Sunday, May 29, 2016

Destination Circle: Day 13

May 26, 2016

Jeepers! I forgot the highlight of yesterday. For a couple of hours, we saw humpback whales south of Juneau. In the distance, someone would spot a "blow" and then we would soon see a whale's rounded back or one would waggle a long flipper or show its tail. Once, quite near, a whale breached...truly a thrill. Porpoises in small groups were also rapidly moving through the ocean close to the ship.

Only a dozen passengers were left by the time we got to Skagway early this morning. Three other cruise ships were berthed here, the most amazing being the Disney Wonder, a sister ship to the Disney Magic. It was incongruous to see this glamour and ostentation in the harbor of a small Alaskan town, towering OVER the town, at the end of its main street. It was the Donald Trump of cruise ships.

en.wikipedia.org:

"Both ships have 11 public decks, can accommodate 2,400 passengers in 875 staterooms, and have a crew of approximately 950. Disney Wonder was built in the year following completion of Disney Magic. As of 2015, Disney Wonder sails various North American itineraries on a seasonal basis.
Disney Wonder's Captain is Captain Fabian Dib and her "godmother" is Tinker Bell."

Skagway
Bald Eagles near Dyea / Skagway 
Skagway obviously has defined itself as a tourist destination with dozens (probably a hundred) shops and businesses lining the wooden sidewalks. They all have tasteful signs and many have expensive wares; there are small restaurants, aromatherapy stores, massage and yoga studios, art galleries and stores with the expected tackier tourist stuff but toned-down in presentation...all mingled with the necessary commerce that towns need. What I needed was a good cup of coffee. The air was fresh and cool but not cold. It was early and peaceful on Main Street with few people. While I waited in line in the coffee house, another customer with a very loud voice told me (and all the other clientele) about winning the lottery the only time he was ever in Michigan...like $750. Overhearing this, another guy asked me if I knew about Stony Lake. He had been a counselor at a camp there once. He talked quietly and called me Ma'am and told me to go to Dyea (Die-ee) which he spelled for me. "It's our sister town," he said and gave me directions. He was the typical recreational outdoorsy type one sees everywhere in the west where there are mountains or rivers or rocks to climb. So I went to Dyea. It was only a 16-mile detour off my road out of town. And I saw a life bird! an Arctic Tern. There is, of course, much attention given to gold rush era all through here. The Chilkoot Trail, which was the beginning of route to the Yukon gold fields in the late 1890s, starts in Dyea. The hopeful miners were headed to the Klondike river in Yukon Territory over the mountains to the north.

Grizzly on the road to Carcross
I spent the day moving in that direction, back into Canada, first through British Columbia and then into Yukon Territory. Within 10 minutes of passing through customs, a van ahead of me was stopped half on and half off the road. A young grizzly was foraging out in the open and very close. I carefully pulled off and watched it walk right past my car, a beautiful creature, its beauty and slow graceful movement a counterpoint to its potential ability to maul me to a bloody mess in seconds. I love reading bear attack stories which always, always describe how powerful and quick and ferocious bears can be. But this one had no bad intentions and ambled across the road just in front of a car coming around the curve, which fortunately saw it and slowed. 

I stopped in Carcross, BC, for a gas station lunch and coffee and thought about looking for the Polly's grave in the cemetery here. Someone on the ship had told me about this parrot of the Klondike era, how it got famous and finally died in 1972 reportedly having lived for 125 years, and how it was an awful bird known for "biting, drinking and swearing." But Carcross seemed especially dismal and charmless and I needed to get to Whitehorse and a good night's sleep. Actually, I forgot about Polly until I was well past the town. 

The scenery was again stunning, and even though the elevation of the route is not particularly high, it SEEMED high, with snow on the peaks and stunted, tundra-like flora. 

