The primary focus of this blog has always been showcasing the natural beauty of Ontario and its wilderness. However, at times I have been known to write up posts on my travels to other provinces of Canada. This article happens to be one such post which describes my recent trip to Alberta.
I love Ontario and don’t think I would be as happy living any where else. But if I had to choose a close second, the Albertan Mountains would definitely make the short list.
Our trip began on the last days of June, 2016, with a flight out of Ottawa. We landed in Edmonton, spent a few days with my cousin and attended a wedding of a college friend. Edmonton was interesting in its own right, however, aside from the river valleys, the area is quite flat. Not to mention the only wildlife to be seen in the area where we were staying was the multitude of magpies which plagued the neighbourhood trash bags. After a few days we were itching to head west and find some elevation.
The approach to the mountains was gradual. They started as shadows on the horizon shrouded in the mists of distance, and slowly became clearer.
The mountains were large, silent giants. Some appeared sloped and weather beaten while others maintained their aggressive peak and shear faces. The Rocky Mountains are some of the youngest mountains in the world, and when compared to old ranges like the alps, the difference is obvious. The mountains were above all impressive, and each seemed dwarf the highest peak in Ontario (the Ishpatina Ridge, located in Temagami, some 693 metres). These mountains are even more impressive up close, and during our drive down the Icefields Parkway, we often felt like we were at the feet of these giant monuments. At times it can actually be difficult to drive and sight see at the same time as the mountains are so sheer in places.
Although the mountains were impressive, the rivers were also majestic. Each river we passed seemed to be swollen with water from the mountains, charged by the hydraulic head. The colours ranged from milky white to deep emerald green. Made white from the deposition of silts and minerals from the nearby moutnains and glaciers which turned a deep emerald green once the minerals oxidized. The latent trout fisherman in me was screaming insults at me and chided me for not bringing a line and lure.
These rivers often fed into large powerful cascades such as the Sunwapta and Athabasca Falls.
The park has countless hiking trails, bike trails, picnic areas and lookouts. Scenic views are in no shortage in the park, especially along the Icefields Parkway. There are even glaciers that you can walk up to and walk on if you have the cash and are so inclined.
Sadly, global warming is very obvious here as signs indicating the previous extents of the glaciers are placed periodically along the hike to the foot of the glacier.
The scenery was breath taking, but so was the plethora of animals which inhabit this majestic landscape. Some of the more recognizable species include mammals like elk, white tail and mule deer, moose, caribou, mountain goat, dahl sheep, black and grizzly bears, as well as wolfs and a wide variety of other species. We were lucky enough to see several on our trip including elk, black bear, white tail and mule deer in full velvet and several cheeky ground squirrels. We were even lucky enough to have a cow elk and her calf visit our cabin in Jasper! They stopped, grazed a bit, and then just moseyed in towards the middle of town.
Although amazing to us, I’m told occurrences like this are old hat to residents.
Much of the wild life we encountered was along the Ice fields parkway. This stretch of highway between Jasper and Banff is renown across the world as place where wildlife can be seen with ease. As easy as it is to encounter wildlife it is important to remember they are just that. wild. So feeding them or trying to interact can be both dangerous for you and the animals.
The sheer size of the mountains did a good job of making me feel insignificant in the presence of their vastness. Luckily the unique opportunity to see such a variety of animals up close reminded me of how diverse the landscape is and how much these species depend on habitat protection and conservation efforts from humans for their continual survival. So although we may be insignificant next to a mountain, we make a mountain of a difference to an elk or bear when we protect areas like jasper and Banff. Coming from Ontario, a place where elk are rare and only present due to restocking efforts, I can appreciate what these parks represent.
So I urge you to take a drive through the Rockies and experience the significance of a place like this. Admire the animals and diversity from a distance. See this natural wonder for yourself. I’d be wiling to bet that seeing these wonders will give you an appreciation for the natural resources we as Canadians can take for granted.
Cheers from the wilds of Alberta,
Special Thanks to http://icefieldsparkway.com/maps for providing details on where to slop and sight see.