Canada


When the toll on the Golden Gate Bridge was raised to $5 a few years ago, I thought that was expensive. But given that it is a national landmark and it is world famous, I thought perhaps if any bridge deserved the high cost, it would be the one. When we were in New Jersey and were traveling to the Long Island, we had to cross a bridge that cost $9.50. I thought to myself, I wouldn’t want to cross this bridge often. Unfortunately for people who need to go to JFK airport, they need to cross that bridge from the mainland. So I felt a little better about our toll. A few weeks later, we took a ferry from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island and were told that it was free and fee (around 50 Canadian dollars) would be collected when leaving the island. We thought we got a good deal as we would be driving off the island via the Confederation Bridge instead and how expense could a bridge toll be. We were wrong! (see below) Now I have a deep appreciation for our cheap toll! Just curious, anyone knows any more expensive bridge toll?
Confederation Bridge

We saw some pictures of Bruce Peninsula National Park in Ontario before the trip and was impressed by its scenery but wasn’t sure if we would want to drive an additional 500 miles to see it. However, after arriving at Ontario, the choice was obvious as we found out that we could take a boat across the Lake Huron at Tobermory, therefore, without the extra driving. We were excited with the opportunity.

Susan and Kadia at Bruce Peninsula NPWe arrived at Bruce Peninsula National Park early Friday morning to get a campsite and, Ralph & Kadia at Bruce Peninsula NPto our surprise, it was full. We went into Tobermory and found a private campground instead. After set up the tent, we went back to the Park to do some hiking. We hiked out to the lakeshore on the Horse Lake trail and was greeted with a great view, crystal clear blue water and rocky shoreline. We hiked on the Bruce Trail (The longest footpath in Ontario) along the shoreline. It was beautiful and quiet.

A Jumper at Bruce Peninsula NPBruce Peninsula NP near Grotto There weren’t many people until we got to an area known as Grotto. There were lots of people down by the beach, either lying for a suntan or playing in the water. Susan & Bryden at GrottoWe had a great view from above. There were also many people diving off rocks into the beautiful Georgian Bay below. It must be refreshing to be swimming in a lake that felt like an ocean in size but without the smell of the sea.

The hike along the coast was rocky with the trail paved completely in rocks. The park was clean and the water was clear and warm for swimming. No wonder there were no camping sites left. This place looked like a great place for kayaking as well, a quiet lake with many beautiful rock formations. Next time when we come back, we will be doing some kayaking. We completed our loop hike along the Marr Lake trail back to our hiking starting point. It was a beautiful hike.

When we arrived at Markham to visit our friends, Harry and Jennifer, in Markham, Ontario, we asked them where we could go to do some Chinese food/snacks shopping. We were surprised to find out that Markham has the North America’s Largest indoor Asian Mall, Pacific Mall. We knew that the nearby Toronto has a large number of Chinese population but didn’t expect to find the largest Asian mall here. We found out from there where it was and decided to visit and to replenish our Chinese food supply.

One thing we missed on the trip was the availability of Chinese food. Although we like to eat many different types of food, Chinese food and snacks are still among our favorites. Therefore, whenever we had a chance such as in New York Chinatown, we would restock some of our favorite Chinese snacks, things that did not require refrigeration and wouldn’t go bad easily. Luckily tofu, my favorite food, has become popular enough to appear in almost all the supermarkets. I couldn’t imagine making through this long trip without having tofu at all.

Tofu Shop in Pacific MallThe mall reminded me of some malls in Asia but of course, although the largest in North America, it was still relatively small. Egg food shopWe enjoyed the food court there and munched on some of small shop dishes there. They even had my favorite Tofu flower however it only came in sweet flavor not salty. The owner said when he first started out with salty flavor but business was bad until he found out Cantonese liked sweet kind so he only had sweet flavoring now. It was a welcome change from our own cooking. We also visited a Chinese snack shop there to pick up a few of our favorite snacks: dry plum, mango, tofu jerky, beef jerky, haw flakes and balls for example. However, there was a big shocking surprise.

Most of us know that Asia is known for its lack of control on copyrighted materials. Over there, one can buy a pirated DVD for less than 1 US dollar. Some software costing hundreds of dollars in US can be obtained for less than 10 dollars there. The quality varies: you get what you pay for it; it wouldn’t work at all sometimes. It is illegal but governments there usually don’t do much about it. However, here in the Pacific Mall, there were a couple of stores selling pirated DVDs in the open. I thought Canada has the same kind of tough laws on piracy but they somehow must tolerate this to allow it to operate as such. I asked Harry about it and it seemed that there were occasional crackdowns but never seriously enough to shut down the business.

