Canadian Rockies: Yoho Valley Trail

On Wednesday morning we still hadn’t heard any good news from our house-sitter, but once again, I figured someone had found Riesling and would bring her into a local vet’s office or the shelter. She is chipped and I had already contacted the rescue we got her from in case the information was old.

So, we stuck with our original plan and after a filling egg, ham and cheese panini each for breakfast at the hotel, we packed up the car and headed north toward Field. Our first stop at the Spiral Tunnel lookout was a bit of a bust as haze really prevented a good view of the train tracks. A better stop was the Meeting of the Waters lookout for some views of the rapids.

Meeting of the Waters

The Takakkaw Falls area in YoHo NP was very busy, and you can see (and hear) the falls easily from the parking lot. We got our photographs and then lost the crowds on the 10km RT hike to Laughing Falls, passing Angel’s Staircase Falls (barely flowing) and Point Lace Falls on the way.

Takakkaw Falls  Takakkaw Falls

YoHo Valley Trail

Point Lace Falls  Laughing Falls

At this point we both admitted that we were worried sick over Riesling and weren’t wholly enjoying ourselves. So, once we got back to the parking lot and there was still no news, we headed to our B&B in Field and booked tickets home for the next day, cutting our trip short by two days. We also put the word out on Facebook and called our parents to let them know the bad news.

Knowing that we were going home to take up the search ourselves put us in a slightly better mood (we still held out hope that she would be found before we got home). Thankfully, the B&B owners were understanding and didn’t hold us to the two night minimum.

We had the best dinner of the trip that night at Truffle Pig.  I had spinach fettuccine with red-wine soaked figs, arugula, goat cheese and pancetta paired with a glass of pink bubbly. Eric had a local apple cider and pork picatta with black pepper spatzle, green beans and olive tapenade. Both the service and setting were lovely. Highly recommended.

spinach fetticini with red-wine soaked figs, arugula, goat cheese and pancetta @ Truffle Pig  pork picatta with black pepper spatzle, green beans and olive tapenade @ Truffle Pig

Canadian Rockies: Stanley Glacier + Silverton Falls

We had a later start on Tuesday, as I was starting to get stuffed up. Fun fact: You don’t need to speak to a pharmacist to purchase pseudoephedrine in Alberta!

We drove back to Kootenay NP to hike to Stanley Glacier.  It was a long hike through alpine forest and over many rocks, about 9km RT to the hanging valley and waterfall. Stanley Falls was hard to photograph due to the position of the sun and the glacier itself was impossible to see due to smoky haze in the air. We had to do a lot of processing to rescue the photos below.

Kootenay NP views  Stanley Falls


Eric in a hanging valley (with photo gear)

Stanley Glacier hike

After that long hike we decided to keep it a bit easier, so we stopped at Silverton Falls on our way back to Banff. This easy hike to a two-tiered falls took about 20 minutes RT.

Silverton Falls

Downtown Banff was our next stop to photograph Bow Falls and grab a beer at Banff Ave Brewing – black lager for me and a witbier for Eric. We walked around a bit but didn’t want to buy anything besides candy (sidenote: Zingy Zaps are awesome!). All the tourist shops were a bit overwhelming.

Bow River in Banff (falls on left)

At this point, we had some cell signal back so I noticed that I had two missed calls from our house-sitter. Then, when I opened my email I saw a message from my neighborhood listserv that a dog was missing. Our dog.

Apparently, Riesling had wandered off while Becky left her unattended in our non-fenced backyard. After a few frantic texts, she told me she was looking for her everywhere and would update us as soon as she found her.

grabbing a pint @ Banff Ave. Brewing  dinner @ The Georgetown Inn

Figuring Riesling would be found soon, we checked into our new hotel, Lady McDonald Inn, and wandered across the street to The Georgetown Inn for dinner. I had a sliced steak sandwich on pretzel roll with a ginormous side of tasty poutine while Eric went much healthier with a grilled chicken burger. To drink, Eric had a local raspberry beer (x2) and I had a tempranillo, then a Guinness.

Canadian Rockies: Moraine Lake, Consolation Lakes, Marble Canyon + Paint Pots

Going to bed early the night before allowed us to wake up before dawn on Monday to get to the Moraine Lake area at sunrise… along with a hundred other people! Our planning paid off though because we scored one of the last few parking spots at 7am.

We scaled the giant rockpile and hung out to watch the sunrise.

early morning selfie @ Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake @ sunrise

Moraine Lake

After an hour and a half, we tore ourselves away from this gorgeous view to start the hike to Consolation Lakes.
There were many people at Lake Moraine but only a small fraction on this trail, so nice!

