A New Path

The Garry Oak Loop consists of two loops. One through that is a pleasant 1km meander in the woods, the other loops around a golf course. I chose the former. Located in the Municipality of Colwood (one of 9 in Greater Victoria) the path begIns near the library and is a perfect place to end a workout or swim at the Recreation Centre next door. Spring has sprung.

 The daffodil bulbs were most likely not planted. Crows and seagulls pick them up then drop them. Garry Oak forests seem to have great soil for the daffodils to propagate.


I know I snore. All of my daughters snore. For me it was not until I had children and was sleep deprived that it became noticeable. As I got older, pushing towards 60, it is only becoming worse. It does not bother me, it does not bother anyone else – or rarely. When travelling I always took  private rooms, only recently did I try a dorm. Did I snore? I do not really care.

however, it seems that younger backpackers have the ridiculous concept of not expecting to meet people in dorms who snore. Wake up and smell the coffee! After listening to the woes of snoring from my daughter, who has been doing far more travelling than I, here are some very simple rules. If you are sharing a mixed dorm, female or male only dorm, people snore. Etiquette should be clear about how to deal with this.

DO NOT approach the person who is snoring, at worse you could end up with with a fist in your face or a nasty accusation.

DO NOT approach the person when they are awak accusing them of ruining your sleep.

DO NOT offer to have them moved to a private room or another hostel. How extremely rude. It is also bordering on misogyny – it seems the action of taking action is mainly men accosting women with accusations of, OMG, excessive snoring!

DO move to a new hostel of private room yourself. Could be expensive.

DO buy a good set of earplugs. Probably the least expensive solution.

Let me say this one more time, it is absolutely wrong to attempt to wake a stranger, particularly if that stranger is of a gender who might be rightfully frightened or angry. In addition, if you are so bothered by the snoring of strangers why the hell are you travelling and staying in hostels?

thunk about it.

Train Delay: Or How to Pass the Time 

It cannot be said often enough, trains in Canada are not like trains in Europe and many other countries. They do not run on time. Factor in winter and they can be many hours behind. I arrived at the station 8:30am – only to discover it does not open until 10:00 – having taken the free shuttle. No problem, I headed for the Information Centre, opens at 9:00. Library not until 10:00. So I headed for Smitty’s where I drank copious cups of coffee. During that time I checked my email, messages and texts. An email shortly after 9:00 am from Via Rail, a delay, expected ETA in Jasper, 6:00pm. That would be the only official notice I would receive. I had to drop off my bags and find a way to amuse myself.

Via station service manager (he was at the station until the train arrived except for a couple of breaks) updated the ETA, 8pm. I needed lots of distraction. First stop, Information – again. There I found out the Jasper Pride Festival House was nearby. I wanted some stickers or pins. I headed back out into -21 C. It is important to have a destination in such weather. I thought I could hang out for a while but only managed to buy some things just prior to their closing the doors at 11:00! (I found out later they only had a handful of volunteers to man the various venues) They did tell me about a documentary that would be showing at a local hotel, In the Turn, about a young girl in Canada who is transgender and a lot about roller derby. Interesting connection.

A quick trip to the art gallery at the Jasper Libary and Cultural Centre showed little of interest to me. I was rather disappointed, perhaps it was just what was on offer at the time. Once again I headed into the blowing, dry, tiny, biting ice-snow. In the wrong direction. Perseverance, or pigheadedness, got me in the right direction and I only missed the introduction of the movie. I was a little worried I had a touch of snow blindness- my eyes and face felt quite odd. Just adjusting to the warmth and dark. It was a completely unexpected way to spend my afternoon. A short, unplanned intermission meant a chance for everyone to grab a coffee, popcorn and candies – I gravitated to the licorice allsorts. My time was slowly being whittled away.

