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Wanderlust cured’s Travel Diary

Friday, 03 Apr 2009

Location: Icefields Parkway, Canada

MapThe BEST Drive Yet!

An early morning flurry of snow did not dissuade us from getting back on the road. Today, we had a few kms of ground to cover as we were to travel up North America’s most beautiful road – the Icefields Parkway. We have been through three National Parks today, leaving from the Banff National Park where we were staying in Lake Louise, into the Yoho National Park for a 5.4km walk around Emerald Lake and onwards into Jasper National Park where we would be resting for the night.

The big loop around Emerald Lake provided us with squirrel squeaks, all sights of them evading us until another suicide squirrel ran towards the car on the drive out. Woodpeckers hammering into the trees made us stop to listen a number of times. Lynx tracks everywhere in the snow for the first half of the walk had us imagining it stalking its prey as it walked to and from the lake, swirling tracks through the trees and following the human paths, which I am sure it does to save from sinking in the snow. For the first part of the walk Belinda and I thought that it was a cougar but later decided the pawprints too small and the behaviour too specific to that of a lynx, plus it wasn’t really prime habitat for a Cougar prey, AND deciding it was a lynx made us feel much better about not being on the menu for today. Emerald Lake, as the name suggests, turns a brilliant turquoise/emerald colour once all of the snow and ice has melted and I definitely have to make this trip again in the summer to see the amazing changes that a lack of snow can bring.

Back onto the road to backtrack out of Yoho and onto Hwy 93 which would take us through the Icefields. I have been told by a friend that he would rather drive this road 100 times than do one trip back from Edmonton and we were most certainly not disappointed. Mountains covered in snow lined the road, sunshine beaming down on another brilliant spring day. Glimpses of glaciers caught your eye as the ice-blue from the glacier stuck out from the snow, its sheer brilliance making us stop the car to pull over so many times. We also saw the weeping wall which was a cascade of brilliant white frozen water coming out of pure rock. I know that I could try to convey what these mountains are like and the sheer brilliance of them, but I will let the pictures do the talking – so make sure you take a look. It really is hard to take a bad picture and Belinda proved this by sticking her camera out the window and snapping backwards a number of times, they were still good pictures!

Up a windy road I see a set of horns to the left. AWESOME! A big horn sheep was waiting by the roadside, and would you believe it, right beside a car pull in area (so kind of him to make it so easy for us). I don’t think I have ever got out of the car so quick except maybe when a spider had fallen off the sun visor when I pulled it down and onto my lap – I never did find that huntsman spider, I wonder what he is up to now... Anyway. The bighorn sheep was atop a sheer rocky cliff and looked straight at me when I took the photo – a must see photo and I think the best I have taken yet. He had a kind of quizzical, comical look about him. Another tick off the list of wildlife I have now seen.
Athabasca Falls was on my list of go-to places on the trip and again, a great place to stop. The frozen waterfall still allowed running water behind it and pools of turbulent water surrounded by layers of ice sat at the bottom of the canyon. It started to snow here for the first time today and didn’t last too long.
Arrival in Jasper saw us doing a ‘lap’ of the town, which isn’t all that big as I actually missed Canmore and the mountains around it. We choose a place for dinner as we were both hanging for a AAA grade Alberta Steak – and it was definitely worth it. YUM. After dinner Bel suggested a movie, after this we settled into our 30 bed dorm room, which I was excited about because it felt like being back in primary school on a school camp, unfortunately Bel didn’t share my enthusiasm as the check in lady told us that a bus load of school kids were staying the night, they were complete angels and we had nothing to worry about – they were off to ski the next day and were pretty pooped from a day on the mountain already – arrr, quite, tired kids.

The Icefields Parkway and all that these National Parks have to offer is a place I would definitely recommend to anybody to see once in their life – I still count myself lucky this is my playground for a while yet.

R.J