If I could do an instant replay on any 30 minute time period our our entire Canadian Rocky road trip, this would be the place.
This spot had it all for me: blue sky, cirrus clouds, rugged bold snow
dusted peaks, a colorful forest of larch in gold mixed among the deep
green of alpine spruce and fir; a frost nipped meadow; a bubbling
"in a hurry" little stream with ice crystals adding a white
border to its banks; cool, clear, crisp air..and no bugs or crowds.
This was great! This is it: my favorite photo, moment, experience and
sight, of the entire trip.
These are the photographs taken on Thursday, the third day of our road trip. It was the best day of weather and best day for hiking and photographing on the entire road trip and we covered a lot of ground.
Since I sleep 8 hours and it is dark close to 12 hours, I woke up very early Thursday morning in my backpacking tent at Mosquito Creek campground. Fortunately so did J.J. - - so we got an early morning start on the day.
First a quick trip up to the Peyto (Pee Toe) Lake overlook, where JJ hoped to catch some early morning light on the lake. We had the overlook to ourselves until one large tour bus after another unloaded one large load of loud whooping tourists after another, but the light was flat and the sky uncooperative. We took what “memory” shots we could then bailed out heading south the way we had come. We stopped at Hector Lake for some morning reflection photos on our way to Moraine Lake.
At Moraine Lake we took the best hike of the road trip, up to Larch Valley. We had excellent weather and the larch were at their peek in color. What a wonderful experience.
After the hike we returned to the highway and headed north up through the northern half of Banff and all the way to Jasper. We found the lighting interesting and enjoyed having Athabasca Falls to ourselves, so we didn’t roll into Jasper until after dark.
We lucked out and got excellent rooms for two nights at the Marmot Lodge in Jasper. JJ and I gave our best well rehearsed routine for an “old timers’, AARP members, lodging discount”, which the nice people at the lodge generously gave us. It was starting to rain by then and I was glad to have a room motel room with a bedroom, kitchen, and living room, where I could lay out all my wet camping gear from the previous night’s camp out at Mosquito Creek.
We would spend all day Friday roaming the area around Jasper, but by
then the weather had turned and we would see nothing but rain and low
clouds, most of the time we were in Jasper National Park.
Subalpine Larch “Tamarack” “Tamarack Pine”
A conifer that sheds its needles, making it a deciduous tree, an anomaly. They are a Larch, though many in the state of Washington call them “Tamarack pine”, even though they aren’t a pine tree.
Before the needles are shed each fall they turn as golden as an aspen or a cottonwood tree and since these particular larch grow at altitude (between 4,000 and 8,000 feet) their golden colors of fall mix, blend and compliment the high altitude fir and spruce.
We have lots of these larch in the Enchantment Lakes area of Eastern Washington. The larger Western and Eastern Larch survive and seem to benefit from forest fire activity. Eastern Larch (called Tamarack) was utilized by Native American, who used their slender, strong roots to sew together their bark canoes. The durable lumber from Tamarack is sought after and used in construction.
As we drove through the Canadian Rockies the Cottonwood lit up the river valleys with their fall color; then the aspen painted the slopes of the mountains and rimmed alpine lakes with gold; and way up high, running right to the very edges of timberline, you could catch the reflection of gold of the larch, as the sun hit the upper peaks of the mountains.
Our hike up from Moraine Lake to Larch Valley was the hi-lite of the road trip for me. The weather was perfect; ice lined the high mountain creeks; the rugged peaks above the Larch Valley, like Pinnacle Mountain and Mt. Temple. It is a five mile round trip hike on excellent trail. You will gain about 1,200’ on the hike from Moraine Lake up into the valley.
You can wander farther and take the zig zag route up to the saddle of Sentinel Pass. We took a stream route and ended up on the bench below the pass and a great panoramic view of Larch Valley and the high peaks above it.
