Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Visit to the C.N.E.

For the first time in years I went to the C.N.E. My friend, Peter, asked a few of us to go along with him.

It opened Friday, August 21st. Since I have Fridays off I decided to go earlier and meet them there.

I have to say, I didn't go as early as I thought I might. I arrived around 5:00 in the afternoon.

Admission was $8.00. It was an opening day special. Normally general admission is a steep $18.00. Though, if you go after 5:00 p.m. from Monday-Thursday you can get in for $6.00.

I took the T.T.C. down. From my place I headed south on the subway to Union Station and caught the 509 Streetcar the rest of the way. Normally they'd drop you off right at Strachan Avenue, but, this year, for some reason, they dropped people off the stop before (or right in the grounds).

Since I wanted to enter at the Princes' Gates (to take pictures there), I got off at the stop before and walked the extra five minutes.

The last time I went to the C.N.E. may have been when I was in my early teens. I don't believe the Direct Energy Centre was there when I last went to the C.N.E. And the Automotive Building was open to the public (now it isn't).

I remember arcades with video games and a lot of free samples at the Food Building back then. As well they had the Canada Fitness Test where you could earn Bronze, Silver, Gold or the much coveted Award of Excellence badges by participating in a number of physical activity tests. I believe the best I ever did was the Gold.

Now it seems so clean and polished. The rides look safe. What's the fun in that? Of course I did go on opening day, so, perhaps, after a week or so the grime will set in.

They still have the Polar Express and Zipper rides. And the hawkers who try to get you to spend your money on next to impossible games trying to win ginormous stuffed animals that you end up donating to Goodwill after they sit in plastic bags in your basement for 15-years.

This time I went to document the carnage. Just to take pictures of the experience, so, in 20-years, when I next go again, I can look back and visually see what things used to be like instead of trying to conjure up images in my now foggy memory.

After 2-hours of walking around my friends called saying they'd arrived. I walked back to near the entrance to meet them. It was now around 7:00 p.m. and the sky was starting to darken. I was lucky to get some photos earlier.

We walked through the Midway again. But at a faster pace. I had already taken my daytime shots so I was okay. Peter got his camera out and took some photos of his own. Janice and Heidi had no interest in shooting anything. No problem.

After going through the Midway we hit the Food Building. Coming straight from work they were pretty hungry.

The Food Building was packed. I guess a lot of other people had the same idea (of getting a bite to eat). We walked around taking a look at all the different offerings.

I joined Peter at the Bacon Nation booth while the girls went off to grab something different. We'd meet after to share the spoils.

At the Bacon Nation booth we ordered a Pig Mac - a hamburger topped with strips of maple bacon. cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and BBQ sauce on a bacon studded bung - $9.75; and the Bacon Wrapped Grilled Cheese - a grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar and mozzarella cheese wrapped with a weave of maple bacon - $10.50 (or so).

The girls came back with a pulled pork sandwich and fries topped with pulled pork. Mmm... grease, grease and more delicious grease.

We were pretty full after that, but still weren't done with food. Heidi wanted to try the Chicken Waffle on a Stick - which is a piece of chicken wrapped with a waffle on a stick - $8 at Mr. Mike. It was all right. Chicken was a little dry.

Janice had to leave early. Before she went she convinced us to play a game. We looked for something that didn't cost too much and that wasn't impossible to win.

We found the Kentucky Derby game at 3 bucks a pop it wasn't too hard to master. All you had to do was roll a golf ball into certain holes to move your horsey along a track. First horse to the end wins a small stuffed superhero. Win twice and you could trade your superheroes up to a Minion.

The guy who ran the game said all we needed was two players. So, instead of all of us playing at the same time and coming out with one small prize, we split into two groups of two.

Peter played Janice first and won a small "Batman". Heidi and I played next and she beat me. We traded in the two small prizes for a larger evil Minion with shaggy purple hair.

Janice had to go after that. Peter and I walked around the Midway taking night pictures while Heidi waited for us. She must have been a little bored. We stayed 1-1/2 hours longer before ending her torture.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Murphy's Point Provincial Park

On the first weekend of August we went camping at Murphy's Point Provincial Park. It's located about 4 hours east-north-east of Toronto not far from Perth.

