AFTER THE CANADIAN CROSS COUNTRY ROAD TRIP.
ARTICLE #10: THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS- ONE OF NATURE'S MANY MASTERPIECES
The sight of something beautiful affects people in different ways. The initial feeling of seeing an entity that takes you by surprise and captivates you in an in-depth manner is an experience that some of us pursue for a lifetime. Exploring the unknown has been a mindset that individuals have been fixated on and committed to exploring. I respect the people that seek purpose and fulfillment abroad into the unknown. There is so much to learn and experience in this world with the diverse cultures that make this planet the whole societal infrastructure that it is. You step away from your comfort zone the moment you embark into the unknown. That's where questions can attain answers. Honest answers. Moments like this can place you in a vulnerable state of mind, expose you to scenarios of physical weakness, test your mental capacity to deal with the situation at hand. These are the times in our lives that need to be embraced, not turned away. By looking away from the adversity is looking away at a potential opportunity to find a deeper sense of yourself. The chance of seeing something beautiful inside or around you.
I’ve been to Jasper National Park over a dozen times while living in Alberta for the last eight years and you know what, it never gets old. The landscape changes throughout the drive away from Edmonton to the Rocky Mountains. The prairie fields start to chance, and the forests from the west become dense. You’ll drive through towns like Edson and Hinton which at that point you’ll be getting closer to the mountain landscape. I have a sweet spot when it comes to the Rocky Mountains. Formed anywhere between 80 to 55 million years ago where some plates slid underneath the western part of the North America plate, these natural occurrences, paired with the erosion from glaciers, have all contributed into the massive stone structures that are the Rocky Mountains. Stretching as far North as the Liard River in British Columbia to as far south as the Rio Grande in New Mexico, this chain of mountains span a distance of more than 4800 kilometers (3000 miles). The Rockies are a landscape photographer’s dream or any photographer for that matter. It has the various landscape that offers amazing color pallets and compositional opportunities that would keep someone entertained in all sorts of media formats for quite a long time. I’m leaving Edmonton after spending the last few days with close friends in central Alberta with the intention of spending time in the mountain town of Jasper in Jasper National Park. With a location like this, there’s no denying that I’ll be capturing many photos and having a great time.
Jasper National Park is located west of the town of Hinton. Being the largest National Park in the Rockies at 10, 878 square kilometers (4200 square miles), there are all sorts of different things to see and do. You have the mountain landscape surrounding you as you drive into the park. They'll most likely be animals like Elk and Moose and Big Horn Sheep being relaxing alongside the road on your travels. The town of Jasper has a population of 4432 but that changes depending on which season you're in. There was an article posted back in 2012 saying the population can grow as high as 30,000 people in and around the town. There’s good reason for that. You have the Jasper Skytram that's within a ten-minute drive from the town center. The cable car goes as high as 7200 feet and gives you a broad panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. Just north of town, you have Pyramid Lake. Getting its name from the Scottish Geologist James Hector back in 1859, the lake is foreshadowed by the Egyptian-shaped structure that is called Pyramid Mountain. Standing at 9,075 feet (2766 meters), the large entity makes a beautiful backdrop to the gorgeous clear emerald colored lake. Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake is located southeast of the town which offers astonishing views of waterfalls and bodies of water nestled into the mountain landscape. If you head south from the town of Jasper, you have the Athabasca River that flows alongside Highway 93, better known as the Icefield Parkway Highway. Take a slight detour off Highway 93 and onto Highway 93A, and you’ll get to locations like Mount Edith Cavell which is by far one my favorite spots in the park. Named after nurse Edith Cavell who was involved in the first World War helping Allied soldiers escape from Belgium to the Netherlands, but unfortunately later executed by the Germans, the location is breathtaking. You get to hike next to this mountain face that has glaciers that are melting into a waterfall alongside and into a beautiful bright green colored lake. Continue driving south from Mount Edith Cavell, and you’ll eventually see the Athabasca Falls. Another great photogenic area where you have this beautiful waterfall roaring over a layer of Quartzite stone and through limestone that's created unique shapes in the stone that you get to see at the bottom of the falls. At this point, you'll be near highway 93 which if you take it south from Athabasca Falls will eventually bring you to the Columbia Icefields. The largest Icefield in the Rocky Mountains, this has been a massive tourist attraction for many years. In recent years the tour has added the Icefield Skywalk which is glass surface walkway that's located 10 kilometers (6 miles) away from the Icefield and hangs off the side of a cliff with a 918 feet drop underneath. All of this and many other examples in this relatively small area of the Rocky Mountains is enough entertainment to keep me going got a while.
