Sunday 3rd June
Today deserves a post all by itself.
Overnight clouds and rain had rolled in making us re-assess what to do today as we are leaving late in the afternoon.
Once decided, the plan is to catch the Gondola to the top of the 7,700 feet (2350 mtrs) Kicking Horse Mountain.
Travelling up the mountain in the Gondola was quite exciting as the misty, wet clouds drifted in and out across the slopes obscuring and then revealing the sights.
Impressive is the first word which came to mind on this steep shale exposed slope. Somewhere below, 10 year old grizzly bear Boo is patrolling his 20 acre enclosure. We can see the bear den he has created out of sticks and branches.
At the top of the mountain we step from the gondola and gasp. We gasp in the cold air and gasp for the view. Parts of the view become almost routinely obliterated then peek-a-boo visible as cloud wafts in and out of the crests, crags and vales at the top of the world.
We can no longer see the world below us. Mostly it is underneath the cloud cover. Only the distant snow covered peaks are visible from here.
Amid the snow and shale peaks and hollows only two buildings stand out.
These two buildings are a lonely outpost to only a few staff and especially in winter, hordes of mostly skiers or snowboarders. In summer the hordes are crazy mountain bikers and equally crazy hikers.
Oh, and of course the people, like us who came here for the dining and vista experience.
Some hikers use a swaying suspension bridge between two peaks.
At the moment the most important building is the restaurant, The Eagles Eye.
The other building which is also important to us is the turn -around for the gondola.
I have seen the horror movie, Frozen, and still have images in my mind which leaves me with the instinct to always look for an escape route. Thankfully no escape route is required today. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frozen_(2010_American_film)
Lunch at the Eagles Eye Restaurant was quite a fancy affair. Considering all food and drink plus chef, kitchen staff and wait people all arrive at the summit via the gondola the prices are reasonable. We did notice a narrow track winding its way up the mountain but in places it was covered in snow.
Any access via this road would only be seasonal.
The best part of lunch was the view – when it was visible of course. I also acknowledge they have a barista who knows how to make a good cup of coffee. All he/she needs to learn now is how to serve it hot.
There are hiking tracks, downhill mountain bike tracks and the remnants of ski trails all around the summit. We can see a suspension type bridge between two peaks. This is a different type of hiking to what I have experienced. At this height any exertion will bring laboured breathing.
It is all breathtakingly beautiful in a stark and cold sort of way.
The return journey on the gondola gave us a bonus. Boo the grizzly was out and about. We managed one photo through the rain covered perspex window. Boo looks kind of diminutive from up here.
The story of Boo is that his mother, near Caribou, Alberta, Canada, was killed while he and his brother survived and were taken to a zoo. They were named Kari and Boo. Kari did not survive for long but Boo, if not thriving was in good health. It was decided to place him in a 20 acre enclosure below the gondola footprint where he has all he needs to survive. Boo likes to play. Have a look at this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J93-w4ppi48
We had planned to take the chair lift as far as it would go. It has a bear interpretive centre and access to Boo’s enclosure. The last chair was at 3pm as the bear centre closes at 4pm so they can clear the mountain and shut down the lift. It was 3.15pm so we missed out on a close up grizzly encounter.
Back at the chateau we packed our belongings and began the three hour drive back to Calgary.
Thank you to our hosts, Ivan and Maia Velev for their hospitality. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. I would especially like to thank Ivan for spending a day driving me to places to see and explore. We are also thankful to their son Lazar and wife Simone for their also driving us around to explore the area. We have only scratched the surface of places to see…some in winter, some in summer. We are also grateful to Lazar for his generosity in taking us to the top of the mountain and lunch.
We are now back in Calgary and winding down.
So ends our fifth week away from home.