The Mountains Are Calling…Canadian Rockies – 2

It’s time once again to dive into the world of the “Rockies”….the lofty mountains, their million mysteries, the stories they unravel and the lessons they teach.  Part -1 was a gateway into this world and I assure you, you’ll soon witness their beauty multiplying by a manifold.
A chance encounter was meeting an adventure enthusiast, Vince, on the flight to Calgary. Fully equipped with a heavy backpack & hiking necessities, he generously informed us about the spectacular journey we were about to embark upon, replete with worthwhile tips. As he patiently led us through his Instagram page, I quickly related to his avidity. The long & short of it: in a few moments, enriched with information, spellbound & raring to explore, a short four hour flight seemed like fourteen!
Magic unfurled before us & I hope to share some of that magic with you….Welcome!
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 ICEFIELDS PARKWAY & JASPER

Icefields Parkway
Reverie occupied me for the most as we drove the 233 km stretch from Banff to Jasper aka the Icefields Parkway. Nature undeniably, has a way of inducing positive thoughts & casting aside daunting fears (or is it just me?). Petty anxieties effortlessly took a back seat as I completely surrendered to the beauty unveiling itself and a contrasting plethora of emotions overcame me….joy, awe & immense gratitude.
On either side of the road, mountains rose high, their pinnacles touching the sky, encapsulated by swirling, silvery mist & snow caps. Clad in the greenest of conifers, they signify endurance to me. Raindrops pelted at times but that only meant greener greens and more beauty to soak in. Spring ensued a burst of yellow flowers bordering these peaks while rivers gurgled and splayed below. Although hiking paths and camping sites are in plenty here, we were happy to drink in the treasure from afar. Since  every corner screams of nature’s wonder, the eyes caught themselves in a frenzy of confusion owing to not knowing where to look. Every glimpse is a beatific scenery, a flawless painting, a picture you want to keep for eternity.
A fair warning though….like the many things in life, there is a high chance you can take these impassible mammoths for granted. Hours of looking at them familiarized me far too much, only to realize three days later that it may be eons before I see them again….will feel like it at least!
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(Picture on the Right: The Icefields Parkway seen from Big Bend)
Athabasca Glacier
The Athabasca Glacier, adorning proudly a portion of the Icefields Parkway,  is part of the Columbia Icefields, the largest Ice Field in the Rocky Mountains of North America. Posing as a challenge and a paradise for mountaineers & skiers, the Columbia Icefields have a deep history.
Athabasca forms one of the major glaciers fed by the Icefields and the husband & me decided to hike up a short distance. The last time I witnessed a massive expanse of snow was back in 2010 in Jersey while we thwarted a blizzard to say hello to Lady Liberty. Gusts of wind, a -2 degree temperature and not being adequately warmed by coats ensured I ignore the velvety fresh snow that blanketed the ground. What I remember vividly is the sprawling white that overtook the grey of the concrete & the green of the grass. The Athabasca Glacier provided a slightly similar experience…..although devoid of fresh snow, the expanse of pristine white ice and blustery winds brought back a surge of memories.
(More about activities offered here in my Travel Tips below)
Alarmingly, climate change is cause for the glacier to currently recede at the rate of 5 mts per year(16ft) and if this continues, there will be very little left in 100 years. A new forest will begin to flourish and a lake may begin to form too. Since 1885 the Athabasca has lost more than 60% of its volume. That’s over 350 million cubic mts of ice.  Within the next three generations, the Athabasca Glacier and the water it provides to communities across Western North America may almost disappear and this undoubtedly is cause for worry.
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Sunwapta Falls & Lodge
The Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge materialized as a home for the next two days. Encircled by mountains & spotted with adorable rustic wooden cottages, this place is highly recommended if you ever plan a vacation to this side of Canada. It doesn’t hurt that the food is fabulous and the thunderous Sunwapta Falls is a stone’s throw way!
It comes as no surprise that early mornings bring out the best in mountains and lounging in the patio whilst sipping tea and a book in hand, I remember being ambushed by a surge of melancholy. Why you ask? A picture perfect scenario such as this only deserves glee and laughter. Well, my mind was apparently bent upon racing ahead and dreading the rapidly arriving goodbyes….