My first stop was going to be in Hinton. Located 81 kilometers North-East (50 miles) of the town Of Jasper and within the Athabasca River Valley, the population sits at around 9640. This location is tremendous for being so close to the Jasper National Park gate, and having a pretty sweet bicycle park that’s free to use is a bonus. I was going to spend the night at the KOA campground outside of the town. After setting my tent up, I watched rain clouds coming my way. I went for a bite to eat in town to get away from the rain but when I got back to my tent site, both myself and many campers that evening got the opportunity of looking at a gorgeous rainbow over the mountain landscape. With the sunset slowly descending behind the mountains, I went to bed with excitement pent up inside of me for the following day. The next morning I went for breakfast at one of the coffee shops, and after uploading my content for the day on my online social feeds, I made my way straight to the park gate. The drive into the park from the entrance to the town of Jasper is fantastic. You get to see the beautiful little bodies of water next to the highway with the massive stone structures sitting over top of them. One mountain, in particular, stands out every time that I drive into the park. A good friend of mine pointed me out this mountain that resembles a person’s face staring straight at the sky. You see this face particularly well in the morning when the sun is shining and casting shadows on the right areas of the mountain. Nature is one great artist. My first stop was going to be Pyramid Lake. I wanted to get some footage of the mountain bike trails that are around the area, and I knew just the place. Before Pyramid Lake, you have Patricia Lake. Not too far from there, you have a bike trail that goes into the woods. That trail eventually leads you to this fun downhill run that’s within my riding comfort level. Descending this trail is a blast, the only downside is the ride back up the hill to the parking lot where you leave your car. After getting a chance to film the bike run, I went for a short nap alongside the beach of Pyramid Lake. What’s great about this place is that there’s a spot you can rent all sorts of little boats like canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, and row boats. I decided I wanted more fun footage for my daily vlogs so I rented a kayak and went for a little stroll on the water. It was at this point that I realized how big Pyramid Mountain was. There’s one spot for tourists on the lake that’s called Pyramid Island which is a small island located on the lake that has accessibility by foot with a bridge. It offers a beautiful view of the mountain, but not as great as from a boat. It was peaceful to be on the water that day with the gorgeous weather and the small breeze that carried my kayak at a steady pace. I went to the campground that I was going to spend the night and with a rumbling stomach, I made my way to the town of Jasper. Beforehand I wanted to get some footage and photographs before the sun went down so I stopped at Old Fort Point to walk up the trail to get a view of the town and the surrounding landscape. I love coming up at this lookout point. It's away from the tourist traffic, and once in a while, you get to walk by some Long Horn Sheep. I eventually made my way down, and while I was walking down, I noticed someone was sitting by the trail. It’s clearly nothing out of the ordinary to see people on this trail, but for some reason, it seemed like I knew this person. As I was getting closer to the individual, I eventually realized it was one of my friends from the Maritimes that was visiting Alberta. We chatted for a bit, and I found out that some our friends we’re associated with were also in Jasper so I asked if I could come along. After having a great meal at one of the local restaurants, we toured around the town of Jasper and later said our farewells. Throughout this trip, my car became my mobile office for when I’d edit photos and videos that were being posted throughout my journey. With a picture and video ready to be uploaded the next day I closed my eyes and hoped to get another sunny day of exploring.