Because this is prime country for grizzly sows and their cubs, you are required to hike in groups of four (so people don’t bother THEM, we were told). We teamed with up with an endless stream of “hiking partners” going both up and back down the trail. We saw several hikers ignoring the rule but most, like us, tried to team up and keep the four person groupings intact (though not always practical).
We were so fortunate to hit this hike on a day with sunshine. When the
sunlight hit the patches of Larch they seemed bright enough to force
sunglasses. They were mostly the brightest of yellow in color but many
had a few needles of chartreuse, which added an artistic “painted by
hand” look to their appearance.
NOTE: These larch do not grow north of Lake Hector. They have a very restricted range of growth in the Canadian Rockies.
The story: Canada eh? Canadian Rocky Mountain Road Trip October 2011.
A one week road trip and a couple short day hikes in Kootenay; Banff; and Jasper National Parks and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaski country.
The success of a road trip (or hike, or backpacking trip), many times is directly proportional to the amount of planning you put into before the trip. Deciding on what you want to see is best done before the trip when you have the time and tools such as maps, guide books, internet, plus the valuable photos and information you can access on flickr- to research the trip properly.
No doubt about it, with a road trip you can have fun by just “winging it” and even with a plan, a good road trip demands that you be willing to alter the plan at any time due to weather and what you find, once the road trip begins.
I have taken a fair number of road trips solo; many with my wife; and some with friends. Solo allows you total freedom to go where you like, stay as long as you like, and see the sights that are highest on you list. Freedom and independence.
The trouble then with a solo trip is you are limited by your own research, planning, and predilections - no consultation, collaboration, or collective pooling of ideas and possibilities. By default, you are restricted by the boundaries of your own knowledge and research.
On this road trip I “joined in” on a road trip my long time friend J.J. had planned. For those of you who may follow some of my photographs and trips on flickr, he was one of three who joined me on a backpacking trip into the Wind River Range of Wyoming, not all that long ago.
J.J. approached the trip to the Canadian Rockies as a “photography” trip primarily and as a reconnaissance trip for future trips he might want to take, especially with his wife, who is also an accomplished photographer. He had never been there.
I took this as an opportunity to “see once again” some of the sights of Jasper and Banff, where I had traveled with my wife almost 40 years ago; and travel to some places I had never been before; take a hike or two; and enjoy the mountain landscapes of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada.
Looking back on this road trip already, I benefited greatly by J.J.’s research and many of the sites he had selected as being “high value” places, from a photographer’s viewpoint (or should I say “viewfinder”). I wouldn’t have seen my favorite places on this trip without J.J.’s diligent “in advance” research.
In addition to seeing many places I wouldn’t have selected, and therefore would have missed if I had done this trip solo, I got to see an iPad (J.J.’s) in operation first hand, and of course came away from the trip with the feeling that one day I would NEED one.
We took J.J.’s Subaru Forester on this trip, the same one the two of us had survived a nasty hood denting (yep a few of the dents are still there) hail storm near Banks, Idaho in 2006 - - one of our first of many road trips together. J.J. brought along two “books on CD” to make the less scenic portions of our drive a bit more interesting. Again, audio books were a first time experience for me and they really do go well with a road trip.
The two audio books that J.J. brought along were both extremely interesting and enjoyable for me to listen to (though with my extremely poor hearing, he had to keep the volume up toward the “pegged on high” levels, so I could enjoy the stories). The two books were:
1. American Sketches by Walter Isaacson (a collection of interesting biographies of people from Einstein to Bill Gates).
2. Mission: Black List #1 by Eric Maddox (Story of the Army interrogator’s work which allowed U.S. forces to find Saddam Hussein).
The photographs I will post in this photo set, will tell the story of “what” we saw better than I could hope to accomplish with words, so I won’t try. Here though are a few of the highlights of the trip (from my perspective) and an anecdote or two, which I can’t resist throwing in:
*Henry’s Café for dinner and Libby’s Café for huckleberry flapjacks for excellent food and friendly small town service in Libby, Montana.
