From Summer to Winter

The Canadian Rockies have some of the most spectacular peaks in the world.

The Canadian Rockies have some of the most spectacular peaks in the world.

I was invited on a two-week motorcoach tour of the Pacific Northwest and Canadian Rockies all expenses paid, so naturally I accepted! I was flown from Mexico City to my home town of Seattle in mid-April to begin the journey. The first leg of the trip was through familiar territory – a crossing of the Cascades via Stevens Pass to the Bavarian village of Leavenworth and through the vast Columbia Plateau to Spokane. This leg of the journey was nostalgic for me. The last time I stayed in Spokane was over 40 years ago.

A bison shields her calf from observers.

A bison shields her calf from observers.

We pushed on the next day to Kalispell, Montana. One of our trip objectives of seeing wildlife was met as we spotted bighorn sheep, open range bison, and pronghorn antelope (all firsts for me) along with numerous deer and elk. I also experienced Glacier National Park for the first time. We did not get up to the high country due to the late snowfall this year, and many locations in the park were not yet open for the tourist season. I enjoyed the peacefulness of the park with patches of snow and few people.

Iconic Lake Louise is still frozen in April.

Iconic Lake Louise is still frozen in April.

Coming from Central Mexico to the Rocky Mountains transported me from perpetual summer to the frozen lakes of late winter, a season I have not experienced since our visit to Ushuaia, Argentina, in Tierra del Fuego back in 2011. The highlight of the journey for me was the four days travelling into the Canadian Rockies with stays in both Banff and Jasper, the town namesakes of the adjoining Canadian national parks that straddle the Continental Divide.

The Columbia Ice Fields sit atop a triple continental divide.

The Columbia Ice Fields sit atop a triple continental divide that feeds three different oceans.

After visiting the 5-star resorts of Banff Springs and Chateau Lake Louise, we pushed deeper into the wilderness to the Columbia Icefields. Although the Athabasca Glacier is receding at a rate of about 40 feet per year, it is still has a depth of 1,200 feet at its deepest point. The uniqueness of this area is the Snow Dome marking a triple divide where the drainage empties into three different oceans from a single area of the glacier.

This peak near Lake Louise is indicative of the scenery along the Canadian Continental Divide.

This peak near Lake Louise is indicative of the scenery along the Canadian Continental Divide.

I recall the words of Heritage Guide, Jeff, at Chateau Lake Louise who spoke to us during our lunch stop. He has driven from the Yukon Territory to the southern tip of South America. Jeff told us, “I have visited and hiked in the most spectacular mountains in North and South America, and the most dramatic mountains in the Western Hemisphere are right here in the Canadian Rockies.”

I hope one day to return to this remarkable mountain range.

I hope one day to return to this remarkable range.

I myself have hiked and climbed in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest for much of my life. Having now visited this area of the Rocky Mountains for the first time, I cannot find fault with Jeff’s statement. If you love spectacular mountains, the Canadian Rockies should be on your bucket list.

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13 comments on “From Summer to Winter

  1. I am an ocean person, while my husband is a devoted mountain person. That said, the Canadian rockies and Cascades have me totally spell bound! There is no doubt (having grown up with the White mts back east and the ranges in New England) that the mountains of the west are just beyond belief! When I first started my blog, I ran off to Yellowstone and the Tetons and blogged from there (kind of the start to TFTM). Oh, how I loved it there! The animals, the wild scenery, the endless panoramas… just breath taking! What a wonderful opportunity you had Mike, to see such beautiful country and enjoy such wilderness. Wonderful post; thanks for sharing this with us.

    And Oh so wonderful to meet in person! 🙂

    • I was fortunate to land a spot on this trek to the north country. From photos I had seen I thought I knew what I might expect. I was wrong. Like meeting someone in person, the online profiles just do not prepare you for the real thing.
      Which segues into another highlight of my vacation – meeting you in person! I am still formulating that story into an upcoming blog post. Stay tuned! 🙂

  2. pippabiker says:

    Having bike toured the icefields Parkway and through Glacier National Park, I agree that this corner of the world is spectacular. I am counting down the days till I leave Abu Dhabi and return to the West with all its natural beauty. Sounds like you had a splendid journey.

    • I know what you mean about returning to the West. I have found I use my homeland in the Pacific Northwest as the barometer by which I measure all the places I have been and whether I would want to live there. It is not difficult to appreciate by people who visit often come back to stay. If not for the rain in Western Washington, more people would stay.
      I can only imagine bicycling the Banff and Icefield Parkways. We did not see many cyclists, but then the campgrounds were not yet open at this time of year. What a memorable journey that had to be! Thank you for sharing your comments.

  3. What an awesome adventure Mike! I can’t believe you got to do this all expenses paid – how lucky is that! Celeste:)

    • The vacation was a prize for a competition I entered last fall. It was indeed a great adventure, especially since I had not been to most of the places before. 🙂

    • Now you’ve got me intrigued! You got to go on that vacation as a job interview? Anyway, I’m sure you’ll share the story at some point. Glad to see you blogging again! Celeste:)

  4. reocochran says:

    This is wonderful to see the photos and hear of your opportunity to go home, then onward to the north and seeing some awesome sights. I have seen the Pyrenees Mts. and always wanted to see the Alps, but these Canadian Rockies are beyond compare! Hope to see them in person someday! I have been remiss in not checking in for awhile and the visit here was special, thanks for sharing!

  5. jhornmex says:

    Wow, what a great description and beautiful photos. The area has been on my list for some time and you raised its priority! It’s just hard for me to tear myself away from Cuernavaca.

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