North-America

Through the Rocky Mountains by the Icefields Parkway

In all stories from other travelers who’d been to West-Canada, they were gushing about the immense beauty of the scenery along the Icefields Parkway. Along this 232 km road that goes from Jasper to Lake Louise you are almost constantly surrounded by snow-topped mountains and beautiful panoramic views.

So no doubt in our minds that this would be a part of our itinerary.  The more and more I read and heard about it, the more excited I became about driving this road. It felt like the epitome of a roadtrip.

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Well then can you imagine my disappointment when we stepped outside our hotel room the morning we were driving that road and noticed a very grey sky with low-hanging clouds? Yeah, it was pretty bad.

But bad weather or not, we still had to make it to Lake Louise that evening, so there was no option to wait it out. Hit the road!

Fortunately our first stop along the way didn’t need a clear sky to be impressive. The Athabasca Falls are a sight to behold just on their own. The many testimonies and stories about people losing their lives by underestimating the power of the water along walkway were enough to keep us strictly on the path.

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Such big quantities of water dropping from a height will probably never not be majestic. We stuck around for about forty five minutes before returning to the parking lot to continue our road.

Back in the car the atmosphere was quite sour as we could vividly imagine what beauty we were surrounded by but simply couldn’t see. So close yet so far. Sigh.

Fortunately as we drove further and further, the weather cleared up a tiny bit. There were still plenty of clouds but at least they weren’t hanging so low anymore. We could make out a snow peak every once in a while and at that point we were taking whatever we could.

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The next stop on our route was supposed to be the Glacier Skywalk, a glass-floored observation platform over the Sunwapta Valley. But when we drove past it and noticed how tiny that Skywalk was, how low it hung (we thought it was up on top of a mountain) and that we could only access it by taking a bus over there, we reconsidered our stop.

The parking lot for the Skywalk could be found a few kilometers further, at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center. Before making our final decision of skipping the Skywalk, we pulled into that parking lot to get some more information.

The buses in fact departed from the Discovery Center, but considering the amount of cars parked there we figured we wouldn’t be getting on one of those buses anytime soon. So all those things considered, we kindly passed on the experience. It’s not like there were many panoramic views available that day anyway.

However, from the Discovery Center we could already see the Columbia Icefield Glacier, the next highlight on our roadtrip that day. This glacier is with its 325km² the largest south of the Arctic Circle. In summer, when the glacier is smaller, it’s possible to visit it by snowcoach but that didn’t appeal to us that much as well. Instead we drove a little closer by car and went to the viewpoint.

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Along the hike up, there are little information boards that show how far the glacier used to reach at a certain time in history. It’s quite striking how fast it’s all melting down. It’s such a shame to see such an impressive wonder of nature disappear. And I’m definitely aware of the fact that I’m also part of the problem…

Promising myself I’d try my hardest to make even the smallest of changes, we left the glacier hoping that it would still be available for generations to come.

Onto the next sight! Would it have been possible to spend a day in Canada without visiting a beautiful lake? Of course not! So off to Peyto Lake we went.  From the parking lot it’s still about a fifteen minute climb up on a paved road, but the view on the lake from above is simply marvelous. Another encounter with the beautiful turquoise water.

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From there it was onto our final destination; Lake Louise. The weather may not have been at our side that day, and until this day I’m still heartbroken over that fact, but we made the best of what we got. The beautiful endless snow-topped mountain views were stolen from us but I guess we now have a perfect excuse to go back to Canada one day! Sounds fine to me!

♥ 

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