Victoria ā€“ Christmas 2021 ā€“ Part 2 of 2

The next day I woke up around 8:00am, showered, and walked over to my parents Airbnb to pickup keys for the car, so that I could explore a few buildings that I wanted to see that interested me. First stop was to pickup some breakfast, so I drove to a nearby Tim Hortons and got a bagel BELT, a hashbrown, and some coffee.

First architecture stops were 200 and 230 King George Terrace, which are beautiful Art Deco style homes that were built in 1945. They’re currently values at over $2.5 million each!

Next stop was Craigdarroch Castle, a Victorian style mansion that was built in 1890 as a resident for the wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and his wife Joan. Unfortunately Robert died 17 months before construction of the castle was completed. Once his widow Joan had passed away the Craigdarroch estate was sold to Griffith Hughes for $38000, who subdivided the estate into building lots. To stimulate sales during an extremely slow real estate market, he decided to raffle the home to be won by one of the purchasers of the parcels of land. The winner was Solomon Cameron, who mortgaged the home to finance other failed ventures, which left him broke and the home was defaulted to his creditor, the Bank of Montreal. Over the years the building served as a military hospital, college, offices, and even a conservatory, before it was repurposed to a museum in 1979. The building was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1992.

Next stop was the University of Victoria complex, which houses some unique buildings such as the Clearihue Building, Petch Building, MacLaurin Building, McPherson Library, and Lansdowne Residence Buildings.

The Clearihue Building the the oldest building on the campus. It was constructed in 1961, with an addition built in 1971. The building is an example of modernism, and has a pillared ground floor supporting the classroom floors above, as well as features a clock tower.

The Petch Building was built in 1986 to accommodate the new Faculty of Engineering and the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, as well as provide additional space for the Departments of Biology and Chemistry. This brutalism style three story building is contructred out of reinforced concrete, with precase concrete exterior panels. The building features a unique heat-recovery system, where heat can be recovered and reused from air that is being exhausted.

The MacLaurin Building is the largest building on the campus, and was completed in 1966. The brutalism style building consists of several wings of offices, classrooms, and laboratories. The five story building is constructed of reinforced concrete, with an exterior finished in concrete and integrally coloured bricks.

McPherson Library is a modern style four-storey building constructed out of reinforced concrete. The exterior is clad with pre-cast concrete panels with exposed stone aggregate and rough granite. The building was originally constructed between 1963 and 1964, with a major addition built between 1972 and 1973.

The Lansdowne Residence building complex consists of six four-story brutalism style reinforced concrete buildings. The exterior of the buildings are unfinished natural concrete. The buildings can house 280 students.

After exploring the library I went and watching some planes take off and land at Victoria’s Harbour Airport. I also happened to catch a glimpse of a rainbow!

I drove the car back to my parents Airbnb, and just as I was dropping off the car my sister messaged me to see if I wanted to hike Mount Douglas with her. Mount Douglas provides some nice views of the surrounding area.

After hiking with my sister I grabbed some Spicy Beef Pho from Le Petit Saigon, and then went back to my hotel to relax for a bit.

After relaxing at my hotel for a bit I went back to my parents Airbnb and hung out with my parents for a bit. I had a microwavable dinner with them before walking around downtown Victoria to take in some views. We also went to the rooftop patio on the 12th floor, and it had some stunning views of the city below. Afterwards I went back to the hotel for the rest of the evening to relax.

The next morning was Christmas Day. It had snowed a bit overnight, which made it actually feel like Christmas. We all met at my parents Airbnb at 9:30am, opened stockings, cooked our traditional English breakfast that we usually do, and then opened presents. In the afternoon I continued to do a bit more exploring before coming back for dinner.

St. Ann’s Academy and Auditorium was built by the Roman Catholic Congregation of Women (Sisters of Saint Anne of Lachine, Quebec). In 1858 a Chapel was built, in 1971 a School was built, and in 1886 and 1909 a Convent was built. The Sisters of St. Ann closed the academy in 1973 and sold the property to the government to be used as office space for the public service for a few years, until it was closed for major repairs. The building was renovated and restored, and reopened in 1997.

