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Three Weeks in Calgary – Holiday Diary

My sisters, Gail and Barbara arrived in Calgary on the afternoon of the 22nd June.  We had a great time together and put together this  short journal chronicling their stay.

23rd June

We decided to have a quiet day for the first day so everyone could get over their jet lag. Later in the day we drove to West Bragg Creek, which is about 15 minutes from home, where we saw a swarm of butterflies around a puddle of water on the ground.

Butterflies at West Bragg Creek

24th June

Today we left Calgary for the Athabasca Glacier, which ‘flows’ from the Columbia Icefields, having packed a picnic lunch to eat along the way. The main ingredient of our picnic was meatballs, the consumption of which sparked Barbara’s comment: “The meatballs were a great idea to munch along the way, but after stuffing our faces and having a meal at the hotel a little while later, there were a few of us feeling a little green through around the gills and one of us (name not appended) experienced the meatballs in reverse the next day.”

We drove through Banff National Park and onto the Icefields Parkway which runs through Jasper National Park parallel to the Continental Divide.  Both Banff and Jasper Parks are part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site and the Icefields Parkway is renowned for its grandeur. Gail remarked: “Travelling through the mountains and approaching the Glacier and the Icefields is a sight I’ll never forget – absolutely spectacular!”

On the way to the Glacier Hotel we ran out of gas.  The culprit, who will also remain nameless, managed to coast 8 km downhill to the Saskatchewan River Bridge where a friendly Parks’ Board official provided the much needed gas to get us to the filling station at Saskatchewan Crossing – refusing payment on the grounds that it was our ‘tax dollars at work’.

Waterfalls abound on the route

After many stops for photographs we eventually arrived at our destination and had dinner at the Glacier Hotel’s restaurant before retiring to our room to relax.  While not exactly wheelchair friendly (the low loo syndrome), the room was comfortable and had a view of both the Athabasca and the Dome Glaciers.

25th June

After breakfast at the Glacier Hotel we arranged our bus ride to the glacier.  Gail travelled in style with Barbara on a specially modified bus and was hoisted, wheelchair and all, into the impressive looking Ice Explorer.   The trip onto the glacier is awesome and a little scary. You have no idea of how steep the descent to the glacier is until you are on the bus with its nose facing downhill at an 80 degree angle.

Gail going into the Ice Explorer

All together on the glacier

Despite the cold, everyone went onto the glacier which is approximately 6 kilometres long and a kilometre wide.  It is a privilege to have the opportunity to stand on this ancient ice which is anything from 90 to 300 metres deep.   The Columbia Icefield from which the glacier originates is one of the world’s largest accumulations of ice and snow and covers an area of nearly 325 square kilometres, sometimes reaching a depth of 300-360 metres.

On the homeward trip God really blessed us by displaying three of His bears up close and personal in one day. What a great experience!

We saw two of the bears on the way back along the Icefields Parkway, a black bear, spotted by Barbara up on the mountain side slowly worked its way diagonally down, popping out of the forest opposite our parking spot and proceeded to wander along the side of the river, turning over the odd log, presumably in search of insects, before swimming across the river and walking down parallel to the car.  We eventually left when we realized that we, and the numerous other cars which had stopped to see it, were preventing it from crossing the road which was its obvious intention.

Black bear

Cinnamon bear

The second sighting was a Cinnamon bear on the side of the road, unconcernedly searching through the grass.

When we reached Lake Louise we wandered past the lake and then had lunch at the hotel.  Shortly after we resumed our trip we saw our third bear – a grizzly -through the fence which runs along the main road just after leaving Banff


Seeing the bears, so completely free and looking almost docile, minding their own business, it is difficult to believe that they are wild and dangerous animals.

Icecreams in Cochrane

We rounded off the trip with a stop at Cochrane for their obligatory ice creams before finally heading home.

26th June

Today was spent relaxing, playing games (Rummy Kub) and, in the evening, getting together for  a family barbecue at home

27th June

We intended to spend this morning exploring Elbow Falls and picnicking on the banks of the Elbow River.   We set off along the road to Elbow Falls but, when we got there we found that the parking lots for both Elbow Falls and our second attempted destination, Forgetmenot Pond, were crowded so we decided to postpone our walk and go during the week when it would be quieter.  Instead we picnicked from our car, overlooking the river.

In the evening we went to Ray and Brian for a barbecue where Gail saw Ray’s home for the first time and met her cat. Her comment: “Beautiful home and interesting cat!!”

28th June

We  treated Asher and Cale to a trip to the zoo today where we found the Canadian Wilds section overgrown and unkempt but enjoyed the rest of the exhibits. Gail had been watching out for big horned sheep in the wild but found those at the zoo a bit of a disappointment: “My first look at wild sheep (at least I think they were sheep) losing their winter coats and looking awfully patchy”.