We were happy with our newly acquired Chinese food and felt like the trip was just beginning again. I know for any future trips, we need to plan our route so we will visit a Chinese grocery store at least once a month to satisfy our craving for food that we grew up with.

Originally when we started to plan our trip, our route stopped at Maine. Then we read a magazine which rated Cape Breton as the 2nd best National Park in North America and also one of 10 must go destinations in Canada. However, it would add at least another 1500 miles or 4 extra days of driving to go out there and back. We weren’t sure we wanted to drive that far to see Cape Breton even though I had heard that Nova Scotia was rugged and beautiful. It would still be a long drive to just see one thing. We couldn’t decide until Susan saw some pictures of Hopewell Rocks on the internet: it seemed to be an interesting place to see and it was about a half way on the road to Cape Breton. That settled it.

We arrived at Hopewell Rocks in early July. Hopewell Rocks at High TideHopewell Rocks at Low TideWe were disappointed right away as it was a big attraction with a huge parking lots and amusement park like ticket booths to guard the entry. We were hoping that it was a hidden treasure and we would have to hike miles to see it but it was not to be. Hopewell Rocks is located in the Bay of Fundy where the highest tide has been recorded in the world. On the average, the Bay of Fundy has a 50 feet tidal range. The Hopewell Rocks are the famous flower pot rocks that are totally immersed in water during high tide but reachable on foot during low tide.

We paid our money to get in; the tickets were good for 2 days to allow visitors to see both a low tide and a high tide. Hopewell Rocks playgroundRight away there was an interpretive center with some history about the geology and natural history of the area along with the inevitable gift shop. There was also a children playground there where we had our lunch. It was a fun place for kids and we had to drag Kadia out of there to walk toward the flowerpots. The trail was well-maintained and paved with a few scenic overlook. Hopewell Rocks and its warning signIt was just a little past the low tide so the coast look barren with many people wandering down below.

Soon we arrived at stairways where we hiked down to the beach of Fundy Bay. Down on the Hopewell Rock floor The famous flower pot rocks were there for us to explore along with hundreds of others. We knew we had a couple of hours so we walked along the beach to explore other areas. The beach was flat with almost no discernible slope so the water was far away. The shoreline was a mixture of small rocks and large sands. Mud at Hopewell RocksThere were some areas that were muddy where few adventurous kinds would venture out to. We walked until we reached an impasse with huge boulders for us to carry the kids through before we slowly made back to our entry point where we sat and waited for the tide to come in.

Once the tide started to come in, it came fast. Because the beach was relatively flat, each feet of rising water would cover perhaps 20 to 40 feet of land. Tide Rising at Hopewell RocksKayaks at Hopewell RocksWe sat and watched the water swallowed up the flower pot rocks and soon many kayakers appeared to go among them. That was definitely a fun way to see the rocks. Next time we will definitely try that. Soon we were ushered out of the area to go up out of the harm way. We watched as the tide soon reclaimed the beach and the ocean triumphed again.
Kadia riding

Millions of species have become extinct but only a handful of them appear in our daily lives as if they were still alive. And of them, no species captures more imagination more than the dinosaur. It must be the size. My cousin, Christine, told me about the Royal Tyrell Museum in Alberta being one of the best dinosaur museums in the world so we made our way up to Drumheller after the Waterton Lakes National Park.

Canadian BadlandsAs we drove close to Drumheller, we began to see land formations similar to what we saw in Badlands National Park. It was the Canadian Badlands similar to the Badlands National Park we visited a few weeks ago on the trip. I didn’t know that badlands stretched that far north but it made sense. This was the area that a lot of dinosaur remains have been uncovered. And it made sense to have a world class dinosaur museum in Drumheller.
Susan and Kadia in front of Royal Tyrrell Museum
Dinosaur in DrumhellerWhen we got into the town, we were greeted with the world biggest dinosaur (see picture on the right). Kadia inside the Royal Tyrrell MuseumWe camped at the Rivergrove campground across from the big dinosaur. The next morning, we visited the Royal Tyrell Museum. It was situated at the edge of a vast area of badlands, a source of unlimited dinosaur bones. The museum was huge and filled with many varieties of dinosaur bones. We also learned they had dinosaur bone digging expeditions, something would thrill children and adults alike. I found the expeditions to be enticing and would definitely like to go back there when Kadia and Bryden are older. Kadia was thrilled to see many dinosaurs, running back and forth going from one to another.

