Waterfalls Day, Alberta and British Columbia – September 2017

A drive through Alberta and BC turned out to be ‘Waterfalls Day’, but not before meeting some locals along the road.

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First stop was Maligne Canyon, Alberta. This very narrow canyon featured a nice waterfalls with numerous erosion ‘pots’ along the river.

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After crossing into British Columbia, we found Rearguard Falls. It is noted as the furthest into the mountains that salmon make it from the Pacific Ocean to spawn. Unfortunately we saw none, even though this is the time of year they migrate.

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In Wells Gray Provincial Park we found Spahats Falls, taller than Niagara. We thought that was amazing until we continued on to….

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Helmcken Falls – 420′ high, nearly 3 times the height of Niagara, with great volume as well.

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The water rushing over provided excellent visuals providing a great ending to Waterfalls Day.

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Icefields Parkway, Alberta – September 2017

The trip continued north from Banff toward the Icefields Parkway, a 180 mile drive to Jasper that takes you past numerous glaciers on the mountains. But first we made a stop for an invigorating hike up Johnton Canyon. This hike included numerous catwalks suspended above the canyon floor, as well as traditional paths. The effort lead to two great waterfalls.

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Just before the start of the Icefields Parkway is Lake Louise, a popular tourist stop – so popular there are numerous attendants directing traffic through the entire town to get to the parking lots. We stayed about 30 minutes before leaving the crowds and heading on…

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Because a short drive later you were on the Icefields Parkway and has better views with far far fewer people.

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At the Columbia Icefields they offer an option to take a tour onto the Athabasca Glacier that included a visit to the ‘Skywalk’, a cantilevered walkway with translucent floors to see straight down 1000′.

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The special Ice Coaches were constantly ferrying people onto the glacier. They made a point about how fast the glacier is receding, you would think all the traffic can’t be helping it.

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But still, we got to go on a glacier.

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Our day ended at Athabasca Falls, near the town of Jasper. I have had many spectacular drives, but the Icefields Parkway is easily one of the 10 best ever.

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Logan, OH – June 2017 – Whispering Cave

Having made a number of trips to Hocking Hills State Park to hike the trails to the caves and cliffs, we thought we had seen them all. Fortunately this spring they opened a trail to a cave that had been off limits for 50 year, Whispering Cave.

Named so because of the acoustics that allows a person to whisper on one side and someone on the other side can hear what was said. The trail has been opened, and with an early start we had the place to ourselves.

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Leaving Whispering Cave and continuing on the Hemlock Bridge Trail, we passed on great rock formations.

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After a two mile hike we arrived at Lower Falls – Old Man’s Creek

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The climb out of the gorge

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Upper Falls – Old Man’s Creek

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Interesting lighting on the cliff walls. It was a great day of hiking in the cliffs and gorges.

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Cuyahoga Falls, OH – April 2017 – Kayak Races

The Cuyahoga River wanders for almost 90 miles around northeast Ohio, ending up (in a straight line) less than 20 from where it starts. While mostly known for it’s industrial portion in Cleveland, much of the path it is a small wild river.

The town of Cuyahoga Falls, near Akron, is the site of a waterfalls (hence the name) that had been rendered non existent for 100 years from dams. Those dams were recently removed, returning the river to it’s natural state, including an impressive waterfalls.

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For the second year this portion of the river featured kayak racing. A Sheraton Hotel is situated at the falls, and the view from the balconies of the falls and action was spectacular.

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The entire event seemed well organized, with safety being foremost. The local fire department rescue team provided support, as well as the race organizations staff.

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The kayakers had a series of white water rapids to run through before going over a couple of fairly large (possibly 10′ high) waterfalls.

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Many of them flipped during this portion, but nearly everyone was able to flip themselves back over.

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This is a great event, and really showcases the river nicely, as well as the city of Cuyahoga Falls.

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We are looking forward to returning in 2018.

