O Canada 10 : Field and Emerald Lake   Leave a comment


From the overwhelming Wapta Falls (see previous article is this series, click here) we went to Field. A small town on the banks of the Kicking Horse River and the Trans-Canada Highway. It is surrounded by forests and mountains, with the impressive Mount Stephen towering high over the town. An ideal place for hiking or skiing trips in Yoho National Park. Unfortunately we arrived in between seasons, so most hotels, shops and restaurants were closed or had reduced opening hours. The one restaurant in town that was open, Truffle Pigs Bistro, served some pretty fine food, and we found a place to stay in the Fireweed hostel.

After a good night sleep, and a nourishing breakfast, we tried to leave Field. But the only road out was blocked by a freight train. Field is a place where train drivers on the Canadian Pacific Railway change shifts. The train stops, the old crew goes off, a new one climbs on board, starts up the engines and gets the train rolling again. These freight trains are enormously long. We waited for at least 10 minutes before we saw the last carriage pass.
Our first destination of the day was the Yoho National Park information Center, just outside Field. We hoped to buy something edible there, since there were no shops open in the town. But the center only sold books and souvenirs. I noticed they had a lot of books on bears on display. Might this be an omen for the rest of the day?
Our next stop was Emerald Lake. We arrived at the parking lot, and walked towards the lake. It was busy with Japanese tourist leaving the lodges and hotels on the shores, but as soon as we left the last building behind us, we walked in silence and solitude through the woods. Some parts of the path were still covered in snow, but the lake wasn’t frozen over, like Lake Louise on the first day of our trip (read article here). Emerald Lake wasn’t as green as its name did suggest. The ripple-less water was dark, black, and only reflected the forest on it’s shore. As we walked on, the forest thinned out, and as by magic the colour of the lake changed to live up to its name. Emerald green indeed! It was a beautiful sight. The clear blue sky and the snow covered mountains mirrored in the surface of the lake. On the far side of the lake the landscape changed from forest to a more open terrain. A brook ran into the lake, and we saw all kinds of birds and flowers.
Emerald Lake is a beautiful place, and the tour around the lake is highly recommended. Go early, before the tourists swarm the paths and canoes spoil the view on the lake.
We also visited the Natural Bridge, on the road up to the lake. Here, the river carved out some sort of tunnel in the rocks. It was nice to watch, but not very spectacular. A good spot for a pick nick or a photo opp, but that’s about it. After this short interlude we drove on towards Calgary. But first, some more adventures and encounters with Canadian wild life…

More information on Field, click Here

More information on Emerald Lake, click here

O Canada 9 : Wapta Falls   1 comment


Our next stop on our road trip through Western Canada was at Wapta Falls, in Yoho National Park. A long gravel road took us from the highway to a parking place, and we continued on foot. The bear proof garbage bins were a warning sign that we where in serious wild country. A long trail led us into the woods. The large pine trees drowned out most of the noise, so we walked in silence towards our goal. When we approached a small wooden bridge, we noticed a squirrel on the ground, nibbling on some pine cones. The little grey rodent seemed completely undisturbed by our presence, so we took some time to take some pictures of it eating away, until we came a little bit to close, and the squirrel hopped elegantly away into the safety of the woods.
Continuing on our trail, we could hear the raging waters of the Kicking Horse River. From an opening in the canopy we could see the white water seeking it’s way between the rocks. The falls couldn’t be far now. A descending path took us to the icy cold river. From the banks we had impressive views on the cascade and the surrounding forest. The falls are huge : about 30 meters high and 150 m wide. We scurried over rocks and boulders, closer to the bottom of the fall, sheltered by a large rock formation. To get a better view of the falls, we scrambled onto the rocks, and climbed to the highest point. Immediately the scene changed. Now we could see, hear and feel the falls at it’s best. It was impressive. The noise was deafening. We couldn’t hear each other speak. Water sprayed over us, so we had to put on our raincoats. Wafts of mist surrounded us, as we stood in awe of this force of nature. After taking some pictures, we found our way back to the river and the path that led us here, back to the parking lot.
Halfway on the track, I heard something rustling in the undergrowth. I saw nothing, but the noise made me curious. I crouched down and stepped carefully and as quiet as I could in the direction of the noise. Again I heard it. And then I saw something moving on the forest floor. Something black, the size of a chicken. A chicken!? I was slightly disappointed. But then I realized that it was highly unlike for a chicken to be in a forest. So I crept a bit closer. Suddenly I saw a black pheasant-like bird walking on the forest floor. Like a true wildlife photographer I
hid behind some bushes, took out my zoom lens and took as many pictures as I could from this bird. (Later I found out it was a Spruce Grouse).
After this interessing and impressive interlude, we continued our way, to the last stop on our road trip : Field.

