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Published: September 22nd 2011
The Icefields Parkway has been described as the most beautiful drive in the world, and I am not prepared to dispute that. The 288km journey from Jasper to Banff, the two most famous resorts in the Canadian Rockies, is visually awesome. It takes 4 or 5 hours to drive from one end to the other, should you be crazy enough to cruise through without stopping to take in any of sites.
My family and I recently spent nearly a week exploring the area, basing ourselves at each end of the parkway. Unpredictable weather brought us overcast days, mountain peaks shrouded in mist, and evenings that came alarmingly close to the freezing point. Meanwhile, traffic jams on the parkway caused by forest fires in neighboring British Colombia forced us to put our feet up and crack open another bag of potato chips.
A colossal backdrop was our constant companion, boasting the grandest scenery that the Rocky Mountains have to offer. Tourists here flood to visit the ‘gems of the Rockies’; turquoise droplets that dot the continental divide, such as Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Peyto Lake, where car lots overflow and the visitor must park along the entrance
road up to a kilometer away.
Approaching the Colombia Icefields from the south, we were awed by magnificent glaciers, hovering like frozen tectonic plates a thousand meters in the air, ever flowing and melting. And finally, stunning Athabasca Glacier, which you can drive right up to, and believe it or not, walk freely on. At least you could when I was a child and the glacier spilled onto the area which is now a parking lot. These days it is just a matter of hopping over a little rope. But the rope is there for a reason, as you note with caution when you peer down icy blue cracks that descend deep into the earth, farther than the eye can see.
Freezing winds prompted us to chug a few thick ales before embarking from the car lot. Then as if to remind us where that we were indeed on Canadian soil, a group of adolescents came off the glacier armed with hockey sticks, helmets, and sweat soaked jerseys just as we arrived at the foot of it. Not all of us were fully adjusted to the weather conditions we encountered. Emily, having arrived directly from Taiwan,
was shocked with what Canadians can call ‘summer’, and was still uncomfortably cold wearing no less than three layers of winter clothing.
As you exit the Icefields Parkway and descend onto the Canadian prairies in the summer, you are greeted with flat landscapes, a major highlight being the blooming canola harvests, which produce fields of vibrant yellow. And finally, you arrive to a city in what feels like the middle of nowhere, in other words, my home. For more of my photos, or to buy my book, please visit www.nickkembel.com
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