Holidays and Other Excursions

Tag: bears


Wednesday 13 May 2015

Before starting this little update I should mention that the Winnipeg posting from a couple of days ago has had a small update.

When we arrived last night there was a quick tour round this little town.  Essentially two main streets and with only a slight deviation we reach our hotel – Best Western Jasper Inn.  Now re-united with our luggage we can unpack and also we can catch up with social networks at home and news (little enough of that goes a long way).  Also a proper shower is welcome.

Come the morning it is a half day tour around the lakes and mountains which are part of the Jasper National Park and we are bouyed by reports from fellow travellers who had encountered elks when they sauntered into town for dinner the previous evening.  Sadly Maligne Lake is still frozen and therefore not worth the trip but instead we go to Lake Patricia and then to Medicine Lake whilst seeking visibility of deer and hopefully more bears.

The photographs of this excursion can be found at this link.

We are enjoying more wonderful sunny weather, a nice crisp morning but the sun is beating down, very slight breeze if at all and at Patricia Lake (that well known film star) we are able to obtain some lovely pictures of mountains with pitch perfect reflections.  I know that the weather we are enjoying is unusual for the time of year but it is all part of a wonderful experience and random photos through the coach windows hardly do the scenery justice.

Our next stop is at Medicine Lake which has no obvious outflowing river. This caused much investigation and it was found that the water drained from the bottom of the lake through rock and re-appears many miles away at Athabasca Springs.  Many attempts were made initially to block the outflow when the cause was found but nothing was successful.  In recent weeks the residents of Ambridge would have welcomed such a self draining arrangement.

The sky is blue and we are enjoying glorious sunshine – this is at some elevation; at sea level I would probably be resorting to shorts.  This little town has mountains surrounding it, lovely clear air and the residents are friendly and welcoming.

We find a small pizza place for lunch and have a small salad and a smallish pizza which we consider is more than adequate and then wander back to the hotel as the warmth and fresh air has taken its toll and we need a sleep!  One matter on which I have not previously remarked is the apparent Canadian addiction to sport.  It seems a bar cannot exist without one, two or three screens showing sport and indeed often several screens showing different sports.  Even in the relatively upmarket bar in the hotel in Toronto this was evident, I am sure I hear people moving round to obtain a view of a particular event; thankfully some of the better restaurants have not adopted this as yet.

Come the evening we wander back along the road into town and whilst we do not see any elks, we do see something which could well be elk poo; so they must indeed visit the town – presumably much later in the evening.  Unless our fellow travellers were suffering the effect of alcohol consumption.

A brief mention of the hotel breakfast.  Outstandingly good.  My wife has fallen in love with blueberry pancakes on this tour and the scrambled eggs on one morning and green eggs and ham on the second (which I ate) were both excellent.  Sometimes scrambled eggs can sit around in a watery “grave” waiting to consumed.  Not here.  And the quality of everything is good.  by now it goes without saying that the service is friendly even if a little run off their feet with the entire tour appearing at almost the same time.

Our dining target this evening had been identified earlier in the day – Syrahs – a restaurant which we discover is celerating a first birthday with a special menu arrangement – $59 for two, although there are some minor exclusions of the signature dish of elk.  This is not a difficulty and we make selections from the menu – I open with an elk carpaccio and follow that with a very nice piece of salmon.  Jackie had had salmon bruschetta to start and an Albertan steak to follow.  We shared a cheeseboard – the local “mozarella” like cheese was tasteless but the harder “parmesan” cheese and the blue “stilton” were both excellent.  The overall meal was lovely and complimented by a decent beer, a good bottle of red wine and the usual customer friendly service which we have come to expect during our stay in Canada.

During dinner we are entertained by the activities of two small birds outside the window.  They have obviously discovered that the bugs smeared on the front of cars are very tasty and being dead are not difficult to catch.  The two of them seem to attack the front grill (one can hardly refer to radiator any longer) or spoilers and one tends to knock the dead bug down for the other to eat.  At one stage one of them seems to disappear for a period and it seems likely that he/she was on the inside with the other one still hopping around at ground level.  Then another car would arrive and they would switch their attention to the new arrival.

We wander back through this delightful town, still warm and free of elks.  We take in once again the surrounding mountains and note from the rusty four by fours as they drive past that it is clearly the case that the winter can be very difficult.  But what a wonderful place to be able to visit and enjoy whilst be looked after so very well.

Good night.

Westward to Jasper

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Around Winnipeg the scenery changes and becomes very flat and is major grain and potato producing countryside; the line is pretty straight compared with earlier and we no longer seem to always have the lineside telegraph poles – they come and go.

Come morning the scenery has changed again, pleasantly undulating and a mixture of small lakes, forestry, farming and even some nodding donkeys as we are in oil country apparently.  There are even some curves to try and get some pictures of the locomotives at the head of our consist.

Again the photos can be found here.

The meal arrangements change again with a “continental” breakfast followed by “brunch” at an early lunchtime.  Early because we are due to arrive in Jasper before three normal sittings could be achieved.  However we are still running around five hours late and apparently management has now become aware that we are late.

So we watch the world going by and reach Edmonton about the time we should have been in Jasper having consumed a very nice lobster ravioli for my brunch.  At Edmonton an extra observation car is cut in about half way along the train and now we are due to start climbing through the run to Jasper.  Anyway in the dining car over lunch we are allocated to the second sitting for dinner (at 7pm) if we are running late and have not reached Jasper.  It seems likely however that we will reach our destination about 18:00.

Actually in general terms the food on the train has been pretty good.  The menu has contained a couple of vegetable soups – in four meals why repeat anything? – a good chicken soup and some excellent huge veal chops at dinner.  Good generally well prepared food has been a welcome comfort in the light of the other aspects of the operation.

The same cannot be said of the choice of wines.  All Canadian, three white, three red.  I am advised by my resident advisor that only one of the reds is consumable – a pity as evidence in Toronto was that local wines are not that bad.  Perhaps whoever chooses for VIA Rail has a different set of taste buds.  A reasonable selection of local beers for me; but no cider and the local ice wine is on the menu but not in stock.
Disappointment – no cheeses provided in the dessert selection; the chocolate cake and others are highly recommended but the diabetic is offered a fruit cup which eventually and reluctantly is admitted not to be entirely fresh but to contain an element of canned and therefore contained in syrup fruits.  This seems to be mixed as certainly a couple of the fruit cups were not drowned in syrup.  It seems the diabetes problem does not exist in Canada.

As we run in towards Jasper the Canadian Rockies initially appear as snow capped distant hills but develop steadily as we close on our destination, still nearly 6 hours late.  On the outskirts we traverse a tunnel and as we emerge there are two black bears on the hillside above the train as if they were looking for a can opener!  We arrive and board a coach for a trip around the town and into our hotel.  We have wifi and communication with the rest of the world and we can stop counting how long the freight trains are as the ground is now stable under our feet.