After an easy 40 minute hike, we got the first views of Consolation Lake…

Consolation Lake

Mount Babel

Mount Fay & Consolation Lake


To reach the shore you must scramble across a large boulder field – the views were worth it. The scene changed a lot after sun crested the ridge so I am glad we got there when we did.

On the way back, Eric took a quick detour to Taylor Lake. It was quiet and very scenic.

Taylor Lake

Back in the crowds around Moraine Lake, the water was even bluer now that the sun was in full effect. We found a comfy spot on the rock pile and people watched / rested our feet for another hour.

a canoe on Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake had truly stunning views and was well worth getting up early to see, a definite highlight of the trip.

Feeling like we made the most of our parking spot, we left for Marble Canyon in Kootenay NP. The short trail follows the sides of the narrow canyon with lots of crossings and pale blue rushing water. The trail terminates in front of a nice two-tiered waterfall.

Marble Canyon  Marble Canyon

The nearby Paint Pots were interesting as an add-on hike since we were in the area. It’s about a 25 minute RT with mostly muddy pits until the end where there were three green ponds with ochre rims. The trail was pretty exposed and hot in mid-afternoon but you need the sun to give the paint pots a worthwhile color.

Paint Pots

Paint Pots

After a quick shower back at the hotel, we walked to Sage Bistro across the street and ate upstairs in the Wine Lounge. I had a lovely Portuguese red (after the waitress talked me out of my original Canadian choice) and Eric went local-ish with the Blasted Church gewurztraminer. We split a creamy blue cheese plate ($8) and I had mussels with a tasty broth ($15) for my main while Eric choose the boar bacon mac & cheese ($16). It was plenty of food for us, everything was tasty. We weren’t even charged for extra bread, plus our waitress was super nice. Recommended.

Hot tub to end the night then some much deserved sleep after our early start!

Canadian Rockies: Johnston Canyon, Lake Minnewanka + Johnson Lake

A few of the hikes we wanted to do involved beating many of the other park patrons to a parking lot, so we found ourselves up with the sun to drive to Johnston Canyon on Sunday morning. After a scenic 45 minute drive, we had no trouble finding parking at 8am.

early morning sun on the mountains

Even with the relatively early start the trail was fairly crowded as this is a popular hike that isn’t very difficult. The views were nice but the juxtaposition of all the steel supports for the walkway through the canyon took some of the naturalness away from the experience.

In addition to the Lower and Upper Falls, there were two other small waterfalls that were also good photograph material.

Leandra @ Johnston Canyon   Lower Falls @ Johnston Canyon

waterfall @ Johnston Canyon

Upper Falls @ Johnston Canyon  Johnston Canyon

Heading back south, we stopped at this viewpoint of the Bow River…

Bow River views

Our next stop was Lake Minnewanka for a hike to Stewart Canyon. The main parking lot was stuffed, so we crossed a bridge and found a spot in the small lot off the side of the road and walked about a half mile back to the camping area and trailhead. The people watching on the beach was more entertaining than the canyon, alas.

Lake Minnewanka

Eric noticed a small lake on the map just south so we ventured down to Johnson Lake. Busy! The small beach was packed and kids were fishing with string and sticks. We took a quick hike to far side of lake for some photos.

Johnson Lake trail

Cascade River

At this point we were feeling a bit peckish, so we stopped in Canmore at Rocky Mountain Bagel Co for lunch. The bagels were solid and Eric couldn’t resist going back in for a dessert bar that was fudgy and rich.

someone went back for dessert!  bagels for lunch

Continuing south(east), we explored the Spray Lake Reservoir area. Unfortunately Grassi Lakes was closed due to bear activity (we saw MANY warning signs around Canmore about bears) and because it was so dry, the uneven gravel road was very dusty. It made for difficult driving and if you were following another car, visibility was poor, so we gave up about 16km in and turned around.

Goat Pond

Smith Dorrien Trail views

Grassi Lake

A bit further up Hwy 1, we attempted to find Upper and Lower Spray Falls. We followed the hiking instructions exactly and while we found the pull-off and trail, Eric hiked along the river but only found one waterfall. He also managed to scrape his ankle too, making this trip equal to every other Canada hiking trip we have done. (Reminder to bring more band-aids next time!). At least it was pretty…

Spray Falls

For dinner we went to Tavern 1883 in Canmore. It is a small place and busy but we only had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. Many of their menu items were prepared sous vide, so I had to try the wild boar burger, and Eric had the fish & chips. We each ordered a beer and I wound up swapping my plain ale for Eric’s Apricot Ale.

Scotland 2017: Exploring the Highlands

Our second day in Scotland involved lots of driving, several waterfalls, one particularly rainy hike, and a few drams of whisky (naturally).