The most entertaining animals in the Canadian section were the prairie dogs with their busy scuttling around and repeated loud calls, executed standing on their back legs with heads thrown back.

Prairie dog

We visited the African section and sat outside at the restaurant having lunch, surrounded by peacocks and guinea fowl!

29th June

Today Gail, Barbara and I went to Cinnamon Spoon at Bragg Creek for coffee Barbara commented: “The last time Peter, Ally and I went to Cinnamon Spoon everything was covered in snow and it was freezing, what a different place in the summer!”

After lots of talking and laughter we decided to take a drive and ended up at Elbow Falls where we went for our delayed walk.  Elbow Falls are on the Elbow River in Kananaskis Country about 22 km from West Bragg Creek, or half an hour from our home.  They are a favourite destination for Calgarians who flock to the Falls over weekends in summer to picnic under the trees next to the fast flowing river – a beautiful setting.

Coffee at Cinnamon Spoon in Bragg Creek

Barbara at Elbow Falls

Walking along the banks of the Bow River

30th June

Ray had invited us to meet her at work today and go with her to explore ‘her’ Calgary . This included Kensington, where we stopped for a drink ,and then crossed the Bow and walked along its grassy banks, a stone throw from the city.  Many of the shops in Kensington are pretty and quaint, and the walk through Bow was lovely with hanging baskets of flowers along the way giving a summery and festive feel. We sat for a while, watching people walk, skate and cycle past and looking at the ducks, tails up, in the river.

1st July

Today we set off on our trip to Waterton National Park which borders Glacier National Park in the USA and, with it, forms the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. This is the world’s first International Peace Park having merged in 1932, and it serves as a symbol of friendship and peace between the two countries.

We stopped first at the Chuckwagon in Turner Valley for breakfast.  The Chuckwagon is like a place straight out of western movies except this is the real thing. Cowboys in boots and jeans popping in for a bite in a real cowboy town.

Chuckwagon at Turner Valle

Our next stop was Frank Slide where we viewed the devastation then walked around the Interpretive Centre and had coffee before continuing on our way. Frank was a mining town in the Crowsnest Park in the early 1900’s.  The Slide refers to the avalanche of rock which broke free from the east face of Turtle Mountain which was being excavated and destroyed the mine and the miner’s houses on the outskirts of the town, killing approximately 90 people.  Most of their bodies still lie buried under the rock.  Altogether 30 million cubic metres of limestone fell that night covering 3 square kilometres of the valley floor and much of it still lies where it fell. The First Nation people who populated the area at the time called Turtle Mountain ‘The Mountain that Moves’, perhaps the miners should have paid closer attention.

Frank Slide

Bison at Waterton

From Frank Slide it is a fairly short ride through to Waterton.  We past long lines of Wind Turbines along the way and when we reached Waterton decided it was a little to early for our motel so drove instead through the newly built Bison’s paddock and then up the beautiful Red Rock Canyon where we were prevented from seeing the canyon itself due to repair being made on the car park.

Finally, after a quick ride around Waterton, we pulled into Bayshore, our motel, and, while Gail and Barbara were settling in, Richard and I picked pizza for dinner.  Our plans for Baileys and Rummy Kub did not materialize since Barbara had already changed into her jammies by the time we returned and, by mutual consent, we settled down with our books and had an early night.

2nd July

We were up early this morning and had coffee and muffins for breakfast . Barbara and I went for a short walk in the rain and encountered an extremely dangerous (and/or curious) deer which stalked us (or, followed us) for quite a way along the river bank despite Barbara’s desperate attempt to distract it by leaving her disposable coffee cup and a bottle on the pathway.

Having escaped unscathed we headed down to the landing where Richard dropped us off before returning to his book. The Waterton ferry trip to the USA border post is a must.  Because of the wheelchair the three of us sat outside on the bow of the boat facing the elements, frozen cheeks on. Nevertheless, the rain, cold and wind couldn’t dampen the experience and the breathtaking views.

Gail, freezing on the ferry

Barbara playing at Titanic

On the trip back we were sheltered from the wind and managed to thaw out a little. Soup and sandwiches for lunch completed the thawing process and we rounded off our Waterton excursion by driving up to Cameron Lake.

On the way down again  we saw a Cinnamon bear with a small cub and Barbara collected some water from the cold, fast running stream.

3rd July

This Saturday Tracy and Mark held their annual breakfast. About 50 people arrived at various times during the morning and after breakfast some of us played volley ball and then soccer on the lawns.