On Friday night I slept over at Peter's. Emily and Ken and Ken's two friends came by on Saturday morning. Our first stop would be breakfast at Stockyards on St. Clair, west of Bathurst.

We got there right around the time they were supposed to open, but they were a bit short on staff so they asked us along with the other few customers that were there to wait a bit longer before letting us in.

Once inside the place is pretty nice looking. The kitchen is open so the guests facing it can watch as their food is being prepared.

We ordered a variety of items from their breakfast menu. Emily had their Stockyard Sandwich. It's a deep fried poached egg w/stockyards bacon or county sage sausage, and aged cheddar on a buttermilk biscuit - $8.

I had the Biscuits W/Sausage Gravy. It's a couple of house baked buttermilk biscuits, smothered with house sage sausage, black pepper pan gravy, soft scrambled eggs. - $11. I thought it was so-so. The sage sausage was ground up with sauce that seemed a bit thin/runny.

Peter had the Fried Chicken & Waffles. It's simply fried chicken over Belgian waffles w/chili maple molasses citrus glaze - 4-pieces $16. I thought the sauce was a little spicy. I never really understood the appeal of the chicken and waffle combination. Not my cup of tea.

As usual we made a stop at the Big Apple on our way east along the 401. It was the first time there for Ken's friends. It's become old hat for the rest of us.

We got to the park a bit before 3:00. After checking in we got organized, set our tents up, bought some firewood for later that evening then headed out for a hike.

The bugs weren't too bad. Maybe a 1 or 2 out of 5. I wore my bug jacket just in case though. In certain areas you needed it.

What we needed more was our raincoats though. The skies had been threatening rain ever since we got there.

The first trail, the Sylvan Trail, we tried was a short one at 2.5 kilometres. We completed it in under an hour.

We then tried to find the Point Trail. Like the Sylvan Trail it's a loop trail. But this one was longer at 5.5 kilometres.

During both our hikes we heard huge thunderclaps. It was like the storm was right upon us. We were lucky enough not to get rained on until part way through the Point Trail. It wasn't overly heavy so we trudged on.

By the time we finished the hike and returned to our campsite it had, thankfully, stopped. This afforded us the luxury of not having to cook in the rain.

Dinner was good. Peter had marinated lamb the night before. It was really tasty. Along with the lamb, we tossed some corn on the cob and sweet potatoes wrapped in tinfoil into the fire to cook. As well we boiled some water on our camp stoves for cup noodles.

We finished the meal off with S'mores (though I just toasted some marshmallows for myself) and then hit the sack.

Peter and I left at around 10:00 the next morning. I had to go to the boarding home in the afternoon. We made one stop at the Narrows Lock along the Rideau Canal to take some shots along the way.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Prince Edward County Pig Out

Shortly after returning from out west we took Lewis on a day-trip to Prince Edward County. Our mission - To eat until we couldn't eat anymore. (Well that's what it seemed like anyway).

Ken and Emily came to pick me up while Peter hit the road straight from home with Lewis. We headed east along the 401 and made plans to meet up at a rest stop along the way.

After meeting at the first rest stop we decided to stop once again at The Big Apple at Colborne. It's become a tradition of ours to stop there whenever heading east along the highway (exit 497).

Since we've gone to The Big Apple a number of times I didn't take any pictures. We had some apple desserts and continued on our way.

In Prince Edward County we stopped at a number of shops that sold anything from cheese to farm fresh veggies.

Our next food stop was at the County Cider Company in Waupoos. Established in 1995 they're the oldest cider-producing company in Ontario (according to a sign there). They have a variety of ciders made with fermented apple juice.

Their tasting room and retail store welcomes visitors from May to November. They also serve lunch there where you can dine on their back patio which overlooks their vineyards and the northern shores of Lake Ontario.

For lunch I had a BBQ Burger with bacon, Black River cheddar, caramelized onions and cider ketchup for $16.75. It was really good.

Emily and Ken shared a Lamb Burger fresh local lamb, chevre, arugula, pickled red onion, roasted red pepper jelly and lemon garlic mayo also $16.75. Both burgers were served with house-made kale, apple and cabbage slaw. Peter and Lewis shared a Artichoke & Asiago Dip with grilled flatbread for $13.50.

