Banff and Jasper National Parks

Friday, September 19, 2008

Been a while since I posted anything on my blog, but I figure our trip to Banff and Jasper National Parks is a good opportunity.

We spent a total of 6 days there, 4 in Banff and 2 in Jasper. Most of our time was spent hiking among the mountains and glaciers, so needless to say we ended up taking hoards of pictures... not to worry, I won't subject you to too many of them here.

Our days were pretty routine. We stayed at bed and breakfasts in both places, so every morning we had a nice breakfast provided for us. We spent the days hiking and sometimes driving (due to rain), and were almost always in bed by 9:30! Our excuse is that we were fairly tired each evening, but those of you that know us also know that we are like that at home sometimes too :) At any rate, neither town had much of a nightlife to boast!

Because I am doing these entries all at once after our trip, if you want to go through the postings chronologically (although there is no need to), you will need to start at the back (Day 1) and work your way forward.

There are more pictures from this trip you can see on Ujjaini Picasa web album by clicking here.

Posted by adit on 9/19/2008 09:57:00 PM 0 comments  

Day 6 - Columbia Icefield and Edith Cavell

On our way to Calgary, there were some stops along the Icefields Parkway that we couldn't make when we were headed to Jasper. One of these was a short walk (1 mile or so) to a couple of glaciers lying at the feet of one of the tallest mountains in the area, Mt. Edith Cavell. The picture below is another stitching of 4 pictures. On the top right is Angel Glacier flowing down over the mountain and right next to Cavell Glacier (over the water).

Cavell and Angel Glaciers

The next stop was the Columbia Icefield which is the largest unbroken piece of ice in North America. Unfortunately, it was rainy, windy, cold, and foggy when we were there, so we couldn't see too much of it. Also, apparently if you don't lock your car doors in the Columbia Icefield parking lot, then Carmen Sandiego will break in and take your stuff!

Look out for Carmen Sandiego, that sneaky thief!

Although the trail of people on a professional guided hike on top of the ice shows you how large this small portion of it is. The markers up to the icefield are quite sobering, showing how much the glacier has receded in the past century. It's amazing to think how many decades it takes one to move inches compared to the hundreds of meters it can recede in that same time. Man-made global warming or a cyclic trend? Probably a combination of both...

Columbia Icefield

The glacier has receded about 150m in only 16 years

So that's it! We arrived in Calgary that evening, found some decent Thai food for dinner and hit the sack. After a trip to the Calgary Farmer's Market in the morning (yes, we are obligated to find farmer's markets no matter where we go!), we headed back home to LA... and back to the real world.

Posted by adit on 9/19/2008 09:22:00 PM 0 comments  

Day 5 - Bald Hills

Being our only full day in Jasper, we wanted to choose a good day hike. The Bald Hills are series of mountains that lie among some mightier brethren. This hike ended up being one of the most difficult ones we did during the trip. When we started out, we knew that it was a 500m climb up to the most popular Bald Hills lookout. As is the case with many hikes in this area, it seems that they make you work hard to get to the scenery, not allowing you much to enjoy along the way, only to reward you in the end.

Water break on the way up to Bald Hills

View from Bald Hills Lookout

Once we got to the lookout, we noticed the hill behind us and that some people were making the trek up to the top. We spoke to a couple that had just come from there, and they told us that the climb is a little slippery and steep, but the 360 degree view from up there is phenomenal. We were feeling pretty good, so after eating a quick lunch we brought, we decided to try it. Just to give you an idea of what we were climbing, if you click on the picture below and look closely, you'll see some people on the slopes. If we made it to the top, we would have done a total climb of 610m (2000 ft.)!

Onward to the top of Bald Hills

Getting to the base of that hill was fine, but the final climb to the top was pretty tough. The route was all made up of what looked like crushed shale rock, with snow on top of it! Not to mention how steep it was.

The steep ascent to Bald Hill

As usual getting to the top was incredible. There was a full 360 degree view of the mountains around us. Unfortunately, the 36o degree panorama that I took with our camera did not stitch together very well. Below is just a 3 segment piece of it.

Bald Hills panorama

Apparently, some hardcore hikers use this summit as a starting point to troll along these mountain tops all day. The picture below shows one of these folk off in the distance (the tiny speck on top of the adjacent hill). This is also supposed to be a popular spot to see some caribou, but we weren't so lucky.

