Mystic MK

Mystic MK

After a week struggling with sleep patterns, the body clock is finally getting readjusted to UK time. Probably not the ideal occasion, one might think, to get up at 2am after 3 hours sleep and drive to Milton Keynes. “Milton Keynes?”, I hear you cry, “Why would you go there anytime, let alone at 2am?”.

Well today, of course, is the Summer Solstice and – as the cognoscenti know – Milton Keynes is a temple to the sun.

A new town born of the 60’s and 70’s, the chief architect for Milton Keynes clearly had a hippy streak as wide as Midsummer Boulevard. Given the option to create a street grid system oriented north-south east-west, the creators opted to shift the axis slightly such that the sun on the summer solstice would shine down Midsummer Boulevard. Kudos.

And so it is that we find ourselves stressing our way down the M1, through everpresent road works, wondering just how annoying it would be to get up at 2am and not arrive in time for sunrise. No need to worry, we make it to the light pyramid in time and are treated to a glorious sunrise, along with our fellow revellers…

As the sun rose in the distance, we were expecting a cheer or clapping, but the atmosphere was subdued. In the distance, a lone percussionists had taken it upon themselves to drum in the solstice. Fair play.

Anyway, hands numb from the early morning chill, we went in search of coffee and a view along Midsummer Boulevard and yes, it does pretty much line up – although I am not privy to the exact calculations around timings and alignment. Pretty impressive though.

So, mission accomplished? No there is more. Putting aside the fact that every building is a little weird

Pyramid Bingo

What shape shall we make the new bingo hall? As if you need to ask

There is a stone circle and a tree cathedral to visit. Well, we thought that the tree cathedral was likely to be less than impressive from the ground and so opted for the stone circle. Not an original neolithic you understand, just another recent addition. The “energy” line through various gates in the circle lines up with the Tree Cathedral and Midsummer Boulevard. Obviously.

And then just through the trees this … because, why not?

pagoda

Milton Keynes may have a reputation for being dull, but that clearly doesn’t apply to the city planners. I suspect that beyond any hippy inclinations, it may be a stroke of marketing genius to get the conspiracy theorists all riled up. What3Words has the location of the Light Pyramid as

lifetimes.dangerously.imported

Probably a hidden message there I expect.

Clearly a town for the Age of Aquarius.

Day 15 – 3 Countries in a Day

Day 15 – 3 Countries in a Day

Up early after spending the evening cowering in our hotel room watching a spectacular thunderstorm over the Rockies. Also cowering in fear of getting charged another £9 a pint for cider … still they were very good, the Canadians really seem to have gotten the hang of the frozen glass enhanced drink.

Today we are heading out for a boat trip on Waterton Lake, for more fantastic scenery, and hopefully before the next set of storms hits.

The boat trip has the added bonus of allowing us across the US border (another state – Montana:  tick). The border is marked by the (real) monuments below. Apparently if you line the two up, that gives the line of the 49th parallel. Little border nerd fact there. Also of course, it means that we have the opportunity to be in 3 countries today.

Also spotted a bald eagle on the lakeshore, so another tick on the Canadian fauna list. Still no moose though 🙁

Of course we are still several hundred miles from Calgary with a full itinerary to get in post-boat trip.

Next stop, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. This appears to be be simalar to Creswell crags in that the hunting method was to chase the beasts over the cliff edge and then wander down and finish off any that are still alive. I had assumed that hte Head-Smashed-In part of the name referred to the Buffalo, but apparently it comemorates a young,curious brave who wandered a little too close to watch the Buffalo fall. Fail.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Does what it says on the tin

Moving on to our final stop of the day, the Big Rock glacial erratic. Also very much as advertised, a couple of huge rocks dropped here by glaciers rolling over the Alberta prarie. As if to demonstrate the prairie point, the field in front is riddled with prarie dogs. I hope they haven’t tunneled under the erratic, or they may be in for a nasty surprise!

Big Rock

It is indeed a big rock

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So what have we learned about Canada in the last two weeks?

  1. It’s a remarkably friendly country
  2. The legendary politeness is real
  3. The country is so stunning that Canadians must be ruined for travel elswhere when it comes to viewing scenery
  4. Four seasons in a day is definitely a thing
  5. June is not summer in Canada

Finally, I think that this farmhouse spotted on the way back to Calgary just about sums it up…

IMG_4249

Day 14 – The Long Road Home

Day 14 – The Long Road Home

Definitely feeling the effects of the rafting yesterday, so probably just as well that we have a day of driving ather than walking today. No chance of seizing up while sitting in a car for 7 hours 🙂

We are taking a long leisurely loop back to Calgary via Waterton Lake, several hundred miles to the south. I’m not quite sure how I was persuaded to take this route back, other than that it is close to to the US border and Ethan’s border geekery has kicked in, but it is a nice drive, through some spectacular and varied terrain, and largely free of roadworks – an unexpected bonus afer the last few weeks.

