Our affair started way back in 1999 when I had gone to Shimla for the first time... I was preparing for MCA and Shimla University offered one of the nicer courses at that time! Tough exam! I knew we would meet, but I never knew how much of affection would develop in this first visit... Looks like something magical happened, and I have been in Love with mountains since!
My love for mountains has taken me places, all around the north of India from small hills to the world's highest pass at 18380 ft... from short weekend trips to 4 day long roadtrip all around Uttaranchal, from short hikes to day long treks in the lap of mountains, to the highlands in Scotland, to Smokey Mountains in USA and finally to the famous Rockies!!!
I flew to Calgary, Alberta on the 27th of August and headed out to the Rockies on 28th morning. Jas had planned the trip and all I had asked her for was that I want to see the mountains; the rest she could plan the way she'd like!
We were to drive on the TransCanada highway#1 mostly and have nightstops in Jasper and Banff, two lovely towns in the hearts of Jasper and Banff National Parks.
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We were in no rush to reach anywhere, and because it was summer time, the days were longer with the sunsetting somewhere around 9 in the evening so even if we left late, we would have enough sunlight to drive around in!
The morning was chilly, and had that sweet wintery feel to it! I like that! And the photograph above is my first photograph of the trip! To Canada and the Rockies!
We were to drive approximately 400kms on the first day with a few pit stops and the few unscheduled ones... Driving around in the US and Canada can be very boring, however this drive was very different! I was at awe looking at the mountains, the sheer size and beauty of them! Though they really do not compare to the Himalayas, the ability to drive smoothly without worrying too much about the hairping bends and sharp turns (The max speed for most of the highway was marked at 90 or 100 kmph). Jas was to drive through the first hour or two in the plains and then hand over the steering to me!
This is from our second unscheduled stop! Jas suddenly realised that we wanted to stop and took a sharp right to move to the parking area! We must have surprised the RV guy next to us for sure, but not enough to be honked at! good for us! The turquoise color that you see in the background is a small river.
Our first scheduled stop was the guest center for Athabasca Glacier! I have seen and been on snow capped mountains, I have walked on small glaciers too, but this was something beyond my imagination. Athabasca Glacier is one of the 6 tongues of the Columbia Ice Fields, and after a short bus drive, and then a drive in the Ice-explorer later, I was standing on the Athabasca Glacier... Length 6 kms, Width 1 kms, and the place where I was standing was close to about 300 meters thick ICE !!! Unimaginable!!!
The area in which visitors can walk around is marked, and it is strongly advised not to go beyond that area!!! The Vehicle in the picture is a limited edition Ice Explorer custom made for these tours by a company in Calgary. The only other place where you see these vehicles is Antarctica! 6 wheel drive with a top speed of 10 kmph, tires about 5ft in diameter, with an air pressure of 6psi
The blue arrow in the above picture is the another Ice Explorer. This should give you a faint idea of how large this glacier is!
Our next stop was supposed to be a fall, but we somehow missed the turn, and moved on towards Athabasca Falls... This was not too big a waterfall, but the flow and color of water is what made this special for me! The fall, over the years, has carved a deep canyon in the area before the water moved to a much calmer river!
Our final destination for the day was Jasper, a small town some 400kms from where we had started! What a day it was for me! I had driven through one of the most scenic highways in Canada, experienced the might of nature in Glaciers, and Ice Fields, witnessed marvels of machines, and enjoyed the painting like views throughout the drive!
We checked into our hotel Tonquin Inn, at Jasper, and moved out for a walk and dinner soon after... A decent Italian restaurant is what we chose for dinner, and walked back. The very relaxed town and the vibes in it were really helpful in relaxing the mind and body that evening!!!
The next morning started with ease... and more importantly with TEA :)
We did not really have a plan for the day, except that we were to drive back to Banff, and go to two lakes in that area! Jas asked the reception and got directions to a not so long hike. So we drove to the Old Fort Point and started out hike! It turned out to be a 2 hour hike instead of what we were told, but once we reached the top, we saw some breathtaking views of the surrounding area! Also a reminder of the fact that being fit is important! Enjoy some pictures from the hike below.
This is from the highest point of the trail 1 that we followed! You could walk straight down with extreme care and reach down fast, or take the longer route from around the hills! We chose to take the safer way down!
We drove back to Jasper and towards the Pyramid Lake, where we hiked for a few kilometers again...
And after having our to-go Subway Subs, we started driving back towards Banff
We drove straight to Lake Moraine near Banff. The drive to Lake Moraine was the steepest so far and I simply loved that stretch!!! I think if I had rate where I love driving, it would be driving uphill that comes on the top spot!!! there is a thrill that I get out of driving up! The color of Lake Moraine is something worth noticing because of all the Rock Salt deposits!!! It can go from blue to turquoise to dark green! beautiful!!!!
It was getting dark by the time we had reached Lake Moraine, so we dropped the idea of going to Lake Louise and drove to Banff!!!
The drive was pretty uneventful except that the GPS decided to take us to an incorrect location in Banff, and we were almost stranded in the middle of nowhere because it was not ready to take us where we wanted to go! We tried a couple of tricks and finally reached our hotel, after tricking the GPS into taking us to a wrong address and following our instincts and some help from there :)
The next morning we drove straight to Lake Louise from Banff...
This trip was something that made me realize how incorrectly I have been using the term backpacking so far! Also found a tea-shop :)
Isn't the image second from the top on this board of a man drinking? and kid referring to something else? I named this sign "Bevda Baap"! In reality this is the sign of a view-point!
We drove back to Banff, and then took the Banff Gondola up to the Sulphur Mountain! This day was particularly crowded because of students from some international convention were also there...
After we reached the top, Jas insisted that we hike to a mountain top nearby because of the amazing views it had! We did! what you see in the picture above if the visitor center for the Gondolas on the top of Sulpher Mountain.
We started back towards Calgary after a quick lunch at a Greek Restaurant in downtown Banff, and reached back in good time! We thought that we got a ticket as well on this trip, but looks like we did! Maybe the cop uncle could not get a picture of the license plate :P
And the trip ended with another wire-frame shot, this time of a setting sun!!!!
Ta Ta Canada... looking forward to be there again soon!