Along the Icefields Parkway

Crowfoot Glacier and Bow Lake

From Glacier, we headed north to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway. A few days later, we drove back down the same road to Lake Louise (there really isn’t any other way). We made several stops each time which I’ve combined into one south to north sequence, starting with the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint (above).

Peyto Lake and Bow Lake Lookout

This was a day of very poor visibility due to smoke blowing over from the fires in BC. From the parking lot at Bow Summit, a short, steep, paved trail leads to a viewing platform over Peyto Lake (first picture). It was thronged with people so we only got one photograph but, as is often the case, we carried on a bit further and lost most of them. The trail to Bow Lake Lookout goes through forest, moraine and snow, some of which is not terribly solid. Guess who went in to thigh level? Still, to make up for that we met a cute marmot. The view of Bow Lake was pretty enough but nothing like it could have been in other circumstances. The picture near the end of the gallery, slightly enhanced, is the best we have.

Parker’s Ridge

The trail to Parker’s Ridge, overlooking the Saskatchewan Glacier, is about half way between Lake Louise and Jasper. We hiked here in 2007 too – the weather wasn’t great then, but better than it was in 2017 with a squall of hail at the top. The panoramas below are just before the storm and just after.


On the drive down from Jasper, we saw a mother with two cubs! Much zoomed and a bit blurry, but still – bears!

Sunwapta Falls

We stopped here on the way down and had lunch at the nearby Sunwapta Falls Resort. It wasn’t amazing, but it was a lot better than the meal we had at the resort at Saskatchewan River Crossing on the way up – although, to be fair, there are three places to eat on site. We chose the Parkway Pub for the views from its deck – I’d recommend you to forego the view and try one of the other options.

Athabasca Falls

We spent about an hour here exploring the various trails round the Falls. Such awesome power in the water – we were reminded of this by the plaques to those who thought it would be fun to hop over the fence and never came back.

Three busy days in Jasper coming up next.

The bears of Shenandoah

Big Meadows Lodge
Big Meadows Lodge

Our first holiday to Virginia / West Virginia was in 2008. At that time, we said we could easily come back and travel a completely different route which is exactly what we have done this year. However, there are certain points of overlap and one we couldn’t possibly miss out was Shenandoah National Park which sits atop the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (cue another ear-worm). The Skyline Drive extends for 105 miles along the ridge and was visionary when it was created in the 1930s by Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, though I’m not sure it would be acceptable to build now. That’s me at lookouts along the drive in 2008 (left) and 2014.

In 2008 we stayed for two nights and saw a bear every day! The first was at the side of the road the day we drove in, but it ran off into the undergrowth while we fumbled for cameras. We encountered the second as it foraged by a trail the next day, but this bear did not behave as expected – they are supposed to be keen to avoid human contact and making a reasonable amount of noise as you walk should scare them away. This one just kept coming towards us – obviously we were between it and the tastiest food. As it was quite large we decided the best course of action was to go back the way we came and choose a different route. Finally, on the day we left, we heard a lot of crashing in the undergrowth and a small bear shot across the path in front of us and up the other side. It obviously knew the rules.

So would we maintain our bear-a-day record in 2014? This time, we were there for three nights so it was more of a challenge. Read on to find out!

Day 1. We came down Skyline from the North to the Lodge at Big Meadows, about half way along, where we stayed both times. We went for a pre-dinner stroll along part of the Appalachian Trail which runs behind the Lodge where we encountered a large brown object – yes, a bear!

Day 2. We tackled the trail which we had abandoned last time, Dark Hollow Falls and Upper Rose River, and, would you believe, saw a bear in almost exactly the same place, once again foraging for food. The pickings must be really good there and this bear seemed totally undiverted by our presence so we carried on to complete the trail. John is standing in front of the Falls this year, and the photo of me in the same spot is from 2008.

Day 3. We took the Lewis Falls trail in the morning and were disappointed not to see a bear. Was this our record broken? No! In the afternoon, we drove down from Skyline to Luray Caverns (which were spectacular, probably the best we’ve seen – they also have a small motor museum) and saw a bear by the roadside on three separate occasions. Then when we came back, there was actually a bear right behind our accommodation block! We watched it for several minutes and actually got some reasonable pictures. It was really close.

Shenandoah butterfly
Shenandoah butterfly

Day 4. We left the Park, travelling South along the rest of the Skyline Drive. No bear! We had lost our bear-a-day status. However, with 6 in 4 days, we averaged 1.5 which is better than last time, so I call that a result.

