The long awaited holiday was finally here! My sister Birgit and my brother-in-law Gerard flew to Calgary where I was going to meet them. From there we were ready to tackle the Rockies, mosquito spray in one hand, a camera in the other.
On June 17 I drove -solo- from Maple Ridge to Sicamous, a distance of about 452 km.
The weather was beautiful, the traffic easy going. Much earlier than I had calculated I arrived at the simple but convenient Super 8 Motel in Sicamous. I was very happy to discover it was just minutes walking from the waterfront, where I watched houseboats and other watercraft, people enjoying the hot sun on the piers, on patios. A vacation atmosphere for sure!
I was given a very spacious room and after a good night’s sleep and a “breakfast on the house” I was ready for leg 2 of my drive to Calgary.
June 18 (489 km)
The Sicamous to Calgary route took me through 4 national parks: Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho and Banff National Parks. A beautiful drive under sunny skies. I lost an hour due to time difference, getting near Alberta. At the BC/Alberta border I met a group of cyclists. They were pedaling from Vancouver to Newfoundland, a journey they anticipated would take 10 weeks. They were now on day 10.
I went for a short walk on a skunk cabbage boardwalk. Nice and peaceful.
By the way, for the next 2 weeks we saw everywhere strategically placed red chairs…
I safely arrived in Calgary, found the hotel we were all staying at, settled in and waited for B&G to come back from their day in downtown Calgary.
Happy reunion late that afternoon. Dinner in a nearby restaurant, walking back to the hotel over freshly asphalted (!) roads.
June 19. Calgary to Rundle Mountain Lodge in Canmore.
We had opted for beautiful road #40 (Kananaskis Trail) rather than the much shorter highway from Calgary to Canmore. A portion of Alberta Hwy 40 is closed until June 15 so we were very, very lucky!
We left Calgary, went south through some small villages like Okotoks and Black Diamond and turned north again at Longview, at hwy 40 which took us through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park with its highest paved pass in Canada, the Highwood Pass.
We had a picnic at one of the rest stops and were surrounded by ground squirrels, a tiny marmot, whistling to warn each other of danger (us).
There are no touristy stops (food/gas) along this road and we were so ready for a cup of coffee by late afternoon. We found one place, closed! But the giftshop was open and the lady with a huge cowboy hat behind the counter, directed us to Kananaskis Village. We expected a tiny First Nations reserve but found a huge, modern resort with all ammenities. A cup of coffee and for B&G a delicious dessert later, we continued north, and then west on the 1A, to Rundle Mountain Lodge in Canmore. After checking in we walked to a nearby restaurant where we had a late dinner on an outside patio. A perfect ending of a perfect day.
We decided to take the Banff Gondola up to Sulphur Mountain. A short drive from our hotel, parked, and got in line for our tickets. They give you a fairly short allotted time on the mountain but that could easily be changed. We gave ourselves several hours!
The ride up was scary, the view from above absolutely breathtaking. We walked the long stairway path up to Sanson Peak, the highest point on Sulphur Mountain, a hike/climb that was well justified! Several benches (and red chairs) placed at convenient intervals lend rest to tired feet. And it was hot! The little inquisitive ground squirrels on Sulphur Mountain were not shy at all! Feeding is prohibited but they surely are fast and steal the food out of your hands if you are not careful. They climbed on our legs, checking to see what we had in our hands! As a result we ended up on many tourist’s photographs as they thought it was “so cute”!
At 3 pm we took the gondola down. Definitely not as scary as up.
Next we drove to Lake Minnewanka where we had a late picnic lunch and a leisurely stroll around part of the lake. Lake Minnewanka apparently is a very popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
Another dinner at an outside patio, right by the railroad tracks….
Just one train passed by.
Rain in the forecast but the sky looked very promising after breakfast so we decided to go for a walk along Bow River. We drove into town (Canmore) and ended up in the middle of their weekly market (I love markets). We were directed to a good parking spot to start our walk. The temperature increased by the minute (at least, that’s how it felt) and the walk was beautiful. We saw the “Three Sisters“, mountains I know from a painting by Max Jacquiard (I worked for his publisher for several years). Amazing to see them in reality. We also spotted some female elk with babies. We watched people getting kayaking lessons on the river and admired some of the gorgeous houses along a stretch of the river. We walked about 11 km that day. Later the clouds started covering the blue sky and we heard thunder. We made it back into town before the rain fell. After a cup of coffee and some “goodies” we headed back to the hotel. Evening time we drove into town and found a great restaurant. The outside did not look like much. Stairs (colourful) led us up to the dining area. It was great. View over the mountains (partially covered because of the rain clouds) from huge, open windows, Great atmosphere. Very good food.
Back in the hotel the power went out for about 1 1/2 hours. It was late anyway so it didn’t matter at all 🙂
We left Canmore and drove towards Num-Ti-Jah Lodge at the edge of Bow Lake, north of Lake Louise. Somewhere on the way we saw a grizzly bear. Too bad he refused to raise his head but I got at least some pictures of his huge body.
On the way we stopped at Johnston Canyon and hiked up to the waterfalls. Definitely worthwhile.