Those who want to continue on can do so

The 6km back down the mountain was uneventful but still interesting. We took a different trail down, which went right through the forest instead of its outskirts, so it provided some interesting sights (including a variety of strange mushrooms).

That ended our days in the mountains. We were headed to Calgary the next day.

Posted by adit on 9/19/2008 08:44:00 PM 0 comments  

Day 4 - Icefields Parkway

We were on our way to Jasper today, and the route up from Lake Louise is called the Icefields Parkway, and many say it is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. It would be hard to argue against that. Along the way we stopped at a few glaciers as well as Peyto Lake.

Crowfoot Glacier - You can see two "feet". The third melted decades ago

Bow Glacier

Great view from over Peyto Lake

The best part of this drive had to be the hike that stopped to do along the way. It was about a 3 hour round trip affair that was a direct ascent of 500m (1650 ft.) to the top. The way up was nothing to write home about, but the moment you get to the top it all changes! The gargantuan Athabasca Glacier comes pouring down between the mountains and forms a lake and river at the bottom from the run off. This picture doesn't even come close to capturing the beauty and size of this thing. Needless to say the hike up was worth the effort...

Athabasca Glacier

Once we got to Jasper, we walked around the small town and then got down to planning what hike we wanted to do the next day. Since we only had one full day there, we wanted to make it a good one.

Posted by adit on 9/19/2008 08:30:00 PM 0 comments  

Day 3 - The day of rain

Not our most exciting day here. We were planning on doing a pretty cool day hike in an area West of Banff, but as we got there the rain came pouring down and basically did not stop all day. We took the opportunity to drive around and catch some sights that we might not have seen otherwise. Only worth showing one picture from this day. It is at Moraine Lake, which is near Lake Loiuse.

Moraine Lake

After a fairly nasty dinner of Chinese food, we were again in bed pretty early and ready for our trip up the Icefields Parkway the following day...

Posted by adit on 9/19/2008 08:27:00 PM 0 comments  

Day 2 - Wildlife and Sulphur Mountain

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

After a fairly strenuous hike the previous day, we wanted to do a lighter trail this morning and follow that up with some more touristy stuff in Banff. In the morning, we did a trail called Sundance Canyon, which actually didn't have much great scenery. We did however see a coyote and an elk along the way, which was pretty cool. The elk was a really big bull with impressive antlers. The picture is through the trees, so it's not easy to see. It would have been nice to get closer, but apparently this is 'rutting' season (mating) and the bulls are fairly aggressive.



After this loop we did the more touristy thing and took a gondola ride up to the top of Sulphur Mountain. It was quite an amazing view of the entire town and its surrounding landscape. One of the pictures is a stitching of two together to provide a wider field of view.

Atop Sulphur Mountain

Panoramic from Sulphur Mountain

The day ended with a trip to some natural hot springs. The water was 39 degrees celsius (102 F), and heated about a mile below the surface by the Earth. Sorry no pictures of that. :)

Posted by adit on 9/17/2008 10:51:00 PM 0 comments  

Day 1 - The Plain of Six Glaciers

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

While doing some research on good day hikes in the Banff area, I came across one called The Plain of Six Glaciers. It's located around Lake Louise, which is about 45km (that's right, one week in Canada, and I'm all metric) from Banff.

After parking at the lake site, you walk along a short path to the lake where you are greeted with this amazing first sight (couldn't do anything about being directly into the Sun).

View from the Chateau Lake Loiuse

What you see straight between the two mountains and behind the Lake is Victoria Glacier... where we would be in about 3 hours! The first part of this hike traditionally involved taking the flat path along the Northern shore of the lake before climbing up to the Plain of Six Glaciers. The owner of the bed and breakfast where we were staying mentioned to us that there is an alternate route one can take that involves climbing a little more steeply right in the beginning and the traversing along the mountain side, as opposed to the lake shore. She promised some terrific scenery from that vantage point, and she wasn't lying.

Water break along the Agnes trail

Halfway there, looking back at the lake from above

So we started off right in front of the Chateau and at this point we had made it pretty close to the end of the lake with a great view back. The color of the water in all of the lakes here is this amazing blue. The water that flows into them comes from the nearby glaciers which carry with them white sand-like rocks (from the erosion process) and this sand refracts the sunlight passing through to give it this color. If this had been a cloudless day, you would see that the color of the lake almost matches the color of the sky!

