Icefields Parkway – True Blue Lakes, Avalanches & Grouse!

May 2016 – The Icefields Parkway weaves between towering mountain peaks through the Canadian Rockies in Banff and Jasper National Parks, offering up a new and utterly astonishing vista at every turn.

RV travel Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rocky Mountains

The Icefields Parkway takes you from one jaw-dropping view to another..for 150 miles!

We wanted to catch the magic of Canada’s Rocky Mountains at dawn, and on a few mornings we hopped on the Icefields Parkway at the break of day to chase down down that magical moment.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rockies

Dawn at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway

But it is hard to capture the soft pinks that fill the sky a half hour before sunrise when the sun crests the horizon at 5:30 a.m., as it does in this part of the world in late May, especially since it wasn’t getting totally dark until nearly 11 p.m. So much for sleeping!

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff Canada

Morning on the Icefields Parkway.

So, we didn’t quite make it before sunrise, but we still got the beautiful golden glow that spreads across the mountains as they wake up.

Rocky Mountains Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

Soft light radiates across the peaks of the Rocky Mountains

Banff National Park Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway_

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The snow was thick in certain spots up on the mountain peaks, and we loved the patterns the rock and snow made high above us.

Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff

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Patterns on the Rocky Mountains Banff National Park Canada

Beautiful patterns on the crests of the Rockies

The tourist literature for the Icefields Parkway doesn’t wax poetic about any particular location. Their implied suggestion is simply that you should explore on your own and discover the most exquisite spots for yourself.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Looking across Bow Lake.

Luckily, a friend had told us to make sure we didn’t miss Peyto Lake. He hadn’t elaborated about why Peyto Lake was a “must see,” but as soon as we emerged from the short hiking trail to the viewing area that overlooks the lake, we knew exactly why he wanted us to go there.

Peyto Lake Banff National Park Icefields Parkway Alberta Canada

Peyto Lake comes into view.

“Oh, Wow!” I blurted, my eyes like saucers. “Who spilled the can of blue paint?”

Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Canadian Rocky Mountains Banff National Park

Is Peyto Lake really that blue? Yes!

The small crowd on the viewing platform laughed. Every hiker that arrived had the same shocked look on their face as I did when they came upon the stunningly gorgeous view in front of them. The color of Peyto Lake was extraordinary.

A group lined up for a selfie, and who wouldn’t?

Selfie at Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

Selfie time!

A dad took his son below the deck and sat with him for little while enjoying the view. What an unforgettable moment and priceless memory.

Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

A father and son take a moment to enjoy the view together.

His wife was standing next to me at the overlook, and we chatted for a few moments. I discovered they were from Germany and they had visited Peyto Lake a week earlier when the mountains had been blanketed in snow. “It was all white — except for that blue,” she said, her hand sweeping across the painted landscape as she described what she had seen.

All of the rivers and lakes in the Canadian Rockies turn vivid green and blue in the sunlight, as long as the water isn’t too stirred up. The water is full of “glacial flour” which is crushed rock that the glaciers have ground down to a fine powder as they move. This crushed rock becomes suspended in the water and creates vivid blues and greens in the sunlight.

Another beautiful pair of lakes on the Icefields Parkway is the Waterfowl Lakes (Upper and Lower). Rather than royal blue, these lakes are turquoise colored like Lake Louise.

Waterfowl Lake Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

Unlike the true blue of Peyto Lake, the Waterfowl Lakes are turquoise!

We didn’t see any waterfowl there, but as we were wandering around the shore, we came across a grouse.

Grouse on the Icefileds Parkway Banff National Park

Down at our feet, Mark spotted a grouse!

This bird noticed us, but she wasn’t too concerned. She was preoccupied with brushing off the amorous attentions of a her suitor who was walking around her in circles.

Male grouse on the Icefileds Parkway Banff National Park

“Hey, baby, are you free tonight?”

This guy was pulling out all the stops for her.

Male grouse strutting Banff National Park Canada

Do you think I’m sexy?

She wasn’t all that impressed, even though he was strutting his stuff for all he was worth, but I sure was!

Male grouse struts Banff National Park Canada

She was having none of it, but I thought his display was great!

Back out on the Icefields Parkway, we continued to be blown away by the towering mountains and their snowy peaks.

Icefields Parkway scenic drive Banff National Park Canada

The scenery on the Icefields Parkway never gets boring!

Occasionally, when we pulled over to admire the views, we could hear the thunderous sound of an avalanche high up in the mountains.

Rocky Mountains Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park

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Then we’d see the snow pouring down the crevices in the side of the mountain.

Avalanches Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Avalanches are common as the snow melts in the spring.

It was incredible just how loud these avalanches were, and equally incredible just how hard it was to spot where the avalanche was happening. They were way far up in the peaks, and they didn’t seem all that big from our vantage point on the ground.

Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff NP

Triangles in the sky.

The loftiness of the mountains was awe-inspiring.

Canadian Rockies Icefield Parkway Banff National Park

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And the clarity of lakes was too.

Herbert Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

Herbert Lake

The Icefields Parkway is a fast moving thoroughfare between Lake Louise and Jasper, but we never got tired of driving it!

RV at Bow Lake Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

Now THAT’s a scenic drive!

The village at the southern end of the Icefields Parkway, Lake Louise, makes a great “home base” for exploring the southern half of the Icefields Parkway. For more info, see this post: Lake Lousise – Heart of Banff National Park. At the end of that post (and in the following link) there is info about RV camping at Lake Louise.

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Icefields Parkway – Canadian Rockies Scenic Drive – WOW!

May 2016 – The Icefields Parkway is a 150 mile long scenic drive in Alberta, Canada, that goes between Lake Louise in Banff National Park at the south end and the town of Jasper in Jasper National Park at the north end.

It is touted to be one of the world’s top scenic drives. And they aren’t kidding!

Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

The Icefields Parkway is one of the world’s most spectacular scenic drives.

We drove the southern half of this eye-poppoing scenic drive several times during our stay in Lake Louise. We were blown away by the thrilling views every single time.

Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

The dramatic views never quit!

The Canadian Rockies were right there all around us, nearly close enough to reach out and touch.

RV on Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada Rocky Mountains

RVs are the most common vehicles on the Icefields Parkway.

The mountains towered in front of us and behind us, and we kept jumping around in our seats looking in every direction out the windows, our jaws hanging open in amazement.

Icefields Parkway Canadian Rocky Mountains Banff National Park

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The mountains changed shape and color constantly as we drove in the varying light of early morning, midday and late afternoon.

RV in Rocky Mountains on Icefields Parkway

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The magnificent Icefields Parkway provides a feast for the eyes while driving but, for its length, it has suprisingly few scenic overlooks and pullouts where drivers can stop to admire the breathtaking vistas.

One of the best scenic viewpoints is at Herbert Lake. It is the very first pullout at the south end of the Icefields Parkway, and loads of drivers who start their drive at Lake Louise zoom right by.

Herbert Lake Icefields Parkway Canada Rocky Mountains Banff National Park

Herbert Lake – A gorgeous spot on the Icefields Parkway that many northbound tourists skip past!