We took a hike at the badlands right next to the museum. Mushroom CapsI found badlands interesting with its many different hues of colors. Badlands were named so because they presented difficult obstacles for pioneers to travel through in the old days, but they seemed to be innocent and inviting to visitors like me. This barren ground preserved the richest collections of dinosaur bones in the world. As we walked around the trail in the badlands, knowing that there may be dinosaur bones beneath our feet made the hike unique. We were walking on the same ground where dinosaurs roamed millions of years ago. If there ever is a time machine, I would like to travel back there to see for myself.

The one animal we wanted to see on this trip more than any other animal was a moose. I couldn’t explain it; maybe it was because we didn’t have much luck catching it in the past. Or maybe it was the cartoon show, Rocky and Bullwinkle that I watched when I was a kid. The only time we had seen it was off a road in Great Teton National Park a few years back. There were 2 of them, a mother and a calf, sitting far away in a field. We can barely see their heads and they just sat there. We left after waited for them to move for 30 minutes.

Up until Quebec, we saw a lot of Moose signs but never a moose. A lot of areas we went through were supposedly heavily populated by moose such as Maine and New Brunswick but we just seemed to miss them. In Cape Breton National Park, a neighbor camper asked me was I the person pointed out a moose to him last night when we camped in a small campground with 15 sites next to the Gulf of St Lawrence. He said it was a big bull moose with a rack at least 8 feet wide. I was disappointed because I knew I was only no more than 20 yards away from where he saw the moose.

Jacques-Cartier Park in QuebecWhen we were at Jacques-Cartier Park in Quebec, we were treated to a spectacular view of a river and surrounding mountains with low hanging clouds (see right) partially cover them. We saw a few canonists and kayakers. If there was a heaven, this would have been it. Moose at Jacques-CartierWe drove along the river, savoring every angle of the view. Then all of a sudden, we saw a moose in the middle of the river, eating and drinking, in the plain daylight. It was the first time we saw a wild moose in such an unobtrusive view. She looked at us a couple of times but didn’t seem to care as we watched it slowly picking through things in the river and took some pictures of it. It was an exciting discovery for us.

A couple of months later, when we were hiking at Glacier National Park, we saw another mother moose with her calf in far distance. That was probably a good thing. Never get close to a calf or a cub. Supposedly, there are more people killed by moose every year than by bears. They seem to be tame therefore people let their guard down but they can have fits of temper, especially bull moose. They are big and fast; and their antlers can be deadly.

Kananaskis, AlbertaWe saw another female moose grazing off a roadside in Kananaskis, Alberta. Again when we stopped to look at her, she didn’t seem to mind, just kept up her business of eating. Moose at KananaskisWe were within 10 yards of this moose so we were careful. This area was another beautiful place. I think moose have great taste, always living in beautiful places. The moose moved back into the forest when a few other motorists pulled off to look at it but we had our near moose encounter.

We still haven’t seen a wild bull moose yet. Perhaps we will get lucky on our next trip driving trip up to Alaska.

There are two Glacier National Parks in North America, one in Montana of USA and the other in British Columbia of Canada. We had a wonderful time in Montana’s Glacier National Park, spent 4 days hiking and sightseeing, and already wanted to go back soon in the future. It was, with high expectation and anticipation that we arrived at the Canada’s Glacier National Park. We were disappointed. It wasn’t that it was not beautiful in its own right but we were expecting the same scenery as the US Glacier NP, glacier fed lakes dotted landscape. Perhaps there might be some but they weren’t easily accessible.

We arrived in the afternoon then went for a short hike and were rewarded with mushrooms (see previous post). We stayed a night at Illecillewaet Campground and were looking for a half-day hike the next morning, perhaps a moderate hike. The information we got at the campground indicated that Glacier Crest trail was about 2500 ft elevation gain and 6 miles round trip. That sounded like a manageable hike for a half day.

We like hiking. Hiking is invigorating both physically and mentally. In additional to beautiful scenery, we often find other interesting things on trails such mushrooms, flowers, wildlife, leaves, etc. Of course, there is the physical reward that we get from hiking. With the current technology, everyone can be an arm-chair traveler, watching everything from the comfort of a couch at home but, for us, being there in person is an experience that transcends anything that can be achieved from watching. It is very simple: just us against mountains. We don’t think about much else, no worry, no bills to pay and no interruptions. It reduces the stress of daily life.

