Chephren the Third

Mount Chephren the Third – a calm, clear summer night at Lower Waterfowl Lake for the last of my 3 photos of this view.

Taken half-an-hour later than last week’s photo of Mount Chephren, the sky begins to turn indigo as night falls while the north-western sky still retains its post-sunset glow. For this reason I really enjoy summers in the Rockies. Being a bit further north than Vancouver brings longer days, while, on top of that, the mountains are near the western edge of the Mountain time zone so sunset occurs at a “later” time than expected for that time zone. (See this page for a demonstration.) Since I’m not a morning person, I don’t miss the corresponding lack of daylight in the early hours, but at that time of year it hardly matters.

Chephren at dusk

Take 2 for Mount Chephren, this time at dusk. We were making our way north away from the rain around Banff towards clearer skies in Jasper and the campground at Waterfowl Lakes was the perfect overnight stop for our first dry night in several days.

Another view of Mt Chephren, actually taken before the one I posted last week. Back in 2009, we spent two weeks in the Rockies, the first spent exploring the Mt Assiniboine area, and the second for us to do some touring and day-hiking. The weather had been mixed; we finally got fed up of the rain down in the Banff-Lake Louise area and noticed that things looked better in Jasper. Destination Jasper, then!

We took our time heading north on the gloriously scenic Icefields Parkway, stopping off at the viewpoints and fitting in a quick hike to Helen Lake. Along the way we cased out a few campgrounds before settling in for a comfortable and – more importantly – dry night at Waterfowl Lakes. The clouds drifted away, the skies cleared and sat outside for the first time in what felt like ages!

Photogenic

Mt Chephren looking very photogenic above Lower Waterfowl Lake. Or should that be Lower Waterfowl Lake looking very photogenic below Mt Chephren?

A classic Rockies scene: a beautiful glacial lake and a striking summit. This photo was taken in 2011 on our tour of Banff and Jasper with my parents, and I think it may have been my Mum’s favourite spot. We had lunch at a picnic table in the campground with this view in front of us. Just beautiful…

I have two more versions of this scene that I’ll post for the next couple of Mountain Mondays.

The Matterhorn of the Rockies

A few wisps of cloud drift around Mt Assiniboine, and some welcome blue sky after a soggy hike in.

Day two of our backpacking trip into the core area of Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park. We were so glad of the blue sky to cheer us up after the soggy end to the previous day. About half-way through the day, a big thunderstorm caught up with us and pelted us with cold hail. That wasn’t so bad, really, and we were below treeline at the point the thunder and lightning trundled past. But later, as we tired of the ups and downs through the Golden Valley and Valley of the Rocks, the rain returned to sap our remaining spirits. We reached the campground at Og Lake near sunset, at which point the showers turned into a downpour. Og Lake has no shelter of any kind, so we stood around in the pouring rain, miserably eating our rehydrated meals, questioning the sanity of our choice of summer vacation. We were so ready to crawl into our sleeping bags that night.

The next morning was quiet, and we even had a bit of sunshine as we packed up and moved on to the campground at Lake Magog. The rain would return later, but at least we’d managed to pack away a dry tent. And now, at least, we had access to a cook shelter to stay dry.

Becalmed

Beautiful reflections in Maligne Lake

We’ve taken the boat tour on Maligne Lake a couple of times now and I still think it’s worth doing, despite the cost. The highlight is getting to see the famous Spirit Island that adorns the majority of the RVs touring the mountain parks. As we neared this point, the pilot slowed right down and swung the boat round in a big lazy arc so as not to create a wake and disturb this near-perfect reflection. Definitely a big “wow” moment!

Emeralds and fossils

Mount Burgess rises high over Emerald Lake. The Burgess Shale is somewhere along the ridge on the left – well worth taking the guided hike to visit!

Emerald Lake is one of those tourist hotspots in the Rockies. Getting a space in the parking lot is the first challenge. Trying not to trip over hordes of shambling tourists is the next. Then there’s getting a photograph that’s not full of said tourists. I was fortunate enough to find a spot where no one was in front of me at a time when there were no canoeists to disturb the lake to get this classic view of Mt Burgess rising up over the lake.

It’s hard to believe that the world-famous (at least to biologists and other fans of the natural world) Burgess Shale fossil beds are so close. We’d been on a guided hike offered by Parks Canada just a few days earlier that visited the quarry where Charles Walcott discovered the strange fossils. I don’t have many bucket-list items, but that was definitely one of them! I really enjoyed the day, and I could have spent hours sifting through the rocks looking for fossils. It made me realize just how much effort it took to find and excavate fossils!

Elk!

Elk! Mum and Dad’s first (but definitely not the last) wildlife sighting in the Rockies back in 2011.

After collecting Mum and Dad in Canmore, we headed back to Johnston Canyon where we were staying in one of the cabins. Of course we had to take the quieter Bow Valley Parkway just in case there was any wildlife to spot. And sure enough, we rounded a bend and we saw a few cars pulled over. My first reaction was “bear jam!” and I was delighted at the prospect of my parents seeing a bear within minutes of being in the Rockies. Ah well, it was “just” an elk. But what an elk! A huge bull with an impressive rack of antlers. And it was more than content to let us take photos while it munched away on the grass at the side of the road. A pretty good start to the holiday!