#92 Whale Watching

In the past, we thought of taking a whale watching excursion, but were unsure about how we would handle bouncing around in rough ocean waters for hours with the risk of not even seeing anything, except maybe us losing our lunch. However, after looking into the details more, we decided to go ahead and sign up for one in Nova Scotia. The whale watching excursions off the coast of Nova Scotia were in the calmer waters of the Bay of Fundy. The boat we took was sturdy and they didn’t have to go out too far into the bay. The excursion was planned for between 2 and 4 hours.

We departed from East Ferry, which is in the west coast of Nova Scotia, and traveled out a few miles before we spotted a humpback whale. Apparently humpback whales are curious and not afraid of the boats. This whale allowed the crew to steer the boat within 15 feet or so. While the part of the whale that is above the surface of the water is not so impressive, the bulk of the whale body underwater is massive. The whale was about the length of our boat. We stayed alongside this whale for about a half hour until it finally got bored and swam away.   While the whale did not jump out of the water in a spectacular way (that would have been so cool), it just floated around and poked its head up occasionally. That was OK for me. That one sighting was enough to make the trip worthwhile.

We motored around a while longer but only found one other whale. This whale was not as interested in us and didn’t hang around long.

This tour was hampered somewhat by the rain and fog. You couldn’t see too far in the distance and as a result we probably missed other whale sightings. Our boat was well suited for rain with coverings to allow us to stay dry. Riders on competing excursion boats were not so lucky – large inflatable rafts where everyone needed raincoats to stay dry (see photographs below) – Great choice, Mary Ann!

In the end, this was a very memorable experience. (8/14/18)

This is a photograph of the humpback whale sticking its head out of the water.

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This is a photograph of the whale diving under the water. You can see the soaked tourists on the other boat.

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This is a photograph of the inlet at East Ferry after returning. The rain had stopped and the fog was rolling in.

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#91 Tour City by Bus (Toronto)

This is a lemonade experience. We never intended to visit Toronto. However, when traveling sometimes things don’t go as planned. Our return flight from Calgary had a change of planes in Toronto. The weather started getting rough… and the Toronto airport shut down before we could land. We were diverted to Montreal. In Montreal, we sat on the tarmac for about an hour before heading back to Toronto. When we arrived the weather was still not good. We had a bigger problem. We arrived so late that the US Customs was closed for the night. Even though the flight to the US was cancelled, we would not have been able to board it as we could not get through customs. We were stuck along with hundreds of others. Our only hope was to catch a flight the next day.

Mary Ann secured a flight for the same time the next day. I searched for a nearby hotel. The first two were completely booked. Duh, late at night near the airport. I hit pay dirt on the next one. They had one room remaining. A smoking room. Dang, I am too old to start smoking. We took the room and, as advertised, it did smell of smoke. We got used to the smell after a while. We did have another problem. We had very limited luggage in our carry-ons. We had to survive the next day with less than clean clothes.

So we had lemons, we needed to make lemonade. Since we had most of the day free before attempting to return home, we decided to make the best of it by touring the city. After going to the airport to check in and store our bags, we took the subway to the middle of the city. We hopped on the hop on/off sightseeing bus (double decker buses with open second floor). It was a pretty good tour with guides explaining the buildings and the history of Toronto.

We rode much of the way around town, getting off at a few of the stops. On one stop we took the complimentary boat tour around the waterfront and islands. On another stop we got off for lunch. The later stops were less than thrilling. It seemed these stops were a bit overhyped and there wasn’t much to see. As the day wound down, we did too. We had to hurry back to the subway to get to the airport for our flight. We must not miss this flight! We found that it is easy to get on the bus early in the day and not so easy to get on later in the day as the busses are filled. We hoofed the last mile and made it back in time to get to the airport for our flight.

In the end, we had enough of Toronto. If we never return to the city, it would be too soon. To be continued? (7/17/18)

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#90 Lake Louise (Banff National Park)

While in Banff National Park, we had heard that Lake Louise is a great sightseeing location. Lake, mountains, and snow capped mountains. So we went for it. While I can’t knock the scenic beauty, there was more to this experience. It seems like EVERYONE wanted to see this lake and mountains. Right off the highway we were informed that they had shuttle busses to the lake. That should have been a warning. Ignoring the distant shuttle busses, we pressed forward towards the lake. We ended up in a long line to get to the large parking area. We thought we would wait it out by pulling over to a nearby restaurant for lunch. We watched the cars and busses slowly move towards the lake, then we saw some of the same ones heading away from the lake, unable to find parking.

Eventually we made our way to the parking and were lucky to get a parking spot. Cars and busses were everywhere. As we approached the lake we noticed an awesome resort. Then we noticed what seemed to be the entire population of the world standing by the lake. It was crowded. A mass of humanity from all over the world. (Note: I guess we should expect a lot of people. It seems the best places to view now have large crowds because everyone wants to see them.) Not only were a lot of people standing by the lake or hiking around the lake, there must have been 20 or 30 canoes out in the lake. Makes it difficult to get a good photograph.

We looked at the lake and took a short hike. Then we concluded we had seen enough. We had seen many lake/mountain/glaciers just as good. And there were more to see.