We toured the area a bit more before getting dessert. Ice cream of course. This time at Slickers County Ice Cream Limited on Main Street in Bloomfield.

The store is pretty small so, naturally, there was a line up outside. Of course it could be because their ice cream is hand made and uses fresh local ingredients and natural flavours too. That's a distinct possibility.

So, now what? After all that eating what should we do? Why, dinner, of course. Cue our next stop at our favourite Prince Edward Country eating establishment, Pomodoro.

My first time there was last year with most of the same group of friends. Coincidentally we were seated at the same table as before. Perhaps that's why the waitress there actually recognized us. That and the fact I started snapping away with my camera again.

Like last year we shared our appetizers, mains and dessert. This time we had fried Polenta, Pizza Cinghiale, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Roast Chicken, Veal Parmagana and Lasagna. For dessert we had Carrot Cake-Cheesecake and Fresh-made Doughnuts. Delicious!

And, like last year, after dinner we raced to Sandbanks Provincial Park to try to catch the sunset. And, also like last year, we just missed it. Again. You think we would have learned.

This year we decided to try to catch the sunset behind the dunes. When we arrived the sun was just above the dunes. So we decided to make a run for it. At first we were close together, but I couldn't wait... so I headed out on my own. I wanted to get to the end of the dunes so I could get a clear shot of the sunset. So I ran like I had never run before.

The sand was soft and the dunes towering. Running was hard. Very, very hard. I ran and ran and ran. And ran and ran and ran. And ran. And ran. I never got to the end of the dunes. All I got was hot and sweaty and tired.

In the end I had to turn back defeated. In the dark. Out in the dunes. By myself.

When I got home I checked Google Maps. The dunes continue on over 7 kilometres nearly all the way back to the mainland. I never would have gotten there. Why didn't anyone tell me? At least I burned off some of the calories I put on the rest of the day. Oh well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Grand Prix Kartways with Gabe and Lewis

Another activity I did after returning from Alberta was going go-karting with Gabe and Lewis. Lewis has now returned home to Hong Kong, but while he was still here Peter was trying to think of things he might like to do, so Gabe made the suggestion.

On Friday, July 10th we went to Grand Prix Kartways in Downview Park. Gabe found out about while there for Doors Open Toronto one year. It's an indoor venue which is fine because the carts are electric powered not gas.

When we first got there we watched a few races before actually trying it out. It looked pretty neat, but it's a bit expensive if you pay full price.

We decided to go for the 2-race package. I believe it cost about $40 plus tax. One race might have cost about $25 plus tax. There's also an unlimited 6-hour package available. It's around $60 plus tax. Though, on Groupon, you can purchase the 6-hour package for $29.99.

After signing up and purchasing our race tickets we got a short introduction by the staff to the carts. Lewis was a bit nervous because he's never driven anything before (since he's only 14). After that we grabbed our helmets and hopped in our carts.

Each race has six racers. In our first race I started in 4th position while Lewis and Gabe started 5th and 6th. We were told not to bump into the other racers, but one girl who wasn't with our group didn't quite get the idea.

The organizers (who are able to stop all the cars remotely) stopped everyone a number of times in order to issue her multiple warnings. I was one of her victims which was pretty annoying. Eventually I left her in the dust ending up second. In this race I believe Lewis might have come third while Gabe came last.

In our second race I was lucky enough to start in pole position (1st). It thought I was a guaranteed lock to win and was able to hold the lead for 13 of 18 laps before getting bumped and passed by a more experienced racer (who I believe had a faster car).

In the end I came second nearly getting caught by Gabe who started in 3rd. He maintained his starting position, while Lewis dropped from 2nd to either 5th or 6th. I think Lewis and I had slower cars this race while Gabe's was a quicker one.

Anyway, it was really fun. I enjoyed it. If anyone is interested in going again I'd suggest buying a voucher from Groupon.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015 Pan Am Games - Badminton

After my trip to Alberta I went to watch badminton with my sister and nephews. The Pan Am Games were on here in Toronto and my sister had bought tickets. Actually, she had three sets of tickets. The two extra ones came from her friends who, I suppose, couldn't go.