Just down the street from the academy is 895 Academy Close (Athlone Apartments), a beautiful Art Deco / Streamline Moderne building built in 1947. The apartments were designed by Patrick Birley.

Final stop was 900 Park Boulevard (Tweedsmuir Mansions), which a large and beautiful Art Deco / Streamline Moderne building built in 1936. This is probably Victoria’s finest example of surviving Art Deco style building. It was built by McCulloch & Harvey for a cost of $23000. The original building had nine suites, some with their own street entrances. It was also the first apartment in Victoria to have a penthouse suite. In 1986 the building was renovated, including new exterior stucco. In 1995 the apartment complex was converted to a strata condominium complex, and a third storey addition on the West side provided more space for two of the suites.

It was time to head back to my parents Airbnb for dinner, which included turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, peas, and carrots. It was absolutely delicious, and it was very enjoyable getting to spend time with my family. After completely stuffing my face with food it was time to head back to my hotel to go to bed.

The next, and final day, I slept-in until 11am. When I looked outside I could see that it had snowed a few inches overnight. I checked out of my hotel room, and walked over to my parents Airbnb, and hung out with them for a few hours before heading to the the airport to take my flight back to Calgary. Before I left I wanted to catch a few more shots of Victoria.

My flight back to Calgary was on a Westjet Dash 8 Q400. Despite the poor weather, the flight was almost on-time leaving. Sadly, my parents had to contend with a nearly 6 hour delay on the following evening when they flew back.

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Horse Thief Canyon Hike

A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to hike down into Horse Thief Canyon, located about 16 kilometres (10 miles) Northwest of Drumheller. At the top you’re presented with spectacular views of the badlands and valley below. I decided to enter the valley below, which was quite steep and somewhat slippery due to the smooth and dry bentonite below by feet. Once I got to the bottom I followed the valley’s until I found a small dry riverbed that led towards the Lower Red Deer River. During my hike I found quite a few fragments of fossils and some bones from animals. One thing to note is there are some sections of private land here, so be respectful of the land.

Be sure to check back in a few days when I embark on a week trip to Eastern Europe. My first stop is Zagreb, Croatia.

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Horseshoe Canyon Hike

With winter quickly approaching I shifted my hiking from the Rocky Mountains to the Drumheller to have a couple good weeks of nice weather hiking before winter arrives.

I first hike I completed in the area was Horseshoe Canyon trail; a 3.9km trail with 113 metres of elevation differential. The elevation loss is all at the beginning, when you descend into the valley below. This is a lesser known badlands area around the Drumheller area, and it gets its name from its horseshoe shape, defined by two coulees that flow into the Kneehill Creek, a tributary of the Red Deer River. In 2020, a boy named Nathan Hrushkin discovered a dinosaur fossil at the canyon dating back to 69 million years.

When I was there I also stumbled upon a geocache.

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Eiffel Lake Hike

About a month ago I completed a beautiful fall hike to Eiffel Lake in Banff National Park. I’ve been wanting to do this hike for years, however have avoided it because of lack of parking at Morraine Lake, which is where the trailhead starts. The Covid-19 pandemic has presented some hiking opportunities to locals that were previously difficult to get to due to tourists. With very few tourists visiting Canada parking at the lake was possible, as well as some changes to the overflow parking lot buses. You can now book specific time slots for $11 CDN, and they’re very punctual; running every 20 minutes.

The 12.2km hike had 609 metres of elevation gain, and took me about 3 hours to complete. The hike starts off at Morraine Lake, with most of the elevation gain occurring early on with some steep switchbacks for a few kilometres. After the steep switchbacks you’re presented with a fork in the trail, go left towards Eiffel Lake. If you go right you’ll end up on the Larch Valley Trail, which I completed a few years ago.