This was a pretty good experience. If we had the chance to do it again, I would not. There were many other lake/mountain/glaciers to see without the large crowds. (7/12/18)

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#89 Scenic Boat Cruise and hike

While in Glacier National Park we went to a resort town called Many Glacier. (There weren’t many glaciers around, but the name must help sell the resort. It seems that over the past 150 years the glaciers have receded and some have disappeared.) We took a “Scenic Boat Cruise”, as it was described. We caught the boat at the resort and rode it to the end of Swiftcurrent Lake. We got off the boat and hiked a quarter mile to Josephine Lake to catch another boat. This boat took us to the other side of that lake. We got off the boat and started our hike across a forest to Grinnel Lake where we were able to view the lake and Grinnel Glacier in the background.

Along the way we did experience a bear sighting. Since we were in the boat at the time, we watched from a safe distance. However, there were a few hikers that were friends of people on the boat that were running along the path, racing the boat back to the resort. We noticed the bear well before they did. As they ran, we shouted warnings to them of the bear. It seemed they could not understand all our yelling, rather they thought we were cheering or taunting them. They kept running fast. Eventually they noticed the bear and passed without incident. They kept running all the way back to the resort where they beat the boat. In addition, there were other the hikers walking along that side of the lake. While they seemed a bit scared when they encountered the bear, they stayed in a group and passed the bear without difficulty. (The bear was not really that close to any of them).

The funny thing about the scenery, the best scenery was not on the boat cruise, rather it was looking out at the lake from the resort and views from hiking around the lake, which we also did.

We wound up hiking, boating, crossing bridges over creeks and marshes, seeing waterfalls, lakes, glaciers, and mountains. All in all, the lake and the scenic boat cruise combined to be a pretty good experience. If we did it again, I would prefer to just stay in the resort, enjoy the view, and skip the ‘Scenic Boat Cruise’ (7/10/18)

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#88 Rodeo – Calgary Stampede

I had never been to a rodeo but had always wanted to see one. When I finally get a chance to go to one, where did we go? Canada! It is definitely not the first place you think of when you hear ‘rodeo’. I always thought rodeos were performed in the western US, not Canada. But then again, we found western Canada is not really that much different than the western states in the US, just further north.

In Calgary, Alberta, they have an annual rodeo that goes on for 10 days in the summer called the ‘Calgary Stampede’. It seemed like a state fair and rodeo combined. All sorts of rides, great food, and entertainment.

While in Alberta, we heard that it was the event to go to if you were nearby during the time it was being held. We deviated from our original vacation plans to head over to Calgary for the day to experience the rodeo. When we got there I was surprised by how popular it was for Canadians as well as tourists.

It seemed like everyone wanted to be a cowboy for a day. They even sold lots of white hats for the cowboy wannabees. Before starting the rodeo events, the announcer asked everyone with a new white hat to raise it up in the air with two hands, look inside the front of the hat, notice the tag in front, and turn your hat around. You have your hat on backwards!

We were entertained with several competitive events. There was bareback bronco riding, calf tie-down roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing, and the ever popular bull riding. Of course the bulls were difficult to ride, but the bronc’s weren’t any easier. I enjoyed both the bronc and the bull riding. It is pretty impressive show when you are there watching. One interesting thing about the riders, most of the riders were from the US! So it was a great experience. The only thing we missed was the chuck wagon races. (7/13/18)

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Photograph of the Month: August 2018

While in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, we saw many lighthouses. I had taken photographs of several. This one struck me as the best as it was a rainy and foggy day. We had finished our whale watching tour (Retirement experience #92 Whale Watching ) and I watched the fog rolling in from the Bay of Fundy to East Ferry, Nova Scotia.

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As a bonus, I just had to include another photograph from out trip. This was taken nearby the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse. Because the lighthouse is popular sightseeing destination near Halifax, Nova Scotia, there were busloads of tourists. As a result of the crowds, I could not get a good photograph of just the lighthouse. However, while everyone was busy standing around the lighthouse, very few ventured near the small town’s cove. The lighting and color were awesome.

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#87 Whitewater Rafting

I’ve always wanted to go whitewater rafting. We signed up for a two hour rafting trip on the Kananaskis River with Chinock Rafting (45 minutes west of Calgary). We were not looking for too exciting of a river to raft, rather we wanted a moderately exciting, more relaxed trip. We were told the river was rated between Class 2 (“You may get wet”) and Class 3 (“You will get wet”). With the exception of a few rapids, it seemed closer to a Class 2 river. And we were fine with that.

The staff and guides took care of us well. We prepared for the worst – helmet, life jacket, wet suit and boots (due to the cold mountain water).

It was a very enjoyable experience. We had to paddle through several rapids to keep the raft moving fast enough. But our guide had the toughest job – she had to paddle a lot herself, bark out paddling orders to us, and constantly steer the boat through the river and the rapids.

All in all, they made it easy for us. We enjoyed the river ride and the scenery was awesome.

This river had a couple interesting aspects to it. The water level can be controlled to be consistent. The river could be emptied by damming it up and filled by releasing the retained water. Also, there was a section of the river where kayakers train as in the Olympic event. There were several pairs of poles hanging down ending a few feet above the water. Well, there was no way for us to navigate around these poles. We plowed right through the course, each one of deflecting poles from hitting us. Got whacked a few times. (7/15/18)

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