Saturday, November 28, 2015

And now the weather

It is still quite warm and very still for this time of year. The Trade Winds should be howling but  they're not. We've had more calm, nearly windless days in a row in October and November than I ever remember.

There has been a lot of rain up in the mountains this fall. That's good news for the islands water supply. The reservoirs are full. But it's bad news for diving. The rain washes sediment down the rivers and into the ocean. With no wind to drive the currents, the sediment just hangs around making visibility crappy.

On the bright side there has been some fun surf.

That's on of the wonderful things about living here, one of the things we're grateful for: There is almost always something to do. It's a very rare day that weather and ocean combine to keep us inside watching Netflix.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Mourning Moon

This November full moon goes by many names. In the Old Farmer's Almanac (based mostly on traditions colonists brought from the United Kingdom) it is the Beaver Moon. Some First Nations/Native American cultures called it the Snow Moon or Fog Moon or Moon When the Deer Sheds Its Antlers. In pagan customs, it is the Mourning Moon.

This is a transition time, between light and the darkness of winter. It is a time to let go of negative thoughts or emotions, to cut ties with things and people that are toxic and destructive. But it is also a time to nurture positive relationships, to strengthen ties with friends and family and to celebrate life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(You can read more about the Mourning Moon here.)

Friday, November 20, 2015

September 19, Canada, Day 18 Banff to Calgary

It was a fire-in-the-sky sunrise outside our hostel as we prepared to leave Banff and head down the road to Calgary and then on to home.

Be we still had one more adventure - a trailrideat Moose Mountain Trailrides outside of Calgary.

It was a very different ride from our first one in Jasper. But that's good; different is good. There are more photos from the trailride on Flickr. Have a look at your leisure.

From Moose Mountain we were back on the prairie and onto Calgary. We spent our last night in Canada at the brand new Soaring Eagle Casino in Calgary. We won $50 playing the slots but alas did not win the Canadian national lottery.

After the fiery mountain sunrise in Banff, Calgary gave us an incredible prairie sunrise to send us off.

From there it was off to the airport and a silver bird home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Septermber 18, Canada, Day 17

Our first adventure of the day (don't you just love multi-adventure days?) took us up to Sunshine Meadows. This is one of the most popular day-hikes in Banff National Park.

 In the summer this a most spectacular high alpine meadow, full of sunshine and wildflowers. When we were there, near the end of the hiking season, snow covered the meadow and sunshine intermittently broke through the clouds.

Still, the views from the trail and from the top of Standish Lookout are spectacular.

There are three alpine lakes at three different elevation. All three lakes, Rock Isle Lake (left), Lorix Lake (center) and Grizzly Lake (barely visible at the far right), are visible from Standish Lookout.

A fairly gentle hike an the well-marked, well-maintained trails starts at the Sunshine Village ski resort at 2200 meters (7,150 feet). From there the trail gains about another 100 meters (330 feet). Various trail combinations can take an hour-and-a-half to three hours. Or this can be the starting point for a multi-day back-country hike to Mt. Assinaboine and beyond.

Our second adventure of the day was a visit to Vermillion Lakes, a series of three lakes and wetlands in the Bow River valley right outside the Banff townsite.

There are spectacular views of one of my favorite mountains in the Rockies, Mt Rundle.

I didn't know until we got back that this a trail and we could have hiked up Mt. Rundle. Ah, well! Next time. There are so many things to do next time.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

September 17, Canada, Day 16 What the heck is a Hoodoo?

When I started writing about this day, I said it was a long, busy day with lots happening. We're almost at the end but we have one last stop - to visit the Hoodoos.

Hoodoos like these along the Bow River in Banff National Park are formed when wind and water erode away softer layers of rock leaving pillars of harder rock to erode later into fantastical shapes.  Nobody knows exactly where the name "hoodoo" came from but these formations have lingered in people's imaginations for thousand of years. For example, I think this one looks like a family of beavers. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Meanwhile, back on Planet Puerto Rico

We're finally getting some dive time. Waves are down (for now) and it hasn't rained for a day or so, so visibility is improving.

