Another DC-3 crash site in the Yukon

A post a couple of days ago in one of the history groups I belong to was a query about a DC-3 crash that I hadn’t heard about. The thought was that it is in the Richardson Mountains along the Yukon’s Arctic Coast.

The query was prompted by this photo in the book “Flying the Yukon Bush” by Kit Cain – it can be downloaded for free at the author’s Web site (pdf, 5MB). The photo was shot in 1962.

'Flying the Yukon Bush' by Kit Cain
My initial search for a crash report came up empty. Once I looked in the right place with the right search terms, though, it only took me a few more minutes to find it. Here’s the article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner of January 17, 1958.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - January 17, 1958

To go further in finding information, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says “To find the report of an investigation that began in 1990 or earlier, contact Library and Archives Canada.” Following that lead, I found the archival record information here, but the record itself isn’t online. However, I found a basic record of the crash at the Aviation Safety Network – it records the registration as N75391, a C-47D built in 1944 (construction number 26366), but other sites disagree with that construction number’s history.

If any of you researchers really have lots of time on your hands, that area is posted online at high resolution, and a DC-3 should show up well. Here’s the area where the crash is according to the newspaper report – click on it to open the hi-res map in a new window.

Map of approximate location of DC-3 crash

An Introduction to Exploring Northern Scandinavia

One of my readers in Finland sent me an article he wrote about exploring his part of the world, and I thought it was worth sharing. Scandinavia and Iceland are certainly on my short list for future exploring! I actually used to cover Scandinavia on ExploreNorth but it got too overwhelming so I tightened my focus a few years ago.


The world is a beautiful place with so many cultures, landscapes and magical experiences to explore. Each country sings from its own hymn sheet – and one of my favourites has to be the music from the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland. These majestic Scandinavian countries are full of unique and wondrous moments, from witnessing the Northern Lights to trying delicious local foods.

Norway is a picturesque landscape full of shades of green and blue. When you drive around, you can’t help but pull over to take in some of the unique scenery. It’s the perfect place to visit for hiking, cliff-climbing, kayaking, camping and time outdoors. 

Lofoten is a mesmerising archipelago in Norway with jutting peaks and dramatic views. The Svolværgeita pinnacle juts into the sky, while the Himmeltindan Mountain sits breathtakingly on Vestvågøya Island. You can just imagine the Viking ships navigating through these rich blue seas, passing by the fishing spots and colourful villages that have since evolved along the waterways.

Steinsfjorden near Unnstad on the western side of Vestvågøy in Lofoten

Steinsfjorden near Unnstad in Lofoten

There’s also the Geiranger Fjord, which can be found in the Sunnmøre region of the Møre og Romsdal county. The stunning area is packed with waterfalls, glaciers and space for hiking and kayaking. Another great location for such active pastimes includes Prekestolen, a famously steep cliff that is found within Forsand in Rogaland county.

Sweden is another country packed with coastal islands (14 in total) and inland lakes, glaciated mountains, municipal cities and boreal forests spanning vast acres of land. With more than 50 bridges to cross, plenty of history and heritage, the Royal palaces, mesmerising opera houses, and the medieval old town of Gamla Stan (the oldest section of Stockholm), it’s a key point on a road trip of Northern Europe. 

Kornhamnstorg square in Gamla stan – photo by Holger Ellgaard.

Packed in with the Scandinavian country’s historic roots and culture are bursts of modernity too. Sweden has fast become known for its innovative and creative cuisine, with people travelling far and wide to try the local foods and many Michelin-starred restaurants. It’s always worth booking in advance as waiting lists can be long and many restaurants close during the summer as well for long holidays.

There’s plenty to do. From Vasa – a Maritime museum which is home to a 17th-century Swedish ship – to many churches and museums within the city centre, you’re hard-pushed to find yourself without anything to visit. In moments when you want to feel more local than tourist, there are many Swedish restaurants to try, boutique shops to visit, and bars to head to – as well as many outdoor activities to take part in, including kayaking and hiking. For true local insight, try the local city tours.

Finland is another Northern European nation that is packed with diverse museums, stylish design areas, and stunning national parks and ski resorts with breathtaking views. The wilderness in many of the outdoor spaces is something of a picture postcard. The country borders Sweden, Norway and Russia, providing a great point for continuing a car journey through to wider parts of the world. 

The capital city, Helsinki, is a popular destination and is home to Suomenlinna, an 18th-century sea fortress. You can island hop around the Archipelago Sea, take boat tours, try your luck at a well run casino, kayak through the country’s thousands of lakes, swim, fish and sail – among many other cultural activities and locations. The highlight for many Finnish trips is a visit to their saunas, as well as their stylish furniture shops.

Nuuksio National Park, a short drive from Helsinki.

So much to see! Thanks, Mike – I may yet get over for a look 🙂

Night Sky Photography Fun – stars and Milky Way and glow sticks

A few days ago, a friend called and asked if I’d join to join her and her daughters for an aurora photography night. I suggested that she bring some glow sticks in case the aurora didn’t show, and when 3 more young people showed up, we had a lot of fun with them (the aurora never did show despite a good forecast).

It was just to be a fairly short outing, so we just went to the Fish Lake Road, initially to the aurora-viewing parking lot that’s been built. As Whitehorse gets brighter and brighter, the Fish Lake Road gets to be a poorer and poorer location for aurora viewing due to the light pollution. The clouds in the first photo, though, cleared a few minutes later so the light scatter was hugely reduced.

Night sky light pollution - Fish Lake Road, Yukon
This is a shot I set up of me looking at the Milky Way.

Night sky - Fish Lake Road, Yukon
When the kids showed up, the glow sticks were brought out. We hadn’t played with them before, so started out simple.

