Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens & Writing On Stone Provincial Park

Last weekend Julie and I traveled South to visit the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens in Lethbridge, as well as Writing on Stone Provincial Park. We set off on our journey at 9:00am. Lethbridge is only a 2 hour drive away along Highway 2. It’s typically a fairly boring drive, and this was no exception. There’s a few weeks out of the year where I find it pleasant to drive, and that’s the first few weeks of August when the canola fields are in full bloom before harvesting. If you go during the right time of year it looks as beautiful as shown below.

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When we arrived in Lethbridge we stopped at the Firestone Restaurant & Bar at the Coast Hotel. I had the Sonoma Chicken Sandwich and Julie had the Chicken Burger. After lunch we drove to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens.

The Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens overlook Henderson Lake. They were designed by Dr. Masami Sugimoto and Dr. Tadashi Kubo, both from Osaka, Japan. The pavilion, shelter, bridges, and gates were built in Kyoto, Japan by five artisans, who eventually re-assembled them in the garden. It was opened on July 14th 1967. The gardens took 21 months to construct. While we were there there was a Taiko percussion instrument demonstration, which was fantastic!

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After visiting the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens we drove about 1.5 hours to Writing On Stone Provincial Park. The last time I went to this park was 6 years ago. We completed a small hike / walk that took about an hour to complete. Writing On Stone became an official UNESCO World Heritage Site last year, and is a very sacred park to the Blackfoot Tribe. The beautiful, yet small, park has a tremendous amount of sandstone outcrops, which were deposited along the edge of a large inland sea from about 84 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous epoch.

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After visiting Writing On Stone we started the long 3.5 hour drive back to Calgary, with a quick stop in Lethbridge for dinner at Chopped Leaf.

Stay tuned for my next blog, which is the next installment in my hiking series; Iceberg Lake!

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Taylor Lake Hike

Last weekend I hiked to Taylor Lake in Banff National Park before picking up Julie for a long-weekend trip to Jasper and Wells Gray Provincial Park!

I completed the 14 km return hike, 924 metre of elevation gain, in just under 3 hours. The hike honestly isn’t too strenuous as the elevation gain is fairly consistent throughout the hike. Most of the hike takes place within a forest before emerging in a sub-alpine meadow, which leads to the beautiful Taylor Lake. This was an easy to moderate hike with beautiful views!

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Be sure to check back tomorrow on my blog post for our wonderful weekend getaway to Jasper and Wells Gray Provincial Park.

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Ptarmigan Cirque Hike

Two weeks ago Julie and I went for a hike at Ptarmigan Cirque with her sister Jill, Jill’s husband JF, and their adorable kids Claire and Sarah. This is my second time completing this beautiful hike. The last time I completed the hike was June 15th 2019. You can view my blog post on it here.

Ptarmigan Cirque is a 4.3 kilometer loop in Kananaskis Park that starts just along Highway 40, before traversing up 355 metres of elevation gain through the thick forest before opening up to a beautiful meadow / rocky area between some mountains. This hike is about 8000 feet above sea level, so make sure to pace yourself or you’ll find yourself out of breath.

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After hiking we went back to their campsite at Mount Kidd RV Park. We had a delicious dinner of pulled pork sandwiches that Jill had prepared, and then played a few rounds of Washer Toss, also known as Horseshoe’s. The campsite was one of the nicest campsites I’ve been to because it had high tree density, huge lots, power, and water. I even was able to plug in my Toyota Prius PRIME in to recharge for 40km of “free” range. I purchased the car in March 2020 with only 16000km, and I’m already at 33000km!

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Julie and I ended up leaving the campsite at around 7pm as we still had our dog Grady hanging out at home waiting for her dinner.

Check back soon as I write about my next hike that I completed last weekend; Taylor Lake in Banff National Park.

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Brooks Aqueduct, Red Rock Coulee, High Level Bridge

As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 1.34 million people so far and taking the lives of 74,000 people as of the writing of this article on April 6th 2020. I was supposed to take an Eastern Europe roadtrip starting on March 18th 2020, ending on April 7th 2020. This trip has been postponed until further notice, but I will complete it when it is safe and socially acceptable to do so. In the meantime I am following government guidelines and maintaining physical distancing from others.