The event venue was up in Markham. As well as badminton they had table tennis and water polo there. Event venues were actually scattered all over the place. Some were as far north as Barrie, as far east as Oshawa and as far west as Hamilton, Milton and Welland.

The first set of tickets my sister had for badminton were for Sunday morning, July 12th, two days after the opening ceremony. We saw a number of preliminary matches including men's doubles, women's doubles and women's singles.

It was the first time I've ever seen badminton live. The skill level of the players was quite high. I'm guessing they would have ranked between the top 15-50 in the world maybe? It was fun to watch.

The players were quick and very flexible. They bent like pretzels arching to return the shuttlecocks on their backhands. Very impressive.

I was able to bring my dSLR in with 24-105 mm lens. I heard later that they were allowing lenses of up to 300 mm in.

I enjoyed myself and could have stayed longer. But my nephews got bored after 3-1/2 hours so we took off after watching Canadian, Michelle Li, win her singles match over Fatima Centeno Fuentes from El Salvador (21-4, 21-10).

Michelle would eventually claim gold in Women's Singles over fellow Canadian, Rachel Honderich, 21-15/21-9 the following Thursday. Yay, Canada!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Alberta Trip - Day 10 - Moraine Lake, Eiffel Lake Hike

On our last full day in Alberta we visited Moraine Lake. Similarly to the day before when we were at Lake Louise, we got a late start, and, as a result, ended up parking way down the road because the lot was full.

Unlike the previous day where we hiked first, we started off taking pictures around the lake. The striking blue water is incredibly beautiful. Really amazing.

We decided to do the Eiffel Lake hike out of Moraine Lake. The trail splits off from the Larch Valley trail and takes you to a glorious alpine lake with a panoramic view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks. It’s 5.6 kilometres one way with an elevation gain of 370 metres. I think we went a bit further than that though.

Some of the guys weren't really keen on going on this hike. It was near the end of our trip and we had done some tough hikes (either distance-wise or in steepness). People were tired. Really tired. But it was our last day and we'd have plenty of time to recover after we returned home. So I suggested we go for it.

Compared to the other hikes we did this one was relatively easy. We started off going uphill before it levelled out. For the most part the middle of the hike was relatively flat going through the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

Since it's pretty much open there you get a wonderful view of the mountains and wildflowers. It's really lovely.

2-1/2 hours into our hike the others wanted to turn back. We were so near our destination of Eiffel Lake I wanted to push on. So I said I'd run on ahead and catch back up with them on the way back.

The final run along the trail was further than I thought it would be. I was hot, tired and sweaty by the time I got to the point along the trail just past the lake I wanted to get to.

I started snapping pictures of Eiffel Lake with the Valley of the Ten Peaks in the background. Fifteen minutes later Peter, Emily and Gabe showed up. They had decided to follow.

Again they were glad they had come. The pictures we snapped from our vantage point behind the lake were great. We met up with Yvonne and Lewis shortly after. They were waiting patiently for us to come back.

Dinner was early at 5:30 p.m. We took a suggestion from Adrian Lee who posted on Facebook that we should try the nearby Baker Creek Bistro on Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A). It's less than 15 kilometres (20 minutes) from the Lake Louise Campground where we were staying. There's a lodge at Baker Creek if you need accommodations too.

The food at the restaurant was a bit pricey. The mains ranged from the mid to high $30's. Since I had steak the night before I opted for Bison Short Ribs for $34. This time the entrées were served with vegetables sides. The others ordered the 10 oz. Rib Eye Steak and Bison Stroganoff. I have to say my Bison Short Ribs were amazingly tasty.

Back at our campsite after dinner we started a campfire. There were piles of free wood scattered around the campground. I noticed our new neighbours on the next site sitting at their picnic table in the dark with only candles lit. So I went over and mentioned about the wood. They said they didn't want to pay $8 a day for it. I walked back to our site without saying much. I had no idea we were supposed to pay for the wood. They never said anything about it to us when we checked in. How embarrassing.

