Vancouver and the Sea to Sky Highway: Pacific Northwest Spring Adventure Part 3

Posted on July 11, 2015 by Mickey

This is the continuation of our Vancouver and Vancouver Island adventures. You can read about those in the first part, traveling around the Seattle area, and the second part which was an amazing experience on Vancouver Island! After arriving at West Vancouver, we started our drive up the coast towards Squamish where we would be staying. We stopped to shoot the sunset at Porteau Cove. The Howe Sound was extremely calm and beautiful, as seen below!

Porteau Cove Sunset
Porteau Cove SunsetPrints Available
Calm waters and no wind made for a beautiful sunset at Porteau Cove on the Sea to Sky Highway

After finishing up at Porteau Cove, we drove the rest of the way up to Squamish to our hotel, Squamish Mountain Retreat Hotel. After asking the hotel clerk and doing a little Google searching for a restaurant with good ratings, we ended up settling on the Timberwolf Restaurant that was inside the hotel. We picked up a West Coast pizza (an amazing smoked salmon pizza) and took it back to the room to eat and then crash! Definitely a great choice and the leftovers provided a good snack the next day! The hotel was great, and looked like it had a nice swimming pool with a fun slide, but we were too tired to take advantage on this trip.

The next morning, my wife got an extra hour or two of sleep while I drove back to Porteau Cove Huge difference from the night before, which was much colder and windy. Waves were crashing in from Howe Sound, so I shot with a little slower shutter speed to try and capture a silkier texture on the water as they poured over the rocks.

Porteau Cove Sunrise
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A windy and cold sunrise over the choppy waters at Porteau Cove Provincial Park

After sunrise, I went back to help pack up and be on our way. We planned to hit up a few waterfalls in the mountains. We grabbed Tim Horton’s for breakfast, and drove up to Brandywine Falls. The sun was out in full force for the first time on this trip. That made shooting the waterfalls a bit more difficult during the day, but as you can see, Brandywine Falls was a beautiful and powerful famous waterfall between Squamish and Whistler. Brandywine Falls are roughly 230 feet from top to bottom.

Brandywine Falls
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Beautiful Brandywine Falls between Squamish and Whistler

After visiting Brandywine Falls, we stopped in Whistler for a restroom break. We had hoped to go up to Nairn Falls, but were already running late for seeing everything else. So we decided to check out Alexander Falls. Alexander Falls are situated in Callaghan Valley, just below the Olympic Park, where many events from the 2010 Winter Olympics were held. Alexander Falls get a lot more visitors since the Olympic Park was built. They are one of many impressive falls on the Sea to Sky highway and drop a good 140 feet or so.

Alexander Falls
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Alexander Falls in the Callaghan Valley

After Alexander Falls, our third waterfall visit would be Shannon Falls. By this time, it was late morning, and you could tell Vancouverites were out enjoying the sun after days of cold, cloudy weather. Not the best for photography, but a beautiful day for sure! The parking lot at Shannon Falls was PACKED. We braved the crowds to visit these beautiful falls.

Shannon Falls
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Shannon Falls near Squamish, British Columbia

After the waterfalls, we needed to spend a couple more hours doing something before we could check into our hotel. Decided to try the Lynne Canyon park instead of Capilano because it was free. As we got closer, we realized everyone else had the same idea. There was no parking within a few miles of it. At that point, we decided to check into hotel a little early and take a quick nap before heading back out to see more of the city. My wife had booked the amazing Pinnacle Pier Hotel at an exceptional rate. It lived up to it’s reputation and was a great place to stay! We took a quick nap, got settled in, and decided to get some sushi for dinner! Just down the street was Sushi Bella, which had great ratings. We walked to the restaurant, arriving just before it opened back up for dinner. The thing about sushi on the west coast that’s so much than sushi from our hometown of Wichita, Kansas, is that it’s not only fresher, but much cheaper! Between that and the favorable US dollar to Canadian dollar exchange rate, we got four large sushi rolls for the same price as two would have costed us in Wichita. And it was so much better!

After our amazing sushi dinner date, we hoped back in the car to go check out Atkinson Lighthouse. We joked that we visited Shannon Falls, which had my last name, and then visited Atkinson Lighthouse, which had my wife’s maiden name. We hiked around until we found a great view of the lighthouse with part of Vancouver in the background. Not only was it one of my favorite photos of the trip, it was a nice place to just relax and watch the ships head into Vancouver Harbour as the waves rolled in. On our hike back, I encountered something I had never seen before in my years of hiking! While Atkinson Lighthouse is technically in West Vancouver, the entire Lighthouse Park is covered in beautiful virgin rainforest! I’ve hiked everywhere from the Swiss Alps to the Colorado Rockies to part of Kauai’s famed Kalalau Trail. I’ve met many people on my hikes. I’ve encountered everything from people training to climb Mount Everest to a 70 year old man dominating 20 year olds on the Kalalau Trail. But never before have I come across a group of people carrying huge boom boxes on their shoulders blaring hip hop music throughout an otherwise tranquil forest looking like they’re shooting a hip hop video. But in Vancouver, at the Lighthouse Park, my wife and I did just that. Definitely a new one!

Atkinson Lighthouse
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The beautiful Atkinson Lighthouse in West Vancouver

After the Atkinson Lighthouse, we decided to watch the sunset on the pulloff above Vancouver on Cypress Mountain. It’s an awesome view that looks over all of Vancouver. On a clear day you can see a number of volcanoes in Washington, along with the many islands, including Vancouver Island, out in the sea.

Vancouver Sunset
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Sunset over Vancouver from the pull-off on the way up Cypress Mountain

After sunset, we drove through Stanley Park and into downtown Vancouver. One photograph I really wanted to get was a night shot of the famed Gastown Steam Clock. We arrived by complete accident right before 9PM when the steam clock let out a lot of steam. We were exhausted, so we didn’t stay long, but it was cool to experience the steam clock when it was letting out it’s hourly steam!

Gastown Steam Clock
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The famous Steam Clock of Gastown in Vancouver

Before crashing for the evening, I took advantage of the amazing balcony view over the North Vancouver Harbour back towards downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver Night
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The night time cityscape view from North Vancouver towards downtown Vancouver

While I had planned to get up and shoot a sunrise, three days of getting up before sunrise with little sleep caught up to me. I got up and shot a quick sunrise out the balcony window and slept in a little bit with my wife.

Morning in Vancouver
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Morning in Vancouver, British Columbia from my hotel balcony in North Vancouver

Our flight in Seattle left around 5 that afternoon, so we knew we needed to get a move on. We grabbed Tim Horton’s for breakfast again on our way out of North Vancouver, and spent an hour checking out Stanley Park for a bit. While we wanted more time to explore one of the most famous city parks in the world, we at least got to spend a little time walking through some of the gardens, as seen below.

