Buller Pass Hike

On August 3rd 2019 my friend Carissa and I completed the Buller Pass hike in Spray Valley Provincial Park. It’s a 10.1km out & back style hike with 778 metres of elevation gain. The majority of the elevation gain is at the end, but the views are worth it. It took us about 6 hours to complete this amazing hike. The hike starts out in a heavily tree’d forest and eventually breaks through to some meadows before getting into some more burnt out tree’s from a forest fire from 2011/2012. After passing through those trees you come to the pass, which is about 250 metres of elevation gain, and it definitely makes you work for it. The loose shale makes it difficult to gain much traction. After reaching the peak you can see the beautiful view of Ribbon Lake below. We had some lunch at the top before turning back towards the car. I highly recommend this amazing hike!

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Parker Ridge & Edith Cavell Hikes

Last Monday I took the day off of work to drive through Jasper National Park to do some hiking and take in the sights. I decided the previous day on two hikes; Parker Ridge and Edith Cavell.

My first hike was Parker Ridge. Along the way I stopped at Herbert Lake and Bow Lake to take some photos.

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Parker Ridge is an easy to moderate hike that took me only 1.25 hours return to complete. The hike is 5.1km with 269m of elevation gain hike. The hike starts with a quick jaunt through some trees, before emerging to a series of switchbacks, before transitioning to a beautiful meadow. The rest of the hike is a quick 5-10 minutes of walking in the meadows before being rewarded with the pristine views of the Saskatchewan Glacier. I took a bunch of photos of the spectacular view before heading back to the car.

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It was then time to drive to Jasper for some lunch and a few beers before heading to my next hike; Edith Cavell. I settled on Jasper Brewing Company and had a delicious Ramen and a few India Pale Ale’s.

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After lunch it was about a 40 minute drive up a very windy road to the Edith Cavell trailhead. The hike is a moderate hike that took me about 2.25 hours return to complete. The hike is 6.1km with 409m of elevation gain. The hike starts with a slight incline to a view of the beautiful crystal clear blue lake, before heading up some strenuous switchbacks to the lookout points of the lake from above.

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Grotto Canyon Hike

Two weekends ago my Dad and I completed a really unique hike that was close to home called Grotto Canyon. The hike is about an hours drive outside of the city of Calgary. The 4km round trip hike starts out on a fairly boring stretch of pathway next to a concrete plant, before venturing into Grotto Canyon. Along our hike we ran into some rock climbers that were there with their dog. At the end of the canyon is a small, but beautiful waterfall which I climbed behind to get some unique photos. Coming down was a bit of a challenge because the rock was extremely slippery. Overall the hike took us about 1.5 hours to complete. This hike is rated easy due to its short distance, and only 225 metres of elevation gain.

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Lillian Lake & Galatea Lakes Hike

Last weekend my father and I completed the Lillian Lake & Galatea Lakes Hike located in Kananaskis Provincial Park, Alberta. We started the hike rather late in the day (12:30pm) because I was hanging out at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary in the morning with my friend Brenda.

The total hike is 16.9km and has 870 metres of elevation gain. The trail to Lillian Lake (the first lake) was fairly easy to moderate, with a good mix of level ground or just a slight include in the first 75% of the trail. The trail got steeper towards the lake.

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My dad and I parted ways here and I proceeded to go up to Lower Galatea Lake, which was quite the steep incline up some shale. I ran into a co-worker on the way up. Once reaching Lower Galatea Lake my breath was completely taken away by the raw beautiful of this beautiful turquoise lake. It was absolutely amazing! I ended up chatting with a few people at the lake while eating lunch, and asked them to take my photo since I don’t really do selfies.

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I didn’t really feel like proceeding further to the Upper Galatea Lake so I head back town towards the car, where my dad was waiting. Total hiking time to the Lower Galatea Lake was 3.25 hours from the parking lot. The return time was about half of that (1.5 hours). Total time was 4.75 hours. If you decide to go to the Upper Galatea Lake the round trip time is about 5.5 hours.

Check back shortly when I post about the best photo’s I’ve taken at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary this year.