While this view was great, we couldn't hang around forever, as we were only halfway to the teahouse... that's right a teahouse. Lake Louise actually has a couple of teahouses. The Lake Agnes teahouse is a little more popular and is just slightly higher up from the path we took along the mountain side. There is also the Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse where we were headed.

On the way to the teahouse

Once you get to the teahouse, there is an extra 1.3km trail you can take to the very end. From there, you are looking up at Mt. Victoria, down at Victoria Glacier, and back across the entire lake and Chateau. After almost 3.5 hours (thanks to many stops for pictures), we finally reached the end.

Finally made it to the end of the hike!

Oddly enough the flat portion on the left side of the picture that just looks like loose rock, is actually Victoria Glacier. If you look closely, you will see that the rocks are covering a crevace filled layer of ice. It's was pretty cool to look back down the mountain and see where we started the trek from. Although, we only saw one glacier here, not 6!

View of Lake Louise from the final lookout point

Finally, on the way back we stopped at the teahouse for a quick snack and some tea.

Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse

This was an interesting little cabin, with two levels of outdoor seating. The people who work here have there own cabin behind the teahouse where they stay Mon through Fri. The go home Friday evening for the weekend. Just the week before we arrived there was a bear sighting here... we JUST missed it, which kind of sucks. Although it was a grizzly apparently, so maybe that was a good thing.

We reached Canmore that evening around 7pm, found some dinner and were in bed by 9... this turned out to be a theme of this vacation!

Posted by adit on 9/16/2008 10:17:00 PM 0 comments  

The Urinal Commandments

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Somewhere in our culture, where we teach all men to like football, burp, fart, and generally be disgusting, we have added to that a lack of urinal etiquette. Now, you might ask yourself "Self, why do I need urinal etiquette? I already know how to pee." Ah, you are correct; you do know how to pee. Unfortunately, you do not know how to pee in a public restroom.

In junior high school "Health" class, when we teach our teenage boys about their twig and berries and all the joys that they can bring, I propose we also teach The Urinal Commandments, consisting of the following... all of which have been violated in front of me far too recently.

  1. Thou shall keep your head forward at all times - If you really want to get a peek at my junk, then I guess you will violate this rule. If you are not interested in seeing the goods, then just watch the nice white tile that is behind the urinal.
  2. Thou shall not talk to strangers - No ones cares about any amusing anecdote that either just happened to you, or IS happening to you. In fact talking at all is only allowed if you are a good friend of the person peeing next to you, in which case Commandment #1 still applies.
  3. Thou shall use two hands at all times - For those of you that are very well endowed, you already do this, so skip ahead. Others of you, regardless of whether you need one hand, no hands, or a tweezer, to keep your peter straight, let's always use two hands. There are two reasons for this. First of all, if there is a divider between the urinals, it is meant as that, a divider, not an armrest. I don't need your elbow next to my face while I pee. Secondly, see below about keeping pee within the receptacle.
  4. Thou shall not express your relief in any way - Assuming you are adhering to Commandment #2, no other audible noises are acceptable (with the exception of farting). Not the least of which is a big sigh of relief closely resembling what you might sound like mid-ejaculation.
  5. Thou shall keep your feet a maximum of shoulder length apart - This is a close relative of Commandment #3. Unless you are looking for a Senator Larry Craig style liaison, I do not want to see your feet while I am peeing. You have a whole urinal to yourself, and this should be plenty. If not, use a stall.
  6. Thou shall keep all pee INSIDE the urinal - Possibly the most important of all commandments. For the life of me, I can't figure out how people can miss the urinal. The collection area is approximately 100 times the area of a cross section of your pee stream, how can you possibly miss? If this is a sporting event or a bar, where there is a high probability of intoxication, it is marginally acceptable. But in an office? wtf? If you are in accordance with Commandment #3, then this should never, EVER, happen.
I surely hope I don't need to add anything to this list in the future...

Cable Clutter

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Since this is my blog and not yours, I can post about pet peeves that I have. One of which is cable clutter. For those of you that don't know it by this name, it is also known as "the pile of wires going in and out of my computer which are all tangled and stacked at the foot of my desk, collecting dust and looking like shit". I was inspired by this and other postings where people have come up with various solutions to this problem. I decided to take it on myself.