Stanley Park
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Exploring famous Stanley Park in Vancouver
Stanley Park Gardens
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The beautiful gardens of Stanley Park

As we didn’t know what the border crossing would be like in terms of time, we knew we should probably leave a little early. So we made for the border, stopping one last time at Tim Horton’s to pick up some snacks for the rest of the day. Thankfully the border crossing took little time, and left us with an extra hour or so that we spent very well. We knew that April was tulip season in Washington, and one of the most famous tulip festivals in the world is situated in Skagit Valley. We decided to take a little detour and drove around the amazing tilup fields at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Looking back, we really wish we had more time to devote to checking this out! Many of the tulip fields were ridiculous crowded and cost money to park. As we had less than an hour to spare (and less if traffic was bad in Seattle), we really didn’t have time to pay to park and walk into one of the fields. But as we were nearing the southern area of Skagit Valley, there was a place where we could park right next to one of the fields and get out for a few minutes! We spent 10-15 minutes walking around the red and yellow fields of tulips. The color in these fields is extremely vivid, and we felt blessed to be able to finish off our trip in such a beautiful place!

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
Skagit Valley Tulip FestivalPrints Available
The vivid tulip fields of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

We finished our drive back to airport in Seattle, knowing we would have to return to the Pacific Northwest again!

Posted under: Canada, Washington

Pacific Rim and Vancouver Island: Pacific Northwest Spring Adventure Part 2

Posted on June 10, 2015 by Mickey

This is part 2 of my Pacific Northwest spring adventure from earlier this year. Part 1 can be read in the travel blog post about Seattle and Snoqualmie Falls.

After leaving Seattle, we drove north to the border. I had hand drawn a map from the border to our ferry sailing at Horseshoe Bay up on in West Vancouver as we would be turning off our phones to avoid international charges. We were hoping to catch the noon sailing, as the next sailing wasn’t until 3PM. We were hopelessly unsuccessful. My map got us lost. I had planned to take highway 15 up to highway 1 and follow it to the exit near Horseshoe Bay, but turned too early onto a different highway, and ended up driving through what seemed like endless downtown area’s around the entire Vancouver area. After a ridiculous amount of time, we arrived at Horseshoe Bay a little before 2. We had used a BC Ferries package deal to get a ferry ride over to Vancouver Island, 2 nights in a hotel in Ucluelet on the west side of Vancouver Island then a ferry ride back to Vancouver. It was a great deal, and I highly recommend checking those packages out for anyone planning a trip that uses the great ferry system around British Columbia! I fully plan to take advantage of these BC Ferries package to do one of my dream trips someday! More on that at the bottom of this travel adventure.

We handed our BC Ferries package receipt to one of the entrance booth workers and asked him if we would make the 3PM ferry. He said it was likely, but not certain. We drove on and got in line, waiting with excitement! I had been on a ferry in Washington back in 2012. It was just a short ferry ride to Port Townsend on my drive down from Bellingham to Olympic National Park. This was over an hour and a half across the Salish Sea to Nanaimo. And my wife had never been on a ferry at all! So we were excited to say the least. When the lane next to us was called first, a car battery had died on someone. Everyone passed him, and then our line was called. When we got to ferry, we were told to stop. We were worried we had been the last car that wasn’t going to make it on the 3PM sailing! It was another two hours to wait if so. The worker told us they were waiting to see if the stalled car could make it first. Turns out, ended up having room for two more cars. The stalled car came putting along and they let us on too! We managed to be the last car on the ferry! Score!

The ferry ride was a blast. We ordered some food, as we hadn’t even stopped to eat lunch in our rush to Horseshoe Bay, so I downed a chicken sandwich and fries, while my wife had some soup. We then wandered around the ferry, walking around the deck, visiting the gift shop, and just having a blast enjoying the experience. After an hour and a half or so, we were alerted to head back to our vehicles. We were the last on the ferry, which meant we were going to be the last off the ferry. We had been parked on a ramp on the side of the ferry, and a car two cars up in line had died! Two in one ferry ride! They got a jump, and eventually managed to get going. We drove on, finally arriving on Vancouver Island!

We had a good 2+ hour drive from Nanaimo to Ucluelet across the island, so we stopped to get some snacks (donuts) at Tim Horton’s. This was our first visit to Tim’s and wasn’t going to be our last! For fellow American’s, think Panera Bread at the price of McDonalds! Bagels, donuts, muffins, coffee’s, sandwiches and more for really good prices! Especially when the US dollar was converting so well into Canadian dollars when we were there.

After stocking up on some goods for the road, we started our drive across the island, passing Port Alberni on our drive across the Pacific Rim Highway. As we wanted to arrive by dark, we didn’t stop much. However, the evening was cloudy with drizzle at times and had a magical feel to it. It was like driving to the end of the world (others have described visiting Pacific Rim the same way). It was a great experience. I only stopped to get one shot, planning to stop on the way back at all the locations. There was a great little lake called Larry Lake halfway across the island that was beautiful and calm.

Larry Lake Vancouver Island
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A beautiful stop at Larry Lake on an evening drive across Vancouver Island to Ucluelet

We arrived at Ucluelet after dark and immediately checked into our hotel, the Water’s Edge. This was the hotel we booked through BC Ferries Vacations for two nights. I can’t recommend it enough! The staff was extremely helpful, the rooms were great, the jetted tub on the balcony was as cozy as could be on an early spring evening in Ucluelet. The atmosphere was just amazing! Before we hit the jetted tub though, we needed food. As Ucluelet is a smaller town, very few places were still open. We chose pizza (what’s new!) and hit a place called Roman’s Pizza and Grill. We ordered a prawn pizza and took it back to the Water’s Edge to eat while filling up our jetted tub outside. After devouring a few delicious pieces we jumped in the jetted tub to enjoy the sounds and smells of the harbor that was right in our backyard. It was relaxing after a long day of driving. We were excited to explore the Pacific Rim tomorrow, so after a half hour of soaking in the tub, we jumped out, downed another piece of pizza and crashed.

The Pacific Rim

The next morning, I woke up much later than I had planned. It was raining, which is typical for this area, so instead of shooting a sunrise, I caught up on some much needed sleep. We got a mid-morning start, eating some oatmeal and drove off towards Tofino. Our plan was to drive to Tofino and spend most of the day making our way back to Ucluelet, taking in as much as we possibly could. We first stopped to get a Canada Parks pass at the visitors station, then made our way over to Radar Hill. I will admit, the view from Radar Hill wasn’t as impressive as I expected it would be. However, this was probably the only disappointment in the Pacific Rim. After shooting a photo or two, we decided to stop over in Tofino to grab some lunch for the road. The moment we got to the small grocery store, it began to pour. Like, downpour. We got what we needed and jumped in the car.

Long Beach Pacific Rim
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Pacific Rim National Park’s beautiful Long Beach on a typical rainy day

Our next stop was Long Beach in Pacific Rim where the rain had let up a little. We explored the beach a little in the drizzle, admiring the mood of the Pacific Ocean. This was quintessential Pacific Rim National Park scenery. Crashing waves below storm clouds with an awesome atmosphere. I’m used to shooting color. But there was amazing beauty in the grey of the clouds. Below is one of my favorite scenes, as a lone figure was framed well on the rocks above the swirling ocean waters. Rain came in quick and heavy shortly after shooting this.

Pacific Rim National Park
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A lone figure stands on the rocks above a wild Pacific Ocean at Pacific Rim’s National Park as rain moves in

As it was raining, we thought the perfect place to visit next was the rainforest trail! We drove off to the south until we reached the parking lot. We could go on the north loop or the south loop. We chose the south. Walking through a rain forest is an amazing experience! I’ve walked through the Redwoods in California. I’ve also visited the rainforests of Olympic National Park. And I’ve walked the boardwalks of the Giant Cedar’s in Revelstoke National Park further east in British Columbia. The rainforest in Pacific Rim National Park rivals all of these! The smells of the moss-covered trees, mixed with whiffs of the nearby Pacific Ocean combine to add to the amazing experience! Anyone who has never visited a rainforest like this owes it to themselves to walk amongst trees like these. Some of these trees are well over 800 years old!