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Niagara Falls – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 16

The best time to visit Niagara Falls if you don’t want people in your photos – before daybreak on a Sunday. The roar of the falls drew us to the edge of the park to see the white water before it crashed over the edge. The glow of the buildings from the Canadian side of the falls cast some light on the falls but it was a shadowy image for us to see. Niagara Falls seemed exceptionally larger to me than the falls we saw in Quebec.

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I believe it is the expanse of the gorge and the enormous volume of water flowing from Lake Erie into the Niagara River over the falls that is so amazing. Niagara Falls is actually three waterfalls; Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and American and Bridal Veil Falls on the American side of the gorge.

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After a return to the hotel to get breakfast and checked out, we headed out for some more views of the falls. We parked the car in an empty lot and walked across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada for a better view. The bridge gave us a great view of Horseshoe Falls and as the sun rose above the falls; the lighting improved the beauty of the scene even more.

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Since we were going back into Canada we had to pass through immigration, where we were reminded that we had to stay behind the little black line on the floor before approaching the window, even though we were the only people there. But they let us back into the country, and we proceeded up the hill onto the Ontario side.

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The area was nearly empty and perfect for photos. The sunlit mist rising from the gorge was very pretty. The Ontario side is very well landscaped, obviously built for the crowds that regularly view the falls from this vantage point. But on this early Sunday morning we had the place to ourselves.

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One of the attractions is a zip line down into the falls. I have read that the tacky commercialization of Niagara Falls in the 1800s lead directly to the push to create the National Park Service, and it is clear that in the 150 years since the people of Niagara Falls still haven’t learned their lesson. Even with the beautiful landscaping of the park along the Ontario side, they still obstruct the view with zip lines.

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Usually met with objections one of my favorite photo subjects are people posing for photos. This morning I was presented with a perfect opportunity, one man fussed with his turban while the other man, a version of Joe Dirt, played with his rooster-comb styled haircut.

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But you can only have so much fun, so we decided it was time to walk back to America, and we headed across.When we had crossed the first time a couple of hours earlier I had noticed the immigration entrance was void of any cars at all, so it was surprising on our return to come up on the bridge and see traffic stopped fully across the bridge.

As we walked on I noticed all of the entrance lanes had red lights lit, indicating they were closed. It was then I realized it was September 11th, at the time that the first airplane hit the World Trade Center.

From the walkway on the bridge you could see the immigration workers standing at attention around the flags, which were at half staff, in tribute to the tragedy.

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Once they completed we walked inside where I complimented them on the sincerity of their tribute, and they seemed genuinely thankful for the compliment, and we passed quickly through and on to our car.

Our long drive back to Columbus went without event, and we arrived home safe and sound and extremely pleased with yet another fantastic road trip. This passion has allowed us to see amazing places and meet lots of cool people, and as soon as we are home we are looking forward to the next one.

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Quebec – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 14

Another long day, but this one had great promise, so we left the Delta Hotel in Fredericton before dawn. It was rainy and cool that morning but the forecast predicted warm weather. After a brief Tim Hortons breakfast stop for oatmeal and a croissant, we were back on the road for 55 miles to see the longest covered bridge in the world. The wooden bridge is 1,282 feet long located in Hartland, New Brunswick and crosses the St. John River to Somerville. The Hartland covered bridge is truly the longest covered bridge that I have ever seen.

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It seemed as if we had entered a tunnel as we drove through it. I learned that the bridge is actually seven small bridges joined together on six piers. The bridge is only one lane and we had to wait our turn to cross back to Hartland.

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Next up was Grand Falls, New Brunswick, which has a gorge in the center of the city that is used as a hydroelectric generating station. The gorge is the top attraction in the area, with a number of attractions surrounding it. We arrived before the Malabeam Center opened so we peered into the gorge from the zip line hut.