Obviously we need to stop for sustenance en route and deafult to our go-to fast food of the holiday – A&W and their Beyond Meat burger, the new gold standard for veggie burgers. They have also made root beer acceptable by serving it in iced glasses, which definitely hits the spot when it is 30C oustside.

AandW

On the road, we pass Frank Slide. I had no idea what this was as we passed through an area with vast piles of rock either side of the, some of te boulders looking like several tons. Post journey research confirms that this was the site of Canada’s biggest  landslide, depositing 121 million tons of rock on the town of Frank in 1903. Ouch.

Approaching Waterton lake, we started to get some quite nasty weather developing. As we circled back towards the Rockies, we watched the lightning stikes with ncreasing trepidation and Ethan’s doom filled meteorlogical prognostications around funnel clouds and mesocyclonic clouds had me ready to turn around and drive like a lunatic away from a forming tornado.

Personally, I think that the weird conditions were caused by a UFO hiding in this cloud…

ufo

Having made it to Waterton, against all the odds, we had to deal with the weather conditions, bear warnings, closed roads and extreme apathy blockng our path to the 8 mile hike to the Montana border and back.

Ethan is not happy. We have an opportunity to reach the border by boat tomorrow, but I’m told that it doesn’t count if you don’t set foot on land. luckily we found this by the lake. I think it is just a replica of the genuine monument, but we are claiming it!

border

Oh yes, and that now makes 7 national parks.

 

Day 13 – The Kicking Horse Kicks Back

Day 13 – The Kicking Horse Kicks Back

I can feel it will be a short entry today as I am exhausted from my heroic efforts doing battle with the rapids on the Kicking Horse river. Who knew white water rafting could be such fun? Fighting the urge to bail during the safety talk, we launched onto the river for an 8 mile adventure through 14 rapids – although only one class 4 I believe. Adventurous we may be, mad we are not!

I suspect that I may have not been as quick in reacting to some of the instructions as the guides would have liked as my old joints creaked into action, but the guides did a great job of making everyone feel (relatively) safe and comfortable.

Ethan even leaped over the side of the boat at one point for a quick swim in the icy waters. I was tempted but seriously doubted my ability to regain access.

Anyway, another one off the list. I feel that a stiff drink has been earned!

raft1

Nice day for a gentle drift down river

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Dream team?

raft2

What could possibly go wrong?

raft3

Oh come on now!

raft4

Still smiling…

raft5

Well that’s just rude

raft6

Phew, made it

Day 12 – Round & Round We Go

Day 12 – Round & Round We Go

Up bright and early today for our intrepid ascent to the Plain of the Six Glaciers above Lake Louise. The idea is to get there in time to get a parking space rather than have to get the shuttle bus either side of an epic hike.

What were we thinking? Hold ups at 2 major road works put paid to that idea. In retrospect probably not the worst outcome. The weather forecasts and trail reviews were suggesting heavy snow (waste deep in some places) which would mean having to turn back. Avoiding a potential stroke from straining uphill at altitude is an added bonus.

Disappointing not to be able to get to see those views though. We are now used to adapting plans and decide to head toward Banff and walk up Tunnel Mountain instead. We will head there via the Bow Valley parkway and scout for wildlife.

Apparently Bow Valley is the gold standard for wildlife viewing. This will be out third pass and have only seen an elk so far. We are keen to spot a moose if possible to tick off in our I-Spy book of Canadian critters.

Sadly, no moose, but a couple of deer gave us attitude and we spotted a weird rodent which Google lens identifies as a Columbian ground squirrel.

Tunnel Mountain was a pleasant walk and probably more my speed. I can definitely feel the difference in altitude between some of the walks we have done. Some great views from the top too.

Back via the parkway again. Nada.

Getting back towards Golden we spotted a cluster of roadside tourists, the tell tale sign of something kicking off (although we have toyed with the idea of just pulling over and randomly pointing just to see how many people would follow us). In this case, the was a black bear inordinately fascinated with a train line. No idea what was there but hope it got around to moving before the next 5 mile long train came along. I don’t expect that those things can brake too quickly.

railbear1

So that brings out tally of bears in the wild to 10 by our reckoning. Not a bad haul, especially as non of them were waiting around corners for us while we were walking.

Anyway, walking done for now, tomorrow is white water rafting!

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