From the Johnston Canyon we turned west towards Field, to the viewpoints of the Spiral Tunnels, an engineering miracle. Too bad it was pouring rain, the tracks seemed to be under construction at one point and it was hard to see anything. No trains passing by while we were there. But good to see and check out anyway.
We arrived in the pouring rain at our next destination: Num-Ti-Jah Lodge at Bow Lake.
No cell phone service, limited WiFi, old, beautiful log building. Great dining room!
Raining at Bow Lake. After a leisurely breakfast we checked the weather and found that in northern directions the skies looked more promising. So we grabbed cameras and some other stuff (like rain jackets..) and hopped over puddles to get to the car, ready for our drive north on the 93, also known as the Icefields Parkway.
We stopped at Saskatchewan River Crossing. As there were very few gas stations in this whole stretch we decided to fill up there. Wow, yes, they surely know they are the only gas station in a huge area and can set the price as high as they want, in this case $1.99/L.
We found an amazing view overlooking the Howse Pass National Historic Site .
This was along the Howse River and it is considered a sacred place for the Stoney First Nations People. As on the days before it was stop and go for us as there were so many beautiful sites to be photographed. And I guess others senses our enthusiasm as people stopped where we stopped and asked us umpteen times to take their picture 🙂
At one parking pull out we took some photos of a mountain range. A couple approached me and asked if I had seen the waterfall. They discovered it the day before. So they walked me to this hidden gem. I believe this is the “downstream” of the Panther Falls.
Later we found a beautiful spot with plenty of picnic tables for our lunch at Coleman Creek. We chose one fairly close to the river and a short distance away from another occupied table. We had just settled down and spread out our lunch when we heard a loud yell: “BEAR”!!! No kidding. There was a huge bear on a minuscule island in the river and he was heading our way. We grabbed our stuff and made it toward the other group of people while the “yeller” stood tall and screamed at the bear. When the furry monster found our empty picnic table he meandered off into the bushes. Pffff…close encounter. We later found the bear wandering along the berm of the road and got the chance to take a few pictures from the safety of our car!
Driving on we passed the magnificent Weeping Wall. A mountain that cries? Located at Cirrus Mountain, the Weeping Wall resembles a mountain with a river of tears. More than 100 metres high (330 feet) water cascades in a series of waterfalls. The main fall is called Teardrop.
And then we arrived at the Columbia Icefield. We checked at the information/ticket counter of the Discovery Centre and found out that we could be on the 4:40 pm tour to the icefields, followed by a bus ride to the Skywalk. As we had some time before we had to line up, we decided to have a coffee on the patio and check the view from there. You feel very small, seeing all that snow and ice, even from that distance. And were we ever lucky with the weather. Who could have thought that we would see the glaciers in gorgeous sunshine after leaving Bow Lake that morning in the rain! I had been to (and on) the Columbia Icefield late 1980’s and noticed how much the glacier had receded.
When our tour time came up we lined up for our first bus ride to the gigantic bus that would take us on to the glacier. It was a bumpy, steep ride with a crazy driver. A good driver, but with crazy jokes.
Once we disembarked we ventured out on the ice.
A couple of facts about this humongous ice field:
It covers 325 square km – making it comfortably the largest body of ice in the Rocky Mountains.
• Its highest point is Mt. Columbia at 3745 m (12,284 ft)
• The average elevation is 3000 m (10,000 ft)
• The greatest estimated depth is 365 m (1200 ft)
• The average snowfall is 7 m (23 ft) every year.
• Uniquely it drains into the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.
The Columbia Icefields are considered one of the largest accumulations of ice and snow south of the Arctic Circle, and can reach depths of 2,000 feet. The Columbia Icefield is incredibly important for the northern hemisphere’s water supply as it feeds all three oceans – Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic.
Quite a crowed. Some quietly enjoying this majestic show of nature, others waving flags, taking selfies, making lots of noise. Everyone enjoys their outing in a different way, that’s for sure.
Most of the people were wearing sensible shoes, some exceptions…..
After an hour of enjoyment on the glacier we headed back to our monster vehicle for the ride down to the regular bus, which would take us to the Skywalk.
We had been wondering where this glass floored platform was located and we soon found out.
It took some courage, lots of courage, for Birgit and me to venture out onto the glass. I let my camera look down for me.
Guess what, we walked the platform at least 2 times! And we spotted a mountain goat. You rarely get to see those. Not only are they very camouflaged, they usually are way, way up in the mountains, unlike the scraggly mountain sheep we saw at many places, eating “stuff” on the road or on the side of the road.
We got one of the last buses back to the Discovery Centre where we decided to have dinner before heading back to Bow Lake.
Dinner was very late coming (with lots of apologies from staff and manager) but we were not in a hurry anyway. Once we got back to the parking lot, our car was the only one there…
The trip back was awesome with the setting sun and another bear sighting.
What a beautiful day!
We walked around part of Bow Lake, where our hotel is situated, for several hours.
In spite of the many mosquitoes we thoroughly enjoyed this lakeside walk. We saw huge Hoary Marmots, flowers, the unreal colour of the lake, rock slides, snow, trees and skeletons of trees, some tree residue on the lake forming amazing patterns, .