I love traveling where I've never been before. It all usually works out without too much planning ahead, and there are surprises. I thought, for instance, that Carcross would be at least a town of note, but it has a population of less than 300, so it's barely a village. I thought Whitehorse would be a small rough-around-the-edges western town, but it was bustling and much larger than I thought, sort of like a Missoula or a Traverse City.  It was raining hard when I arrived. I sat in my car, sorting things out, knowing the rain would soon stop as the sky was blue in the west. It eventually did, and I checked into a Best Western. I get Priceline deals that make motels an easy rationalization  And the current Best Western promotion is a $50 credit after two stays. 

A White-crowned Sparrow was singing loudly from a tree top in the parking lot, but I surely have not seen many birds on this trip. 

I had pork and veggie spring rolls in the hotel restaurant (a noisy sports bar) where most patrons were watching the Stanley Cup playoffs, even though Canada is no longer a contender. I watched a table near me: a girl and five guys. One guy looked a bit nerdy and was wearing a white shirt and tie; the other guys were typical 20-somethings bantering and decompressing after working in the office all day. The chick had thick blond braids loosely tied behind her head, beautiful skin, large glasses with pinkish plastic rims, a small piercing in her philtrum, tattoos from her elbows up which disappeared into her short-sleeved blouse; no makeup, talkative and flirty but not obnoxious...kind of like a Heidi who grew up and moved to the city. 

My room was a favorite location in motels: the second floor looking west. But I could easily hear the distracting TV next door. After an hour, I called the desk and the desk guy said it was the band downstairs and I said it wasn't. He offered to investigate but almost at that moment, the noise stopped, mostly for good. 

an amazing greenish color in a lake south of Whitehorse




Friday, May 27, 2016

Destination Circle: Day 12


May 25, 2016

Woke up on the water....traveling is seductive, isn't it? with all the memories one accumulates. Faith, you must have millions. Are your trips still clearly and easily recalled? all the wonderful and unexpected details and situations and people and geographies?

I had no idea what time it was or what time zone I was actually in. The clock in the cafeteria said 10:40, but no one was up and about. Folks were huddled in sleeping bags or under blankets on couches. I found coffee and an employee offered to get me an actual coffee cup and told me the "waxed" cups  on the counter weren't good for hot drinks, etc, etc. He was a young Native; other than the employees,  almost every person was Caucasian. Many were middle-aged to older couples speaking French or German (interestingly, no Japanese on board); some were slightly loose and disheveled (but in the backpacker way, not the biker way) and were usually on the open deck; and increasing numbers of young mothers with very noisy kids and babies came aboard as we moved north. It was 5:50 a.m. I figured out as I sat in the front, watching for birds and reading and drinking coffee. Perfect....

Seals taking their leisure where they can
The ocean was calmer now that we were definitely on the INLAND waterway, calm but mostly overcast with intermittent rain all day. I saw a life bird: a Pacific Loon, similar to the Common but which has a pearly grey head and neck. Gulls and Pigeon Guillemots were numerous along with other species flying swiftly over the water that I couldn't ID.

I read most of the day, a book of essays by Peter Hessler. He had at one time been in the Peace Corps in China and then stayed as a journalist, and much of his writing is about that country. It was quiet and civil. There were no TV or radios or any digital stuff happening, except for cameras. Many of the men had binoculars but weren't birders, and nearly everyone took photos. We stopped at Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau, Haines and finally Skagway the next morning. Each stop was prolonged as the captain had to do no damage to his ship or the docks and moved cautiously. The harbors had small to medium-sized fishing boats; the homes rose on slight hills. These villages are isolated collections of humans in a world of water and trees and wilderness. Much of the route is actually through the Tongrass National Forest. One cannot drive to Ketchikan or Juneau - it's either boat or plane, and I wondered about health care and medical emergencies, the schools, the kids growing up, the social hierarchies, the economies. Two Alaskan guys were gabbing, and the subject arose of moving Alaska's capital (now Juneau) to a more accessible city. The more voluble, opinionated one said that this wouldn't happen as the politicians like that their constituents "couldn't get to them easily."