The temptation when you round the bend and pass Herbert Lake and first catch a glimpse of the mountains reflecting in the water is to think, “Oh, we’ll have lots of scenic viewpoints on this drive, and the Icefields Parkway is 150 miles long, so let’s keep going for a while and stop a little further down the road.” After all, you’ve been on the Icefields Parkway for all of about three minutes at this point! We zipped by the first time but made a point to stop there on several return visits.

As I stared at the mirrored reflections in the lake one morning, I noticed the clouds were flying across the sky. So I set up a timelapse on my camera to capture the swift movement and variable light. What a cool result!!

One day as we drove along the Icefields Parkway, we were craning our necks looking up at the mountains when we noticed a cluster of cars pulled over on the shoulder of the road. Everyone was pointing their cameras towards the woods. It turned out there was a black bear just in front of the trees.

Getting a photo of a bear Banff National Park Canada

People stopped there cars to snap pics of a bear.

What a beauty he was!! We were tickled to see a bear so effortlessly for a second time here in the Canadian Rockies.

Black bear Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

Another wonderful black bear sighting!

He stood still for a long time, chowing down on the grass, and our cameras clicked furiously.

Black Bear Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

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Black Bear Icefields Parkway Banff National Park_

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He stayed so long that his audience cycled in and out. Some folks got back in their cars and drove off and newcomers pulled over to park and stare in awe. Finally, the bear lumbered off into the woods.

Black bear Banff National Park Icefields Parkway Canada

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There are a number of dry camping campgrounds on the Icefields Parkway but most were closed, even in late May. We wandered through a few — what great spots to camp during the summertime! — and we discovered a lovely view of the Rockies reflecting quietly in a large puddle on the ground near Mosquito Creek Campground.

Reflections Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff

Canadian Rockies reflections…

Lots of RVs travel this highway, and we saw more rental RVs than any other kind of vehicle on the road. The Icefields Parkway was under construction in spots, so there were loads of big construction trucks driving very fast on a mission to get where they were going. In the early mornings, though, we had the road to ourselves.

Rental RV Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada Rocky Mountains

The Icefields Parkway is a popular spot to take an RV!

One of the biggest and most popular scenic pullouts is at Bow Lake. This is a stunning lake, and we caught it in a mild mood one morning when it was as still as glass.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rockies

Serenity on Bow Lake.

The patterns of the snow on the mountains reflected beautifully in the green depths of the water.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rocky Mountains

We loved the images the mountains created in the green water of Bow Lake.

The pullout at Bow Lake is very large, and we hung out for an hour or so watching the tourists come and go. First there was one RV.

RV driving on Icefields Parkway to Jasper Banff National Park Canada Rockies

An RV slows down to pull over at Bow Lake

Then two.

RV parking on Icefields Parkway to Jasper Banff National Park Canada Rockies

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Then the tour buses began to show up and park alongside the cars and RVs. There was a constant shuffle of vehicles coming and going and people running around the overlook admiring the exquisite view.

RV and tour bus sightseeing Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada Rocky Mountains

Bow Lake is the most popular pullout in the southern half of the Icefields Parkway. It was busy in the off season!

Everyone wanted a selfie. Well, if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em! So, we got one too!

Happy hikers Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

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Our original plan had been to drive the Icefields Parkway with our rig, going slowly from south to north, and possibly camping midway at the Columbia Icefields.

Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

We never got tired of views like these!

But we soon found out that being 55′ long from end to end, we would have struggled to fit in most of the pullouts and in almost all the trailhead parking areas.

Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Canada

Icefields Parkway scenery – beautiful!

So, we drove the Icefields Parkway at leisure in our truck, stopping in different places each time we drove it, and never having to fight to squeeze a big rig into a tiny parking area.

Eventually, when we were finally ready to go all the way to Jasper, we took our rig straight through without stopping. But there was a lot to see around Lake Louise and Banff first, so that story will have to wait!

Fifth wheel RV on the Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

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The Icefields Parkway is a glorious road, and it is an easy drive that doesn’t involve any hairpin turns or steep climbs. So it is very manageable for a big RV and tow vehicle/toad as long as you don’t plan to pull over too often. And the views… oh my, the views!!

Canadian Rockies Banff National Park Icefields Parkway Canada

We saw sensational Canadian Rockies scenery at every turn on the Icefields Parkway

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Lake Louise – RV Travels to the Heart of the Rockies in Banff

May 2016 – Banff National Park is the heart of the Canadian Rockies, and Lake Louise is at the very center of that heart. After we took our RV through the wonderful mountain scenery of Kootenay National Park, our appetites had been whetted by all the gorgeous snowcapped peaks rising up in the distance, and we were ready to slow down and see them up close. Lake Louise was the ideal spot.

Lake Louise dawn Banff National Park Alberta Canada-2

Dawn at Lake Louise in Banff National Park

Lake Louise is a turquoise lake tucked into a circle of snowcapped mountains, and at dawn we found the water was glassy smooth and utterly clear.

Lake Louise Banff National Park Canada

Lake Louise

This is a top tourist destination, and from just after sunrise until well after dark it is loaded to the gills with people from all over the world. But during the pre-dawn hours of quiet mornings in mid-May, we found ourselves sharing the lake with just a few other people, all with cameras aimed across the lake.

Dawn Lake Louise Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Crystal clear water and mirrored reflections at Lake Louise

The early morning rays of sun cast a pink and orange glow on the snow covered peaks in the distance. The air was calm, and the few people down at the lake were silent as they gazed across the water. When we spoke, we whispered. There was a special, intimate aura among us all, an acknowledgement that this was a unique moment we would all remember.

Lake Louise Dawn Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Sunrise at Lake Louise

Just a few steps behind us, the enormous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel rose up to towering heights, and slowly came to life.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel Alberta Canada

The Farirmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel

Hotel guests made their way down to the water’s edge to join us admiring the lake. Soon, tourists began to descend on the shore by the dozens. Our magical few minutes of privacy with the sunrise by the lake had passed.

Not long after, the tourist buses began to arrive, disgorging fifty selfie-stick wielding tourists at a whack. We left the shore and wandered inside the hotel to explore its luxurious and posh interior.

Lake Louise Fairmont Chateau Hotel interior

The elegant lobby of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

This is an elegant hotel with a beautiful dining room that overlooks the lake. What a spot for a meal!

Lake Louise Fairmont Chateau fine dining

Fine dining right on the lake at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Lake Louise is best enjoyed outdoors, though, and there are lots of bright red kayaks for rent at the boat dock. One by one, kayakers paddled out onto the lake.

Kayak on Lake Louise Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Kayaking on the lake

We followed the shoreline trail for a ways, with one eye on the path in front of us and the other peering between the trees at the shockingly bright turquoise water.

Lake Louise Pine Trees Banff National Park Canada

Vivid turquoise water on Lake Louise

Turquoise Lake Louise Banff National Park

Is it real?!

Lake Louise Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Have a seat and soak in the beauty of this place!

Dandelions were in full bloom and filled a hillside. Whoever thought dandelions could add so much to a scene?!

Lake Louise Dandelions and jade water Banff National Park

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Lake Louise was first explored by Swiss mountaineers, and it soon became a tourist destination. Two tea houses were built up in the hills as destinations for hikers where they could get a yummy bite to eat and have a place to hike to besides just “the top.”

We took the trail that heads to the Lake Agnes Tea House, and it climbed steadily for quite a ways.