Pacific Rim Rainforest Trail
Pacific Rim Rainforest TrailPrints Available
A boardwalk trail cuts through a mystical rainforest in Pacific Rim

After leaving the rainforest, the clouds started to break in places, and hints of blue sky were giving promise to the sun breaking out. We started driving towards Wickininnish Beach, but decided to stop to check out the Bog Trail. The unique bog is ecosystem to itself in Pacific Rim National Park. Very few plants can survive in the acidic soil here, allowing shore pines to grow in gnarled fashion. After walking the 20-minute boardwalk trail, we hit up Wickininnish Beach. With it being mid-day and the sun starting to break out, I didn’t manage any good photographs. However, the views were great, and it was interesting to watch all the surfers testing themselves against the cold waves of the Pacific Ocean as it crashed in to the shores.

We decided we wanted to devote some time to the trails around Ucluelet for the later afternoon, so we drove back to Ucluelet. I had read about all the trails being built in this area, and so we decided to jump on the main Wild Pacific Trail via the Ancient Cedars Trail.

Ucluelet Ancient Cedars Trail
Ucluelet Ancient Cedars TrailPrints Available
This trail led us through the Ancient Cedars trail in Ucluelet to the stunning Wild Pacific Trail along the Pacific Ocean

This short section of rainforest takes 5-10 minutes to get from the parking spots on the highway to the Pacific Ocean views! It crosses some of the most ancient forests in the area. These giant trees have managed to survive the heavy winds coming off the ocean, lightning strikes and even a tsunami or two in the centuries-old life of this beautiful forest. We hiked to the southeast towards the Artists Point and were blown away by the stunning vistas in this windswept rocky coastline. The views were phenominal.

Wild Pacific Trail Coastline
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The amazing coastline along the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet

The Wild Pacific Trail offers some stunning coastline hiking right next to Ucluelet. In my opinion, these trails offer some of the easiest access to views of one of the best looking coastlines in the world! The trail is still being built further on to the west of Ucluelet. I can’t wait to get back here to hike the area’s I didn’t finish on this trip.

The Wild Pacific
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Another great view from the Wild Pacific Trail on the south end of Ucluelet

As we could see rain quickly advancing on us from our over the Pacific Ocean, we high-tailed it back to the car. We made it just before the downpour came. At this point, we were starving! The night before, the front desk at our hotel had recommended the Matterson House for some good clam chowder which sounded amazing! The Matterson House is a house that’s been converted into a restaurant. This restaurant serves all sorts of seafood and more! We had our eyes on clam chowder, so we each ordered up a bowl. It was a great meal. By the time we finished, the cycle of rain to sun to rain was continuing, as the rain had died and the sun was coming back out.

We had originally planned to hike the entire 2.6km lighthouse loop, but with only a little over an hour until sunset, we decided we would just explore around the lighthouse itself. On the way down, we saw a few deer. Surprisingly, this was the only real wildlife we saw the entire trip! Before arriving, I had read about how the area housed the highest concentration of cougars in the world, along with a healthy bear and wolf population. My last trip to Canada took me to Banff and Jasper, where I saw three bears. This trip, a few deer were the highlight of wildlife. Somewhat disappointing, but you can’t always have everything!

Ucluelet Lighthouse Rainbow
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A rainbow forms above the Amphitrite Lighthouse at the end of the road in Ucluelet

The Wild Pacific Trail near the Amphitrite Lighthouse offered vista after vista. It was one of those places I couldn’t put my camera down for more than a minute before seeing something else I wanted to photograph! We didn’t walk the entire thing, but walked both east and west of the lighthouse, shooting lots of photos, including a beautiful rainbow that popped up over the lighthouse that can be seen above!

Pacific Rim Coastline
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The coastline of the Pacific Rim on the south side of Ucluelet is dotted with small islands and mountains in the distance towards Bamfield
Wild Pacific Trail Sunset
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A sunset tries to break through the stormy weather on the Wild Pacific Trail near Ucluelet

My goal was to get a beautiful sunset shot along the trail, and while it wasn’t as colorful as many sunsets I’ve shot, it fit the scenery of the Pacific Rim perfectly with storms rolling in and waves crashing below! We went back to the hotel exhausted from a full day of amazing adventures in Pacific Rim National Park. After a quick dip in the jetted tub on our balcony, we crashed.

I awoke hoping to capture a sunrise. It was cloudy. Very cloudy. As the sunrise was still half an hour away, I hoped things would clear out over the ocean at the lighthouse. But before driving through a sleepy early morning Ucluelet to the end of the road, I stopped to shoot two photos of the harbor near my hotel at the Water’s Edge.

Ucluelet Morning
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Early in the morning during blue hour at Ucluelet
Morning at Ucluelet Harbour
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Light during a cloudy morning begins to cast a blue glow over the harbour in Ucluelet

I attempted a few shots at the lighthouse around sunrise, but rain began to fall. I kept hoping for a break, but it just got heavier. I gave up and went back to wave my wife to get ready for our journey back across the island to our ferry ride.

Our hope was to get packed up then stop and hike a little more of the Wild Pacific Trail before heading on, but the rain just kept coming. We realized it wasn’t happening, and vowed to come back to the Pacific Rim National Park for some more exploring of this amazing place!

Heading back across Vancouver Island

I knew there were some great spots to stop on our way back to the ferry in Nanaimo such as Cathedral Grove and Little Qualicum Falls, so we hopped back in the car to head back across Vancouver Island. The first stop on the way back across Vancouver Island was Kennedy Lake. Kennedy Lake almost looks like the ocean comes inland a bit, as it’s huge and the waves can crash in pretty good when the wind picks up. The rain had stopped for a short bit to give me a chance to shoot the image below.

Kennedy Lake on Vancouver Island
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When you get near to Pacific Rim on the west side Vancouver Island, you first come to the amazingly picturesque Kennedy Lake

A ways down the road, I saw this view along the Kennedy River that I really wanted to stop and photograph.

Kennedy River and the Pacific Rim
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Kennedy River along the Pacific Rim Highway that leads to Ucluelet and Tofino

After finishing our drive back to Port Alberni, we grabbed some lunch for the road. Our next stop was Cathedral Grove. Another rainforest stop. It had been raining pretty heavy, but by the time we stopped at the parking lot, the place was packed. It was Easter weekend, and so the crowds were thick. But it was so beautiful that we had to walk amongst the forest! Like the rainforest in Pacific Rim, Cathedral Grove has numerous trees over 800 years old! A walk amongst these ancient trees is a solemn and amazing experience.

Ancient Cathedral Grove
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The ancient Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park
Cathedral Grove
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A path makes it’s way through centuries old forests of Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island
Cathedral Grove Forest
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Some of the trees in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island are over 800 years old!

After walking the muddy paths through Cathedral Grove, we drove a few miles down the road to our next stop: Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park.

Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park
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The Little Qualicum River rushes below the forest near lower Little Qualicum Falls on Vancouver Island

Little Qualicum Falls proved to be a bit longer of a hike than I thought it was. Not that it was very long to walk the loop around the lower and upper falls, but with such great scenery along the way, all the stops made the hike longer than expected! Not only were there two spectacular waterfalls, but a beautiful gorge between them framed the Little Qualicum River very well. And the water color in the Little Qualicum River is a beautiful shade of aqua that enhances the scenery well!

Little Qualicum Falls Canyon
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The Little Qualicum River cuts through the canyon below upper Little Qualicum Falls

When we finished the hike, we realized we didn’t have time to stop at Englishman River Falls and make it to the ferry in time for our reservation. So we high-tailed it back to Nanaimo and stopped at Tim Horton’s to take some snacks onto the ferry. We arrived before our 5PM sailing time, with a reservation this time, so we knew we would make this ferry. We boarded, and found a good spot to sit at the front of the ferry. After eating our snacks, we wandered around the ferry. Looking back across the Salish Sea as we approached Horseshoe Bay showed a beautiful scene!

Looking Back to Vancouver Island
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On the ferry from Departure Bay to Horshshoe Bay looking back at Vancouver Island and the rain over the Salish Sea

We arrived in Vancouver just in time to head up the Sea to Sky Highway for a sunset. However, you’ll have to wait for part 3 of this adventure to hear more about that!

My British Columbia Dream Trip

I mentioned in the beginning of this post about a dream trip that would involve the BC Ferry system. Ever since my Canadian Rockies adventure back in 2012, I’ve dreamed of making it up to Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska to see the mighty Salmon Glacier. It’s become something like an obsession really. I’ve dreamed of parking my rental car up there overnight and shooting a sunset, night scene, sunrise, Northern Lights or anything I can get. And to just experience it. I’ve plotted this trip many times over the past three years and still haven’t made it.

The journey to the Salmon Glacier is half the adventure. I’ve plotted out the best way to do this trip would be to take a BC Ferries trip from Vancouver to Vancouver Island, stopping to see some of the amazing places I didn’t make it to in this trip. From Port Hardy, I would ferry to Prince Rupert, hopefully with time for a stop-over in Bella Coola for a day. At Port Hardy, a side trip to one of the world’s best kept secrets, Haida Gwaii, would be a must! After seeing this magical place, a drive to Hyder while stopping at the amazing British Columbia scenery along the way. Terrace, Nisga’a, Kitsumkalum Lake and the scenery near Bear Glacier on the road from Meziadin Lake to Stewart just a few of the highlights along the way. And then the Salmon Glacier itself! The trip back to Vancouver would involve stopping near Smithers to take in sights around there, along with a few days drive down through the Canadian Rockies before finally making my way back to Vancouver.

One of these days, I will manage to do some or all of this trip, perhaps with an extended leg taking the Alaska marine highway and all of the Stewart-Cassair Highway!

But that’s for another time. Check back soon for the final installment of this Seattle, Vancouver and Vancouver Island travel adventure!

Posted under: Canada

Seattle and Snoqualmie Falls: Pacific Northwest Spring Adventure Part 1

Posted on May 14, 2015 by Mickey

Earlier this year, my job gave me the opportunity to go to a one-day web design conference called An Event Apart in Seattle, WA at the beginning of April. The conference was great, and as I have always loved the Pacific Northwest, there was no way I wasn’t going to add some vacation days to the trip and visit a place I’ve always wanted to see: Vancouver Island! The conference was scheduled for April 1, so my wife and I booked plane tickets for March 31st through April 6th to Seattle. I spent two months pouring over places on Vancouver Island and area’s near Vancouver. I had driven through Vancouver once before back in the summer of 2012. But that was at the end of a VERY long day, of which I wrote about recently in my Canadian Rockies travel blog article.

After researching for many hours, our trip was settled. The first two nights were in Seattle, as I had the conference on Wednesday, April 1st. We would arrive around 10AM on Tuesday and explore Olympic National Park on a long day trip to the Olympic peninsula and then head back to crash. My wife would explore Seattle while I was at my conference. On Thursday, we would leave Seattle for Vancouver Island. We found a great BC Ferries Vacations package that included round trip ferry transportation from Vancouver to Vancouver Island and two nights at Water’s Edge in Ucluelet. Afterwards, we would make our way back to the mainland, spend a night in Squamish to explore the Sea to Sky Highway a little bit, then stay in Vancouver the final night before driving back to Seattle on Monday morning to fly home that evening.

The night before our flights, I received an Email from United Airlines asking to call for a special offer. I had a feeling of what it was, so I gave them a call. We were offered $250 each (minus the cost of a required upgrade to Economy Plus) to alter our flight plans. Instead of flying out at 6:30, we would leave Wichita around 7:30 and have a stop-over in Chicago rather than Denver. We would arrive in Seattle 4 hours later than we originally planned, effectively ending the Olympic National Park daytrip (which was honestly pretty ambitious to do in a day). The only catch was that economy from Chicago to Seattle was full, so we’d have to take a economy plus seat and pay for it out of the $500. All in all, we received about $380 in flights to use later in the year to show up four hours later in Seattle.

We took it. The next morning, we were off for the Pacific Northwest and my wife’s first trip out of the country! The flights were uneventful, and we arrived at Seattle on time. We jumped in our rental car and decided to hit up Snoqualmie Falls. After grabbing some Jack-In-Box for a late lunch, we arrived at Snoqualmie Falls, excited to see these beautiful waterfalls! After admiring their power and beauty, I pulled the camera out to attach to my tripod and realized something dreadful. I had left my tripod to camera connector at home. I had taken it off to have the camera cleaned a few days before and never put it back on.

Spring at Snoqualmie Falls
Spring at Snoqualmie FallsPrints Available
Snoqualmie Falls flows heavily at spring

The plan was to head back to the hotel and call some camera stores and see who carried it. I tried Glazer’s Camera and Tall’s Camera, among a few others. They were all helpful, but all of them said my tripod model required a specific connector mount that I would probably have to order online. I was dejected. We were about to check out some of the most amazing scenery in the world, and I had no tripod to work with. I tried one more camera store called Omega Photo & Camera store and got dumb lucky. They carried it! They were closing in a few minutes, so the plan was to go get it after my conference the next day, and then continue on so I could photograph Snoqualmie Falls, as the camera store was halfway back out to the falls. My wife had a headache and had been resting in bed at the hotel, so I drove to find the conference center for the next morning, and picked up a White Album pizza at Zeek’s Pizza which was one of the best decisions I could have made. I love white sauce pizzas, and the mozzarella, parmesan, fresh oregano on alfredo sauce was a delicious combination! I was starving and that was some good pizza. My wife woke up to eat some and then we crashed for the night.

The next day, the conference was great. It was held in the Bell Harbor International Conference Center, which was right on the harbor in a beautiful location. This post isn’t really about the conference, even though it was great. But I will say it was refreshing to sit outside at lunch and admire the scenery out over the harbor during one of the few times that it wasn’t cloudy and rainy. After the conference, I picked my wife up, who had been shopping in downtown Seattle. We drove to get the tripod connector for my camera, picked up dinner and different places to take to Snoqualmie Falls. It was mostly cloudy and drizzling at times when we got there. But the drizzle was overpowered by the spray of the falls as I shot. You can see that water was pouring over the falls pretty good in the shots above and below.

