Our camping trip in British Columbia, Canada, including a drop down to Yellowstone National Park.

Category: anxiety

Icefields Parkway

[September 14th]

The nagging thought of the possibility of ice on the road (the weather, after all, is not all that predictable of late) has sent adrenaline coursing through my veins for far too long… I have to keep reminding myself time and again, to come back to the present moment!
Finally that nagging moment arrives, and of course, there is ice only way up high…

…mesmerizing glaciers around every corner.

The long anticipated Icefields Parkway.


0019animal bridge of which there were several

Icefields Parkway, dry as bone

Crowfoot Glacier

Bow Lake [photo by Hugo]
Bow Glacier0019f0019h

The amble to Peyto Lake took us up a fairly steep path flanked by light snow, passing several very interesting information boards.
What a spectacular sight!
On the return down, I am ashamed to admit, I was attacked by a Ptarmigan; I had spotted him foraging just off the path and could not bring myself to gather up my camera and move on until he decided to help me on my way by storming me. I felt bad for hours afterward for having disturbed him in his very own territory to that extent!


Moving on up, the much anticipated Columbia Icefield (and Jasper National Park) looms ahead of us.
We are a little parched by this time so head for coffee before settling down in one of the comfortable chairs provided on the deck of the Icefield Centre, in the howling wind, to soak in the sun and the sights.


The Columbia Icefield is a surviving remnant of the thick ice mass that once mantled most of Western Canada’s mountains. Lying on a wide, elevated plateau, it is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies.

The Athabasca is the most-visited glacier on the North American continent. Situated across from the Icefield Centre, its ice is in continuous motion, creeping forward at the rate of several centimeters per day. Spilling from the Columbia Icefield over three giant bedrock steps, the glacier flows down the valley like a frozen, slow-moving river. Because of a warming climate, the Athabasca Glacier has been receding or melting for the last 125 years. Losing half its volume and retreating more than 1.5 kms, the shrinking glacier has left a moonscape of rocky moraines in its wake.
~ taken from: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/jasper/activ/explore-interets/glacier-athabasca.aspx

The RIVERS! That COLOUR! It truly is a wonderland!


Next stop, Athabasca Falls:

A powerful, picturesque waterfall, Athabasca Falls is not known so much for the height of the falls (23 meters), as it is known for its force due to the large quantity of water falling into the gorge. Even on a cold morning in the fall, when river levels tend to be at their lowest, copious amounts of water flow over the falls. The river ‘falls’ over a layer of hard quartzite and through the softer limestone below carving the short gorge and a number of potholes. The falls can be safely viewed and photographed from various viewing platforms and walking trails around the falls.
~ taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athabasca_Falls


Tourists are a dead giveaway; you see them causing traffic obstructions wherever there is something to be seen… we are most definitely tourists!
Animals with horns like this are only seen in books after all…

0019w0019w10019w2There were no females in sight and we did keep our distance… I’m sure it was 30meters.

The awesome wonder of a day is drawing to a close and we need to find our campsite:
Another cozy spot amongst the tallest of trees.
Another fairytale river running through it.
A watering can with which to do our little bit.


Sleep comes easily this night.
On the morrow we will have to weather my miscalculation…

Thought for the day from Robert Holden:
It is because the world is so full of suffering,
that your happiness is a gift.
It is because the world is STILL so full of poverty,
that your wealth is a gift.
It is because the world can be so unfriendly,
that your smile is a gift.
It is because the world is so full of war,
that your peace of mind is a gift.
It is because the world is in such despair,
that your hope and optimism is a gift.
It is because the world is so afraid,
that your love is a gift.

~ The Happiness Project Mission Statement

Banff National Park

[September 13th]

We really do need to pinch ourselves on this day as we set out to explore Banff National Park, which, only a few months ago, coming from dusty Africa, seemed like an impossible dream; a place of beauty we could hardly imagine, a place of unimaginable hues in blue and white, mountains looming large and icy conditions.

It did not disappoint.