The trail follows along a ledge, with a nice view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks surrounding you, a view of Morraine Lake, and then the larches start to appear. This is one of the prettiest hikes that I’ve ever completed. I didn’t spend much time at the lake because it was starting to snow, and becoming quite windy.

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Alaska ā€“ Part 2 of 2

Friday October 1st 2021

Today I woke up at around 830am, made some coffee and oatmeal, and hit the road. I drove into Denali National Park, however could only make it in about 14-15 miles before being confronted by a gate. I had read that I should have been able to go about double that distance, however the weather had turned so they had closed more of it off. That’s okay because I had ran into a guy who said that he spotted a few moose around the 10 mile marker. I spent about 2 hours here taking photos and videos of the moose. It was a very enjoyable experience!

After watching the moose I drove North towards Healy where I ate a meat lovers pizza at the Totem Inn. There was a snowfall warning in effect and the weather was starting to turn, so I decided to end my cabin adventures a day early and drive back to Anchorage.

On the drive back to Alaska I came across an abandoned building called Igloo City. The building was originally constructed in the late 1970’s by Leon Smith. He envisioned it as a hotel, however it was never completed because of code violations, and lack of funds. The windows were undersized, and there were not enough emergency exits. The building exterior is constructed of nearly 900 sheets of plywood with a urethane coating. There’s also a gas station here, that closed down many years ago. The building was recently up for sale for only $300,000 USD, however there are no takers.

When I arrived in Anchorage I drove to a popular lookout point of the entire city, which was absolutely beautiful. You could see airplanes taking off from both Anchorage Ted Stevens International Airport, and Merrill Field. I even caught a glimpse of an old FedEx MD-11 Freighter.

After enjoying the viewpoint I drove into downtown Anchorage and took some pictures of a few signature architectural gems including the Gaslight Bar, Holy Family Cathedral, Fourth Avenue Theatre, Federal Building, and Wendler Building.

The Holy Family Cathedral is an Art Deco style church built between 1946 and 1948. A fun fact about the church is that Pope John Paul II visited the church in 1981, and attracted a crowd of over 80,000 people.

The Fourth Avenue Theatre, also known as the Lathrop Building, is an Art Deco style building that was built between 1941 and 1947. It took so long to complete because World War 2 put a halt to it. The building has served as a 960 seat theatre until the 1980’s, as well as a television station, restaurant, a penthouse apartment, banquet facility, and now sadly lies in disrepair.

The Federal Building is an Art Deco style government building built between 1939 and 1940. The most distinctive features of the concrete building are the tall, vertical window units that visually add height to the low mass of the structure. Numerous exterior changes have occurring including the original steel window systems being replaced with aluminum-clad wood systems with wider muntins and mullions than originally designed. The original entrance doors have been replaced with dark bronze aluminum doors that do not match the original design. The original bronze stair handrails have been replaced with painted steel handrails of a modern utilitarian design.

The Wendler Building was built in 1915 by Tony and Florence Wendler, and is the oldest commercial building in Anchorage. The building was originally built elsewhere, but moved to its present location in 1985. It was used by the Wendlers as a store until 1925, then converted to a boarding house, then a club, and now a store front.

After exploring downtown Anchorage I checked-in to my accommodation for the night; Aptel Studio, which was a large kitchenette style apartment. After checking in I drove to the nearby Resolution Brewing Company, and had some of their beers. They had Belgian style beers, however I thought they were quite mediocre. After having the beers I had some Vietnamese soup, and picked up some bear spray from Bass Pro Shop for some hikes in the coming days, before heading back to the hotel for the evening to write my blog and edit my photos.

Saturday October 2nd 2021

Today I had to get a covid test for my return flight home, so I drove to the hospital parking lot, where I was told I could get a free test. Turns out they were only the rapid tests, so I had to drive to the airport to get the test. At the airport I was notified that they only issued TMA tests, because there was a shortage on PCR tests. This was fine with me, as I cross referenced with the Canadian Government website, and they said it was okay.

