Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Canada, Eh!

OK, so I’ve been delinquent in blogging. What can I say? My parents have been a bad influence on me. We met up in Banff National Park, Alberta for a few days, and we’ve been busy catching up and having fun. They’re now returning to Atlanta, and we’re sad that they have to go home, but we’re also anxious to get on the move again. We can certainly say, “Wish you were here!” Anyway, let me update all of you on the past few days.

We drove from Glacier National Park north via the Russville border crossing into British Columbia on our way to Banff. The first thing we noticed was metric speed limits. The highest I’ve seen is 100 kph, which is about 62 mph. More often, the speed limit is either 90 kph or even 70 kph. I find these limits ridiculously slow. Since Texas, the speed limit on every major road has been 75 mph, which says to me, “Pick your speed. It’s an empty road, what do we care?” and I like it. I can pick the optimum running speed for both making time and conserving gas. Canada won’t let me do either one. To make matters worse, we have no idea what the reasonable speeding margin is. In the US, you know how fast you can really go on a road no matter what the sign says, but in Canada, 5 mph over is more like 10 kph over, and that’s a big number. If you’re not careful, you can go 30 over in the metric system. Anyway, I’m definitely sold on the Imperial system for driving. Miles > kilometers, ‘nuff said.

The drive up to Banff is quite pretty. You pass greener than green meadows, blue-green lakes, and follow lazy rivers up to the mountains. They are as steep and forbidding as the valleys are serene and inviting. As we neared Banff, we entered Kootenay National Park. I’m pretty sure that “Kootenay” is an Athabaskan word, but it sounds like it was made for Canada. Say it a few times out loud and see what you think. Yes, you will definitely feel like a goof ball saying “Kootenay” out loud, but it’s pretty fun. The park follows several river valleys up to the Continental Divide. The mountains loom and seem to lean over the valleys with their dark slopes peppered with snow. Deer graze on both sides of the road, and the glow of the departed sun is still visible at 9:30 pm. As we cross the divide, we enter Banff National Park and are treated with views of even more fantastically-shaped mountains. Some are pyramids, other sleeping giants, one is very clearly a castle, and some defy description. At the southern end of the park, we find the town of Banff settled into a narrow valley beneath Mt. Rundle with its sheer cliffs facing the town and smooth slope descending into marshes and ponds north of town. On one side of a canyon, stands a castle. It has multiple spires and turrets and a beautiful courtyard. Dad informs us that this is our hotel for the night. The Fairmont Banff Springs is clearly first class. A castle is the only way to describe it, but unfortunately we can only stay for the night.

The next day, we explored the area around town. There are multiple lakes reflecting the mountains, and each one has a character of its own. Some are narrow, others circular. Some have a blue green color, others are turquoise. Bighorn sheep claim one of the parking areas and seem to dare people to try to move them from their own territory. We naturally give them their space and move on. We eventually reach Lake Louise, our destination for the night. The lake itself is the most perfect turquoise I have ever seen. High mountains surround it on three sides, and at the end, rises Mount Victoria with the Victoria Glacier. The blue ice is suspended in a perpetual fall down the mountain. Our hotel is the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise right on the lakeshore. It’s not a castle, but it is more modern and elegant than Banff Springs. It has about eight restaurants and extremely luxurious accommodations. Mom and Dad really went all out. They’ll certainly remember where they spent their 30th anniversary, Congratulations!, and they were generous enough to put us up in the same hotel.

On our second full day in the Canadian Rockies, we drove the Icefields Parkway north to Jasper National Park. It would be a fruitless exercise for me to describe all the noteworthy views, so I won’t begin to try. It was a long day, but we enjoyed the time for the four of us to catch up and talk in such grand surroundings. Yesterday, we travelled over to Yoho National Park. It’s on the western side of the divide and is consequently much wetter than Banff, not that Banff is dry. The sun only deigned to show his face our first day. It has been cool, cloudy, and occasionally raining since. Yoho contains more mountain scenery, one of the highest waterfalls in Canada, and a little jewel called Emerald Lake. The water is green. The grass is green. The trees are green. The whole landscape is one shade of green or another. The whole effect is like a black and white photo. As light and shadow become more prominent without color, the little nuances of greenness become apparent when it is the only color to be found. There’s so much depth in even one color you could study it all day, but we only stayed for lunch.

Today, we transferred gear back and forth and prepared for the journey to Alaska, and for Mom and Dad, the journey home.


T,K&J said...

Jason & Greg:

We have enjoyed following your trip. Reading your descriptions and seeing the pictures are the next best thing to being there! Glad you are having such a good time.
Tina, Kathryn & Jessica

Anonymous said...

Hi Jason and Greg: Ihave been reading all your travels and journeys. I must say that I feel that I have experienced some of your travels by the way you describe them. It sounds like a dream come true for the two of you and the way you like to adventure. Keep up the journal. You can really brighten someones day. Mary Underwood