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Back home already? Germans everywhere

Lake Country, Barrière, Grey Wells Provincial Park

semi-overcast 13 °C
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We had happily arrived in Lake Country and picked a spot at the Wood Lake Campground. Even though it was Saturday evening of the long Labor Day weekend, we had no trouble at all getting a spot. So lucky us!
And we had already a plan in mind what to do: even though it had probably never occurred to us that Canada is a wine producing country, it is. And as we had not done so in any of the previous wine regions we came through, this time we wanted to go for some wine tasting. Our campground was ideally positioned for that plan, such that we only had to drive for a very short distance. After a very nice tasting session at Intrigue Wines and getting a bottle of their beautiful Gewürztraminer, we headed to Blind Tiger. While nicely positioned on the crest of a hill, we were neither impressed by the people there, nor by the wines.

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So we quickly headed on again: Arrowleaf treated us to an excellent view of the lake from their terrace and lawns and we also liked their Bacchus, but we kept the best for last: The Grey Monk Estate Vinery. They seem to be the oldest and most established vinery in BC, founded some 25 years ago by Germans. And also Heidi, the lady serving us our tastings, had German roots. We liked their wines best of all we had tasted so far, so once again got another bottle to take with us for a special occasion.

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Back at the campground it was already time for dinner. Luckily enough, with all the rain of the last couple of days the fireban had been lifted and we were able to light a campfire and have corn on the cob and sausages from the BBQ.
Max spent the next morning at the playground while we were getting the van ready to leave. When checking on him, I noticed a German family just next to the playground with a truck and trailer that did not look like the usual rental equipment. We soon found out that they’ve been living in Canada for the last eight years and invited them over to our van. While Max played with his new friend Aiyana, Carola and Uwe supplied us with lots of ideas and recommendations on where to go and what to visit. So our original plan of heading towards Revelstoke was dumped pretty quickly and we decided to head up towards Clearwater and the Grey Wells Provincial Park.
After a mandatory stop at one of the many produce stands along the road, we were stocked up with local fruit and vegetables and headed towards Kamloops and then through the very scenic North Thompson valley. Passing through the small town of Barrière we noticed a large sign along the road advertising the rodeo taking place on Labor Day weekend. We could not resist to change our plans once more and to have a look.
We were quite lucky: arriving at 4:15pm we did not have to pay an entrance fee anymore and still got to see quite a variety of rodeo disciplines. Initially, we were treated to ‘Junior Breakaway Roping’ followed by ‘Team Roping’. It was quite impressive to see how good people did in targeting to catch a running calf. And especially how hard it is in the team event to catch it both around the neck as well as around one of the hind legs.

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Next on the agenda was the bull riding event. I’m sure that I would never ever dare to get even close to one of these massive bulls – what a huge packet of muscles! While it was interesting to see, how excited the crowd around us got during the bull riding, I’m quite sure that I’d never get to be a fan of that discipline. After all, the bulls just looked really tormented in the process.

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The following chuck wagon races were much more fun. Seeing them race around the track and three of them coming next to each other around the corner, was quite a sight. The excitement and fun of the chuck wagon races was over way too quickly. And quite frankly, the heavy horses that followed – kind of a tractor pulling event with horses instead of tractors – was rather boring in comparison.

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So we headed out of the arena to check out the other entertainment provided, such as food: Sam went for mini donuts, I got a ‘haystack’ (which I’d have described as taco salad) and Max was excited about his multi-colored ‘Rainbow’ icecream. Last but not least, we stopped at ‘Hilde’s Sausage’ to procure some Leberkäse from the butcher who’s been providing German meat products in Canada for the last eight years. And despite the long distance to his former home, he could not resist having the discussion with me, if it is called ‘Leberkäse’ or ‘Fleischkäse’. I used to have the same arguments with the butchers in Crailsheim, so that felt a bit like home.
In the evening we were lucky to still get a campground in town despite the long Labor Day weekend and the rodeo taking place in town. Camping in Canada seemed suddenly much easier than in the US and more adapted to our traveling style without any reservations (which would not have allowed for any sudden changes in plan, as happened just again today).
The next morning, we continued the Wells Gray Information Center in Clearwater. After getting all information we needed, there was just one of those impossible moments. I suddenly stood right across from Kerstin, a former colleague of mine from Crailsheim who I had not seen probably for the last nine years. Still, despite those years we recognized each other at once with this incredible ‘Kerstin?!?’ and ‘Birgit?!?’. The world is just so small and sometimes you have to be nine time zones away from home to meet your friends. What an encounter!
So we obviously exchanged the latest news from the last years and found out that Kerstin and her husband Sven were headed into the same general direction were fortunate enough to cross paths again three more times during the next couple of days.