Table top in the cafeteria on the Matanuska
Four of the tabletops in the spacious cafeteria were works of art, commissioned by various government agencies. Birds, animals, sea fauna and shells each had a separate table. Really, they were beautiful, accurate and informative, as good as any nature guide.

I moved from side to side, from window seat to window seat depending on the direction of the rain. I went to the open deck and read there and spent time outside watching as the captain moved through a long narrows aided by red and green navigational buoys. It was a nice bit of seafaring.

through a narrow strait on the Matanuska

If I ever do this route again, I would sleep out on the deck in a sleeping bag or on a couch inside. The rattling in my cabin was not dulled by Dramamine the second night and was significant. I saw where previous occupants had shoved pieces of cardboard between the metal joint of the bunk above, and I added another six pieces with no improvement. I slept fitfully for four hours.












Thursday, May 26, 2016

Destination Circle: Day 11


May 24, 2016

I saw a Safeway yesterday that had a Starbucks, so I headed there after checking out. I had to be at the ferry dock at 2:30 p.m. I bought fruit and a few other things to eat on the ship, sorted out my car and packed stuff I would need since I wouldn't have access to my car and would be on the boat for two nights. I then went to the Museum of Northern British Columbia which was right across the street from the grocery store. Small but informative and nicely done as many museums are. 

I headed for the ferry. I was early and figured I would read in my car but then noticed my tire pressure warning light was on. F____! I have a tire gauge, checked the tires and one was low. I used Gas Buddy to find the nearest gas station, tried to put air in, kept getting inconsistent readings, put more air in, nothing improved, googled “how to put air in a tire” which explained exactly what I was doing and which wasn't working but also suggested going to a tire shop and have them do it. I googled "tire shop," found one right across the street from the hostel, went there and they checked the offending tire and put air in at no charge. Of course, I worried that there was a REASON the tire is losing air, but at least for the next four hours, no warning light came on.

Several vehicles were already in line at the Alaska Marine Highway terminal. They measured the length of my car. I went in and got a boarding pass, showed my passport and got a form to fill out for customs as once I got on the boat, I would be back in the US...sort of. 

Various middle-aged men came and talked to me. One, whose wife had passed away recently was returing to Juneau (where he had lived for 62 years) to see if he wanted to go back since he and his wife had moved to Tennessee before she died. He was driving a huge motor home Another guy was from Minnesota, traveling alone and we talked routes and highways. Another one had built a hot rod truck which I had noticed as it was nosiy and bright orange and was towing a travel trailer. He was carrying a small poodle. He had written a book (So You Want to Build a Hot Rod) and was planning to write the last chapter on this trip. He also told me how desparately his wife wants to dress in her elf gear (“She just LOVES Christmas!”) and get photos taken at North Pole, Alaska. HE wants to be above the Arctic Circle in "Coldfoot on June 21" to see the sun circle (motioning with his hands) the sky at the solstice. We also talked routes and travel. There were many large RVs, some pickup trucks hauling trailers, vans and one small bright green sedan with a bright green canoe on top.

A found a $20 Canadian bill under my car. The bills are weird-feeling, like plastic with a transparent section. Their one dollar is a coin with a loon on it and is called a loonie. 

A guy came by asking about fruit, and since the apples and oranges I had just bought were not from the US or Canada, they were not allowed. He said they would be donated to the local food bank. I had a HAZ sticker for my bear spray but no one seemed concerned about that.

Me and one other car were last to load as we are going to Skagway, the end of the line. My destination for the ferry was either Skagway or Haines, and Dave and Ellen said they were an hour apart and wouldn't matter much for my plan.

a Cosco container ship...much more impressive than this photo shows
A huge Cosco container ship was parked near us, and gigantic cranes were loading and arranging shipping containers, hundreds of them. And a train was bringing more. 