Lake Agnes Tea House Trail Banff National Park Canada

The mountain views intensified on the hiking trail to the Lake Agnes Tea House

The mountain peaks were breathtaking — and the trail got us huffing and puffing and out of breath too!

Canadian Rockies Lake Agnes Tea House Hike Banff National Park

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Eventually, we came to a small lake. Mark climbed up on a pair of stumps for a better view.

Stump man Lake Louise Banff National Park Canada

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Some other hikers came along behind us and got our pic leaning against these stumps. Even though it was the off-season and it was a cold, gray day, there were a lot of hikers on the trail. I can only imagine how busy this trail must be on a gorgeous, sunny day in July!

Selfie Lake Agnes Banff National Park Canada

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Just a little further on we came to Lake Agnes. There was still a lot of ice on the water, but the edges near the trail on the shore were crystal clear.

Lake Agnes Banff National Park Canada

Lake Agnes was still partially covered in ice.

Apparently, the Lake Agnes Tea House is extremely popular when it opens in the summertime. The workers who staff it stay there during the work week and hike down to the Lake Louise village on their days off (or do more adventurous hikes into the mountains starting from the Lake Agnes Tea House).

Ice on Lake Agnes Banff National Park Canada

Thin veils of ice cover the rich aqua hues of Lake Agnes

Many of the goods for the restaurant are brought up by horses and wagons on a different trail, but a lot of the provisioning is done by workers who hike up and down this steep trail carrying heavy loads alongside the tourists.

Lake Agnes Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Lake Agnes

Happy Hikers Lake Agnes Tea House Trail Banff National Park Canada

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The wildlife stays on the mountain year round, of course, and a chipmunk came over to see if we’d carried up a snack for him.

Chipmunk at Lake Louise Alberta Canada

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The Lake Agnes Tea House wasn’t going to open for another two weeks when we were there, but the hike was still really enjoyable.

Lake Agnes Tea House at Lake Louise Alberta Canada

The Lake Agnes Tea House – Not open quite yet. Darn!

A cup of hot tea at the Tea House would have been very welcome. After we’d been up there tip-toeing around the ice and snow and taking photos for a while, I was chilled to the bone. And then it began to drizzle!

Freezing cold at Lake Agnes Banff National Park

A hot tea would be nice right about now!

We’ve heard the baked goodies that come out of the Lake Agnes Tea House kitchen are very tasty. But we made do with our water bottles and protein bars in our packs. Sigh.

The amazing thing about Lake Louise is that after you look at it for a while, you get used to the stunningly vivid turquoise color. But each time you look away and then look back again, your jaw drops. And so it happened as we hiked back down to the lake.

Lake Louise Glimpse Banff National Park Canada

Lake Louise jumps out at us through the trees.

Lake Louise Rain Banff National Park Canada

The jade hues glowed as rain flattened the water.

The trees opened up as we neared the lake and the incredible color was right there in front of us once again.

Lake Louise Banff National Park Alberta Canada

The vivid colors of Lake Louise are stunning.

We returned to the shoreline of Lake Louise at dawn and at dusk several times and saw the lake in both sunshine and rain. Each time the beauty of the whole area caught us off guard.

Lake Louise Reflections Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Dawn at Lake Louise is a special time, and we enjoyed taking photos down at the shore
(see Mark down there with his tripod?!).

It didn’t matter if we were sharing the lake with two hundred other awe-struck tourists or with just two or three other photographers who were as determined as we were to capture its beauty on camera, this place was incredible.

Lake Louise Dusk Banff National Park Alberta Canada

What a place!

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Lake Louise RV & Camping Info

For RVers heading to Lake Louise, there is a National Park campground next to the village that is fairly big rig friendly and has electric and water hookups as well as slightly lower pricing for dry camping in those same sites if you choose not to plug in.

Most of the campsites are surrounded by trees, so RVs with solar power may not get much sunshine. The campsites are all double-wide with two rigs sharing a single pull-through, coming from opposite directions, with power pedestals on the outsides (it can be a tight squeeze between neighbors).

During the off-season, payment is made at a self-pay kiosk at the entrance (American credit cards accepted, just write the number on the envelope), however during high season the entrance booth is manned.

For the few weeks in mid to late May that we were there, the campground was less than half full every weeknight, and almost every RV had a double-wide site to itself. On the weekends it was busier. May Long Weekend (Victoria Day), the weekend before America’s Memorial Day, it promised to be packed with visitors from nearby Calgary, but cold rain kept them away this year.

Virtually all of the RVs we saw were rental units. Later in the season, reservations are a must, and the campground is full every night. Once the kids are out of school in late June, the RV fleet becomes a mix of personally owned family RVs and rental units.

There is a dump station that is the biggest RV dump station we have ever seen anywhere, with six stations lined up side by side!

RV dump station Lake Louise Campground Alberta Canada

Six RVs were using the dump station at once when we were there, and one was in line waiting…in the off-season!!

Lake Louise Village is essentially a strip mall with a handful of boutique tourist shops. There is a grocery store that caters to the young, hip, hiking crowd, offering all the fancy gourmet goodies you might long for at prices that are significantly north of their normally high costs. So, for the budget conscious, get provisioned up before you arrive.

May weather is very unpredictable. During our stay we saw highs ranging from the high 40’s (Fahrenheit) to the low 80’s and lows as low as the low 20’s. We saw sleet, snow, rain, and beautiful bright warm sunshine too.

Lake Louise Village Alberta Canada

Lake Louise Village

Many, if not most, of the hiking trails were closed in the pre-season due to avalanche activity, and some of the roads were closed too. However, the trade-off was that the crowds were manageable and we could always find a place to park and a place to put our tripod for a photo, something we’ve heard can be challenging during the warmer and more popular midsummer months of July and August.

More info and links below and more Canadian Rockies blog posts coming soon!

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Tips for RVers traveling to Canada
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Kootenay National Park Canada – Bears, Mountains & Rivers!

May 2016 – The Canadian Rockies are a huge mountain range, and at their heart there is a cluster of four adjacent National Parks (a few more National Parks are tucked into other regions in the range). After spending a little time in Fernie and Invermere on our way north from Glacier National Park in Montana, we entered Kootenay National Park and purchased an annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass for C$136.40 (about $100 US) on our way in.

Because Canada is celebrating its 150th year of confederation in 2017, all the National Parks entrance fees will be waived in 2017. So, the ranger happily informed us that our 2016 pass is effective for two years, which is another way of looking at it. Either way, it was a deal because we knew we’d be enjoying these parks for a while this year and, who knows, maybe next year too!

Entering Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

Knowing we’d be in Canada’s National Parks for a while, we bought a Discovery Pass as we drove into Kootenay National Park near Radium Hot Springs

The Rockies are in your face as you drive on the highway through Kootenay National Park, and what a fabulous thing to have in your face! Even though the weather turned cloudy and gray as we drove, the mountains were breathtaking.

Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

The weather wasn’t cooperating, but the mountains were astonishing.

Highway 93 travels in the valleys between the towering mountains in Kootenay national Park, first along the Kootenay River and then along the Vermillion River. We stopped at one point when the turquoise color of the water in the river jumped out at us from the side of the road.

Stream Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

We drove by this gorgeous turquoise water and just had to stop for a photo!

