Pictures by Walter

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Canadian Adventure – Butchart Gardens

Without doubt our 21 day combined Canadian/Alaskan Adventure had its moments and its disasters. However, we would not have willing missed the experience.  Our final adventure fell on a day of national celebration “Canada Day”.  This was not the first time we had visited a tourist hot spot on such an occasion. We landed in Amsterdam in time for “Queen’s Day” in 2012 – or rather “Queen’s Night” the evening before the day.  Amsterdammers can certainly party and so can the Canadians.

We had book a coach trip for our final day to visit “Butchart Gardens” and Victoria. took the ferry to “Vancouver Island” from Vancouver (Tsawwassen) – Victoria – (Swartz Bay) an approximately 90 minute trip.  Once on the island we made our way to Tod Bay and Butchart Gardens.  Being a public holiday the gardens were extremely busy but we managed to make our way round and visit the centre-piece “Sunken Gardens”, “Rose Garden”, “Japanese Garden” and “Italian Garden”, plus other smaller garden areas. Time, as it usually does flew past as we meandered our way around the attractions.  All to soon it was time to make our way back to the coach and to Victoria and party time (no photos taken – too boisterous and busy)

 

Video of Butchart Gardens

 


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North to Alaska

Departure – Canada Place, Vancouver

We took a break from our Canadian Adventure to go on a 7 day (There and Back again) cruise to Alaska via the “Inside Passage” departing from Canada Place Vancouver.  Our ship was the Holland America line “Nieuw Amsterdam” (New Amsterdam).  We had arrived earlier and as a result we had to wait, but the good news we were one of the first to board, the bad news it was a long wait for our luggage.  I shall say right off I will never sail with Holland America again. The cabin was fine, the food was excellent and the crew very polite.  However, what you pay is not the final price, they add on hotel service charge, and a service charge for a drink.  We are used to all inclusive with complementary drinks with meals, no hidden surcharges and gratuities left for us to decide on.  It did not help that they confiscated my dress  sgian-dubh (ske-an do) an imitation knife which is part of my highland dress outfit and the KILT pin.  As this was my formal dress my partner and I felt reluctant to attend the two formal evenings.  As a result of that we ate our meals in the Lido Restaurant and had a great selection of meals around the world.  Really loved those salads.

Our fist night cruising allowed us to explore the ship, the shops and go to a show (the only one we did go to).  The show team were very talented, but the volume was deafening.  I do stage photography and am used to shows, but this really was loud and yes it was colourful.

Juneau

The first port of call was Juneau – the State Capitol City.  (Following from Wikipedia) Juneau, Alaska’s remote capital, sits in the state’s panhandle, at the base of 3,819-ft. Mount Roberts. It’s a popular cruise-ship stop, reachable only by boat or seaplane. A tram carries visitors 1,800 feet up Mount Roberts to an alpine area with hiking trails, wildflowers and views of Gastineau Channel. This is also the site of the Juneau Raptor Centre, dedicated to local birds.  A port that has four cruise liners in is going to be busy.  While nearly all passengers headed for the Mount Roberts Tramway or other tourist attractions we opted to explore the city and visit the museum, which was very interesting on local history.  We wandered around the town making our way back to the dock plaza and the Mt. Roberts tramway station.  It takes about 5 minutes to get to the station at the 1,800 foot point. Feeling hungry we partook of lunch – very nice it was too.  Making our way to the Ranger Station we asked if there was a circular trail that would take about an hour to walk.  There was indeed, and we were advised to take the right hand as that would be easier for us going down the large flight of stairs rather then climbing them.  (We were glad we took that advice).  The views at that level we good, they got even better as we climbed up the trail.  The Ranger had given us a map and there was a point marked “Father Brown’s Cross” which was a 1/2 mile up from the Alpine loop trail we were on. In for a penny in for a pound, we plodded up that extra 1/2 mile.  Those kind souls coming down gave encouragement to stick to it as the view was worth it.  I’ll let you decide if it was.

We thought it was, and very pleased we were to have taken the time and energy to get there.

Skagway

Our next stop was Skagway: Skagway is a compact city in southeast Alaska, set along the popular cruise route the Inside Passage. It’s home to gold-rush-era buildings, now preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad runs vintage locomotives past the famously steep Chilkoot trail and offers sweeping mountain views during its climb toward Canada.