Last weekend I needed to get out to get some fresh air. I didn’t want to be around others so I decided to drive around Southern Alberta with Julie to take some drone shots of some of my favorite places, as well as explore something I hadn’t heard of (Red Rock Coulee) until I did some reading online. This 800km journey was completed in my new to me 2018 Toyota Prius PRIME, which I picked up about a month ago. I’ve already put 3000 kilometers on it, and it costs just pennies per kilometer to drive. The average fuel consumption is under 4l/100km.

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First stop was Brooks Aqueduct, which is a defund aqueduct originally built by the irrigation division of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company in 1914. It was made of reinforced concrete and provided irrigation to the area for over 30 years. It had a capacity of 25 cubic metres (900 cubic feet) per second and provided water to over 113,000 hectares of land. Water to the aqueduct was provided by the Bassano Dam, and built as part of the same project on the Bow River. In 1934 the aqueduct was refurbished. In 1969 the Alberta and Canadian governments assumed the responsibility of maintaining the aqueduct, but it had already fallen into disrepair and was shut down. It is now considered a National Historic Site of Canada and is fenced off. I was very lucky in 2011 when I was able to walk on top of the Aqueduct before it was closed to the public.

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Our second stop was Red Rock Coulee, a Provincial Natural Area near Medicine Hat, Alberta. The area features large spherical red coloured boulders, some measuring up to 2.5 metres (10 feet) in diameter. These formations were formed from the erosion, exposing the concretions of shale, sandstone, siltstone, bentonite, and brown ironstone. This place reminded me of the Devil’s Marbles on my trip to Australia in 2016.

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The third and final stop was High Level Bridge in Lethbridge. I decided to fly my drone here, albeit it being a tremendously windy day. I regret my decision later, because it ended up crashing after only 5 minutes of flying due to not being able to combat the wind. Damage is minimal, but I have to wait until Amazon delivers me some new propellers. High Level Bridge was constructed between 1907 and 1909 at a cost of $1.3 million by the Canadian Pacific Railway company. The 95 metre tall bridge spans 1.6 km over the Oldman River near Lethbridge, Alberta and provided a solution to extremely steep grades that hampered railway operations for the company. The grade was reduced to only 0.4 percent and saved over 8.5 km of track. Transport of the steel to the bridge required 645 railways cars, and another 40 cars contained the equipment required to build the bridge. The bridge is the largest railway structure in Canada, and the largest of its type in the world.

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A video of this adventure can be found on my YouTube channel here.

Wash your hands religiously, maintain social distancing to flatten the curve, and stay safe. See you soon!

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USA – Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah – Part 2 of 2

In September 2017 my Dad and I went on a one week trip to the USA to explore the beautiful scenery that Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah have to offer. I started my blog series in 2016 but due to 2017 being such a busy year for travel I actually forgot to write about this.

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In Part 1 of 2 we left off with staying the night on Day 3 in Albuquerque after visiting the Puye Cliff Dwellings. This is Part 2 of 2 of this series. Enjoy!

On the 4th day we continued driving north towards the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge with a stop at the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, New Mexico. The museum is the work of a man named Johnnie Meier, a gentleman who after retiring from the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory started to collect car memorabilia. His collection is the efforts of over 25 years of hard work.

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After stopping at the Classical Gas Museum we continued north to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. The 390 metre (1280 foot) long steel deck arch bridge was designed by architect Charles Reed, and was built in 1965. It is the 10th highest bridge in the USA, sitting roughly 180 metres (600 feet) above the Rio Grande River. The bride won the award of being the “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the “Long Span” category in 1966 by the American Institute of Steel Construction. In 1997 it was added to the 1997 National Register of Historic Place (NRHP). It received a relatively in-expensive $2.4 million repair and facelift in 2012, which included structural steelwork, a new concrete deck surface, new sidewalks, ramps, curbs and gutters. When we were there we also met a couple who were riding around on a completely custom V8 trike that they had built.

