Picture of mtsheep The next morning, we went rafting on the Kicking Horse river. Unfortunately we have no pictures of this but it went smoothly. The other people on our tour left at the midpoint, and so we had our own private guided tour on the more challenging lower section of the river. Needless to say, the water was incredibly cold. After the trip and lunch, we headed back up the river, this time staying on land. Just leaving the town of Golden, we came across this small troupe of mountain sheep crossing the road.
Picture of takakkaw Yoho is a bit more remote than the other parks we visited. The 'town' at its center is called Field, and is really just a glorified ranger station. Also, a significant portion of Yoho is occupied by the Burgess Shale Site, an area that has yielded a lot of dinosaur fossils and is off limits to the average hiker. The park does contain an impressive set of spiral railway tunnels, designed to overcome the problem of particularly steep gradients. It also features one of the highest waterfalls anywhere - Takkakaw.
Picture of takakkaw2 This picture is about as close as you could get on this particular day without getting to thickly into the mist. The falls are 254 meters high (about 800 ft.) After we left the falls, we drove back across the continental divide into the northern part of Banff National Park.
Picture of llouise There we visited Lake Louise where we took this picture of the lake. Most likely, besides appearing on zillions of postcards, every other visitor to Lake Louise has this photograph as well. We decided not to rent a canoe here, or really spend much time at all as it was the single most crowded location we visited in the Canadian Rockies.
Picture of llouise2 After we left the lake, we went to a nearby campground to spend the night. We also discovered a new and exciting salad dressing (three cheese) which promptly became our official universal condiment for anything that can be cooked on a campfire.
Picture of peyto The next day, we headed north, our first stop being Peyto Lake pictured here. This particular spot on the parkway through Banff and Jasper is the highest, above the treeline at about 2100 meters (about 7000 ft.) At the left edge of the lake you can see water that has run off from glaciers spilling into the bluer water of the lake and high up on the mountain (upper left) is another waterfall which winds its way down to the lake.
Picture of peytolake As impressive as the color is in this picture, it really doesn't do justice to the lake. It's probably just a color of blue that has to be seen firsthand.
Picture of mistaya Our next stop was Mistaya Canyon which can be reached by a relatively short hike. This picture is at the top end of the canyon where the river drops in. Much of the canyon farther down can not be viewed directly as the sides become very steep and difficult to reach. There are no trails along the top of the canyon either so further exploration requires quite a lot of effort. The entrance to the canyon is remarkable enough in its own right however. Upstream from here are a series of 'potholes' formed over the years. Many of these are now back from the river's edge, although some more recent ones can be seen in the riverbed as well. These formed in places where the water backed up in swirling whirlpools that carved through the rock over time. Below, we each spent a little time getting to know one of them in more detail.
Picture of potholes
Picture of athabasca After Mistaya we finally crossed into Jasper National Park. Our first stop here was at Athabasca glacier. One of the few places where a glacier comes down far enough to be accessible to those intrepid enough to tromp about on them. Actually, there are tours higher up the glacier where large bus-like vehicles on huge tires roll out onto a safe area and people can get out and wander around. Naturally, we shunned this and chose the explore-at-your-own-risk route. Notice the crevices around us here.
Picture of bleak This is the view looking up the glacier while standing near its bottom. This is fairly accurate as to just how bleak it is. To imagine being there, add frigid temperatures, howling wind, and a lot of semi-frozen ice/mud muck.
Picture of melglac The ice itself is a dull gray color, though the unsullied ice can be seen in some of the crevices and is a spectacular bright blue. Despite the fact that the ice has picked up enough silt to darken it, it is still extremely slippery to walk around on. We recommend taking very very small steps.
Picture of athglac This is the very bottom of the glacier. A little of the blue color can be seen on the left side of this crevice. As we visited in August, the glacier was currently retreating up the mountainside. In winter, this spot would presumably be well-buried by the ice, and rocks in the area were scarred by previous comings and goings of the glacier. There is also a long-term retreating trend for this particular glacier which is well documented on the road in.
Picture of athfalls Next stop was Athabasca falls. One of the more popular, though we were becoming less enthused by waterfalls having seen so many. (Probably the same way you feel right about now). This one is impressive nonetheless. One American tourist standing nearby described this to his family as 'The Niagara Falls of Canada'. Hmmm. We managed to refrain from comment at the time, so we might as well continue the trend here. After all, we came across a story of even worse geography knowledge later the same day.
Picture of athflowers A bridge has been built over the river just downstream from the falls, so both sides are accessible. The water, as the name implies, is largely run-off from the Athabasca glacier seen in the previous pictures.
Picture of whistlers This could be just another glacier picture with our feet cut off, but it isn't. For one thing, if you look closely to the left of David's legs, you'll see the tops of several mountains. This picture was taken atop Whistler's Mountain near the city of Jasper. A tram ride gets you up to the alpine zone, and a deceptively long trail leads to the peak from there. At over 8000 ft (2500m) in altitude, it becomes a difficult hike as well. (At least for us sea-level dwellers). The camera was carefully balanced on a rock at this point, so you'll have to excuse the angle.
Picture of jasper The clouds coming over the mountain made visibility poor for the most part, often down to only a few yards at a time. However, when it did clear, the view across the valley was spectacular as shown here. This is the city of Jasper as viewed from above. If you magnify this image intensely, you'll notice just to the lower left of the major 4-way intersection in the foreground a bit of an anomaly. There was a small single engine plane that had some problems and was forced to land there on the highway while we were in Jasper. Apart from that I can tell you that the top of Whistler's is rocky and uninteresting, though it is supposedly inhabited by marmots and pikas. That may be true but we recorded zero small mammal sightings during our visit. On the tram going back down we came across the previously promised story of true geographical ineptness. A man asked the tram operator where he was from originally. The tram operator replied, "British Columbia". The man said, "When did you move to Canada?".
Picture of elk Large mammals we did see, just east of Jasper. These were a bit more wild than the ones that passed time in downtown Banff (city elk), but this one was nice enough to pose majestically for us.

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