Night sky - Fish Lake Road, Yukon
Sometimes the coordination between photographers and glowstickers was off 🙂

Night sky - Fish Lake Road, Yukon
We soon got creative with the glow sticks and they were a great way to wish you all a “Merry Xmas” 🙂

Night sky - Fish Lake Road, Yukon

Night sky - Fish Lake Road, Yukon
… and a Happy 2018!

Night sky - Fish Lake Road, Yukon
Throwing the glow sticks produced some cool effects – our own little mini-fireworks.

Night sky - Fish Lake Road, Yukon
We then moved a few kilometers further up the Fish Lake Road for darker skies. The Milky Way shows up nicely over a heart formed by an engaged couple..

Night sky - Fish Lake Road, Yukon
Without the glow stick light, the Milky Way showed up much better here, just a bit further from the city’s light pollution.

Night sky - Fish Lake Road, Yukon
We then moved right to Fish Lake. Although further yet from the source of the light pollution, some ice crystals in the air were reflecting it.

Night sky - Fish Lake Road, Yukon
One more shot looking across Fish Lake. The evening had been good fun, and took both of us off in new directions photographically. I’m extremely pleased with my new 10mm Rokinon lens, which is what I shot all of these photos with.

Night sky - Fish Lake Road, Yukon

A winter drive from Jasper to Whitehorse via the Stewart-Cassiar

From Airdrie to Jasper on Wednesday December 13th, I had had superb weather, but I reached Jasper just after noon, stopped for fuel, and my luck with the weather ran out soon after. My rough-draft itinerary called for me to reach Vanderhoof that night – 990 km from my starting point in Airdrie.

My fuel stop at Jasper was quick, and by 12:40 I was headed west on Hwy 16, with the temperature at -1°C (30°F). I was extremely surprised to see a cyclist struggling along the shoulder of the highway.

Cyclist on Hwy 16 near Jasper in December
The gates of Jasper National Park for eastbound traffic.

The gates of Jasper National Park for eastbound traffic on Hwy 16
At 1:00 pm, I reached Yellowhead Pass and crossed back into British Columbia, and Mount Robson Provincial Park.

Welcome to British Columbia, and Mount Robson Provincial Park
The mountain goat sign for Mount Robson Provincial Park has always been one of my favourites.

Mount Robson Provincial Park sign
It’s quite unusual to see all of Mount Robson, and I was pleased to get this much of a view from the visitor centre parking lot.

Mount Robson in December
With the temperature up and down a degree from the freezing point, it spit rain for most of the 270 km (168 mi) from Tete Jaune Cache to Prince George. West of Prince George, I soon ran into fog, which at times was extremely thick. It was a slog, down to as slow as 30 km/h for long stretches. The fog was compounded by the dark – it became one of those nights (though it was only afternoon) when the dark absorbs every bit of light, and the lines on the road were mostly covered by gravel so they didn’t help.

Highway 16 east of Prince George
By 4:45, I had had all the fog and crap I could handle, and the Coach Light Motel in Vanderhoof looked like the refuge I needed. This was my third stay here over the years – I got Room #205 in the small block of 4 units this time. It has a fridge, microwave, a tiny coffee maker, and the free wifi was good. Although it’s showing its age, it’s very clean, and it offers great value at $69.

Coach Light Motel in Vanderhoof, BC
I was up very early on Thursday (December 14th). The weather forecast when I went to bed called for very thick fog (down to “zero visibility”) from Vanderhoof to at least Smithers, and when I peeked out and saw minimal fog, I got up, and hit the road at 04:15.

Coach Light Motel in Vanderhoof, BC
Although there were some fairly small stretches of fog, the road was far better than I expected from the forecast. I shot the next photo east of Smithers at 08:40, ten minutes before sunrise.

Winter dawn on BC Hwy 16 near Smithers
I usually stop for a minute or so at Moricetown Canyon, located 30 km west of Smithers. If nothing else, it’s a good spot to just get out and stretch.

Moricetown Canyon, BC
The Skeena River has always attracted me. Even on dull, dreary days like this, it just has a good vibe for me.

Skeena River
At 11:35, I reached the junction of Highway 16 and Highway 37, the Stewart-Cassiar. I had fueled up in Smithers at $1.149 per liter (and picked up 3 gallons of windshield washer fluid) so only needed a small top-up here. Sometimes the fuel is quite pricey at the Petro-Canada station at the junction, but this day it was the same price as Smithers.

The junction of Highway 16 and Highway 37, the Stewart-Cassiar
I hadn’t stopped at St. Paul’s Anglican Church (Episcopal) at Gitwangak (formerly Kitwanga) for a few years, and decided to have a look. It’s now abandoned.

St. Paul's Anglican Church (Episcopal) at Gitwangak (formerly Kitwanga)
It’s sad to see such beautiful stained glass at the rear of the church, with some of the regular glass windows at the front broken.

St. Paul's Anglican Church (Episcopal) at Gitwangak (formerly Kitwanga)
The “Highways Open” sign at Km 6.6 of the Stewart-Cassiar was reassuring. The temperature was 0°C and a light rain was falling.

The 'Highways Open' sign at Km 6.6 of the Stewart-Cassiar
My draft plan was to reach Dease Lake to overnight. When I shot the next photo at the KM 90 post at 12:50, that was only 398 km away, so with these good road conditions, easily attainable.

Stewart-Cassiar Highway Km 90, in December
I pulled in to the Meziadin Junction Lodge just to check the fuel price – last summer it was very high. This day, not bad at all – $1.248.

Meziadin Junction Lodge
I reached Bell II Crossing, the second crossing of the Bell-Irving River, at 2:50 pm. The bridge is at Km 249.3. I stopped in at the Bell 2 Lodge here for a second to check the fuel price – $1.40 per liter. From here northbound in the winter, the next fuel is at Iskut, 155 km away.