Anyway, back at our site we brought out the Grizzly Paw beer we bought the evening before in Banff and Lewis, Gabe, Em and I sat around our picnic table to play the card game she brought along. I don't remember what it's called, but there are two sets of cards that range from 1 to 100. The number 1 cards and number 100 cards are placed on the table.

Each player is dealt five cards and has to play at least two each turn by placing them in either ascending order from 1 up or descending order from 100 down. You pick up as many cards as you play then it's the next player's turn. The idea is for everyone to try to get rid of their cards. You win if everyone has less than 10 cards left over in total.

After playing a bunch of times over the duration of our trip this was the only time we succeeded (with 7 cards left unplayed). Of course we took a souvenir photo.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Alberta Trip - Day 9 - Lake Louise, Fairview Mountain Hike

On our second last day in Alberta we did our toughest climb. This was up Fairview Mountain from the Lake Louise parking lot. We started relatively late so, of course, the parking lot was full. We had to park way down the road on the shoulder with all the other late comers.

The Fairview Mountain hike is over 10 kilometres long (return) with an elevation gain of 1013 metres. That's almost twice as tall as the C.N. Tower (at 553 metres).

Like the Sulphur Skyline hike in Jasper it starts in the trees. An hour to an hour and a half in the trail starts to open up as you pass the tree line. Shortly after, at 3.7 kilometres, you hit Saddleback Pass. That's where we took our first break.

After Saddleback Pass the trail goes seemingly straight up for the next 1.4 kilometres. It's very difficult with loose rock and steep slopes. Sometimes you even lose sight of the trail. We passed a group of four girls who threw in the towel part way up and headed back. Yeah, it's that hard.

We reached the summit around an hour later. The view from the top is incredible. You can see the surrounding mountain peaks including the ones that lead down to Lake Louise below.

As with our Sulphur Skyline hike we saw a rogue chipmunk up top looking for snacks. The little critters are everywhere.

Though I don't quite remember now, I'm assuming we snacked up top because we spent over an hour there. I'm sure we weren't taking pictures the whole time.

The trip down took a little under 2 hours. At around 6:00 p.m. the sun was getting low in the sky. Still we hung around Lake Louise a little longer taking pictures of the lake and famous hotel. Little known fact - Lake Louise is named after Queen Victoria's fourth daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta. As well, and quite obviously, the province of Alberta is named after her.

For dinner we headed down to Banff, some 40 minutes southeast on Highway 1. We decided to eat at Saltlik a steakhouse on Bear Street not far from Wild Flour where we had breakfast a few days earlier.

At Saltlik we all opted for beef, delicious Alberta beef. I had the Certified Angus Beef 10 oz. prime sirloin while some of the others chose the 10 oz. Blue Cheese California cut striploin. There are no bad choices here.

None of the dishes come with sides. You have to order them separately. We chose the scalloped potatoes, mac and cheese and mixed veggies to share. All in all a great way to end the day.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Alberta Trip - Day 8 - Town of Banff and Peyto Lake

Today was a relatively slow day for us. We spent the morning doing laundry at the town laundromat. While we waited we had breakfast at Wild Flour Bakery on Bear Street. They have such cute names for streets in Banff.

After finishing our laundry we decided to walk around town. Of course we had ice cream when we passed the COWS ice cream shop on Banff Avenue. It's a bit pricey at $6 for two scoops. But with 16% butterfat it's really tasty.

We walked along the Bow River towards Bow Falls next. The mosquito situation was really bad there. There were more mosquitos here than when we were in the back country for some reason. Weird.

At the falls you had a decent look at the iconic Banff Springs Hotel which overlooked it. We didn't go in. We just admired it from afar.

After spending some time by the falls we headed back to our vehicle which, by this time, had a $30 parking ticket on it. Technically we were only supposed to park for two hours. We were there five. No excuses. Our next destination would be Peyto Lake an hour north on Highway 1 and 93.

Peyto Lake is a bright, blue-green, glacier fed lake in Banff National Park. Like all glacier fed lakes it gets its colour from "rock flour". Rock flour consists of fine-grained, silt-sized particles of rock, generated by grinding of bedrock by glacial erosion.