A 5 minute walk from the lodge (yes 5 minutes!) leads up to the falls and while the husband had a field day capturing this sparkling majesty, I basked in the glistening waters & morning sunshine. Hiking trails are plenty in the area and we succumbed to one. Not long though, just enough to burn off the hash browns we ravenously devoured for breakfast!
(By the way, this photograph was captured just before sunset)
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This concludes our journey to the magnificent Canadian Rockies. I’m going to skip the next part because it ain’t pretty….Bidding goodbye is unpleasant and while we have loads of pictures & memories to hold onto, my selfish heart yearns for more….

Thank you for reading and do take a peek at my Travel Tips:)

My “additional” two cents
-The drive along Icefields Parkway is about 3 hours (with no stops) and there are no food or snack shops. It’s advisable to squirrel away some light food which can either be purchased from Banff or Jasper Town depending on where you are.

-Athabasca Glacier activities – 1) A ride on the glassy surface of the glacier itself called the                                                                  Ice Explorer.
2) A walk along the cliff edged Glacier Skywalk
We didn’t choose to participate. However, they can be done if you have time to spare.

-Jasper Town is about an hour’s drive from the Sunwapta Rocky Mountain Lodge. You can choose to stay there too. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants and it’s a quaint, pretty little town to hang out, eat & walk around. Similar to Banff Town, every tiny street opens to mountains and is beyond beautiful.

– The weather here is unreliable owing to the high altitudes and it’s better to carry a warm jacket at all times. The rough terrain undoubtedly demands a good pair of hiking shoes.

-Ours was a 5 day trip. Here’s the itenary,
Day 1: Lake Moraine & Lake Loiuse
Day 2: Johnston Canyon & exploring Banff Town
Day 3: Breakfast & a short trip to Lake Moraine followed by a 4-5 hour drive (owing to tons of photo stops) to Sunwapta Falls
Day4: Exploring Jasper
Day 5: Return to Calgary and back to Toronto

{If you haven’t already, please do read Part-1 of our journey HERE .
Do check out more pictures by the husband at : Deepak Mohan Photography
And, for more information, tips & photographs, do stop by our friend Vince’s website : Adventure By Nature }

The Mountains Are Calling…Canadian Rockies-1

Here, the mountains reign, swathed in tones of grey & sepia, crowned by milky white caps of snow. Bedecked by a plethora of flamboyant conifers in the darkest of emerald, they stand tall & proud, as if softly singing a hearty welcome. They appear similar but that’s just the mind playing obvious tricks for they’re clearly not. Some are massive & humongous, emerging stern & strict although not in a bad way, more like a doting father, brave, defiant & protective. Some wrinkled, appearing ancient, ridden with a million secrets for they’ve silently endured the tests of time. Some may come off as dubious too, their pointed peaks peering suspiciously at onlookers. And then there are some that seem tiny….young & audacious, replete with greens, providing home to the wild & the tame. Perhaps these mountains speak a a different language to each but anyone who lays eyes on these towering beauties is promised of forever remaining besotted.
It’s yet another example too, of me blindly trusting the husband’s travel instincts. A year ago as we packed our hoardings to bid goodbye to Bangalore, I caught him smiling to himself whilst looking at scenic photographs. “This is Banff” , he said. “We have to go there!”.  Allow me to shamelessly confess, that I’m more of a city girl…. The dressing, the shoes, the dinners & wines enthrall me more than I like to admit. Not that I shy away from  staying active but four days of hiking shoes & windcheaters was hardly convincing. Having said that, this isn’t the first time he has implored me to see at the world through his eyes and as always it wound up being rewarding.
The place transpires as a photographer’s dream destination and the exhilaration apparent on the husband’s face was akin to a kid squealing in Disneyland. For the rest of us, the scenes fleet like pages & pages of watercolor paintings, with solely mental clicks to rely on because there’s nothing one doesn’t want to remember.

This series is going to be covered in two parts-  Part 1 – Banff
Part 2 – Icefields Parkway & Jasper

Come, travel with us! I promise you a brilliant journey!