After getting my covid test I picked up a breakfast burrito from a delicious burrito from Burrito Factory, which is oddly positioned in the middle of a Chevron gas station. Next, I drove towards Seward, with a few stops including Potter Section House, and Exit Glacier. Potter Section House is a historic site featuring a restored house and buildings that were a part of a railroad section camp that maintained a section of the Anchorage-Seward railway. There’s a large train snow blower at the site as well.

I continued the 1.5 hour drive to Exit Glacier, stopping numerous times to take photos of the beautiful scenery.

Exit Glacier is located in Kenair Fjords National Park, and is one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska. It is rapidly retreating, having retreated approximately 187 feet (57 metres) in just one year (2013 to 2014). It received its name for serving as the exit for the first recorded crossing of the Harding Icefield in 1968.

After visiting Exit Glacier it was time to grab some lunch, so I stopped at Chartermark Seward. The fish and chips were excellent, however there could be some improvements made including letting people seat themselves, rather than wait 20-30 minutes to be seated when there was plenty of available tables. The staff were super friendly, however were overworked.

After lunch I drove south towards Tonsina Creek, where I completed a 1.5 hour hike to where Salmon were trying to swim up stream. It was neat to see, however the optimal time was about 2 weeks ago. There was a lot of dead Salmon there from failing their journey.

After completing the hike I drove around town looking at all the murals, before checking into my accommodation at Trailhead Lodging. I had about 3 hours of work I needed to do, so I spent the rest of the evening working.

Sunday October 3rd 2021

Today was my last full day in Alaska. I woke up around 7am, drove to Safeway to pickup a sandwich for lunch, and pickup my breakfast and coffee from the Starbucks inside. I drove about an hour towards the Portage Pass trailhead. To get to the glacier you need to pay a $13 USD toll to travel through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, which passes under Maynard Mountain.

The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is very unique as it allows cars and trains to pass through it, but only single file (also known as bimodal). The tunnel is 13,300 feet (4100 metres) long, and is the longest highway tunnel, and longest bimodal tunnel in North America. The tunnel was originally excavated between 1941-1942, and was only originally used as rail, however was upgraded for bimodal use between 1998 and 2000. Traffic direction alternates every half hour.

Upon arriving at the Portage Pass trailhead I had to do some pretty severe off-roading for about half a mile, as the road was washed out. The hike took me about 1.75 hours, however I have to admit I only completed about 80 percent of the hike as I was having to bushwhack a lot towards the end due to a storm the previous day. I’m convinced the best view was at the top anyways.

After completing the hike I ate my sandwich in the truck, while waiting 20 minutes at the tunnel to drive back through it. Next stop was the Alaska Aviation Museum, where I nerded out quite a bit. On display was a rich history on how aviation came to be in Alaska, including history on how some of the airlines came and went. There was also an old Alaskan Airlines Boeing 737-200 on display.

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After exploring the museum I quickly stopped at Anchorage Depot to snap a photo. Anchorage Depot, is an Art Deco style building that was built in 1942. It was enlarged in 1948.

It was dinner time at this point in time, so I stopped at a Vietnamese place for some Pho, before trying to check-in to my hotel; the Merrill Field Inn. Unfortunately the hotel was completely not as advertised. When I pulled into the parking lot at the Merrill Field Inn I know that I wasn’t going to be staying there because it looked really gross, and there was a bunch of people leaning over balconies smoking and drinking. It looked like a trailer trash place, and nothing similar to the photos online. Regardless, I obtained a key, and when I opened the door of the room it smelled quite badly of cheap air freshener, and there was a cigarette on the floor. I went back downstairs and asked for a refund, and booked myself in at the Clarion Suites, which was much better.

Again I had quite a bit of work to do this evening so I worked for a few hours, and was getting hungry again so I ordered a Hawaiian pizza from Flattop Pizza. I continued working, and went to bed at around 10pm, as I had an early day ahead of me.