We were entering serious bear country, and every souvenir shop and hiking shop we’d visited so far in Canada had funny t-shirts or cards about the danger of these frightening beasts. I couldn’t help but get pics of a few.

Bear sign Send More Tourists

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Bear Sign Canadian Fast Food

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Bear Sign Finally some Lean Meat

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There was a definite theme here: don’t get chased by a bear or you’ll be toast. Or lunch!

Bear sign Canadian Take-out

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Bear sign hike with someone you can outrun

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Bear Sign Exercise Some Motivation Required

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One thing that is sold everywhere is bear spray. This is a mace-like spray that will keep you safe if a grizzly rears up on its hind legs and comes after you, claws pawing the air and roaring. Or so they say. I try to imagine being faced with an angry, hungry bear towering over me and having the presence of mind to remember where my bear spray is and to get it aimed and sprayed in the right direction.

“Hold it right there, Yogi, while I get my bear spray out of my back pack and aim it at you…hmmm… I know it’s in here somewhere!”

Bear spray sign

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But with so much excitement about bears, we knew we’d have to see some somewhere. Eventually.

As we had discovered just a few miles south of here, when a group of big horn sheep crossed the highway in front of our truck, it is a common occurrence for animals to cross the highways in this part of the world. It is so common, in fact, that there is an automated detection system that notices when the animals are crossing the highway and lets drivers know.

Wildlife Detection System road sign Kootenay National Park Canada

We need this for our cameras!!

There were lots of signs about bears on the highway as we drove through Kootenay National Park, and the ranger at the entrance station had actually given us a slip of paper that talked about them and talked about not getting out of the car in certain sections of the highway.

“The bears have just come out of hibernation,” she explained, “and they’re hungry.”

We figured there was little chance we’d see a bear on the highway and thought nothing of this when, all of a sudden, off in the distance, we saw a big black animal eating dandelions. We slowed down as we came up to him, and sure enough, it was a beautiful black bear!

Black Bear Kootenay National Park BC Canada

Hey, there he is – a black bear in the dandelions right next to the highway!

We hadn’t gone but a few miles further when we spotted a big brown bear munching away in the grass too.

Brown bear Kootenay National Park BC Canada

Another bear by the highway! Wow!!

We slowed to get his photo and he stared right at us.

Brown bear Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

Wow. We hadn’t been in the Canadian Rockies very long or gone on any epic hikes, and we’d already seen big horn sheep and bears!

Brown bear Kootenay NP British Columbia Canada

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The scenery continued to be beautiful as we drove north through Kootenay National Park.

Canadian Rocky Mountain scenery Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

The Vermillion River is actually turquoise!!

We stopped at Numa Falls and explored the rocky shoreline of the Vermillion River.

Rocks and stream Kootenay National Park BC Canada

The rocks at Numa Falls have been carve by the water.

Waterfall Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

Rushing water at Numa Falls.

Kootenay National Park suffered three huge forest fires in recent years, and we did a short hike into the burned forest where young trees were just getting started between their scorched ancestors.

Regrowth after forest fire Kootenay National Park BC Canada

Huge forest fires in Kootenay National Park wiped out the old trees, but here come some new ones!

It was eerie to walk among the tall and skinny trunks of what was once a thick forest of huge trees. In between the charred trunks, young trees were starting to create a new forest.

Burnt trees from a wildfire in Kootenay National Forest British Columbia Canada

Ghosts of towering pines stand next to saplings that are starting a whole new forest.

A little further along on Highway 93 we saw a sign that said, Paint Pots. This sounded intriguing. We stopped and followed the hiking trail to a stream, but had no idea how far down the trail these paint pots were or even what they were. Other hikers coming towards us told us they were just a little further on, so we kept going over a bridge. But then the trail forked.

Luckily there was a sign, but apparently the sign makers forgot to include directions to the Paint Pots! So, someone had written it in. Another hiker had written, “Thanks.” Yes, indeed!

Hiking sign for Kootenay National Park BC Canada

Parks Canada left “Paint Pots” off the sign, but a helpful hiker wrote it in. Nice!!

The Paint Pots are vividly colored muddy puddles, and we walked between them — on a boardwalk sometimes — marveling at the bright orange hue.

Ocher Creek Paint Pots Kootenay National Park BC Canada

Brightly colored waters at the Paint Pots.

In earlier times, the Indians had used this colored water to paint themselves. In more modern times someone painted a heart on a tree!

Heart painted on a tree

“Paint” from the paint pots works great on tree trunks!

Just up the road we stopped to hike at Marble Canyon. Bright turquoise water filled the canyon at the base. Further up we found a rushing waterfall.

Marble Canyon Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

Marble Canyon’s turquoise water shows off the rocky cliffs, green trees and snowy mountains beautifully.

Parks Canada has placed pairs of red chairs throughout their National Parks in scenic spots, inviting visitors to have a seat and enjoy the view — and take a selfie. At the end of the trail into Marble Canyon we spotted a pair of red chairs and did just that.

Red chairs Marble Canyon Kootenay National Park BC Canada

We found a pair of the famous Red Chairs at the end of the Marble Canyon hike.

There are lots of other hikes and things to see in Kootenay National Park, not least of which is to take a dip in the magical Radium Hot Springs (more on that in a future post), but we were excited to get up to the true heart of this awe inspiring area, Banff National Park, which is just up the road from Kootenay National Park.

Fifth wheel RV in Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

The buggy posed for us as we took pics of the incredible mountain scenery.

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Canadian Rockies – Big Mountains & Bighorn Sheep!

May 2016 – We wanted the theme for our RV travels this spring to be “Snowcapped Mountains” and, if possible, “Cool Wild Animals.” So far we had seen a little of both in northern Utah, southeastern Idaho, the Bitterroot Valley and in Glacier National Park in Montana. But we knew some of the most impressive mountains and close-up wildlife sightings were probably to be found even further north, so we drove over the border into Canada.

RV travel in the Canadian Rockies Columbia Lake

Snowcapped mountains were on our agenda this spring… and cool wild animals too, if we were lucky!

Our first stop was in Fernie, British Columbia, a mountain town in the Canadian Rockies that is home to a popular ski resort.

Church in Fernie British Columbia Canada

Fernie, British Columbia, is a picturesque ski town in the Canadian Rockies

We asked for snowcapped mountains and we got ’em!!

Church steeple Fernie British Columbia Canada

The mountains soar above the edges of town.

Even though we had rather threatening skies, the mountains framed every view beautifully.

Fernie British Columbia Canada

What a backdrop for a cute little town!

The town of Fernie has a hip and youthful vibe. Lots of kids come here to take advantage of the outdoor sports, and they live on the cheap in shared apartments so they can spend their days on the ski slopes or on the mountain bike trails. We saw almost no gray hair around us as we walked the streets!

Up by the ski resort there were elegant Swiss style lodges.

Ski lodge Fernie British Columbia Canada

Classic ski lodges at the Fernie Alpine Resort

Fernie is tucked into a bend in the Elk River, and a lovely path skirts the edge of town on the river banks.

River trail Fernie British Columbia Canada

There was a pretty walking path that went along the Elk River around the edge of town.

We wanted to walk the whole path, but just a little ways into our walk it began to rain. The mountains began to fade away in the mist!