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After visiting the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge we continued along our journey to our next stop just a few minutes away called Earthship Biotecture. Michael Reynolds is the founder and creator of the concept. He came to Taos after graduation architectural school in 1969. He was inspired by the problem of trash, pollution and the lack of affordable housing so he sought out a solution to create affordable housing that was sustainable. These homes are called Earthships. His home designs can be seen all over North America, including close to home here in my province of Alberta. Dad and I purchased a few books and I ended up reading them along the road trip. They were extremely informative and you can easily create an Earthship, even for use in a colder climate such as Alberta, with a lot of elbow grease.

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After visiting Earthship Biotecture it was time to find some accommodation. We ended up heading back to Flagstaff, Arizona for the night. Accommodation was at the Couryard by Marriott for $120 CDN. We went back to Flagstaff Brewing Company for dinner and more beers.

The next day we woke up early and we drove to Shiprock, New Mexico before heading to the Four Corners Mounment. Shiprock, also known by the Navajo as “the rick with wings” is a monadnock rising 483 metres (1583 feet) above the desert. It’s peak is 2188 metres (7177 feet) above sea level.

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The Four Corners Monument marks the quadripoint in the US where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. Is the only point in the United States where four states perfectly meet. The monument  is made of granite and brass and I got a picture of myself in all four states.

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Next stop was Natural Bridges National Monument where Dad and I did some hiking. We first hiked Sipapu Bridge, which is a 2 km hike with 133 metres (436 feet) of elevation differential. Across from the bridge you can actually see the ancient structures of Horse Collar Ruin that were believed to have been built over 700 years ago!

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The next hike in Natural Bridges National Monument was Kachina Bridge, a 2.25 km hike with 140 metres (462 feet) of elevation differential. There is a lot of switchbacks and wooden stairs to get to the bottom of the valley, but the view was totally worth it!

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The final stop in Natural Bridges National Monument was Owachomo Bridge, also known as the “Little Bridge” It’s extremely slender in the middle and is also the oldest bridge in the park. The hike is only 1 km and has 60 metres (190 feet) of elevation differential. This was my favourite bridge in the park!

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It was time to find somewhere to stay for the night. We ended up staying at the Super 8 in Moab for $80 CDN. We had dinner at The Blu Pig, a blue’s themed bar with delicious smoked meat. I felt my arteries clogging as I ate my food and we drank our beer.

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The next morning we had breakfast at the Moab Diner, before driving into Canyonlands to see the Indian Hieroglyph’s and the unique rock features in the park.

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The next stop, which was my favorite park of the entire trip was Arches National Park.  When you enter into the park you see the beautiful “Courthouse Towers”!

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Our two stops were the magnificent “North Window” and equally stunning “Double Arch”.

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Next up was Panorama Point and “Delicate Arch”. Delicate Arch required 5 km of hiking with 190 metres (620 feet) of elevation differential, but it was worth it!

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The final stop for the day was Goblin Valley State Park. “The Three Sisters” great you as you enter the park.

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We decided to do “The Goblin’s Lair” hike while we were in the park. The hike is 4 km long and has about 50 metres (165 feet) of elevation differential. At the end of the hike there is a cave area you can climb into, which I decided to do, but my dad stayed back in case I got injured as it was fairly difficult climbing down into the cave.

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It was time to check into our hotel for the night. We stayed at The Snuggle Inn in Loa, Utah for $120 CDN. We had the entire hotel to ourselves. Dinner was at the wonderful restaurant that I don’t remember the name of, but a quick look on google maps shows that it no longer exists.

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The next morning we had breakfast at The Country Café. the owner was very nice and it was funny because he was mad that his son was late showing up to work and when his son did show up to work he just took money from the till and left. The food was pretty good though!

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Today we drove towards Las Vegas with a few stops along the way including Zion National Park. It was absolutely pouring rain in Zion National Park so we just got out of the car to take a few photos, before continuing on to Las Vegas.

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After arriving in Las Vegas Dad and I checked into the Luxor Hotel for the next 2 nights. Rooms were only $40 CDN per night so we both got our own room. He was starting to not feel too well so he ended up having a nap and I explored the hotel and the Las Vegas streets.

