Visiting the Canadain Rockies
By: Elaine and Hank Levy
Leaving Num Ti-Jah Lodge, we headed for the Athabasca Glacier on the Columbia Icefield, one of the highlights of our trip. The Icefield just celebrated the 100th anniversary of its discovery by British mountaineers Herman Wooley and Norman Collie. Brewster Tours and Transportation has lead groups to the Icefields since 1969 when 34 people were in the first group. Now over 500,000 people per summer season are brought onto the ice. The unique Snocoaches that transport the visitors to the glaciers are awesome vehicles and Brewster owns 19 out of 20 in existence and uses them exclusively at the Columbia Icefield (the 20th is used in Antartica). The only way to describe the feeling of walking on a glacier, drinking the crystal clear water and marveling at its very existence is to say simply….wow! Where we stood, the ice was over 1,000 feet in depth, approximately 3 miles long by ¾ of a mile wide, and represented only 2% of the entire Icefield. It has been here since at least the last ice age and the entire tour is an educational experience not to be missed. Brewster, a company that has been guiding visitors to the Rockies for over 100 years, has built and runs the Icefield Centre which offers interpretive displays, an information center, dining room, overnight accommodations, gift store, and, of course, houses the base of operations for the Snocoach Tours to the glacier. For more information, call (403) 762-6735, or check their website at www.brewster.co
From the Icefields, we headed north to Jasper. The scenic highway drive, with frequent viewing areas, was a pleasure. In Jasper and its environs, we felt more like we were out in the wilderness. Wild animals were more easily seen. The town site was not as commercial as Banff and yet there were enough shops and restaurants to satisfy anyone wishing to stroll around town.
Jasper National Park offers many spectacular sights. On the "not to be missed list" is a trip to Maligne Lake. If you want to take only one motorized lake tour, this is it. Maligne Lake is 14 miles long, and the boat trip took 1.5 hours with a ten minute stopover at Spirit Island, the most photographed spot in the Canadian Rockies (after Lake Louise). It is mostly a glacier fed lake at over 1 mile in elevation with beautiful green water. The guides are knowledgeable and very friendly. Most American tourists come from New York, California, Florida and Texas and many others from Great Britain, Taiwan and Japan. More Israelis have been coming than in past years. We met several couples from Ramat Gan who were overwhelmed by the beauty of the Rockies. At $31 per adult, and $15.50 per child, this was the most scenic and pleasurable boat cruise available in the area.
Maligne Lake also is the headquarters for river rafting (for more experienced groups), kayaking, fishing, rowing, horseback riding or hiking. If a guided interpretive hike is desired, it must be booked in advance.
One of the most memorable drives was to Mount Edith Cavell, the Cavell glacier and its ice-berg dotted lake. In Jasper, we spotted a black bear, mountain goats, and, of course, elk and deer. It is always exciting to see wild animals; however, sometimes visitors forget that these cute furry animals are, in fact, dangerous. It was incredible to see a father stop his camper and take his two young daughters closer to the bear to get a better camera shot. Fortunately, a ranger ordered them back to their camper.
We also met some religious Jews from the New York City area, and asked how they were managing with food. They said that a combination of food from home, fresh fish and eggs from the area, and bringing their own pans from home and purchasing other supplies from IGA Market in addition to finding OU, OK and Canadian equivalent approved foods, enabled them to have their meals with no problem.
Canmore was our next stop on the itinerary. There we took an interpretive float trip on the Bow River to observe Beaver habitat and to learn more about the fish, birds and other animals inhabiting the area. The Canadian Rockies Rafting Co. (403) 678-6535 provides experienced and friendly guides for these activities. Whitewater rafting is also offered for the more adventurous.
We also hiked to Grassi Lakes. It is 1000 feet higher than the starting point, but take your time and you will be rewarded by the beauty of two pristine green/blue lakes, and a gushing waterfall. You may also see people rock climbing or caving in the area.
For those desiring a more adventurous activity, there are several companies conducting four to five hour tours on all terrain vehicles with excellent guides. This could well be one of the highlights of your visit. Ultimate Offroad Adventures at (403) 762-9457 offers these types of tours.
In Canmore, we stayed at the brand new Four Points Sheraton Hotel (403) 220-1811. We were impressed with the accommodations and the friendly service. In fact, on the day that we arrived for "breakfast" at noon, the chef not only agreed to allow us to choose a selection from the breakfast menu, but insisted on preparing one of the more elaborate breakfast dishes that he said was his specialty.
The Canadian Rockies provides all the essentials for a special vacation. The sights are spectacular, the people are hospitable, and there is no shortage of interesting things to see and do. Americans can also take advantage of the favorable exchange rate, receiving approximately 40% more for the American dollar than its Canadian equivalent. This results in excellent bargains as virtually everything is discounted. The only thing that is not discounted is the enjoyment!
During the summer season, the entire area is awash with tourists so early reservations are recommended. Choices range from the post Canadian Pacific properties such as Banff Springs Hotel, Chateau Lake Louise and the Jasper Park Lodge to rustic cabins and everything in between. Here are some worth of consideration:
The Banff Park Lodge is a full service, luxury hotel and conference center in the downtown area. Rooms are approximately $150 to $200 for a room with two queen size beds to a lovely one bedroom suite. Toll Free number is: (800) 661-9266.
If you prefer a less formal setting than the Chateau Lake Louise, an excellent choice is the Paradise Bungalows. Our two room suite had cooking accommodations, a fireplace and terrace with a view. This delightful property is spotless and rates range from
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