Snoqualmie Falls
Snoqualmie FallsPrints Available
The powerfall waterfalls at Snoqualmie Falls

After we had our fill at Snoqualmie Falls, I took my wife to where my conference had been earlier in the day, so we could walk around the area down near the harbor for a little bit. The view from the top of the Bell Harbor International Conference Center is one many others have captured before. I love night shots and so I captured the image from the top of the conference center, and also from a walkway above Alaska Way with car lights below.

Streets of Seattle
Streets of SeattlePrints Available
The rainy night-time streets of Seattle are lit up by a timelapse of cars below a walkway over the Bell Harbor International Conference Center
Seattle at Night
Seattle at NightPrints Available
The lights of Seattle at night

We crashed at the hotel again. At this point, I regretted trying to go the cheap route and staying 20 minutes away from the Bell Harbor Conference Center at a Best Western that wasn’t really the best hotel. The hotel next to the Conference Center that most people stayed out would be have been a great location to base from to see some of the cool Seattle sights. It would have also been helpful for my wife to walk everywhere when I had been at the conference.

Morning in Seattle
Morning in SeattlePrints Available
A beautiful sunrise in Seattle atop the Bell Harbor International Conference Center

I awoke the next morning and drove back to the Conference Center area to shoot a sunrise in Seattle that can be found above. After eating out continental breakfast, we were off. Our real adventure was about to start! Off to rugged west coast of Vancouver Island and the Pacific Rim National Park! Read about that in the Vancouver Island blog post!

Posted under: Washington

Banff, Jasper & the Canadian Rockies: My Canadian Adventure

Posted on April 29, 2015 by Mickey

Driving Coastal Canada
Driving Coastal CanadaPrints Available
Driving coastal Canada near Duffey Lake

There is nothing particularly striking about the above image. It is not an artistic masterpiece or some kind of groundbreaking photograph. In fact, it’s not even in the top 10-20 photos from my Canada and Pacific Northwest adventure from last summer.

However, when I look at it, it brings back the feelings of an amazing adventure I took last summer. A sense of adventure I had that lasted over five days and culminated into a thrilling, yet exhausting 24 hours driving down the Canadian Rockies and across the entirety of southern British Columbia.

However, let’s backtrack a bit. In the summer of 2012, I decided to take a trip up into the Canadian Rockies. My brother joined in, and the two of us would be trekking to some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the world! I had seen photos of these majestic mountains for years, and what really sold me on them was pictures of Moraine Lake. As I always do, I researched. And I researched some more. I looked through lots of British Columbia and Canadian Rockies travel books. And I mapped locations on Google for weeks. After changing my mind a million times (which is part of my trip planning process – ask my wife, brother or anyone who has traveled with me – they can attest to that), I had formulated a plan. For 10 days, I would trek north from Spokane, Washington, through the beautiful Canadian Rockies and the Icefields Parkway, then make my way west to the Stewart-Cassair Highway and eventually to Hyder, Alaska, where an hour drive straight up into the rugged mountains of southern Alaska would lead me to a view above the mighty Salmon Glacier. While the journey would be half the fun, standing above the Salmon Glacier that straddles the border of southern Alaska and western British Columbia was to be my end destination. Afterwards, we would drive back down through British Columbia and the mountains north of Vancouver, before heading home from Spokane. Ambitious is probably the word that best describes this journey.

We purchased our plane tickets and set our sights on those jagged peaks to the north! Unfortunately, this trip fell victim to tight planning. Too tight. Shortly after buying these plane tickets, we found out that my brother had lost his passport. Because of how soon the trip was, there was no time to have a new one made. Not to mention, the plane tickets were non-refundable. Thankfully, for a fee, we could change the location and time of his departure. I was determined to make it to the Canadian Rockies and the Salmon Glacier. A good sunset, sunrise or night shot of the Salmon Glacier was supposed to be the signature photograph from this trip. Or even better, capturing the Northern Lights (something I’ve still yet to experience in my lifetime) over the giant glacier.

Moraine Lake Canoes
Moraine Lake CanoesPrints Available
Canoes at Banff’s Moraine Lake: The type of beautiful scenery typical in the Canadian Rockies

So a new plan was set. I would fly out with the original flights on a Saturday, race up the Canadian Rockies, across central British Columbia to Stewart, Hyder and the Salmon Glacier, then down to Vancouver and across the border where my brother would fly into Bellingham Washington on Wednesday. The rest of the trip would be spent in the Pacific Northwest exploring Washington and Oregon. So five days to drive over 3000 miles and still see and photograph everything. I had already done a similar road trip earlier in the year, and loved it! The challenge was on! The trip was no longer ambitious but almost absurd. I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was nervous about the whole thing. I was about to head up into some extremely rugged and remote places, where emergency services and help are not a phone call away. Not to mention, my main goal of camping out in my rental car above the Salmon Glacier. What if the car broke down? What if I ran into a grizzly bear? The drive in to Stewart and Hyder, Alaska is known for a very large population of both black bears and grizzly bears. Granted, I didn’t plan doing any major hiking alone, but still, I was a bit nervous. But either way, I was determined to do this trip.

Then came the day of the trip. I arrived at the airport, went through security, and within half an hour, a month of planning was shattered in an instant. As I sat waiting to board my early morning flight from Wichita to Spokane, we were informed that the flight was cancelled. Instead of getting to Spokane at 10AM, the re-routing would put me into Spokane around 7PM. Not good. Especially since I had a hotel booked on the edge of Yoho National Park, an 8 hour drive north of Spokane. To make matters worse, I found out the rental car agency closed at 5PM on Saturdays. So I got stuck in a Motel 6 near the Spokane airport until Sunday around noon. I now had three and a half days to pull this off. When I got to the agency, I was informed that the car they had for me was rented out on Saturday and was handed an SUV. Normally an SUV would be fine, but considering the amount of mileage I had to cover in my plans, the cost of gas just sky-rocked. Between having to cancel the few hotels I had booked, having to pay 2x as much for gas in a big SUV, having a day cut out of an already ridiculously ambitious trip along with bad weather rolling into the southern part of Alaska, my dreams of seeing Hyder and the Salmon Glacier evaporated. I came to the realization that this just wasn’t happening. I live for insane road trips. I sometimes feel like the journey of a road trip is just as fun as the final destination. Especially when seeing so much along the way. But driving to the edge of Alaska and back in such a short time… it was too much to pull off in such a short time. I was disappointed, but I had to remind myself that the Canadian Rockies were still within my grasp. The new plan began to take shape. I would use what little time I had to cover Banff, Jasper, Yoho and the Icefields Parkway in as much detail as possible. And that’s the other thing about some of my trips: I don’t sleep much. I’m up for sunrise at some spectacular location. I explore all day. I shoot the sunset, and sometimes even shoot after dark for night shots. And then I repeat the next day.

Because I had to rebook hotel rooms, my cost went up. Considerably. While finding accommodations near the national parks in the Canadian Rockies in the middle of summer can be difficult, trying to do it on the cheap is nigh impossible. I stayed in Golden, British Columbia on the west end of Yoho National Park on Sunday night. It was too dark to see much of Yoho by the time I arrived that evening, but I still took a quick drive into the park. It was beautiful and just that simple drive into the mountains washed away all of my disappointment. I was in one of the premier mountain destinations in the world and I had three days to explore and photograph to my hearts content! Early Monday morning, I raced through Yoho across the British Columbia/Alberta border and got to Moraine Lake for sunrise. Moraine Lake can simply be summed up as one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the world. In fact, I’ve yet to see a lake I’ve found more beautiful. And that includes the gorgeous lakes in Switzerland.