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The next day Dad and I went for breakfast at a restaurant outside of Planet Hollywood, but that restaurant no longer exists, and I can’t find the name of it online.

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After breakfast we visited The Auto Collections car museum at the LINQ Hotel, formerly the Imperial Palace. Sadly, the museum shut down at the end of 2017. I’m very fortunate to have seen this museum 3 times since 2013.2017-09-01 USA 3882017-09-01 USA 3892017-09-01 USA 3922017-09-01 USA 3942017-09-01 USA 3972017-09-01 USA 4002017-09-01 USA 4102017-09-01 USA 4112017-09-01 USA 4122017-09-01 USA 418

We spent the afternoon relaxing at the hotel, and even did some gambling, making a 50% profit on the $20 we initially invested. Dad still wasn’t feeling well so I decided to go to the Neon Museum by myself in the evening. The Neon Museum features signs from old casinos and other businesses from the Las Vegas area. The main feature is the fully restored lobby shell from the defunct La Concha Motel as it’s main visitor center. The Neon Museum opened on October 27th 2012.

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One the final day of our trip we went to the Carroll Shelby Museum before doing some plane spotting, and then catching our flight home. The Carroll Shelby Museum, which functions three-fold as the Headquarters, a Museum, and the actual production facility.

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An all-time past of mine is plane spotting. I have an absolute love of aviation, and my father has always taken me plane spotting since I was a very small child. Las Vegas has some prime plane spotting areas, which my Dad had researched, so we sat and watching planes for a bit, before it was time to catch our flight home.

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Be sure to check back soon when I depart on my Eastern Europe road trip in about a month!

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Rocky Mountains Winter 2019

Winter is coming… wait… winter is here!!! Over the last few weeks we have visited many snowy locations in the Rocky Mountains including; Emerald Lake, Lake Louise, Banff, Johnston Canyon, and Kananaskis (Rawson Lake). The crisp winter air certainly takes your breath away, but the views do too! Take a look at the absolutely splendid views that we have right in our very own backyard!

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Czech Republic – Karlov Vary

The last stop on my Czech Republic tour was Karlov Vary. Karlov Vary is a spa town in the Northwestern side of the Czech Republic. The town was founded in 1370 by Charles IV, a Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia at the time. The city currently has a population of around 50000 people and is sought after by Europeans with ailments hoping to receive treatment. I was rather exhausted at the end of this trip so I only grabbed a handful of photos, but it was a beautiful city that was well worth the visit. Hot spots of the city include Mill Colonnade, Market Colonnade, Park Colonnade, Hot Spring Colonnade, the Diana Observation Tower, the Orthodox Church of St. Peter and Paul, and walking the main drag. Accommodation was the beautiful Revelton Studios for about $65 CDN per night.

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Bet sure to check back periodically over the next few months as I visit local attractions, ski, hike, etc. My next trip is in mid-March 2020 when I embark on a 14 country tour of Eastern Europe.

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Lake Annette & Read’s Tower Hikes

Today I completed two hikes; Lake Annette & Read’s Tower. I woke up at 4:00am and had some eggs, brisket, and cheese for breakfast with some coffee and then set off at around 4:30am. I had to fill up with fuel on my way out of the city, but thankfully gas is only 95 cents/litre at the moment so it only cost me $23 for a partial fill.

My first stop was Lake Annette, which is near Lake Louise. The drive took about 2.25 hours. I arrived at 6:45am and got started on my hike. Lake Annette is rated as a moderate hike with 377 metres of elevation gain over 11.3km of distance. The hike took me just over 2 hours to complete. The hike spends the majority of the time in the woods, with a few spots of alpine meadows. I was the only one on the trail for the majority of the hike, except towards the end when I was nearly back at my car.

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The next hike was Read’s Tower, which is in the Spray Lakes area near Canmore. The drive from Lake Louise took about 1.5 hours. There was only 3 other cars in the parking lot, so I knew the trail would be quiet. I made it about 2/3 of the way up the 6.8km trail with 855 metres of elevation gain before throwing in the towel. My shoes were not giving me any grip what so ever and I fell over a few times. It’s time for new hiking shoes since my tread is almost completely gone.

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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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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.