Peaks of Rocky Mountains in British Columbia Canada

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Fernie is a great town, but we had Canada’s national parks on our minds, so we pressed on into the mountains. It was early May, and a heat wave had just passed through the area, but our arrival was heralded with cold. We stopped in one visitors center and as we were told about various wonderful things to go see, the gal joked, “Well, we’ve already had summer and now we’re back to winter again.”

Freezing cold in British Columbia Rock Mountains in May

A few months ago I was in shorts!

Fortunately, the sun came out and the snowcapped Rocky Mountains filled our view as we drove.

Rocky Mountains peek through in British Columbia Canada

The Rocky Mountains lured us onward up the road.

Cool view.

Cool view.

Rocky Mountains in British Columbia Canada

Good morning Rocky Mountains!!

As we drove north we saw road signs for big horn sheep. We were hopeful for a sighting or two, but didn’t get lucky. “Hah, there aren’t any big horn sheep around here!” We joked with each other.

Rocky Mountain Big horn sheep sign British Columbia Canada

The only big horn sheep we saw were on the road signs… argh!

We stopped at an overlook at Columbia Lake which is the headwaters for the Columbia River that flows down into the US, between Oregon and Washington and out into the Pacific ocean.

RV travel and camping in British Columbia Canada

The overlook at Columbia Lake

In the town of Invermere we got a glimpse of Windermere Lake. This is probably wonderful in the summertime, but it was a bit forbidding when the skies clouded over and more rain fell.

Columbia Lake British Columbia Canada

Windermere Lake

Just before we reached the first park in the cluster of national parks that make up the heart of the Canadian Rockies, we saw another sign for big horn sheep, but this one had flashing lights on it!

Flashing street sign Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep

Hey look, this big horn sheep sign has flashing lights!

There were cars pulled over ahead of us, so Mark pulled the rig over along wtih everyone else. Then I looked out my window and found myself staring right at a big horn sheep!

Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep head British Columbia Canada

Well, hello there!!

Wow!!

There were a few other sheep near him on our side of the road, but suddenly he marched out into the middle of the highway.

Big Horn sheep Invermere British Columbia Canada

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Then he stopped.

Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep in the road Invermere British Columbia Canada

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Crazy sheep. Why was he hanging around in the middle of the highway?!

Big Horn Sheep Canadian Rockies Invermere British Columbia

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Then we noticed that there were a few sheep on the far side of the road waiting to cross. He stood in the middle of the road while the other sheep began to cross the highway in front of him.

Big horn sheep crossing a road in British Columbia

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He was like a crossing guard for them! When they’d all passed him, he joined the last one and came across with it.

Big horn sheep cross the road Invermere British Columbia Canada

The crossing guard accompanies the last sheep across.

Big horn sheep cross the road Invermere British Columbia Canada

Safe and sound.

We looked back across the highway and there was one more sheep. This was a beautiful big ram with a huge pair of horns.

Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep crosses the road Invermere British Columbia Canada

Oh wait, there’s one more sheep to come, the big granddaddy of them all!

What a fantastic big horn sheep sighting.

Ram big horn sheep Invermere British Columbia Canada

And there it was — our Cool Wild Animal Sighting.
Welcome to the Canadian Rockies!!

Back in Arizona we’d been excited to see a pair of big horn sheep lying around sunning themselves at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Seeing them here with their shaggy, shedding coats in the wild of the Rockies — or close to it on the highway — was a total thrill.

It turns out that wild animals are actually a lot more street smart and highway wise than you might think. When we got to Banff National Park, we discovered that a bunch of overpass bridges have been built for the animals so they can cross the Trans-Canada Highway that traverses the national park. And they use it!! (Who wouldn’t — it looks pretty nice up there with trees and bushes — and a view of the traffic from above!!).

Wild animal overpass Banff National Park Canada

How the wild animals cross the road in Banff National Park!!

More info about these area in the links below…

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Cabot Trail Highlights – Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island

July 2015 – Nova Scotia is a big island, and we sampled some of the most scenic and quaint areas on the South Shore as well as on the Northumberland Shore. But Nova Scotia is probably best known for the Cabot Trail in the far northeastern corner that takes in the dramatic coastal views on Cape Breton Island.

Cape Breton Island Cheticamp

Our first glimpse of the dramatic Cape Breton coast on the Cabot Trail

Many people tackle the 185 mile Cabot Trail scenic drive as a daytrip, starting at one of the more southern towns and driving around the loop either clockwise or counter-clockwise. We debated for a long time how to do this drive more slowly to take it all in.

Where to start? Locals told us that the best parts were on the northwestern and northern parts of the loop. Which direction to drive? Seasoned travelers suggested we go counter-clockwise so we could be on the shoreside of the road the whole way. Could we take the buggy and park it somewhere and do shorter trips? Well, the Cabot Trail itself is has many sharp twists and turns and a rumored 23% grade somewhere. The road can also be quite rough, especially after a tough winter like this past one.

In the end we decided to start from the French town of Cheticamp and to drive the truck by itself clockwise as far as we could manage in one day and then turn around and drive back.

Just a few miles outside of Cheticamp the Cabot Trail became truly dramatic. The land rose up in steep hills and mountains, and sheer cliffs dropped off to the sea. The Cabot Trail clung to the edges of the cliffs offering us stunning views as we drove.

Cabot Trail Nova Scotia Canada

Wow! The Cabot Trail snakes along Nova Scotia’s highlands
on Cape Breton Island

It turns out that this is moose country, and no sooner did we turn away from the coast for a moment than we spotted a moose by the side of the road. It was early morning and the moose raised her head to check us out as we drove by. She watched us approach and stood stock still. Just as I got my camera aimed, however, she bolted and vanished into the forest.

Moose Cabot Trail Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia

We hadn’t been on the road half an hour when we saw a live moose!
But we didn’t get a great pic, so this will have to do!

We stopped at Pleasant Bay to have a look around. This is a small fishing village that is home to a fleet of colorful lobsterboats. Life was pretty quiet there in the morning hours, and not a soul was around.

Pleasant Bay Harbor Nova Scotia Canada

The Cabot Trail passes several quaint fishing villages. Pleasant Bay is lovely.

Boats Pleasant Bay Harbor Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia

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We took a detour at the top of the island to explore some of the remote communities that dot the far northeastern end of Nova Scotia. As we drove the final miles of the little bumpy road into Meat Cove, we wondered if we’d taken a wrong turn somewhere, but when the view opened up we knew why the locals had sent us out here. It is spectacular!

Meat Cove Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia Canada

Gorgeous Meat Cove has a campground set high on these cliffs.

There is a campground overlooking the water that seemed absolutely enchanting. Our rig wouldn’t have fit, but for truck campers and popup tent trailers, a few days here would be a heavenly getaway.

Truck camper RV Cape Breton Island Meat Cove Nova Scotia

Now that’s a camping spot!

Camping at Meat Cove Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia

A popup or truck camper is ideal for this classic spot in Meat Cove.

A picnic with your truck camper and a friend’s tent right there on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean — what an incredible spot to stay for a few days!!

Picnic camping Meat Cove Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia

Right out of a brochure!

We continued on the Cabot trail and stopped here and there to take pics of the views. At one stop we noticed a bunny watching us from beneath the protection of a bush. He quietly munched the grass and kept an eye on us while we crept closer and closer to get better and better portraits of him. We completely forgot about the view behind as we each took 100 bunny shots!