Inland waterway along the BC coast
After an interminable wait, we finally left. The sky had cleared, and it was exciting to be moving. I got a stateroom on the outside for a reasonable rate. Some people put up tents or hammocks on the open deck; many sleep inside as there are several lounges and the ferry is not yet crowded this time of year. There is also an open air but covered solarium with heat lamps, so we had several options for moving about. The ship was the MV Matanuska, an older vessel in the AMH system.

After a couple of hours, I took a preemptive Dramamine because I live in utter terror of being the least bit queasy, and we were rolling some as the wind was up. We started this trip in more open water before getting behind the coastal islands. I didn't really feel nauseated but was neurotically nervous about the possibility. 

So I then fell asleep with my clothes on until we reached Ketchikan where it seemed we dawdled for hours. It was 00:16 when I woke up, got on pajamas, ate 15 craquelins with cranberries, read until I got drowsy again and slept OK, barely tolerating the loud rattle above my head that sounded exactly like rain on a tin roof except it waxed and waned with the boat motion – loud, softer, loud, softer – every 10 seconds.  
the MV Matanuska 

Destination Circle: Day 10

May 23, 2016

West of Smithers BC
The drive from Smithers was one more spectacle of snow-covered mountains in brilliant sunlight. It is a national holiday in Canada and traffic was sparse. I stopped for breakfast at Kitwanga where the Cassiar highway goes north to Alaska, one of two options for driving to Alaska from the US, the other being the ALCAN, also known as the Alaska Highway.

I stopped for a late breakfast in a busy road house / gas station / restaurant, definitely an edgier venue than the relatively sedate places I've stopped to date. A rangy tall guy was waiting outside with his backpack and belongings, probably hitching, one foot against the wall. A couple of Harley dudes with bandanas were messing with their cycles. The restaurant clientele was mostly First Nation, as was my waitress. I just made the breakfast cut-off time of 11:00 and had the best bacon I've ever had in my life. Service was slow which is fine with me. I always have a book to read and like the lingering after driving, driving, driving. I always feel a need to be especially respectful of Native American or First Nation people - historic guilt I guess. I don't want them to defer to me and would like their respect in turn.

I love hearing the lilt in their voices as they chatter free and at ease amongst themselves. What do they really think of us?

I saw the first billboard warning girls about hitchhiking along the route I was taking, with photos of three murdered girls. It was called Trail of Sorrow or Trail of Terror...something like that. I saw a couple more signs along the way as I drove west. "Killer on the Loose" said one.....Jeez. 

Port Rupert, BC
The way west was entirely along the Skeena River all the way to Prince Rupert with more mountains, intermittent waterfalls and no gas for 100 miles. Nor did I see wildlife, roadkill or even many birds. As I got closer to Prince Rupert, the traffic increased however, and folks were fishing the river. The Canadian Pacific Trunk Railway runs through this valley also. As I neared the coast, the sunshine slowly turned to mist and drizzle and gloomy grey skies. 

The hostel in Port Rupert.
So, where to stay? Not in a tent in the drizzly cold; not in my car as it was way too early in the day....(the slightest excuse for not camping is sufficient). I spent 30 minutes researching options and picked a “guest house” which turned to to be a backpacker / hostel. I walked in and no one was around except a gentleman with a French accent working at a table in the dining area on a computer. He thought perhaps someone was upstairs, so I went up two flights, calling out “Hello? Hello?” and finally a young girl came out of a room she had been cleaning and checked me in. The place smelled like Eunice's house...that good herbal, veggie, spicy scent. There was a front room with couches and books, a communal kitchen and dining area and various sleeping rooms, either with private baths or shared. I got one with a private bath. It was spartan but clean with great bedding.

I was feeling a teeny bit queasy so decided to walk about in the fresh air, passed a couple of waterfront restaurants / pubs, wasn't tempted, so went to a grocery store and got gingerale, goat cheese and rice crackers which totally sufficed for dinner. Ravens were making weird loud croaking noises from on the top of a nearby building.