On the day we went it was threatening rain in the afternoon. So the colour of the water was muted. The viewing platform is only a 10-minute walk from the parking lot. Very close. But not much of a hike if that's what you were looking for.

We left Peyto Lake by around 7:30 and got back to Lake Louise Campground (where we were scheduled to spend the next three nights) 40-minutes later.

I can't remember if we checked in and set up our tents first or if we grabbed dinner. We were pretty hungry and at a loss of where to go to eat. Lake Louise Village was nearby. So we decided to go there. It's not really a village, but a small strip mall. It seemed to have only one restaurant the Lake Louise Village Grill & Bar, so we went there.

The restaurant was kind of run down. It's run by Chinese people which is kind of odd for that area. Their website says they offer an affordable alternative to other eating establishments in the area, but I can't quite agree with that. A simple 5-ounce burger starts at $10.95 and goes up from there. A plate of chicken fried rice goes for $15.95. You could get something similar in Toronto for 1/3 the price.

Later, at our campsite, we faced a bit of a predicament. Technically we were only allowed to set up two tents. Up until that point the six of us had been sharing three. Emily and Lewis slept in the van.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Alberta Trip - Day 7 - Sulphur Skyline Hike, Jasper

After a restful sleep we met up for breakfast in the main lodge at the Mountain River Lodge just outside the entrance of Mount Robson Provincial Park in B.C. Like I mentioned, breakfast was included for Gabe and I who stayed in a room at the lodge, but the others had to dip into our collective fund ($15 each) to have theirs.

They had two different appetizers. I had a delicious poached pear with a biscuit while I believe the others had something (can't remember what) topped with berries. Then we were served two poached eggs wrapped in bacon on top of English muffins with pieces of pineapple and honeydew on the side. They were tasty. Our beverages consisted of coffee and orange juice.

We sat at a large table in the dining room along with a few other guests. There was an older couple from the U.S. and another couple from Australia. It was nice to have a chance to chat with them about their experiences to this point.

After eating I walked out onto the large porch surrounding the main lodge to find a number of hummingbirds buzzing around the feeders they had out there. There were so many of them. We quickly fetched our cameras to take photos and videos of them. It was incredible. I've never seen so many in my life.

We hit the road before 11:00 heading east along Highway 16 towards Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park. Along the way we stopped for pictures of course. We got there around 2:00 p.m. local time (losing one hour after crossing the border from B.C. back into Alberta).

We had considered visiting the hot springs, but decided to do the Sulphur Skyline hike instead. The hot springs just looked like a crowded outdoor swimming pool.

The hike would cover 8 kilometres round trip with an elevation gain of 700 metres. From the top you can see the Fiddle River, Utopia Mountain and Ashlar Ridge (according to the sign at the trailhead).

For the first 1-1/2 hours you're hiking below the tree line. After that it opens up and you can see more of the natural surroundings. This is where you'll see an oddly placed large white boulder and when the climb truly starts in earnest. From this point on it takes another hour to the top.

The view from the top is spectacular. You get a 360º view of the surrounding mountains. On the day we went the skies were blue and dotted with fluffy white clouds. Incredible.

We had lunch at the top eating the sub sandwiches we bought earlier. I had strapped my sandwich to the outside of my camera bag. While I was taking pictures, a rascally chipmunk attacked it after I left it sitting on the ground. He didn't get much mostly chewing through the saran wrap only.

It's funny how there are chipmunks everywhere. Even places above the tree line where no vegetation grows. I guess they rely on hikers who willingly or, in my case, unwillingly feed them.

Our second case of "lost and found" happened on the mountain. We had been on the mountain top briefly when another group of hikers joined us. They were visiting from the Czech Republic. On the way up they had found Emily's smart phone which she had dropped. She was understandably happy to get it back.

Earlier in the trip Lewis had lost his new iPhone at the Vancouver airport. Someone found it and was going to ship it back to him.

I guess there were two more incidents regarding lost and found hats too. I had dropped mine along the trail from Whitehorn to Rearguard along the Berg Lake trail and had to backtrack to find it. And I had found and returned a gentleman's hiking hat along the Snowbird Pass trail when we hiked that.