Bell II Crossing bridge on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
The next photo is a good example of why I love the Stewart-Cassiar – it still looks the way the Alaska Highway did 25 years ago. The little bridge ahead crosses Ogilvie Creek at Km 286.

The Stewart-Cassiar Highway at Km 286

About half an hour from Dease Lake, as I descended from Gnat Pass, I got hit by a wild (!!) snowstorm driven by high winds. I was down to about 50 km/h because I simply couldn’t see. I had been doing about 90 km/h, and a vehicle that had been steadily gaining on me from behind for a few minutes vanished – I never did see him again.

The snow only lasted for a few minutes, but when I got to the valley bottom where Dease Lake sits, I discovered that the storm had arrived there as freezing rain, and the whole world was a skating rink. For a few reasons (mostly, I wasn’t tired and really wanted to get home), I decided to continue on – I’d catch some sleep in the car when I needed it. I fueled up and headed north just before 4:00.

The highway was now in terrible condition, but my car handles this sort of crap really well as long as you’re careful. About an hour out of Dease Lake, though, things went sour in a big way – the all-wheel-drive and ABS systems died! This has happend twice before – large magnets on each rear axle control these systems, and can break.

Dead awd system in my Cadillac CTS

Testing how bad things were now, I totally lost control of the car on the ice, but managed to get it back. I drove another few miles, and when a large pullout appeared, I parked, pulled out my Arctic sleeping bag, and caught 2½ hours sleep. The skies had now cleared, and the stars were incredible – Dark Skies of the finest kind 🙂

I started driving again at about 8:00 pm, slowly making my way north. There was nobody else on the highway. I saw a semi running at Jade City, and then saw his tracks chipped in the ice – he had chained up to get that far and then gave up.

Ice on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway

Conditions were so bad that I was surprised that the highway hadn’t been closed. I think that it was simply a case of nobody from the Department of Highways seeing it yet. I knew that most of the highways in the Yukon had been closed the day before because of freezing rain. Which of course didn’t bode well for the rest of the drive home.

Things improved slightly towards the north end of the Stewart-Cassiar, and I stopped and went to sleep for another 3½ hours.

The Alaska Highway wasn’t bad, but there were stretches that hadn’t been sanded so drivers could never get cocky. There were many signs of vehicles having recently gone off the road, though they had all been recovered. Until I reached Km 1182 (east of Teslin). When I stopped to check on this pickup just before 06:00, there was nobody around even though the truck was running. A single set of footprints led to the road where a vehicle had clearly been sitting for a few minutes. Very odd.

I got home just after 08:30. This will certainly remain in my memory banks as the worst ice I’ve ever seen, and one of my worst drives ever. Thinking about it once I was safely at home, I wish that I had taken more photos of the ice, and a video of me skating on the road in the lights of the car would have been pretty awesome. During the drive, though, I wasn’t spending much time thinking about the possible entertainment value of it 🙂

Despite the challenges of the road from Prince George on, though, it was a superb trip in every way. I had mostly glorious weather, and a wonderful visit with my kids and grandchildren. The map below shows the whole trip – about 5,400 km (3,355 mi). Click on it to open an interactive version in a new window.

Winter road trip map - Whitehorse to Calgary and back

Calgary to Jasper via Alberta Hwy 11, the David Thompson Highway

On Wednesday, December 13th, I began the 60-hour drive home. I had planned to start by heading west on Highway 1, but my son suggested that I take Alberta Hwy 11, the David Thompson Highway. He said that it was spectacular, particularly the section that runs along Abraham Lake. Was he ever right!

For this new and rather complicated route, I’ve added a map. Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Airdrie to Jasper via Hwy 11 - map

I left my son’s home at about 05:30, long before anyone was up. Heading north on the freeway, Highway 2, I was surprised by the amount of traffic. I wonder what gets that many people on the road 3 hours before sunrise.

As I drove through the small town of Sundre on Highway 27 in the dark, the old Sundre Hotel looked interesting and the restaurant’s “Open” sign was lit, so I made a U-turn for breakfast. Small-town hotel restaurants are as predictable as any franchise chain, and much more interesting. The food was good and cheap, the service very good. And in the centre of the restaurant was one of the largest curved counters I’ve ever seen – probably 60 feet of it forming an almost-complete circle. Although only 4 of the 25 or so seats at it were occupied that time of the morning, the waitress said that it’s usually full.

By 07:50 I could see the country I was passing through on Highway 11 west of Rocky Mountain House. Pleasant and very quiet.

Highway 11 west of Rocky Mountain House
Just east of Nordegg at 08:00, Highway 11 passes through a short spine of mountains.

Highway 11 east of Nordegg
This is oil and gas country in a small way, and I saw a few gas flares along the highway and across distant slopes.

Natural gas flare along Highway 11 east of Nordegg
I had done no research on the highway, but the sign for Nordegg intrigued me enough to take the short detour into town. A historic mining town? Heck yes 🙂

Welcome to Nordegg, Alberta
The church is now just called the Nordegg Community Church. Some sources call it a historic building while others hint that it is a reproduction built after the original Protestant church burned down in 1975. Services were re-started in 2003 by CSSM Ministries, now called One Hope Canada.

Nordegg Community Church
Behind the church is long-abandoned Shanks Garage, which I would guess dates to the 1940s.

Historic Shanks Garage in Nordegg, Alberta
I stopped for a brief look at the Nordegg Cemetery. The 250 graves at the cemetery have been thoroughly documented at Find A Grave. There is another neat little cemetery behind the museum, for 29 miners who were killed on October 31, 1941, in an underground explosion at Brazeau Collieries Mine #3.

Nordegg Cemetery, Alberta
This headstone, written in Czech, is for 5-year-old Petro Makara, who died in 1920.