BANFF

Lake Moraine
The first thought that crossed my mind as I laid eyes on the water was my Amma’s(mom) Mysore Silk sari. (for those of you who don’t know, Mysore Silk saris are a rage in Karnataka. Soft, silky light drapes in vibrant colors that confer the utmost comfort. My mom, among many is a proud owner of a couple of them and maintains them meticulously!). Like the sari, the waters seemingly appeared like a silky taffeta of blue-perhaps an amalgamation of turquoise, azure & sapphire, gleaming in the morning sun. Rings of soaring trees and the Valley of the Ten Peaks replaced the shimmering gold borders of the sari.
Most things in life comes with a price & that includes hiking up a little hill (Rock Pile) bestowing a view that mesmerizes.
I make sure I carry a book with me wherever I go. For the next hour or so, I immersed in the book, encapsulated by this burst of natural beauty, accompanied by silence, the only sounds being the wafts of a flawless breeze. On a lighter note, I think that also allowed for the husband to capture these pictures without a constant chant of, “Done?”, “Done?” in the background! 😉
Lake Moraine

Lake Louise
In the inner recesses of the Banff National Park, there lies surreptitiously a hamlet called Lake Louise, a treasure trove of pristine blue nonchalant waters encircled by peaks & their conifers. The glacial fed waters are imaginably freezing. As the meltwaters make their way down they bring with them rockflour from the mountains, making the water silty. Late spring, most of the rock flour settles to the bottom of the lake over the winter ensuring only a few being suspended thereby creating an intense blue.Come summer, milky streams gush down with more rock flour and the lake mellows to a lighter green.
Lake Louise

Banff Town
Imagine a walk in the early hours of the morning….when calm & tranquil prevail, birds softly chirp away, a crisp gentle wind rustles the leaves, roads lay desolate with only a handful of people, their hands tightly wrapped around a warm cup of coffee and a view of the soaring mountains enwrapped in a white mist as they lovingly overlook every nook & corner of this little town. The main street is home to shops & lodges, the buildings displaying rustic architecture in ochre, green& brown. The prized treasure being the jaw dropping vision of the glorious mountains that appear tangible and yet so far.

The 200 Block of Bear Street deserves special mention….It’s a Woonerff! In other words, a shared street where cars, cyclists & pedestrians share the road. Festooned with benches in browns & pots exploding clusters of flowers, the place screams of spring, summer & all things happy. Clearly, pedestrians have the right of way and cars drive at a very minimum speed.The concept is not unheard of and is popular in Europe albeit slowly gaining popularity in North America. Technically spelt Woonerf but it comes as no surprise that in Banff ,they have a thing for two f’s!

Say hello to Deepak everyone!

Woonerff

Sulphur Mountain & the Banff Gondola
The Sulphur Mountain gets its name from the strong odor of sulphur emanating from hot springs at the lower base of the mountain. The Gondola (cable cars) begins at the shoulder of the Sulphur Mountain, mostly steady, except when the Wind Gods decide to  pay a visit. Temporary moments of frantic cradling and sounds of heaving whooshes can make one shudder at those heights! But, as one travels along the length of the mountain, to the summit at an elevation of 2,281 m(7486 ft), flanked by  towering conifers that lie so close to each other, almost like a tightly woven blanket, the perils of uncertainly hardly matter in those moments. At the summit, the end of a 2300m boardwalk offers a breathtaking, 360 degree view of ice capped mountains, that jut high from the earth, soaring into the sky, as if to kiss the heaven above. The clouds do a little dance over the peaks, creating a veil of mist.
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Johnston Canyon
Where the mountains lie, you hike, the Johnston Canyon being one such place. Admittedly, we’re not big hikers but spirited nonetheless and this 12km hike sure assuaged all our hiking needs for the trip. Home to the Upper Falls, Lower Falls & the Inkpots, the canyon offers a bout of freshness amid the gushing waters and tall shady trees…a relief much needed to douse the summer heat.
Spring water percolates through the sand and river gravel to form five blue green pools, rightly named the Inkpots ( Top Right Picture). Characterized by swirling circles in the sandy pool bottoms, these puddles are worth the long hike. The pebbled ground offers much respite for aching legs as do the vibrant waters, greens & surrounding mountains. But, our gnawing hunger got the better of us and mirages of warm food sent us back down faster than we expected to.
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That completes Part -1 of the series and I apologize for the lengthy narration. I assure you the next one will be shorter and I do hope you liked our experiences with the glorious Canadian Rockies! Stay tuned for Part-2 and before you sign off, do take a look see at a few travel tips…..

My “additional” two cents
– A four hour flight from Toronto took us to Calgary. Banff National Park is about an hour’s drive from there. DO NOT rent cars at the airport since they can be highly expensive. A cheaper alternative is to taxi up to the nearest Car Rental (Enterprise in our case) and rent a car of your choice for almost one third the price!