Gail commented: “What a lovely tradition, getting friends and family together like this.  People arrived, socialized and had their breakfasts and left, with others coming and going throughout the day – Dawn and Barbara limped in after their game of soccer and volleyball – guess they’re not as fit as they thought huh!!!!!”

Barbara playing goalie

I personally think we did a sterling job!  Barbara’s strategy as goalie being exceptionally effective.

4th July

Sunday was a rest day – we spent most of the morning at home, lounging on the deck and chatting.  In the afternoon we picked up Cale from his party and met Ray at Chapters for coffee

5th July

Today was cold and wet.  We had arranged to take Asher to the Telus Science World but when we arrived we discovered that the  Body and Brain exhibition was on. Asher was not at all keen to see it so we left him at the Lego exhibition where he had a great time building and testing lego cars while we watched the documentary.  Later we picked him up and had lunch at the Science World restaurant. The amazing documentary and exhibits and the hot chocolate and coffee’s  afterwards made up for the cold and miserable weather outside.

6th July

We spent most of this morning at home again and then took a (very) short walk in Fish Creek before going  to The Ranche for dinner.  The Ranche is located in the Fish Creek Park and was built in 1896 for William Roper Hull, a pioneer rancher and entrepreneur. The Ranche House cost about $4,000 to build and was apparently the finest country home in the Canadian Territories during that era.  It still is a beautiful house and  a unique piece of architecture.

The Ranche House

Gail, ever pondering the state of Canadian loo’s commented: “Dinner was lovely and the atmosphere warm and inviting. After spending so much of the time in Canada running around looking for suitable toilets (gee the one’ s in Canada are oh so short. Do these people suffer from short legs or what??) The toilet at The Ranche was a pleasure to go to!!”

7th July

Today Tracy, Asher, Gail, Barbara and I drove through to Drumheller in the badlands, stopping at Horseshoe Canyon to take some photos. The sudden contrast of “steep, dry coulees ridged with the strata of hundreds of years of erosion by time, wind and water” after the green grasslands is quite startling. Drumheller is a fairly nondescript little town with its main claims to fame being the Royal Tyrell Museum and the Red Deer River which flows through the coulees (or ravines) and past the hoodoos of the badlands.

On the way to Drumheller - Horseshoe Canyon

Taken in the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller

We walked through the Royal Tyrell Museum and then had lunch at the restaurant before driving home. This is an interesting experience, well worth the long drive, aggravated by the  construction along the way.  We were, however,  amused to find many of the hoodoos covered in soft green grass and wondered how long they could claim the title of ‘badlands’.

8th July

Tracy drove us through to Banff today, where we had coffee at Starbucks and then took the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain. The views from the gondola and from the top of the mountain were magnificent.  Gail found this “an awesome experience, especially as I’ve never been on something like this!  The views are spectacular (something I must experience in winter)”

Taken from the Banff gondola

Taken from the Banff gondola

We went back to Banff to buy lunch – Sushi – and then followed the Lake Minnewanka Loop, stopping at the lake to eat our lunch

Here we finally saw Gail’s big horned sheep and lambs. Barbara climbed out of the car to see them close up and personal and got some amazing photo’s of the rather scruffy looking sheep (all busy moulting).  No big daddies, unfortunately, so no real big curving horns.

Big Horn Sheep, well, lambs, at Lake Minnewanka

Gail also managed to take some photo’s–unfortunately just of the rear ends

9th July

With the holiday rapidly coming to an end we breakfasted at the Priddis Grill today then spent the rest of the day sorting out our photographs.

Barbara’s comment as we went through the pictures: “Canada, what a beautiful country!  God must have been in such a good mood when He created her!”

Later Ray, Brian and Lesley joined us for dinner – Ray first treating Barbara to a hot rock massage.

10th July

All good things must come to an end.  Today we passed the time going around the Farmers’ Market, buying some books and other odds and ends at Chapters and then playing Rummy Kub at home until it was time to go to the airport.  The house is very quiet without the sisters but we look forward to our trip to SA next April and hope to welcome both of them back to Calgary soon.  There is still so much to see and do.

July 12, 2010 - Posted by | Travels


  1. Sounds so lovely! What a special time together xoxo

    Comment by zivor | July 12, 2010 | Reply

  2. Dawn
    Sounds like you had an awesome holiday. Thanks for spoiling your two sisters like you did. Richard must have been in his element with all the girls surrounding him?
    What an experience. I hopw that some of it was your first time as well. As I was reading you mentioned some of the names that were familiar to me such as Chapters and Cinnamon Spoon and Bragg Creek. But when we were there we were cladded in multilayers.
    Thanks again for what is going to be in memory for all time.

    Comment by PETER & BARBARA | July 14, 2010 | Reply

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