Driving from Banff to Jasper is a treat. First off, we started on the highway 1a again, like the days before. This time, the catch wasn’t as grand as before, but every animal you encounter is by chance anyway. Our luck probably was completely used up by then. 🙂
Arriving at the end of highway 1a you encounter Lake Louise, after which the most scenic route of all scenic routes starts: Icefields Parkway, or highway 93.
This highway was specially constructed to offer the best views on the mountains in the Rockies as possible and I can safely say, they have succeeded in doing just that. What an amazing drive!
It lasts for about 230 kilometres and is usually a 4 lane divided highway so the drive is pretty easy, yet still the road winds and curves through the small valley between two mountain ranges. (I don’t remember which ones though…)
Halfway through the road, at about 105 km from Jasper, the Columbia Icefield Experience can be found. This is a company offering you a busdrive to and on the Athabasca glacier, at the lowest point of the Columbia Icefields. These fields stretch for about 325 square kilometres, and are thus really really big by any standards. The tickets to the glacier will not come cheap, but the drive and the experience both are really great! We have had a blast, on quite possibly the best day to go. The day before, it rained cats and dogs, and the week before that it even snowed up there!
Of course did we stop frequently while driving on the highway to take pictures of all awesomeness on display, and the most notable stops include: Bow Glacier Lake, Peyto Lake and Sunwapta Falls. All three include a short or a little longer hike from the road to the location of our interest. All really worth the time!
After the apparent successes of yesterday we were hoping another early start would yield an equal result.
How wrong were we!
Let me remind you: yesterday’s yield was 5 bears and a lot of wapiti. Today’s list is like this: 3 bears (of which 1 mother and her cub) quite a few wapiti and mule deer and 2 wolves. I’m sorry? Yes. Wolves. 2 of them. One per sighting. AWESOME!
Unfortunately for us, the bears were all black bears (some very brown ones!) so we still haven’t seen any grizzlies yet. Maybe later.
The wolves we saw were both grey wolves, and one actually was grey. The other one was black, but still a grey wolf as that’s the only spicies of wolf living in Banff National Park.
All animals we have encountered in the past two days were spotted while driving on highway 1a.
As we were not completely sure what species the bear family was, we went to the National Park Service building in Banff. We passed the question to the ranger, and he determined with some help that the bears we saw actually were black bears. We now know the most determining factor of bears are their claws, but unfortunately for him we have not seen them.
His reaction to us spotting several bears and a wolf was disbelief which only grew bigger after we told him we also saw a second wolf and more bears!
The rest of the day we spent doing some smallest stuff like visiting local falls (Bow River Falls, near Banff) and trying to get on the gondola to Sulphur Mountain. This didn’t quite work out as the locals also had their day off and were trying to make the most of the lovely weather.
We did go see the lower and upper falls of Johnston Canyon, which is located between Banff and Lake Louise.
Tomorrow is a moving day for us. First we pack our bags and leave this hotel to drive up to Jasper via Canada’s most beautiful road, or so we have been told. We are just hoping for clear skies and no rain!
This morning meant a really very early start in the morning. Around 6, we left the hotel to get a cup of coffee to start the day well. At 06:15 we checked in at Tim Horton’s to get our caffeine inside the bodies. All was needed to start the day around dusk on highway 1a which takes you from Banff to Lake Louise. This highway is the old highway, from before the current highway 1 which is completely fenced in while it travels through Banff National Park. The old one is mainly a two-lane undivided road (one each way).
This road comes highly recommended for wildlife sightings, as it is one of few traversable roads in the park, and all animals are free to cross it or courage around it. And that us just what they do.
This morning, we have spotted a total of 5 black bears (amongst which a mother with her cub) and 5 wapiti. The latter are also known as elk. Also, during this 60 km drive, we’ve spotted loads of chipmunks, quite a few golden mantled ground squirrels and even some pika! We are pretty fond of those numbers, and felt the awfully early start of the day was well worth it!
Besides all animal spotting and paperazzi work, we also visited some amazing sites in Banff National Park. Among which are: Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Vermillion Lakes and the Hoodoos. Especially Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are worth visiting as these contain probably the blueest water you’ve ever seen!
We actually spent quite a while at Moraine Lake, as its scenery and wildlife are truly mindboggling. Unfortunately for us, it sits in prime bear territory, which meant we couldn’t walk one of the desired trails as it was neatly mandatory to travel in groups of at least four people and to carry bear-repellant. We know that stuff as mace or pepperspray. We came prepared, but not to that degree!
All in all, it has been a fantastic day, with awesome animal encounters and prime locations inside Canada’s finest National Park. Tomorrow will probably more of the same, and I’m still hoping to encounter my personal favorites: wolves and a hoary marmot.