Just past the area which still had snow on it, the path became pretty much non-existent. Hanging on trees, balancing on a very narrow mud ledge, was not our idea of fun, and even less the chance of wet hiking shoes. So we turned back.
We decided to drive to Lake Louise where it was enormously busy. The turn off to Morraine Lake, also on our itinerary, was closed off as parking had reached its limit. We drove on towards the famous “Chateau” at the lake’s edge and managed to find a parking spot. A truly amazing feat! All three of us were shocked to see the mass of tourists. But walking along the lake the crowd thinned out. We must have heard every language in the world, there at the edge of Lake Louise. We enjoyed our walk, got back to the car for the drive back to Bow Lake. Relaxed until dinner time.
Another beautiful day.
We left Bow Lake in the pouring rain but it started to clear up pretty soon. The weather fluctuated throughout the day and it was quite cool but we had an enjoyable drive to Jasper. One quick stop at the Howse River (Tributary of the North Saskatchewan River) but the weather was not an improvement from our first visit.
Like 2 days ago we passed from Banff National Park into Jasper National Park. Of course we paused at the Columbia Icefield again but unlike the day before yesterday, when we were so lucky with the weather, the mountains and glaciers were now shrouded in clouds. One thing we did check out this time is how far the glacier reached in the year 1843. One of the photos shows the little blue sign with the year on it. Just imagine, looking at the glacier now, how it traveled all over where roads and parking are now, up to that little sign.
We continued our drive to the Sunwapta Falls followed by a stop at the impressive Athabasca Falls.
From there we went on to our hotel in Jasper, the Best Western Inn & Suites.
A walk through town followed by dinner at Papa George’s Restaurant was a nice ending of a wonderful day.
Today we decided to drive the Maligne Lake Road (just a bit NE of Jasper) to Medicine and Maligne Lakes. It turned out to be an excellent plan.
We saw deer and bears. Were hoping for caribou but they eluded us.
We noticed pine beetle infested forests (at least, that’s what I think was the cause of the brown pine trees), beautiful lakes, flowers, lichen, old man’s beard (another form of lichen), canyons and rock formations.
We walked about 7 km through the forest along the shores of Maligne Lake. It was cool and overcast but still so gorgeous.
Time to leave Jasper. One detour, back to Medicine Lake to see it in a different light.
It was a gorgeous, warm day. Was I wearing 5 layers of clothing yesterday, today it was T-shirt weather!
Back towards Jasper and towards Mount Robson Provincial Park via Hwy 16, the Yellowhead Highway. Roughly halfway, we left Alberta and entered BC, changing the time back 1 hour.
We arrived at the Mount Robson Visitor Centre and got our first view of this magnificent mountain. It stood their in all its splendor! (For a time lapse of Mount Robson, please, click here).
We were so lucky to have seen so many mountains and glaciers in beautiful weather, showing them to the fullest advantage.
We hiked the Kinney Lake Trail for about 3 hours. We didn’t quite make it all the way to Kinney Lake as we had to many photo stops 😉 It was an amazing hike, starting at the Berg Lake Trail parking lot.
Very satisfied with what we had seen we drove to Blue River. As it was getting late we were afraid that the restaurant at our accommodation, the Mike Wiegele Resort, would be closed, so we opted for a pub meal in the Moose Neighbourhood Pub in Valemount.
Chicken wings for the girls. I don’t remember what Gerard ate. Beer for B&G from the bottle. Laughs all around.
Quite late, and dark already, we arrived at the Mike Wiegele Resort. Checked in and tried to find our chalet, not easy in the dark. All the chalets were log homes. Beautiful. How beautiful we found out next morning, in daylight.
The Rockies in all their glory are now behind us. Ahead is hwy 5, direction Lac le Jeune,
but not until we have explored beautiful Eleanor Lake. Walking around the lake we view flowers and birds and our log home for the night at Mike Wiegele Resort.
And on we go..
About 15 km east of Clearwater we spot a row of old cars. As we did so many times (and thank goodness for light traffic) we zipped off the main road the minute we got the chance, to check out what these oldies were doing there. Well, they just stood there, gathering more rust and dust by the day, by the looks of it. But hé, a good and different photo opportunity 😉
Next stop was Clearwater.
Fortified by coffee and some goodies we drove into Wells Gray Provincial Park, a place Birgit and I had visited before, but was new for Gerard. We showed him the Spahats Falls, a spectacular display of rocks and water.
From the Park we drove south, having to leave hwy 5 at one point to join Lac le Jeune Road, a much narrower, very quiet country road.
Arriving at the nature resort which is very animal and bird oriented, we got our room keys. My room had some problems but those were quickly solved as I got an upgraded room with 3 (!) queen sized beds, a dining table, a huge TV and a stuffed beaver on one of the beds to keep me company in all that space. My offer to change rooms with B&G, who had only 2 queen sized beds (!) was declined 😉
A walk around the lake, enjoying all the birds, a drink in the lounge and a delicious dinner in the dining room with a remarkable fire place and view of the lake with jumping fish, ended another perfect day.