Rural before rural (day 4): Lake O’Hara

The most difficult part of the week-long trip to plan was the overnight camping at Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. To preserve the secluded environment, visitors are not allowed to drive up the mountain (11km, 2,035m). Limited number of shuttles take a fixed number of visitors up to the Lake every day. There is no limit on the number of people who hike up the long and viewless road, which is what my family and I ended up doing first time we came. On a good day, all of the seats will be booked well in advance, and people can only show up at the scheduled bus departure times and hope there are no-shows.

As a result of this, and our failure to plan things until late June, we only managed to book one night for one site. And then we had to plan everything else around this. That also means only Johnny and I are heading up this wonderful little secret. (Johnny asked: I’ve never heard of this place, how did you guys know about it? Me: I think my dad was chatting with some random guys at a hot spring in one of the national parks, and they told him this was their favorite places.)

Enough introduction. I will let pictures speak for themselves.

When we first arrived, the weather was very miserable. We quickly set up our tent, and at around 10am set out towards Lake McArthur in the rain, as per a park attendant’s suggestion. The rain got worse, but there were still a lot of hikers in full rain gear. By the time we got to Lake McArthur (2,251m elevation) 2 hours of rain later, our waterproof jackets were soaked through, and our fingers were so cold and numb, we couldn’t feel our cameras. The mountains behind the lake was only partially visible, so we felt pretty defeated.

On our way down, we saw a marmot who followed us for a good 200 meters. Johnny chased it with his camera, and met someone else with a 200x zoom capturing the same rodent. Every time the marmot looked up, the two photographers would simultaneously hit the shutter. “It really likes the cameras”, I said after the marmot changed its pose again. “Yup, it’s definitely a poser marmot!” the guys said.

The rain stopped and the sky cleared somewhat by then, so we were tempted to go back to Lake McArthur. We finally decided against it and continued to head back to our campground.

We ran into a few hikers from the Alpine Club of Canada, who had exclusive access to some nice cabins in the woods with bunk beds and kitchen supplies. They have hangouts like this all over Canada.

We finally got back to our camp around 2:30pm (4 hours of hiking) and cooked a nice hot lunch.

After that, we headed out to Lake Oesa (2270m), which took us from 4pm to 9pm (5hrs). The sun was out by then, so the entire hike up was full of joyous exclamations and irresponsible photo taking.

This is the famous Lake O’Hara. It has the beauty of Lake Louis without the noisy crowds.

米熊was mesmerized.

And then she remembered to pose.

We met lots of hikers on our way to Lake Oesa, including three topless guys who ran down the trail, jumping from boulder to boulder. I thought about what their patellar ligaments must look like under the microscope. Later, a lady on her way up told us that they were competitive cross country skiers, so the steep, ragged slopes were nothing for them. She also asked us how far away the lake was, and I told her it shouldn’t be far. Little did I know that there were three little teaser lakes below Lake Oesa. She almost turned around 10 minutes before she got to the real Lake Oesa because she thought one of the little ones was it.

Johnny kept looking for the perfect water-flowing-in-front-of-distant-mountain scene.

We got to Lake Oesa after some amazing scenery along the way, and there was no one else at the lake. We sat down next to the lake and dipped our tired feet in the icy lake. Instant gratification for 2 seconds followed by regret. We then had the sandwiches we made for dinner.

Million dollar view for the two of us. Tasty dinner after a hard workout. “This would be a perforce moment if Alison and Tina were here,” I said. Johnny agreed.

After dinner around 7pm, the clouds started to come in but we still wanted to explore the area a little more. So we hiked up the alpine ledges a little, and we agreed to turn back if there was any sign of danger.

Our adventurousness was rewarded.

We then took some pretty dangerous looking but actually not that bad pictures on a cliff. Johnny has the pics.

We finally got back to camp, concluding a wonderful 4 + 5 = 9 hour hike day which started with pouring rain, then blinding sunshine, and finished off with another shower.

After we got to camp, then sun set at 10pm. It would be very beautiful to see this sunset on the mountain, but it would also be too dangerous. Maybe next time when we go alpine camping.

The campers and hikers at Lake O’Hara were the most friendly ones I’ve met. We had some good chats with random people throughout the stay. I think it’s because this was such a small group, giving people a feeling that we share an exclusive, unique experience.

Oh, another thing that was a new experience was that I took a dump on a pit toilet (read: hole in the ground). Very strange feeling when the splash come with one second delay. Throws off your cerebellum, which is responsible to predict the outcome of your actions.