Rabbit

This little bunny had no fear of us at all!

The road to Bay St. Lawrence lured us to a sweet fishing harbor filled with colorful lobster boats.

Lobster boats Bay St. Lawrence Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia Canada

Bay St. Lawrence is a charming small harbor.

Bay St. Lawrence Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia Canada

Back on the Cabot Trail, as we passed Asby Bay, we found ourselves driving alongside marshes and flat landscapes with the coastal mountains rising up in the distance.

Cabot Trail Nova Scotia Canada

Traveling the Cabot Trail in the vicinity of Aspy Bay, we saw flat lands and salt marshes.

Quaint fishing villages dot this entire coast, but perhaps the most lovely was the little harbor at White Point where the lobster boats were painted in primary colors.

White Point Cape Breton Island Cabot Trail Nova Scotia

White Point is home to a fleet of colorful lobster boats.

Neil’s Cove, just a little further on, was pretty sweet too!

Neil's Harbor Cape Breton Island Cabot Trail Nova Scotia

Cute Neil’s Harbor was our turnaround point.

We turned around at this point and headed back to Cheticamp. As we drove along the dramatic twists and turns just north of Cheticamp that make the Cabot Trail famous, we stopped and took a stroll on the fantastic pebble beach. Looking up towards the road, we saw an RV flying by. A young girl was grinning and held her hand out the window to wave at us!

Girl waving from RV window

A true joy ride.

The stones and driftwood on this beach were very engaging. The perfectly flat shale stones were ideal for skipping, and there were enormous driftwood logs everywhere. Between the beach and the road there were bushes that were just covered with vivid pink flowers, and as I began trying to work these beautiful flowers into my photos, I kept smelling an absolutely exquisite smell.

Beach roses Cape Breton Island Cabot Trail Nova Scotia

Beautiful pink flowers filled the bushes near the beach.

After a few minutes, I finally put two and two together and realized that the deliciously sweet aroma that kept wafting around me was coming from these flowers. They were beach roses!

Beach Rose

The flowers turned out to be roses.
What a fragrance they had!

Nova Scotia had given us some beautiful images, but we were ready to continue our journey. For the first time in months, we turned the buggy in a westerly direction!

As we were leaving, the fun and crazy parting shot we got from this corner of the world was of a front yard filled with cut-outs of The Simpsons. What a hoot!

The Simpsons House Nova Scotia

Lawn art depicts Homer, Marge, Bart and scenes from The Simpsons

Nova Scotia’s roads had been very hard on our rig. We have always had a funny way for judging just how bumpy a ride had been: after we parked the trailer, if we opened the trailer door and found the table leaning on one of our chairs, then it had been a rough ride! Out west this happened perhaps two or three times in a season. In Nova Scotia it had happened every day. We had reached the point where we put spare pillows on the chairs to give the table a soft landing!

More troublesome, however, was that our rear trailer axle was bent and needed to be repaired. We decided to do this repair in Bangor, Maine, and have described the event here.

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Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore – The Quiet Side

July 2015 – Nova Scotia is a big province and many of the most popular places to visit are spread far apart. The South Shore had delighted us with three beautiful places all in very close proximity: Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg and Mahone Bay and Blue Rocks.

On the opposite coast on the north side of the island, we spent some time exploring the Northumberland Shore.

Pictou Harbor Nova Scotia Canada

Pictou Harbor at sunrise.

The town of Pictou is a quiet town that is a little off the beaten track. While wandering around the waterfront we were surprised when two different locals come up to us to tell us about the area. One told us about the beacon from a lighthouse that is on display and showed us a photo he had taken years ago when the beacon was still atop the lighthouse. The other handed us some tourist literature. Both expressed hopes that we’d stick around a while.

Pictou Nova Scotia Canada

Historic street in Pictou, Nova Scotia

At the heart of the small waterfront there is a replica of an old ship, the Hector. It is a three masted ship that brought the first wave of Scottish highlanders to Nova Scotia in 1773. 189 people were crammed aboard this boat to make the voyage across the Atlantic. The shocker is that it is only 85′ long!

Immigrant ship Hector Pictou Nova Scotia Canada

Immigrant ship Hector carried 189 Scots to their new home.

Nova Scotia was settled by the French in the 17th century as part of Acadia, a colony of New France, in the northeastern part of modern day Maine and Canada’s Maritime provinces and parts of eastern Quebec. The Scottish came to Nova Scotia 100 years later, but unlike the French who didn’t continue populating the area with more boatloads of people, the Brits came in ongoing waves, and they soon outnumbered the Acadians by a large margin.

Pictou Harbor Nova Scotia Canada

Pictou

In the end, the conflict between France and England over the territory in northeastern North America ended with the British in control and the Acadians being exiled. Some Acadians went to Louisiana, and we now refer to them as Cajuns, while others scattered or steadfastly hung on as best they could in the northeast.

Many towns in Nova Scotia towns identify deeply with their Scottish or French roots, and they celebrate their unique and distinct histories.

Old storefront Pictou Northumberland Shore Nova Scotia

Historic building in Pictou, Nova Scotia

In Pictou, a lovely path winds its way from town out along the waterfront and we enjoyed a bike ride by the shore.

Trans Canada Trail Tatamagouche Nova Scotia

Pictou has a lovely walking/biking trail from downtoan.

Heading west from Pictou, the coastal road between Tatamagouch and Caribou Island was another lovely drive.

Over the years, we had heard from several sources that Nova Scotia was an awesome place for boondocking, and we really looked forward to finding little spots here and there to tuck in and go exploring. However, I don’t know why it was, but we didn’t have the kind of luck that other people seem to have had, and we found it difficult to find good spots in Nova Scotia. We did see one fifth wheel parked in an ideal spot overlooking the Atlantic near Seafoam, but it appeared to belong to the guy who owned the land!

RV fifth wheel Northumberland Shore Nova Scotia

What a great spot!

Here and there we found wonderful little harbors with lobster boats or pleasure boats moored inside. The colors were captivating.

Toney RIver Nova Scotia Canada

Lobster Boats at Toney River on the Northumberland Shore

Boats in Northumberland Shore Nova Scotia

Sailboats on the Northumberland Shore

The Northumberland Shore has lots of farmland, and we saw some lovely spreads as we drove around the area.

Farmlands in Northumberland Nova Scotia

Beautiful farmland in the Northumberland Shore on Nova Scotia’s north coast.

Getting out onto some of the more remote roads, the traffic lightened up considerably, and we found ourselves sharing the road with a big old tractor!

Driving behind a tractor Nova Scotia

A tractor sets the pace as we drive on these country roads.

Then we saw an RV go by that was all done up in wild colors.

RV in Northumberland Nova Scotia

A Class C with a crazy paint job drives past us

One scenic drive that we enjoyed went from the town of Antigonish out to the lighthouse at Cape George.

Cape George Lighthouse Antigonish Nova Scotia Canada

Cape George Ligthouse

A little further north was the delightful shoreline of Ballantynes Cove where lush farmland sits on a plateau overlooking the ocean. At the water’s edge, the land falls away in red cliffs.

Ballantynes Cove Nova Scotia Canada

Ballantynes Cove Nova Scotia Canada

Mark spotted an especially beautiful wildflower in our wanderings.

