We set out at 10am to make the drive from Calgary to Valemount, a drive of 453 miles taking possibly 8/9 hours if we drove continually. But why would you want to drive this route continually? We’d planned a midway stop over in Kicking Horse above Golden, a young winter resort but as yet, still rather underdeveloped. In fact we had 2 nights here just to kick back and enjoy the mountains.
The scenery on the route just kept getting more and more spectacular and so a 3 hour drive soon looked like a 5 hour drive with photos and a 7 hour drive with a little lunch in Banff.
Leaving Calgary the land is relatively flat but after about an hour, as we approached the Bow Valley Wildland the scenery began to change with the land rising on either side of the road and then in front. The wooded areas were thickening beside the roads but the rising land in the distance, turning into mountains, soon towered above the trees. Then snow began to show on the peaks as the height increased. It was spectacular but as the journey continued it would just keep getting more stunning. We managed to get to Banff by late morning. Banff is a real tourist attraction with coach loads arriving to walk its shopping area. Nestle on a plain between numerous high peaks it is quite photo worthy with timber and stone building in the centre built to fit the landscape. But it is busy and we don’t really do busy unless we have to so, a walk up and down the main streets, lunch and we decided to hit the road again. Often nature is more than enough and that’s where we wanted to be.
At some point in life the worlds beauty become enough.Toni Morrison
From Banff the road continued to deliver view after view and more and more breath taking moments with snow capped mountains, turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls and running rivers. Oh, and more than a few trees. Photo stops. Long moments just absorbing the view and feeling the air, the sway of the trees, the rushing water and the sun on ones face. Then feeling better for it and earthed deep down inside. Peaceful.
In late afternoon we reached Golden where we shopped for a few supplies as Kicking Horse is a little remote. Then a few more miles, climbing up into the higher land to arrive at our lodge in the small community of Kicking Horse, a purpose build ski resort in the making. To our great delight there was a coffee shop, Kicking Horse Coffee, where we would visit the next morning to ensure the commencement of the very best kind of days.
We were to stay in Kicking Horse for 2 days to kick back. I don’t know about you but sometimes kicking back doesn’t come easy especially on a road trip when there’s another destination to see or that feeling that you have to achieve the most you can because you are on holiday. Well, the next day it rain, all day! And the sound of the rain on the windows, the ubiquitous cups of coffee, a good book…the atmosphere was soon chilled. Some would say we did nothing but I would say we really filled the day (oh, and there was music). The next day it rained on and off but we managed to walk around the resort, enjoy the air and sit on the veranda and watch eagles in flight. Another full day.
Then back on the road towards Valemount a trip of 266 miles. Back to Route 93 and off through more scenery. There were even more stops today as we absorbed the views. Midway through the morning we were surprised by a large black figure that moved from the side of the road. Braking we pulled over just in time to witness a bear and 2 cubs saunter across the Highway as if they owned it. Other vehicles pulled hard over and cameras appeared. This was not the first bear we had seen but it is always a delight to witness animals free in their natural habitat.
The road is built with numerous points to pull over as it is obviously appreciated that there are numerous people who will want to enjoy the beauty.
Later we pulled off the road and parked for a short walk to the foot of a glacier. Here we stood on the ice in our shorts as the sun shone down.
As we eventually approached Jasper, maybe 30 minutes out we pulled off the highway to visit the Athabasca Falls. Well worth a 30 minute detour to see the power of nature as the waters flowing down through the Jasper National Park crash over the falls. Then into Jasper in time for dinner and to put our watches forward be an hour as we had passed through a time zone!
Jasper is smaller than Banff but I would say it is prettier with fewer tourist, at least when we visited. Nicely laid out and views on all sides, why wouldn’t we visit? This is where our train ride had finished so we already had a feel for the town.
It was now 90 minutes to Valemount and a final push saw us arrive in the evening, ready for a sit down, a beer and the sharing of the memories and photos from the last 2 days. Sleep well guys.