A week in Invermere

First week at Invermere went very well. Awesome weather, great suite, lots of medicine to learn.

Here’s a quick photo diary of my stay here. Firstly, I am living on the 2nd floor suite over the garage of this lovely house:

With this lovely view:

This is me on the way to first day’s work:

And my greeters to and from work:

It takes 20 minutes to walk to the hospital, but the walk through town was pretty nice.

On the way there was this skateboard park, which I thought would be where a lot of the cases in the ER come from.

Lots of these critters here, and I thought I can only see them in Taiwan.

The hospital where I have ER shifts:

The only Chinese food place in town. I went there for lunch once, and it was actually not bad. A good break from burgers and fries anyway. But I thought “oriental” has a derogatory connotation?

The street that makes up downtown. There are no streetlight anywhere in town.

First dinner at Angus McToggle’s:

The food here is actually not cheap, and with BC taxes, it’s about the same as in Vancouver. Even the gas is 130+ cents/litre.

This is the traffic jam in town:

A pebble beach on Lake Windermere. Lots of visitors on the weekend, a family environment.

On the weekend, I met up with Scotty and his fiance Dianne from Northern Medical Program, grabbed a beer from Ray Ray’s pub, and then hit the local theater: “Toby Theater” for X men: first class. Very very retro, and the decor inside had me wondering how old the place was.

Yes, there are planes and a disco ball hanging from the ceiling.

And this was the best: a double chair for couples to cuddle. I thought it was for oversized patrons at first…

Ticket was $8, not so cheap considering the theater has no surround sound and the seats are hard and had wooden backs. What’s more, right in the middle of the movie, the scene cut out by a big “INTERMISSION.” As the three of us were stunned by amazement, experienced locals jumped up and rushed to the washroom.

On Saturday I biked (oh yeah, my friendly landlords lent me their bike so I get to speed up my travel by 5 times) to the beach again,

and had the famous Scotty burger at Pynelogs Cafe. The patty was at least 4cm thick, AAA beef stuffed with cheese, mushrooms, bacon, and things:

To wrap things up, a few more pictures around town:

(by the way, I went into this shop and it had a very bad smell. So I ran out ASAP)

So far, I gotta say that I enjoy the rural lifestyle quite a bit. But I can see how I would become fatigued in another couple of weeks. I mean, I spent 4 hours and saw the whole town… it’s hard to imagine living here for the whole year.

The idea of practicing in an urban center and doing rural locum seems very attractive at this point.

Rural before rural (day 3): Lake Louis

If you take a poll on which image people around the world associate with the Canadian Rockies, I would wager that it would be the picture of Lake Louis from the front steps of Fairmont. It’s just so accessible and beautiful and iconic that tour companies will probably be criticized if they don’t plan a stop at Lake Louis.

We visit Lake Louis almost every time we go to the Rockies as well. But we have never explored it quite like this trip: because of Johnny, we hiked up to the Agnes Lake, had lunch at the tea house, and went further up to the Bee Hive. Even my mom hiked the whole way without a complaint. My dad complimented her in in his usual back-handed way: “without Johnny, she wouldn’t even have started the hike!”

On the hike up, I suddenly came up with a question:

“What’s the line after ‘山有仙則名’?” It’s from a poem I learned in grade 7 or grade 8 about how a dude thinks he is so much better than everyone else because he is above material and other mundane needs. Its rough translations: “The mountain is famous because of a Budha.”

When we got to the Tea House by Agnes Lake, just around the corner, the freezing wind slap the sweating hikers so abruptly that I felt the temperature must have dropped by 10 degrees in a matter of a few steps. We quickly found shelter in the Tea House and ordered some very expensive hot chili and tuna sandwich.

By Agnes Lake, I found a big rock and our risky photo taking started only to get worse over the trip:

It was quite a strenuous hike up the hills from Agnes Lake to the Bee Hive, but we all got there ok. The view from the Bee Hive, which sits on top of the big round rock to the right of Lake Louis when viewed from Fairmont, was phenomenal. We could look far into the valley to the north and south, and we could look down on the famous Lake Louis and appreciate it in its entirety.

And this is what we did with the hundreds of meters of cliff:

And believe it or not, it was my dad who suggested that we take floating pictures on this big rock:

We hung around the Bee Hive for a while for some rest (after lots of trials of jumping pictures), and we noticed that a big ugly looking cloud moved in from the northern end of the valley. A lot of mist formed underneath it, slowly covering everything below. On the southern end, the sky was still bright blue with some white clouds, giving a very dynamic contrast in the panoramic view.

