The Flower Fed Buffalo
The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
In the days of long ago,
Ranged where the locomotives sing
And the prarie flowers lie low:
The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass
Is swept away by wheat,
Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by
In the spring that still is sweet.
But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
Left us long ago,
They gore no more, they bellow no more:--
With the Blackfeet lying low,
With the Pawnee lying low.
- Vachel Lindsay

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Farewell the Rockies!

Cragging In the Bow Valley

We had a few more days climbing after our last blog post. The first was at Carrot Creek, with Jon Jones and three other folks he was showing the canyon to, as well as Jon Gale and his son Stephen. Carrot Creek is a good little crag to work on your fitness: fairly steep rock with lots of sloping holds! Di and I climbed a 10a, a terrific two pitch 10b called Merlin's Laugh and then a short 10d to finish - which well and truly finished us off! If you're climbing in the Rockies, this is an excellent place when the weather is hot, as the canyon is quite narrow and receives relatively little sun.  Jon Jones has been very busy this season replacing old anchors in Carrot, as well as making the starts of some routes a bit safer.

Next, we had a day with John and Stephen Gale up at Guide's Rock. Although we wanted to have a look at Guide Rock it wasn't the best choice that day, as it was very sunny and hot on the south-facing cliffs and we didn't make the earliest start. Nevertheless, we had a nice time. Here's a shot of Di following a pleasant one pitch 5.8 slab:

We also climbed a 5.9 called Take it for Granite, which sounded great. The first pitch was a pleasant 5.9 slab that was a bit thinner than previous route, followed by a worthless second pitch. It was getting fairly hot by this stage but Stephen Gale was keen to do the 10d to the left called Take It Or Leave It, so I volunteered to belay and follow him. It turned out to be a fantastic, long pitch and made the hike up to Guide's Rock worthwhile.

Back at the car we had a cold beer - thanks to Big Blue's fridge supplies - and then repaired to Stephen's place for a fantastic dinner of barbecued salmon, some wonderful bruschetta and salads, mostly prepared by John's daughter Kerrin who'd had the day off from climbing. Well done, Kerrin!!! Topped off with a couple of good bottles of wine, it doesn't get much better.

Stephen had an extra bed available because John was hangin' out in Stephen's "man cave" downstairs, watching the Olympics on a fantastic king-sized smart TV (I want one of those!) This was great, as we had a nice sleep in with lots of space, then headed off the next day to Heart Creek to go climbing with John, Stephen, Kerrin and Stephen's two dogs Baffin and Ranger. Here they all are at the crag:

We did four really nice routes down at the end of Heart Creek at Bunny Hill and Waterfall Wall, where not a lot of people go climbing as they mostly tend to stop at one of the earlier buttresses. The pick of the routes would have had to be a great 10d (can't remember what it's called and the guide is in the van) that was almost right on 30 metres and fairly sustained in the upper section, with two 10d moves and a 10c bit right at the end. It was a lovely walk back down the creek and and we farewelled John, Stephen, Kerrin, Baffin and Ranger after enjoying a cool beer and a few nibbles. This brought to an end our climbing in the Rockies for this trip.

Back to Calgary

Our friends Izabella and Konrad were very keen for us to come and spend another night with them in Calgary, so we jumped in Big Blue and motored into town from Heart Creek. When we arrived we discovered that Iza had fired up their little sauna for us to relax in before dinner, which was very sweet of her. It was terrific to get a good sweat up and then rinse off with a shower. I wish that I'd taken a picture of us having a lovely meal with Konrad and Iza out on their deck to show you - and evoke for us the great feelings we had sharing some more time with them. We finished up the evening looking at a great collection of photos from a trip they'd had to Mount Robson. I was very keen to try to hike to Berg Lake and back as a day trip after seeing their photos, but Di put her foot down and said that 42 kilometres wasn't going to happen! The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast before pushing off for the Rockies again, while Iza and Konrad went about jobs that needed doing around home (that's all ahead of us in about a month's time, I guess!)
Iza sent Di off with a pair of traditional Polish earrings she said "didn't suit her". Here's Di with them on ...

... and a close-up of one of the earrings:

Meanwhile, Konrad sent me off with a couple of Polish beers, which were excellent, and a fantastic dark beer brewed in Victoria:

Di has still got the earrings, but the beers are all gone!

