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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.