Wildflower

The town of Antigonish had a fantastic fireworks display on Canada Day (July 1st) and we had fun catching the explosive colors on camera. At the northeast end of town we found Antigonish Landing, a little hiking and biking trail that goes along the water for a ways.

Antigonish Landing bike trail

The walking and biking trail at Antigonish Landing

We loved the churches all around Nova Scotia, and we found a beauty in Antigonish.

Church in Antigonish Nova Scotia

Church in Antigonish

Sometimes in this blog I find photos that I forgot to include with a particular post, and this next church is another beauty that is actually in Peggy’s Cove:

Chuch at Peggy's Cove

Church in Peggy’s Cove.

The Northumberland Shore is not as quaint and heavily visited as the South Shore destinations of Lunenburg and Peggy’s Cove, but the towns are lovely and less touristy.

As a note to RVers headed to Nova Scotia, perhaps the thing that surprised us most was that it takes a lot of driving to get from place to place. Studying the map ahead of time and planning where to drive and leave the RV and where to drive the tow vehicle or toad on daytrips is very worthwhile.

We had both thought of Nova Scotia as a fairly compact island, when it is actually very large and expansive. We found ourselves driving 100 miles a day to get to the places we wanted to visit, and even then, we discovered we were barely scratching the surface!

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Mahone Bay & Blue Rocks on Nova Scotia’s South Shore

July 2015 – Nova Scotia’s south shore served up some wonderful scenery during our RV travels there, with the beautiful lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove lit up at sunset and the classic seaside village of Lunenburg. So, we decided to take a drive along the coast to the village of Mahone Bay and the tiny hamlet of Blue Rocks.

Shoreline Mahone Bay Nova Scotia Canada

Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Mahone Bay is a small town that hugs the shore, and we walked along the waterfront taking in the pretty views.

Storefronts Mahone Bay Nova Scotia

Waterfront views.

Mahone Bay Nova Scotia

Mahone Bay

Mahone Bay is a tiny strip of a town with just a few buildings, but they were very attractive.

Mahone Bay Nova Scotia Canada

Mahone Bay has some cute eateries and shops

Mahone Bay Bandstand Nova Scotia Canada

There’s also a bandstand on the water’s edge.

Church Mahone Bay Nova Scotia

The distinctive church in the center of town.

Mark spotted a shop called The Tea Brewery, and being an avid tea drinker, he headed on in. This place was filled with canisters of exotic teas, and he got into a lively conversation with the shopkeeper about tea leaves, tea types and how to brew the perfect cup.

The Tea Brewery Mahone Bay Nova Scotia Canada

The Tea Brewery is dedicated to all things TEA!

From Mahone Bay we took the coastal road past Lunenburg to Blue Rocks. Summer is very short and very much treasured in this part of the world, and on the way we passed a place selling colorful lawn chairs that looked very inviting. They had enough seating for an outdoor summer concert!

Colorful chairs LaHave River Nova Scotia Canada

Ready for a summertime party!

Our first glimpse of Blue Rocks was a tiny cove where there was a pile of beautiful new lobster traps that were built in the traditional style with rounded wooden tops, although this style seems to be very much in use in Nova Scotia today.

Lobster pots Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

Our first glimpse of Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia

A lobster boat was anchored in the small bay.

Lobster boat Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Canada

A lobster boat in the bay at Blue Rocks

We didn’t see anyone around except a few tourists like ourselves who were enjoying the scenery — and it was lovely.

Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

A cove in Blue Rocks.

Cove at Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

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Blue Rocks Mahone Bay Nova Scotia Canada

This is a quiet and scenic spot on Nova Scotia’s south shore

The cove opened up to a small rocky beach where a family was picnicking.

Family at Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Canada

A family enjoys the beach at Blue Rocks

We turned a corner and there was a small harbor where some people were coming in from a kayak ride.

Harbor at Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

Kayakers paddle in to shore in the Blue Rocks harbor

Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia, isn’t far from the big city of Halifax, but the serenity of this little cove made it seem worlds away. Lobstermen live a simpler life harvesting their catch from the sea, and they have been doing it pretty much the same way for generations. The fast pace of modern society doesn’t exist out here.

Lobster pots Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

New lobster pots built in the traditional style ready for launch.

Lobster Pots in Nova Scotia

Old retired lobster pots that have served their time.

We continued our drive along the shore and came to a really fun little ferry crossing. This is the LaHave – East LaHave Ferry that zips back and forth across a very short distance. There are lots of little ferries like this down in these fingers of land and peninsulas on Nova Scotia’s south shore. We didn’t take it, though, and instead turned north along the LaHave River. Next time!

LaHave East LaHave Ferry Nova Scotia Canada

Cars board the 10 minute ferry from LaHave to East LaHave.

Just a bit further up the coast, we passed St. Mark’s Place, a wonderful church that stands proudly on a spit of land overlooking the water.

St Mark's Place Church Nova Scotia Canada

The church at St. Mark’s Place has a fabulous view

Nova Scotia is a big province that can be daunting to try to see in one short trip by RV. Which way to go and what to see?? Little scenic daytrips like this one were jewels in our travels there.

RV in South Coast Nova Scotia

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Lunenburg, Nova Scotia – Pretty As A Picture!

July 2015 – After our truly magical evening at Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, we continued exploring the southern coast of Nova Scotia. There is a lot to see along the fingers of land that jut out into the Atlantic ocean west of Halifax, and Lunenburg is one of the big highlights.

Docks at Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

Dories at the docks in Lunenburg

Photos of the iconic red buildings along the docks grace many pages of Nova Scotia tourist literature, including the cover of the 2015 edition of the free book the tourist board publishes about the province (available at the many visitors centers all around Nova Scotia). One look at that photo and we knew we just had to go there!

Lunenburg Harbor Nova Scotia Canada

Lunenburg sits on a hillside and its colorful buildings spill down to the sea.

Lunenburg is a small tourist town that is picture postcard perfect in every way, a true delight for photography. Much like Peggy’s Cove, it is utterly quaint, almost to a fault! All the tourists were walking around with cameras held high as they snapped pic after pic. It’s impossible to stop taking photos here!

Row boats Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Everywhere we turned we enjoyed delightfully quaint scenes.

The town rests on a fairly steep hillside that comes down to the water’s edge. A slew of sailboats, many of antique design, bob on moorings out in the pretty harbor.

Sailboats at anchor Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

Sailboats fill the harbor.

Schooners and other unique vessels of a bygone era fill every view.

Schooner at anchor Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

There are lots of bigger ships from years gone by, and many offer tours.

Ships in Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

The working docks.

There was even an old dory standing out in the grass with two old lobster pots propped up against it. This community, like much of coastal Nova Scotia, is all about boats and lobsters and fishing.

Dory and lobster pots Lunenburg Nova Scotia

There are boats everywhere, even a few dories up in the grass!

Many older ships lined up along the docks were offering tours and daysails in the bay.

Old schooner Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Wonderful old boats line the docks.

We watched a group gathering for a daysail on the schooner Eastern Star. They all sat on the deck facing outwards, and the first mate put them through a life preserver drill before they took off. We were within easy earshot of her instructions, and I had to laugh when I turned around and saw there were more of us tourists on the dock watching them and taking photos of them than there were customers on the boat!

