Jasper – Day Two

Saturday, 4 August: As tempting as it was to laze around the resort, by 9.30 we were in the coach to start the day with a cruise on Maligne Lake to Spirit Island. Set amongst towering peaks, Maligne Lake is the largest glacial fed lake in the Canadian Rockies and interestingly, the water is a different colour at Spirit Island than it is where the boat departs from. As you get closer, the water changes from blue to emerald, due to the presence of rock flour from the glaciers.

Maligne Lake (1)

Maligne Lake (2)

Maligne Lake

Spirit Island is one of the most photographed places in Canada and we could see why. Beautiful, peaceful and a very special place.

 

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On our return we hopped back on the coach and headed to Athabasca Falls.  This waterfall is not known so much for its height (at 23 metres) as for the force of the water falling into the gorge.

 

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Next stop was Maligne Canyon.  This canyon measures over 50 metres deep and we did an interpretative walk, learning about the underground river system while following the canyon’s trail past beautiful waterfalls and spectacular rock formations.  Several bridges crossed where you could see the water far below.  It was very interesting to read how the churning water is constantly eroding the canyon.

 

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The rest of the day we had to ourselves, which gave us another opportunity to explore the resort and later in the day I walked around the lake which took 1-1/2 hours at a leisurely pace, stopping to read the many boards set up at intervals, with interesting information about the plant and animal life around the lake.

 

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Around JPL lake (7)Around JPL lake (6)Around JPL lake (1)

 

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Jasper

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3 August:   Friday morning, we headed north amidst a landscape of towering peaks, waterfalls and glaciers, hoping we would see some elk, bears or mountain goats. In fact, John stopped the coach when he saw several cars up ahead parked on the side of the road and we were just in time to catch a glimpse of a bear!  It was too bad that everyone had gotten out of their cars with their cameras and scared it away.  Unfortunately, that was to be our only sighting!

 

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Arrived at the Columbian Icefield and boarded an Ice Explorer to drive out to the massive Athabasca Glacier.  This is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains, located along the border of Alberta and British Columbia.

It was pretty crowded out there, with Ice Explorers coming and going, but all very controlled and we could only stay out there for 20 minutes. There were lots of people standing around and the ice was slippery, so I didn’t venture very far. Nevertheless, an amazing experience to actually stand on a glacier.

Just before we reached our accommodation, we rounded a corner and were surprised to find several elk lying in the grass.  John stopped the coach and we took some photos through the windows so we wouldn’t disturb them.

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We stayed in the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, in the middle of Alberta’s stunning Jasper National Park.  Covering 700 acres, this luxury resort has a main lodge surrounded by chalets and cabins all connected by paths and gardens facing Lac Beauvert and Canada’s No 1 Golf Course Resort.  Our meals in the restaurant were of the highest standard and we even had an “egg chef” to cook our eggs at breakfast!

 

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Our accommodation was in one of the cabins, roomy and luxurious, with a patio out front looking onto the lake and a back door as well!  The lodge wasn’t far away, but if you didn’t want to walk, you only had to make a quick phone call and a golf cart would be sent to pick you up.

That night after dinner we had a local wildlife expert give us a talk about all the wild animals that inhabit the area.  So pleased we have two nights here.  The scenery is stunning and we love the resort.

 

Banff – Day Two

Thursday, 2 August – Off to an early start after breakfast to drive to Moraine Lake situated in the beautiful Valley of the Ten Peaks. Stunning scenery.

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Then continued on to Lake Louise which I was really looking forward to. The unbelievably turquoise lake and its surrounding backdrop of mountains is, without doubt, the main attraction for many people and it was quite crowded there

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We had plenty of time to walk part of the way around the lake and admire the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – a beautiful building with an interesting history and lovely gardens. Very impressive.

Lake Louise is of course, the iconic place to visit but I don’t think Moraine Lake should be overlooked. In terms of beautiful lakes, it was up there and less touristy.

We also learnt about rock flour (we misunderstood and immediately thought of rock flowers!)  Rock flour refers to the silt created when rocks are grinding from the movement of a glacier.  The rock flour is very light and stays suspended in the water for a long time.  The sunlight that reflects off this rock flour gives the lakes their stunning turquoise colour.

For the rest of the day we were free to explore Banff on our own, and then we all met up to hop on our coach to be taken to the Banff Trail Riders ranch, for a ride in a covered wagon drawn by two horses to enjoy a cookout.

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It was about a 40-minute ride along a narrow dirt road through a pretty forest alongside the river.  The horses were very keen to up the pace and had to be slowed down a few times.  When we arrived at our destination we were greeted with drinks and lasso and horse shoe throwing lessons while we waited for our meal.  Also, some very large mosquitoes – which made us feel right at home!

On the way, the driver checked out how we would like our steaks cooked and phoned through our orders – such attention to detail!   The home cooked beans were fantastic – will be searching out some recipes when I go home. Salad was followed by baked potatoes to accompany our perfectly cooked steaks and beans, then individual cheesecakes for dessert – who doesn’t love a barbecue?

Even though it was late when we made our return trip back to the coach, the weather was warm and still daylight! I’m loving these long days.

Banff

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Hoodoos – beautiful pillars formed from glacial material

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Bow Falls

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Wednesday, 1st August, we hopped on the coach to explore Banff, Bow Falls, the viewpoint of Surprise Corner along Tunnel Mountain Drive and the wind-shaped Hoodoos overlooking Bow Valley, before boarding the Banff Gondola.

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Situated in the heart of Banff National Park, the gondola ride is a must-do.  There are 40 gondolas, each taking 4 people and we had a breath-taking ride up to the summit where we found lots to do – grab a coffee, eat at the restaurant, buy souvenirs, visit the theatre, explore the interpretive centre or take a walk on the boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak.  It was quite a climb – lots of steps.  So pleased we had plenty of time here to take in the beauty of Sulphur Mountain and the stunning views of the six mountain ranges.  Perfect weather once again.

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Banff Springs Hotel

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The summit and the start of the boardwalk

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Sanson’s Peak

As for Banff itself, it’s a very pretty town surrounded by the mountains.  We spent the afternoon in town and it was a good opportunity to catch up on the laundry as well.   We walked from our hotel but later found that a bus went by the door.   Good to know as we are here for two days.  The town was bigger than I expected with wide streets, lots of shops and interesting places to eat.

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That night, we met for dinner in the restaurant at our hotel where we had a “Meet a Mountie” local specialist presentation from a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman.  He was very entertaining, and he answered all our questions.  Such an interesting insight into his time with the RCMP and we enjoyed learning about its history.

 

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Rocky Mountaineer – Day Two

 

We continued our journey to Banff today, following or crossing seven rivers.  The landscape has changed, it looks more lush and we’ve seen some rapids as well.

 

It was nice to be able to stand outside from time to time on the viewing platform to take in all the sights and sounds.

The scenery was everything we thought it would be, and more, and we had a very happy day just relaxing and taking it all in.  What a great experience!