The Bow Valley Parkway

After a couple of nights in Calgary to get over the jetlag, we hired a car and headed west towards the Rocky Mountains.  The view once we left Calgary was spectacular – Calgary faded away behind us, but in front the mountains rose out of the prairies, cloud bubbling over them like rapids over rocks.

Once we got into the Rockies we took a slight diversion off Highway 1 – the TransCanada Highway – onto Highway 1A, also known as the Bow Valley Parkway.  The Bow Valley Parkway runs from just after Banff, alongside the Trans Canada as far as Lake Louise, taking a more scenic route with a higher chance of seeing wildlife than on the main highway.  There are also several places to stop along the route.

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A wildlife bridge on Highway 1

The first place we stopped at was Johnston Canyon.  There is a resort with cabins at the bottom of the canyon, and a restaurant, as well as a car park for visitors who are hiking the canyon.  The car park was full and so we did what many, many other people were doing and parked alongside the highway, and then walked back to the entrance.

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In Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon was formed by Johnston Creek, and within the canyon are lower and upper falls, with the upper falls being 1.7 miles away, and taking about 45 minutes to walk to.  From there you can continue almost 1.9 miles (3km) to the Inkpots – seven coldwater springs which rise beside a meadow.  We didn’t make it this far as we wanted to stop at other places on the way so we only went as far as the Upper Falls, however having seen a picture of the Inkpots when I got back to England I wish we had carried on!

The walk through the canyon is an easy one, along wide paths and metal catwalks.  There were a lot of people when we visited – it’s certainly a popular spot so aim for low season or either ends of the day.

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A catwalk in Johnston Canyon

In terms of wildlife, the most exciting thing we saw was a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, although there were signs warning of wolves in the area which had become bold around humans and were stealing from picnics!

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A Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

We ate at the restaurant at the bottom of the canyon before we left, which was very pleasant and surprisingly quiet given the popularity of the trail.  It was perhaps slightly expensive, but that was to be expected given its location and the lack of other eateries in the area.

Carrying on up the Bow Valley Parkway we stopped at Emerald Lake in the Yoho National Park.  When we arrived the weather had deteriorated somewhat and we looked around and took some photos in the mizzley rain.  We decided to hire a canoe anyway, and luckily the rain stopped and we even had a bit of sunshine!  We paddled to the other end of the lake, where it was very peaceful with a shallow creek running across a beach into the lake.

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Emerald Lake – the sky was a little murky but it was beautiful nonetheless! 

We left Highway 1A at Castle Junction and continued on the main Highway 1 to Canyon Hot Springs where we swam in the hot springs and stayed in a cabin overnight.  From there we went to Sicamous where we hired a houseboat and spent four days on the Shuswap Lake, which I will write about in my next blog.

Highway 1A was beautiful, but naturally much slower than the main highway.  To drive on Highway 1A, or to stop anywhere in the National Parks, you need to buy a parks pass from Parks Canada.  There is a kiosk for these at the entrance to Banff NP, or they are sold in lots of places within the parks.  At the entrance to the Bow Valley Parkway, Parks Canada were stopping every car to check for a pass.

Horse Ability – 11th March ’12.

Today I went over to Park Lane Stables in Goosey to see what their Horse Ability Club was all about. When I left the house for the 10 o’clock start (this is big for me on a Sunday!) the sun was already very hot and I had all the windows open in the car on the way over! The first thing I learnt was how deceivingly narrow their gate is – I didn’t quite make it through and had to reverse back onto the round to turn in properly! Woops – but no damage done!

The next very important thing to do was to get the ponies! Here the horses all live in a herd and the herd dynamics play a really important part in the personality of the horse.  We brought in Magnus, the skewbald Shetland pony, and Donny, a piebald cob, standing approx. just under 15hh.

After we had put the ponies in their stables to munch some hay, we grabbed some lead ropes and went into the school. The session was led by Sally Golding who explained to us about how to use your body language to politely ask the horse to move towards you and away from you, and we practised this on each other – which of course meant lots of giggling as we called ‘walk on’, clicked, and tugged each other with lead ropes! The ponies (or maybe guinea pigs is a better name for them today as so many people were trying things out with them) were then brought into the school and Sally explained how Donny had arrived two weeks ago and seemed quiet on arrival, but two weeks out with the herd had shown that he was a very bossy character indeed. We all got a chance to feel what effect different ways of asking him to move around had on him, and he soon began to relax and move when we asked him politely.

One great thing about Park Lane Stables is their Horse Ability obstacle course! There are all sorts of obstacles in a field next to the school, at varying levels of difficulty and scariness! The most scary have got to be the well named ‘scary corner’ with traffic cones and flags, and the ‘curtain’ which is many ribbons hanging off a raised pole which the horses have to be led under. Another fun obstacle is the podium and Donny took to it very well for his first time with both front feet on it, showing Magnus up somewhat! A favourite of the children’s is to take Magnus over the small bale jump, which, with a stubborn Shetland is easier said than done. They did a very good job at desensitising him to the scary gym ball though and he would allow it to touch his legs by the end of it.

Ros brought her youngster Monkey up from the field to have a play as well, and he waltzed the course, doing everything he was asked to do!

Now, Lorraine Jennings asked me to comment on quality and quantity of any cake that appeared at this session – no cake but they had my favourite biscuits washed down with tea and squash!

All in all it was a great morning, and I really felt I learnt a lot! It also meant I could put what I learnt to the test in the afternoon and I managed to get Oscar to stand willingly by the mounting block for me to get on! It was also brilliant value – you get a lot for your £5!

I look forward to visiting again in the future, might even bring an orange monster next time ;-) Although he won’t be coming to the hoof clinic on 24th March, not sure he’d like his hoof dissected!

Park Lane Horse Ability Club are on facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/167928059952854/ where you can find out what’s going on when and see pictures of the course and what they do! There would have been pictures from today, but my camera decided not to play :-/

And because I mentioned Lorraine, I’ll whack in her website http://www.schoolyourhorse.com