 

Tunnel Mountain Hike

My father (@pjgriffn on Instagram), and our family friend Filipe Weller (@fwpenedo on instagram) recently completed the Tunnel Mountain Hike in Banff National Park, Alberta.

The Tunnel Mountain trail is a 4.5km 266m elevation gain train that starts right in the town of Banff, Alberta and switchbacks back and forth to the top of Tunnel Mountain at 1692 masl (metres above sea level). The hike was easy and straight forward. We completed the hike in 1.5 hours round trip, including a 20 minute break at the top for lunch.

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Due to an extremely busy day tomorrow my Vietnam series will continue on Saturday June 29th when I showcase my travels to Cambodia… So technically it’s the Vietnam / Cambodia series…

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Plains of Six Glaciers Hike

Yesterday my dad and I completed the Plains of Six Glaciers Hike, which is considered to be one of the top twenty hikes to do in Alberta. My dad picked me up at my house at 6:00am and after a 2 hour drive we had arrived at Lake Louise. We thought by getting there early that we would find parking… we were wrong. We circled the parking lot a few times, and lucked out and grabbed the last available spot.

The Government of Canada starting running a massive promotion of the Canadian Parks back at the 150th Anniversary of Canada back in 2017, and ever since then tourism has kicked off. They figured by running buses to Lake Louise and Moraine lake that it would help ease congestion, but it actually made the problem worse because people park at the Lake Louise lot, instead of the overflow lot to catch the bus to Morraine Lake, leaving not many parking spaces available for people actually wanting to visit Lake Louise.

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The 14km and 587 metres of elevation gain trail starts at Lake Louise, then hugs the east side of the lake, before starting a gradual 500-or-so metre elevation gain through the trees towards the Plains of Six Glaciers Tea House. When we were nearing the Tea House we heard a rumble, and you could see a small avalanche that was occurring; luckily I had my camera in hand and ready to shoot and was able to snap a great shot of the avalanche in action. At the Tea House we stopped for some beverages and food. Dad had a delicious sandwich, some lemonade, and some tea, while I had some coffee, as well as some chips and salsa.

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The Tea House was originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1927 as an enjoyable spot to hike to have a cup of tea and overlook the amazing scenery. In 1959 Joy Kimball purchased the Tea House and it has been run by her family ever since. The Tea House still has no electricity, and all food is prepared on a propane stove. Non perishable food items are helicoptered in once at the beginning of the season, and workers bring in the rest up with them in backpacks or by horse every 5 days, when there is a shift change.

I continued the last 1.5km and 100 metres of elevation gain of the hike to the end, while dad started to head back towards the car. The view at the end of the hike was out of this world amazing!

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It was time for me to head back towards the car too. I ended up catching up with my dad towards the beginning of the hike along the east side of Lake Louise. Total time for the hike was roughly 3.75 hours, which is actually slightly faster than the sticker time for the hike.

On the way home from the hike we stopped in Canmore for some well earned coffee and cola.

What hike is in store next? We’re not quite sure as we both have a busy July, but I do have the following hikes on my personal list that I’d like to complete this year: Galatea Lake & Lilian Lakes, Valley of 10 Peaks: Wenkchemna Pass, Geraldine Lakes, Crypt Lake.

The next blog post will be a continuation of my Vietnam. In the next post I’ll be travelling to Ha Long Bay, so be sure to stay to check back tomorrow!

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Vietnam – Day 8 – Ninh Binh

Today I woke up at 5:30am. I’m still struggling with this persistent jet lag, a whole 8 days later. I packed my bags and got ready, before heading down for breakfast at the buffet. After breakfast I walked about 10 minutes to the Hanoi central train station.

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There’s a few ways of obtaining train tickets; you can buy right at the station, or you can buy online from a third party which charges a small booking fee on top. Unfortuneately foreigners can’t book online through the REAL Vietnam Rail website unless you happen to have a Vietnam bank card, which I presume almost everyone won’t. Also one thing to note is that there are a lot of fake websites in Vietnam, and other parts of SE Asia for things like trains, airlines, museums, etc. You need to be extra diligent and do your research as they mostly all look the same. I read multiple travel blogs to ensure that I was picking the appropriate websites. Anyways, I chose to use the third party website called Balou, as it came the highest recommended. I only paid about $2 CDN more to book it online through them than just showing up, but it was a nice piece of mind knowing everything was taken care of beforehand.

