We were greated at the airport of Missoula, MT, by a 10 foot taxidermed Grizzly bear. “That can’t be real” exclaimed Maria, but a local resident corrected her “Oh yes, that is real”! Thus started a 10 day trip on a Harley Davidson Road King motorcycle from Missoula to Jasper (Alberta) and back.
West Glacier was our first destination, located at the entrance of Glacier National Park and at the west end of Going-to-the-Sun-Road. The next day we slowly ascended this windy road to the high point: Logan Pass. From there we hiked up the mountain towards Hidden Lake, only to be stopped 1/2 a mile from our destination by park rangers. The lake was off limits to visitors because of a family of Grizzly bears that were fishing in the lake. Even from 1/2 mile away we could see them without binoculars! En route we were greeted by several mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), the symbol of Glacier National Park.
On our way to Waterton Lake (Alberta) we passed a striking block of rock: Chief’s Mountain. It is a sacred mountain to the Blackfeet Indian tribe. We had stopped in awe to take pictures when a thunderstorm chased us away and we sped towards Canada! Route 22 in Alberta hugs the eastern limits of the
Canadian Rockies, mostly huge tracts of farmland. In Longview we stopped at the Rustic Artisan – Longview’s Coffee House. Superb snacks and coffee seemed a little out of place in this farming village with only 90 inhabitants. The coffee house was owned and run by a young Moroccan who had recently emigrated with his family to Alberta!
Soon we were surrounded by mountains in the Kananaskis Range on our way to Banff. We stopped for a short hike in to the mountains along a well traveled trail and in spite of ubiquitous warning signs, like the one shown here about a hiker called Kevin Kennedy “who departed the trail head for a day hike on the Highwood Pass route…and never returned that evening”. That was in 2011! The highlight in Banff was definitely dinner at The Bison which serves local meats, cheeses and fish.
The next day we hiked the “Plain of the 6 Glaciers” from Lake Louise. This famous trail lived up to our expectations, and more. Several hours from the base of the trail there is a “Teahouse” nestled in the trees. They serve local food and drinks on site and the staff live there through the entire summer as there is no access other than a 2-3 h hike up the hill! A day later, we hiked up Johnston Canyon past the falls to the “Tea Pots”. These are sandy ponds bubbling with volcanic gases, sulfuric gases I guess, because of the yellow residues.
There followed a sensational ride, some 200 miles from Banff to Jasper, with views of massive mountains and glaciers. It starts north of Lake Louise with Mount Hector and Hector Glacier, Crowfoot glacier, Bow Lake, Simpsons Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, and Mount Thompson and Bow glacier (Wapta Icefield). The picture shows Bow glacier and Bow falls. Check out the story of Jimmy Simpson and the history of the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge! The road descends to the crossing of the river Sakatchewan and then climbs again to Sunwapta Pass. Along the way: the Athabasca Glacier, Mount Columbia (the highest peak in Canada), Columbia icefield, Dome glacier, Stuttfield glacier, etc. While Banff had reminded me of a fashionable Swiss winter resort, rolling into Jasper is more like riding in to a western frontier town. I stayed in a cabin along the Athabasca river. It was cold. There was even an icy hailstorm. The next day I encountered Woodland Caribou (only a few hundred of this species in the vicinity of Jasper). I also took a worthwhile hike up Parker Ridge from where you have a great view of the Saskatchewan Glacier. There followed a long ride south to Radium Springs in British Columbia.
The next morning I encountered 6 Big Horn Sheep resting on the road side just by the motel, apparently not fazed in the least by traffic or humans taking photographs.
There were more interesting stops along the way. Canal Flats, is the site of an abandoned canal that linked Columbia Lake to the Kootenay river, and is now a bird wildlife haven. My last day was spent exploring the rock shops in the Flathead Lake region of Montana. Montana Agate is their specialty. I’ll create a separate blog post for this topic!