July 14th, 2015 Wine Tasting

 

Oliver the Wine Capital
Oliver the Wine Capital
Bonny's bubbly. She finally found a bottle she couldn't finish!
Bonny’s bubbly. She finally found a bottle she couldn’t finish!

This valley is known for its wine.  There are multiple wine trails with 88 winerys total.  Mel, you would love this. And… tasting we did.  Because of the climate in Kelona and the Lake Country region in the northern end of the valley, mostly white wine is bottled there.  We will be seeing more reds as we make our way south.  Apparently it gets more desert like with a longer growing season ( up to 180 more days).  We did go to 4 vineyards today.  Unfortunately, you can’t ship the wine to the US.  You can only bring 2 bottles per person back without paying duty.  We were not able to find out what the duty actually is.  Everyone said simply that it was “small”…no straight answers.  It is a little discouraging to taste and not be able to purchase much.  I can’t do 4 tastings in one day :  (   It was fun seeing all the different vineyards.  Only 84 to go :  )

As I was getting dressed to go tasting, I found I had been wearing hiking boots and shorts for so long, I wasn’t sure what was appropriate.  Putting on earrings, I thought I was really getting WAY too dressed up.
I think I tended to enjoy the smaller vineyards best.  They spent a lot of time answering questions.  I finally have an understanding of how ice wine is produced and the risk that a vineyard takes to produce it. It seems that the vineyard is on alert for picking as soon as the temperature is at a freezing temperature for 48 hours. If the grapes are not picked at the exact time, all is lost and what was to be ice wine becomes simply dessert wine.  this particular vineyard no long attempts to produce ice wine. The one large vineyard, Sunnyhills, that we visited was know for it’s sparklingly wine.  You know I love my “bubbly”.

July 13th, 2015

Today we leave these magnificent Canadian Rocky mountains via the Trans-Canada Hwy.  These 250 miles are probably the roughest Doug has driven.  If I didn’t have such faith in his abilities, I would have “white knuckled” much of the way….winding mountain roads, steep grades, rain, cliffs, two lane only roads,  and roundabouts.  I personally enjoyed the entire trip.  It was beautiful entering the Okanagan Valley.  This is lake country and known for its great grape growing climate-surprise! A Canadian Napa Valley.  Picture green hills covered in grape vine and apple trees, farm land with corn, pastures with cattle and horses edged with beautiful blue lakes.

Arrival in the Okanagan Valley - Notice the vineyards on the hills.
Arrival in the Okanagan Valley – Notice the vineyards on the hills.

As usual we didn’t have reservations or the Internet to search, so as soon as Doug had cell service, he started to call.  Our first choice was full and it even had 500 spots.  That was a little worrisome.  We were referred to Apple Orchard RV Park which was way off the beaten path. It has only 10 sites and is surrounded by apple and cherry orchards.

Sunset at Apple Orchards RV Park
Sunset at Apple Orchards RV Park

We sort of missed hearing the train every 2 hours at night, but the coyotes were out there.  The sunset was awesome and Doug is in hog heaven with access to the Internet.

July 11, 2015 – Happy 37th Birthday Andy

What a fabulous day!!!!  Doug and I seem to get started way to late in the day.  We did a “walk” along what they call the Bow River Loop near our camp grounds.  It actually was too warm and we returned to our site and enjoyed a few hours reading.  I hate finishing a good book.  I have done that twice already on this trip, so have decided to read The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett.  Fall of the Giants is the first of three and I only have 29 1/2 hours of reading left.  Yippee!! Doug is reading a couple of books and sometimes he reads to me.  I love it.

Around 4:30 we decided to do the gondola ride in the ski area.  It was so beautiful, you could see the glaciers above Lake Louise that are not visible from the lake.  The ski area is very nice.  Makes me wish I could ski.

On the way to the top
On the way to the top

The biggest treat of all was Olivia, bear #57.  We saw her below us on the lift and then were treated to watching her forge all around the perimeter of the lift, actually on a trail we had hoped to hike.   Doug got some very good photos of her.  However the “Interpreter” person seemed quite anxious with her bear spray and Walkie Talkie.  There was a similar electrified fence (as at the soft sided camp ground) there that seems to give the visitors (us) a sense of security she didn’t share. She repeated that this bear had gotten very frisky and social and that if she chose to go through the fence she would simply do so.  I was ready to hop on the lift and head towards home.