In 2008, we turned east at the end of the Skyline. This time, we continued along it as it morphed into the Blue Ridge Parkway. This was an old friend which we’d travelled in North Carolina a few years ago. However, we didn’t know the Virginian section so we were setting off on new adventures.

Coming soon – Peaks of Otter.

The Quiet Side of the Smokies


Acknowledgement – this photo is not ours! It comes from a Fotopedia app on National Parks which I highly recommend. We could never have taken anything as good as this. It shows Clingmans Dome which we did visit yesterday but it was too hazy for photographs.

Anyway, we are now on our second night in Tennessee, and the title of this post is a slogan they use here to promote this side of the Smokies. Having driven through Cherokee in North Carolina yesterday, with it’s sideshows and casinos, I can see what they mean. However, we did scorn Gatlinburg as a place to stay because it looked rather tacky so there are gaudy spots on both sides. We’ve ended up in Townsend which is one of those towns that just sprawls along a big highway with no real centre (or we’ve not found it anyway). The hotel was carefully chosen to be opposite some restaurants – we are allergic to taking the car to dinner because it means no beer or wine – but what we failed to take into account is that we are here on a Sunday when a lot of places either don’t open or close early.

Last night (Saturday) was great. We crossed the road (a five lane highway, gulp) to Lily’s Cafe which was just a few hundred yards away. The place was excellent, good veggie choices, good wine and pleasant staff. Just before we were leaving, a thunderstorm blew up and showed no signs of abating and when our waiter found out we had walked he insisted on driving us back over the road. I don’t think you can beat that for service! Tonight (Sunday) we were less lucky. Lily’s was closed so we went to one of the other nearby restaurants which was ok for John but the veggie option was an assortment of four “sides” which was fine but only just.

Today, we visited Cade’s Cove. This is a valley in the Smokies where a lot of 19th century buildings have survived, homes and churches such as these:



It certainly gives you an idea of how hard their lives were. The church is the Methodist one (there were two Baptist Churches nearby, resulting from a fall-out.) The two doors would normally indicate that men and women entered and sat on different sides. Apparently, that wasn’t the case here, they just borrowed the building plans from another church.

We saw loads of deer in Cade’s Cove, including this mother and fawn, a bear and her cub at a safe distance (you can’t see the cub here and you’ll more or less have to take my word for it that it’s a bear) and, on our way back from a hike to a pretty waterfall, a rattlesnake. It slithered across the path in front of us but we weren’t quick enough to get a picture.



Tomorrow, we are retracing our steps back over the border into North Carolina.

Boone and bears


On Sunday, we drove through South Carolina to get to Boone in North Carolina. The drive was quite dull, all freeway, and it rained just as we got here so it wasn’t a great day. However, the place we had chosen to stay, Lovill House Inn, is absolutely lovely (I know how to pick ’em), and being received with a glass of wine definitely helped cheer us up. The first night, all the rooms were taken and it was quite sociable, but the second night we had the place to ourselves. We’d been told Boone wasn’t a very pretty town, though the reason I selected it wasn’t for its looks but to act as a gateway to the mountain part of our holiday. Actually, we really liked it. True, the road in was the usual strip of fast food chains and motels but the “Old Downtown” area was much more attractive with a good range of restaurants (always the most important thing). We ate in Hob Nob Farm Cafe which was the second place I’ve been spoilt for choice (after the Jepson Cafe in Savannah). As a vegetarian I’m used to just having one or two options and I almost don’t know how to pick when I can eat almost everything on the menu.

We visited Grandfather Mountain (see above). Part way up, there is a wildlife preserve. I’m not in favour of animals in captivity, but these were creatures who had been injured or were otherwise incapable of surviving in the wild. The highlight was this beautiful bear, below. We have seen bears in the wild but (thankfully) not up this close, so it was a wonderful experience.

Below, you can also see me looking intrepid further up on one of the peaks. Of course, the cheat is you drive almost all the way and get to this rocky part over the Mile High Bridge. There are rugged trails up the peak you can see beyond the bridge, but it looks very steep and those bare, rocky parts are navigated by ropes and ladders, so I decided that definitely wasn’t for me. Instead, we found another trail, the Boone Fork Loop, a 5 mile walk alongside a creek (which we crossed and recrossed many times) which was very muddy. Just like home.