Before searching for lunch I checked for an update. Between 8 – 10:00 PM. I felt rather sorry for the station manager having to give this news to everyone as they arrived. Lunch was at The Other Paw Bakery Cafe, on Connaught Drive I discovered on my last train trip through Jasper. I still have to find Bear’s Paw Bakery. Delicious red pepper soup. Except I had to reheat it when it was put on the wrong table. I also had a wrap with egg, red peppers, cheese and bacon. The eggs were sort of spongy, not palate friendly. Trying to think ahead I had half bagged for dinner despite not really liking it.

I actually bought a souvenir type t-shirt with a grizzly bear wearing a baseball cap silkscreened on it. Rarely do I make such purchases; however, I desperately needed something light to wear that I would not be in for another 24 hours. I headed back to the station to hang out where I discovered a VIP gala was being set up, something to do with Via Rail’s sponsorship of Jasper Pride Festival. That seemed to be the theme of my day. I suggested those of us who were actual passengers should be invited.

Then we were. Except by the time the event (it was definitely not a gala, nor does cocktail party quite work) started I was the only real passenger! Wine, hor d’oeuvres, (including canapés – it seems these are one form of hor d’oeuvres) a violinist, people mingling, laughter, chit chat and very short speeches made the minute hand not seem so excruciatingly slow. It was a pleasant way to spend three hours or so, from set up to break down. An excellent example of going with the flow. I had a sense of looking inside from within a double glass ball – like walking into the wrong wedding party, or over/under dressing for an event. The important thing is that there was no exclusion and I did enjoy myself. I think the three passengers who arrived later were not impressed. Even after being invited to partake of a glass of wine.

The VIPs missed the party – they were stuck on the nine plus hours late train. We did not depart Jasper until midnight. However, we did see some fantastic terrain when morning came that is normally passed by in the dark.

The highlights: the views of course. One free lunch and free coffee. Meeting fellow passengers, hearing some of their stories.
The lowlights: paying for my breakfast and the free dinner. By the time that meal was being served the choices were paltry. Pasta with chicken or pasta without chicken. Or, gluten free pasta with or without chicken. No soup, no juice, no bar service – just as well, I might have been tempted. There was chocolate cake though. Something to appease the masses.

               What they fed the passengers when the food was running low.

                                         Waiting for spring.

The Thompson and Fraser Rivers flow side by side near Lytton, a unique contrast of colours and the might of water. This was a sign of being nearly to our final destination, the only main attraction left was Hell’s Gate, a hop, skip and a jump downstream from Boston Bar, where I lived for about a year when a child. (We did seem to move to some strange, out of the way, places when I was growing up). The most treacherous section of the Fraser River, Hell’s Gate was named after Simon Fraser’s voyage in 1808, who declared in his journal that, “no man should ever pass through here it was truly like passing through the Gates of Hell!” Hell’s Gate is a favourite area for white river rafting and the bridge is a major tourist attraction. To this day I still have not braved the suspension bridge nor the Airtram.
                                         Just one of several tunnels.

Guess who had the right of way.

The only little church I managed to capture. They seem so randomly placed.

Some of my photos are out of order, IPhone and Canon in use and no notes.

I must admit that soon after Hell’s Gate I finally grew bored with everything and hunkered down to read my book. The coach car grew quiet. We slowly wound our way towards Pacific Station.  We were twelve hours behind schedule by the time the train arrived in Vancouver. The last ferry to Vancouver Island is at 9:00pm, there was no possible way I, and some other passengers heading to Victoria, would make it. Some frantic texting and FB messages when there was a signal finally resulted in my having an air mattress to sleep on at my ex-sister in law’s apartment.


                                           This can only mean I was on the ferry!

Interesting Stuff

The Jasper train station was build in 1925 – it is now a heritage building still used by passengers to catch the Via train, or the much more expensive Rocky Mountaineer.

There are four distinct seasons, winter surpasses them all with deathly temperatures and astounding beauty. White is not just white in these mountains.