Olivia's big day!
Olivia’s big day!

Side note…We met a young family and asked them where they were headed…..Redding… to participate in Bethel Church.

How lucky does one get….we escaped with our lives and it started to rain just as we exited the lift.  We decided to reward ourselves with dinner out (we see certainly couldn’t BBQ).  We chose a place at The Post Hotel.  WOW.  We were admitted because we had the bottoms of our hiking pants zipped on….no bare legs in this place…..grubby hikers in a fancy French chateau …so we had chateaubriand and a bottle of wine.  Before you start thinking I am really spoiled…we had soup from WallMart for the previous two nights.  What I want to know is, who really lives likes this?  Andy, we celebrated your birthday for you.

Post Hotel Restaurant
Post Hotel Restaurant

The rain is thumping on the roof of the RV as I write.  I feel sorry for all those campers that expected to sit around a bonfire on a balmy summer night and even sorrier for the tent campers. I also wonder what the mosquitoes will be like tomorrow.

 

July 10th, 2015 – The Ice-Field Parkway

The Ice Field Parkway

At last I fell like I finally got to see a glacier up close and personal.  We took the parkway about 90 miles north of Lake Louise just into Jasper National Park. Along the way we saw several glaciers throughout the day.  Doug discovered a new phone app called GPySy Tour that followed our position on the parkway and narrated a description and gave us anecdotal information about what we were seeing…..it was great. I think I finally understand the difference between a glacier and an ice field and have a far greater appreciation of how these beautiful Rocky Mountains were formed. I am now a junior geologist!

Athabasca Glacier
Athabasca Glacier
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Glaciers Everywhere

If we ever are fortunate enough to return, I would like to hike the Wilcox Trail very near the Columbia Glacier Field.  It is about a 3 hour hike with extraordinary views of the glaciers and mountains.  This was recommended by one of the guides at the information center that found the swarms of tourists as unappealing as we did.  There  were long long lines of people waiting to  board a bus onto the Athabasca  Glacier.  As you know, Doug has an aversion to lines….so that was never going to happen.

Our last stop on the way back to our camp was this beautiful and VERY rustic lodge called Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.  If we weren’t expected back at the RV, we would have stayed for dinner.  This was not the “try to look rustic look” but the real thing……I would have liked to stay longer.

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Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
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Num-Ti-Jah Lodge – front yard!
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Another View from Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
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Lake Near Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

We came back for a glass of wine with our new neighbors my from BC.  They have been traveling since 2007 and have seen all of Canada and most of the U.S. wintering in Arizona, Florida, and Texas.  They were leaving the next morning, so we had a lot to learn in a short time.  The weather also changed and we were treated to thunder and lightening and a downpour instead of a camp fire.

A short word about Doug and the RV……He has done a wonderful job of making all of this work…..I have yet to be without power, fresh water, warmth, or a clean windshield.  The many systems on this RV are mind boggling.  Always the teacher, he is determined that I understand the difference between amps and volts and propane and a generator……this may take a lifetime :  )

July 9 th, 2015

Today we went to Banff.  It is approximately 30 miles southeast of Lake Louise down the Trans Canada Highway.  It is much bigger than the town of Lake Louise and dominated by the famous  Banff Springs Hotel. This is a castle like structure several stories high overlooking the Bow River and the water falls down river.  The majority of our time was spent exploring the hotel and enjoying a dinner on an outdoor patio overlooking the valley.  The view was stupendous. As usual, by the time I was starting to look in the shops, they were closing. (Doug here – good planning on my part!)

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Dinner on the terrace
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The Valley View From the Terrace
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Royal Canadian Mounted Police Monument at Banff Springs Hotel

The town consists of several bustling streets overflowing with tourists, just like us. The day was especially warm, according to our server, at 87 degrees with a haze spoiling the view due to a couple of fires some where in Washington and Oregon and another in Jasper.
For this reason, we decided not to take the gondola to the mountian top.  We were rewarded with the opportunity to watch two large deer that decided to hang out in the parking lot. They paid very little attention to the people gathered around.

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Deer at gondola
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Sunset on the drive from Banff to Lake Louise. Taken by BONNY McConnell not Doug McConnell. That would be BONNY – thanks.

