Icefield Parkway/Glaciers, Banff National Park
The peyto Glacier once filled this Valley, now it is merely a tongue at the large Wapta Icefield.You can see the proof of the Glaciers former presence.Past Glacial advances gouged out the U-shape of the valley at the bowl of the lake. The Glacier is one of the best shaded Glaciers in the Canadian Rockies The recent discovery of 3000 year old wood fragments covered by the Ice indicates that much of what is now Glacier ,once was Forest. But advances and retreats are part of a Glaciers life.
The Glacier has receded about two kilometers in the last century.
Fondest memory: The greates memories are seeing the enormous mountains their peaks covered with snow ,and then the postcard view of the lakes ,you wonder if it all can be real.
The Trees that grow at this elevation have to be tough , they have sap that is soo tough that is does not freeze,and they have wax-coated needles that protect the tree fom strong drying winds.
Upturned needles catch fistfull of snow that insulate from the extreem cold.
Bow Summit's two main trees may look a like,but check them out, the needles of Engelman's Spruce trees are pointed and sharp when you touch them, Subalpine are softer and blunter Spruce needles have four sides and feel square when rolled betwen two fingers. Fir needles are flatter ,and will not roll.
Favorite thing: We were surprised to see large numbers of people lolling on the rocks at Mistaya Canyon as if they were sea lions in the North Pacific. I believe the reason for the crowd was the close proximity to various hostels and campgrounds. I'm sure that lying on the rocks listening to the roar of the falls is a pleasant way to spend a few hours while the sun is out. Hard to find fault with their choice of afternoon's diversion.
All along the highway there are ample opportunities to pull over and take in the sights. It seems that every 10 km, there is another view point. I would recommend that you should stop at as many as time allows. Our 5 hour trip turned out to be 8 hours and we did not stop at all the places we would have liked. Next time we will spend a couple days camping on our way up the Ice Field Highway.
Take your time and enjoy the place.
Fondest memory: There are so many hikes, trails and view points that you can not see them all in one trip.
Favorite thing: Crowfoot Glacier got its name because its "claws" clinging to the steep slopes look like a crow foot. However, after the rapid retreat in recent years, only 1 of the 3 toes can be seen today. The Glacier is best seen from Bow Lake right by Icefield Parkway (#93).
The Icefield Parkway connects Jasper and Lake Louise. It's 230 km long and can easily be travelled in 4 hours, although most people spend much longer than that to enjoy the scenery along the drive. It's considered one of the most beautiful mountain highways in the world. When you visit Banff and Jasper National Park, there's no other route.
When driving along Icefield Parkway, watch out for wildlife because there are unmarked animal trails crossing the highway. At one point the Park Service developed several underpasses for large animals to cross but it didn't seem to work. It's common to see deer, mountain goats causing "deer jam" or "goat jam". The photo shows a deer wandering at a crossroad (#93 and #1)
Favorite thing: The Icefield Parkway (#93) between Banff and Lake Louise was first completed in 1939, then upgraded in 1961. The entire Parkway follows the foot trail developed by Banff guide Bill Peyto in the early 1900's whom Peyto Lake was named after. Today the road remains open year-round, and many scenic stops have been developed along the way. When travelling on Parkway, better keep your gas tank full in Jasper or Lake Louise, for services along the road are very limited. The photo was taken at Big Bend viewpoint, a few km north of Saskatchewan Crossing.