Monday October 4th 2021

Today it was time to fly home. I had to wake up at 3am, as my first flight was around 6am. I dropped off the truck, and went to check-in at a counter, since I was unable to online because they want to do document checks to ensure I had my negative covid test. When I went to check-in the agent had an issue with my paperwork because I had gotten a TMA test, which was still an accepted form of test. The reason I had gotten a TMA test is that Anchorage had a shortage of PCR tests. After politely negotiating with her, and two other supervisors they let me have my tickets. It’s frustrating that the Delta system says something completely different than the Government of Canada website.

After obtaining my tickets I went and purchased an Egg McMuffin and coffee from McDonald’s to eat while I was waiting to board my flight. First flight was a Delta Airlines Boeing 757-200 from Anchorage to Minneapolis. In Minneapolis there was a 4 hour layover, where I thought I could stay in a lounge for a bit, however the lounges that I was eligible for were all closed. I decided to eat a Rueben sandwich, fries, salad, and a beer at Twins Grill. The food was excellent. I ended up passing the time by chatting with a few people on the phone, and watching a movie named Percy, which is about the Saskatchewan farmer who went up against Monsanto in a lawsuit against seed patents.

The next flight was on a Delta Airlines Embraer E175, one of my favorite commute jets to fly on since the seating arrangement is only 2×2. I arrived around 9pm in Calgary, and my Dad picked me up from the airport. This time I had no issues at Canadian customs, like I did when I came back from Iceland about a month ago.

Be sure to check back soon, as I have a few more hiking related posts, and then I’m off to Europe for a few weeks to explore Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Estonia, and Finland.

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Dry Island Buffalo Jump Hike

It’s been a while since I last made a blog post. I’ve had a tremendous amount of change happen in my life with dealing with a breakup, moving, and a refocus on travel. Since my Iceland posts I’ve travelled to Alaska, been on 4 other hikes, and Iā€™m heading to Europe in a week. As you can see I’m quite in arrears with my posts.

In late September I visited Dry Island Buffalo Jump, which is a little known gem located near Trochu, Alberta. Before we dive into that we should talk about the beautiful drive along Highway 590. There’s a winding section near the Tolman Badland Heritage Rangeland, which I highly recommend driving through. The views are breathtaking!

When you first arrive at Dry Island Buffalo Jump there is a parking lot off to your right, which offers pristine views of the valley area below. If you only drive a 2wd vehicle I highly recommend that you ditch your vehicle here as the steep incline into the park will make it difficult for your vehicle to gain traction getting out.

I parked my car at the top and descended into the valley and explored the various pathways. Every 100 feet there was another unique perspective of the park. I highly recommend visting this park, as you will not be disspointed!

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Kain Hut Hike

A few weeks ago I hiked to Kain Hut in British Columbia’s Bugaboos, and I can’t even describe with words of how beautiful of a hike this was. This was one of the most stunning hikes that I’ve had the chance to complete in my life. The drive from Calgary is about 6-6.5 hours, regardless of what Google Maps says; so I recommend staying overnight in Radium. You can take the time to even soak in the hot springs when you arrive in Radium. The drive from Calgary to Radium is about 3-3.25 hours. The drive from Radium to the trailhead is still honestly 3ish hours despite the distance not being too far, because you have about 50km down a fairly poor gravel road, with the last 10km barely being able to keep a crawling speed. I was the only sedan here, as the other vehicles were SUV’s or trucks. When you’re about 2km from the trailhead you start to see the magnificent view of the glacier that you’ll be hiking towards.

Once you park your vehicle make sure to use the provided wood, barbed wire, and rocks to surround your vehicle, as there are porcupines in the area that will chew your brake lines and electrical wires, leaving your vehicle useless.

The first kilometre of the hike is fairly flat and easy, however you’re quickly presented with a series of switchbacks, a ladder, and some chains on your way up to the hut. The return trip to Kain Hut, including Applebee Campground, is 9km and 991 metres of gain. This one will leave you sore for a few days afterwards.

At the hut I had some leftover home made pizza for lunch and watch this little guy eating his lunch.