Nordegg Cemetery, Alberta
These 3 tiny crosses near the entrance to the cemetery mark the graves of members of the Fabbi family – Malvina, Serana, and Giuseppe. Strangely, no death dates are recorded for them. Due to poor light and very limited time, I didn’t go much further into the cemetery.

Nordegg Cemetery, Alberta
I had expected to be able to find the historic Brazeau Collieries mine site, but I discovered while researching for this post that due to vandalism, it can only be accessed on tours run by the Nordegg Heritage Centre, which of course wasn’t open. The Heritage Centre building was built in 1945 as the Nordegg School after the original schoolhouse burned down.

Nordegg Heritage Centre
At TripAdvisor, the short page about Highway 11 from Nordegg west begins: “The most underated route into the Canadian Rockies and the grandeur of the famous Icefields Parkway is Alberta’s Highway 11, the David Thompson Highway. A glorious paved route, with barely another car in sight, will take you from the growing resort town of Nordegg to Saskatchewan River Crossing in Banff National Park through some of Alberta’s finest scenery.” I began the 100 km drive from Nordegg to the Icefields Parkway at 08:45.

Alberta Highway 11 looking west from Nordegg
Some solitary peaks along the highway just pop out of nowhere.

Mountain along Alberta Highway 11
By 09:00 I was driving along Abraham Lake. Created by a dam on the North Saskatchewan River, it’s about 32 kilometers long (20 miles), and in good light is a gorgeous turquoise blue. It has become known as “The Bubble Lake” in recent years due to the many photos that have been published showing frozen methane gas bubbles in the lake’s ice. The sharp peak is Mount Michener, named in honour of Daniel Roland Michener, who served as Governor General of Canada from 1967 until 1974. He was born at Lacombe, North-West Territories (it became the Province of Alberta in 1905), on April 19, 1900. Mount Michener is 2,499 meters high (8,198 feet).

Abraham Lake, Alberta
The drive along Abraham Lake was very slow – I was stopping often to take photos.

The drive along Abraham Lake, Alberta Highway 11
There is some fascinating geology along the highway.

Folded rocks along Alberta Highway 11
Looking back to the east along Abraham Lake.

Abraham Lake, Alberta Highway 11
I think this is part of the Abraham Mountain massif, 2,940 meters high (9,645 feet). The incredible weather included temperatures of -2 to -4°C (25-28°F) along most of the mountainous part of Highway 11.

Abraham Mountain, 2,940 meters high (9,645 feet)

Abraham Mountain, 2,940 meters high (9,645 feet)
That’s an impressive slab of slate!

The next photo was shot near Cline River, which is still along Abraham Lake.

Near Cline River on Alberta Highway 11
I doubled back to get the next two photos. To the right (which is east at this point) of the highway in the lower photo, Rockies Heli Canada operates at the Cline River Heliport.

Near Cline River on Alberta Highway 11

Rockies Heli Canada at Cline River on Alberta Highway 11
A final shot of Abraham Lake, taken near its head at 09:30.

Abraham Lake, Alberta
I found the variety of mountains to be quite remarkable, from limestone to slate and granite.

Mountains along Alberta Highway 11
This Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep ram (Ovis canadensis) was quite unconcerned about my presence even as I crawled by him as far off on the shoulder of the road as I could get.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep ram (Ovis canadensis) on Alberta Highway 11
I almost missed this significant monument when I pulled off at the Siffleur Falls trailhead rest area. It got overpowered by the mountain that it points out. Ex Coelis Mountain has 4 main peaks – Normandy, Ardennes, Rhine, and Elbe – named for some of the battles that the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion fought in during World War II. “Ex Coelis” is Latin for “from the heavens”, very appropriate for a mountain honouring a parachute battalion. A separate monument was erected here to honour Corporal Frederick George Topham, a 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion member who was awarded a Victoria Cross as a result of his actions during a battle near the Rhine River in March 1945.

Ex Coelis Mountain has 4 main peaks - Normandy, Ardennes, Rhine, and Elbe - named for some of the battles that the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion fought in during World War II.
Here’s a better look at Ex Coelis Mountain from west of the rest area.

Ex Coelis Mountain, Alberta
By 10:00, the mountains were starting to look familiar in type – the quite distinctive forms of the main body of the Canadian Rockies.

The Canadian Rockies on Alberta Highway 11
The next photo is one of my favourites from Highway 11 – the North Saskatchewan River is to the left, and the glacier ahead is on Mount Wilson, 3,260 meters high (10,695 feet).

North Saskatchewan River and Mount Wilson
At 10:20, I crossed into Banff National Park – the Icefields Parkway was just a few kilometers ahead. I was already determined to get back to the David Thompson Highway for a much better multi-day look in June.

Crossing into Banff National Park on Alberta Highway 11
Turning north on Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway, I made a short stop at Saskatchewan River Crossing to get a few photos of The Crossing Resort, which only operates in the summer.

The Crossing Resort at Saskatchewan River Crossing
I’ve posted quite a few photos that I shot on the Icefields Parkway during my drive south a few days earlier, so I made few stops this day. Sunroofs were made for roads and days like this, though! 🙂

Peaks along the Icefields Parkway, seen through my sunroof
On a day like this, some peaks are tough to not stop for, regardless of how many times I’ve seen them.

Peaks along the Icefields Parkway
Rocky Mountain sheep stop pretty much everyone. The ram was pretty sure that Spring has arrived 🙂

Rocky Mountain sheep on the Icefields Parkway
There were only a couple of small areas along the Icefields Parkway where it really looked like winter.

Peaks along the Icefields Parkway
I hadn’t stopped at Tangle Falls on the way south, but took a few shots this day.

Tangle Falls on the Icefields Parkway
I reached Jasper just after noon. It was just a fuel stop and I continued on, but I’ve cut the post here because it quickly became a very different drive from here on due to weather.