Lake Minnewanka

We drove back to Canmore and out to Two Jack Lake, where we planned to surreptitiously spend a couple of nights before our friends Mary and Tim arrived from Wisconsin. It was a great little spot, and - like Corral Creek - there was no sign prohibiting overnight parking. This is the view of Mt Rundle from where Big Blue was nestled in for the night:

The next day we had a hike around the side of Lake Minnewanka to the first campsite. It was a lovely way to pass a few hours, apart from the mosquitoes that plagued us at lunchtime. The Banff Dragonboat Festival was happening that day, so we enjoyed the sight of dragonboats slugging it for bragging rights as we set off on our walk. Three hours and 17.5 kilometres later they were still at it!

A Few Moveable Feasts

The next day was a quiet day, apart from a thorough victualing of Big Blue, readying for the arrival of our friends Mary and Tim from Wisconsin. We met Mary back in 1992 climbing (well, truth be told, mostly sheltering from the thunderstorms!) at Wild Iris in Wyoming and have been firm friends ever since, enjoying a cycling holiday with her and Tim - whom she'd met in the meantime - in Tuscany, a couple of visits to us in Tasmania and a rendezvous in Yosemite the last time we were in North America. Mary and Tim booked a night for themselves in Banff and then some accommodation north of Jasper for us to share. Di and I insisted that we would do the catering for their visit, hence the provisions. For the first night we took the easy option of eating at Giorgio's in Banff. Here we all are:

I forgot to mention that Tim is a bit of an architecture buff and insisted on shouting us a drink before dinner at the Banff Springs Hotel, one of the great CPR hotels built as part of the railroad crossing from coast to coast back in the late 19th century. Here we all are out on the terrace, enjoying the evening light:

After our drink on the terrace we poked our noses into a few corners like "Ballroom B" and were suitably impressed.

The next day the drive through the Bow Valley and Icefields Parkway was increasingly wet as we made our way north, so it wasn't very suitable for photographs. It was a pretty long slog given the conditions, but we still stopped here and there to admire the majesty of the Rockies through the precipitation. We were fairly tired by the time we got to where we were going.

However, after a wonderful feed of lamb cooked by Di which we'd got at an excellent deli in Canmore called Valbella - highly recommended! - we all felt a lot better. 

The next day we awoke to a gorgeous day, so we drove south to Maligne Lake for the views and had a walk around Maligne Canyon. Here's a glimpse of the canyon, which is 51 metres deep at one point:

After our gentle hike it was off to visit to another historic Rockies architectural icon, the Jasper Park Lodge, for a drink on Tim. The lodge is in a gorgeous setting and relaxing on the terrace watching the canoeists and paddleboaters on the lake - and the rich people rambling about as if they owned the place - was an entertaining finale to our excursion.

Just as we were driving north back to the Overlander Mountain Lodge where we were staying, we stopped to take a picture of this elk in repose at the side of the highway:

That evening it was my turn to cook, and I decided to assemble a couple of salads and build a salmon risotto from our enormous store of goodies. But before dinner, I presented Tim - who does like his reds - with a bottle of Brunello di Montepulciano to decant. This gesture echoes our holiday in Tuscany with Mary and Tim about 13 years ago. On that holiday we had dinner out in a little town called Castelnuevo Baradenga, and Tim ordered a bottle of Brunello, which we all like immensely. (When Tim placed his order the waiter got all excited, scooped up our wine glasses and replaced them with magnificent balloons, which he polished up in front of us. On this occasion, the front desk was kind enough to supply us with a decanter and 4 good-sized glasses.) It was a lovely moment, and as you can see Tim was VERY HAPPY!: 

After all that it was time for me to start cooking. Here's roughly what I did:
  • made a salad of shredded red cabbage, finely chopped carrot, walnuts with an Asian style dressing
  • made another salad with red and green lettuce, cucumber, red capsicum, cherry tomatoes and olives with a classic lemon and olive oil dressing

