Travel is a privileged experience in every way. While I’m always grateful for the opportunity to step away from what is my “normal” life, travel has also been known to unleash bouts of envy in me when glimpsing the lives of others. Our Canadian Rockies adventure introduced me to a new and unexpected side effect: niceness.

When planning our trip, I somehow missed that we’d be visiting during the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. It meant, among other things, that our entry into national and provincial parks was free, a nice surprise. And throughout our nearly three-week drive, we kept saying wow, this is nice. Nice places to eat, nice things to see, nice people everywhere. There are even highway overpasses just for wildlife, so they can cross in safety. Nice. And in Banff we saw a window sign which suggested to us that maybe it’s always like that in Canada.

This overall sense of pleasantness led me to ponder the effect of ready access to natural beauty. I do not live in a beautiful place, and wondered how much being surrounded by such grandeur contributes to personal contentment on a daily basis. I think the answer is quite a lot. Canada seems to know this, and takes pride in protecting its wonders for the pleasure of its people and visitors.

I admit it’s easy to fall in love on a gorgeous day, in perfect circumstances. It was summertime, high visitor season, and local economies dependent on good service to tourists offered their best. There was no language barrier. Maybe I was over reacting, but I think it understandable that I spent our entire trip being both envious and grateful. We’ll be visiting Canada again. Nice.


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Above and Beyond

I started this Canadian Rockies trip blog with mountains, and I’m going to end it (almost…one more post after this) with skies. I love busy skies, and was particularly taken by how clouds often seemed to mold their shapes to the landscape they were enhancing. Sometimes the sun had to fight for space through their density, sometimes their effect was more dramatic when looking down, and one evening an alien spaceship appeared to evaluate the topography and before deciding not to invade its beauty.Jasper Day2-1Waterton to Calgary-37Peyto,Moraine,Banff-135Banff Day1-11Jasper Day2-66June 24, 2017_711_170624Waterton-198

Color Me Red and Blue

Remember the red Adirondack chairs I loved when we saw them lakeside in Waterton? They showed up again beside the blue water of Two Jack Lake, near Banff. And the vivid shades of blue and turquoise found in Peyto Lake, Moraine Lake, Lake Minnewanka and Emerald Lake all rival Lake Louise, our first sight of the iridescence of powdered limestone and glacier sediment that colors the waters. No matter where we went in the Canadian Rockies, the rivers, waterfalls and lakes were beyond stunning; they were literally awesome.

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Jasper Adventures

Our few days in Jasper National Park may have been the most fun. It was the furthest north we traveled in the Canadian Rockies, with long daylight hours to fill, in all weather conditions. When a day begins with coffee on a sunny deck you never want to leave, moves on to wet misty woods with gigantic waterfalls that crash through deep gorges, and ends climbing a mountain in a snowstorm, it’s a satisfying experience.

The Path of the Glacier Trail at Mount Edith Cavell seemed daunting (you may be able to see a climber on the path, a tiny red dot in the middle right side of the first mountain photo), and the snow and wind didn’t encourage us much. But it was worth reaching the viewing deck to see the Angel Glacier up close.

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North to Jasper

The drive from Banff National Park to the town of Jasper in Jasper National Park can be done in less than four hours, but not if you intend to appreciate the drama available along the way. First up is a glimpse of the Columbia Icefield, the largest in North America. The Athabasca Glacier, one of eight on the Icefield, is visible from the road, as are tiny ant-like dots on it that are actually gigantic snow busses taking people out to walk on the glacier. The size and scale of this glacier is hard to grasp without benefit of the familiar perspective of cars, which you may be able to see in the first photo.

We had to stop often along the route north to marvel at the colors and varieties of landscapes presented by Mother Nature, but it didn’t matter how late we arrived at our hotel and dinner location; it was light nearly to midnight.June 22, 2017_703_170622Lake Louise to Jasper-70Peyto,Moraine,Banff-86Lake Louise to Jasper-74Lake Louise to Jasper-68Jasper Day1-21Lake Louise to Jasper-89Lake Louise to Jasper-90

More Bears

Yep. So close to the road leaving Banff that Park Rangers were using bullhorns to get gawkers (including us) back into our cars. No fences or culverts for protection, but happily a mom who seemed crankier about the behavior of her rambunctious cubs than their audience. Had she changed her mind, she could have reached us in seconds, regardless of my telephoto lens.Lake Louise to Jasper-50Lake Louise to Jasper-45Lake Louise to Jasper-55Lake Louise to Jasper-46Lake Louise to Jasper-44Lake Louise to Jasper-48Lake Louise to Jasper-59Lake Louise to Jasper-61

Lake Louise

Even on an overcast day, it’s hard to describe Lake Louise as anything but breathtaking. Located within Banff National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the turquoise lake dramatically offsets Victoria Glacier, and no matter how many photos you have seen of it, there’s nothing like walking the path or sitting awhile to let it soak in. (I am not the one doing the yoga pose, but I understood her need of it.) The fabulous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel overlooks the lake, but for me it couldn’t compete with this natural beauty.

Our animal friends continued to contribute to our enjoyment along the way.Lake Louise to Jasper-14June 19, 2017_702_170619

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Rocky Mountain High

Kananaskis County lies in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, and is home to an extensive provincial park system that includes venues used in the Winter Olympics and a G8 Summit. Our explorations were enhanced when Tim and Corky joined us for the week, and after their alarmingly too close bear encounter (3 adults and 2 cubs) during a walk in the woods near our hotel, we proceeded with caution and Tim’s bear spray.

The area is replete with gorgeous vistas, valleys, lakes, wildlife, and the pleasant town of Canmore. Bighorn sheep love to lick the salt on the highway, which provided initial amusement but ultimate annoyance with the frequency of our meeting. Our challenge was to make forward progress while avoiding sheep leaping over guard rails and moose deciding whether or not to cross the road in front of us. It was a highly entertaining few days.

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