Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mitch Strohman: The Voice in Canada

Day two of NAU Basketball's trip to Calgary for the Battle of the Border involved a two hour bus ride on Canada Route 1 (the Trans-Canada Highway) to Lake Louise and Banff in the very heart of the Canadian Rockies. OK, I know I'm prone to a bit of hyperbole when it comes to the Lumberjacks, but I can say without hesitation, we visited one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen in my entire life.

I could write 10,000 words about how beautiful it was and not come close to capturing it. It's like walking up to Mather Point at the Grand Canyon for the first time; it takes your breath away. And like the Canyon, you're robbed of precious oxygen every single second your eyes are open. My son Zach perhaps said it best: “Dad, I've never seen anything like this before.”

Bears are a deadly serious issue in the Canadian Rockies. Hiking around Lake Louise you find signs warning you about Grizzlies saying you need to hike in “tight” groups no smaller than four. Experienced hikers carry several bottles of Bear Spray, a powerful anti-bear weapon. We ran into a nice local couple wearing jingle bells on the packs. They explained how the bells let bears know you're approaching so you don't surprise them. I was left wondering if they looked at us nutty Arizonans hiking without bear spray or bear bells, like we Arizonans look at city-folk hiking into the Grand Canyon in the summer wearing flip flops or high heels or not wearing hats or carrying water.

I loved watching several Lumberjack players rent canoes (including non-swimmers Gabe Rogers and Julian Olubuyi) and go for a one hour paddle around Lake Louise. One little weight distribution problem could send the Jacks into a lake that is as cold a bucket of ice water.

On to Banff.

It reminds us of any number of beautiful American mountain villages; nestled in a valley surrounded by spectacular, towering mountains. But in Banff's case those mountains are the Canadian Rockies, slight edge to Banff.

Canadian McDonald's and other fast food restaurants here do not offer you “dollar menus” like they do in the States. Instead they offer you “Snack” menus. I also love the north of the border candy. The Nestle' Aero Bar is a favorite. It's like a Crunch Bar with air pockets instead of the Rice Krispies; in this case, less is more! There are some interesting restaurant combos here in Calgary; we were all interested in the pizza-steak and pizza-fried chicken joints we drove by and yes we ate at one downtown (the one with the pizza-chicken).

Calgary is a very culturally diverse city, while we were here, there was a 100-year celebration of Calgary's Chinatown district. There is a lot of French spoken here and when you canvass the city on foot, you hear many languages spoken beside English.

Tourist alert for those suffering from the fear of heights, do not enter!: The Calgary Tower is amazing part of the city's skyline. At 626 feet, it's not the tallest building in the city, but when you pay the $14 and ride the elevator to the top and step out onto the glass-floor observation deck, it sure feels like it's the tallest thing in the city, if not in all of Alberta.

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