After our very quick and easy flight into Canada E and I were thrilled that the drive from Calgary to Banff National Park was only 1.5 hours. We arrived in the park expecting to be awe struck, and we were, beyond belief. One thing both E and I were really looking forward to was the feeling of being totally small in a huge forest. Canada has that.
Pine forests swept as far as the eye could see, a deep thick carpet of green, rolling over mountains and climbing the tallest of peaks. Where the forest didn't cover, the peaks of the Canadian Rockies sparkled. We arrived at sunset, so around each new bend in the road E and I gasped as we saw another peak shine with pink and orange light.
Our first three nights in Canada we stayed in the town of Lake Louise. The town itself is tiny, only two roads, but it was a perfect place for E and I to start. The town had all we needed, an incredible bakery that E and I ate at nearly every day for breakfast and lunch, and some fun dinner spots, including an old train station where the trains still whizzed by while you were eating.
However, it wasn't the town that brought us here, it was the mountains. On the first night we drove up to the actual lake of Lake Louise and were completely and utterly blown away by its beauty. Bright turquoise waters, that don't even look real when you're standing in front of them, swept back to a huge peak and a glacier.
At each new location that we visited, E and I were just as memorized. We took a lake side hike at Moraine Lake and were beyond stunned by the natural color of the water, but also the ten sharp peaks riming the lake.
The sky on the first few days wasn't very easy to photograph, but this gives you an idea of the beauty of Moraine Lake.
On the second day, E and I decided to take a canoe out on Lake Louise, the sun had come out and the lake was calm and perfect. As we paddled away from the historic boat house I realized this was heaven. Sitting on the beautiful blue waters with the man I loved, looking at the most spectacular scenery the world has to offer. E on the other hand was worried about my paddling methods. He said I was "spazzy" with my paddle. Well after a few quick pointers, were were off, gliding perfectly across the lake towards the other end, so we could see the amazing glacier up close.
We were nearly alone on the lake, although the weather was perfect and the wind was quiet, almost all the other canoes were not out, which made being in the middle of Lake Louise even more special.
The little historic boat house sitting next to the lake and the red canoes - makings for a perfect day.
I know I posted a photo very similar to this below, but it really shows how alone we were, enjoying all that the Canadian Rockies had to offer. (Notice the tip of our canoe at the bottom of the photo!)
In addition to our awesome canoe trip (seriously, it was a major highlight of our entire time there), we drove the Bow Valley Parkway which is a small highway that connects the towns of Banff and Lake Louise. We stopped an numerous spots to take photos of the forests that reached as far as the eye could see and the beautiful peaks surrounding us. We hiked a few small trails, looked for animals and even had an incredible dinner in the town of Banff one evening.
The Bow River was wide, fast, cold and blue. It wound through all of Banff National Park, and was just stunning. Also, notice the carpet of pines going on and on forever. Amazing.
One of the hikes we took was called Johnston Falls, the trail followed the very narrow and deep Johnston Canyon up to the waterfall. The trail was a bit to busy for our liking, but the scenery was impressive.
We saw these birds everywhere! They were called Clark's Nutcrackers, and I just loved them. Very much like magpies or the steller jays of Yosemite.
We also took the Lake Louise Gondola ride (really just a chair lift in one of the park's ski resorts) and spotted a grizzly bear! The gondola advertised themselves as "famous for grizzly bears" but so did every other joint in town. E and I weren't expecting much, but at the top of the lift, while we relaxed and enjoyed the view, other visitors were pointing to a nearby hillside - "a bear!". Sure enough, a small grizzly was enjoying the berries on a nearby hillside. He slowly made his way down the hill as we watched, and out of sight. However, he had walked right near where the chairlift was running. E and I decided to hop back on the lift in hopes of seeing him below us, and we were lucky! He was there! Still munching on berries. Very special sighting!
Here is the view from the top of the Lake Louise Gondola. You can see Lake Louise far far below along with the Victoria Glacier behind it.
And here is the bear! So cute!
On the last day in Banff National Park we drove the #1 of the 10 best drives worldwide: the Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park. This drive left Lake Louise and wound through the mountains for 234 km before reaching the town of Jasper. Along the way we passed some of the most spectacular scenery yet - more amazing peaks, lakes as blue as a dream, and the ice fields themselves, which is a network of a dozen glaciers all forming the Columbia Icefield. One glacier, Athabasca, we could walk right up to and touch. E was in heaven. This moon-like landscape of the high mountains that were filled with glaciers was something neither of us had ever seen. It was amazing and quite cold.
As we passed over the Continental divide we dropped down into Jasper National Park and continued on our stellar drive towards the town of Jasper. I'll write about Jasper tomorrow, it was just as glorious!
This was taken from one of 20 or so viewpoints E and stopped at along the Icefields Parkway. We took all day to drive it and enjoy the dazzling scenery.
Peyto Lake was among our favorite view points. The blue color of all these lakes comes from the fact that they are glacially feed lakes, glacial lakes have a component called 'rock flour' floating in them that gives them the intense turquoise color.
Another view point, this is a river basin. This is also the place I spotted the bear poo from the photo below!
Athabasca Glacier at the highest point along the Icefields Parkway. Spectacular.
E at the base of the glacier where it is melting due to being summer. Notice the deep blue color of the ice. We dipped our fingers into the water at E's feet, never have I felt water so cold than fresh from a glacier.
I thought a lot about how to organize my trip into posts, and I decided to separate by places we stayed, first being Banff National Park (we stayed in the town of Lake Louise). Tomorrow I'll post about Jasper National Park, then about the Banff Springs Hotel, and finally about our single night in Calgary.
5 hours ago