If it was not for the modern traffic I would have thought we had stepped back in time.  As the blurb above states “gold rush era buildings each one with its own story.  Even new builds have to comply with “the look”.  Gateway to the Chilkoot trail Skagway had an unsavoury reputation thanks to one Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith II.  We strolled up and down “Main Street” like many tourists and the spirit of “Soapy Smith” lives on with retailers enticing customers into shops with free charms.  Two routes to the Klondike Goldfields originated from Skagway – The main being the Chilkoot Trail, the other the White Pass Trail (aka The Dead Horse Trail).  Each have their own bloody history and tales of woe.  It was at Skagway  the second highlight of our adventure occurred, again it involved a train journey up the White Pass on the White Pass & Yukon Railway.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

The second highlight on the cruise – Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a vast area of southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage, a coastal route plied by cruise ships and other vessels. Stretching north of the town of Gustavus, the bay is flanked by high peaks, including Mount Fairweather, and glaciers like the huge Grand Pacific Glacier. Bartlett Cove is the starting point for forest and riverside trails. Wildlife includes humpback whales and puffins.

On our Canadian Adventure we walked over a minute part of the Athabasca Glacier here we stood on a ship looking at nature in the raw. In fact we saw 3 active glaciers out of the seven: Margerie GlacierGrand Pacific Glacier and Johns Hopkins Glacier.

We stood on the deck listening to the sound of silence being disturbed by the groans and creaks of the living glaciers as the slowly moved their way to the sea. On 4 occasions we heard a deep rumble vibrate through the air.  We later found out from a passenger on another ship that was the Margerie Glacier Calving. Alas we never saw a calving.

Ketchikan

Ketchikan is an Alaskan city facing the Inside Passage, a popular cruise route along the state’s southeastern coast. It’s known for its many Native American totem poles, on display throughout town. Nearby Misty Fiords National Monument is a glacier-carved wilderness featuring snowcapped mountains, waterfalls and salmon spawning streams. It’s also home to rich wildlife including black bears, wolves and bald eagles.

According to Wikipedia: Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles, found throughout the city and at four major locations: SaxmanTotem Park, Totem Bight State Park, Potlatch Park, and the Totem Heritage Center. Most of the totems at Saxman Totem Park and Totem Bight State Park are recarvings of older poles, a practice that began during the Roosevelt Administration through the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Totem Heritage Center displays preserved 19th-century poles rescued from abandoned village sites near Ketchikan. We never saw any of them due to the fact that it lived up to its title as “Rain Capital of Alaska”.  We did enjoy a light snack as we wandered around the city before returning to the ship for our journey back to Vancouver.

Alaskan Adventure Video

 

 


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Canadian Adventure – Jasper to Vancouver (RMT)

Our Locomotives

The Icefield Parkway trip was the base line on which I would compare with the other excursions on this 21 day combined Canadian/Alaskan Adventure.

Our domed home for two days

So far we had flown out to Banff via Toronto, Calgary from Glasgow.  Then the coach trip through the rockies, all in the first 4 days.  Today’s adventure was Part 1 of a 2 day journey on one of the great railway trips in the world. We were travelling on the Rocky Mountaineer on the “Through the Clouds” route from Jasper to Vancouver. A two day sojourn from the Rockies to the plains all in the comfort of a domed rail coach. We had opted for the “Gold Leaf” service as opposed to the Silver Leaf service.

We arrived at (the now opened) Jasper railroad station where our two large cases were whipped away – the last we would see of them until we got to our hotel room in Kamloops.  As the time approached for boarding and departure the excitement mounted in the station waiting room – Finally with the ringing of

A Toast to a good journey

a bell and the traditional time honoured call “ALL ABOARD”  we made our way to our allocated seats in our allocated coach.  Our personal coach crew of two chefs and four lovely ladies were introduced and drinks were served for the departure toast.


