Guardian Of The Coastline

Today we checked out the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.  It’s one of dozens of lighthouses that are found along the rockbound Maine coastline — each of which has it distinctive combination of light color and lighting sequence, so experienced mariners who are at sea at night can both steer clear of the rocks and determine exactly where they are, even in the darkest hours.

At the lighthouse, you can follow a path and a steep set of wooden stairs that take you down to sea level, where intrepid tourists (like me) can climb out onto the rocky coastline to position themselves for the best photographic vantage point that will allow them to snap a seaside shot of the iconic white lighthouse.  It’s comical to see people of all ages scrambling out onto the rocks — with no guard rails or identified path — and of course many of the visitors were taking selfies, apparently oblivious to the risk they might slip as they were positioning themselves and go plunging into the ocean below.  Fortunately, no one was injured while we were there.

I appreciate the fact that the Coast Guard, which operates the lighthouse and its grounds, has left the coastline in its natural state and trusts visitors to fend for themselves.  It was fun to let the inner mountain goat out for a rocky adventure.

Dockworthy

It’s a picture-perfect day in Maine, with cool temperatures, bright blue skies and sunshine, and just enough breeze to send Old Glory flapping on the flagpole.  I took a morning walk along the rim of the harbor, where there are working wharves and docks aplenty.  For a landlubber like me, docks extending far out into the water, over the rocky shoreline and seaweed, are a source of beauty and fascination.

You don’t see docks like this in Columbus.

Dawn At The Bass Harbor Ferry Terminal

It’s a beautiful, clear morning at the Bass Harbor Ferry Terminal on Mount Desert Island.  Photographs are nice, but they can’t fully capture the totally sensory feel of this place — the cries of the gulls and other birds skimming low across the water, the salty tang of the air and its coolness against your skin, and the feel of wet grass underfoot.  It’s a good place to sit on a front porch and read on a calm Sunday morning.

Fairmont Banff Springs

We’ve spent the last few days at the Fairmont Banff Springs, a colossal old-line hotel that sits on a bluff above the Bow River.  

It’s one of those sprawling complexes that is a bit of a maze — and at the same time full of surprises as you wander around trying to get your bearings. One day I was trying to figure out my route to the conference center for a meeting when I ended up in a room where a woman in medieval garb plucked away at a full-sized harp while two guys played pool.  When I apparently looked quite lost, she stopped her playing and helped to get me back on track.  And there appear to be different restaurants, shops and bars on every level, as well as meetings rooms galore.

We’ve enjoyed our stay in this beautiful part of the world.  How could you not like a hotel with a patio that offers a jaw-dropping view like the one below?

Around Lake Louise

Yesterday we drove to Lake Louise, which is about an hour away from Banff via Canada highway 1, the Trans-Canada highway.  It’s a pleasant ride through more of the towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies.

One of the locals told us that Lake Louise is the most photographed place in Canada.  If that bit of local lore is true, it’s not hard to see why.  The water in the lake is a brilliant turquoise color, like you might find in the Caribbean, and the lake is surrounded by craggy mountains with glaciers at the far end.  It’s a fantastic, beautiful place.


We followed a walking path from the grounds of the Fairmont, which anchors one end of the lake, down toward the glaciers.  The trail runs for about a mile and a half along the rim of the lake.  We shared the path with lots of other gawkers and some trail riders.  


There is still snow melt running into the lake, and the water is icy cold.  At the far end, there is a beach and then the lake becomes a kind of marsh, with the glaciers hovering on the mountaintops far overhead.


I’m not ashamed to say that I took my share of pictures of this wondrous place.  I’ve helped to add even more credibility to that bit of local lore about Canada’s most photographed spot.

The Cold View From Sulphur Mountain 

Yesterday we took the gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain, which overlooks the town of Banff.  Sulphur Mountain is one of the minor peaks in the Rockies range, but it offers a commanding view of the surrounding countryside and allows you to see for miles.  In the photo above, you can parts of Banff and the winding Bow River appear far below.  


The gondola is a four-seater that takes you directly up the mountainside and offers its own cool views.  Bring an extra layer or two of clothing, because it’s cold at the top.  Even though yesterday was technically the first day of summer, we were greeted by snowflakes and a howling wind that made me wish I’d brought gloves and a ski cap.  I’d guess the temperature up top was below 40 degrees, and the wind chill was below that.


When you reach the top of Mount Sulphur you can admire the views from inside the building while nursing the beverage of your choice, you can walk around the building on an observation deck, or you can follow a wooden walkway to what appears to be a weather station at the summit of the mountain some distance away. (You can see part of the walkway in the photo below.)  I chose the latter option, which exposed me to even fiercer winds but rewarded me with the best views of all and allowed me to get some exercise, besides.  Still, I was glad to get back to the warmth of the building.

Over The Rockies

Yesterday we crossed the Canadian Rockies on the second day of our two-day excursion on the Rocky Mountaineer.  It was a day of rugged landscape, plunging gorges, swiftly tumbling rivers, and a mountain goat or two.  And, for those of us who appreciate deft feats of engineering, a bridge far above a river, shown below, and a cool set of tunnels that spiral the train upward through the interior of the mountains at a gentle grade and bring you out so you can see where you started.


On the Rocky Mountaineer you can sit in you seat and watch the scenery through a bubble window that allows you to see everything from waist level to directly overhead, or by standing out on a platform to get a more immediate sense for the countryside.  I preferred the latter option, the better to gulp down lungfuls of the brisk, pine-scented air and feel the breeze on your face.  It’s an exhilarating experience to be out among so many trees pumping out so much oxygen.


By the time we rolled into the station at Banff, the weather had turned foul, but the rain couldn’t dim the experience.  The Rocky Mountaineer is a bucket list item worth doing.