Google Maps : click here

More information on The Wapta Falls, click here
or here
More information on Yoho National Park, click here

More information on the Spruce Grouse, click here

Lentevreugd, kalfjes, veulens en viooltjes   Leave a comment


Het was een stralende dag. We konden het voorjaar bijna voelen, als er niet zo’n koude wind had gestaan. Toch besloten we de wandelschoenen aan te trekken en een kort tochtje te maken in een Staatsbosbeheerterreintje bij Wassenaar. Het heet – hoe toepasselijk – Lentevreugd. Voormalig bollenland, dat na enig menselijk ingrijpen, wat geaccentueerder is geworden. In het verder open veld zijn een paar duinbeekjes (rellen) gegraven en wat heuveltjes aangelegd. Daardoor is het nu een vrij nat terrein geworden, zeker na de overvloedige regen van de afgelopen dagen, op de overgang van duin naar weide. Om te vooorkomen dat het gebied dichtgroeid, grazen er hooglanders en konikspaarden. Tussen de dieren zagen we een paar veulentjes huppelen, en een wollig kalfje lag vlak bij zijn moeder te herkauwen. Tegen de buitenrand van het gebied zagen we een restje van de Atlantikwall : grote betonnen haaientanden op de top van een duin. Een tankversperring, maar vanwaar wij stonden leek het meer op de kantelen van een middeleeuws kasteel.
Op de terugweg zagen we ineens paarse viooltjes tussen het neergeslagen gras. Een overblijfsel van de bollenteelt? Wie zal het zeggen. Het was een mooie afsluiting van een mooie lentewandeling.

O Canada 8 : Kelowna, bull snake and cod   Leave a comment


After a very nice stay in Oak Bay, we continued our road trip through the West of Canada to Kelowna, on the shores of Okanagan Lake. After a long drive we arrived at our temporary lodgings in West-Kelowna, where we had a good night sleep.
The next day we went for a hike in Knox Mountain Park, on the other side of Okanagan Lake. Knox Mountain is the largest of the Natural Area Parks in Kelowna, and a good place to go hiking. The highest point – Knox Mountain – is 646 m above sea level, and some 300 m above the lake and the town. A steep climb took us to a plateau, overlooking Kelowna, with great views over Okanagan Lake and the surrounding hills. Soon we were walking along the footpath above the lake, in the direction of Paul’s Tomb. Alongside the trail, we saw the scars of the many wildfires that plague the city and the park. Lots of burned and scorched trees standing or laying on the slopes of Knox Mountain gave witness of that.
Paul’s Tomb was the family burial vault for one of the land owners in the area. It is now very difficult to spot, as it is almost buried itself. From this tomb we followed a small trail up the hill.
Although Kelowna means Grizzly Bear in the language of the original inhabitants of the area, we didn’t see any. But I nearly stepped on a large snake, when I crossed a path. Quietly trodding along, I suddenly some something moving on the ground, right where I wanted to plant my foot. I retracted, just in time, to see a snake slithering below me. It was about 1,5 m long, and wasn’t at all bothered by my presence. It slithered slowly along, which gave me an opportunity to observe it more closely. Brownish-grey spots on the back, more spots on its white side, and a tale that looked a bit like a rattlesnake’s. I didn’t know if it was venomous, but it didn’t act scared or aggressive. But just to be sure, we gave it a lot of space and let it go it’s way into the grassy vegetation alongside the path. Later I determined it to be a Bull Snake, but I’m not sure (might have been a western rattlesnake, which is venomous).
After our walk we decided we earned a reward, so we went downtown, to a fish and chips restaurant, recommended by Lonely Planet : The CodFathers. We had a fine meal there, of fried cod and potatoes, and I can truly recommend the place (and they sell sustainable fish too).
Kelowna is also the center of the Canadian wine region. There are many wineries (comparable to the French Chateaux of Wine Houses), where you can buy locale made wines. We visited one of these shops. Very classy, with marble floors and soft lounge corners. I think we looked a bit misplaced in our travel ware.
We had a nice stay in Kelowna, and if you ever go there, be sure to eat some fish and chips at The Cod Fathers.

