The last big epic adventure that summer brought was an extra long August long weekend. I took an extra day off work to complement a floating stat in our office and ended up with five days off in a row. Kerry and I decided to head to the mountains to chase more trails and hiking before fall set in.
One of the things that has been on my Canadian bucket list for years was to drive the highway between Jasper and Lake Louise – the Icefields Parkway. We decided to take the August long weekend, pack the car and head west, with a quick overnight stop and visit in Edmonton, before heading towards Jasper National Park and our first stop for the night at the Pocahontas campground.
Located by the Miette Hot Springs, Pocahontas was a little gem of a campground close within the Jasper National Park gates, with secluded spots and a fun little trail to Punchbowl Falls and beyond that we hiked before a thunderstorm moved in and kept us drenched for the rest of the evening.
The next morning we shook out our wet tent, packed up our gear and headed to places I hadn’t seen since I was 18 including Maligne Canyon, Maligne Lake, Medicine Lake and the town of Jasper proper. While the weather was still gloomy and rainy, there was still lots to appreciate and we went for a bit of a walk-about through Maligne Canyon just to soak in the beauty of nature.
From Jasper we turned onto Highway 93 heading south – we had finally made it onto the Icefields Parkway – my bucket list item was about to be recognized. We were blessed with a wee bit of sunshine as we drove, so we pulled over to explore Athabasca Falls. To me the Falls seemed angrier, perhaps fuelled by the large amounts of rain we’d had so far.They were awe-inspiring regardless. We had to keep pressing on to our next campground for the night – Jonas Creek. We pulled in just in time as by the time we got our tent and tarp up, the skies started to open again. We had a quick supper and went for a wander around the campground, but we decided to turn in early as we were cold and tired.
Sunday dawned warmer, sunnier and drier than we’d seen so far on our trip, so we made the most of it. We backtracked a bit up Highway 93, back to Sunwapta Falls. There’s nothing like more rushing waterfalls first thing in the morning, especially when there are fewer tourists about. We took some selfies, felt the mist on our faces and it rejuvenated us enough for the next leg of our trip.
We were climbing into some seriously pretty parts of the mountains, getting closer to another bucket list destination – the Columbia Icefield, home to Athabasca Glacier. We stopped at the foot of the glacier to layer up and then got as close as we could on foot to this icy giant. We definitely were not disappointed with this stop. I was amazed at the sheer size of the glacier, but even more surprised and saddened to see how much the glacier had retreated in the last 100 years. We are in serious danger of losing these naturally occurring wonders.
From the Columbia Icefield we continued south to the Parker Ridge pull-over. Boasting a great little hiking trail from the parking lot, we headed out to stretch our legs and our lungs. When we reached the top of the ridge we again were rewarded with another gorgeous glacier – this time Saskatchewan Glacier. We grabbed a patch of grass, had a Clif bar and took in the beauty of the landscape around us. It was worth taking the time to stop and explore.
We continued on to Waterfowl Lakes Campground for the rest of the day and enjoyed our first fire and warm’ish weather in two days. We couldn’t have been more thrilled (and I may have overdone it with my bushpie maker). It still felt nice to sit by our first campfire in two days – we soaked it all in.
On the holiday Monday we continued our trek south, with our final camping destination in mind – Johnston Canyon Campground. On our way we stopped at the Peyto Lake parking lot but stopped only briefly to admire the lake before shaking off the busloads of tourists and continuing on with our hike up to Bow Lake Summit. Once upon a time a fire tower used to be located at the top of the hill and we managed to find some old anchors and timber from the original structure. Again, we had the most beautiful view and we were all alone, except for one very curious hoary marmot.
We had hoped to hike the upper falls at Johnston Canyon, but had totally underestimated how busy the park would be on the holiday Monday. We abandoned that plan and instead headed towards Marble Canyon in the Kootenays to hike the trails there. It was a perfect afternoon in the sunshine, and was a fitting end to our hiking adventure.
Once back from Marble Canyon we hit our campsite, set up camp for the night and enjoyed our first shower in a few days. It was glorious! We made a quick detour into Banff to restock some of our food and beverages, and then we invited our friends Dave and Amy over for supper. Nothing beat BBQ, salad, beverages and good friends. We couldn’t have asked for a more fitting way to end our week. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to see Alberta’s beauty by car and by foot, and I can’t wait to retrace my steps again in the future.