When I got back, I intended to read in the living room on one of the two couches. There was a woman on the other who was waiting for a taxi to take her to the ferry (which is why I also am in Prince Rupert, although I won't leave until tomorrow afternoon). She was going to Queen Charlotte Island – an overnight ferry ride – and will spend two weeks there. She was (I guessed) in her 50s or 60s, was born in Switzerland, now lives in Canada, has raised a family and was doing this on her own. We talked a lot about women traveling by themselves. She told me how she and her family had had a grand RV trip planned just before 9/11. They considered cancelling but decided to go anyway – across Canada, down into Maine and across the US, including the Grand Canyon where they benefitted from the fear following 9/11. Since there were so many cancellations, she and her family were able to hike in the canyon and stay in the park. We didn't get into her situation, but she was doing this current trip on her own. She had also gone to Costa Rica by herself for several weeks recently. We never even exchanged names but had a pleasant chat. Her taxi came; she picked up all her gear and off she went to explore this place where indigenous Haida live. Queen Charlotte is largely rain forest habitat off the coast of British Columbia.

It's funny: when people ask me where I live, and I say Michigan, there are folks who can barely place the state in the US....like they are not sure if it is in the Midwest, or the east, or exactly where it is, especially those from the western Canadian provinces. But then, how many Americans can correctly locate the Canadian provinces on a map...

After she left, I was reading and a young blond girl (who had replaced the girl who checked me in) was doing laundry and folding towels and sheets in the living room. After 9 p.m., no one would be on the premises I was told, but if there were problems, I could call a number and wait at the “front door” and someone would come. There was also a yarn shop off the living room. Both businesses have been for sale for two years but the owner wants a lot of money and isn't pressured to sell unless she gets the right price.

Two guys came in speaking French. One turned on the TV but on mute. I told him I wouldn't mind, he could listen, but he shrugged and said he just wanted to get the score. There is some big sport tournament happening in Canada, as last night at least two people came into the place I was eating and immediately asked the waitress what the score was. Hockey?


I left him the living room, went to bed and was reading when there was a persistent knock at my door. It was a young Asian girl who had just arrived and who wondered if I was in the "women's dormitory? and what type of room exactly had I signed up for?" I told her the guys were upstairs, and we agreed she should just take one of the rooms downstairs and figure it out in the morning. 

After that I soon fell asleep and had the second wonderful night of sleep so far on this trip. I am wondering if eating light later in the day makes for sounder sleep? 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Destination Circle: Day 9

May 22, 2016

The rain was coming down with no mercy when I woke up and the temperature was in the 40s. It was Sunday, and there was only one table left in the restaurant where I lingered over eggs, bacon and coffee. Wait staff use clever hand-held gadgets for payment at one's table. I've only seen them in Canada although perhaps they are not that new elsewhere....just not in the US where I have travelled. A credit / debit card is inserted and one is prompted through the process. It handles chips, prints a receipt and gives tip options, with ease and efficiency.

As soon as I started driving west, I entered another area with no gas for 100 miles. This has been quite common in Canada which speaks to the lack of commerce and abundance of nature. Eventually the rain stopped and the day cleared to sunshine and blue skies, mountains and deep forests showing many shades of green as various deciduous trees are leaving out. The scent of evergreens fills the air and always smooths the ragged edges of my inner dialogue. The trees are gigantic.

along Canada highway 16 West
Black bear  
Early in the day and just after seeing a sign warning of moose collisions, I saw a moose. How cool is that? chocolate-colored, large and standing in the drizzle on the green grassy verge. And a bit later, I rounded a curve and saw a black bear, probably a cub, in the open at the edge of the forest. It scuttled just into the tree line and then stopped and checked out what I was going to do, which was (of course) try for a photo.

Traffic was light and I got used to the metric system, staying close to the posted speed limits although most other drivers didn't. Not once have I seen provincial police patrolling the roads.