-You will need a pass to enter the Banff National Park which can be purchased at a toll booth. The cost is around 15 CAD per day and it’s valid in Jasper too.

– I wasn’t kidding about the hiking shoes & windcheaters. The weather here is unreliable owing to the high altitudes and it’s better to carry a warm jacket at all times. The rough terrain undoubtedly demands a good pair of hiking shoes.

-Lake Moraine:  Climbing up the ROCKPILE offers beautiful views of the lake but if you’re not in the mood to be adventurous, the steps at the back make the hike slightly easier.

-If you’re planning on hiking up to the Inkpots which is about a 6km hike(one way), make sure you have enough water & food stocked in your backpack. The entrance to the canyon has one snack shop but none inside.

-Ours was a 5 day trip. Here’s the itenary,
Day 1: Lake Moraine & Lake Loiuse
Day 2: Johnston Canyon & exploring Banff Town
Day 3: Breakfast & a short trip to Lake Moraine followed by a 3 hour drive to Jasper
Day4: Exploring Jasper
Day 5: Return to Calgary and back to Toronto

-If camping is not on your agenda, Banff Town is home to plenty of hotels & lodges. We sojourned at the Banff Caribou Lodge for two nights,  a rustic lodge with a ranch like ambience before heading off to Jasper.

( Check out more Pictures here: Deepak Mohan Photography)

O Canada at Ottawa

The summer of 2015, saturated with a searing yet welcome heat, led us to explore the capital of Canada, among other places. Ottawa, which is about a 4 hour drive from Toronto, Ontario, was more than just a weekend getaway. Being month old Canadian residents, we were glad to be able to imbibe local history and what better place to do that than at the capital. We had ensured we had more than enough time to check off popular spots, stroll around the off beaten paths & scour the food scene at the Byward market. Continue reading “O Canada at Ottawa”

Thousand Islands, Gananoque

“Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over & over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
– Pat Conroy

June ’15. We had just moved into another continent , 9000 miles away from India,  hauling hefty suitcases & heaps of memories. Admittedly, we’ve done this a multitude of times : move to a new place, set up, stay, move. But the truth is, what is repetition in the face of new beginnings in new cities. And we’ve been able to gather snippets of culture & tradition from all the places we’ve called home. Continue reading “Thousand Islands, Gananoque”

Québec City

It was a lazy friday morning. Owing to the Labor Day weekend, our morning began much later than it usually does on busy weekdays. A well laid out plan had been devised for the long weekend: Pop by the CN tower that beckoned us for a visit, considering it stands tall in our backyard, cram ourselves with Mexican at Milagro’s, devour gelato’s at the Distillery district, cycle along Lake Shore ( an essential at this point, considering the calorie consumption!). At 4:30pm, I looked into the wardrobe, racking my brains, wondering what to wear, when the husband took me by a jolt,
Husband: “Hey, do want to got to Québec City? Continue reading “Québec City”

Bonjour, Montréal !

“Let me, Oh let me bathe my soul in colours; let me swallow the sunset & drink the rainbow.”
– Kahlil Gibran
A visit to Montréal was a longstanding desire, a place we wanted to vacation the moment we set foot on Canadian soil. ” It’s almost like Paris.”, someone said. Apparently, that’s all I needed to hear. History says, the English and the French fought the Americans for Canada and the predominant French influence is not an unknown fact.No complaints here though, the European experience was exactly what we were after. Continue reading “Bonjour, Montréal !”

CHIKMAGALUR – The Coffee Land of Karnataka

Summer begins early in Bangalore, largely in the past few years. For reasons I won’t bore you with in this post, come February 2013, all we wanted was a getaway to escape the soaring temperatures and avoid getting baked in the afternoon sun. Chikmagalur seemed like the perfect place to do that and more. Located at the foothills of the Mullayanagiri Range, this little town bestows the clichéd “picture perfect”, watercolour painting-like scenes that not only deceived us into being in a parallel universe but also astonished in a way because this beauty lay so close to home. Well, close because it’s a short road trip away, about 4 hours although it did take us longer since the husband and me were keen on a stopover at a little town called ‘Channarayapatna’. Significant mainly because my husband spent a good chunk of his childhood here. A serious case of nostalgic fever was evident on his face as we clicked away pictures of him and a bunch of students from the alma mater. The little things, no? Continue reading “CHIKMAGALUR – The Coffee Land of Karnataka”