We headed north out of Inverness along the A835 to Rogie Falls. It was a short hike to the powerful cascades with a child-friendly interpretive sign about the life cycle of salmon.

hike to Rogie Falls  Rogie Falls

Rogie Falls

While driving along, we saw a parking area near another falls that wasn’t on our list, but Blackwater Falls and the pretty roadside falls around the corner were a nice photo stop.

Black Water Falls  falls off A835

The Falls Of Mesach are located in Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve. The large parking lot was nearly empty when we arrived (yeah!) and there was a food truck selling burgers and other snacks near the first entry gate. The gorge itself was surprisingly steep and the view from the limited-person bridge was breath-taking (or terrifying depending how you feel about heights or swaying bridges).

swinging bridge capacity

Corrieshalloch Gorge  Corrieshalloch Gorge

selfie w/ Falls Of Mesach

A little further up the road is this spectacular view of the Scottish highlands…

peekaboo view of Loch Broom

Our next stop was the Lael Forest and although we weren’t entirely sure we had the correct parking lot, we decided to go exploring. Thankfully the cows didn’t seem to mind.

hello cows!

After about a mile, we found a small waterfall next to a water-driven hydro station.

Lael Forest Falls

Feeling hungry, we stopped at the Arch Hotel in Ullapool for lunch. I had the blue cheese tart while Leandra opted for the (traditionally Scottish) Cullen Skink (cream-based soup with smoked haddock, potatoes and onions). Everything was tasty.

downtown Ullapool

On our way out of town, we took a quick detour to the Rhue Lighthouse and then continued on to Knockan Crag. The views from the top were spectacular but the drizzle that changed into rain halfway through the hike was not so great.

Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve

panoramic views

Given the weather we decided to begin our return back to Inverness along A837. In Invercassley we stopped at a small turnout for Achness Falls, which we had all to ourselves.

Achness Falls

Further down the road are the Falls of Shin, which appear to be recently developed with a parking lot and a new ramp and viewing platform. Unfortunately, the view is of top of falls, so it is not a great photo spot – hopefully they will complete a second viewing platform a little further downstream that will provide a much better vantage soon.

Falls of Shin

Given the time we decided to have dinner at the Dornoch Castle Hotel, which is known to have a nice whisky selection. Leandra had the mussels and I had the (very light and fluffy) goat cheese fritter salad (which was larger than expected, and quite tasty). Leandra had a few mistakes happen during dinner, including the wrong wine delivered to the table and leaving off the toasted bread on the mussels, but thankfully, everything was fixed quickly.

Dornoch Castle  mussels @ Dornoch Castle

After dinner we were lucky to snag a couch in the Whisky Bar while we perused the whisky list. Leandra tried a Clynelish 15 year cask in her long-standing challenge to identify a whisky like her beloved Benrinnes. Eric started with a local, Glenmorangie 12 year port finish, then went for a Laphroaig Scotch Malt Whisky Society‎ 29.175 16yr. This was lovely, with chocolate, burnt marshmallows, light fruit, nice smokiness.

scotch by candlelight @ Dornoch Castle

All in all, a long but satisfying day exploring Scotland.

Scotland 2017: Loch Ness

Upon landing and waiting for the rental car, the weather changed multiple times… sunny, pouring rain, cloudy, back to sun, etc. So, welcome to Scotland! We were waiting behind a couple who were having a few prepayment issues but once we got to the front it was smooth sailing and we were on our way in a brand new car.

Hungry, we made our first stop in Drumnadrochit, home of the Loch Ness Monster. Fiddler’s Restaurant is a laid back, typical Scottish pub but the food was even better than expected.  I had forgotten that the Scots cook their hamburgers to death so I opted for the cured meats instead. Everything was tasty, but the venison terrine was outstanding. Eric went with a cheddar burger and a bottled Black Isle Scottish wee heavy aged in an Ardbeg barrel. It was two years old and funky with a hint of sour, yum. I got a half pint of the local stout, also good. We might have had a dram after lunch as well…

absolutely tasty meat plate @ Fiddler's  a dram with Nessie


Although we really wanted to see Dog Falls, I vetoed the hike due to time constraints and my energy level. Plodda Falls wound up being a good choice, it was a short and easy hike to several cascades and viewpoints and once a French family cleared out we had the place to ourselves.

falls on Abhainn Deabhag

Plodda Falls  Plodda Falls

On the drive back we stopped to photograph a roadside falls for a creek that feeds the larger Abhainn Deabhag.

falls on Abhainn Deabhag

We also passed through the village of Tomich, which we learned is the area Lord Tweedmouth created the golden retriever dog breed. So there you go.