I have been listening to the CBC (Canada's NPR) and am impressed with the content and the way guests are allowed to talk at length without interruption by the hosts. The pace is slower, not so frenetic, more measured, and people are given time to express their views. And, I have heard very little about Trump; no hyperventilating commentators saying one more time how unstable, unsuitable and ill-informed Trump is or expressing feeble outrage over his latest declarations.

I heard a fascinating interview with Jay Parini, a professor at Middlebury Colllege in Vermont who wrote about his long friendship with Gore Vidal, a book titled The Empire of Self.

I arrived in Smithers, BC, late afternoon, checked into a motel, asked for a room change, was granted that and now looked at the mountains to the west. I walked around the area chasing a bird and failed to find it since it was singing in the trees behind a gate to "Private Property."

between McBride and Smithers, BC





Monday, May 23, 2016

Destination Circle: Day 8

May 21, 2016

I woke before 6 a.m. as I was now in the Pacific Time Zone. The mountains were totally obscured by clouds, except for a brief momentary glimpse while I was in the dining room. One's senses seem almost physically assaulted by the proximity of these wild and rugged peaks.

The most tasty item at breakfast was toast with orange marmalade which came in a little hexagonal, 1-1/2-inch tall, unlabelled, glass container. Daffodils were blooming in the cool air outside the window. I coveted the silverware which was heavy and Scandinavian in design.

After eating, I sat by the fireplace and worked on my computer for an hour before leaving. By the time I got to the "village," a couple of miles down the mountain, the clouds were starting to clear. People were bustling about as buying stuff on vacation is the most attractive option for many. I got gas and then found myself in a bookstore. Fortunately, Boo called and I left to talk to her outside and so didn't buy MORE BOOKS. But I did find a couple of toys for Tesla and Joey and a fancy holographic postcard of a moose for $5. I've been sending them a postcard each day and walked to the post office for stamps, all of which, regardless of whether one is sending a normal postcard, a fancy large postcard or a letter, were $1.20 Canadian. "Makes it easy, eh?" the pleasant female postal worker said.

I left Lake Louise and drove north for hours. I had to buy a day park pass and got to use my Canadian money which I've been carrying around in my car in an Altoid container for years. I wasn't sure what the larger coins were, and one of the two young ladies in the booth said "Oh, that's a two-ey" meaning $2.

between Lake Louise and Jaspar - Alberta
The route for the next several hours was one of the most scenic I've ever been on, the Canadian Rockies to the left, the Bow River on the right. The sun was now out, the skies a clear blue, the traffic light. I saw a honey-colored grizzly, so distinctive with its slight mid-body depression between front and rear humps. It was in a shrubby meadow, and a ranger was already on scene managing the "bear jam," politely asking the RV behind me to move further off the road and also making certain no one did anything foolish. I only saw it briefly before it lay down but was thrilled. You don't see this from an airplane.

Add caption
and the trees!
Of course I stopped often to try to photograph the wonder, me and the dozen or so other people at any vantage point. Today, many of were East Indian families with joyous boisterous kids. This is a holiday weekend in Canada, Monday being Victoria Day. The advent of cell phones for photos is quite remarkable. I am not exempt and found that pictures with the phone were as good as or better than those taken with my Canon. Still, it's kind of crazy, all of us holding up these little gadgets instead of gazing with our eyes. At one point, there were ice fields and this WAS a congested tourist spot with special buses transporting people onto the glacier, or one could just walk a trail to the "toe." But other than that, on this route, there were only signs for hiking, tucked away campgrounds and occasional pull-offs, usually by a lake.

At Jaspar I turned directly west and drove a couple of hours through the mountains to the small town of McBride where I spent the night in a Sandman motel. I learned Sandman is a chain and was impressed even though the gentleman at the desk had to get someone else to figure out how to deal with a Priceline reservation. I showed him my cell phone confirmation information which he then wrote down. From the outside, it looked like the hundreds of older motels in the US that are not corporate and which almost never are updated.  I got two heavy actual metal keys. The room had windows that opened, glass glasses, comfortable new bedding and a restaurant downstairs.