Knox Mountain Park click here
the Codfathers seafood market and restaurant click here
Yellow-bellied marmot click here for more information
Bull snake click here for more information
Western Rattlesnake click here

Berkheide in de herfst   Leave a comment


Een zonnige zondagochtend in oktober. Prachtig weer voor een wandeling. Snel, voor de drukte uit, naar de Wassenaarse Slag. Bij hotel Duinoord de auto geparkeerd, en daar verder te voet. De Berkheide is een onbekend natuurgebied. De meeste mensen rijden of fietsen door naar het strand. Oplettende wandelaars kunnen er veel meer ontdekken. Zodra je van het pad af loopt en een duintje over klimt, kom je in een andere wereld. Een echte “Lost world”. Stil en beschut, weg van de drukte van de stad. Al dwalend door duinvalleitjes komen we van alles tegen. Veel duindoorns, en op sommige plekken is de bodem volledig bedekt met jonge rozenbottels ; nu nog tot enkelhoogte, maar binnen een paar jaar een ondoordringbare struikenjungle. Hopelijk zorgen de hooglanders er voor dat het duingebied een beetje open blijft.
Terwijl we even van de zon genieten in een stil duinpannetje, schieten twee reeën weg. Even later springt een konijn verschrikt weg. Nog iets verder zien we vlak voor onze voeten iets groens opspringen. Een sprinkhaan denken we eerst, maar als we goed kijken blijkt het een kikkertje.
Na anderhalf uur dwalen in de stille natuur komen we terug op het – drukke – wandelpad. Over het strand lopen we terug naar de parkeerplaats, waar de auto’s intussen in de file staan te wachten op een vrije plek.
Berkheide

Duinvallei - Lost world

Berkheide

Berkheide

Berkheide

Rozenbottel

Rozenbottel

Berkheide - Lost World

Duindoorn

Schotse Hooglander

kikker

kikker

een tapijt van jonge rozenbottelstruiken

een tapijt van jonge rozenbottelstruiken

distels

Distels

Flowers of the Netherlands   Leave a comment


A few close ups of flowers, I took during the last months. I don’t know the names of every one, so feel free to add.

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O Canada 7 : Rain forest and Ocean views (East Sooke Regional park, Sooke Point)   Leave a comment


On our last day in Oak Bay, we wanted to see more of Vancouver Island. So we drove to East Sooke Regional Park, some 45 mn drive from Victoria, on the Pacific Coast. The vicinity of the sea has created a very moist climate, like a rain forest, but without the tropical temperatures. An ideal environment for mosses and ferns.
We parked our car at the Anderson Cove parking, and went for a walk. Immediately we entered a fairy tale world. Big ferns, splashing out green leaves, and mosses in all colors surrounded us. Shrubs, beech and cedar trees towered high up in the sky. The thick leaf canopy filtered the daylight into a greenish gloom. It felt quit chilly, and every time the wind breezed through the woods, thick drops of water fell from the leafs above. It was a tantalizing place. A squirrel shot up a tree, and small black birds flew from tree to tree, chirping vividly.
We wanted to climb Mount Maguire, but somewhere in the green forest we missed a sign, and after an hours walk we ended up on a road, with big houses and long drives. With a little help from our GPS we found our way back to the car.
We wanted to see the ocean, so we drove in the direction of Sooke. The coastal road gave us great views, but we couldn’t get to the shore. All roads leading down to the ocean, had signs : private road, no trespassing. Finally we came to a building site at Sooke Point. The workers were so nice to move their equipment and allowed us access to a small picnic place with a splendid ocean view. I clambered down to the shore, just to dip my feet in the Pacific Ocean. The water was very tranquil, and I saw al kinds of shells, mollusks, seaweed and other creatures and plants the live on the shoreline.
Back in Victoria we had a lovely dinner at the Breakwater Café, near the harbor. After dinner we walked on the breakwater, to watch the sun setting in the west. As we walked back we stumbled upon some sea otters climbing up the stairs from the breakwater, crossing it and climbing down the steps on the other side of the pier. A great ending of a beautiful stay on Vancouver Island.

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