The train departed Hanoi station at 7:30am and slowly crawled its way through the city before picking up speed. About 15 minutes into the train ride I realized that I had made a bad mistake… I forgot my passport and US cash in the safe back at the hotel. I called the hotel and explained the situation, gave them the passcode for my safe, and told them that I’ll be back tomorrow evening to pick it up. Phew, disaster averted.

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The train arrived at Ninh Binh station at around 10:00am. While exiting the station I booked a GRAB, which happened to be waiting right out front. It took about 15 minutes to drive from Ninh Binh train station to my accommodation in Tam Coc, called Tuan Ngoc Hotel. The fare was 76000 Dong ($4.35 CDN). After arriving at the hotel I dropped off my bags I decided to rent a motorcycle from the hotel for two days for a cost of 110000 Dong/day ($6.25/day). The motorcycle didn’t include gasoline so I had to find a gas station before I ran out of gas, as they had drained all the fuel out minus a few drops.

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First stop was Hang Mua viewpoint, about a 6km ride away. Something to note here is that you don’t take the first parking spot that people try to flag you down to because you’ll end up paying way more, and have to walk a fair distance. If you can drive past all the people standing in the middle of the road you’ll find yourself with parking right at the entrance for only 10000 Dong ($0.55 CDN). Unfortuneately despite reading this there was an extremely persistent group of very angry sounding Vietnamese women that wouldn’t get out of the road and pretty much forced me to park in their parking spot for 25000 Dong ($1.35 CDN). Obviously we’re not talking about much money here, but the fact they were so pushy left a sour taste in my mouth. Picture down below of where NOT to park.

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After a 15 minute walk from the very end of the road I came to the entrance of the Hang Mua Viewpoint, which had a nominal entry fee of 100000 Dong ($5.50 CDN). There is a small cave at the start of the steps up to the viewpoint with a tiger statue and some offerings from the locals.

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After viewing inside the cave it was time to start the hot and strenuous journey up to the vietpoint. 500 steps and about 20 minutes later I was dripping in sweat, but looking at an absolutely fantastic view of the karst sceneries of Tam Coc, as well as the Lying Dragon ontop of the mountain. I spent some considerable time up here getting the photos that I wanted to get, before heading back down so that I could get some lunch.

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After walking back to the bike I rode back into town to get some lunch from a restaurant, which I unfortunately forget the name of. I had some beef pho soup, but it wasn’t very good and the service was quite slow.

After having some lunch I rode a short distance away to Bich Dong Pagoda. The parking attendent wanted to charge me 30000 Dong ($1.65 CDN) but I ended up negotiating down to 20000 Dong ($1.10 CDN). I crossed over a bridge through some temple gates, walked a short while to the Lower Pagoda, before ascending 100 steps to the Middle Pagoda, which is built half inside of a cave. There are roughly 20-25 steep steps to the Upper Pagoda, which is fully inside the cave, which is also filled with bats. Bich Dong Pagoda was built by the two monks Tri Kien and Tri The in the early 18th century.

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It was starting to get extremely hot as it was mid afternoon, so I rode back to the hotel and hung out in the pool for a few hours.

For dinner I rode to the Bia Minh Beer Garden, which was just down the street. I probably could have walked but I was feeling lazy from my hike up all those stairs earlier today. For dinner I had a Hawaiian pizza, and a pork Banh Mi sandwich, along with a mini keg of fresh beer. I’ve never seen anything like it before; it’s a combination between a growler and a keg. This was some of the freshest beer I’ve had in SE Asia so far. During dinner it started to pour rain. After dinner I rode back to the hotel in the pouring rain and ended up going to bed at around 9:00pm.

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Be sure to check back tomorrow when I explore more of Ninh Binh before heading back to Hanoi.

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