And so, on the morning of the 13th, after a hearty breakfast, we continued from our campsite along the Bow Valley Parkway which would take us right up to Lake Louise. There was consensus, when exploring the area online, that Lake Louise should not be missed. One really needs to hang around for a very long time to enjoy this area with all it has to offer, but we have only one day, so elimination had to be ruthless.




As the lake came into sight, it literally took my breath away!

Photos capture only the minutest fragments of the whole sensation of breath-taking wonder. I would like to just sit down and absorb it all… but try as I may I need to take photos, the compulsion to share is uncontrollable and yet nowhere near even good enough.

0018c0018d0018ethe 2 km stroll around the lake

looking back towards Fairmont Chateau, from where we first set eyes on the lake


Hugo walks up to Mirror Lake. Time is of the essence and I will not be able to walk fast enough – my steps are much smaller just for starters…

0018kh[photo by Hugo]

Finally it is time to move on. We head out to Moraine Lake. The road up is closed. There is a man sitting on the boom and cars are lined up. We wait. It soon becomes apparent that as cars drive out, others are allowed in. The queue is not long and thus our wait neither.
The 11km road, lined with the tallest trees allowing only glimpses of towering snow-capped peaks, winds its way up to the lake with cars parked along the road long before the end point. We decide that it is worth going all the way up as someone is bound to leave sooner or later. Sure enough, as we drive into the parking area, we replace the spot a visitor has vacated right before our eyes. By now we are ravenous so linger awhile to enjoy the lunch we packed in, surrounded now by those snow-capped mountains towering above us.


We will be looking for a rockpile. This is the quickest and easiest climb to achieve elevation to view the lake. The vision I have in my mind never equals reality, but in this case, the rockpile, right beside the lake, cannot be mistaken.

Moraine Lake, situated in the picturesque Valley of the Ten Peaks, is glacier fed and only half the size of Lake Louise. Melt water from the glacier brings with it rock flour or silt and it is the reflection off this that creates the spectacular colour.

[photo by Hugo]0018s0018t0018v
we do the lakeside walk

the glacier feeding the lake


I am reluctant to leave once again, but the day is drawing to a close and we have one more stop before heading back to camp.

Johnston Canyon.

Much as the photos of the canyon are enticing, my fear of heights is turning me into a less than happy chappy at the thought of actually doing the walk. Fortunately for me, time is on my side which means the turning point is reached at the lower falls. I am sure Hugo is more than disappointed to have to turn around, but then he did spend an extra 2 hours at Lake Louise hiking to Mirror Lake while I waited for him down below; I think it is fair to call it quits.

lower falls


Tomorrow we hit the Icefields Parkway… and please may there be no ice!



a little rusty

[september 12th]

Remember one thing: we come from the southern tip of Africa, where the winter temperatures seldom dip below 8degC and where snow is the stuff of fairy tales… it is with this in mind that we head out with just a little more than trepidation. We are a little rusty; it has been some time since we have ventured far off our doorstep.

We could have headed straight up to Banff from Cranbrook, but we have this desire to peep in on the other side of the Rockies and so we set out back through Fernie towards Alberta. This is a good move, as we already know Fernie, and its stores, which makes it a little less daunting to stop for provisions, which we now have to do for ourselves; no more B&G to treat us. Okay then, it is only me that finds anything new daunting for reasons even I cannot explain to myself. It seems I have difficulty processing too much information thrown at me all at once, especially in noisy and bright conditions. It helps to talk myself through my actions, which doesn’t look good at all if I am on my own; so grateful to have Hugo at my side.

A mere one week prior to this day, Fernie was still baking under a summer sun; we return now, to a wonderland of snow-capped peaks. Excitement fills the chilly air; snow is a novelty for us!


Just around the corner, the countryside opens out into rolling agricultural plains, flanked by the Rockies to the west.
It is a good 200kms to Calgary. We settle back to enjoy the ride. I am determined not to think about negotiating the city until it is time.

And then, too soon, it is time!