July 8th, 2015

Today started off late because of train noise and going to bed after midnight. We can’t seem to adjust to the sunlight at 10 PM! Anyway, took a wonderful bike ride along the Bow River which is right by the camp[ground. Upon our return to our campground we found we had new neighbors – all the way from Long Beach, CA!. What a coincidence. Anyway we had fun trading Long Beach stories. The two couples in their Bounder were returning from the Calgary Stampede.

About 8 PM we decided to go up to Moraine Lake just in the mountains above us. We planned to eat about 10 so we had time for a quick hike and pictures of the lake near sunset. Well, the sample pictures are below and Doug will publish the remainder when we have better internet access. It is a beautiful glacial lake with the same unique aqua coloring due to being fed by glacial runoff. See for yourself!

Canoes at Moraine Lake
Canoes at Moraine Lake
Hiking around Moraine Lake
Hiking around Moraine Lake
Sunset Reflections
Sunset Reflections

July 7th, 2015

Doug and I have discussion “when does a walk become a hike?” We concurred that, if most of the women are carrying purses, it is a walk. Today we “walked” to the end of Lake Louise and then some. Beautiful. Doug’s pictures will prove that!

The lake is a chalky blue, almost milky in color from fine particles of rock that are scraped as the glacier moves down the mountain. The lake is fed by melting glaciers. The silt coming down the mountain is forming mud flats and the sediment that will eventually fill in the lake. The lake will become a meadow when the glacier ends. We wondered how long it will take before Lake Louise becomes a meadow but we will have to wait to get that answer. We believe that that is how Yosemite Valley was formed.

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This trip has really shown us how dependent we have become on the Internet. So many of my ” why” questions go unanswered. Today we paid $2 for 15 minutes of Internet connection. Tomorrow they are having a special for $5 all day! You have to sit on the sidewalk or on a bench outside a small office called “The Depot” and have a wireless connection. Phone cellular data is crazy expensive. Verizon is selling us 100 megabytes ( megabytes now – 1/10th of a GB) for $25. That translates into $250 per GB. Our Verizon plan in the USA has 15 GB for $50 per month. If we bought that 15 GB here is would const us $3750 a month! I bet there is some fascinating governmental regulatory reason for this amazing  difference.

We have actually considered coming back into the U.S. as we travel west just so we can text or make a phone call. I have even resorted to writing an occasional post card : )

The bike trails here are great, not paved but compact gravel.

This evening we went to a Ranger presentation on the Year in the Life of a Grizzly. Did you know that an adult Grizzly eats the equivalent of 75 Big Macs a day (200,000 Buffalo Berries a day) during the 6 months they are not hibernating? In addition, the sow grizzly will go into labor and deliver up to two cubs during hibernation!  These babies are a little over 1 pound at birth and are hairless.  Apparently she wakes up for the big event. Cleans up the cubs, shows them the food supply and goes back into her deep sleep while the cubs eat and grow. When spring time comes, they exit the den and start looking for Buffalo berries and tourists. Incidentally these cubs are not twins but the grizzly has delayed implantation of embryos from potentially several mates!

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Local Grizzly Photo While Walking

They have done a lot here in the park to protect the bear population as well as the human population. This large camp ground has an area for “soft” side camping and another for “hard” sided vehicles, like our RV. The area for tents is surrounded by a very unobtrusive fence that is electrically charged to keep the bears out of that area ( or is there to keep the people in?) – remember Jurassic Park? Our area is unprotected since we can keep our food easily secured and we can stay up at night counting the bears. (kidding)  There is a train that comes near the park it seems every 2 hours day and night. We could not understand why the engineers seem to lay on the horn. Apparently the trains are the number one killer of bears in the park. Total number of bears counted is 60. The train is also the number one cause of insomnia and eventual psychosis in the campers, particularly if you are trapped inside of an electric fence for the night – !!

Another interesting thing they do here to protect the wildlife is called “twinning”. As we were driving on the highway into the park we noticed what appeared to be very short tunnels on the road. They are actually overpasses for the animals to get from one side of the busy highway to the other side. Does it really work, we asked? We were told that 10 species of large mammals use these. A great way to prevent road kill.

