Over several roamings around Alberta, Canada, I’ve been thoroughly charmed by the spectacular scenery – especially by the lakes and rivers! And through visits in different seasons, I’ve gotten to enjoy them in a variety of states (well, provinces, technically). There’s so much geologic beauty there to take in and learn about! While in the midst of the “taking in” though, it was often difficult for me to get to the “learning.”
Because even though traveling is my favorite form of education, I also find that being in a state (or, you know, province) of ignorance – for a little while, at least – really can be bliss!
Much of my Alberta time has been spent in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. The park is a diverse expanse of nature at its grandest and most dramatic, and I’ve been treated to two very different perspectives. I’ve made both winter and summer visits, staying each time in the city of Banff, surrounded by towering, jagged mountains and within sight of the alluring Bow River. I would later find that it was the Bow I’d also admired in Calgary about 80 miles away where I arrived by plane, and that the river eventually spills out onto the prairies. On a pleasant summer’s afternoon though, I didn’t feel an overwhelming need to have a good grasp of where these surging waters came from or were headed – I was content just to sit alongside and watch them roil past.
As a longtime resident of Southern California, I’m accustomed to changes of season that can easily be described as pret-ty pret-ty subtle. In fact, living and working around Hollywood, I really only mark the passage of two seasons: fall and summer re-runs. So it was a thrilling change of pace to observe the major contrasts between my Alberta trips, particularly within Johnston Canyon.
I enjoyed a summertime hike on a railing-ed path that clung to one of the canyon walls, and I was treated to lush greenery and the pleasing sound of water rushing by as it continued to carve its own pathway beneath me.
The wintertime experience was hugely different! (And, alas, not photographed as I must have wimpily worried my camera and/or fingers would freeze in the attempt…) I had to strap cleats onto my shoes to tackle that same path. And this time, I shared the canyon with climbers who scaled the opposite wall on solid curtains of ice.
A feature of Alberta’s glacially fed lakes that I completely fell in love with is their often electric green color! I got the scoop on my summertime visit that the cause is this silty stuff known as “rock flour” that’s carried down in the water from glaciers and creates some trick of light that affects the hue. Although I read up later on this effect, I think rather than botching an explanation here, I’ll just share the not-so-scientific fact that the results are absolutely gorgeous!
On a quest for the ideal view of this rock flour effect, I tried clambering out among the boulders around Moraine Lake. Moraines are collections of soil and rocks moved around by glaciers – or, in my case, things to slip off of while squinting through a camera lens instead of watching one’s step…
Lake Louise provided another glorious view – and its far end gave an inviting glimpse into the back country from which those green-looking waters descend. During my winter visit, I was able to get out onto the ice-covered lake and stroll/slide around. I missed that wondrous green color, but it was a nice consolation to settle inside nearby Chateau Lake Louise with a medicinally warming alcoholic beverage and gaze out at the magnificently wintry landscape. (I may also have consumed a non-medicinal but similarly spiked beverage in that same spot during my summer visit – but that’s neither here nor there.)
I’ve also gotten to explore the geologic splendor of other Alberta parks like Yoho National Park where I found more beautiful green lakes like Emerald Lake. Another fascinating feature there among the nearby peaks (although you cant get up to see it on your own) is a fossil bed of incredible age and scope called the Burgess Shale. (I was so intrigued that I bought a book about it and, although I haven’t actually read it yet, I think some measure of credit for having had the impulse is due nevertheless.)
Finally, it was actually in the summertime that I had my most up-close-and-personal encounter with water in an icy state (or icy prov…oh never mind) by venturing out onto the Athabasca Glacier. En route from Banff to Jasper on a trip with the folks, we paused to take a tour of this “toe” of the Columbia Icefield. Our giant Tonka Truck of a bus (well, they called it a “snow coach”) drove up to and straight out on the glacier – certainly a first for me!
Although a steady trend of melting has been cataloged for well more than a century, I wondered what affect climate change might be having on the glacier’s condition today. I’m afraid it was of greater concern to me at the time though to hear that this mammoth chunk of ice was actually moving! Only a few centimeters a day as it turns out, so probably not enough to cause a tumble – but I did like to be ready with an excuse for my general ineptitude just in case.
It’s been several years since my last Alberta visit – and that just seems too long. I feel such a pull to keep exploring there! And I’m also reminded of the pull I do occasionally feel in my travels between learning about a place and simply enjoying it – in this case, between studying those lovely waters and just drinking them in. (Metaphorically speaking, of course – although Dad did mention he figured that dense glacial ice would be ideal for use in mixed drinks. Just sayin’.)
In his autobiographical book Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain describes how in his youth he mastered the riverboat pilot’s trade so thoroughly that he knew what was around every Mississippi River bend and could accurately interpret every play of light on the water, and every nuanced ripple or swirl on its surface. But Twain also laments that this expertise destroyed his ability just to appreciate “the romance and the beauty” of his beloved river.
Even though I’ve been rather successful at steering clear of anything approaching expertise in any profession, I do get what Twain means. I’ve said over and over how lucky I am to have gotten to take such great advantage of the educational opportunities travel affords. But I’ve learned too that it can be special to experience something for its own sake with no analysis and no expectations.
Like one more moment I had in Alberta while staying at the opulent and breathtakingly situated Banff Springs Hotel. As the name suggests, there are indeed natural hot springs in the area that were revered by the locals long before the railway began shuttling in royals and dignitaries to the hotel from all over to partake of the region’s gifts. (Thankfully, they now also accept untitled rabble like myself.)