Reflective Moraine Lake
Reflective Moraine LakePrints Available
Reflections at Moraine Lake

My first day in the Canadian Rockies

Unfortunately the sunrise was a dud. The cloud-cover was too heavy so the mountains never really lit up. However, it was still beautiful. I snapped a few images at both the classic rockpile vantage-point and from the lakes edge where the canoes were. The best of which is the above shot. These canoes line many of the lakes in the Canadian Rockies. I also just spent some time marveling at how beautiful the scenery was! After Moraine Lake I decided to drive up the Icefields Parkway. My plan was to spend the day exploring it up to Jasper and then head back and stay in Canmore on Monday night. I would then head across part of British Columbia and stay in a cheap motel somewhere between Banff and Vancouver on Tuesday night. Within a few miles of starting down the Icefields Parkway, I looked to my right, and low and behold, a black bear was right on the side of the road, foraging for food!

Banff bear
Banff National Park Bear
A bear on the side of the road on the Icefields Parkway

After a few more miles up the road, I realized how hazy the atmosphere was. Not good haze, but haze that made shooting at a place like famous Peyto Lake extremely difficult. It also didn’t help that I was sharing it with 100 other tourists from the many tourist buses either. After a while, I gave up and decided I would try to drive up the Icefields Parkway first thing in the morning on Tuesday, then across British Columbia to my motel somewhere closer to crossing the border on Wednesday. But I still had the rest of the day to fill up, so I decided to go back and check out Lake Louise, which is probably the most famous of all the lakes in the Canadian Rockies!

Lake Louise Flowers
Lake Louise FlowersPrints Available
Flowers on the edge of Lake Louise

Lake Louise is right off the main highway and town of the same name. There’s a famous hotel right at the edge of Lake Louise called Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. A walk along the lake’s eastern end lets you visit the beautifully crafted flowers and gardens of the Fairmont. The farther south you walk around the lake, you come to the many canoes for rent that you can take out onto the turquoise-colored lake.

After spending some time at Lake Louise, I unsuccessfully tried to check into my hotel in Canmore early. I noticed on the drive between Lake Louise and Canmore how there were “wildlife bridges” that went over the highway. These bridges let the wildlife have a natural crossing free of the traffic that created many collisions. It’s a pretty unique idea that Banff National Park has pioneered. You can read more about it on the Wildlife Crossings Research and Monitoring page.

After unsuccessfully checking into my hotel early, I grabbed some Subway and visited Lake Minnewanka to the north of the town of Banff. It was too hazy for any good photography, but it was still a beautiful place to be at. I walked around the lake a bit, then decided I would head to Yoho National Park to see Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake before returning to Moraine Lake for a sunset.

Takakkaw Falls
Takakkaw FallsPrints Available
Takakkaw Falls and the cascades below it

I hiked around beautiful Takakkaw Falls for quite a while, enjoying how beautiful the area was. Takakkaw Falls are almost 1000 feet in height, and the spray carries quite a ways down the valley. It was difficult to shoot, as the sun was almost directly overhead, but I did my best with the shot above. After exploring and photographing with the rest of the tourists, I realized I didn’t have time to make it to Emerald Lake in Yoho if I was to make it back to Moraine Lake for a quality sunset. So I left Takakkaw Falls and drove back to Moraine Lake. This was the best decision I could make, as I got what I consider the best photograph of the trip that evening. There weren’t a lot of clouds, but the lake was fairly calm, the atmosphere and lighting were good, and it was a beautiful evening! After shooting this sunset, I spent a little more time at Moraine Lake and walking around Lake Louise in the final minutes of twilight before heading to Canmore to crash at my hotel.

Moraine Lake Sunset
Moraine Lake SunsetPrints Available
A beautiful Moraine Lake sunset

The Icefields Parkway

Moraine Lake Sunrise
Moraine Lake SunrisePrints Available
The Valley of Ten Peaks puts on a coat of red alpine glow during a Moraine Lake sunrise

The next morning (Tuesday), I awoke at 4:30AM, checked out, and jumped on the road for Moraine Lake. I needed to be there at sunrise so I could get on the Icefields Parkway quick. I had a long day ahead of myself if I was going to drive up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, the head most of the way to Vancouver. After a few shots of Moraine Lake, one of which is featured above, I was on my way up the famous Icefields Parkway! If you look up the Icefields Parkway in Google, you’ll find it in most top 10 lists for most beautiful drives in the world. I saw nothing that contradicted this on my drive through Banff and Jasper. It was gorgeous. The drive is full of beautiful lakes, amazing waterfalls, abundant wildlife (I saw what I assume was the same bear from the morning before at the same location the next day!) and the highpoint where the Athabasca Glacier drops down from the massive Columbia Icefield to within walking distance of the highway. As I began my drive, I kept thinking to myself “Why don’t I just sleep in the SUV somewhere near the glacier at a campsite, and make the long drive back Bellingham, Washington all day Wednesday?” By the time I got to the massive Athabasca Glacier, I was convinced this was my plan.

The weather called for clear skies and fairly warm temperatures for a night in the mountains. Perfect. I could get a blanket when I got to Jasper, crash out in the back of the SUV at a campsite half a mile from the Athabasca Glacier and get up around 3AM to shoot some kind of sweet night scene with the glacier as my foreground. Who knows, maybe the Northern Lights would even come out to play. After all, Jasper National Park is known as a Dark Sky Preserve.

With this new plan made, I deposited my money at the Wilcox Creek campground just south of the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center parking lot and started driving north to Jasper to finish off the last half of the Icefields Parkway, stopping at Sunwapta Falls. I didn’t capture anything of note, but the falls were still pretty, if a bit packed with tourists.

The town of Jasper
The town of Jasper
The main road through Jasper

Once I arrived at Jasper, I grabbed some lunch and stopped in a small grocery store to get a bottle of tea. The town of Jasper itself was pretty interesting. You can see how it has a rich history in the gold rush to western Canada and Alaska. The entire town had a old west feel to it, and there were many interesting railroad features. Train tracks everywhere, old model rail cars, etc. A highway sign for Prince George and Prince Rupert caught my eye as well, knowing that I should have been going in that direction towards Alaska had my trip not been cut a little short by my flight. I still wonder what kind of beauty lies hundreds of miles to the west, and dream of finishing the trip to Hyder, Alaska and Salmon Glacier. However, I only had an afternoon. So I had a choice to make. I really only had time to go east or west. To the west was Mount Robson Provincial Park. And to the east was the road to Maligne Lake.

I chose the road to Maligne Lake. About halfway down the road to Maligne Lake is Medicine Lake. This lake is unique in that it’s not really a lake at all! During the summer, the Maligne River get’s backed up in this area, creating the river. Eventually the “lake” drains into the ground and returns to being a river. You can see how it looked in the summer when I was there. A few months later, it would have been nothing more than a frozen river in winter.

