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Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

We started our travel into the Canadian Rockies from the town of Jasper in mid-June 2016. Temperatures in Jasper were cool, around 37-45F (3-7C). We realized quickly that gas prices in Alberta was more affordable compared to Northern British Columbia, even in a remote National Park. Though busy, we did not have any trouble with parking, and the crowds were pretty light compared to our closest National Park, Yosemite (though we traveled through the Canadian Rockies on weekdays). Since these parks are a natural habitat for both grizzly and black bears, we carried bear spray with us on all our hikes, though we did not have any encounters. Given the cool weather, we layered thin fleece jackets to keep warm, which we easily shed when we warmed up.  There is a town of Jasper that has amenities such as hotels, gas and restaurants.

Kettle Valley Railway/Othello Tunnels Hike, Hope, British Columbia, Canada

Just two hours from the bright lights of Vancouver (British Columbia) lies this small town which acts as a gateway to the Fraser Canyon. Hope has been a place we have just passed through in the past, but this time due to a hotel issue along the way, we arrived in Hope with enough time for a hike.

Vernal and Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

We enjoyed a great hike this last May long weekend. We climbed 2000 feet in elevation to see the top of two waterfalls at Yosemite National Park: Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls.

Panum Crater, California, USA

On the way to Mono Lake, we stopped at Panum Crater. Panum Crater is part of a chain of craters called the Mono-Inyo Craters.  Panum Crater is the youngest of these craters that formed 600 to 40,000 years ago. There is a hike into the crater plug and around the crater on the rim. The trail into the crater has some loose rock.  The boys found some obsidian rocks along the way.  There is no shade on this hike, inside the crater and on the rim. The crater rim trail took us on a ridge, affording beautiful views of Mono Lake and the island that sits in its midst.  Docent led hikes are available for these trails. There is a visitor center in the town of Lee Vining that gave us helpful information and a map of area attractions.

Mono Lake State Natural Reserve, California, USA

About 15 miles east of Yosemite's Tioga Pass East entrance is Mono Lake.  One of North America's oldest lakes, Mono Lake is over a million years old and 2.5 times the ocean's salinity.  The lake had grown in salinity as it has shrunken in volume, as its tributary streams got diverted to meet the demands of Los Angeles’ growing water needs. Tufa – the rock that these towers are made of, are formed underwater, as underwater calcium-rich springs meet with the lake water rich in carbonates.  Calcium carbonate precipitates out of the water forming tufa towers.  Tufa towers grow underwater up to 30 feet high.  We see so much of it today because of receding lake water levels.  There is a short flat unshaded trail (about 1 mile) that meanders through these sculptures.  It is a pretty neat trail, to be walking amongst these giant oddly shaped rocks.  We had a quick lunch in the shade of one of these rocks.