I finally got to experience the Canadian Rockies in all their Fall splendor, a trip that ranks in the top 5 of the multitudes I have taken. Now I wonder why I waited so long!
Winding our way from the dull flat plains of Calgary, Banff National Park presented itself in a smoky haze from the fires that have ravaged British Columbia, Washington state and Montana. With all the natural calamities this summer, the devastating wildfires have received virtually no national attention. However, there was no escaping the stark reality of the devastation, in the haze that obscured the jagged edges of these behemoths whose magnificence could only be imagined.
Banff sits nestled in the mountains and saves itself from crass commercialization by virtue of its setting. An 1880’s railroad town hugging the Bow River it is dominated by the Banff Springs hotel, an imposing castle like structure built in 1928 for guests of the Canadian railroad.
The Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper is one of the most magnificent drives I have taken. It rushes through pine forested valleys, with stunning views of the Crowfoot Glacier, Peyto Lake, and Sunwapta and Athabasca Falls that have carved steep canyons by their rushing waters. A 31/2 hour drive based on mileage takes 8 hours or more based on constant stops with their accompanying ‘ooh’s and aah’s’.
The Columbia icefields sits atop a triple continental divide, its melt flowing into the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific. Trapped by 13 of the highest peaks in the Rockies, the Icefields have retained a large part of its freshwater mass. An expedition onto the Athabasca Glacier in giant snow buses with 5ft tall tires, had us struggling to stay upright on the shiny icy blue surface of the glacier.
Wild life abounds and we saw lots of bull elk and a rare sighting of a carnivorous bear. Juniper berries are in short supply this year and the short video illustrates the bear’s relish of its unorthodox meal.
Autumnal colors were beginning to sweep the wild gorse and carpets of alpine forests.
The jewel of the area and its most famous landmark is Lake Louise with its white ice cream chateau at one end with a glacier cascading down Victoria mountain into aquamarine waters on the other.
Not as famous but just as breathtaking is Moraine Lake in the same area. Its turquoise blue waters caused by the non absorption of light by the silt and moraine swept down by its receding mass, was my favorite.
In the Jasper area, Lake Maligne is a narrow one mile wide gem and a 90 minute cruise takes visitors to Spirit Island, the staple of photographic recognition for Jasper State Park.
Such a wonderful seven days with sensory overloads of every one of my senses:
Lots of laughter.
Re-connecting with new and now good friends from our Africa trip on a hike in Johnston Canyon and lunch at Lake Louise chateau.
Constant entertainment provided by noisy magpies, giant ravens and little birds.
Sulphuric hot pools bubbling to the surface at Cave and Basin in Banff.
Visiting the Hoodoos or bewitched mountain.
And above all, being with the only travel companion I wanted to be with.
Adios amigos till next time!!