Alberta 2015 (English)

With so many professionally written and comprehensive guides to touring the Canadian Rockies, I was unsure of what to write about our favourite parts of our summer trip to Alberta.  We could probably write a book about the beauty of each lake, waterfall, mountain, and patch of wildflowers!  Manuel and I have posted an album of photos showing the beauty of all the major destinations in Banff and Jasper National Parks.  This post is only a highlight of some of the places that were meaningful to us on the trip.

Banff National Park

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Banff Gondola

On our first day in the park, we decided to tackle the Sulphur Mountain hike.  Perfectly reasonable people avail themselves of the mountain gondola, which takes you from a parking lot near the hot springs to the Cosmic Ray Station and observatory in just a matter of minutes.  However, if you have 2-3 hours, you can ascend the stunning 655 m elevation gain of the last 5.5 km of Sulphur Mountain with your own two feet.  With the altitude hovering around 2,400 m (8,000 ft if you prefer imperial to metric), you’ll need to be in relatively good shape before attempting the hike.  I managed it with a minor heart condition and asthma, but we took a lot of breaks.

 

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Sulphur Mountain

We also took a lot of photos on our breaks, and the climb gave me the confidence to try other trails.  Since returning from Alberta, Manuel and I have tried an additional 6 trails in 3 states.  I guess you could call it a life-changing experience, since I would’ve never classified myself as a girl who likes hiking before this!

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Into the Woods!

After taking the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) from Canmore to Lake Louise, we took the Bow Valley Parkway back to Canmore on the return trip.  While Hwy 1 is efficient and speedy and offers gorgeous views, the Bow Valley Parkway winds along some of the most gorgeous viewpoints at a nearly parallel path to the 1.  Expect lower speeds, better views, intermittent wildlife, and the road trip of a lifetime.  Sometimes it’s worth taking the scenic route.
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Bow Valley Parkway

Especially if your boyfriend rented a convertible for the trip.
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We arrived at Lake Minnewanka after the boat tours had concluded for the day, and consequently had the place to ourselves.  Almost to ourselves.  We saw a family of bighorn sheep snacking on grass and trash, and took a long route back to the car just to avoid getting too close.

It was nearly 9 pm when we scrambled up a rocky hill to a scenic overlook of the lake.  Manuel affixed his camera to a lonely pine behind us, and then scrambled to get in shot before the 10 seconds on the timer expired.  I was under the impression that Algonquin Chairs were an Ontario thing, but was delighted to be proven wrong.  We spent a long time sitting in those chairs and admiring the icy blue depths of Minnewanka.
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Lake Minnewanka

No matter how many photos you see of Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks, it doesn’t compare to seeing it with your own eyes.

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Moraine Lake

Especially when your boyfriend looks like he’s straight out of a men’s outdoor catalog.
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Moraine Lake

Best food of Banff National Park:  we didn’t expect Alberta to be a vegetarian paradise, but it was.  All the restaurants we tried were top notch and the food was delicious.  My favourite meal memories are taking in the mountain views with a hot cuppa at Communitea in Canmore, chowing down on a veggie burger at the observatory on Sulphur Mountain, and the tofu rolls at Laggan’s Mountain Bakery in Lake Louise (we stopped there a second day to have them again!  They were inexpensive and so good!).

We have to go back because we ran out of time to see the Cave and Basin National Historic Site and it rained on the day we were hoping to hike Johnston Canyon.

Jasper National Park

After being drenched on our Moraine Lake canoe trip, we had wonderful weather for canoeing at Pyramid Lake.  We tried again at Pyramid Lake, and enjoyed a leisurely paddle from one side of the lake to the other without rain.  (No, you can’t have an entire day of perfect weather in Jasper.  It started pouring about 30 minutes after we returned the rental.)  We waited out the storm, and then went to nearby Patricia Lake.

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Pyramid Lake

As one of the few lakes in the park that’s not fed by glaciers or environmentally protected, it’s possible to swim in Patricia Lake.  But just because it’s possible to swim doesn’t mean you can last very long.  We both took refreshing (but QUICK!) swims here.  We waited to warm off our shivers by sunning ourselves on some rocks and looking for fish.  A few came our way and eyed us curiously, but eluded the fishermen at the other end of the lake who watched our swimming adventure with mild amusement.

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Patricia Lake

Despite the brevity of a 3.5 km hike, Old Fort Point is one of the most difficult hikes I’ve ever attempted – it has a 130 meter elevation change in that short distance.  As we climbed from the parking lot to the summit, Manuel and I talked about our future.  We spent most of this trip talking about our future, as it was the first time we had an opportunity to spend an entire week together in 2015!!!  We were hoping to know more about his next contract and upcoming schedule, but what we didn’t know for sure, we filled in with what we hoped could be possible.  The previous night, over veggie burgers and salads at Jasper Brewing Company, we decided we wanted to get married eventually.  But as we stopped to catch our breath and survey the granite peaks and glacial lakes, Manuel turned to me, held me in a long embrace, and asked if I was really sure I wanted to marry him.  At that moment, the decision turned from something we would do eventually to something we were going to do in the not-so-distant future.  As for the guy who asked me such an important question:  I told him without a doubt, I had never been so sure of anything in my entire life.

20150717-ALBERTA-263We hiked to the summit and took photos of a view that will remain very special to us for the rest of our lives.

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Old Fort Point

Best food of Jasper National Park:  if you’re hungry, don’t worry – all the gift shoppes sell waist-ruining fudge.  In the summer, Wednesday is Farmer’s Market day in Jasper Town, and we bought sweet, tart blackberries and more honey than we could eat.  The lettuce wraps at Evil Dave’s were fantastic, the beer at Jasper Brewing Company is delicious (or so Manuel says), and we went to the Raven Bistro twice and consumed all their vegetarian appetizers and entrees (and one or two of their vegan desserts).  The rest of our meals were baguette and cheese and fruits from Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods that we ate picnic-style between adventures.

We have to go back because our visit coincided with a forest fire in the Maligne Canyon, so we missed out on Maligne Lake, Spirit Island, and the canyon waterfalls and hike.

Much as I tried to be brief and stick to the highlights, this post has nearly turned into a book!  I suspect it will take Manuel some effort to help me translate this one into German, but hopefully we’ll have it posted in a few days.  In the meantime, we are off to Charleston, SC this weekend with his brother, Martin, and sister-in-law, Daniela.

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