Schooner Eastern Star Lunenburg Nova Scotia

A group gets ready for a daysail aboard the Eastern Star

Then the captain picked up a conch shell and blew a long, loud blast. They were off.

Blowing the conch shell aboard Eastern Star Schooner

The captain gives a blast on a conch shell

For non-sailors, there were other kinds of rides available too. A horse drawn wagon made its rounds about town as a tour guide pointed out landmarks and explained the area’s history.

Horse and buggy ride Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

Horse drawn carriages take tourists around town.

And for the truly junior set, there were rides on the docks that didn’t go anywhere but just stayed put on their own rockers.

Toy row boat

Mark finds his inner child.

What we enjoyed most was simply the beauty of the buildings. They were all different colors, and many were very old.

Colorful houses Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Pretty buildings look out on the bay

Front door Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Many of the buildings are historic and the whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The red buildings nestled together at one end of town were our favorites.

Dock buildings Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

The red buildings on the docks are the hallmark of Lunenburg

We wanted to get a photo of the whole town from across the bay where there is a hillside and a golf course, so we began walking around the harbor to the spit of land on the other side. It’s an easy walk past all the old fishing buildings and boatyards, and the rich smell of ancient wooden planks evoked vivid images of the seaman’s life a century or so ago.

Red dock building Lunenburg Nova Scotia

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So it was a complete surprise when we passed a tall concrete block off to one side and saw it had writing on it that said it came from the Berlin Wall.

This cracked concrete block stands next to the Lunenburg Industrial Foundry & Education (LIFE) building. It turns out that the Kinley family, which has owned this foundry since the 1800’s, had business ties to Germany dating back to the 1970’s. When the wall was torn down in 1989, they wanted to display a section of the wall in Lunenburg as a symbol of peace.

Berlin Wall piece in Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

From Berlin to Lunenburg

If your RV travels take you to Nova Scotia, a visit to scenic Lunenburg is a must. As a caveat, the roads in Nova Scotia are treacherous, and the small towns are not suitable for driving bigger RVs. But if you keep your rig on the main highways and venture to the scenic spots in your car or truck, a daytrip to Lunenburg will keep your camera humming!

Harbor in Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

What a classic seaside village!!

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Mahone Bay & Blue Rocks on Nova Scotia’s South Shore

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, Nova Scotia – Reflections At Sunset!

June 2015 – After a heavenly few weeks in Downeast Maine, including a daytrip to Campobello Island in Canada, we crossed the border into Canada “for real” at the small town of Calais, Maine. The province of New Brunswick is very large, and it took us a while to decide whether to dash through it to Nova Scotia or to take our time.

The huge tides and seascapes of the Bay of Fundy beckoned, but in the end we decided to hightail it to Nova Scotia, a place we had both wanted to visit for many many years.

Welcome to Nova Scotia

We’re here!

The island of Nova Scotia is a large province too, extending some 300 miles from end to end. We had had visions of encircling the circumferance of the island very slowly, and started out doing just that along the northern shore.

The farmlands and low lying, flat lands of that coast were pretty, but we we had quaint fishing villages and craggy rocks and lighthouses on our minds more-so than farms, so we quickly changed gears and made a dash for the southern coast. We landed at Peggy’s Cove, which is about as quaint and cute a fishing village as there can possibly be.

Boats and homes Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

The small community of Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia.

This is a tiny hamlet of just a few buildings surrounding a very small harbor that contains a handful of boats. As we walked along the docks, the fishing boats seemed to hover on glassy water.

Harbor at Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

A picturesque scene at Peggy’s Cove

Each building was lovingly maintained to utterly quaint perfection, including the little coffee shop that looked out on the small cove.

Coffee Shop at Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

I love a cute coffee shop!

Lobster traps were positioned along the wharf, and an old deteriorating dory made a wonderful photo op with a red lobster boat in the background.

Lobster pots Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

Lobster pots

Old dory and fishing boat Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

There were ideal photo ops in every direction.

This is an artist’s haven, and a few steps up a hill we came across an artist recreating the picture perfect harbor scene on his canvas. We joined a small throng of people taking photos of him!

Artist painting Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

What a lovely spot to set up an easel and let your creative juices flow!

Just a few steps further on we found another artist, and the throng joined us to photograph her too!

Artist painting Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia Canada

The artists — and everyone else — were loving the charming scenery and landscapes.

This is an idyllic little seaside village that is a photographer’s or artist’s true delight. In some ways it was almost a little too perfect, but we were loving every minute of strolling the very short street that goes from the harbor to the lighthouse.

Before the lighthouse came into view, we could hear the mournful sound of a bagpipe in the distance. As we turned the corner, the lighthouse appeared and the bagpipe player was suddenly right before us. He was wearing a kilt and had an open donation box near his feet. Behind him a couple was taking a selfie of themselves with the lighthouse in the background.

Bagpipe at Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

We heard the forlorn sounds of the bagpipe long before we spotted the player

We were enchanted by this sweet postcard of a village, if just a little put off by its so perfect perfection and the crowds of tourists arriving from the row of buses that were squeezed into the small parking area. But as the daytime turned to late afternoon, something truly magical happened.

The sky turned grey and black, and beneath the heavy clouds the sun suddenly put on a spectacular display at the lighthouse.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse Nova Scotia

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse becomes the centerpiece of a celestial light show.

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse is one of the prettiest lighthouses in Nova Scotia — perhaps the prettiest — and to see it with such a stunning backdrop was a true gift.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse at Sunset Nova Scotia Canada

The sun bursts through the clouds

As the sun set, groups of kids, couples and families all came out onto the rocks to watch it drop into the sea behind the lighthouse. And what a show they had that night.

Sunset in Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia Canada

Lots of families and couples and kids sat on the rocks to enjoy the sunset.

Once the sun dipped below the horizon, the sky lit up in shades of peach and orange. Kids were playing all around, suddenly full of energy, and their silhouettes were delightful.

Sunset silhouettes Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia Canada

Weeeee!

The rocks around the lighthouse glowed orange, and the lighthouse began to flash a vivid red.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse Nova Scotia Dusk

The light flashes in the last moments of daylight.

We were both in awe to be experiencing such a dramatic sunset in such a breathtaking location.

Sunset Peggy's Cove Lighthouse Nova Scotia

As the sky grew dark, we sat down on the edge of the rocks and looked out at the sea, holding each other in a long embrace. After all those years on a boat, neither of us will ever look at the sea in quite the same way again.

The chill of nightfall began to steal over us as the waves crashed on the rocks below, and the black, open ocean lay in front of us the way it had so many times before on our long overnight passages in Mexico.

Those days seemed like a lifetime ago, but suddenly the memories were just an arm’s length away.

“I can’t believe we were out there,” Mark said suddenly.

“I know — I can’t believe we did it either!” I added.

“I was terrified for four years,” he confessed.

We stood up to go and suddenly noticed some tidepools behind us creating beautiful mirror images of the lighthouse in the water.

We stared out at the darkening sea, sharing a deep sense of awe. We were in awe of the scene, in awe of life, and in awe of having dreamed a dream, made it come true, and come out of it alive, unscathed, and forever changed.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse reflections Nova Scotia

Reflections at Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse

Reflections at Peggy's Cove Lighthouse Nova Scotia

Lucky 7

What a precious and unique moment that was at Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia — a sunset we will never forget.

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