Road Trip 2013: Day 11. The Icefields Parkway

Most great roads that I’ve been on have moments of normal…times where the road is straight and there isn’t much to see.  The great views and twisty parts come and go, punctuated by more or less regular driving.  The Icefields Parkway is not like that.  It is back to back, amazing mountains…with no normal parts.  It is probably the most spectacular road in Canada.  I’m sure I could drive the Icefields every day for the rest of my life and not get bored of it.  So below are my thoughts, written the evening after driving it for the first time.

Day 11: Icefields Parkway – 290 km driven
This morning I woke up to the sound of rain against the side of the tent. That was a bit of a disappointment. It had been raining for a good chunk of the night, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to stop. I lay there in indecision, as I would have to get up and go renew my site if I was going to declare today a rain day. I waited and waited, and finally the rain stopped…but it was still super cloudy outside, and I wanted nice weather for my icefields drive. I’m never too sure about weather here in the mountains because it can change so quickly. Finally around 930am, the sun started to shine through the clouds. I took that as a sign that it was going to clear up…so I packed up the site and was on my way.

After getting gas, I headed down the icefields parkway. At first it wasn’t amazing…just more of the same Banff style mountains. And there didn’t seem to be any lookouts. But as I got further, the mountains came closer together, and started to look bigger. The valley began to shrink and there were huge mountains on either side. Now the lookout points became more prevalent. There was just so much to see. Around every bend there were new mountains. And they were all in cool shapes and colours….almost every one was different…or so it seemed. Near the beginning I pulled over to get a picture of the mountains down the road, and while I was setting up the camera, a mother black bear and two cubs walked across the highway. I fumbled around with my camera and managed to get a mediocre picture of the cubs. The crazy thing, is cars coming down the road saw it, and all pulled over and were practically chasing after the bear with their cameras.

Baby Bears
Baby Bears

One striking feature was the glaciers. Many mountains had smaller glaciers hanging off the top of them. And there were a few larger ones; always with signs about how they were shrinking. The Athabasca glacier was a really big example of that, as it used to come right to the road, and now its 2 km inland from there. They had signs all along the trail showing at what year it had been that far. Today, I couldn’t see the glacier from the parking lot and it was a decent hike to get to it. Apparently when my parents were there before I was born, they could see it from the parking lot. And I guy I was talking to in Banff was saying he remembered when it came all the way to the road(which would have covered the parking lot)

The trail to the Athabasca Glacier
The trail to the Athabasca Glacier

The river valleys were really great too, making really nice scenes with mountains towering over them. I hiked to Peyto Lake which was really cool, although it was one of the busier areas. It was interesting how the air was really quite cool, but the sun was super hot. So it was decently cold in the shade, and hot in the sun. When I was driving with the window down, my arm would get cold from the air rushing past it…while the rest of me was warm.

Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake

I’m not really sure what else to write here. It doesn’t seem to do it justice. All I can say is, I was getting used to driving in the mountains of Banff. They just didn’t “wow” me anymore. And I was beginning to wonder if I had really gotten used to the wonders of the mountains so easily. But this drive seriously wowed me. I was filled with wonder once again. It was great just cruising down the road, with my window down, listening to road tunes, and enjoying the amazing scenery. At one point I was driving towards an especially high and menacing mountain, and Chris Tomlin’s “Our God” was playing. The chorus is: “Our God is greater, Our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other”….and it really sunk in how much more awesome God is than these mountains that fill me with awe already.

So I got to my campsite, which was just outside of Jasper. I decided to eat out tonight, and drove into Jasper. I love the town already. It’s everything that Banff should have been. It has that rustic feel of a mountain town, and it’s a bit tourisized while still not being super busy. Everything has that proper National Park feel here. I love it.

Tonight was supposed to be the last day of the Meteor shower, and Jasper is a dark sky preserve…but the skys are looking cloudy and I’m hearing thunder. I might try waking up in the middle of the night and see if that’s changed, because I would love to do some night photography and have mixed with it the meteors. And its always interesting the differences between campsites. The campsite in Banff had trains going by all the time, and was the most mosquito infested site ever….and this site has very few mosquitoes, but has crickets…

Awesomeness on the Icefields Parkway
Awesomeness on the Icefields Parkway


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