Medicine Lake
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The view from Medicine Lake

There were quite a few tourists at the stop-off at Medicine Lake so I jumped back into the SUV and kept going south to Maligne Lake. It was raining by this point. As I came around the first bend, a herd of mountain sheep nearly rammed the front of the SUV! I think they were as shocked to see me come around the corner as I was to see them running up the road at me. I would have loved to have snapped a photo of this, but it happened so fast and I was more concerned with just watching out for them as they charged around the vehicle. After watching them pass around, I made my way down to Maligne Lake, by which time it was pouring. Even in the rain, I wandered around for a bit and shot a few photos. The only one that came out okay (and hadn’t tried to soak my lens) is below.

Maligne Lake
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The rains let up for a few seconds at Maligne Lake

I walked around the lake a little more, but the rain kept coming in waves, and so I thought it was time to head back up the Icefields Parkway to get some good evening shots. I really wanted to make sure I was back at the Athabasca Glacier by sunset! As I drove back down the road from Maligne Lake towards Jasper, the clouds began to part and the rain was lifting some. I stopped to shoot a photo of the Maligne River and the mountains to the east. These mountains looked like some kind of backbone. They jut straight up like giant stone slabs. Very unique.

Maligne River Mountains
Maligne River MountainsPrints Available
Jagged mountains above the Maligne River north of Maligne Lake

I passed by the town of Jasper and continued south, finally Athabasca Falls, which I had left for the return trip. Unfortunately, the rain in the mountains had turned the usually vivid blue waters into a murkier dull color. Below was the only decent shot from Athabasca Falls that I managed to get.

Athabasca Falls
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The curvy canyons of Athabasca Falls

After my stop at the Athabasca Falls, I continued back towards my campground at the top, but was greeted by one of the most vivid rainbows I’ve ever seen in my life. As the photo below shows, this rainbow literally looked like it had a pot of gold just over the hill on the road.

Icefields Parkway Rainbow
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An extremely vivid rainbow lands right on the Icefields Parkway!

I continued, hoping for a pull-off with a view that would give me a great shot of the rainbow. I found the pulloff for Honeymoon Lake, and ran to the edge of the lake, hoping to get a good shot of the rainbow. Unfortunately it had begun to fade, and I couldn’t get my tripod set up and my photo composed before the rainbow was mostly gone. As I walked back to my car, a couple from Edmonton asked where I was from. When I told them Kansas, they were surprised and exclaimed how far I must have driven to get there! I told them I had flown to Spokane and drove up, and they were still impressed. Truthfully, the drive I would have the next day was far more impressive than driving from Spokane a few days before.

I jumped back in the car, and continued back up the mountains, kind of puzzled as to why it was getting cloudier and darker rather than clearer. I was beginning to worry the forecast was completely wrong. By the time I got most of the way back up, I had already given up on a sunset. The clouds had set in and it was beginning to drizzle again. There was little in the way of breaks in the clouds. However, I did discover a waterfall near the top called Tangle Creek Falls that were beautiful! Between most of the daylight having disappeared and the cloudy, drizzly weather, I upped my shutter speed and took a large vertical panorama of the falls. This is one of my favorite photos from the trip! These falls were rushing from all the rain through the day. It seemed like little falls were pouring off of everything!

Tangle Creek Falls
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Falls pouring off of every cliff at Tangle Creek Falls

I continued on to the top, where the Athabasca Glacier juts down from the Columbia Icefield. It was well after sunset, into the final minutes of the blue hour. I tried taking shots of the Athabasca Glacier from any angle possible, including the little streams that had developed from the rain. In the end, it was really dark, but I managed the shot below.

Icefields Parkway Panorama
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Night falls over the Athabasca Glacier at the top of the Icefields Parkway

At this point, it had become too dark to shoot anything worthwhile. I was still hoping for the weather to clear off so I could shoot a beautiful night shot at some point. I drove another mile down the road to my campsite, and made a bed in the back of the SUV. As I laid down, the rain started to come in heavier waves. I began to think this wasn’t going to let up anytime soon. I had forgotten to get a blanket in Jasper, so I added some layers of clothes and used the rest of my clothes as covers. I eventually dozed off to the sound of the rain. At some point, in what I thought was the middle of the night, I woke up shivering heavily. It was getting a LOT colder. I kept trying to go back to sleep, but would wake up over and over because of how cold I was getting. I finally gave up. I was hoping it was at least 3-4AM, and I could just start my drive down the Icefields Parkway and back across British Columbia to Bellingham, Washington where my brother would be awaiting that evening. I turned the car on. It was 1AM… But I blasted the heat and decided to start driving. I didn’t want to have to turn the car on every 2 hours to heat it up and wake the other campers up multiple times through the night. I started my drive back down the Icefields Parkway to the patter of light rain. There was to be no Athabasca Glacier Northern Lights or Milky Way scene on this trip. After 15 minutes of heat to warm me up, my tiredness set back in. There was no way I could drive the 700+ miles I had ahead of me on the amount of sleep I had. And so for the next 5 hours, I would stop at a pull-off on the Icefields Parkway to sleep an hour or two until I got cold. Then I would drive 10 miles or so with the heat on blast, and repeat the same scenario. I managed to get enough sleep by 6AM that when the mountains started to take shape from daylight, I was ready to continue on. While the rain had mostly disappeared, the clouds stuck around, making for some beautiful foggy scenes that completely rejuvenated me! I knew I was going to capture some great photos on the rest of the Icefields Parkway.

The long drive across British Columbia

As morning finally started giving light to the mountains surrounding me, the fog and clouds began to show off some amazing scenes. The first was a low-light scene of fog and extremely blue water at Waterfowl Lake, followed by Snowbird Glacier and fog swirling around the surrounding peaks.

Misty Morning at Waterfowl Lake
Misty Morning at Waterfowl LakePrints Available
Fog swirls in the mountains above Waterfowl Lake on the Icefields Parkway
Snowbird Glacier in the Fog
Snowbird Glacier in the FogPrints Available
A panorama of the fog clinging to Snowbird Glacier and the mountains surrounding it

After those two quick stops, I decided to give Peyto Lake another go. While I didn’t expect the throngs of crowds from two days earlier, I did think I’d probably run into one or two others out enjoying the beautiful unique atmosphere. I was wrong, I had Peyto Lake all to myself! I walked to the viewing platform and had a blast just shooting this famous Canadian Rockies lake all by myself! I knew I couldn’t stay long, as I had a lot of stops and a lot of miles to cover, so after shooting a couple of scenes that are in the Banff National Park photo gallery, I moved on.

Foggy Peyto Lake Classic
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Beautiful, famous Peyto Lake shrouded in fog and clouds
Canadian Rockies Foggy Morning Sunrise
Canadian Rockies Foggy Morning SunrisePrints Available
Blue morning sunrise at Bow Lake in the Canadian Rockies

Before the turn to head towards Yoho National Park and beyond, I stopped at a pulloff near Bow Lake and shot what little of a sunrise there was that morning. The clouds partially broke and provided a little blue color in the sky. I moved on, and decided I needed to have one more visit to Moraine Lake Even though I had visited Moraine Lake 4-5 times this trip, I couldn’t help but stop by for a few minutes to see what it looked like covered in fog and clouds. By the time I got here, some of the clouds began to break apart above the Valley of Ten Peaks. While I still think my best shot of it was the sunset shot from two days earlier, it was still beautiful! I finally said goodbye to my favorite lake, vowing to return again someday. Now that I’m married, it’s places like this I can’t wait for my wife to see. It’s such a beautiful place, and easily my favorite lake in the world, as I’ve said at least once before in this blog.

