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  • Writer's pictureSandra

Banff & Jasper National Park 🇨🇦

published 8th of august, 2022

I was curious about the two most famous national parks in Canada, about which I had heard quite a bit but still had no idea. On Monday, July 11, 2022 at 8:15 a.m. we stood at the cash desk of the gondola.

We'd arrived in Banff the night before and brazenly stayed in the gondola parking lot at the base of Sulfur Mountain late that night. Luckily, the queue at the ticket counter was relatively short this early in the morning

and so we started at 8:40 a.m.

Without hesitation, the young staff had placed the ramp in front of the cabin so that I could 'get in' without help, followed shortly by Sebastian with Lennox. Lennox was of course in work clothes and was allowed to come along free of charge. The cabin rocked a bit at first, which he didn't think was great, but he was brave and waited for things to come. Just like me, because as far as I can remember I've never ridden a gondola either.

The small gondola was somehow bigger in the pictures. But I was glad that everything went so smoothly. Looking down, I just thought to myself that I wouldn't even want to walk the arduous path if I could.

I relaxed and enjoyed the ride to the mountain station. Once at the top, the red carpet, uh, the ramp, was made available to me again. We now had 2 hours to explore everything before we would start our "departure". The weather was perfect, the view wide and clear and the view indescribable.

At the bottom, the small queue had turned into an oversized anaconda and we were glad we escaped those crowds. Exhilarated by all the beautiful impressions, I wanted to move on to the next item on my to-do list: Lake Louise.

But instead of directing us to the parking lot, the friendly parking attendants showed us the way back to the main street - obviously the parking contingent for large vehicles was already exhausted, because quite a few cars were still allowed through. I was disappointed. Moraine Lake was also denied to us - the road there was probably closed for hours due to the influx of visitors. But most of the scenic drive called "The Icefields Parkway" was still ahead of us, totaling over 140 miles. This extends through the two national parks Banff & Jasper and has much more to offer than these two infamous lakes.

According to the Internet, this route, which leads through the mountain ranges of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, is one of the most beautiful in the world and I would agree with what I know today. The many overlooks and rest areas invited to stop, enjoy and marvel.

In addition to the two best known, there are countless other lakes along the "Icefields Parkway"; we decided to visit Bow Lake. It didn't seem to crowded and ideally suited to take a relaxing walk with Lennox. I had no idea what picture book scenery would be waiting for us.

The crystal clear water of the lake tasted Lennox' excellent

and I was delighted by this ambiance. A high five seemed appropriate!

Then we continued on the Scenic Drive, stopping here and there to discover waterfalls, each of which sprayed its own charm and, above all, spray. Some even moved me to peak performance, to stand!

We illegally spent the night in a "day use" parking lot where overnight stays are forbidden. Since the campsites we drove past only housed tents and smaller campers, it was almost “self-defense”. The next morning we had a date with the glacier.

Lennox guarded the bus while we were on a VIP shuttle

to the expedition vehicle

which drove us to the eternal ice. Just getting in and driving this vehicle (of which only 25 were ever built) was an adventure. To my surprise, the Gletschermobil had a ramp similar to mine... only rocket-powered. At least that's how it felt when this thing suddenly catapulted me upwards. Our VIP supervisor was also a bit startled and let go of the turbo button, which resulted in an abrupt stop and made me bounce on the ramp like a bouncy ball. A few more ignitions followed until I jumped up to the top. Then yours truly - as befits a valuable load - was properly lashed and strapped in... albeit at the very back in the cheap seats.

To be honest, I was skeptical that it would take such a monster vehicle to get to the glacier, because firstly it wasn't a long distance and secondly from afar it just looked like a bit of leftover snow. That it was a 400 m deep layer of snow, as we found out later, and that the way there was an extremely steep descent,

but then explained it anyway. On the glacier itself it wasn't as cold as expected and Lennox would have had fun without freezing his paws.. the part of the glacier we were on was partly thawed and muddy. Somehow it made me sad that the ice was flowing under our feet and that we bums are certainly partly responsible for such expeditions. Nevertheless, it was very special to be able to stand on a glacier and experience it all up close.

The next rocket launch back into the glacier mobile was imminent and I was happy to be beamed up at warp speed - this time even in one go. Mission Glacier completed. ✔️

The next item on the agenda was the Skywalk. A glass viewing platform 280m above Sunwapta Valley. Sounds very dramatic, but it wasn't - at least not for me. I found it difficult to understand how much effort it took some to set foot on the glass walkway and/or look down. To be honest, the view into the depths left me quite cold - or rather, I enjoyed the all-round view on the "cliff-edge walkway".😊

Back on the Icefields Parkway, we stopped at one of the beautiful lakes every chance we got (and there were plenty of them). Peyto Lake was the only one that explicitly had a wheelchair-accessible trail...not that the non-wheelchair-suitable people would stop me from trying it. The path was completely paved and also popular with pedestrians because it wasn't as steep as the "normal" trail. At the end of the path you came to a viewing platform with a gigantic view over a turquoise blue lake like something out of a catalogue.

For the way back to the bus I decided to take the normal route through the forest, after all it has to be a bit of fun. Back on the road we had some animal encounters. Sometimes we could see Mamabär with her unbelievably cute cubs jumping through the grass from afar and sometimes a single black bear up close who walked purposefully towards our open bus door, but then decided to have a bit of a vegetarian snack in front of the bus . The mountain goats at the roadside didn't seem bothered by us either and enjoyed their limestone.

In the late afternoon we started the 2nd attempt to the famous Lake Louise; this time with success. In the parking lot we then recognized the problem from the previous day. This parking area was in no way suitable in terms of size to meet the demand. It was still busy, but at least we found a parking slot. I had high expectations. When I was there, it wasn't so much the lake itself as the scenery in which it was located. Nestled in the mountains, this place had a special magic... despite the hustle and bustle that still reigned here. I thought about how nice it would be to canoe across this calm body of water, but the 130 Canadian dollars an hour burst this need like a soap bubble. A few nice photos and on we went...

to Lake Moraine. It was now early evening and the road was still closed. But Seb' just turned on the signal and the girl who was guarding the roadblock cleared the huts out of the way and let us in. She probably thought we were a bus company or something. Anyway, we let them believe it. If we had thought that Lake Louise was a small parking lot, we were now taught otherwise; the available parking space felt no bigger than any Lidl parking lot. This lake was also beautifully situated and its light blue color shone in the evening light.

What a beautiful end to the most beautiful national parks in Canada 🥰

Incredible journey with infinitely fascinating impressions! I hope I was able to let you all experience at least a little bit. Stay tuned - there's so much more to come!!!

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