Jasper, Alberta

Family time – Mennonite lunch and granddaughter’s basketball

We only had one special event for my 3rd and 4th days with my kids and their families in the Calgary area – attending one of my granddaughters’ basketball games with most of the family. But we kept busy with a little of this and a little of that. I had timed my visit to happen during one of Steve’s off-shift periods, so we had total flexibility.

The Elf on the Shelf was my evening and morning amusement – trying to figure out what to do with him in the evening, and watching Brock find him in the morning.

Elf on the Shelf
Steve had found a great little Mennonite restaurant in Linden – a 140-km round trip from his home. That sounded like a fine outing for the boys. Big sky country, with not much traffic on the secondary roads that took us to Linden. The next photo was shot heading east on Hwy 567.

Alberta Hwy 567
Steve took some detours into small communities along the way. There are many sad reminders of how towns like Irricana used to look. I’m lucky enough to remember when this country was full of vibrant, independent communities with grain elevators towering over them. My Mom’s family was from the area about 120 km further east of Irricana, and we visited a few times. The towns have pretty much all gotten quite flat and generic now.

The historic Irricana Hotel in Alberta
This was our destination – Country Cousins Bistro & Bakery, tucked away on a side street in the small community of Linden. We got there just before noon, and there were only about 10 people in the restaurant. Within a few minutes after lunch, it was about 80% full.

Country Cousins Bistro & Bakery in Linden, Alberta
The large menu has plenty of variety, but I wanted something unique, and the Mennonite Plate caught my eye. It has homemade potato cheese pierogis, bacon & onion cream gravy, cabbage roll with fresh dill & sour cream garnish, locally-made Chetin sausage, and fried red cabbage, for $15.40. It was a good choice – the pierogis in particular were the best I’ve ever had. That should have been sufficient, but Steve said that they make amazing peanut butter pie. The slab that was served could have fed all 3 of us, but I made it disappear! Yes, it was amazing 🙂

The Mennonite Plate at Country Cousins Bistro & Bakery in Linden, Alberta

That was a fine way to spend 3 hours, and an afternoon nap was in order for me when we got back. That evening, Steve and I sampled some single-malt scotches and started planning a motorcycle camping trip to Yellowknife for next August.

What is it about the Prairies that creates such amazing sunrises? My guess is dust in the air. Whatever it is, this was shot from Steve’s front door the next morning.

I’ve been toying with updating my car for a while. I want exactly what I have, but newer – my car is now 8 years old. I had found what might be the right car at a Calgary dealer, so I went over for a look and Steve met me there on his new Triumph motorcycle. We took the 2017 Cadillac CTS out for a test drive, but it wasn’t the right car – it’s a base model, while mine has every option available in 2010. I moved my car over beside it to try to figure out why the 2017 wasn’t working for me. The new one is simply boring.

2010 and 2017 Cadillac CTSs
My last stop on my final day in Airdrie was Home Depot, where I’d shopped out some house renovation materials that aren’t available in Whitehorse. That cartload of stuff, mostly oak steps to replace the carpeted stairs to the basement, actually fit nicely, and the total weight was probably only a couple of hundred pounds. Now I had a particularly good reason for driving down instead of flying 🙂

Loading up my Cadillac at Home Depot in Airdrie
Our last family event was attending a basketball game that my granddaughter Kylie was playing in. It was an excellent game, with the score back and forth right up to the final seconds (Kylie’s team won).

Girls high school basketball

Girls high school basketball

The next morning – Wednesday, December 13th – I’d be on the road before anyone else was out of bed. It had been as perfect a visit as I could have hoped for.

Touring a new micro-brewery, and Calgary Zoolights

We didn’t have any plans for my 4 days with my kids – we’d just see what came up. The Johnston Canyon hike the first day was a wonderful way to start it off. On the second day, Steve and I went to a new micro-brewery in Airdrie, then the whole family went to the Calgary Zoo for an amazing Christmas light show that they call Zoolights.

I’d never paid much attention to the Elf on a Shelf, though I understood the concept. When I saw that Steve and Rachel had one for Brock, I set him up for Brock to find the next morning 🙂

Elf on a Shelf
This quickly became a very special visit. My grandson is no longer a baby, and I took advantage of being able to really play with him, building slides and caves and playing with trains and just goofing around. The view from his bedroom struck me as being a good example of what’s happening around Calgary, with homes rapidly pushing into ranchlands. Brock says that he sees cows out there sometimes.

The advance of homes into ranchland at Airdie, Alberta

Fitzsimmons Brewing

The 1:00 pm tour of the new Fitzsimmons Brewing Company was organized by one of Steve’s neighbours as a way to meet other people in the new subdivision, and 8 people showed up. What a great idea. The taproom had just opened, and tours started, a couple of weeks before.

Touring Fitzsimmons Brewing in Airdie, Alberta
Watching the process of manually putting labels on the cans was rather painful to watch, and the staff hates doing it. Painted cans will be coming as soon as possible.

Touring Fitzsimmons Brewing in Airdie, Alberta
The tour was both fun and interesting, but with a brewery tour, the taproom is where the thumbs go up or down in important ways. They got thumbs up from both Steve and I – they’re making really nice beers. Big Hill Blonde and East Lake Amber are their standards, and they had a couple of seasonal beers as well, Rye Off the Hop IPA, and Frosty the Brewman.

Touring Fitzsimmons Brewing in Airdie, Alberta

Calgary Zoolights

Our evening activity for the whole family was a visit to Calgary Zoolights. This is the 20th year that the Calgary Zoo has been lit up for Christmas. Every night from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m for 7 weeks – November 24th until January 6th – visitors can wander around among 1.5 million coloured lights.

The first photo shows the impressive entrance tunnel to the zoo.

Calgary Zoolights 2017
The fairly small number of people surprised me – far less than on a normal summer day at the zoo (when I’ve been there, at least). I suppose when you spread the event out over 7 weeks that makes sense, though.

