Yesterday was the highlight of our trip for me! We finally got to see Highway 93 (The Icefield Parkway) between Jasper and Lake Louise. The road has some of the most stunning scenery in the world! It is truly beautiful. It was terribly hard to stop taking photos and I had to use Jill’s annoyance level a few times as an indication that I was making a few photo stops too many.
You can imagine this trip as having three stages. This road firstly follows the broad valley of the Athabasca River, going wide panoramas of mountain peaks. In the centre there is a section of glaciers and ice fields with ice covered mountains and bold views of eroded peaks. A little over half way along, the highway crosses the Saskatchewan River and from there the road is more closed in with higher peaks and more narrow valleys. It eventually follows the Bow River (which flooded and caused all the grief down to Calgary and beyond).
We decided to leave Jasper as early as we could in the morning and take our time to work down the highway for almost the 180 km until we were near Lake Louise again. Then we could drive back to Jasper as fast as we liked, having seen almost everything on the way down. This turned out to be a good idea, as at the southern end of our day it began to rain and the cloud began to close in. But this wasn’t of great consequence as we had already seen most things in clear and sunny light.
I’m going to let these photos speak for themselves as examples of the scenery.
As we were driving back, late in the afternoon, we witnessed a phenomena that was truly awesome. We could see a greenish yellow cloud being blown up the valley, towards a mountain pass. At first we thought that it was smoke, and then we thought it was just a cloud. It turned out to be a could of pollen dust. Somehow, the conditions must have been just right for the millions of trees to open their cones and release pollen dust into the air. The wind had picked it up and was blowing it along in a huge cloud. This is obviously how the trees pollinate, but to think that we were in exactly the right place and at the right time, to witness this was unbelievable.
The final capping of our day were a couple of wildlife spottings along the road. The first was of this black bear. We could see that one car had stopped and the driver was standing behind his car, taking photos. We pulled up behind and within a few minutes at least fifteen other cars and a bus had also stopped. The bear was fairly non-plussed – he / she just kept munching on the grass and flowers.
A little further on, we stopped to photograph this deer which ws standing by the edge of the forest along the road.