Over the past 35 years our travels have taken us to most corners of the USA and Canada. My wife and/or I have also had the fortune to visit a number of destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, South America and Europe. But never have we experienced such extraordinarily beautiful scenerery, natural majesty and breath-taking landscapes as we did in late September 2007 on our road tour along the spectacular Icefields Parkway in the Candian Rockies.
We started our wonderful adventure along one of the world's most spectacular mountain highways early one morning, atits juncture with the Trans-Canada Highwayjust north of Lake Louise. This north-south route, aslo known as Highway 93, runs east of and parallel to the Great Divide for a distance of about 140 miles/230km between the towns of Lake Louise and Jasper in Alberta, Canada. The southern end is about an hour's drive north-west of Banff and about two and a half hours west of Calgary.
The day was sunny yet cool with a feel of frost in the clear air. Since we were past the height of the tourist season, and kids were back at school, traffic was quite light. This suited us very well, as we wanted to stop every now and then to get out and really appreciate the amazing landscape and the outstanding beauty ofthe surrounding scenery made up of a seemingly never-ending chain ofrugged, snow-capped mountains, legions of incredibly tall and straight evergreen trees on the lower reaches of the mountains, colourful deciduous trees at the height of theirfall splendour along thevalley floors, and a string of unbelievably blue alpine lakes, in which the tops of the mountains as well as the occassional billowy white clouds were perfectly mirrored. As my wife drove, I spent most of the time taking digital pictures through the front windshiled to augment the amazing shots I captured whenever we got out of the car to wander about at a particularly scenic spot. Luckily, the Alberta Highway department has provided numerous and frequent pull-offs with parking along the entire route of the Icefields Parkway to allow tourists to stop safely and to enjoy the surrounding natural beauty to its fullest.
Located entirely within two huge protected areas, Banff and Jasper National Parks, visitors are never confronted byany glaring roadside billboards, kitschy developments, or garish souvenir shops. In fact, virtually all of the entire length of the Icefields Parkway remains amazingly free of commercial intrusions, which helps maintain the pristine natural look ofnature.The first 20 miles of the Icefields Parkway climbs steadily north through a sub-alpine forest and reaches its highest point at Bow Summit. Highlights along this section,in our opinion, were the Crowfoot Glacier, the long and narrow Bow Lake along the west side of the highway, and the utterly gorgeous Peyto Lake with its incredibly milky-blue water set off by the starkdark colours of the surrounding mountains.
The next 25miles, between Bow Summit and the Saskatchewan Crossing,drops from Bow Summit down into a subalpine forest alongside the Mistaya River and then drops further into the montane valley bottom of the Saskatchewan River. Highlights include Mistaya Canyon, Waterfowl Lake, the majestic Columbia Glacier, the Saskatchewan River valley, and the opportunity to see moose and black bears. We weren't lucky enough to spot any wildlife along this stretch, but kept our eyes peeled just in case.
Mountain goats, bighorn sheep and elk are common along the final50 milesof the Parkway. The road climbs Tangle Ridge, then drops down into montane forest and follows the Sunwapta and Athabasca Rivers into the town of Jasper. Highlights include Sunwapta Falls, Athabasca Falls, the Kerkeslin Goat Lick and the opportunity to spot grizzly bears and mountain caribou. We did see a small herd of elk beyond the protective fence that runs along both sides of the roadway. they were grazing, but moved quickly away from the clearing into the nearby forest as we approached. But, what a wonderful experience for us!
More details on on adventures along the Icefields Parkway will follow in subsequesnt posts.
Message Edited by curtiejoe on 12-09-2007 05:47 PM
Message Edited by curtiejoe on 12-09-2007 05:48 PM
Message Edited by curtiejoe on 12-09-2007 05:56 PM