Viktoria and I were looking for a different experience than our usual vacation in Europe or the warm beaches of Mexico, so we decided to travel to the Rocky Mountains of Canada. We concentrated our plans in two of the most popular areas of the region: Banff and Jasper National Park. We were set to meet moose and grizzlies in person.
What is so special about Banff and Jasper? Something must be because more than 4 million people visit here every year. The number one reason is its turquoise lakes and stunning nature. The food? You are better off in Italy or France; although the restaurants do offer a variety of international cuisines for its tourists. And yes, if you’re up for a good breakfast and need maple syrup, you don’t have to ask twice: Canada has plenty of it.
We visited several lakes including Lake Louise, Moraine and Peyto. The pictures we posted are not altered with an extra splash of blue: this is what your mesmerized eyes will see for real (#nofilter). The lakes’ color is due to melted water from glaciers, which contains fine particles of mountain rock—a substance known as “rock flour.” You can’t make pizzas with this flour, but it surely makes a nice photo. In fact, when the sun reflects off the rock flour, suspended in the cold waters of the lake, the color turns to that distinctive, seemingly unreal turquoise.
If you plan to see any of these lakes, remember that if you hit snooze, you’ll miss the moose. There is very limited parking, especially for Lake Moraine, and if you get there after 7 a.m., you’re out of luck. The lake is remote and doesn’t offer sideroad parking. Therefore, plan smart. You may not necessarily see a moose, but the view of this beautiful lake is something you won’t forget, so waking up at the crack of dawn to beat the crowds is so worth it.
Lake Louise is one of the most photographed lakes in the world. If you can afford it, stay at the well renowned Fairmont Chateaus Lake Louise, which sits at the edge of the water, and makes you question if you’re in Switzerland – if they had a few wandering Milka purple cows, you would definitely think it is Lake Ginevra. We stayed in a remote B&B called Storm Mountain Lodge Cabins, recommended to Viktoria via Instagram. It was very woodsy and romantic. After a delicious breakfast, we were off to explore the beautiful lake and hike up the mountains to see glaciers up close and personal. Judge for yourself, but the lake, as well as the views from above, are one in a million. We even met a lovely couple from Viktoria’s homeland of Slovakia, who joined us for the hike.
There are so many stunning trails and lakes to see in these two parks. On our way to Jasper we tried to see most of them. Indeed, more than twenty percent of the world's fresh water is in Canada, and it has more than two million lakes, more than any other country. Enough to keep you busy on your journey through Banff and Jasper.
Nature is stunning and made us wonder if the feeling Viktoria and I had while exploring this part of the world was the same as Adam and Eve’s. But of course, we were not the first ones to have this sensation. As I read in Wikipedia, in 1917, a college student by the name Agnes Lowe, decided to live for a week in the Rockies as a cavewoman, to experience the wilderness as a modern Eve. Unfortunately, it seems that this was just a marketing tactic, used to bring more tourism into the region. It turns out, the modern Eve spent her week in the comfort of a modern lodge and not in the wilderness, and one may think that she helped to make this place a sought after destination for all kinds of adventurous people.
What about the bear and moose? After an intense recommendation to be prepared and equipped with bear spray for the animals lurking through the forest, I must confess that we did not see much wild activity – although we didn’t venture off recommended trails. When I finally decided to buy the pepper spray to please Viktoria, I asked the guy at the shop if he had ever seen a bear. He confirmed that no, he did not have the pleasure of meeting any, I decided to pass on the purchase and used the forty-five dollars for a few more pints of locally brewed beer - Grizzly Paw Brewing - one of my favorite.
We enjoyed our trip to Banff and Jasper and just like the Canadians say “even a bad day in the mountains is still better than a great day in the office.”