The next morning greeted me with the opposite of what I was expecting. The raindrop soundtrack I was getting off of my tent gave me the indication that this was going to be a long and wet day. The rain periodically stopped and then came back and then stopped. You might think that this would be tough conditions to shoot in, which in all honesty it can be, but the upside is the overcast gives out a more dramatic look to the mountains which is an effect I enjoy very much. With my raincoat on and an extra pair of socks, I was on my way to my first destination of the day, Mount Edith Cavell. The drive to the location is off Highway 93A on a twisty and slightly narrow road. After spending most of my time in the lower gears of my transmission in my car because of the uphill drive, I got to my destination. I was completely awestruck. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This was the type of landscape that I am looking for throughout this trip. You have this massive rock face that has ice sitting midway on the mountain and then on top. The ice that was midway was melting and creating a waterfall for the lake on the ground level. I fell in love with the location despite being wet already. There was an assortment of trails that you could take which were well kept and clean. I saw a trail on the other side of what would have been a river at one point in time and went for it. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed on this trail, but it apparently looked like it had been used many times before. The trail brought me to an amazing overview of the lake that created from the melting ice. I got the photographs and footage from that point of view and worked my way back down to the parking lot just to go back up another set of trails so I could get another view of this beautiful natural creation. When I got to one high angle, the sun started to break out, and the colors that came out of the sky were perfect. Crystal blue sky, white clouds slowly drifting away, and the sun was sitting high enough it wasn’t causing to much harsh light. What an excellent way to start my day. I sat down on a semi-dry rock and soaked in the area. The clouds began to roll back in so that became my cue to leave. I got to my car, changed into some dryer clothes, and made my way to my second destination, the Athabasca Falls. After a little drive south on Highway 93A, I got to a fairly tourist congested parking lot for the falls. I ended up parking on the side of the road and brought my gear bag with my camcorder in my hand. I got some footage of the falls from various angles, and I decided to make my way up the river. With the overcast fully settled I got to an area where the river was a little calmer so I could get close to the river to take some photographs. When I got to one area of the river I was fortunate enough to have little Inukshuks built alongside it so naturally those became my subjects for my photos. I felt like I got a good set of shots so I decided I’d do one more round and go into the areas that were heavily congested earlier in the day. I passed under the bridge that highway 93A is linked to and without warning I got surprised with a large amount of water falling onto me. There was a car that passed on the bridge at the same time that I was walking underneath it and the car must of hit a puddle of water which ended up falling on me, my camcorder and camera. I was choked. I quickly found an area where I could lay down my devices and dry them off as soon as possible. I know my Nikon D750 has a decent water tolerability, but my Panasonic camcorder with a Rodes Pro Mic on top was probably not fond of water. Everything was fine, and my gear was a little bit cleaner after that day.
After changing out of wet clothes for the second time, I decided that I would make one more stop before I head back to my next campsite for the night. I got on highway 93 and headed south towards what I thought was where Horseshoe Lake was located. I later realized after I had been driving for quite some time and was getting near to the Columbia Icefields that I was in fact very, very wrong. With that realization out of the way and an unintended visit to the Icefields, I made my way North towards Horseshoe Lake, which ended up being fairly close the Athabasca Falls. Lesson learned. Horseshoe Lake is another favorite place of mine that was recommended by a good friend. You walk into what doesn’t seem like a whole lot with a very shallow body of water, but as you make your way towards the lake, you start to notice the water is getting deeper and the color changes drastically. From what I’ve gathered from people who swim there say that some parts of the lake are very deep. One website mentioned about scuba divers coming here frequently because some areas of the lake can go as far as 300 feet in depth. I’m completely fine with being on the dry surface. With my final shots of the day completed, I decided it was time to find another campsite and call it a night. I did fail to mention that the weekend I was in Jasper was a long weekend, so there was plenty of people that were taking advantage of the free time and camping out in the mountains. That’s totally fine there’s nothing wrong with that. What became difficult was trying to get a campsite that you didn’t reserve in advance. After the second attempt of trying to find a vacant camping ground, I got directed to an overflow campsite about twenty minutes away. Arriving at the campground, I found a reasonable spot to set up camp. I got into my car to get my photo and video ready the next day. I was about to close my laptop, and without warning, the rain started to come down hard. Needless to say, I ended up staying in the car for a little longer. While I was watching the torrential rain fall on my windshield, I started thinking about everything that I had seen throughout the last couple of days and throughout this journey. I had the ability to spend a lot of time back home in the magnificent landscape that is the Maritimes. I spent time on the beautiful Islands of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. I made my way through the various rich and vibrant landscapes of New Brunswick and Quebec. I was blown away by the sheer size and wealth of beautiful forests and ocean-sized clear water lakes that Ontario has to offer. And finally being reintroduced into the stunning fields that exuberates a sense of energy and life that are the prairies. With all that beauty seen in the course of over a month, this was a beautiful way to start wrapping up this cross country trip with the tremendously stunning architectural work nature has produced in creating the Rocky Mountains. With the amazing lakes and forest and wide open spaces embedded into this area, it's easily one of my favorite places. With one last province to explore, it's going to be the most exciting region for me. I’ve waited a long time to do this, and I was thrilled to finally be heading towards “The Best Place On Earth,” British Columbia.