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Canadian Adventure – Jasper Wildlife

Downtown Jasper

Here we are in Jasper – Jasper, an alpine town in Canada’s Alberta province, is the commercial centre of Jasper National Park. Amid the snow-capped Canadian Rockies, the park has glacier-fed lakes, forests and rivers. The Jasper SkyTram climbs to the summit of Whistlers Mountain, with views of downtown. The Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives presents exhibits on the fur trade, railway and early exploration of the park – ready for a day’s exploration and adventure.  We set out from our hotel – Chateau Jasper to walk into town.  It was not too bad a day weather wise.  Our first stop was to find the railway station to familiarise ourselves with the procedure to board the Rocky Mountaineer train.  Alas it was closed – we had not realised that the station only opens on the days that the Rocky Mountaineer departs/Arrives.  The line is usually freight only.  Mind you we took the opportunity to get a photo in front of the old steam locomotive on static display at the station – I would have loved to be on a train hauled by that engine.  As we had the morning to explore we wandered around the town, bought some gifts and Susan enjoyed a fresh made Banana Split, I forget what I had (no evidence exists 🙂 ).  After a nice morning we headed back to the hotel to meet our scheduled tour and exploration of the environs of Jasper and see the wildlife as well as the views.

Jasper is surrounded by mountainous peaks, everywhere we looked a mountain was there, after a while we blanked them out. Hard to believe but true.  It was a case of not being overwhelmed – however that cannot be said for scenery we saw on the coach trip.  On thing we learned right off is the meaning of “Bear Jam”.  Usually it is traffic jam or delays caused by accidents, on this tour is was delays caused by Bears, Elks, Long Horned Sheep and Mountain Goats – all came under the cry of Bear Jam.  When and wherever a bear was spotted near the roadside or along the treeline the traffic slowed and came to a standstill. Windows rolled down and cameras produced.  As that great bear “Yogi” once stated “Everybody loves a bear BoBo” or was that picnic baskets?

The mountains looked high from Jasper but they really took on a different aspect as we traveled alongside/up and down them. It was not that long before the cry was uttered “bear on right hand side” and sure enough there was a black bear merrily walking through the trees.  He was travelling relatively fast, nonchalant with not a care in the world, Sauntering along -was he heading to food, a date with a she bear only he knew, we just grabbed the opportunity to grab the odd picture or dozen.  I certainly took some odd ones. We and the rest of the bear jam, watched the bear amble along for some time. Eventually our driver guide decided it was time to find some Osprey nests.  Along the way we passed through part of the rainforest devastated by fire in 2008 and still struggling to recover. As someone who lives in Scotland I found it hard to accept what my eyes were telling my brain.  Complete destruction – having been involved in fighting a few house fires I am well aware of that raging beast – but not to the scale that was obvious here.  Thankfully there were signs of recovery, but, as our guide said, “It will take a wee while yet”.   The devastation was only outdone by the pleasing sight of a lake set in the mountains.  Alas the nest did not appear to be occupied.  However, this did not deter our driver./guide as we continued our tour for another hour, spotting Elk, Black Bear, Long Horned Sheep and Mountain Goats (all of which had the proverbial <name of animal> Jam.  Only in Canada can one have wildlife so close to a road and drivers stop), before returning to our hotel for the evening.

Elk
Click to see full gallery of images)

 


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Canadian Adventure – Icefield Parkway

Banff on a rainy day Click for Gallery

 

Banff to Lake Louise (click for Gallery)

Extract from Wikipedia”The Icefields Parkway (FrenchPromenade des Glaciers), is a 230 km (140 mi) long scenic road that parallels the Continental Divide, traversing the rugged landscape of the Canadian Rockies, travelling through Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. It is named for features such as the Columbia Icefield, visible from the parkway. It links Lake Louise with Jasper to the north. At its southern end, the Icefields Parkway terminates at Highway 1. Highway 1 west leads to Yoho National Park in British Columbia and Highway 1 east to Lake Louise and the Town of Banff. A second parkway, the Bow Valley Parkway also links Lake Louise and the Town of Banff. Known as Highway 1A, this road parallels Highway 1 and, at the midpoint, passes the Castle Mountain junction where Highway 93 south, or the Banff-Windermere Highway, branches southwest into Kootenay National Park in British Columbia.[3]  

Chateau Lake Louise

 

 

Our journey started at Banff and our first port of call was Lake Louise.  The first striking sight is that of Chateau Lake Louise.  A sort stroll from the bus parking bay takes you a very striking lake.