Herbed Salmon Risotto

about 2 1/2 cups of Arborio Rice
800 grams or so of fresh salmon - Sockeye, if you can get it ;-) cut into 30 mm cubes
half medium onion, finely chopped
a couple of cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup of olive oil
4 cups of good chicken stock
a bunch of Green Onions (Spring Onions down under)
a cup or so of good white wine (plus more to drink while you're cooking) - I used Pinot Grigio
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese don't overdo it
1/4 cup of sour cream
a loose handful of each of the following fresh herbs: dill, tarragon and basil
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
juice of 1 good ripe lemon

heat the stock to a low simmer
In a reasonably large pot (so you can stir easily and get good evaporation) sauté the onion in the olive oil; add the garlic for a minute or two when the onion is transparent
stir in the rice, coating all grains with the oil
pour in the white wine, stirring until absorbed/evaporated (have a sip or two while you're at it)
start adding the stock, about a cup at a time, stirring constantly (this is why you need your own glass at hand: some say making risotto is boring - not my way) while it is absorbed by the rice
when the rice is nearly done - but just still al dente - gently stir in the salmon, which will break up  into flakes as it cooks
stir in the green onions
stir in the cheese and sour cream
stir in the herbs and 
stir in the grated lemon rind
stir in the lemon juice
grate over and stir in black pepper

Now serve it all up with a smile!

You can be confident that this will go down well: everyone had a second helping. In fact Tim had four and I had three! (There was still some left over, which Di and I enjoyed the next night in Big Blue by steaming in one of our stainless steel bowls inside our big pot.)
After dinner we engaged in two games of Carcassonne, which Mary had purchased especially for our trip together. We had a lot of fun, and Tim was much happier with the network of towns we built the second time around.

We awoke the next morning to another beautiful day. Di and I were poised, ready to cook up a storm for breakfast but Mary and Tim suggested we have breakfast in the main lodge so that we could all relax together. That we did, and then set off for the drive south. Very soon after hitting the highway we spotted a group of mountain goat above some bluffs. Here's one of them:

Our next stop was at the stunning Athabasca Falls, about 30 kilometres south of Jasper. The Athabasca has been named one of Canada's heritage rivers. At Athabasca Falls it rips through a band of Gog quartzite and the effect is stupendous. It's hard really to capture the power of nature at work here, and I wish I'd tried taking a video, but this photo will give you a hint of what's going on:

Back on the road we continued south through the Icefields Parkway, this time enjoying the full benefit of clear skies. Here is a photo of one view along the drive:

Mary took a few nice snaps of Big Blue cruising down the Icefields Parkway. Here's one of the wonderful views early on ...

... and another further south ...

and another with the Bow Glacier in the background ...

We paused on the lakeshore to savour the moment. I took this little snapshot of the textured landscape:

We pulled over just before the end of the parkway to farewell Mary and Tim, who were driving on to Calgary when we turned west towards Revelstoke. It was so grand seeing them again and we are looking forward to the next time we catch up. At Golden we paused for a cup of coffee and sent Matt an email to see if we could co-ordinate meeting up for our planned ascent of Mt Gimli. Another short leg followed before we decided to pull off at a picnic area in Glacier National Park to heat our dinner - the aforementioned leftovers - and a bit of a rest before driving on.  Here's me kicking back with the Squamish guidebook while Di heats our risotto:

We were delighted to arrive in Revelstoke to find live music playing in the Revelstoke Plaza. Here's Sean Ashby in full song:

It turns out that we arrived on the first evening of the four day Revelstoke Railway Days festival, which celebrates 127 years of railway presence in Revelstoke. Each evening they have free music playing in the open air, a bunch of things in the Railway Museum, and a few other events.

While we were sitting listening to some tunes, Di noticed a wonderful little movie house just on our left called the Roxy Theatre:

The Bourne Legacy was scheduled to start at 8:00 just as the music was finishing up. It cost $6 for the old girl and $9 for her younger side-kick - very cheap compared to what we pay Downunder - so it was a no-brainer to spend a couple of hours speeding along with another outlandish American conspiracy theory. (Great chase scene, by the way.)

This capped off a classic Canadian road trip day traversing five - yes, five - Canadian National Parks (in order, Jasper, BanFF, Yoho, Glacier and Revelstoke.) Here's what the drive looks like on Google Maps:

It was about 500 kilometres with lots of mountain passes. A good workout for Big Blue, but he handled it all admirably. And so concludes another chapter of our Northwest Sojourn. We had spent more time and had more fun in the Rockies than we'd originally anticipated, and most of the extra richness is due to the great times connecting with folks. Thanks so much to all of you that have made this part of our trip so memorable!

Adieu from Doug and Di!

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