In Canada the whole family was very excited about our visit to the Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum. Alberta’s soil seem to host one of the greatest collections of fossils in the world making also this museum into one of the best dinosaurs museums. The variety was huge, you name your favorite fierce extinct dinosaur and they can provide the petrified baby dinosaur still in the egg to the gigantic skeletons. They not only had dinosaurs but also Mammoth, Saber toothed tiger and other more “recent” extinct cousins.
We then ended our Canadian visit with a very relaxed few days in Lethbridge. Here Emil knew a good friend Aaron (from an exchange in Australia) with family where we could stay. We enjoyed staying put for a few days after very long drives through the vast planes of Canada. Aaron worked at the national park Writing On Stone. It was a treat having our private guide through the closed off and most sacred places to the Black feet with ancient First Nation’s (native’s) carvings and petroglyphs. The landscape here was also breathtaking, and Emma loved running around through the hoodoos (sand formations).
Going south with summer temperatures of 25 – 30 C, we crossed the border to USA again. We left the vast agricultural planes behind and encountered the Rocky Mountains again. Once again we approached the wild West with it’s beautiful nature, high pointy mountains covered with evergreen and found nice places to set up camp. The temperatures dropped and it felt more like winter.
We had to miss out on Glacier National Park which closed for the year the day before we arrived and continued to Yellowstone. Yellowstone is the grand mother of all world’s national parks. It’s not only the first preserve in the world of it’s kind reinstated in 1872. It also holds one of the most diverse variety from wild life to volcanic activity and of course has the most extreme of everything. The earth’s crust is no thinner at any other place, here is more geysers and volcanic activity than the rest of the world combined, the world highest geyser shooting up some 100 m even if it does so only every 8 years or so, but then they of course have the most famous geyser Old Faithful with 50 m which goes off on a schedule every 90 minutes.
We found a very nice cabin which the girls called home and enjoyed exploring the enormous (100 x 100 km) Yellowstone for almost five days. Midway it began to snow transforming the scenery and the temperatures during the day clung to 0 C. We have brought quite good four season gear but we realized that proper gloves was one thing we missed and even if we bought some for the girls they were a bit cold. Except for all geysers, hot pools, mud pools and other volcanic activity we enjoyed the scenery and beautiful nature from an arid and barren landscape to a lush evergreen forest spotted with fiery yellow patches of fall colored deciduous trees. In this setting we were very lucky to spot much of the generous wild life from the shy wolf, bear, coyote, bald eagle to the masses of bison, elk and deer.
We now escaped Yellowstone heading south through Grand Teton National Park. Further south and at lower altitudes we will tomorrow leave winter behind and be back with summer.
Crossing the border to Canada we realized that neither the car GPS or that the American mobile plan worked. This left us virtually with a blank map, so we had to navigate the old fashion way with a hard copy paper map – so 2000… Having a GPS in busy Seattle was of great help with all it ramps and exits going in all directions but Canada felt much easier and Vancouver was no problem with a map.
We started off in Canada to stay in Vancouver. Emma summed it up as “so lovely and beautiful”. Both Seattle and Vancouver seemed to host quite a few bohemian hippie survivors. We rented bikes and had the kids in a trailer. It was a great way to explore Stanley Park and the water front with all bike lanes. Heading to China town we stumbled upon the segregation in North America with its homeless, addicts and pushers.
After a gondola trip to Grouse Mountain with a fabulous view over Vancouver we had to experience the bad rush hour traffic before we escaped by ferry to Vancouver Island. We were lucky enough to see some 20 Killer Whales – Orcas. Arriving we explored Victoria and drove north along the coast to Nanaimo where we return by ferry and headed for Whistler.
The scenery arriving and around Whistler is just stunning. An undulating landscape covered in evergreen trees, high peaks spotted with occasional glaciers and valleys with massive rivers. Whistler a ski Mecca during winter – host of the 2010 Winter Olympics – was also a busy and charming village during summer. It felt as New Zeeland’s Queenstown where you can do any extreme activity you can think of. Downhill mountain biking using the ski slopes down and ski lift up seemed to be the major activity except for hiking of course.
We seem to have been lucky and hit a heat wave this late with over 30 C. We tented in Whistler but moving east our luck turned the second night when we experienced a heavy thunder storm.
Arriving in Banff National Park we have enjoyed the tranquility of the town and the surroundings. We relaxed in the hot springs and did some shorter walks, still overwhelmed by the massive mountains and the beauty of nature. We also have seen a few Elks, but need to keep the distance since the bulls are quite aggressive during the ongoing breeding season, singing as a bad bag pipe. We also met some giant Grizzlies but luckily with a fence in between since they were held in captivity. All outdoor garbage cans have bear proof locks and we’re not allowed to keep any food inside or around the tent.
The kids are doing just fine even if they get a bit jumpy during long drives. We try to keep them busy with games, drawing, singing, DVD player and our iPad dangling between our seats. Emma wondered if Americans eat candy every day to get so big. We need to try this diet every now and then to keep them happy in the back, but we are also great consumers of bananas, carrots and peppers for snack.
Finally we got our bags packed and our journey started with train from Lund to Copenhagen, airplane to Toronto and then again to Seattle. Even though the service on Air Canada was sparse and they tried to starve us on the long flight, our girls did cope really great on the long journey. The fly in over Seattle was spectacular in the middle of the night with all street lights in yellow and white, glimmering like gold and silver, together-with a heavy thunder storm putting up a great show in the sky with massive lightening.
The next day we picked up the mini van we booked to get some more space for our luggage. This “mini” van is everything but mini and the monster machine is brand new as well. We find a new feature, DVD player, storage space, mirror, button, you name it every time we go for a ride. As we told Emma everything is bigger and a bit cheaper in America. It hold true so far most of the time.
We’ve been staying and had a very pleasant and laid back time in Redmond (part of greater Seattle) with Aparna an old friend of Emil’s from a middle eastern trip. Their kids are older than ours but they are bonding extraordinary and the language barrier doesn’t seem to halt the enthusiasm. Regarding language Emma is learning heaps new English words everyday. Living in Redmond, birth place of Microsoft, we had to drive through their campus – not much to see except for office buildings, Bill Gates retired and no sign of Nokia moving in so far.
Except for just enjoying the good weather (25 C) and strolling the vibrant down town, we also made it to the interesting bohemian Pike Place Market and another few down town sites.
We’re absolutely not fed up with US, but tomorrow we’re already border hopping to Canada.