Calgary Zoolights 2017
The further you walk into the zoo, the more impressive the lights get. Some of the large trees that have been decorated are quite incredible.

Calgary Zoolights 2017

Calgary Zoolights 2017
There is wonderful variety in the lights, including lots of animals. The baboon in the next photo even has a red bum 🙂

Calgary Zoolights 2017
This is a particularly kid-friendly event, and there are lots of fun and educational activities. Everything except food and drinks is free – even borrowing skates for the ice skating (I didn’t check to see how that was working out at +6°C).

Calgary Zoolights 2017
There were several bonfires around the zoo, and they were popular places to take a break and chat.

Calgary Zoolights 2017
Brock thought that this frog was pretty neat 🙂

Calgary Zoolights 2017
It was a bit of a challenge to keep the 7 of us together with all of these distractions – it probably would have been better to just meet back at the entrance in 90 minutes.

Calgary Zoolights 2017
This tunnel was a psychedelic wonder, rapidly changing colours and shapes, and attracted lots of attention.

Calgary Zoolights 2017
More amazing trees. I’ve looked for some information about how many people it took to install Zoolights, how many hours, costs, that sort of thing, but haven’t found anything.

Calgary Zoolights 2017
Howling huskies (or wolves, if you prefer), with what was originally called the Husky Tower in downtown Calgary in the background.

Calgary Zoolights 2017
One final shot as we started back to the cars. Zoolights is quite overwhelming, and like the Calgary Zoo itself, would be worth multiple trips to enjoy it to its fullest.

Calgary Zoolights 2017

Experiencing the CP Holiday Train in Calgary

Being a railfan (“train nut”), timing is everything, and luck counts. I could hardly believe my luck that the Canadian Pacific Railway’s famous CP Holiday Train was going to be in Calgary for 45 minutes while I was there! After our excellent day hiking Johnston Canyon, Andrea was still game to take me down to the south end of Calgary see it.

The CP Holiday Train began its cross-Canada tour in Adirondack Junction (Kahnawake), Quebec, on November 25th, and would finish in Port Coquitlam, BC, on December 17th. Most of the 171 stops are 30 minutes long, but a few large centres get a bit of extra time.

The CP Holiday Train began these tours in 1999. It operates in a charitable way to raise money, food donations and awareness for food banks across Canada.

The train was scheduled to arrive at Anderson C-Train Station at 6:45, and we got to the area almost an hour early. Good thing – traffic was heavy and we had to park almost a kilometer away. But we got a great spot to watch the arrival.

The Canadian Pacific Christmas Holiday Train in Calgary
The +9°C temperature (48°) brought out tens of thousands of people. I haven’t found an official figure, but my guess is about 30,000 – about the same number of people as the population of the Yukon! Pretty shocking for a country boy 🙂 I had initially said that I didn’t want to go because of the crowds, but I may never get another chance to see it.

The Canadian Pacific Christmas Holiday Train in Calgary
Last year in Calgary, the weather was very cold, and only 4,000 people showed up for the Holiday Train. This year sure made up for that!

The Canadian Pacific Christmas Holiday Train in Calgary
Even this year, many people only stayed for a few minutes, and Andrea and I kept moving closer and closer to the stage car as space opened up.

The CP Rail Holiday Train in Calgary
A big part of the Holiday Train event is the free concert – in Calgary, Colin James, and Alan Doyle and The Beautiful Band, were the main performers. I had to Google Alan Doyle – he was the lead singer of Great Big Sea, which broke up about 4 years ago. They were all clearly pumped by the turnout, and the concert was a lot of fun.

The CP Rail Holiday Train in Calgary

What a superb way to end this day. Sometimes (well, often actually), it amazes me how lucky I am 🙂

Hiking Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park

For the first day with my family near Calgary (Saturday, December 9th), I suggested that we drive to Banff and hike Johnston Canyon. It’s a spectacular canyon located 22 km west of Banff on the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A). I was thrilled that everyone wanted to go – this was the one day that both of my granddaughters weren’t working. The weather forecast was for +12°C in Airdrie, but it would be a bit below freezing in the mountains.

We had to take two cars for the 7 of us. In the first photo, we’re heading south on Stoney Trail (Hwy 201) in Calgary NW, a few minutes before 11:00. A slight telephoto (100mm) brings the Rocky Mountains a bit closer visually.

Stoney Trail (Hwy 201) in Calgary NW
Driving west on the Trans-Canada, Highway 1, six minutes later. It’s 170 km from my son’s house to Johnston Canyon, most of it on freeways. What an incredible day to see in December!

Driving west on the Trans-Canada, Highway 1, west of Calgary
Near Morley at 11:17. There were a few RVs on the highway, a pretty unusual sight this time of year. I had actually tried to rent a motorcycle for my time here, but the only company that responded to my request said that they don’t rent them in the winter. Okay, the calendar does say that it’s Winter even if the thermometer doesn’t agree!

Driving west on the Trans-Canada, Highway 1, west of Calgary
Ahhhhh, back into the mountains!

On Highway 1 in the Canadian Rockies near Banff><br />
Approaching the community of Canmore at 11:42. Canmore must be the most-changed community in the Canadian Rockies over the past 30 years. Although it reeks of money now, I still rather like the vibe.<br />
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At the west side of Canmore, you pass through the Banff National Park gates – the next photo was shot 3 minutes after that.

