.

Back in the cabin, Letty and I head to the resort's laundry room to take care of our dirty clothes.  It's one of the few places here you can get a wifi signal.  I notice someone is trying to message me on Facebook but I don't have Messenger installed on this phone.

With the very spotty wifi service up here, it takes me two hours to download and install. The message is from our friend, Bart, in Calgary telling us there will be a good Aurora Borealis tonight.

We've never seen it so, before we go to bed, we spend some time in the chilly a dark area behind the resort's maintenance shed...with a few other Asian tourists looking up into the now-clear night sky.

It's not the brightest thing we've ever seen but there they are, materializing every few minutes like a far off used car dealership spotlight...white bands appearing for a minute or so before fading away. Sometimes, even a curtain of misty-like white light.

With another check off the bucket list, being able to see the Northern Lights for the first time in our lives, we bed back down in our cozy cabin to rest up for the next day's adventure.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 4, 2021

Taking the Scenic Route: Calgary to Jasper in a Day

If we were to go non stop, the drive from the Calgary Airport Homewood Suites to our destination in Jasper National Park would take about three hours. We’re going to take it a bit slower than that, though, as we see some sights along the way.

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When planning this trip, it was to be between Banff and Jasper National Parks. What swung the balance to Jasper was the best accessible accomodations I could find were in Jasper. Although I would have loved to stay at the Fairmont Chateau on the shore of Lake Louise but, even though I’m sure they have accessible rooms, the price of around a thousand dollars a night (and up) was a big budget buster...even if it was Canadian dollars.

Still, I have always wanted to see the Lake Louise area ever since an aborted ski trip over thirty years ago. Finally, I have my chance.  Today we’ll stop and the plan is to splurge on a lakeside lunch at the Fairmont.

A few miles before the exit to Lake Louise, we start to spot sattelite parking lots where overflow visitors would park and take shuttle buses up to the lake. Uh oh...I don’t have time for this.

The crowds are thickening and parking attendants are pressed into directing traffic into and around the town. Signs on the way up to the lake warn of no parking available and to turn around now to go to the sattelite lots.

I decide to keep driving up...if no parking is available, we’ll press on to Jasper.

We arrive at the hotel, one lot on the right is designated as a handicapped lot. An attendant is waving everybody past. I point to our placard, hanging from the rear view mirror, and she waves me in. The closest parking spot to the lake and the hotel is a handicapped spot and it is empty.

Someone was smiling on me that day.

A small bridge over the creek that drains the lake led us to the path to the shore. The water is world-famous for it’s turquoise blue water backing up into the glacial canyon. Ancient glaciers still perch on the cliffs, dangling precariously over the other side of the lake. Snow covers the mountainsides during this last week of September.

It’s a beautiful sight, which is why thousands of tourists are lined around the eastern shoreline with their selfie sticks, squeezed between the lake and the massive hotel.

Walking around, we take a few pictures ourselves and explore some of the scenery before heading into the hotel.

There are a handful of restaurants open. We head to the Lobby Lounge, which commands the best views of the lake and the glaciers. Hotel guests get priority over day visitors but we get lucky again and a table is found for us right away.

Tim goes with a burger but has poutine on the side instead of basic fries. Letty has a vegetarian pasta dish with spinach and asparagus. I have a bowl of French onion soup.

It’s all very delicious, a bit more than I’d pay below, but it’s a splurge and the view is to die for.

Letty spends a little time in the gift shops (a spool of yarn for $150???) and Tim and I check out the historical photographs off of the main lobby.

It’s back on the road where we drive past a glass floored bridge that you can pay serious bucks to walk on then we arrive at the Columbia Icefield.

This spot is where several glaciers come together and the meltwater forms the headwaters of the Athabasca River, which eventually empties into the Arctic Ocean.

The Athabasca Glacier is across the highway from the visitor’s parking lot. You can hike up to, and climb on, the glacier. You can also take a bus...several which are wheelchair take a ride on the glacier and spend some time walking on it.

Tim is not interested so, after taking some picture, we continue on.

We’re making some progress as we leave Banff and enter Jasper park. I should mention that all the national parks in Canada are admission-free this year as they celebrate 150 years of being independent. I cruise through the closed entrance booths.

Before long, I’m being stopped in the middle of the road by a flagwoman. She knocks on my window as I stop.

“It’ll be about 20 minutes before I can let you pass.”

I turn off the car, get out, and she shows me the men dangling from ropes high on a sheer cliff a little down the road. They’re blasting and after the dynamiting, those guys hit it with shovels and rakes to sweep the debris down to a waiting dump truck. They do this to lessen the probability of a landslide in the winter.

Quite a backup has built up behind me by the time she gives me the greenlight to continue on.

No more stops for us and soon we exit the park next to a couple of more empty entrance booths. Just a mile or so beyond, we turn into our home for the next few days...Becker’s Chalets...a cabin village along the shore of the Athabasca River.

It takes me a lap of the grounds before I realize that the office is in the restaurant that I passed at the entrance.

I go in, register, and am handed an old-fashioned  plastic tagged room key.

There are two accessible cabins here with roll in showers. One, closer to the river and the resort’s playground. Our is the second, located in a secluded corner next to the woods.

It’s a large, very large, one room cabin with a queen bed, a twin bed, and a queen sofabed. The roll in shower has a large fold down bench, and there’s plenty of room to manuever.

A full kitchen and dining room is included, as is a fireplace, so I head into the nearby town of Jasper to get some groceries to make breakfast after settling in.

Our rental car has a GPS so I follow it into town.  The road is closed so I follow a detour.  This leads me to a dead end and I double back.

Before I get to the highway, however, I see these four beauties on the road.

After that, I get this jealous boyfriend walking by my driver’s side window.

Evening entertainment over, I finally find my way into town to get supplies and meet back up with Letty and Tim in the cabin. We’ll relax a bit over some wine by the river before bedding down in our very comfortable and cozy beds.

We’ll see you in the morning.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick

Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved