Friday, October 27, 2017

Taking the Scenic Route: Calgary to Jasper in a Day

See Part One here.

If we were to go non stop, the drive from the Calgary Airport Homewood Suites to our destination in Jasper National Park would take about three hours. We’re going to take it a bit slower than that, though, as we see some sights along the way.

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When planning this trip, it was to be between Banff and Jasper National Parks. What swung the balance to Jasper was the best accessible accomodations I could find were in Jasper. Although I would have loved to stay at the Fairmont Chateau on the shore of Lake Louise but, even though I’m sure they have accessible rooms, the price of around a thousand dollars a night (and up) was a big budget buster...even if it was Canadian dollars.

Still, I have always wanted to see the Lake Louise area ever since an aborted ski trip over thirty years ago. Finally, I have my chance.  Today we’ll stop and the plan is to splurge on a lakeside lunch at the Fairmont.

A few miles before the exit to Lake Louise, we start to spot sattelite parking lots where overflow visitors would park and take shuttle buses up to the lake. Uh oh...I don’t have time for this.

The crowds are thickening and parking attendants are pressed into directing traffic into and around the town. Signs on the way up to the lake warn of no parking available and to turn around now to go to the sattelite lots.

I decide to keep driving up...if no parking is available, we’ll press on to Jasper.

We arrive at the hotel, one lot on the right is designated as a handicapped lot. An attendant is waving everybody past. I point to our placard, hanging from the rear view mirror, and she waves me in. The closest parking spot to the lake and the hotel is a handicapped spot and it is empty.

Someone was smiling on me that day.

A small bridge over the creek that drains the lake led us to the path to the shore. The water is world-famous for it’s turquoise blue water backing up into the glacial canyon. Ancient glaciers still perch on the cliffs, dangling precariously over the other side of the lake. Snow covers the mountainsides during this last week of September.

It’s a beautiful sight, which is why thousands of tourists are lined around the eastern shoreline with their selfie sticks, squeezed between the lake and the massive hotel.

Walking around, we take a few pictures ourselves and explore some of the scenery before heading into the hotel.

There are a handful of restaurants open. We head to the Lobby Lounge, which commands the best views of the lake and the glaciers. Hotel guests get priority over day visitors but we get lucky again and a table is found for us right away.

Tim goes with a burger but has poutine on the side instead of basic fries. Letty has a vegetarian pasta dish with spinach and asparagus. I have a bowl of French onion soup.

It’s all very delicious, a bit more than I’d pay below, but it’s a splurge and the view is to die for.

Letty spends a little time in the gift shops (a spool of yarn for $150???) and Tim and I check out the historical photographs off of the main lobby.

It’s back on the road where we drive past a glass floored bridge that you can pay serious bucks to walk on then we arrive at the Columbia Icefield.

This spot is where several glaciers come together and the meltwater forms the headwaters of the Athabasca River, which eventually empties into the Arctic Ocean.

The Athabasca Glacier is across the highway from the visitor’s parking lot. You can hike up to, and climb on, the glacier. You can also take a bus...several which are wheelchair take a ride on the glacier and spend some time walking on it.

Tim is not interested so, after taking some picture, we continue on.

We’re making some progress as we leave Banff and enter Jasper park. I should mention that all the national parks in Canada are admission-free this year as they celebrate 150 years of being independent. I cruise through the closed entrance booths.

Before long, I’m being stopped in the middle of the road by a flagwoman. She knocks on my window as I stop.

“It’ll be about 20 minutes before I can let you pass.”

I turn off the car, get out, and she shows me the men dangling from ropes high on a sheer cliff a little down the road. They’re blasting and after the dynamiting, those guys hit it with shovels and rakes to sweep the debris down to a waiting dump truck. They do this to lessen the probability of a landslide in the winter.

Quite a backup has built up behind me by the time she gives me the greenlight to continue on.

No more stops for us and soon we exit the park next to a couple of more empty entrance booths. Just a mile or so beyond, we turn into our home for the next few days...Becker’s Chalets...a cabin village along the shore of the Athabasca River.

It takes me a lap of the grounds before I realize that the office is in the restaurant that I passed at the entrance.

I go in, register, and am handed an old-fashioned  plastic tagged room key.

There are two accessible cabins here with roll in showers. One, closer to the river and the resort’s playground. Our is the second, located in a secluded corner next to the woods.

It’s a large, very large, one room cabin with a queen bed, a twin bed, and a queen sofabed. The roll in shower has a large fold down bench, and there’s plenty of room to manuever.

A full kitchen and dining room is included, as is a fireplace, so I head into the nearby town of Jasper to get some groceries to make breakfast after settling in.

Our rental car has a GPS so I follow it into town.  The road is closed so I follow a detour.  This leads me to a dead end and I double back.

Before I get to the highway, however, I see these four beauties on the road.

After that, I get this jealous boyfriend walking by my driver’s side window.

Evening entertainment over, I finally find my way into town to get supplies and meet back up with Letty and Tim in the cabin. We’ll relax a bit over some wine by the river before bedding down in our very comfortable and cozy beds.

We’ll see you in the morning.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick

Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

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