Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Icefields Parkway

We spent today driving the length of the Icefields Parkway, part of Banff's National Park.

We had been looking forward to seeing the snow tipped mountains mirrored in the glassy lakes for months before arriving in Canada. What we hadn't banked on was the weather being 18 degrees lower than normal for this time of year and the lakes still being frozen.

I'm not talking just a bit of slush on top, I'm talking over a metre of ice covering every inch of every lake in the area! It was quite an amazing sight to see actually. From ground level, it just looked like a big expanse of snow, possibly a field but from the summit of a mountain, looking down on what is obviously a lake which looks like the colour has been taken out on Photoshop.

Our first stop was Lake Louise. One of the most famous and picturesque lakes in the area. We walked as far as we could until we reached an area which had been blocked off by a previous avalanche. Every step provided another breathtaking view. We walked for over an hour in complete silence with only the squeaky crunch of the snow under our feet. We hoped to see some wildlife but there was no sign of anything at all - not even a foot print! We did see a couple of birds including a big ass crow the size of our dog!

At Bow lake, we walked right out onto the ice, right into the middle of the lake, on top of the thick ice, was about another metre of snow. Every now and then, the snow would give way underneath you and you'd completely lose one of your legs right down to your hip! We spotted more bear shaped foot prints but still no bears!

At Bow Summit, we looked down on Peyto Lake which was surrounded on all sides by black and white mountains and a perfect blue sky. The snow up there was really soft and very sinky - I had some fun trying to run as fast as I could, as far as I could without sinking. I didn't make it very far before I was flat on my face.

Lake is one of the most researched lake in Canada. Just recently, fragments of wood, over 3000 years old, were found deep in the glacial ice which shows that this glacier was once forest. So where parts of the world are melting at an alarming rate, this glacier is growing bigger.

Along the parkway were more amazing mountain vistas, there was one more lake we wanted to stop off at which is supposed to be a very common place to spot moose, deer and bear. We came to the sign, started to turn in and almost drove into a wall of ice! The lake was completely closed off, there was no sign of a way in and the sign was pointing at two metres of solid snow and ice.

Reluctantly, we gave up our nature search for the day and returned to out hotel. We only have one more day left in Banff so I really hope to see something with a pulse tomorrow!

Location:Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada

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