The hike started out flat and there were many mushrooms along the trail. We took our time hiking along with Kadia looking for mushroom. I was getting worry about the trail being so flat at the beginning because it only meant the climb would be steeper later. After a mile, it started to climb. Kadia started to complain endlessly around 1.5 miles to get a free ride; I eventually relented because we were not making slow progress. Hiking on Glacier Crest Trail

After another half of a mile, we ran across a hiker going down and inquired about how much further to go. At this point, we had already covered close to two miles and about 1100 feet elevation gains so we thought we may have at most another hour to go. The guy told us that we had at least 1 ½ hours to 2 hours ahead of us and the climb would get steeper. We were surprised but trudged on.

We had been hiking on a moderate climb for a while but soon the climb steeped as told and we had to stop about every couple of steps. And it just kept going up and up and never seemed to let up. We had always been judging our hiking trails by the trail, Mount Storm Kings we did in Olympics National Park. That trail climbed 2100 ft in 1.9 miles. It was a continuous climb and almost no rests. We had many trails coming close to the Storm King but never exceeded it. But this one did. On Glacier Crest Trail with Roger Pass in the backgroundWe were thinking that this couldn’t be that difficult with 2500 feet elevation gain but it was. Soon we reached 2500 feet elevation gain according to my GPS but the trail was still relentless an uphill climb and the end was nowhere in sight.
Asulkan Glacier on Glacier Crest Trail
Finally the trail flattened out some and we were walking along the crest with Asulkan Glacier on the right. Soon we came to a spot where the trail abruptly ended without any signs. There seemed to be a trail going up against the hill we had been walking along. But it was very steep and seemed to be slippery. We debated for a minute if it was indeed a trail until we saw a group of people appeared over the top of the hill and started scrambled down the trail. The steep trail on Glacier Crest TrailMany of them slipped and some of them were on their butts as they came down. After they left, we debated to see if we should go up as going up wouldn’t be a problem but coming down might. We came so far and it was just too hard to give up so we pressed on, with the knowledge that we had hiking poles to help us coming down. See the picture on the left when Susan was coming down a part of this section.

We climbed up the hill, exhausted and hungry, and discovered there was another hill to climb. My GPS indicated that we had already climbed 3250 feet and we were not done. We found a spot to eat lunch. Susan didn’t want to climb anymore so I went up alone, leaving Kadia with Susan and Bryden. Us on the top of Glacier Crest Trail The last 250 feet was easy without the heavy load as I practically bounced up to the top. It was a hazy day so the view was a little disappointing. Illecillewaet Glacier at Glacier Crest Trail I also saw the Illecillewaet glacier (picture on the left) on the other side of the mountain. Illecillewaet Glacier was down to the Illecillewaet campground where we started this hike but it had retreated this far in the last 120 years.

Glacier National Park used to be premier destination for vacationers in the late 19 century and early 20 century. It had a famous hotel, Glacier House Hotel which rivaled the Banff Springs Hotel and Château Lake Louis. Trains on the Northern Pacific Railway would make a stop at the Glacier House Hotel with the park and the hotel becoming the cradle of North American mountaineering. Glacier House Hotel’s foundation However, after 1917, a tunnel was built to bypass the Glacier National Park as there were too many avalanches and soon the visits to the park declined and along with the retreat of the Illecillewaet Glacier, the hotel shut down in 1926 and there are only a few stone foundations remaining (see right) to tell us the once illustrated history of the hotel. This reminds me of business here in the Silicon Valley: 8 years ago there were many high-flying companies but a lot of them are gone without a trace. How fickle life can be and how fleeting the fame can be as well.
Elevation Map of Glacier Crest Trail
Hiking back down was easy with the help of hiking poles. We were glad that we brought our hiking poles otherwise our knees would suffer badly. The trail ended to be 8 miles round trip with 3500 feet elevation gains. It was harder than it should be because we weren’t expecting such a hike and weren’t mentally prepared. We barely had enough water to last the whole hike. The scenery of this trail was disappointing given the difficulty of the hike, perhaps it was due to a hazy day. Weather can often make or break a trail. However, this will be the hike we judge the strenuousness of our future hikes by.
Hiking back down the Glacier Crest Trail

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