It is rare that I take a spontaneous trip. I’m obsessive about researching destinations and compulsive about ticking all the boxes once I arrive….which means lots of advance planning. Days spent pouring over Rough Guides and Lonely Planets, maxing out my itinerary so that I squeeze in every worthwhile item on the “must do” list. This trip was slightly different. After several stressful months working some very long hours in Oregon, I suddenly got 10 days vacation out of the blue. My first instinct was to jump on a plane headed south…recharge my batteries in Colombia or Panama maybe. But how about avoiding the airport for a change? How about looking north instead? How about an 1800 mile road trip through some of the best scenery on earth? Decision made – I hit the road with a rough plan that took in Vancouver, Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff and Emerald Lake.
After an epic drive from Vancouver via Whistler and Kamloops on virtually empty roads, a vast wall of rock and ice loomed up over the horizon as I got closer to Jasper. I’m a tough guy to impress when it comes to scenery but Mount Robson is breathtaking.
From that point on, the vistas just got better and better as I toured the Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Lake Louise, down to Banff. And as an added bonus, there were the bears…lots of bears. Coming from Scotland, where the apex predator is a small cat, it’s exhilarating to suddenly find a huge wild animal beside the roadside.
You can see from the photos that the mountain lakes were still mostly frozen in early summer. Visiting in May means that the main tourist spots are much quieter than in peak season, but the downside is that the emerald green lake water is hidden beneath the ice and some roads are still off-limits. I was very disappointed not to be able to visit Morraine Lake (allegedly “the most beautiful lake in world”) as the access road stays closed until mid-June. The weather was both a blessing and a curse – it stayed dry the whole time I was in Canada but white, hazy clouds do not make for good photos.
After a blowing the last of the budget on a night in the rather wonderful Emerald Lake Lodge, I pointed the car south and made for the border – a 14 hour marathon trip through British Columbia, Idaho, Washington and Oregon eventually brought me back to Portland.
The full set of Canada images can be found here.