Category Archives: top ten lists

travel related top ten lists, sometimes eleven… call it “new” math

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Ten things about Jasper you may not have known

pyramid mountain jasper national park

Pyramid Mountain reflection in Patricia Lake – Jasper National Park, AB ©theexplorerslens.com

Jasper National Park celebrates it’s 105th this month. In honour of the Parks’ birthday we’ve compiled a list of things about Jasper National Park you not have already known.

    The first permanent European settlement in the Jasper area was established in 1813. Jasper wasn’t designated a National Park until 1930, 23 years after the government of Canada established the Jasper Forest park;

    Jasper National Park is the 11th largest park in Canada and the largest 2nd largest National Park in the province of Alberta. For the curious Wood Buffalo National Park (AB/NWT) is the largest in the country;

    The Park is the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve;

    The largest group to assemble within the park at one time was an assembly of First Nations celebrating the raising of the ‘Two Brothers’ totem in 2011 ;

    Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum starred in ‘River of No Return’ which was partially filmed within the park in 1953;

    Parks Canada has strict guidelines regarding residency in Jasper townsite (Banff as well). Bottom line – Get a job within the Park if you want to live in this little slice of heaven;

    The first road connecting Jasper to Edmonton was completed in 1928;

    The 230km stretch of highway connecting Jasper to Lake Louise was completed in 1939;

    Over 10 million people have stood on the Athabasca Glacier;

    In 2010 over 7,600kg/16,755 pounds of invasive, non native vegatation was removed from the Park;

    Just under 2 million people visit the Park each year.

We know… eleven!

Bucket Lists Why Wait?

rocky mountain national park

Work’s for Suckers. Live Life’s Adventure – Rocky Mountain National Park, CO ©theexplorerslens.com

Last week, a friend asked what was on our Bucket List. Glibly I replied, “Everything” because we don’t take bucket lists seriously and our list of places we’d like to visit is really, really long.

While we always know the answer to “where are you going next?”, and have a rough outline of trips and adventures for the foreseeable future, I’ve never considered our travel plans a Bucket List simply because we actually do them! For us Bucket Lists fall into that category of well intentioned ideas that never come to fruition, a passive wish list we delay implementing until ultimately time forces us to act – before kicking the bucket.  

In many ways our current travel decisions – as computed by the Adventurtron 770t – are dictated by the same constraint:  Can we wait 3 years to photograph tigers in the wild? Will we be fit enough to climb Denali in five years. Can we afford a guided trek in Bhutan this year? The biggest difference on our take of a Bucket List is planning and more importantly execution.  We make a concerted effort to actively manage our adventure destinations and take the necessary actions to make the once-in-a-life-time trips happen while we can enjoy them instead of deferring the decision.

Why Wait – Live Life’s Adventure.


the explorer’s lens current and ever expanding List of Adventure – Top Ten


In no particular order:

    Photograph Big Cats in the wild,
    Hike the Inca Trail, visit  Machu Picchu and it’s sister site Choquequirao,
    Trek Patagonia,
    Restore/upgrade a vintage VW Westy and travel the length of the Rockies,
    More Land Rover fun in Alaska,
    Climb mountains while we still can (this is a whole separate list!),
    Spend some down time slumming in Tuscany with George and Brad,
    Win the McNeil River lottery,
    Iceland overland trip and trek,
    Experience Scotland,

…plus more ‘stuff’ in Africa, …return to the Himalaya, …’something’ to do with the Great Wall, …there’s the other half of Australia, …Cam wants a beach vacation. Told you it was a really, really long list!

What’s on your List of Adventure?  Leave us a comment below.

Ten Ways to Escape the Calgary Stampede for the Day

Escape the Stampede

Attracting over a million visitors per year ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’ known as the Calgary Stampede’s is held annually for 10 days beginning the first Friday of July. The Stampede features rodeo events, stage performances, agricultural exhibits, a midway, first nations performances, and a number of other cowboy related activities. But lets face it 10 days of ropin’ and ridin’ can get a little tedious especially if you don’t know your ropers from your wranglers.

With Badlands to the east, vast plains and grasslands south, and the Rocky Mountains to the west it may be time to mosey on out to the wilds and sow some oats. We’ve selected ten destinations all within 2 hours of downtown Cowville that will soothe your saddle-sores and get you out of the city for a day.

Banff National Park

Designated as Canada’s first National Park in 1885; the world’s third behind Yellowstone (1872) and Australia’s Royal National Park (1879), Banff National Park is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Home to the Canadian big five – grizzly, black bear, cougar, wolf, and elk – Banff is an outdoors enthusiasts nirvana.

Option 1: Two Lakes and a Glacier – Lake Louise

    Turquoise alpine lakes and glaciers are signature Mountain Park icons. Lake Louise offers two of the finest views – Lake Louise with Victoria Glacier as a backdrop and Lake Moraine with Valley of the Ten Peaks reflected in the lakes shimmering waters. Travel along Highway #1 west approximately 55km north of the Banff townsite.

