My excitement was no less than a five-year-old as we were nearing the top of the Canadian Rockies. All my life I had waited for this one moment … to see snow white mountains, and to touch the snowflakes. There are few things more magical than looking out of the window from the car and discovering those first flurries gently falling onto your face.
The road trip to Banff National Park felt like a road trip to heaven. From mesmerizing blue n green lakes to black bear sightings from the comfort of the car to enthralling treks, there’s something for everyone who loves nature.
One of my favorite things about Canada in the summer is that it doesn’t get dark until about 9 or 10 pm. The drive from Calgary set the bar so high that it felt like straight from fairy tale entering the Emerald Lake Lodge.
Such a beautiful romantic getaway nestled in the Canadian Rockies inside the National Park. In 2017, Canada celebrated its 150th birthday so all National Park entrance fees were waived. What a welcome gift for my maiden trip!
The beautiful green color of Emerald Lake is created when rocks underneath the surface of the ice are grinding from the movement of the glacier. The rock flour is very light and stays suspended in the water for a long time. And Sunlight that reflects on this rock flour is what gives the lake its spectacular green hue.
The lodge itself offers a peek into the 1890’s with wooden cabins. A surreal experience and felt like I was in the Truman Show, that someone had painted a picture-perfect backdrop. Just couldn’t believe that the mighty mountains and still lakes were real. And I found myself stretching my arm out to the landscape, hoping to feel it.
Spending a night in a cabin in the woods and canoeing in the lake would have been a poetic experience. So perhaps that’s why this was so jaw-dropping.
It was time to resume the journey to Lake Louise and then to Banff. I took some of the most beautiful pictures I have ever taken in my life.
Maybe someday I will come back to stay at the iconic “Castle in the Rockies” – Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. This, a UNESCO World Heritage Site hotel, was built in 1928 and styled like a Scottish castle….Seated near the fireplace ..cozy in a blanket sipping some hot chocolate reading my favorite book. There could be no end to the wishlist one could have.
Banff town was busy with people wandering along the main avenue filled with touristy and specialty shops. Searching for that perfect souvenir from Banff could keep you going for hours. Checking out on some made in Canada Mukluks & Boots took us to The Buffalo Nations Museum which had a rich display of the culture and heritage of the native Canadians. There was a display of ornamented costumes, exquisite quillwork, and unique hunting equipment’s.
Banff Gondola, is the prime attraction and for some reason, I had butterflies in my stomach boarding the glass cars. The Sulphur Mountain overlooks Banff National Park, and the 8-minute gondola ride up 2300 feet gliding over the snow-covered treetops set me on a high.
Once on top, there is a one-kilometer Boardwalk offering jaw-dropping scenery of six Canadian Rockies mountain ranges. The best part of the boardwalk was the trail to Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Observatory. Apparently, Norman Sanson climbed a trail up the mountain every week in early 1900’s for close to 30 years and recorded the weather data at the historic stone building that is still standing.
Stood there for a long while soaking it all in ….there was a chill in the air and suddenly could feel the flakes of snow …truly heavenly experience!
The 280 km stretch from Banff to Jasper was expected to be covered in under 4 hrs but I could not resist the temptation to get down at every viewpoint and breathe in nature.
Jasper to me was the precious stone that resonates with endless layers of colors and shades. And the journey turned out to be exactly the same. It has to be one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Luckily there were enough pull-offs along the way.
Next on the itinerary was The Columbia Icefield, the largest ice field in North America, located right between the Jasper National Park and the Banff National Park. The icefield is massive 300 square kilometers and receives up to 7 meters (23 feet) of snowfall per year.
From where I started the journey wanting to experience snow, this was a jackpot! I was suddenly teleported to my high school geography class and my favorite Francisca Mam shouting at the girls “A glacier is a large accumulation of ice, snow, rock, sediment, and water on land that is moving downslope under its own weight and gravity”. Never in my dreams I thought, would get to see one in my lifetime.
The ice explorers conduct tours into the glaciers. People were waiting to get into those massive 6-wheel all-terrain vehicles.
I went for a small trek in the ice fields, you have to be careful where you step on the ice, or might end up in a pit or sink into layers of ice. It was both scary and exciting at the same time. Climate change has taken a toll on these glaciers. It’s been melting at an alarming rate. They are earth’s largest freshwater source, the natural reservoir in the form of ice.
We were headed to the Glacier Skywalk. I held my breath as we walked through the glass walkway to the cliff edge, my heart was beating so fast and didn’t have the courage to look down at all!! Its just glass that separates you from a 918-foot (280 m) free fall.
I saw someone crawling on the glass platform and could totally relate to that emotion. The fear of heights or the fear of the unknown. But at the end of it .. it’s all worth it.
Check out more on my Canadian diaries at Vancouver