We spent most all our day 11 driving from Jasper to Banff. Despite the forecast it was not raining. Sky was blue with some fluffy clouds that were great for photography. Our drive was so beautiful and breathtaking that we had to stop frequently so I could take pictures. Rugged beauty of Rocky Mountains is so unique that visitors from all over the world come here to see it. At any stop you hear people speaking variety of languages.
All photos are clickable.
Our morning start was not so great. When we arrived to the Maligne Canyon, I realized that my camera’s battery just died. I was ready to cry – such a great route in front of us and no camera! Thankfully, Alex came up with great idea. We asked people at the eatery by the Maligne Canyon to plug our charger into one of their outlets while we were walking through the Maligne Canyon. They were kind enough to do this for us so by the time we came back from our ½ hour trip my battery was almost fully charged. What a relief! I even went back and took few photos of the canyon. Maligne Canyon is considered one of the most spectacular gorges in the Canadian Rockies. Maligne River is squeezed through the deep limestone canyon that is in some areas over 50 meters deep. In some places the canyon is so deep and narrow that you can barely see the river below.
Our next spot was Athabasca Falls. It is just 23 meters high. It is one of the most powerful waterfalls in Rocky Mountains. The Athabasca River thunders through a narrow gorge creating several colliding waterfalls.
After driving for awhile we arrived to Sunwapta Falls. The Upper Falls on the Sunwapta River are one of the most popular tourist draws in the Athabasca Valley in Jasper National Park. The Sunwapta River is channeled into a crack in the bedrock, dropping about 8 meters, then constricts even further, and is shot an additional 10 meters out of a slot into the canyon below. The falls are viewed from several developed viewpoints as well as a bridge crossing the river.
Pictures below represent not only Athabasca and Sunwapta falls but some other waterfall between Jasper and Banff.
Then we arrived to Columbia Icefield, the main glacier of the highway. It was significantly smaller than we remembered it from our previous time; may be because of different time of the year. Last time we were here it was in May and there was still snow everywhere and lakes were covered with ice.
I will make separate post with all mountains and glaciers photos in next couple of days.
By the way, lakes and rivers in the Rockies have very interesting milky water. This is because of so called rock flour. Here I am quoting Wikipedia:
“Rock flour, or glacial flour, consists of fine-grained, silt-sized particles of rock, generated by mechanical grinding of bedrock by glacial erosion or by artificial grinding to a similar size. Because the material is very small, it becomes suspended in meltwater making the water appear cloudy, which is sometimes known as glacial milk.
When the sediments enter a river, they turn the river's colour grey, light brown, iridescent blue-green, or milky white. If the river flows into a glacial lake, the lake may appear turquoise in colour as a result. When flows of the flour are extensive, a distinct layer of a different colour flows into the lake and begins to dissipate and settle as the flow extends from the increase in water flow from the glacier during snow melts and heavy rain periods. Examples of this phenomenon may be seen at Lake Louise in Canada.”
While Wiki quotes only Lake Louise, practically all lakes in the Rockies have almost magical turquoise blue or emerald green color.
We were driving very slowly making numerous stops so by the time we arrived to Lake Louise it was pretty late and without sun the color of the lake was rather grayish. I still took a bunch of pictures planning to come back next day.
From Lake Louise we took long route to Banff. Between Lake Louse and Banff Icefields Parkway becomes route 1, a real freeway, but we took route 1a that is called Bow Valley Parkway. During down and dusk there is a lot of wildlife on this road. Surely enough, during our drive we saw one small grizzly bear (probably no older than 2 years old), one black bear and three male elk. Unfortunately, grizzly did not want to be photographed and ran away as soon as we stopped our car. By the time we got to the elk and the black bear, it was pretty dark so my photos turned out not the greatest. Earlier we saw one elk that I also photographed. Later I learned that there are more grizzlies in the Rockies that black bear but practically all bear seeing are with the black bear. Grizzlies are more shy of people and are rarely seen.
In my next posts I will have photos of all wildlife we have seen so far.
This time we did not visit one of the most famous places in the Rockies- the Johnson Canyon because it was too late and there was significant hike through the canyon. We were going to do it next day but were too lazy and tired by the time we got there. We visited it every time we were in the Rockies so Alex’s point was that it is OK to skip it this time.
“The trail begins as a paved walkway for the first 1.1 km (0.7 miles) to the Lower Falls . Here, the water plunges 10 m (33 feet) into a deeply carved pothole below. The trail becomes slightly more rugged as the hike continues to the Upper Falls (2.7 km/1.7 miles) and Ink Pots. The Upper Falls are dramatic with water cascading down more than 30 m (almost 100 feet). At this point, the trail leaves the creek and widens on route to the Ink Pots. It narrows again for a final descent to the Johnston Valley bottom and the Ink Pots (six clear greenish pools filled with spring water that remains at a constant 1-degree Celsius year-round).”
We arrived to our hotel after 10 pm and had another wine and cheese dinner in our room. We REALLY did not like this hotel. While our room was of a decent size and clean, it was totally dysfunctional. The overall décor was very dated and quit tired. It had huge wall unit that was totally useless but took away good chuck of room space. AC could only be operated standing on your knees under the table (and their floor was not the cleanest). No power outlet for computer in close proximity to the table so we had to pull it all the way from the obscure empty section of the wall unit that had power strip hanging of the wall.
We spent most of our day 12 in Banff and vicinity. We checked numerous Banff stores (touristy and pricy), visited famous Banff Springs Hotel and the Bow Falls near it. This was probably the most boring falls out of all we saw during this trip – just small drop of a river level.
Then we drove throw the Minnewanka loop and saw three male Bighorn sheep. These guys were licking rocks on a side of the road and allowed us plenty of time to photograph them. Then we drove through a couple of other popular drives – Tunnel Mount and Mount Norquay. At the start of the Mount Norquay we visited a hotel where we stayed with our friends from Edmonton during our very first visit to the Rocky Mountains in 1985. The hotel became much fancier and changed its name. It was Timberline and now it was Juniper; however it was still very nostalgic.
Photos of Banff and visinity will be posted later.
Then we drove to Lake Louise again using freeway, spent some time there and then drove higher up the mountain to Lake Moraine. Lake Moraine is another beautiful glacier lake which is not as popular as Lake Louise but also very beautiful.
Again, I will post Lake Louise and other lake photos later.
On our way back to Banff we took Bow Valley Parkway but this time wildlife decided not to show itself to us)-:
Per recommendation of our hotel’s front desk clerk Jamie we decided to check next door restaurant El Toro, a combination of Spanish and Mexican cuisine. This restaurant was not on my list of restaurants to visit but Jamie was so passionate about it that we decided to try it.
What can I say? In a future we should stick to my list. While appetizers (ceviche and guacamole with plantain chips) we good the main entries were total disappointment. Per recommendation of our British transplant waitress Alex has grilled buffalo sausages – nothing special, not a restaurant dish at all. I ordered their most popular dish – braised lamb shoulder. While lams was soft and tender just as advertized, it was spoiled and had off sour taste. It was simply unsafe to eat so first time in my life I asked our waitress to send it back to kitchen. To my disappointment, kitchen found nothing wrong with it but still offered me a replacement dish. I ordered hamburger which was fine. They ended up not charging us for the hamburger but it did not change the fact that 1) lamb was spoiled; 2) cook did not recognize it. My guess was that it probably sat on a warmer for too long (we came there after 9pm) and therefore went bad.
To be continued...