Hugo is driving; that is enough for him to deal with as the traffic hurtles down at him on the wrong side of the road. His brain has yet to adjust to 60+ years of incorrect information. In South Africa, we drive on the left side of the road.
I am faced, yet again, with information hurtling down on my brain. I must remember to breathe!
We do have a GPS, but it doesn’t allow me to anticipate the next move, at least not visually, and that is when I remember google maps. YAY! I have an iPad too, with reception! Oh, how I love technology! Never before have I appreciated that little blue moving dot quite as much as right now. Once again, standstill traffic is a blessing, if one is in the correct lane! The little blue dot ensures that I can direct Hugo accordingly in very good time.

In the end, I really enjoyed the little navigation exercise.

Time to fuel up. Hugo has been watching and learning; this is not something we have to do for ourselves in South Africa. He manages like a pro. Back to the Rockies we go.


Calgary looms


breathing space enough to enjoy the art



everything is super large

I can hardly contain myself as we roll in closer and closer to those magnificent mountains dusted with icicles thicker than ever I have set eyes upon before. I didn’t know which way to turn as we sped past snapshots, window-framed, in every direction.

But I must concentrate. We will need to turn off at some point and everybody seems to be in a rush to get to wherever they are going.

And then it was gone; we flew under it long before our brains could catch up with the instructions. We needed a park pass, this I knew, but I hadn’t registered that we needed it as we entered the area. Easy to panic. What to do? Eventually, the little ducks all fell into their row up there in the grey matter, and I realised that we could buy our park pass at our campground; the gates we had sailed past, sans laissez-passer, were more as a convenience for those travellers that were speeding right through and out at the other end. Breathe.

It was with relief that finally, our exit came into sight. Bow Valley Parkway was a narrow winding road through luscious scenery at a very reduced speed.

We found our pre-booked campsite in good time and settled down for a good night’s rest.

Lakes are on the menu once the new day dawns.



Thought for the day:

“Our lives are a collection of stories – truths about who we are, what we believe, what we come from, how we struggle, and how we are strong. When we can let go of what people think, and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness – the feeling that we are enough just as we are, and that we are worthy of love and belonging. If we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and have to hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness lives inside of our story. It’s time to walk into our experiences and to start living and loving with our whole hearts.”
~ Brené Brown


boiling river

[September 8th]

Galen is passionate about fly-fishing which leads us off the beaten track many a time to glorious rivers in glorious places. Today it is the turn of the Lava River, which they are going to walk from its single entry point. After a wonderful brunch on the river bank, they set off on foot while we head out on wheels to explore the rest of the main terrace as well as the upper terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs, which is just a hop away, from the eastern entrance this time.


Lava River


Mammoth Hot Springs from the main terrace


Cupid Spring


Canary Spring


Travertine Occupants

Feasting on Chemicals
Filamentous Bacteria

Thread-like filamentous bacteria link together, creating chains that can spread into aprons.  They live on hydrogen sulfide gas rising through vents.

Living on Sunshine

Like flowering plants, colorful cyanobacteria use light for energy, or photosynthesize.  If other microorganisms did not consume hydrogen sulfide gas near the vents, these sun-loving microbes would be poisoned. 

~ taken from an info board on site

Back on wheels we do the loop around the upper terrace, pass back through Mammoth Springs and pull in at the picnic spot on the Lava River, just as B&G emerge from under the bridge:


Orange Spring Mound

which reads:

Orange Spring Mound

1  Yellowstone’s volcano heats water deep underground.

2  Under great pressure, the water percolates upward through buried limestone, dissolving a mineral called calcium carbonate.

3  Above the ground, the water begins to cool and evaporate.  Gases are released and water pressure decreases.  Orange Spring Mound gradually grows as water flows over it, depositing calcium carbonate which hardens into travertine.

Heat dwelling bacteria and algae grow abundantly in Orange Spring Mound’s water creating tapestries of “living color.”