*When you see a sign saying “Texas Gate”, it is “Canadian” for “cattle guard”. I saw several thus labeled in Kananaski Country.
*Coming up on Kootenay National Park I saw my first time ever “BADGER CROSSING” road sign. There were of course the signs for elk, moose, mountain goat, bighorn sheep and we saw one fresh road kill black bear…but a badger crossing had to be a first for me. Must me some folks from Wisconsin living in Canada these days.
*Best hike (by far): The Larch Valley Trail starting at Moraine Lake, near Lake Louise. The needles of the larch and the leaves of the aspen were near peak. What a sight! It is a short 1,700’ elevation gain hike UP to the Valley of the Larch, but what a destination. We hit this hike on the one sunny day of our visit. Rules require you to hike in groups of four (grizzly in the area and a prime area for grizzly sow and cubs). So we attached ourselves to a succession of other hikers to do this hike.
*Best rainy day hike was the eight or so successive waterfalls, including Stanley Falls, on Beauty Creek. We only met one other hiker on this trail and the falls were beautiful. It is also the setting of one of my “short tales” of this road trip (Colin from Edmonton).
*Best photo ops (as rated by me, the non-photographer of the two of us): Marble Canyon, Larch Valley; Hector Lake; Athabasca River Falls; and an aspen rimmed lake near or in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park along highway 40 (J.J. found it). We saw lots of outstanding and spectacular landscapes but those places are the ones that come to mind first for me.
*The Canadian “eh” story. During my working life I worked all over Canada and I quickly notices that in certain parts of Canada, many of the locals often (as in almost every time), end their sentences with the word “eh” as if making every sentence a question.
The pretty young ladies of Canada also have an endearing habit of raising their voice and emphasis on the last few words of a sentence; effectively make each one a question as well. I noticed the habit popping up with young people in the U.S. in places these days as well.
So, when I wrote kith and kin about my planned trip to the Canadian Rockies, I would tell them I was dutifully practicing, ending all my sentences with “eh?” eh. Well guess what. After several days in the Canadian Rockies I heard not one “eh” uttered. I was chagrinned and nonplussed.
When J.J. and I took the mile and half hike in the rain up to the Beauty Creek waterfalls, we ran into a Canadian from Edmonton…Colin. He was a great guy and we got into a long trail discussion about hikes in the Canadian Rockies and places to see.
Colin was friendly and generous in sharing his wealth of hiking information in the area. He even showed us a photo he had taken of a wolf, a day or so earlier. J.J. and I dreamed of moose, bear, and wolf photos, but were not to see a one on this trip.
So as our long “trail talk” came to an end, standing on the trail near Stanley Falls in the rain, I mentioned to Colin. “You know Colin, we have been in Canada for four days now from Banff to Jasper, and I haven’t heard ONE person end a sentence with eh”. He smiled and in perfect Canadian style he replied “you haven’t eh?” “Well perhaps you will before you head back to the states”. Great, moments like these make a road trip!
*Forgive me Bernie from Calgary (OldDogNewTricks) but here is a story I heard a long time ago and I can’t say whether it is true or not:
When the country of Canada was first formed it didn’t have a name. So a group of founders got together to name it. They all agreed that a short name would be easier to remember and say, so they decided that the name of the new country should have only THREE letters.
The founders put every letter in the alphabet into a hat and then asked one of their members (the one who had been living in the territory the longest), to please draw just three letters from the hat and to announce each letter as drawn from the hat. Whatever was drawn would be the name of the new country. They also appointed a scribe to write the results down as it happened.
The first letter was drawn from the held high hat. The fellow looked down at the letter and announce “C” eh? Then he reached in and drew the second letter and announced loudly “N” eh? Then he grabbed the last letter from the hat and proclaimed “D” eh?
And that is how Canada got its name…..eh. (Spell Canada if you don’t get it, eh?).
Oldmantravels October 2011.