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Wells Grey Provincial Park did not make a big effort to impress us with it’s nice weather. Whenever it was not drizzling rain, it was heavily overcast and always looked like the rain might start again any minute. But both the Spahat Falls as well as Helmcken Falls did impress us. Admittedly, we have seen quite a lot of falls already in the last couple of months, but we liked the big bowl both waterfalls had carved behind them. Very nice!

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Given the weather and the fact that the road further into the park was not paved, but gravel only, we would have usually retreated to the campground. But as beginning of September is just the time of the salmon coming back to Clearwater River to spawn, we could not resist continuing to Bailey’s Chute, a small cascade of white water just a bit too high for the salmon to pass. Still, despite the fact that by then the salmon will have went upriver more than 600km and not eaten anything for more than 100 days, some of them have still the energy to try to jump the rapids. The Chinook Salmon is at 22kg one of the largest of its kind and it was really impressive to see them jump. Given the heavy rainfall of the last couple of days, the task was probably even harder than usual, but still enough of them tried fruitlessly in order to eventually give up and spawn a bit further downriver at the horseshoe bend.

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And for all three stops once again we felt surrounded by Germans. Seemingly with school starting again in the US and Canada, there were much less locals traveling than before. And the Wells Gray Provincial Park is probably just a bit too less known for those people doing Canada in five days.

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That evening we could not resist having German food and it was great to enjoy Leberkäse and Kartoffelbrei for dinner. In Germany we have a saying ‘Liebe geht durch den Magen’ which is probably not adequately translated by the word by word transcription of ‘Love goes through the stomach’ – still, there was a feeling of being home just right then and there in the middle of Canada. And eventually a feeling of ‘I’m so stuffed, I guess I should have stopped eating already a while ago’…

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 20:42 Archived in Canada Tagged salmon lake waterfall germans rodeo produce vinery kerstin Comments (0)

Getting into the Canadian Rockies

Grey Wells PP, Tete Jaune Cache, Jasper NP, Icefields Parkway

overcast 10 °C
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Waking up in Grey Wells Provincial Park in a drizzling rain did not quite feel like this is how Canada should be like. Still, the rain needs to happen at some stage to keep all of the waterfalls in the park supplied with enough water. And Dawson Falls were a very nice sight indeed and despite the fact that they are just 4 miles upstream from Helmcken Falls, quite different.
Given the weather we were not really tempted to go further into the park for kayaking on Clearwater Lake and made our way back to the highway. Just after the crest of a small hill while still in the park, I was suddenly forced to slam the brakes: there was a bear mother standing in the middle of the road with two small cubs. Sam was quick enough to take a picture before the three headed into the forest, hiding so well from view that we have not seen them anymore even though they could not have been more than five meters from the road. That made us wonder how many bears (and other wildlife) we might have passed already without noticing them.

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After a round of shopping and enjoying salmon and berries on a ‘bannock’ (a kind of Indian frybread) the drive north was dominated by rain such that the mountain views were obscured by clouds most of the time.
Luckily, by the time we reached Valemount, the rain had stopped and gave way to even some bits of sunshine. Valemount’s salmon run is taking place two weeks before the one in Gray Wells, but we were lucky enough to still spot a salmon in the spawning area of the local creek – a female protecting her nest. What a different setting vs. the craziness of the Bailey’s Chute we had seen the day before.

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Sam and Max were at least as fascinated by the salon as by the truck and especially the one on its trailer across the road. They would trade in our van in to travel with that truck without any hesitation.

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That evening we followed Uwe and Carola’s recommendation of staying overnight at the campground of the Tete Jaune Lodge. And in fact the location directly next to Fraser River and the facilities were simply great.

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And at the risk of sounding a bit crazy: I was delighted to encounter what I consider ‘normal’ washing machines spinning around a horizontal axis. And yes: our clothes were clean after washing them – even Max’ stuff. Hooray!
The next morning it was quite obvious that it did not make any sense to stop at Mt. Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. Given all the clouds, we simply passed by and were happy at every opportunity to see a bit of the landscape around us.

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Eventually we headed directly into Jasper National Park where we got a spot for the next two nights at Whistler Campground. To Max’ delight the friendly ranger at the gate had made sure we were located right next to a large playground.
After enjoying the pleasantries of our new home location, we headed off for a hike to the Five Lakes. Already on the way there, we were impressed by the nice vistas of rivers with the mountains in the back.

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And once we arrived at the Five Likes, not surprisingly, we had the impression that also there were more Germans than any other nationality. The hike was really nice and Max was even officially allowed to ride his bike on the trail – unlike in the American national parks where almost all trails were officially for hikers only.

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There had been a warning sign at the start of the trail to watch out for bears, as they like to come to this area during berry season. So we made sure to talk loud enough and consequently did not encounter any bears, even though they might have been close by. We did see lots of squirrels though and a couple of smaller animals and insects.