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The Malabeam Center gives tours climbing down 401 steps to see the wells within the rocks and tells the legend of Malobiannah for which the center is named. The story is of a young Maliseet woman who was captured by the Mohawks and forced to lead a war party to her village. The Mohawks promised she would live if she led them to the village but knowing how to navigate the Saint John River, Malobiannah guided a war party of forty canoes and 300 Mohawk to their death over Grand Falls.  Malobiannah sacrificed herself to save her people. A statue of a young Maliseet woman with and oar stands at the front of the center.

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Grand Falls is also the home of Ron Turcotte, a retired Canadian thoroughbred race horse jockey, best known as the rider of Secretariat, winner of the U.S. Triple Crown in 1973, and arguably the best race horse in history. A bronze statue of Ron racing Secretariat was featured in the middle of the boulevard. A plaque commemorating the famous race stood next to the statue, with his story in both French and English.

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Arriving at the border of Quebec, the visitor center guides were very helpful in providing maps and information for us to find Pohenegamook. Pohenegamook is a very small village on the border of Quebec, Canada and the United States.

The Pork and Beans War was a confrontation in 1838–1839 between the United States and the United Kingdom over the international boundary between the British colony of New Brunswick and the US state of Maine including the Pohenegamook area. With no shots ever being fired, the Pork and Bean war was more of a dispute, but resulted in a new border.

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The Mitchell Map was used as a primary map source during the Treaty of Paris of 1783 for defining the boundaries of the United States. Negotiations in 1842 between the countries referred to “Mitchell’s map”, which generally supported the American case as evidence that the entire disputed area was on the American side of the border.

The historic border dispute ended when the United States and British North America (now Canada) signed the Webster–Ashburton Treaty in 1842 under John Tyler’s presidency. Canada was unhappy, however, it viewed the treaty as the British improving relations with the United States by permitting American territory to separate Lower Canada from the Maritimes.

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Now the Quebec-Maine border cuts straight alongside a local street in Pohenegamook, putting houses close to the street in Canada, and those set back a few yards from it in the U.S. — with some houses split between the two borders.

Along one road you can see a Gulf Gast station 100 yards down the road, with the only access from Canada, however the station and pumps are in the U.S. This frustrates the locals as the gas is about 50% cheaper there, but they have to go through an extensive process to ‘enter’ the U.S. to go to the gas station that is in their backyard, with no fence, or any other physical barrier in sight

We drove the border road, to the railroad bridge near a small park. A stone marker in the park stood at the border showing street side as Canada and the yard of some of the houses in the USA. A bridge crossed the river between the USA and Canada. Flags of both nations flew at each end of the bridge. A State of Maine flag hung at one end of the bridge while a Quebec flag hung at the opposite end of the bridge.

A U.S. border inspection station stood a short distance from the park. So we actually sneaked into the United States the back way through Canada avoiding the border patrol because the true border angles away from the street at the park. Most amusing is one house which appears to have their front rooms in Canada and the rest of the house in the United States.

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Heading further into Quebec, we drove for almost three hours to an area twenty-five miles outside of Quebec City to St. Anne’s Canyon to see a powerful waterfall higher than Niagara Falls splash over rocks millions years old.

St Anne’s Canyon is a private park with a number of options for entertainment, as well as a having a small cafe that provided us lunch before our walk on the trail to the falls. After struggling a bit with the French language (a recurring theme) trying to understand the lunch specials, we managed to get chicken soup and sandwich, then headed out to see the falls.

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The trail looped us around the cliff top of the canyon to vistas overlooking the waterfall. The thunderous waterfall could be heard before seen raging over gigantic black rocks.

A suspension bridge crossed above the top of the falls for a bird’s eye view allowing us to continue our walk to the next vista for a closer look of the water that crashed so violently onto the rocks that the water sprayed up onto us and onto the trail.

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The second suspension bridge granted us a direct front view of the falls. This bridge really tested my fear of heights, so I requested a photo for proof I was there.

The waterfall looked amazing from the suspension bridge but even more wondrous was the fact that the substantial water force was only one-tenth the amount of water that flowed in early spring.