From Jasper to Vancouver tunnels dug into the mountains and snow sheds to protect the tracks from avalanche are reminders of just how dangerous it was to build the tracks as well as travelling the rails.  I had forgotten how scary it is seeing how far below the Thompson River is and just how rickety the tracks appear at times. Factor in boulders stopped in mid roll, as though frozen in time, on one side and the sheer cliffs below to the river to envision the engineering ingenuity to build these tracks all those years ago.

In 1871 British Columbia joined Confederation, but with a condition attached: a transcontinental railway had to be built within 10 years to connect its capital, Victoria, to Eastern Canada. We did eventually get the railway, running from Victoria to Courtenay. Sadly, it shut down in 2011 and is unlikely to be opened for rail service again. There were grumblings but BC did not leave Confederation in a huff.
In 1987 VIA introduced an on time policy: passengers received travel credits if their train arrived late. When I sent a complaint about the 12 hour delay all I received was an apology. I did not find when the policy was dropped nor if it was only for specific routes. Basically sit back and enjoy the ride.

Final Expense: I managed to come in under budget! $490.00 Items I purchased before or during that I will use again were not factored in. If I add a gift I bought for a friend of my daughter’s it shows I went over by $20.00. Some savings were a result of the late train, and I saved on the tour.

Then there was the money I spent on My cat, Mozzy, $1300.00 plus for tests. I had been on the verge of cancelling, or at least changing, my trip. I am happy to report he is fine, I had a nice break and all is well. Time to plan my next adventure.


Arrival: Jasper

Arrived in Jasper 30 minutes late. That meant still another two hours before the shuttle to the hostel. I found the grocery store TPG, suggested to me by people who have been to Jasper. The selection is limited, a little pricier than what I would spend in Victoria. I managed to spend about $20.00 to buy extra supplies. (The two chicken breasts I bought were rather dry when I finally used them for two meals.) 

With the knowledge the temperature was already at -17 C I walked back to the train station and caught a taxi. At minus 17 C only the foolhardy would walk the 7km, mainly uphill road to the hostel. It is up the mountain after all.

HI-Jasper price quoted, and confirmed on booking.com was for Hostel International members only. I thought that had been dealt with for when I checked in at the hostel. Nope. Total for two nights in a 28 bed dorm; I used my debit card rather than be left short of cash. I would have paid the membership fee if I had explored where other HI accommodations are.

The hostel is well set up for the guests to cook even some gourmet meals if they so desired. A mish mash of plates, pots, frying pans, mugs, bowls and some baking items. Well set up for more than one person to cook at a time. Makes me think of commune life without everyone pitching in for the good of all.

I purchased some stuffed pasta and two small, baked chicken breasts. I had the foresight to chop mushrooms and a red pepper before leaving home A little oil, cook up he vegetables, cook the pasta, add some garlic dip and voila – traveller’s gourmet dinner.

I ate at a picture window, it became my go to spot when at the hostel, watching the mountains and snow darken into the night. A large fireplace snapped and crackled in the room. All I needed was marshmallows.

Breakfast and Morning View
Woke up with a cramp, no fun with a flight of stairs to get to the female washrooms. Other than that I did have a relatively decent sleep, once I had finally stopped swaying as though still on the train.

Coffee of course. I am making full use of my travel French Press.

Fresh fruit, left over from what I bought in Victoria – pineapple, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries

One tea egg (my pandas were eyeing that)

Toasted bagel with garlic cream cheese

Two small, soft wedges of Laughing Cow Cheese

Very small pot of yogurt

I took my time to eat, good thing as that was far more than I usually eat. Watching the day wake up into its shivery morning provided me with two hours of entertainment and photo opportunities.

I already knew my only full day might be all from inside looking out. At 6:00AM it was -21 C feeling like -26. I was quite content to sit at the window watching the sun come up, paint the snow capped mountain in layers of pink hues, that slowly seeped down the mountainsides, buried forever in the white purity of the snow. A clear, winter blue sky emerged. The bare trees across the road were frozen sentinels, awaiting the first touches of spring before easing their outstretched icicle and snow laden branches. If there were not cars sitting out front I could easily have believed I was in a hidden cabin.