First let's review the number of wires most people have going to/from their computers. Mac users can ignore this, since their fancy iMac's don't have this issue, as I briefly mentioned in an earlier post.

  1. Power cord for CPU
  2. Power cord for monitor
  3. Power cord for printer
  4. Keyboard USB cable
  5. Mouse USB cable
  6. Monitor data cable
  7. Speakers
  8. Microphone
  9. Ethernet
  10. Cable Modem power cord
  11. Wireless router power cord
  12. Ethernet cable from modem to router
  13. Webcam USB cable
13! 13 f-in cables! What a pain in the ass! So after searching our home away from home (Ikea) high and low, I found this handy little rack which mounts nicely into the little hole at the back of our desk.

It's perfect for piling up all of those annoying cables. The other thing I used was a set of nylon ties that you can find at any hardware store for a buck or so. The resulting mess (all semi-neatly piled) is now in the basket and out of sight and out of harms way.

I left just enough cable for each device to comfortably reach the CPU. Even the surge protector can be laid on top of all of the cables. And since everything is held together with the nylon ties, no tangling. You want to make sure you leave the mouse/keyboard wires on top, since they will tend to get pulled and maneuvered more often. The resulting workspace looks like this:

Yes, I know there are still cables visible... but they do need to reach the CPU somehow. More than anything it is 10 times better than the pile 'o' crap technique I used to employ.

Abbot Kinney Festival

Last Sunday was the annual Abbot Kinney Festival in Venice. Ujj and I had never been there before and since she loves these street fair type events, we decided to go. LOTS and LOTS of jewelery, art, and "organic" clothing. Lots of "green" items. All of which were of course overpriced.

We didn't really know exactly where this thing was taking place, so we hopped on a bus going in the general direction, ended up overshooting the optimal stop and basically starting walking in a huge circle till we found the place. We did end up here however:

After I dunked on these guys one too many times, they asked me to leave. Said it was unfair to let me keep playing... discrimination if you ask me! Incidentally this is the court where they play in White Men Can't Jump, for all of you fans. We did eventually find the tents, and once we did, they seemed to stretch on forever.

Posted by adit on 10/03/2007 03:57:00 PM 0 comments  

Dell finally catches up to Apple

Friday, September 28, 2007

It only took over a year (almost 2 I think) for Dell to finally make an LCD that has a camera and microphone built in. Too bad Apple has been doing this for quite a while. It's such a simple and sensible idea that one has to wonder how it can take so long for the geniuses running non-Apple computer manufacturers to implement these ideas. I suppose there is a reason that Apple's laptops are gaining marketshare.

The only thing left now is for them to figure out how to cram the entire PC into the monitor casing and have a computer with only (gasp) 3 necessary cables running to it... instead of the 6 that most WinTel machines need. My pet peeve about cable clutter will be saved for a future post this upcoming week.

Dell LCD with webcam

Posted by adit on 9/28/2007 10:57:00 AM 0 comments  

Thank god for the Cincinnati Bengals

Thursday, September 27, 2007

This was sent to me by Jason. You just can't make this stuff up. The best part about this link is that not only does it make fun of gun toting mid-westerners, it also makes fun of the number one ranked felon for the Bengals, Chris Henry.

Outspoken critics of the Bengals "D" face persecution

yet another burn on Internet Explorer

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I figure after I sent a proselytizing email against Internet Explorer to all Vino users, I should post this picture depicting the difference between some popular web browsers.

Firefox vs. Opera vs. Internet Explorer

Indian cricket team fails to choke

Monday, September 24, 2007

I always joke with my wife that the Indian cricket team chokes whenever it really counts (a la their thrashing at the hands of the Australians in the last World Cup Final)... well it looks like they have gotten over that hump! They won the first ever Twenty20 World Cup. Slightly different format match that is MUCH shorter (thank god!!).

The icing on the cake for Indian fans I guess, is that they beat Pakistan in the final. Let's see them win the actual World Cup now :)

India crowned champions after thriller

Posted by adit on 9/24/2007 03:20:00 PM 0 comments  

Discount on your cell phone bill

I found this posting yesterday and tried it. Since I work for JPL, I get a 15% discount on my monthly cell phone bill! Not bad at all. It's definitely worth taking a look. You do have to give them your work email address, so that they can send a confirmation email to you, making sure you do work for whomever you say.

How to score a discount on your monthly cellular bill