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It was hard to imagine so much more water barreling through that tight canyon. The trail led us down 187 steps to the third suspension bridge about fifteen feet above the river. The bouncy suspension bridge offered a view from the lowest level and the rocky river. We climbed the steps to reach the trail again for the last vista of the falls. Sainte-Anne Canyon also had wooden sculpted animals that we viewed before leaving.

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As we left to head back towards Quebec City and Montmorency Falls, we were treated with some great views.

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A few minutes drive brought us to Montmorency Falls, a tremendously voluminous waterfall, the highest in Quebec Province and higher than Niagara and Sainte-Anne Canyon. This waterfall is used in hydroelectricity so the flow is controlled. The waterfall is massive in size and reminds me of the extended width of Niagara Falls. We entered the park and walked through the welcome center to get to the trail and boardwalk.

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We were able to walk the entire trail including the very high viewing tower and the trail to the other side of the falls via a suspension bridge. Anyone walking the trail near the bottom of the falls got wet from the spray. Some daring ones ended up soaking wet just walking near the river to the front bottom steps of the tower.

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As we continuing trekking along we each guessed the number of steps to the top of the viewing tower which we had to climb to continue the trail. Mine was 250 steps, hers was 460 steps.  After reaching the last viewing deck where the cable car landed for a closer look of the waterfall, we started our return trip on the trail back down the tower steps.  As we climbed down the tower, I counted 475 steps; clearly I lost that wager. We got our exercise in for that day with over one thousand steps just to see two waterfalls.

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From here we had another great view of the city

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It was about a half hour drive to the provincial capital, Quebec City, from Montmorency Falls. Quebec City is the second largest city in the province and traffic was a mess when we arrived. The old adage you can’t there from here was true, no matter how I tried to maneuver around the streets to reach the Marriott Hotel.

We could see the hotel from where we sat but traffic prevented us from getting there. After circling the block again and thirty minutes of waiting in a jam, a traffic cop allowed us to get through the closed access to reach the hotel, gladly dropping off car with the valet and going inside to check in.

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The roads were closed for a bicycle race that ended just prior to our arrival.  We were eager to see the city so we immediately left the hotel and walked into Old Québec across the square from our hotel. Old Québec is a historic neighborhood comprising the upper town and lower town. Québec Ciy is one of the oldest cities in North America.

We roamed passed the Citadelle of Québec also known as La Citadelle, an active military installation and official residence of both the Canadian monarch (the Queen Elizabeth II of England) and the Governor General of Canada. The citadel is an uneven star shape and comprises four towers with 24 buildings constructed within its walls of cut stone. We did not tour the citadel but walked the promenade with the stationed canons and window wells into the past. Sections of the garrison wall still stand where we joined others atop the ruin for a beautiful view of the city.

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Old Quebec City is a collection of well-kept shops of thriving businesses catering to tourists. Luckily, the French shop owners spoke excellent English so it was easy to ask questions and converse with people.

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An Italian restaurant called Parmesan is where we stopped for dinner. The waiter spoke French and English and escorted us into an empty restaurant, where we dined on lamb in rosemary sauce and filet mignon.

It felt a bit odd to be the only customers but that soon vanished with the aid of an accordionist who entertained us in a charming room with bouquets of flowers in small glass bottles that hung from the ceiling. The accordion player spoke perfect English. His repertoire though included songs in English, French, Spanish and Italian. We learned that he was born in Rome, grew up in Montréal, and had been to the United States many times. His electric accordion produced multiple instrument sounds. At times we heard the accordion, saxophone, and guitar. He also had a smooth voice singing varied genres of music from Edith Piaf to John Lennon. It was a lovely evening of entertainment and good food.

The warm beautiful evening allowed us to walk the lit streets and see the city at night. Eventually we went to a pastry shop for gelato. We admired the architecture of the pastry shop with its high ceilings and large windows as well as all the ancient structures of Old Québec while we walked back to our hotel.

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