Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Beyond the Wall

Hello there!
Today I want to share the next stage of our trip with you - be warned this is a very photo heavy post!
After a wonderful week in Montana hubbie & I headed north to visit family in Canada.

Our first day was rather leisurely, we had "only" 210 miles to cover from my cousins' place to Lethbridge, Alberta where we had tickets to see this talented man in concert that night...
(For those not into the country scene this is Mr Brad Paisley, singer, songwriter, & a-maz-ing guitar player. If you haven't heard his music go check out youtube where you will be spoilt for choice.) This was the second time we have been lucky enough to see him in concert & he didn't disappoint!! After the concert we had another 100 miles or so to drive to our motel for the night, coming across the town of Vulcan en route. No, those crazy Canucks did not name a town after a planet in Star Trek (the actual town dates from 1915), but they aren't above cashing in on the connection...
Now you don't often see one of these parked at the side of the highway so we stopped for some photos! Although it was after midnight by this point I'm sure it's not the weirdest tourist behavior this town has seen ;-) There is a Trek themed tourist station & a museum here too but obviously they were closed at this time of night/morning so it looks like we will be making a return visit one day! At least there were no traffic delays, we had the roads pretty much to ourselves as we resumed our northwards trek to Strathmore.
The next morning we got going as early as we could for what would be one of the biggest days of driving on our entire trip. Our end destination was only 340km away according to sat nav (which is 211 miles for those of us who don't speak km!!) but where would the fun be in going the direct route? No, instead of simply heading towards Calgary & then turning right on the 2 up to Edmonton we had chosen to take "the scenic route"! I have been this way several times before but this was hubbies' first trip "north of the wall" to Canada so we decided to make the most of it. We headed due west on the Trans-Canada Highway, at this point those Rocky Mountains look pretty distant...
... but they drew closer... 
... and closer... 
...until we were right in the midst of them. The road was really busy and we entered Banff National Park in a much longer stream of traffic than when we had crossed the international border the day before! 
Now we were right in the heart of the Rockies... 
It is actually pretty hard to capture the scale & grandeur of this scenery with a little camera! At intervals along the highway you pass under these bridges... 
Rather different looking aren't they? They are wildlife bridges (hence the trees & grass growing on them) which were installed when this section of the worlds' longest national road was upgraded to a four lane highway in the 1990's. Banff is the country's premier national park with over 3.5 million visitors each year but on top of that over 4.5 million drive through on this road without stopping so you can see the potential for serious amounts of roadkill. There are also wildlife underpasses along the road, all to minimise man's impact on the populations of bear, moose, elk, coyote, wolverine, lynx, deer etc. who call this place home.
We stopped briefly in the tourist town of Banff... 
This is the impressive looking Banff Springs Hotel which opened in 1888 and is a national historic site along with being a luxury hotel. 
Just after Banff we turned northwest onto the Icefields Parkway, heading up the spine of the Rockies... 
The temperature was dropping & it snowed intermittently as we reached Bow Lake, about 60 miles out of Banff... 
As the weather systems moved, we glimpsed the peaks... 
... but there was also stunning scenery to see at lower levels... 
Some three hours after leaving Banff we arrived at the Columbia Icefields. It was cold with a blustery wind blowing snow & obscuring good views of the glacier... 
Instead of joining the tourist parties heading out to the foot of the glacier we jumped back in the warm car & carried on up the road. An hour further up the road we turned off the Parkway to where the Upper Athabasca River goes from this... 
...to this... 

... before flowing on through this limestone gorge... 
These are the Athabasca Falls, not famous so much for the height of the falls as the immense force of the water tumbling from the wide river above into the narrow gorge below. The last time I was here it was partially frozen and you could here the water rushing below the ice, on this occasion it was much louder! By now we were a mere 20 miles from the town of Jasper, some 290 miles from where we had set off in the morning & definitely on the hunt for some supper! Surrounded by mountain ranges and lakes I have always had a soft spot for Jasper & was very happy we reached here in daylight so hubbie could see some of the sights... 

....from the old transportation...
... to the more modern...
This is one of the observation domes on The Canadian (the legendary train you see on the Canadian $10 bill) which has a prolonged stop at Jasper on it's way from Toronto to Vancouver. And of course no visit to Jasper would be complete without a photo of Jasper the Bear
After some food we headed out of town on the last leg of our days' drive. The light was beginning to fade so it wasn't too much of a surprise to see this fellow crossing the road... 
It is Canada after all! ;-) Actually quite a few of his brethren were a bit further down the road, and at least this time most of the tourists were staying in their vehicles & keeping their distance...
We didn't stop, we had about 230 miles to cover headed east on the Yellowhead Highway to my aunt & uncles' house in Edmonton. By our arrival we had driven around 550 miles (885km) in the day, 339 miles more than by taking the direct route but it was definitely worth it! I hope you enjoyed coming along for the drive, have a lovely week! 












6 comments:

  1. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I lived in MT for many years and always wanted to head into Canada and go to Banff. Hmmm...I think I smell a road trip. Thanks for sharing those wonderful pictures!

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    1. Hi Heather, thank you for your sweet comment! Ooooh I hope you get to road trip when the weather warms up a bit (I think it's a bit chillier up there just now than when we were there in October!). Have a great week,
      Helen

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  2. FAB-U-LOUS!!! I so wish I was with you guys in the car :)
    The scenic route was totally worth it!

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    1. Thank you Mii! Oh yes there were a bunch of folks I would love to have had come with us (can you imagine how lethal a whole load of us would have been in those craft shops? ;-)) but at least this way I get to share it with you :-) It was a tiring day but totally worth it, and nothing sleeping in a bit at my aunt & uncles' house couldn't cure ;-) Have a great week!
      Helen x

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  3. More beautiful and stunning photos Helen. XOX

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    1. Thank you Steph! It's really spectacular scenery up there :-) XOX

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