After lunch I continued up to Applebee Campground, which is essentially a scramble up loose rocks. You’ll pass a waterfall, and the campground, before arriving at a very cold lake.

After enjoying some time at the top it was time to head back to Calgary. I didn’t arrive back in town until nearly 10pm at night.

Be sure to stay tuned for my next adventure. I’ll be hiking to Eiffel Lake on Sunday, and then I’m off to Alaska for a week.

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Rowe Lake Hike

Two Weekends ago I completed a 13.5 km hike to Rowe Lakes in Waterton Lakes National Park. The hike starts off with a bunch of switchbacks through an area struck by the 2017 forest fires, before emerging to an area with a bit of shrubs, where you can look back at the mountains behind you.

Continuing on the trail you eventually come across a forested area that was untouched by the 2017 forest fire. The fall colours are starting to settle in, and become more prevalent the higher you climb.

You’ll come to a T intersection about 2/3 of the way through the hike; go left to Lower Rowe lake. The beauty of the mirror reflection on the lower lake is absolutely stunning! After enjoying the view head back to the T and go left to continue along the hike.

You’ll come to a valley surrounded by mountains. To your North you’ll see Mount Lineham. Carry along the trail to Upper Rowe Lake. This part is the steepest on the trail, with plenty of switchbacks.

At last you’ll arrive at Upper Rowe Lake, which seems like a little oasis in the mountains. The clouds were absolutely perfect and I imagine it would look stunning in the 3rd and 4th weeks of September with all the larches changing colour.

After appreciating the view of Upper Rowe Lake I headed back to my car, and drove into Waterton to have some poutine at Wieners of Waterton, which I highly recommend. Besides it was only $7!

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Arethusa Cirque Hike

Last weekend I drove to Arethusa Cirque in Kananaskis for a quick 1.5 hour hike along the 4.5 kilometer trail. During the hike you gain 378 metres, but most of its towards the middle of the loop. Apparently the trail features a waterfall, however there was no water visible when I went. I suspect the waterfall is present only during the spring runoff.

The hike starts off through a heavily forested area, before emerging into a valley surrounded by Little Arethusa, Mount Arethusa, and Storm Mountain. You’ll then climb a few switchbacks, which gives you some outstanding views of the trees below. The trees are mostly larches, so be sure to visit on the 3rd of 4th weeks of September to get the full fall effect with the colour changes.

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Lake of the Hanging Glacier Hike

A few weeks ago I drove out to Lake of the Hanging Glacier in Kootenay National Park. The drive took about 5 hours, and included 2 hours of driving down a gravel road, which was clearly intended for high clearance vehicles, not a Toyota Prius. Despite that I made the trip, albeit much slower as I had to carefully pick my path. Something to note is that there are two bridge crossings along the hike, and the bridges are removed sometime in October through sometime in July, so make sure to pay attention to the Summit Trail Maker Society facebook page and website, otherwise you’ll show up and be dissapointed.

The hike is 15.9 kilometres long, and has 947 metres of elevation gain. You start off from the parking lot and bush whack through the trees for a few hundred metres, before emerging into some tall grasses, and then back into the trees. There are berries all along the way so be sure to bring your bear spray, as this is prime grizzly bear country. The first bridge is a few kilometres in, with the second about half way through the hike. You also encounter a waterfall about half way through the hike.

The majority of the hike is through a thick forested area, and the blowing wind creates a really eerie feeling when you can hear the trees creaking in the wind. Continue up the switchbacks until you emerge on an alpine meadow with willows and flowers. You’ll eventually come to another waterfall, this time quite a wide one.

After passing the waterfall you’ll see tons of glaciers, and their associated waterfalls draining into the lake below. This was one of the most unique hikes that I’ve ever completed and has been on my list for years.

After taking in the absolute beauty of the lake and surrounding glaciers it was time to head back to the car. The hike took me about 4.5 hours to complete. It was a long day for me with being away from home for 14.5 hours in total.

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