I asked about activities that did not include skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or any other winter sport. One possibility was the Maligne Canyon ice walk. About three hours with a guide, $65.00. Then, as I was preparing to tidy things up to have a shower, a young man asked if I wanted to join him. He was planning a similar walk, had all his gear in his car if I should need anything. Not wanting to slow him down I did explain I am nearly 60 to his 34. However, I accepted and around 10:00 we set off, with the idea the temperature might be a little warmer for what ended up being four hours in the cold – time to test my new cold weather base tops, second hand coat, mittens crocheted by my daughter and my choice of toque. I was grateful I grabbed my leopard print face mask I bought in Beijing.

Brad turned out to be an excellent, knowledgeable guide, he visits Jasper as often as possible to take advantage of the skiing opportunities and knows the area. As some of the slopes were closed down he had the day free and I was the fortunate one for it. We first walked along the lower canyon. This is only possible during winter when the river is frozen solid. I felt privileged to see, when stopped in its tracks, just how powerful flowing water can be. Walking in the canyon is somewhat of an illusion – by summer it will be filled with water roaring through. There is a trail along the sides of the gorge, but everyone ignores these for the thrill of walking on the ice.

                                                                                 Behind the ice curtain.

Looking up at the striated limestone cliffs was overwhelming with the solid walls of ice halted in mid pour. The cliff walls where water rushes past are like raw silk, smooth, cold, with a slight roughness to them. Blue, white, translucent waterfalls hang like chandeliers and curtains. How often is it possible to peek behind an ice curtain? When the holes and red marker ropes for ice climbers were pointed out I was astonished to learn this is a sport. All I could think of was the scene from Phantom of the Opera. We walked upon, at times slightly slushy, green-blue river ice, no idea how thick it was below us, but a slight tingling of fear added to the cold with the knowledge of what lay below would soon melt and be set free!

A rare photo of me. 

My private guide then asked if I was up to walking along the top of the canyon. Absolutely! He commented that I was indeed in great shape – hurray! The views overlooking the frozen river bed were dizzying. The river is 50 metres below. We had been stopped at one point below at a wall of ice I did not think I could handle. Seen from above it was clear this was as far as anyone could go.

Parks Canada built an interpretative trail along the canyon with signs describing the geological history of the area. There are four bridges across the gorge, each with a fabulous view.
One image from above was just how much of a force nature can be, we saw where something had hit the ice below with such an impact the ice floor had been cracked asunder, only to seal up again with fractures stretching from the impact point. There were not any loose rocks around, all being sealed within the limestone walls; however, it might have been a heavy tree branch, or a small tree – whatever it was had been swallowed.

Fortunately there are also handrails because the places with steps were covered in snow and ice. This is another walk best made with someone if heading out in the dead of winter. We saw two sets of fat wheels that we could only surmise were made by ice bikes – I have never heard of them. Perhaps they were Fat Bikes. Whatever the type they should not have been ridden on the trails.
After our lower and upper tours of the canyons, and some photos of mule deer at a frozen picnic site, a wildlife tour was added. Guaranteed elk and mountain sheep sightings I was not about to say no! Off we went, my guide knows where the animals hang out. The elk were not very cooperative, even with the car engine shut off. I did manage to get some decent shots.

Then off to see the mountain sheep. Such magnificent horns on two of the males. While I took pictures my new friend kept a close eye on the largest of the males who had been watching what we were planning. If drivers must stop do not get out of the vehicle! I have known this lesson since I was ten and am always shocked when parents actually place their children in the frame of a photo with a wild beast. Those horns are there for a reason.

Then to a local laundromat that serves the best coffee, or so I had been told, in town. It really was very good. A tiring, wonderful day at a pace set by me, but not completely alone. Back to the dorm for some much needed downtime, dinner and reading. Even the excited gaggle of girl guides who had arrived did not interfere with my quiet. Fortunately, until the second cramp in my two nights, I slept well.