We could see the end of the rain because the sky was brighter right behind the raining cloud, so we decided that we could wait out the rain in 20 minutes. We did.

The hike down was also challenging, but once again, no one complained and we all got down safe and sound. We talked about how Alison and Tina must come here next time we are in Banff. I’m sure my dad would say: “If you don’t hike to the Bee Hive, you haven’t been to Lake Louis.”

The entire hike took about 5-6 hours, with plenty of fooling around and rest in between.

Because we booked the campsites just in the nick of time, we couldn’t book enough nights at Lake Louis for both tents. My parents and Charlie had to go to Banff after we finished our Lake Louis hike, so we said goodbye at the Lake Louis parking lot.

Johnny and I decided to go to the “family restaurant” in the Lake Louis village for dinner, because Johnny has been having his veggie instant noodles for 2 nights.

The place was run by Chinese people, much to our surprise. “Where did they come from?” I wondered to Johnny. I didn’t think there would be too many local Chinese people in Banff.

As we ate, Johnny suddenly exclaimed: “rainbow!”

And I saw the brightest rainbow in my memory right outside the window. It was so bright that it was actually obscuring the mountain behind it.

We went back to our campground after dinner, and because of a line up at the entrance, and because we had too much time to kill, we headed up to Moraine Lake

and took more silly pictures.

We spent 1 hours on the lookout, to many other tourists’ amusement (or distaste, one or the other).

米熊skipped the hike on Lake Louis, but he made up for it by rock-climbing at Moraine Lake.

And he enjoys the valley view behind the lake.

(to be continued…)

Rural before rural (day 2): Icefield Parkway

*Answer to previous day’s question: you need to look away from the sun to see a rainbow. Here is an explanation.

The stretch of highway between Jasper and Lake Louis is called the Icefield Parkway. It’s the most beautiful stretch of highway I have been to (Californian coastline comes in second).

We left our campground after a hearty breakfast.

First stop was Edith Cavell, named after a British nurse who has never seen this mountain.

Then we went to Athabaska Falls. Here is 米熊 enjoying the view:

Lots of tourists here, but the power of the waterfall was worth fighting through the crowds.

And then we went to Sunwapta Falls for lunch: hot congee tastes best on a camping trip.

The view on the road constantly changes, with every turn another mountain or lake might pop out.

You can’t take enough pictures (and when I was little, I did think about making a time-lapse video of the Icefield Parkway — in both directions), so you can only keep your eyes open the whole time.

Which is what 米熊 did.

We went to Columbia Icefield, and hiked up to Athabaska glacier. Along the way, there were signs of where the glacier used to be 10, 20, 30 years ago. A bit worrying to see the glacier retreat like male pattern baldness.

This is 米熊 being gangster and sitting on the do-not-cross line.

The next hike at Parker’s Ridge was longer, but 100% worth it (my dad gave this hike his highest praise: if you haven’t been to Parker’s Ridge, you haven’t been to Banff).

We then finally got to Lake Louis campsite, concluding a full day of little hikes.

(to be continued…)

Rural before rural (day 1): Jasper

For med school at UBC, there is a required course called Rural Family Medicine, in which every student is sent to a rural community in BC to work with a family doc for a month in the summer between second and third year. My rural month is August, the last rotation, so I have been hearing lots of awesome stories from my classmates who have finished their rotations and seeing lots of fun pictures on Facebook (none of which are inappropriate, of course).

My rotation starts next week in Invermere, just south of Radium, the southern tip of Kooteney National Park. Because I love the Canadian Rockies like no place else on earth, I decided to come a week early to go hiking and camping. To make the trip even more awesome, Johnny, a good friend whose rotation is in Revelstoke, joined my family on this pre-rural trip.

We left early on Monday, with a pretty miserable weather forecast, but we were pleasantly surprised by some sunny breaks.

The drive was very smooth, and we got to Mt. Robson (the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954m) early in the afternoon.

We were also joined by a special guest by the name of 米熊 (pronounced mi-ssion). This is her posing in front of Mt. Robson.

And she likes camping at Wapiti campground in Jasper.

After a quick meal that involved Johnny being shocked by my mom’s grilled ribeye steaks, we headed out to Fairmont Jasper Lodge and Lac Beauvert. But being in the Rockies, of course the drive there was spectacular already.