On Highway 1 westbound in Banff National Park
When we reached Johnston Canyon at 12:15, I was very surprised to see the main parking lot almost full (there are hundreds of parking spots in 2 lots). The Johnston Canyon page at the Town of Banff Web site, though, says: “The trail to the waterfalls of Johnston Canyon has to be the busiest in the Canadian Rockies. Nearly every day throughout the summer, hundreds of hikers follow its canyon-clinging catwalks and cliff-mounting staircases to the gorge’s Lower and Upper Falls. While the canyon and its unique trail are certainly worthy of a visit, you’ll have to do the hike in the evening or very early in the morning to avoid the hordes.” Or you can go in the winter, I thought. But seeing what it looks like on a sunny weekend in the winter, perhaps a cloudy weekday in the winter would work 🙂

The parking lot at Johnston Canyon in December
Most of my family in one place – all of my blood-family, actually. My daughter-in-law, Rachel, took the photo.

Murray Lundberg and his family hiking at Johnston Canyon in December
A network of steel catwalks bolted to the canyon walls makes the hike easy. We had just planned for a fairly short hike in any case – it was just a chance to get the family out for a while. It’s 1.1 km one way to the Lower Falls, and that would probably be where we turned around.

Hiking at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December
The trail was extremely slippery in places – Andrea shows how to use the railing to get down safely 🙂 Having a pair of crampons (ice grippers that clamp on to your boots) is recommended for winter hiking. We saw a few people with them, and they were having an easier time of it.

Hiking at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December
At Maligne Canyon at Jasper, you can hike along the bottom of the canyon in the winter. I expect that the same holds true here in normal winter temperatures, but it certainly wasn’t an option on this day.

Hiking at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December
The catwalks go to the bottom of the canyon for a little way, giving you a different feel for the place.

Hiking at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December
Being in the bottom of the canyon gave Kylie some new photo ideas.

Hiking at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December
In some places the catwalk is very narrow. I can’t imagine that summer crowds make this a very good experience.

Hiking at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December
Feeling of the power of the canyon is wonderful, and the overhanging cliff at this spot is very cool!

Hiking at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December
The icy up-slope along this section was problematic when there was oncoming “traffic,” with both directions generally wanting the non-slippery snow part 🙂

Hiking at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December
The trail splits here, with the Lower Falls to the right and the Upper Falls and Ink Pots to the left. There was a lot of ice on either route, and there was quite a jam-up of people here as many tried to decide whether or not to continue. Kaitlyn and Rachel braved the ice going down to the Lower Falls and came back with reports that it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

Hiking at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December
Access to the Lower Falls is particularly impressive, with a bridge across the creek and then a small tunnel to go through to a very small viewing spot.

Hiking at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December
The Lower Falls from the viewing spot beyond the tunnel. There’s only room for a half-dozen people there.

The Lower Falls at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December
A couple of closeups of the Lower Falls. I love waterfalls at any time of the year, but winter is particularly special.

The Lower Falls at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December

The Lower Falls at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, in December
With everyone thoroughly pleased with the Johnston Canyon hike (well, Brock slept through most of it on Steve’s back 🙂 ), we decided to stop for a snack, and Andrea suggested poutine at La Belle Patate (“The Beautiful Potato”) in Canmore. It’s just a teeny place, out of the way in an industrial area, and I was a bit shocked at the prices. But, our little group had a wide variety of poutines, and everyone agreed that it was exceptionally good. The upper one is a large “Saucisses” (hot dogs), for $15.24, and the lower one is my small “Steak Hache” (hamburger and onions), for $11.43.

La Belle Patate in Canmore
We took Highway 1A for part of the way home from Canmore rather than the freeway, and were quickly rewarded by this sighting of a Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep ram (Ovis canadensis). There was no place to pull over, so I just fired several shots through Steve’s open window as we went by.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep ram (Ovis canadensis)

That was an awesome day with the family. We weren’t finished for the day yet, but I’ll make a separate short post for the night activity.

A winter drive down the Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies

Day 3 of the trip (December 8th) got me to Airdrie, where both my kids and their families live. It was a fairly easy day with 635 km to cover, but having perfect weather on the Icefields Parkway made it a fairly slow drive with lots of photo stops. I tried to keep the number of photos in this post down to a reasonable number, but the day was so incredible, there are 47.

My stay at the Grande Cache Inn and Suites included a hot buffet breakfast, and it was quite good. I was the only tourist – the other 10 or so people were all workmen of some sort. Breakfast started at 06:00, and by 06:35 I was back on the road, headed south on Highway 40.

Grande Cache Inn and Suites

There is a great deal of road construction being done immediately south of Grande Cache. It was dark, but it appeared that pretty much the entire highway for 20 km or so will be 3 or 4 lanes. It will be a messy summer of construction, I expect, but it will sure be nice to have lots of passing lanes when it’s finished.

I decided to make a short detour up Highway 16 into Hinton to get gas, and then figured that I might as well run Ruby through the automatic car wash. For $14.99, the deluxe wash wasn’t a very good wash, but it was a fairly safe bet that it would be dirty again before I reached Airdrie.

At 08:40, I reached the Jasper park gates on Highway 16. Luckily, I had remembered to take my Parks Canada annual pass out of the RV, and a glance at that was all the ranger needed to wave me through.

Jasper park gates on Highway 16
Sunrise was officially at 08:56, but it takes a very long time for the sun to peek over the high rocks near Jasper. This was shot near the head of Jasper Lake, a widening of the Athabaska River. Very strong winds were raising a lot of dust off the sand flats.

Sand flats along Jasper Lake, a widening of the Athabaska River
I pulled off to the Jasper airport to wait for some better light to arrive, but didn’t stay long. I decided that I’d only have great light for a short period, and where exactly that happened didn’t really matter.

Mountains near Jasper
The view from the short road from the airport back to the highway.

Mountains near Jasper
I stopped along the highway a couple of times to photograph some of the more impressive mountains.

Mountains near Jasper
Four bull elk grazing in a meadow along the highway also stopped me a for a couple of minutes.

