On our last full day in Banff National Park, we tried one last time to climb a mountain. After our frustrations on Sulphur Mountain, we reassessed and dialed way back. This is Tunnel Mountain, the lowest feature in the Rockies to be called a mountain. We didn’t even start at the bottom, but parked at a spot about a quarter of the way up, leaving about a 2 km hike to the summit.
The girls did the walk easily, but still did not love it. They did not love following a trail, or generally walking a long way anywhere. We had to appreciate the views at the top for them. That’s OK.
This is a view from near the top which includes, apparently, a golf course. Right below the rail is a steep dropoff, used by many for sport climbing.
Even nearer the top were the Red Chairs, overlooking the town of Banff. It was noisy with construction and the other sounds of life from the town.
It meant a lot to me to have climbed a mountain. Any mountain at all!
The trees at the top were covered by what looked to me to be a kind of Spanish moss. I wonder what it is? I only know of this sort of thing growing much further south at much lower altitudes.
When we got to the bottom, the kids got ice cream. Which makes everything better.
The next day, we set out north on the Icefields Parkway. This is hailed as one of the most scenic drives in the world, but unfortunately for us, most of our drive looked like this:
It rained and snowed for pretty much the whole of the four hour drive. But you know what? I didn’t mind much. Because I got to experience a view of Canada that I had always wanted: the snow-covered conifer forest.
I reveled in seeing all of these trees covered in snow.
This drive was also where we saw our first bear. We saw seven black bears in total on this trip. No grizzlies.
Just across the border into Jasper National Park, we made a long stop at the Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre. We didn’t do any of the big expensive stuff you can do here, like exploring the glacier, or walking on a glass-floored skywalk. The weather wouldn’t have made it worth it, we weren’t dressed for it, etc. etc. But we did learn a good bit from the exhibits there.
The Athabasca glacier, which you can see here, is one of many glaciers coming down from the Columbia Icefield. This is a huge dome of snow which collects in this one part of the Rockies. This huge mass of snow feeds any number of river systems that flow across the northwest of the continent, including the Mackenzie to the north, the Saskatchewan to the east, and the Columbia to the south and west. As you can imagine, shrinking glaciers and reduced snowfall are a huge concern highlighted here.
As we continued to toodle north, the clouds slowly lifted. The mountains emerged, seeming mysterious and infinite with their peaks still obscured. We came across a herd of what I think were mountain goats:
And when we got very close to the town of Jasper, the weather had cleared enough to make it worthwhile for us to stop at one of the many points of interest. This was Sunwapta Falls, just a short walk from the parking lot.
Here a steep downhill walk led to a viewpoint and a bridge over the enormous canyon carved out by this triple falls.
As we approached Jasper town, the peaks remained shrouded, but the sun brought some color back into our views.
We didn’t get the traditional tour of the Icefields, but we got to see the majesty of this important environment in our own way!