Angel Terrace


After all the geyser viewing, I had only one more request: Boiling River Trail and its destination which for some reason took on proportions of mysterious wonder in my mind. It did involve soaking in hot:cold water in a river out in the wilderness, which is surely the most favourite thing I could possibly dream of doing. Its destination alone was mysterious (most probably due to my habit of never reading instructions properly until it is absolutely necessary) and so it was, then, that, not minutes after entering the park at the north entrance a whole week back, we drove right on by it for a good kilometre without the slightest hint of its being there.

I have to admit I was a little nervous about actually doing what I so longed to do, not least of all due to all the bacteria warnings, but also due to the presence of other people in front of whom I would have to appear semi-naked (and that was before I knew how difficult it was to keep one’s balance over slippery rocks trying to reach a soaking spot)!
Still, I wasn’t going to miss out!

We found the parking easily, and the stroll along the sparkling Gardner River was indeed fit for slops.


Steam clouds appear.

Nervous excitement.

Scorching streams bubbling their way along; thrilling to bewitching proportions (yes, it takes very little for some of us to gain the same elevations that others find riding gigantic waves on a tiny board).

Everybody has stumbled out into the river where the arrow directed, but yours truly has seen stairs going down into the crystal clear water a little further back and I am not going to budge an inch from there.
H&I have the nook to ourselves and can wallow just inches from the steaming waters spilling into the icy pool, the main river rushing past just beyond the shelter of gathered rocks. Heaven is…!
H does attempt to join the crowd later but succumbs to lack of balance at the first opportunity. He is clearly enjoying it there, but cannot entice me in. B&G are undoubtedly having the best time of all, the scramble having been worth every minute.


scorching temperatures


spot H and B&G further back


yep, all fours


B&G wobble their way out

An underground discharge of water from a mysterious source beneath nearby hydrothermal terraces flows out of the ground at over 100 degrees. The channel joins the otherwise cold waters of the Gardner River, creating a blended pool that is too good to pass up.

~ taken from http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/boiling-river-hike-yellowstone/

What an awesome afternoon, but the day is not yet done.


mule deer en route back to camp


B&G leave us behind back at camp from where we will walk down to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone while they head out in search of another catch.
It is a lovely stroll down beside Tower Creek to the Tower Falls and all the way down to the Yellowstone River, and then back up, with hopes for a short ice cream break dashed as we came face to face with doors firmly shut for the day.


the path down to the creek




Yellowstone Canyon


The day ends with a spectacular display; the heavens too, are on fire.

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Thought for the day:
“I was so worried about getting approval that I forgot what I liked. I forgot how to be myself”
~ Amy Pearson


[september 1st]

We are heading for Yellowstone National Park. I am not too proud to admit that we are giving Glacier National Park a miss because I read about its road and lost my nerve ahead of time. Instead, we will stop in Missoula where ‘A River Runs Through It’, yes, the very one.


We have allowed plenty of time to get through the border, but to our surprise, a few questions at the checkpoint and a wave of the hand sends us off into the country. Galen and Britt cannot believe our good fortune… but, stay tuned for the next border episode into the States.
A coffee and wifi stop can now be enjoyed in peace, followed by lunch from the drive-thru at none other than the huge M

0007aThese RVs are SO out of our experience as South Africans, that we never quite become accustomed to their size, and quantity, on the road!

Definitely not my heart’s desire though – I’m a simple life girl…

0007c…this simple: a lone camp site on Flathead Lake – heaven IS!


0007iM is for Missoula – note the zig-zag path up. Fortunately there is NO time to linger!

After the Fly Shop Stop and stocking up on beer, we drive out to our campground for the next 2 nights. Britt is checking to see whether the yellow self-registration slip for this our most desirable choice of campsite, dwarfed by these massive Lodgepole Pines (I think), has expired. It has indeed!

No one else experiences the strange screeching during the night, screeching that flits around in what sounds like the treetops. I finally hit upon the idea that it must be owls, screeching owls. Imagine my joy when I find that there are indeed owls by that name to be found in the area. I cannot be sure, though, that the sounds recorded match the sounds I remember. Why that desperate need to label anyhow?

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