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We enjoyed the solitude of the five small lakes along the trail. At one of them there was even a pair of the red chairs located in especially scenic spots all through Jasper national park.

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On our way back to camp, we noticed a couple of cars parked along the road with people getting out to have a look at an elk. Even though it was a really large male elk and a beautiful sight, we rather stayed away and were even a bit worried about the people getting so close. After all, we had been warned by enough signs about the elk during fall rut season and were cautious not to get too close.
The next morning it was raining and consequently we did not feel like going for any sightseeing in the national park. Instead we took advantage of one of the activities directly at the campground and went geocaching. With a GPS we borrowed from the ranger station we headed off to find the 10 caches hidden all over the campground. And that took quite a while – after all the campground is enormous at 781 spots spread widely in a forest probably a mile long by half a mile wide.

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It was fun finding the locations of the caches and their hiding places. So maybe geocaching is something we’ll continue doing also in other places.
After hiking so much on a rather cool and partially raining day, we had promised to Max that we’d go to the local pool. As usual, he enjoyed being in the water, swimming, jumping and sliding with pure delight.
After dinner (Kaiserschmarrn) that evening Sam set off towards a meadow south of the campground to see if he’ll be able to see any elk during their rut. After a long time of hiding and watching, he eventually returned back to the van having seen no animals at all – not even squirrels. I suspect he had been watched silently by a couple of animals who were doing just as well a great job in hiding themselves, but we’ll never know for sure…

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 08:46 Archived in Canada Tagged salmon lake river pool hike bear geocaching campground rut Comments (1)

Aoraki – the cloud piercer

Lake Tepako, Lake Pukaiki, Aoraki / Mt. Cook, Waitaki Waters

semi-overcast 21 °C
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The weather gods were in a good mood and provided us with the perfect weather for a drive into the mountains. There was hardly a cloud on the sky and thanks to the heavy rains and cool temperatures of the last days, the mountain tops were covered in snow.
I can easily admit that good weather is important for me and that I enjoy traveling in sunshine much more that in bleak conditions. Quite frankly, on a cloudy day we might not have even realized how beautiful our surroundings are. The road was windy and before too long we reached the higher reaches of the rather dry Canterbury Plains. And surprisingly, we even got to pass a house on the way.

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Lake Tekapo’s waters were stunningly blue. While the famous Church of the Good Shepard was overrun by package tour tourists, just a bit further away there was no one. A bit further on Lake Pukaki glistened in rather turquoise colors with Aoraki / Mt Cook in the backdrop. It was super windy, but thanks to the sun still pleasant.

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On our way towards Aoraki / Mt Cook along Lake Pukaki we stopped a couple of times. With every stop, the scenery changed and seemed to surpass the previous views once more. Eventually we stopped for lunch in one of the smaller viewpoints along the road, as we wanted to take in the view without having to share it with dozens of other people. It was just perfect.

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When we were ready to tackle the road again, we headed right to White Horse Campground and secured a spot for the night. We parked just a few steps from the trailhead for the Hooker Valley Track. What a great day hike: we passed along the Hooker River steadily climbing the valley, crossing three swingbridges in the process and eventually were rewarded with perfect views of Aoraki / Mt. Cook.

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The only sad note about the track was the realization that – just like in Canada – also here the glaciers are receding rapidly. We had a great view of the Hooker Glacier, but knowing that just a few years ago there was no lake but a much larger glacier did put a damper on the otherwise glorious outing.

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Already in the evening, we noticed how the mountain tops were starting to get covered in clouds, a process that continued the next morning. We headed to the National Park visitor center to learn a bit more about the history, geology and wildlife.
On our drive out of the valley, we did turn back a couple of times and were thankful about the fabulous weather we had the day before. With the clouds the view was not nearly as nice as it had been.
We stopped for lunch in Twizel. A bit further, there was a salmon farm and we got to feed the salmon, which provided us with nice views of the enormous fish.

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The drive from the mountains all the way to the sea was very pleasant. We passed along rivers, some hydro power stations, through quaint towns and lots of agricultural land with countless sheep. At the very end of the Waitaki valley, not far from the beach we stayed in a pleasant campground.
There we also met the first Romanians since we’re on the road. And while they were super nice, I was utterly disappointed that I have forgotten so much of my Romanian in the last five years. While still some time ago, I was talking Romanian any time I tried to address someone in French or Spanish, it seems that I am overdue for some practice.
The next morning, we enjoyed sunshine and pleasant temperatures. Max played with his new friend Sam from Berlin, while our Sam headed to the beach and was amazed about the dunes of stones.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged salmon park church mountain lake national hike swingbridge Comments (0)

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