Foggy Peyto Lake Classic
Foggy Peyto Lake ClassicPrints Available
I was blessed to have Peyto Lake all to myself on this foggy morning!

I finally tore myself away from Moraine Lake, and went back into Yoho National Park. As I had ran out of time on Monday to stop by Emerald Lake, I decided to make a quick trip up to this Yoho classic lake. I’m certainly glad I did! I captured a number of beautiful photos of a lake that was almost completely calm of wind. Beautiful reflections of the mountains around the lake mirrored on the aquamarine-colored water. Maybe it was due to the weather on the day I was there, but this lake almost rivaled Moraine Lake in beauty. Almost. A number of canoes lined the west side of the lake, and a bridge crossed over the Emerald Lake Lodge, which I’m sure would be an awesome place to have a romantic getaway with my wife someday! I wandered around the west side of the lake, and then across the bridge, snapping a number of different vantage points of the lake.

Emerald Lake Calm
Emerald Lake CalmPrints Available
Calm waters create a beautiful reflection on an overcast day at Emerald Lake
Tranquil Emerald Lake
Tranquil Emerald LakePrints Available
A beautiful, overcast morning at Emerald Lake reveals one of the Canadian Rockies finest locations!
Emerald Lake Canoes
Emerald Lake CanoesPrints Available
Canoes stacked at the banks of Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
Emerald Beauty
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Beautiful flowers line the bridge at Emerald Lake

After leaving Emerald Lake, I realized I was starving. I had been living off of fruit, granola bars and two stops at Subway since Sunday morning, and decided to grab something to eat in Golden, British Columbia to the west of Yoho National Park. I made my first stop at Tim Horton’s and grabbed a late breakfast. I can see why this is a Canadian favorite. It was my only experience on this trip, but on my next trip to Canada, visiting Vancouver and Vancouver Island, my wife and I stopped on many occasions for a quick Tim Horton’s fix!

Beyond Golden was two lesser visited Canadian Rockies National Park’s: Glacier National Park and Revelstoke National Park. I really didn’t know much about Canada’s Glacier National Park, and so my only stop was to shoot a photo of a giant chunk of snow that hadn’t melted, even though it was the end of August.

Glacier National Park snow
Glacier National Park snow
Chunk of snow on the side of the road in Canada’s Glacier National Park

I drove through Glacier National Park and eventually arrived at the edge of Revelstoke National Park. I saw a sign for the Giant Cedar’s trail. I really hadn’t read about this in my pre-trip research. Everything I read about Revelstoke had been about the amazing summer wildflowers. I decided to stop and walk the boardwalk with other tourists who were braving the light rain that had re-appeared. The Giant Cedar’s trail reminded me a little of my roadtrip through the Redwoods earlier in the year. Giant ancient groves of forest in the middle of a mountain paradise!

Revelstoke Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail
Revelstoke Giant Cedars Boardwalk TrailPrints Available
A rain-soaked boardwalk cuts through Revelstoke National Park’s ancient Giant Cedars grove

After walking the boardwalks through the Giant Cedar’s trail, I continued on to Mount Revelstoke. It takes about 30 minutes to drive up the switch-back laced Sky Parkway to the summit of Mount Revelstoke, where for 2-3 months of the year, the snow on the mountain summit melts and beautiful summer wildflowers bloom. I’m not sure if I was there during the very peak, but the flowers at the end of August were beautiful! The rain had just stopped and the sun was beginning to peak through. As it was mid-day, the best shots were close-ups of the dew still hanging to vivid purple flower pedals.

Revelstoke Flowers
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One of Canada’s premier places to see summer wildflowers is Revelstoke National Park
Purple Dew
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A closeup of some purple flowers at Revelstoke National Park

I already knew I had spent more time hiking around the wildflowers than I meant to. I had hoped to be well into the mountains north of Vancouver by sunset, and I had a decent drive still to even get to Lillooet on the edge of the coastal mountains. I left Revelstoke and continued west across British Columbia, only stopping for gas at Kamloops on the way. I drove along the edge of Kamloops Lake on highway 1, then turned onto highway 97, seeing signs for Prince George. This again made me dream of that road trip to the Salmon Glacier and northern British Columbia! Someday, I’ll make that trip a reality. I continued on, turning onto highway 99, crossing through Marble Canyon Provincial Park and Pavilion Lake before finally arriving in Lillooet. The “highways” at this point had turned into narrow two-lane roads at times, which had a number of one-lane bridges to alternate who got to cross them. The views were pretty spectacular. Lots of canyons, with mountains surrounding in every way. The mountains to the west were much larger. Byt the time I arrived in Lillooet, it was getting to be late afternoon. I stopped at Seton Lake, on the west edge of Lillooet, hoping to get a great shot of the lake, but the light was difficult to work with and I still had a ways to drive. I snapped the shot below and continued on towards Whistler and Vancouver.

Seton Lake
Late afternoon at Seton Lake
View across Seton Lake at late afternoon

After passing Lillooet, and as I climbed higher into the mountains that stretched to the Pacific Ocean, the clouds and rain began to take over again. It was also beginning to get dark. The rain seemed to enhance the beauty of the place. Deep, dark forests, high peaks and beautiful lakes like Duffey Lake filled the scenery! I made a stop on the shores of Duffey Lake twice to snap the following two images.

Duffey Lake Shoreline
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Shoreline at Duffey Lake between Lillooet and Whistler.
Duffey Lake Flowers
Duffey Lake FlowersPrints Available
Beautiful flowers line the lake at Duffey Lake on an overcast day

After grabbing some shots at Duffey Lake, I continued towards Pemberton and Whistler. At one point, somewhere near Cayoosh Pass, I knew I needed to get out and get one more shot of the weather before darkness fully set in. There was to be no sunset on this evening. But the unique atmosphere during this drive through the coastal mountains of British Columbia was an amazing experience summed up in the photo below.

Driving Coastal Canada
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Driving coastal Canada near Duffey Lake

As darkness set in, the beautiful views of the rest of highway 99 and the Sea to Sky Highway towards Vancouver were covered. I drove through Pemberton and Whistler well after dark, and eventually the lights of Squamish came into view. I drove the rest of the Sea to Sky Highway, going up and down from sea level to views out over the Howe Sound showing the lights out on islands and across the sound towards Bowen Island and what I assume might have been Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast. I was completely exhausted at this point. I had always planned to do the much longer drive through Lillooet down the Sea to Sky Highway instead of taking the much shorter route down Highway 1 to Bellingham, Washington. I wanted to see and photograph this area. While it was dark for the majority of it, even getting the three photos above was worth the extra time. This route added another 3 hours to what turned into about 18 hours of driving and stopping along the way from the top of the Icefields Parkway to crossing the US border and my hotel bed in Washington. But all that extra time and exhausted-ness was worth it. I somehow found my way through Vancouver, down to the US border crossing, arriving at my hotel around midnight.

The rest of this trip explored Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and the Columbia River Gorge. That will be a story for another time. Before I get back to this part of the trip, I’ll be back with a travel blog about our recent trip to Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

Posted under: Canada