Continuing to retrace our path back toward Loch Ness, we tried to get a look at Urquart Castle but due to trees and a carefully placed parking lot, there wasn’t much to see from road, so we continued on. Our next stop was Invermoriston when we both spotted a small ‘waterfall’ sign near a parking area. A quick u-turn lead to Invermoriston Falls (lovely, but really a set of cascades…)

falls in Invermoriston

We rounded the south end of Loch Ness and started heading north again, stopping at the Suidhe Viewpoint. And, well, wow. The top of the hill gives you 360 degree views and it is stunning.

Suidhe Viewpoint

Suidhe Viewpoint

Suidhe Viewpoint

We had one more waterfall to see before we headed back to Inverness to check in and grab dinner, and the Falls of Foyer did not disappoint.

Falls of Foyers

Parking and check in at the B&B went smoothly and we decided on the nearby Rocpools for dinner. Really, any restaurant in town was within walking distance as the Eskdale Guest House was in a great location.

Greig St Bridge, Inverness
Greig St Bridge, Inverness

We split a pork belly appetizer (nuttier and more meaty than NC pork belly), then Eric had the pumpkin sage gnocchi and I had the beef cheek. Both were great and paired nicely with a Provence rose wine. At least four staff members stopped by the table to refill our wine glasses and chat – definitely my kind of place! :)

Not quite tired yet, we strolled across the river to Black Isle for a beer and a whisky. I had the Ardbeg barrel oatmeal stout with a dram of the Dalmore 12. Loved both! Eric went for the Rauschan marzen and the Old Pulteney 21 – nice smokiness to the beer and a complex orange and honey on the whisky. Reminded him of a Bruichladdich. Lovely way to end our first evening in Scotland.

Inverness @ night

Auckland: waterfalls and parks

Since we had stayed in the Ponsonby neighborhood on a previous trip, we already had restaurants in mind and decided to return to our favorite breakfast place, Cafe Jervois. I ordered the smashed avocado on toast with a side of salmon and Eric had the gluten-free waffles with bananas and bacon. Both dishes looked nice but only tasted average, a bit disappointing frankly. My eggs were underdone and the toast was too hard but the ginger latte was a highlight, very spicy.


We packed up the backpack for the day then headed to Hertz on foot to pick up the 24-hour car rental we had reserved the night before. No problems at all – plus the car was much nicer than what we had been used to so far with Apex Car Rentals.

We headed north to the Whangaparaoa area and Shakespear Regional Park (yes, it is spelled that way). Enroute we stopped at a New World Supermarket where we finally found more of the Tom & Luke cranberry and cashew snackaballs we fell in love with from Wellington. Twenty or so bags may have been purchased…

Once in the park we took the small trail to Gully Falls, which had a rather low waterflow this day. Further into the park we found a large picnic site where we had lunch with quite a few feathered friends, including some large peahens that scared some young park visitors by being overly friendly. There was no chasing any of of the birds away, as soon as I sat down with our bread and cheese, we were surrounded! One little bird even took small pieces of bread right from my hand.

Waterfall Gully  Shakespear Regional Park

peahen @ Shakespear Regional Park

Rejuvenated after our picnic, we headed west across the island to Makarau for Omeru and Waitangi Falls, located near another charming picnic area. The creekside trails were quite lush with foliage and many shades of green. We saw at least four separate falls here but most were unmarked and discovered by sticking close to the creek along worn footpaths.

waterfall @ Omeru Reserve

waterfall @ Omeru Reserve

Omeru Falls  Waitangi Falls

Despite our GPS’ best efforts to get us lost, we stopped in for a quick beer at Hallerbrau on our way back to the city. Eric had the black currant berliner weisse and I had the Nitro porter. Both were tasty, Eric thought the porter was very floral. The menu looked pretty good (I was tempted by the oysters) but I didn’t want to spoil my appetite for dinner.

Hallertau taps

When I tried to make online reservations at The Cav Gastropub, their system said there was nothing available, so I emailed the restaurant directly and was happily told that 7pm was no problem. Lesson learned – don’t always trust automated systems! The rose wines (both from Marlborough) were a bit disappointing but Eric liked his ‘Roaring Meg’ Pinot Gris and the food was also very tasty. Eric had the venison and mushroom hot pot that came stew-like in a planter pot covered by a massive puff pastry cap and a side of mashed potatoes. I had the house-named pork sticky-buns that were sweet and tangy with a side salad of cucumber, mango and sprouts tossed with chilis and a sesame vinaigrette. Definitely need to make that at home!

After dinner, we stopped in again at Dida’s for a glass of wine each from Jules Taylor, a Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc – both solid.