Option 2: Lake Agnes Tea House – Lake Louise

    Want a little exercise with your mountain views? Sitting above Lake Louise are two seasonally operated tea houses – Lake Agnes (2,135m/7,005′ ~ 4km from Chateau Lake Louise – follow the Lake Agnes trail) and Plain of the Six Glacier (2,090/6,857′ ~ 5.6km from the Chateau along the Lakeshore/Plain of the Six Glaciers Trail) from which you can take in abundant mountain scenery while enjoying a freshly brewed beverage and light snack. For a more rigorous outing visiting ‘loop’ both tea houses together and make a 14.2km return trip.

    If you’re seeking better views, both teahouses offer easily accessible high points a short distance away. Lake Agnes offers Little Beehive (2,225m/7,300′ ~ 1km from the teahouse) and Big Beehive (2,270m/7,448′ ~ 1.7km from the teahouse). The Plains of the Six Glaciers has a viewpoint approximately 1.3km past the teahouse.

Option 3: Johnston Canyon

    The easiest walking option on this list. This leisurely stroll is all about hydrology and the effect of Johnston Creek on the underlaying limestone. Two waterfalls (Lower and Upper Falls) are the star attractions on this walk creating a 6km out and back trip. If you’re curious the trail continues for another 3km to a number of mineral pools called the Ink Pots.

    Shade and cool breezes make this hike a popular outing.

Option 4: Banff Townsite

    If you’re looking to stretch your legs, take in a view, and reward yourself with a beer chaser stick closer to the Banff townsite and checkout the hoodoos along the Bow River then hike Tunnel Mountain.  Afterwards drop into the Magpie & Stump for some TexMex and cerveza (203 Caribou street Banff, Alberta, Canada Phone: (403) 762-4067 Hours: Noon  to 2:00 a.m.).

Kananaskis Country

“K-Country” to the locals, Kananaskis is the Banff the tourist hoards have yet to find.

Here you will find all the mountain scenery, emerald lakes, and wildlife that makes Banff so picturesque but without a commercial centre catering to the bus loads of tourists. Great for hiking, mountain bike riding, and good olde fashion scenery.

Option 1: Spray Lakes Circle Tour

    To access this little slice of heaven follow Hwy 1 west towards Banff for approximately 70km and then head south on Hwy 40 (Kananaskis Trail). If you are looking for a circle tour we’d recommend hooking up with the Spray Lakes Road that will take you on a scenic gravel back road into Canmore, a bustling mountain community just east of Banff National Park. Before heading back to Calgary head over to the Grizzly Paw for a bite to eat and a sample of mountain micro brew.

Option 2: Cowboy Trail Circle Tour

    As with the option above, Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) is the starting point for a delightful trip through the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies before swinging eastward and heading back through the foothills joining The Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) at nearby Longview (Eastwood’s Unforgiven was filmed here). Heading north through rustic towns of Black Diamond and Bragg Creek will eventually return you to Highway 1 (TransCanada) approximately 20 minutes west of Calgary.

Option 3: Golf

    Here’s a locals secret – Nestled between Mount Kidd and Mount Lorette, Kananaskis Country Golf Course is 36 holes of mountain golf at its finest. If you’re a duffer this is not to be missed.

Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology

Oil’s not the only thing we find in the ground around here, we also dig up the odd dinosaur – insert pithy political joke here…

Drumheller’s Royal Tyrell Museum, located 135km north east of Calgary, is considered the Dinosaur Capital of the World and is as close to Jurassic Park as you’re going to get.  This world renown research facility is set amongst the badlands (badlands: wikipedia definition and examples) giving it a barren other-worldly feel.  Short walking trails starting from the museum parking lot make for great lunch stops as you sit atop badlands formations.  Caution if visiting during the peak of summer be sure to protect yourself from the sun and take water as it can get quite hot.

While your in the area don’t miss the opportunity to see the hoodoo formations near East Coulee and Horseshoe and Horse Thief Canyons.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

With the Rockies looming in the west and grassland plains extending east the Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump-Interpretive-Centre (just typing that gave me a cramp!) is one of those cultural gems that appears out of nowhere and is one of the best museums/interpretive areas we’ve ever visited. This designated UNESCO World Heritage Site documents the history of area Blackfeet and the cliff’s use as means to slaughter buffalo.

Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump-Interpretive-Centre is located roughly 170km (from the city centre) due south along Highway 2. Before reaching Fort MacLeod head west along #785 following the signs. If you are interested in extending your adventure check out the Museum of the North West Mounted Police in downtown Fort MacLeod.

Dinosaur Provincial Park

A typical two hour trip east of Calgary on the TransCanada Highway (Hwy #1) quickly turns monotonous as the foothills give way to prairie grasslands that appear to go on forever. However, twenty minutes northeast of Brooks something spectacular happens to the landscape. Hidden in the Red Deer River valley the bottom literally drops out of the monotony revealing the stark maze of badlands contrasted by the lush cottonwoods along the riverbank that is Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 the park’s website offers this about Dinosaur Provincial Park:

More than 300 first-quality dinosaur skeletons have been pulled from a 27-kilometre stretch along the Red Deer River since digging began there in the 1880s. And dozens of these now grace museum space in 30 cities around the world. Since 1985 the largest collection of treasures from the park has been housed in the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, in Drumheller, a two-hour drive northwest of the park.

In addition to great scenery you can also get your Indiana Jones on… A small field office/museum operates within the park offering guided bus tours and hikes related to current and past digs in the area.