Banff, Alberta, Canada
19.09.2011 - 19.09.2011 5 °C
Following the rain last night, we woke this morning to discover all the mountains around Jasper covered in a light dusting of snow. There was bright sunshine and blue skies. We took photos of the lake at the Lodge and of the mountain where the Jasper tramway is as it was bare yesterday. We also shot the Athabasca River on our way out as the colour was just beautiful. We didn’t ride the tramway as the elevation was a little more than I could cope with.
Ross was disappointed that we didn’t do the tramway but was happier when we found the road to Marmot Basin, a ski area for Jasper. Our excitement ended when, after driving up into the clouds for 13 kms, we found that the road was closed. It was a worthwhile drive though – very picturesque.
Now, the Icefields Parkway was our challenge today – a good short drive so we thought. However when there is a photo stop every 5 metres, it is very time consuming. Our first stop was Horseshoe Lake followed by the Athabasca Falls. The latter were extremely impressive even though it was only the bottom part of the falls. There was another part of the falls that were further up and much more dangerous. We were reluctant to follow the trail that quoted 20 minutes as we didn’t want to lose too much time again.
The Icefields Parkway stretches from Jasper in the north to Lake Louise in the south, a distance of 229 kilometres. Along the way, around every corner, the Rockies loomed above, covered with snow and were bare in places. It has actually come to my attention the reason they call them the Rockies – they are ROCK!! It has always just been a name but now I see the connection.
We followed the Athabsca River all the way to where the glaciers started emerging. We also realised that the road had taken us as high as the snowline as we were seeing snow on the side of the road. A sign indicated that we were entering the Columbia Icefield. We were surrounded by snow on each side of the road up to the base of the mountains.
Our next stop was the Athabasca Glacier. Yesterday, the temperature there was -7 °C on the ice. It was raining and snowing, with wind blowing the snow sideways. Today, there were blue skies and sunshine. What an amazing experience! We bought our tickets and boarded a bus that took us up to the point where you board the special all-terrain vehicle. This is the only way onto the glacier. Hanging glaciers surround the valley. It was absolutely magnificent and well worth the stop. The mountain to the right of the glacier forms the 3-way cotinental divide. The Athabasca River flows north whereas the river on the other side of the glacier flows southwards.
Back on the road, we were determined to get to Lake Louise but were surprised to find what little distance we had travelled. As hard as we tried the photo stops continued to delay us. We came across traffic stopped on both sides of the road at one point and we knew there had to be wild life. Yes, a loan black bear was foraging on the berry bushes on the side of the road. How amazing to see these beautiful creatures in the wild.
Finally Lake Louise was reached but Chateau Lake Louise was booked out as was the rest of the township. So off to Banff we headed. Having arrived at Banff after 7pm, we decided to have a night at the Fairmont Banff Springs and will look for another spot tomorrow as we may need to stay here instead of Lake Louise on Wednesday night. Room service bought us two lovely hamburgers as we were quite tired and too lazy to get organised to go to a restaurant. Ross told me that we need to start getting to places earlier and I told him it was the driver’s problem.
The beauty and majesty of these mountains is difficult to describe. You have to see it to believe it. Is it any wonder people want to come here? I don’t think the many pictures taken will convey what we saw. A truly amazing experience.