My latest adventures have made me realise just how big Canada is. It took us 34 hours to get to Jasper by bus, ferry, Sky Train, Greyhound and car, yet the Rocky Mountains are only about a sixth of the way across Canada! But the journey was completely worthwhile and the ten of us had the most incredible week exploring Alberta, aka Winter Wonderland.
I had been warned that the Greyhound bus ride would be an adventure in itself, and I wasn’t thrilled to be told everyone had to get off the bus at 1am into the freezing snow while it refueled just 20 minutes after taking a sleeping pill… But I can’t complain about the journey when this guy was our travel buddy!
Very amusingly, we thought we had managed to hire two cars for a ridiculously good rate, until we realised we had only hired them for one day rather than the week… But our luck soon picked up and there was 15cm of snow over the weekend we arrived. We did so many beautiful hikes through snow-covered trees that literally seemed to sparkle when the sun blazed through the fog.
Maligne Lake and the surrounding area is gorgeous – the sun dipped down to create a stunning light on the mountains, which were perfectly reflected in the midnight blue water. It’s a very peaceful feeling to just be able to hear the snow melting from the branches above.
Nearby Medicine Lake is one of the most breath-taking places I’ve ever visited. We drove around a sharp turn in the icy road and suddenly a huge expanse of partly frozen deep blue water opened out in front of us, surrounded on all sides by snow-covered peaks and alpine forest.
There was some drama when James offered to help a group of tourists that had driven off the road down a snowy bank. It took a long time for him to guide them out by clearing snow and putting mats under the tyres to create grip, but they managed to get back on the road eventually. We were rewarded for the trouble almost immediately: on the way home we spotted two moose on the road! So Canada.
The Sunwapta and Athabasca Falls are both staggering natural formations, with crystal turquoise water cascading over fascinating layers of rock. It made me think about how large the human impact on the natural world is over a comparatively short time to the thousands of years it took for the water to cut through these ancient rocks.
Hiking up to a glacier in the Columbia Icefields felt like walking on a different planet. Strangely shaped boulders peered out from under the snow and there were bright blue ice caves dashed through the snowy exterior. It was very eerie when suddenly an intense rumbling noise alerted us to an avalanche happening less than a kilometre up the glacier! Tragically, there were signs all the way up to the glacier showing where the ice had reached in previous years – I’m currently writing about the challenges facing the Jumbo glacier so look out for that in a few weeks time.
One of my highlights from Jasper has to be the night when we left our apartment around 11:30pm (after a dip in the hot tub and a pretty good macaroni cheese cooked by Chef James et moi) and headed out to Pyramid Lake to see the Northern Lights!! Although they weren’t that bright to the naked eye, it was quite a powerful experience to see them dancing above us. The Rockies are a magical part of the world.
(Part 2: Banff is coming soon)