Doug accuses me of changing the subject without telling him where I am going with the conversation…..ATTENTION….. I am changing the subject and going back to our conversation with Harry and his wife (Black Foot chief) of July 4th. We asked them if referring to them as Indians was offensive or would they prefer to be called Native Americans. He was OK with either but prefers Native American. We also talked about all the controversy about current the trend of forcing team names to be be changed to be politically correct. Harry and Jana said the only term that is ” highly offensive” is the name Redskins. I was always taught the it was the Indians that scalped the white man. Harry said it was the English settlers that paid a bounty for Indian skins and scalps first, not the other way around….hence the name “redskin’. He also said that the price paid was different if the scalp was that of a child as opposed to an adult. It seems the brutality was horrendous on both sides. Doug and I have always thought this “Redskins” issue was silly bickering in a world with so many other important issues to address….talking to Chief Harry helped us see “Redskins” through the Chief’s eyes. A good day… a lesson learned and our opinion changed with knowledge of the origin of this name. The chief is fine by the way with Indians, Warriors, Braves etc. Those are honoring Native Americans. “Redskins” is a dark term of slaughter for bounty and the cheapening of human life.

July 6th, 2015 – On To Lake Louise

How delightful it is to wake up surrounded by pine trees and sunshine. Yesterday, July 5th ,we woke up to rain, wind,clouds, puddles and mud. We weren’t very motivated to get started, so we didn’t. A late start and a border crossing into Canada yielded a beautiful drive through the prairie land of Alberta…..farming and ranching for as far a your eye could see.

Calgary is one of the biggest cities I have seen in a month and has a population of 900,000. It is very clean on the periphery with lots and lots of newer looking housing tracts. My question is why they were built so close together when there is so much land? I can’t answer that because we also don’t have any wifi access. Our phones and tablets are essentially off…the expense here for cellular Internet access is enormous. Could it be that Canada does not want its people glued to a machine? The subtle differences you see here are interesting. Everything is also written in French. You can’t buy liquor at Costco or WallMart. Our debit card was not accepted at Costco and their money looks funny! We arrived July 5th in Lake Louise about 9:30 at night but it was still daylight here in the north country!

Arriving at Lake Louise 9:30 PM
Arriving at Lake Louise 9:30 PM

Today we just explored and looked into what we want to see here. We tried to go to Lake Louise Chalet twice, but the traffic was so incredibly bad, we turned around. We will go early in the morning tomorrow. We started driving up towards an ice field, but got so enthralled with taking pictures of the wildflowers, that we never made it.

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Bee Business

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After an early dinner, we attended one of the ranger led shows in the camp ground on hiking “ToThe Top” of Temple Mountain. Great history lesson, safety tips, and humor. Our camp site is one of the nicest we have ever been in despite the fact that it only provides electricity 30 amps (occasionally), no available water and no sewer connection. The sites are all pull through that will accommodate a big rig and are situated at least 20 yards from your neighbor’s site with forest and pines in between for privacy….we hope to extend here at least 3 more days…we just have to ask daily for cancellations and be willing to move.

 

July 4th Happy Fourth of July!

July 4th…..Happy 4th of July

We moved the coach again to an overflow area and now actually have the best spot in the park.  We are now dry camping without any hookups.

View Through The Window
View Through The Window

We went on a boat ride in Mary Lake early this morning and met the Chief of the Black Feet Indians for this region. He was an Army vet and The Chief (Chairman) and Doug struck up a conversation at a bridge we were hiking on.  At his invitation, we went to his house in the afternoon and met several of this 18 siblings. The family has a lovely summer home on the banks of the St. Mary river just north of where we have been staying. He is a very interesting man working hard with his Tribal Council to address the many challenges faced be the Native American Nations. He and Doug talked about healthcare, land rights, old treaties, and even the Washington Redskins name controversy. We made another new friend!

Mary Lake View
Mary Lake View
Harry, the chairman (Chief) of the Blackfeet Tribe and his wife, Jana
Interior Decorating - Montana Style
Interior Decorating – Montana Style

Tomorrow onto Canada – weather permitting. Big storm for tonight!

 

July 2nd – Happy Birthday Karen Hoyt

Chores today.  It is time to wash those things we wear over and over.  We did  made the same mistake we have made many times before….we just can’t seem to get it right.  This trip we made sure we have plenty of clothes for cool weather, after all we are in the mountains….the temperature hasn’t been below 80 during the day.  My one pair of shorts can stand up by themselves.

Here is our camp site at the end of the day. Full moon rising still warm at 10 PM but we have to have a camp fire. Beautiful evening and on phone to grandkids.

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Roughing it Smoothly – calling home by a full moon