Was I thinking about those springs on a bracing January night while I capped off some indulgent spa time with a dip in the outdoor jacuzzi? I’m gonna say no. I opted instead to float there in the hot bubbles as snowflakes drifted delicately down from the heavens, and simply to savor the rare and wonderful moment of grace.
It’s important to live and learn.
But every once in a while, it’s important just to live.
What a beautiful set of images and gorgeous locations! Thank you for a stunning post!
Thank you! Hard to lose with such beautiful subjects!
Your photos are beautiful! Love your descriptions. You just put me right there and I loved it. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks very much! I’ve sure been vicariously enjoying the adventures of you and the ducks too!
I just love your thinking in this Blog. Sometimes I am so taken up with getting my photograph that I have to stop and love and live the moment. Of course, the photo is important too as the memory is re-lived many, many times. Thankyou for giving me enjoyment today as I have read your Post.
It’s a balancing act, isn’t it? Preserving the moment and being in it. Thank YOU for reading and for sharing your thoughts!
Beautiful photography and wonderful writing – an excellent travel journal piece! Thanks for sharing your experience.
Wow, thank YOU! It’s an inspiring part of the world for sure.
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous post! I can’t wait to go back there.
Many thanks! It’s a beautiful part of the world!
Excellent post, so interesting region, as you know we don’t have mountains and it is great to see these photos. That hotel in unbelievable. Thank you for sharing.
Kiitos paljon! The mountains are very impressive – but I do love Finnish lakes and forests too!
Beautiful! Thanks for “taking” me to a place I always wanted to visit but never had the chance.
My pleasure – and thank you for reading and coming along!
Oh how I desperately miss these places…I did a road trip of the whole of western Canada (see October and November 2015 posts), it was the most magnificent experience, just as you described, there is something magical in every area of these fantastic national parks…if the opportunity arose again, I would not hesitate for a moment to return!
Yes, I enjoyed your posts! And we covered a lot of the same territory – I even waited quite a while to watch a train snake its way through that mountainside. I’ll hope we can both make it back there again. Thanks for reading!
Thank you and let’s hope so for a return…
How wonderful! ! ! !
It’s such a beautiful area – and the pic you posted of Lake Louise really captured it!
I do love the Canadian Rockies; glad to hear you enjoyed them in the different seasons. Wonderful post!
Thanks so much! And yes – I’d be happy to do more research but I’m sure the area looks beautiful in every season!
What amazing scenery – it’s so beautiful it’s almost hard to believe it’s real! I’d love to go and see this for myself someday 😀
Yes, it’s really spectacular! Hope you get there to take a look!
stunning landscape! Love the colour of Lake Moraine
Sure is – and, yes, I think Moraine Lake had the most stunning color of the lakes I got to see!
Banff National Park is one of our favorite places to spend a weekend, or even dinner! I’m glad you have been able to experience it in different seasons as well!
Would love to check out EVERY season! And your beautiful photos of other parts of that country make me all the more anxious to head up there again!
The last line – simply amazing! Your whole journey seems so astonishing. It’s like nature pouring down the blessings.
When you’re thrown upon with so much of beauty, it’s become hard to embrace everything. In that case, you drop analyzing it explicitly and rather live in those beautiful moments they make.
That’s it exactly – and so nicely expressed! Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts!
That looks like a very impressive hotel
It was – and you sure can’t beat the location!
I completely enjoyed this visit to the Canadian Rockies, Amy — sweeping views, gorgeous photos, and interesting info.
Thanks so much – especially for coming along!
So beautiful photos like your heart my friend!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
Hope you got a chance to visit the teashop on top of a hill. I remember it being billed as the only tea shop at such high altitude. On the way up the hill to the teashop, there are two water bodies and lot of small chipmunks, I think they call them marmots. Enjoyed reading your journal, reminded me of my trip there a few years ago. Thanks
Thanks for reading – and for the advice! Would love to have tea in such a dramatic setting!
Hi Amy. Thanks for visiting my first blog and for the “like”. You have such crisp and astonishing shots. I’m a fan.Thanks
Thanks so much! And I’m looking forward to reading about life in your three cities and your travels!
Thanks for your visit to my own humble blog and for liking my belated movie review of “Hitchcock.” I have been remiss in not visiting your own blog as often as I should; your observations and photos of Banff and the park are absolutely stunning!
I would disagree with your comment that you have avoided gaining expertise in any area. Your writing and photography are nothing less than superb. Please keep up the good work!
Thank you very much, Jay – you’re too kind! And I’m sure enjoying the variety and wit of your posts! Thanks again for the kind words and for the visit!
The writing is as crisp as the photography! Mark Twain would be proud! And he was very find of travel… Well done!!!
My goodness, thank you so much – high praise indeed! And I’m sure enjoying reading about your family-inspired journey!
Banff is an amazing Alberta park but I guess I’m partial to my own province (BC) where my favourite park is — Yoho National Park. What makes this park even better than Banff is the lack of crowds.
Would love to explore that area! And the thought of not having to share with too many people is appealing too.
Amy, was checking out your blog and saw this post – love the pics! They’re helping me relive our recent vacation in Lake Louise, Banff Springs, and Jasper! Gorgeous part of the world!
Thank you! I was enjoying YOUR Canadian trip account and photos – we covered lots of the same beautiful territory!
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