Bull elk near Jasper, Alberta><br />
I detoured through the Jasper townsite, and right at 10:00 was on the Icefields Parkway, Highway 93. The light was stunning, if blinding in places.<br />
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The Road Conditions sign at the Parks Canada gates, which were unmanned, reported “Poor” conditions. I’ve driven the Icefields Parkway in the winter when conditions really were poor, and thought that was extremely unlikely today.

Icefields Parkway, Alberta Highway 93, in the winter
After driving across the North Saskatchewan River bridge, I parked on the wide shoulder and walked back for a few photos.

North Saskatchewan River, Icefields Parkway

North Saskatchewan River, Icefields Parkway

North Saskatchewan River, Icefields Parkway
I tried a few Sirius stations to get the right mood for this day. Rock didn’t work, Blues lasted for a while, Jazz lasted even longer, but Silence is what I ended up with 🙂

I’ve never posted a phone selfie before – now I have 🙂 This was shot with Mt. Hardisty in the background.

Murray at Mt. Hardisty
Mt. Hardisty is the first of the mountains that really dominates the view.

Mt. Hardisty, Icefields Parkway
As many times as I’ve seen Athabaska Falls, I couldn’t resist taking the short side road to see them again.

The road to Athabaska Falls, Alberta
Athabaska Falls may be best seen in the winter, with only 4 other people instead of hundreds, and the infinite wonderful shapes created in ice.

Athabaska Falls, Alberta, in the winter

Athabaska Falls, Alberta, in the winter

Athabaska Falls, Alberta, in the winter

Athabaska Falls, Alberta, in the winter
The variety of mountains along the Icefields Parkway is quite remarkable.

Mountains along the Icefields Parkway
The way some of the mountains were created is clear – a break in the earth’s crust followed by an upthrust. We talk about the incredible forces of earthquakes and hurricanes, but what sort of force does this? Amazing.

Mountains along the Icefields Parkway
I drove past Sunwapta Falls, and a few kilometers later did a U-turn and went back to the access road.

Even in the summer, Sunwapta Falls gets a tiny fraction of the number of visitors that Athabaska Falls does. I had the place all to myself. This is the upper falls – I didn’t hike down to the lower one.

Sunwapta Falls, Icefields Parkway
It’s about 60 feet from the footbridge to the bottom of the canyon.

Sunwapta Falls, Icefields Parkway
This pond stopped me for a few minutes to get some shots of hoar frost and reflections.

Hoar frost and pond reflections along the Icefields Parkway
Thick hoar frost on flower seed-heads along the highway.

Hoar frost along the Icefields Parkway
The Glacier Skywalk (a glass-floored walkway) is a popular attraction in the summer, but it’s wide open now and there are plenty of footprints on it. There are “No Trespassing” signs but that’s clearly just a legal thing – in the summer, fences make it all but impossible to trespass. I didn’t go on it – it doesn’t look all that impressive to me with snow covering the glass.

The Glacier Skywalk in the winter
As I got close to the Columbia Icefield, the sun was at a good angle to show you the road surface. Yes, it is glare ice. It varies from about 60% of the road covered to 100%, but most of it is near the high end. I have all-wheel-drive and tires with a very high rating for gripping ice (Toyo Observe GSi-5), and to answer a question that I get fairly often, I drive at between 80 and 110 km/h (50-68 mph) depending on the condition of the specific section of road.

Ice on the Icefields Parkway
A road up the side of the glacier that’s locked in the summer was open, so I drove up it, but it wasn’t passable for very long.

Looking north on the Icefields Parkway from the glacier viewpoint road. There isn’t really a glacier viewpoint in the winter, though – it’s all just snow.

Looking north on the Icefields Parkway from the glacier viewpoint road
The shadows were so deep and dark that many of these photos are difficult even in HDR. The very popular viewpoint at the Big Hill and Big Bend gives visitors this perspective with the highway far below, but it wasn’t plowed, so I had to go a couple of miles past it, make a U-turn and come back to park on the safe(r) side of the highway.

Big Hill and Big Bend on the Icefields Parkway in the winter
Cirrus Mountain.

The Weeping Wall at Cirrus Mountain resembles a series of rivers of tears flowing down a wall some 100 meters high (330 feet). The main waterfall is called Teardrop.

The Weeping Wall at Cirrus Mountain in the winter
On the Icefields Parkway, “spectacular” just goes on and on and on… 🙂

Icefields Parkway, Alberta, in the winter
There seems to have little blasting done to build the highway – it just fit nicely into natural cuts.

Icefields Parkway, Alberta, in the winter
Some of the mountains are worth a close look – there are some incredible structures way up there.

Mountains along the Icefields Parkway

Mountains along the Icefields Parkway
At Saskatchewan River Crossing, Alberta Highway 11 meets the Icefields Parkway. Highway 11 leads to Nordegg and Rocky Mountain House.

Saskatchewan River Crossing, Icefields Parkway
The North Saskatchewan River.

The North Saskatchewan River, Icefields Parkway.
At Bow Summit, the snow all of a sudden got much deeper. I drove up the Peyto Lake parking lot, but when ice hides the lake’s incredible colour, the hike isn’t really worth it (unless you just want a walk in incredible surroundings).

Bow Summit, Icefields Parkway
As I got towards the south end of the Icefields Parkway, there were more vehicles parked along the highway, and I saw a few people with snowshoes.

At about 4:00 pm, I turned off the Icefields Parkway onto Highway 1 near Lake Louise. I don’t like freeways. This photo was shot near Banff. I thought about turning off onto Highway 1A (the Bow Valley Parkway) when that became an option, but getting to Airdrie at a reasonable time was now more important, and that’s why freeways exist.

Highway 1 near Banff
Out of the Rockies, east of Canmore.

Highway 1 east of Canmore
I lost daylight just after Big Hill Springs, so the timing was pretty much perfect. Now, I had 4 days in Airdrie with my kids and grandchildren.

Big Hill Springs,