My camping plans / intentions so far haven't happened. I'm still hoping though....

Beautiful British Columbia on the license plates is not hyperbole.
McBride, BC


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Destination Circle: Day 7

May 20, 2016

It was overcast and chilly when I left the motel and I had to go find Andy at the Verizon store. I needed more advice on traveling in Canada and how to put data usage controls on Virginia's cell phone. Plus, I had other Verizon-related issues.

As he promised, he was in the store on Main Street. He said that usually only one woman works there and she never has a break and the store is open all day, six days a week. Andy said that she told him it would be easy as she sometimes has only three customers all day, but he already had had five and it was early in the day. I could tell he was a bit apprehensive about his ability to handle this demand, but he got my issues figured out and I was good to go.

Off to Sweetgrass, the US port of entry, 45 minutes north of Shelby. This is a 24-hour post; many of the Montana POEs are only open in the daytime. I waited about 20 minutes and went on through. One of the questions though was about pepper spray. I do have some which I bought when I lived in Montana many years ago and carry it with me but suspect it is outdated and probably ineffective. The customs agent said that was OK and that the little purse size sprays are what they are concerned about. After I went on through, I remembered that Esther had given me the smaller size for my year of roaming about, which was probably somewhere in my car.....oh well.

Lake Louise
I went north to Calgary (getting turning around in heavy traffic and going through one area three times as I kept missing my turn) and then west to Banff National Park and on to Lake Louise where I stayed the night. Again, because it was early in the season, I got a reasonable deal for the night at Deer Lodge, an older wooden structure. Of the two options for staying right at the lake itself, the not so reasonable rate at the grand Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise was several hundred dollars per night.

The Deer Lodge had a bar/lounge, a fine dining restaurant, a game room, little rooms tucked away for reading or computing, a great room with a piano and a nice cosy fire in the fireplace, huge windows and comfortable couches and chairs. There was an option for hikers or day-trippers to shower on the main floor and an open-air patio for clement weather and dining al fresco. My room was tucked under the eaves on the third floor; no elevator. I felt a bit like Heidi as the mountains were very close. This is a stunningly beautiful area...the whole length of the Rockies in Canada...with several hundred miles of good road traversing the east side and minimal commerce. In the lower section, there are overpasses for wildlife with fencing for miles on both sides of the highway in an effort to facilitate safe crossings for the animals.

www.pc.gc.ca
Do highway fencing and wildlife crossing structures work and do they reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions?

"It took up to five years for some wary species, like grizzly bears, to start using wildlife crossing structures; however, most species are now using them to safely cross the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH). Since fencing and crossing structures were first constructed, wildlife-vehicle collisions have dropped by more than 80%."


Lake Louise, Banff National Park - Alberta
After checking in, I walked a trail along Lake Louise to the head of the lake. The scent in the air was that wonderful north woods piney smell. It was cool but not cold. The lake was blue and aqua. Everyone was taking photos and more than half the hikers were foreigners. One heavy-set lady was sitting on a log talking on her cell as I passed and was still there and still taking when I came back. A few teenagers, older couples, experienced guy hikers, families with exuberant young kids, an occasional jogger...This was an easy hike but with warnings about avalanches and grizzly bears. 

Dinner was bison flank steak and roasted veggies and a scrumptious apple walnut crumble with rum raisin ice cream. Again, I heard more French and Japanese than English from adjacent diners. 

I hoped to find some northern birds but saw very few and when I checked eBird, I learned that the bird population here is almost exactly what we have in Michigan, except for Boreal Chickadees (which I haven't seen...so far). 

My room was small but had a heavy quilt and a wine glass along with the water glasses....real glass. There was an understated old-world sense of simple comfort in this place, not pretentious, with gracious, efficient staff. It was perfectly quiet all night except for the rushing stream below. 
very tame Black-billed Magpie at Lake Louise