Sunday, July 24, 2011

Best of Banff and Jasper National Parks

We went to Banff and Jasper National Parks of Canada in mid July 2011 for a week. The views of Rocky Mountains, magnificent glaciers and elegant glacier lakes, abundant wildflowers; the sounds from rushing glacier rivers, thunderous water falls, and singing birds; the sights of wild animals and colorful flowers and the cool weather, all made the trip memorable. It was wonderful.

The best places within the parks are Moraine Lake and Valley of 10 Peaks, Lake Louise and the Plain of Six Glaciers, Icefield Parkway in Banff and Mt Edith Cavell in Jasper.

Moraine Lake

The second day at Banff, we went to Moraine lake early in the morning in light drizzles. It was quiet and beautiful: the tranquil lake with its rippled turquoise water, and the surrounding 10 Rockie peaks, lush green pin trees and vegetation on the northern shore and moraines on the southern shore. As we walked along the shoreline, all we heard was the rushing glacier melts pouring into the lake.
Then we hiked to Larch Valley, which is 2.8 km away from the lake and 465m above the lake. It was cold ( 7C) that morning. So it took about half kilometer hike for us to warm up and the rest of the way was very pleasant. As we zigzagged in the mountain, we saw various kinds of wildflowers, we heard the chirping of birds now and then, and of course the running creeks every time we crossed them.

When we reached Larch valley, the clouds broke, the Sun shone on the lush meadow. We were at the glacier level, passing glacier remnants a few times.

Lake Louise

The lake is more whitish green than emerald green, Victoria Glacier seems to be right at the top of west end of the lake, and the grandeur Fairmont Chateauon is at the east end.

We went to Lake Louise twice, the first time was in the afternoon after our trip to Moraine Lake.
Nick, Justin and I canoed on the lake, which provided a different viewpoint and a distance from the crowds at this popular location, while Lily walked along the shoreline.

We went to Lake Louise early next morning to hike to the plains of six glaciers - 5.3km distance from the lake, and an elevation gain of 365m. Blooming flowers are allover the mountains. We encountered golden ground squirrels, saw hoary marmot in and out of its burrow, heard the chirping of birds which have black and white strips on their heads. We walked on glacier remnants, and witnessed the thunderous breaking off of glacier ice from Victoria Glaciers while we were picnicking by glacier creeks.

Icefield Park Way

Icefield Parkway is the most beautiful highway I have ever driven on. We passed numerous emerald green glacier lakes dotted along the highway, reflecting rocky mountain ranges; We drove right under the towering glaciers, we passed by many water falls - large and small.

It took us about 10 hours to drive from Banff to Jasper - about 230km due to frequent stops on Icefield parkway. As we were approaching Jasper in the evening, we encountered Elks, Black Bear, Wolf which were wandering by roadside, and a Coyotte which crossed the road right in front of our car!

Mt Edith Cavell

We were the first to arrive at Mt Edith Cavell the first day we were at Jasper. We had the whole mountain to ourself and we enjoyed Mt Edith wilderness - subalpine forest, flowery Meadows on the slopes, spectacular view of angles glacier. As we hiked into the mountain, we encountered a pika carrying a small pine tree branch, two marmots frolicking each other on boulders, a bird singing for us for a good stretch of time.

When we came down the mountain we went to Edith Cavell Glacier and Glacier lake. The glacier is small, but very approachable, we were right at the front of the glacier - aquatic water, floating ice, fissures/caves in the glacier ice .... we felt incredibly intimate with the glacier!

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