The Lodge features a golf course right next to Lac Beauvert (I used my superb French 101 knowledge to explain that it meant “beautiful green lake”)

Here is Johnny with his shotgun

Here is my dad with his shotgun

Both of their cameras are many times better than mine, so these blog entries would be updated once I get pictures from them by the end of August.

We walked around the lake, sometimes traversing through golfers’ trails, and we ran into a pair of guys on golf carts who invited my dad to take a swing. It was like the Christmas day present my dad never got.

Along the way, we kept wondering where the rainbow was, given that it was both sunny and rainy. I also posed the question: which way should you look for a rainbow, towards the sun, or away from it? That’s the hazard of traveling with me… I pose random science and math questions.

The sun was casting some amazing shades as we walked through the woods.

Before we headed out, there it was! The awaited rainbow 🙂

We stopped by the town of Jasper and I captured this, the current background image of my iPad:

And what’s Jasper without some wildlife sighting?

We returned to the campground, tired from the day’s travel but very excited for what lied ahead.

(to be continued…)

Location:Jasper National Park


What can I do with all these CDs?

Continuing with the theme of cleaning, I want to talk about one of the many headaches that I believe many of you share, or will share when the same problem inevitably arrives: what do I do with all these dam CDs?!

In the foreground, you can see a slanted pile of what looks like a piece of well-formed poop. This CD poop is the result of years of accumulation of hardware drivers, burned movies that were only played once, outdated music CDs that will make anyone cringe if played ever again… I believe that this CD poop will be even more impressive had not been for the invention of iPods, affordable USB sticks, external harddrives, and wireless home networks.

What should I do with these shiny, pretty pieces of garbage? My mom was about to throw them out, but I saved them from the garbage bag and started to google “used CD diy“.

But this is not even a problem compared to what’s in the background: approx. 200 blank CD-Rs waiting to be used… but for WHAT?

I’m not gonna sit here for 5 minutes to burn 10 songs to the CD and play on my CD-R playback systems; I have iPod and speakers. I’m not gonna burn one movie to one CD and watch it once; I can hook the TV to my computer. I’m for sure not going to backup my files using these CDs… just imagine organizing 600 CDs and trying to find anything in this mountain.

So now I have two buckets of perfectly fine, shiny CDs that I just can’t think of a use for. I don’t want to waste my time and energy trying to sell them on Craigslist (I don’t sell anything below $10 because it’s just not worth my trouble, and blank CDs are worth… wait what? People are actually selling them for tens of dollars?

Well ok. I think I just found out what to do with these outdated tech toys 🙂

But seriously… what are people still doing with these?

Buy my stuff!

*Skip to the bold text below if you don’t want to read my rambling*

After years of living in the same house, it is easy to let things accumulate. Especially things that are sidelined by newer replacements so they are not used anymore, but aren’t broken so they aren’t thrown out either.

This is where Craigslist come in. I don’t know why it took me so long to become acquainted with this one-of-the-most-used site. It’s so much easier to post little things on Craigslist than on eBay, and so much more fitting for my purposes (an Internet garage sale). It only makes sense to sell my things locally; a buyer from the east coast of USA asked me about a $150 stereoset I put on Craigslist, so I looked up the shipping cost and outright told him to give up… it would cost $450 to ship a $150 item!

Anyway, I have had mixed success with my Craigslist ads. I managed to sell a few things, but the time and energy spent to make these dingy dollars are not worth it mathematically. I still do it though, partly because I would hate to throw out perfectly fine items when there are people who could potentially make use of them.

Anyway, tonight I went on facebook and a friend started chatting. I talked about selling stuff on Craigslist, and he got really interested. I think he might just be bored and was curious what my closet held, but that got me thinking: what if more of my friends are like him? What if my friends who aren’t actively looking to buy an iPod touch saw my iPod touch for sale, and thought maybe they could use it?

By selling on Craigslist, I am reaching a wider audience who is looking for the stuff I am selling. But by selling to my friends, I am tapping into the social networking potential. My things aren’t just things to my friends; they are “things that my friends used to treasure”. I bought a set of bicycle pedals off a friend just like that.

Instead of posting dozens of items on my wall individually and risk losing my friends’ respect, though, I will just create a list here.

As a special perk, if you bought anything off the list here, I will give you a surprise gift — a token of thanks for proving that my social networking isn’t all just a big waste of time.


Here goes!






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