On our way down the Sulphur Skyline trail we encountered a couple of groups of young big horn sheep. One group avoided us, but seven others walked right by so close you could touch them. This was around the big white boulder. Of course we snapped away like crazy with our cameras.

We finished the hike around 6:30. After that we hopped back on Highway 16 for the 1-hour drive to Jasper for dinner. Along the way we saw a few elk munching grass along the side of the road. Of course we stopped to take pictures before hopping back into our vehicle and continuing on.

In Jasper we tried Famoso again. If you remember we tried going there before, but they were busy so we ended up at Earls Kitchen + Bar across the street. This time they had tables available. We split five pizzas between the six of us. That was enough to satisfy our hunger.

Leaving at close to 10:00 we had a long drive ahead of us. We had booked a loft-suite at the Banff Inn (in Banff of course) some 4-hours away. We'd be taking the Icefields Parkway 93 and Highway 1 back. All in complete darkness. So, obviously, we couldn't drive as quickly as during the day.

Bedtime was late. The six of us had to share one bathroom and everyone had to shower. Unfortunately we couldn't sleep in because they had a firm check out time of 11:00 a.m. Tomorrow would be a slow day.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Alberta Trip - Day 6 - Rearguard Out

After a late night of trying to shoot the stars we packed and left Rearguard the next morning. We'd be hiking the whole way back to the parking lot in one go - 22 kilometres with all our gear.

We left at 10:00 in the morning. It was a bright, sunny day. Beautiful.

I didn't take as many pictures on the way out as on the way in. The gear was weighing me down and I didn't want to keep taking my camera out and putting it away.

It was a tough slog. The trip, mostly downhill, was killing my toes which repeated hit the inside of my hiking shoes. As well, the extra weight of my pack walking on the uneven ground was really doing a number on my ankles.

Our first break was at Emperor Falls, 6 kilometres and 2-1/2 hours in. We had a sit down and a small snack and were back on the trail.

The worst of the downhill trek was next, from Emperor Falls to Kinney Lake where it drops over 600 metres in 9 kilometres. We stopped for lunch here eating whatever food we had leftover.

I had a chance to talk with a ranger here. I was curious as to how often they had to rescue hikers/campers. She told me they did an average of 2 helicopter evacuations every shift. I actually never asked her how long a shift was though.

She mentioned that helicopter evacuations cost $1900 per hour and that the provincial government covered the costs if you were a B.C. resident. They could fly you out for something as seemingly trivial as a sprained ankle. Of course if you were stuck 20 kilometres in you'd never be able to hike out.

I think I also asked about bear encounters. She said they weren't uncommon. But that attacks on humans rarely happened.

After our break we hit the trail one last time. The last leg would be 11 kilometres long. It never seemed to end.

I believe we made it out by around 7:30 p.m. We were hungry and tired. The café at Mount Robson Visitor Centre was closed so we got ice cream bars from the gas station there. The closest village was Valemount. We headed there to try and grab dinner.

Valemount is tiny. Located 1/2 hour south of the park on Southern Yellowhead Highway (5) it's population barely breaks a thousand. The choice of restaurants is slim. The choice of open restaurants at 8:30 at night even slimmer.

The first place we tried was a pizza joint. It didn't look very inviting. And, as it turns out, it wasn't. After we walked through the door they said, we're closed (even though the sign out front stated they were open until 9:00).

So we walked across the street to a Korean restaurant, called appropriately enough, Korean and Japanese Restaurant. I know... a Korean restaurant in a town of 1,000? There wasn't much else that looked appealing.

I ordered Japchae with beef. It was tasty, but I believe, a bit over-priced at around $18 or so. Emily had fried rice which came in around $17 (before tax and tip). We were hungry so we couldn't afford to be picky.

It was nearly 10:00 p.m. by the time we self-checked in at the Mountain River Lodge (back on Highway 16) close to the park entrance. After three days in the bush we decided to pamper ourselves a little.

Emily had booked a small cabin for four there, plus a room for two at the main lodge. Gabe and I took the room while the others shared the cabin.

After a hot, relaxing shower to wash away the grime we visited the others before hitting the sack at around 11:30.