Sunday, October 7, 2012

Canadian Rockies

At the beginning of September I spent the 9-10 days in Alberta, exploring Banff and Jasper national parks. A few of my closest friends are Canadian, and I’ve always enjoyed traveling here. A few highlights and observations:

I’m not sure what the marijuana laws are in Alberta, but we thought this store’s very existence was rather comical. I’ve walked past “head shops” in the Haight in San Francisco, or in other hippie/pothead strongholds, but the store name & signage usually isn’t quite so blunt. Heh… blunt…


We started our first ride at a parking lot that featured washrooms for men, for women, and for dogs.


Highwood Pass is the highest paved road in Alberta


The turn-off from the Kananaskis Trail into Kananaskis Village is a very important intersection, apparently:


I didn’t run as much on this trip as I would have liked, thanks in part to the local wildlife. We did a hike at Moraine Lake, where the local statute *requires* you to stay in groups of four or more! One evening in Banff I chose to stay on city sidewalks rather than exploring a pretty trail through the woods, because, well… it was dusk and I was running alone in bear country. Sometimes you get this feeling that you’re about to become a statistic, or a really embarrassing obituary.


There was gorgeous scenery everywhere. The incredibly blue water was probably the most memorable sight for me. Some of the lakes and rivers had this other-worldly color that was hard to capture with my camera phone.

Here is Moraine Lake:


and Lake Louise:


Looking at Nayto Lake from Bow Summit, you can see the glacier flowing into the lake on the left side of two of these pictures. Yes, I took some of these photos with the “high saturation” setting, but the water really is that color of blue!


We saw a good variety of wildlife out there, including a herd of mountain goats (or flock of mountain sheep?) right next to the road, a few black bears, three wolves, a bunch of deer and ravens and what have you. I didn’t have a chance to snap photos of most of these, but I did get a few of the wolves!


It was nice to see the wolves from the safety of our van, on the way to dinner. It was weird to see that they were wearing collars. Apparently this is done quite frequently with wildlife in certain parks.

Now on to some awesome taxidermy. Many of the hotels and restaurants featured animal heads on the walls. Eat your heart out, Kara Messenheimer! The last one is my personal favorite. Er, I mean “favourite” as this took place in Canada.


The riding highlight for this trip was our 180km day from Lake Louise to Sunwapta Falls, featuring two big climbs – Bow Summit and Icefields. It was definitely the type of day where you say to yourself, “am I really getting paid to do this?!?! Sweet!!!”

The guests stayed at some very nice and historic hotels on this custom trip, including the Fairmont Banff Springs (below) and the Chateau Lake Louise.


Our big hike on this trip went through Larch Valley and up to Sentinel Pass. This beautiful valley reminded me of the Enchantment Lakes wilderness in Washington.


I’ll leave you with a few more shots of the beautiful riding. There are only a few roads in this area, so if you ever make it out to Banff then you’ll certainly see this same scenery!



  1. Do you need an equally as enthusiastic assistant?

  2. You had better weather then when i was there

  3. I expect that we will be hiring a small number of guides again this year