Taken for granted

On Wednesday Ruth and Tim had a lesson first thing in the morning, getting up at the crack of doom to catch a  bus at 06.45 to start skiing at 08.30.  Very uncivilized.  Which meant I got to make the sandwiches and decided to take a slightly later bus.  One positive side-effect of this was that the sun was higher and so the bus journey was all the more striking.

It’s very easy to get blasé about the everyday.   For a time when I was in college I lived with friends in a village in the mountains in Mid Wales and most days saw a pair of red kites soaring over the house.  At the time there were so few red kites in Wales, none in the rest of Britain, that the Nature Conservancy had a watch on them to protect them from egg-poachers and the like.  They were just part of our lives.  Didn’t seem out-of the ordinary.   Hard to believe that it this was something really special.

Not quite so rare but we have for 35 years lived close to the Big Pit mining museum, a real coal mine where the pit face can be visited any day of the week.  One of the top tourist attractions in Wales.  Yet the only time I have been down it was for work purposes, on a site visit for a major public inquiry.

Now, while I’m staying in Banff, my daily journey-to-ski is along what is probably one of the most dramatic parts of the Trans-Canada Highway which runs for nearly 5,000 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Not only is it one of the most dramatic sections of the road but it is probably the most dramatic time of year to see it.  But it’s easy to get accustomed to it.  It’s just under 60 kilometres from Banff to the Lake Louise ski resort and the whole of it is through snow covered forest, alongside part-frozen, snow-covered rivers and between massive snow-etched peaks. (photos taken through the window of the coach so apologies for the smearing)

View of the Trans-Canada Highway through the coach windscreen

Passing Castle Mountain, one of the more dramatic of the many dramatic peaks

Round a bend and yet another range of peaks appears

The road runs through the Banff National Park with populations of wild animals including elk, bears and wolves.  Because it runs right across Canada it essentially divided it in two as far as animals are concerned and lies across seasonal migration routes.  So to prevent animals wandering across the road and causing accidents or being killed by traffic the road is lined on  both sides with animal-proof fences.  To allow migration, at intervals along the road, in this neck of the woods at least, there are animal crossings to allow movement from North to South and vice-versa.

One of the crossings built to allow migration of wild animals

The first couple of times people make the journey from Banff to Lake Louise it’s a real ‘Wow!!’ experience.  But after a few days the early morning bus is an opportunity to catch up on sleep and after a hard day skiing in sub-Arctic temperatures the warmth and the gentle motion of the bus on the way home is just irresistible and most people nod off.

Couple of other things of interest.

Because the temperatures here are is significantly and constantly below freezing there are a number of ice sculptures around the place.  For example one bar in the middle of Banff has adverts outside fashioned from blocks of ice indicating that it sells a particular brand of Vodka.  There are also ice sculptures outside the front and rear of the main Lodge at the Lake Louise resort.  The one overlooking the main piste is of a reindeer with a sleigh behind.  Again, seeing them every day they get taken for granted but they really are very well done and very popular with children of all ages.  So this photo is for Elen and Jo.

Reindeer sculpted from ice overlooking the main piste

The other thing of interest is the way that trees bet cocooned in snow in the vicinity of snow-making machines.  In some places the covering is so heavy that trees bow down to the ground under the weight.  Though it doesn’t look it, this picture is taken part way down the steepest section of the Blue run ‘Juniper’ where I stood around so long composing the photo that my legs stiffened up and the rest of the steep section was then very hard work.  So enjoy the photo, it cost a lot of pain and effort!

Trees cocooned in snow from the snow-blower alongside.


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