Lake Louise
Click for album

Depending on the available light the colour ranges from Aquamarine to cobalt blue. Regretfully we had insufficient time to explore the trails around the lake.  Judging by the crowd it is a well loved site with many activities available.  However we had to continue North to our next port of call Peyto Lake – via Bow Summit. The scenery on this part  of the road trip kept getting better.  As we climbed the views alternated between vast mountains looming over our coach to passing reflection lakes

En route from Lake Louise to Peyto Lake Click for Gallery

Peyto Lake Click for Gallery

En route to Athabasca Glacier.
Click for Gallery

From Peyto Lake we headed for the Athabasca Glacier and a walk on the ancient ice. However, we had a spot of lunch before that of the adventure.

Athabasca Glacier Click for Album

The final segment of our Icefield Parkway tour was to Jasper via a Glacier Skywalk and the Athabasca Falls.  The Skywalk was a test of one’s nerve.  During the trip the weather varied from hot bright sunshine to cold rain at Athabasca Falls it became a downpour.  If you visit the Rockies of Canada I highly recommend this coach tour from Banff to Jasper via Icefield Parkway.

Athabasca Glacier to Jasper via Glacier Skywalk and Athabasca Falls Click for Album

Updated 24th August 2018 – Small video of Icefield Parkway trip Staring from Banff

 

 


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20170423 – Dawyck Botanic Garden

We Talk to The Trees

After our visit to the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh we travelled to Stobo and Dawyck Botanic Garden.  As their web site states:

“Dawyck is truly one of the world’s finest arboreta. Seasonal displays of abundant exotic and native plants provide a breathtaking backdrop of colour throughout the year. The Garden also offers an award-winning visitor centre.”

Visit Scotland has this to say on its site “Dawyck Botanic Garden is home to one of Scotland’s finest tree collections including some of Britain’s oldest and tallest trees.  The 65-acre five star Garden offers woodland and burnside walks and is renowned for its seasonal displays of snowdrops, bluebells, Himalayan poppies, rhododendrons, azaleas and autumn colour”.

With that in mind we went on the David Douglas trail:

Dawyck House is not part of the Garden and is not open to the public

Technical details:  Nikon D7100,  f6.3, Tamron 18-270 mm Zoom @ 140 mm,  Shutter 1/320th sec ISO 200

Wood carving of David Douglas looking towards a “Douglas Fir”

Technical details:  Nikon D7100,  f11, Tamron 18-270 mm Zoom @18 mm,  Shutter 1/200th sec ISO 200

 

Technical details:  Nikon D7100,  f5.6, Tamron 18-270 mm Zoom @ 92 mm,  Shutter 1/1600th sec ISO 200

A host of….

Technical details:  Nikon D7100,  f16, Tamron 18-270 mm Zoom @ 110 mm,  Shutter 1/160th sec ISO 200

 

Gallery

 


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20170201 – Butterflies in Winter

Visit to Butterfly World, Edinburgh

What better place to visit on a cold February day than Butterfly World at Dobbies, Lasswade.  Preparations on protecting the camera to the sudden temp change. A search on The net gave this advice:

“Condensation occurs when moving from a cold area into an area with warm moist air as the cold lens elements cool the air causing moisture to precipitate out. As stated previously, good practice is to put the camera and lens in a sealed plastic bag before moving from the cold area. This traps dry air around the lens and gives the glass time to warm up. Do not seal the camera in a plastic bag when moving from a warm area into the cold! As the warm moist air inside the bag will start to condense as the camera cools.”

The atmosphere in Butterfly world is hot and humid so give your camera time to adjust, especially if you visit in winter.  I would also suggest that you pre-fit then lens of your choice and stick to it for the whole session.  Changing lenses in hot, humid temperatures is not recommend .

Hot, Humid Stroll:

Although I purchase a guide to aid identification of butterflies/moths it usually gets lost.  No change there then 🙂 Camera used was Nikon D7100 fitted with Sigma 18-270 Zoom.

Technical details – Nikon D7100 fitted with Sigma 18-270mm Zoom Lens set at 150mm f6 ISO 250 shutter 1/125th second. Image processed from raw in Lightroom

 

Technical details – Nikon D7100 fitted with Sigma 18-270mm Zoom Lens set at 270mm f6.3 ISO 800 shutter 1/100th second. Image processed from raw in Lightroom

It is not just butterflies/moths one can see – there are lizards and insects

Snakes Alive

 

Technical details – Nikon D7100 fitted with Sigma 18-270mm Zoom Lens set at 270mm f6.3 ISO 250 shutter 1/13th second. Image processed from raw in Lightroom

Gallery