July 18, 2014

Postcard Perfect

–Banff, Banff National Park and Lake Louise

Despite a plethora of altered photos on the internet, Banff, Banff Nat'l Park and Lake Louise do not need retouching. The trouble is, the areas immense beauty cannot be conveyed in a photograph. Flanked on all sides by the Rockies with the distinction of being the highest town in Canada, Banff sits smack dab in the heart of Banff National Park. A small extremely popular town known for it's access to incredible scenery and wildlife.

Each year, thousands of travelers make the incredible journey to take it all in. Of course, I recommend arriving by train. Although small in size, Banff's ever increasing popularity has spawned luxury accommodations, fine dining and nightlife. Luckily, its restricted footprint has protected it from over development and sprawl. A skier's dream in winter and outdoor adventure wonderland in summer. The park, all 1,641,027 acres, set aside in 1885, is the site of the first national park service. Banff National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A combination of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers, it is one of the world's premier destination spots. Enjoy wildlife tours year round. Skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, dogsled rides and horse sleigh rides are popular in winter. Nearby Lake Louise is the largest ski area in Canada with 4200 skiable acres. And, although the summer months draw large crowds, there are enough wide open spaces for everyone to do just about every outdoor activity one could imagine-hiking, biking, horseback riding, swimming, wildlife viewing, rock climbing, canoeing, boating, backpacking, fishing, camping, even scuba diving. Many of these activities can also be enjoyed during the winter months. It's also good to come here and make time to be still. You'd have to spend a lifetime here to absorb everything the area has to offer, but a week or two will renew your spirit in ways you'd forgotten were possible.

July 10, 2014

What a Way to Go

Western Canada Train Trips
Travel for 3 hours or for 3, 4 or …12 days alongside glacier-fed lakes, majestic mountains and ferocious rivers. The never ending scene of virtually untouched wilderness, right out your window. This part of the world is ideal train travel. Mountain vistas, lake, roaring rivers, flowery meadows, waterfalls and wildlife all await discovery.

Rocky Mountaineer offers over 65 train packages including on that goes from Vancouver to Alaska and from train to cruise ship. The scenery is so amazing that the train company guarantees the train windows are cleaned daily. These are not budget traveler experiences. Trips rage from a couple hundred dollars for a 1 day excursions to over $6000 per passenger for 12 days, but saving up for this experience is well worth it.
A couple great examples are the First Passage from Vancouver to Banff (4 days $1,121 USD) traces the westward steps of 19th century explorers between Calgary and Vancouver and Sea to Sky Climb (1 day $274 USD) travels from the coastal city of Vancouver to the resort town of Whistler, renowned for outstanding skiing and year-round outdoor activities. Highlights of the trip include spectacular views of Howe Sound and the Coast  Mountains, Brandywine Falls, Mount Garibaldi and the impressive Cheakamus Canyon. Whatever you choose, you want be disappointed. Canadian train travel is a great way to go.
Cheakamus Canyon

July 5, 2014

Bridging the Gaps Along Ireland's Coast

Carrick-a-Rede…say what? I believe it's Irish for scare the tourist, or terrifying rope bridge. Still, one must brave the 66 ft length of rope strung 98 ft above the rocks and sea because…well…it's incredibly alluring. Throngs of people have crossed it, thousands have been photographed on it, and Olympic torches have been carried over it (pictured left). It's a traveler's opiate!
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede (from Irish: Carraig a' RĂ¡id, meaning "rock of the casting"). Originally a salmon fisherman's paradise (thus the original bridge), the huge rock is now more commonly known for its spectacular views.
According to Wikipedia, "Although no one has fallen off the bridge, there have been many instances where visitors, unable to face the walk back across the bridge, have had to be taken off the island by boat." Well, that must have been embarrassing. Either that, or it was a great ruse to gain a boat ride around these spectacular cliffs. You can always take a picture and say you've been there. (Shhh…No one has to know you didn't cross.)
From the pictures (above and below), it's clear there have been some improvements to the bridge over the years. I'd cross it in a heartbeat (I think), after all, I've stood on the very top of the Golden Gate Bridge. I've climbed a glacier in New Zealand. I've stood in a clear glass box hanging on the side of one of the tallest buildings in the world. This is a mere 66 ft, right? Truth is: it looks a little imposing. Hey, those of you who snicker, the Golden Gate Bridge is solid and glaciers move really slowly. Maybe we could find out when it was last inspected and ask everyone else to wait their turn. OK, now I'm ready. Wait, how many people will it hold?
I would seriously love to cross it, but, in all honesty, I would be a little nervous. What can I say, travel and adventure are my opiates, and, sometimes, "simply amazing" involves a little fear.