We had a great time Monday hanging out with this guy at our favorite scuba training site at Playa Crashboat.

Yesterday we were back at Crashboat with three first-time divers.

And our buddy from Sunday's younger cousin.

Today we're heading back to Crashboat for another dive with another newbie. After that? We'll see.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

September 17, Canada, Day 16, Two Jack Lake

Just down the road a bit from Lake Minnewanka is Two Jack Lake. (I have no idea how it got its name.)

Surrounded by lush evergreen forests and spectacular mountains Two Jack Lake is - astonishingly - another scuba divers' hangout.

It is a relatively shallow lake especially compared to its neighbor, ranging from 6.1 meters (20 feet) to 15.5 meters (50 feet). It is mostly sand bottom with grassy weed beds, freshwater shrimp and trout. Apparently Two Jack Lake is used mostly for scuba training.

Monday, November 09, 2015

September 17, Canada, Day 16, Banff, Lake Minnewanka

 Our next stop for the day was Lake Minnewanka and the lake boat tour.

Lake Minnewanka (the name means "water of the spirits" in the First Nations Nakoda language) is about 5 km (3.1 miles) from Banff. At 21 km (13 miles) long it is the longest of the Canadian Rockies mountain lakes. Formed and fed by glaciers, the lake is 142 meters (466 feet) deep. It owes some of its length and depth to a hydro-electric dam at the west end.

An unintended result of the power dam also makes Lake Minnewanka a popular scuba(!) site. In 1886 a log hotel called "Beach House" was built on the shore of Lake Minnewanka. By 1888 a village named Minnewanka Landing was established. The little resort grew until it included hotels, restaurants, wharves and two sightseeing cruise boats, the "Lady of the Lake" and the "Daughter of the Peaks."

The last dam, built in 1941, raised the level of the lake 30 meters (98 feet), submerging the Minnewanka Landing townsite. It is the submerged townsite that draws divers. The various features - streets, house foundations, three old wharves, and the most popular, an outhouse - are in 17.5 meters (57 feet) to more than 24 meters (80 feet) of water. Other popular dive sites on the lake are near the original 1898 log dam and the 1912 dam which was also covered when the final dam was built in 1941.

As one might expect, "all dives at Lake Minnewanka are cold water, altitude dives. Visibility fluctuates depending on the time of year and the number of divers at the site. Depths vary depending on the time of year, rising up to 5.5 m (18') from spring to fall." (source: Parks Canada)

In addition to stunning lake and mountain views and amazing - if freezing - dive sites. Lake Minnewanka has one other very cool feature:

The Rocky Mountains start right here. Through that gap is the Alberta prairie. Lake Minnewanka is right at the edge, right at the transition.

Friday, November 06, 2015

The most dangerous critter in the Rockies is...

In terms of the number of hospital visits required and the annual number of stitches, the most dangerous critter in the Canadian Rockies are these cute little guys - the Rocky Mountain Golden Ground Squirrels. People think they are cute and try to feed them. Then they find out these guys have very sharp little claws and very sharp teeth. Ouch!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

September 17, Canada, Day 16, Banff

A beautiful day dawned over the hostel where we stayed in Banff. It's a good thing because we had a busy day ahead.

First stop was the Banff/Sulphur Mountain gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain.

This another of those Brewster-built attractions. There is - and has been for years - a "strenuous" trail up Sulphur Mountain. The trail is 5.5 km (3.41 miles), gains 655 meters (2,149 feet) in altitude and takes 2-1/2 to 3 hours to get up.

The gondola is much easier.

And the views are spectacular.

Once at the top, whether by foot or by gondola, there are viewing platforms and boardwalks across the ridge between peaks and the views of the Bow River Valley...I have no words.

After the gondola ride back down the mountain, we were off to Lake Minnewanka. But that's another story.