All the hits: weeks thirty-two and thirty-three (in which we explore Alberta’s mountains and mountain houses)

Jasper National Park

The entrance to Jasper follows a river into the towering Rocky Mountains. We’d already seen a lot of mountains on the trip, but they hadn’t lost their majesty. Unfortunately, no information was provided to us at the gate so we had to drive an hour through the park, passing many trail heads, and into town to find out what we should do. It’s unfortunate, because we had passed a few things on our way in that we didn’t know about and, given our schedule, we weren’t going to add another two hours of driving just to go back and see them.

Maligne Canyon: Our first major stop in the park was this spectacular canyon. Several trails trace the canyon’s route as it carves its way through the mountain rock. Starting as a small river carving it’s way down out of the mountains, other streams of water squeeze their way through the porous rock on either side of the canyon and the river gradually becomes a raging torrent by the time it exits the canyons walls. The park was busy, but the hike was very enjoyable and it’s always nice when there’s a coffee shop at the half-way point.

Mt. Edith Cavell and Glacier: Edith Cavell Mountain is remarkable and instantly recognizable. Again, since the park can be so busy with tourists, we got up early and made sure to get to the trailhead before the crowds. After a curving drive up the mountainside, we found ourselves staring up at the towering sheer face of the mountain. From the parking lot, a short trail leads up to the base of the mountain and gave us a view of a large hanging glacier with a gushing waterfall emptying into a lake below. It was fantastic, although, due to global warming, the glacier is only a shadow of its former self. While making our way along the path, Amalia discovered the hard way, along with dozens to follow, that a group of wasps had set up a nest just off the path. We let the park rangers know.

Water and ice: The Icefields Parkway runs south from Jasper down to Banff, and is bordered by towering mountains on both sides. It is a spectacular drive with many things to see along the way including both Athabasca and Sunwapta Falls (though Maligne Canyon was more interesting). The main feature at the south end of Jasper National Park is the Columbia Icefield and the Icefields Centre. This icefield is the largest in the Rocky Mountains and is composed of a staggering 325 square kilometres of glacier. Unfortunately, the Centre was so busy that there was no where to park. We did drive up to the base of another glacier though and were very impressed with it’s massive scale.

Banff National Park

Banff is located directly south of Jasper and after the Icefields Centre, we crossed from one park into the other and continued the beautiful drive to Lake Louise.

Moraine Lake: While many drive up to Lake Louise, we took route slightly less traveled by continuing half an hour south to stop at Moraine Lake. Both lakes are really quite beautiful. The colour of the water is unbelievable and the glaciers and mountains that frame the lakes are just fantastic. Moraine Lake seemed more dramatic as it is located in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. We hiked a beautiful trail though the woods on the edge of the lake, with dozens of beautiful glimpses of the lake bordered by the trees. At the end of the trail, the roar of a glacier river rushes into the lake beneath the forest canopy. There were a pair of ducks diving for food so Amalia put her foot into the water and retreated immediately. Glacier fed lakes are absolutely freezing.

Bow Valley Parkway: The next morning we got off the main highway and took the more scenic Bow Valley Parkway to Banff. It was a beautiful drive with a certain section where the two lanes of the highway divided and we found ourselves driving through the woods on a single lane of pavement. The isolation gave us the opportunity to observe a doe and her two small adorable fawns grazing on the side of the road.

Cave and Basin National Historic Site: Located within Banff, this site marks the beginning of Canada’s national parks system in 1885. A hot spring pool located in a cave, the site has been home to Indigenous ceremonies for thousands of years. Unfortunately, once it became a tourist destination (something that happened before it was part of a national preserve), much damage was done to the spring and its surroundings. Only recently has a reconciliation project taken place and Indigenous peoples are once again able to hold ceremonies at the site. The springs are also home to a unique species of snail and so for that reason, humans are no longer allowed to bathe in them.

Rocky Mountain House and Edmonton

Rocky Mountain House: Having exited from the mountains, we made our way back north to Edmonton along the Cowboy Trail scenic highway and stopped at Rocky Mountain House. Unfortunately, we got there rather late and so were rushed for time (rain clouds were also moving in with threat). But, we were able to explore the museum on site and take a walk along the site’s outdoor trails. Located on a river, this is formerly the site of several fur and supply trading posts setup in the eighteenth century. There were several historic actors setup on the site’s grounds, although they were mostly packing up their wares when we got there. Still, it was a fascinating glimpse into life on the “frontier” in the early 1800s.

Padmanadi Vegetarian Restaurant: We got into Edmonton in time for dinner and found ourselves both a little hangry. Blocks from the place we were staying (thanks Robin!) was a vegan Indonesian restaurant so we thought we’d give it a go. First of all, we hadn’t been to a “vegetarian” restaurant since Vancouver, so we were pretty excited. Second of all, holy crap this place was good. We stuffed our faces with delicious food and the standout was definitely the vegan prawns with lemon sauce. Oh, and we went back again before we left town.

Bonus: Veggie Garden (another good vegetarian restaurant, but not the same calibre as Padmanadi), Beer Revolution (lots of great beer and food even if it’s in a big box strip mall).

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