Leaving the alpine village of Sun Peaks, British Columbia, Canada, our APT tour director Russ immediately spots a bear cub on the side of the road. It scurries into the trees and we are all elated at how well the day is starting off.
Driving to Jasper and the Canadian Rocky Mountains
We are travelling along the Yellowhead Highway today on our way to Jasper, Alberta. Not only are we heading into a new Canadian province; we are also about to get our first taste of the famous Rocky Mountains. Stretching more than 3,000 miles from northern B.C. all the way down to New Mexico in the USA, the ‘Rockies’ are world famous for their dramatic valleys, peaks and glaciers. Here, the Rocky Mountains are protected by national parks and afford visitors some of the most incredible natural adventures to be found, such as skiing, hiking, mountaineering and mountain biking. They are also home to the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains and in all Canada, Mt Robson at 3,954 metres.
We are told that Mt Robson can be hard to spot. Difficult to believe when it is almost 4,000 metres high. However it is often shrouded in cloud and fog so as we have been approaching the lookout spot, increasingly aware of the mountain peaks that are beginning to surround us, we are anxiously craning our necks to see if she is visible.
Luckily for us, it is a beautiful day and there she is, in all her glory. Completely free of cloud and framed by a blue sky and the spectacular autumn colours of the forests, Mt Robson is a sight to behold. Getting out for a better look, we are entertained by Russ and his harmonica, the perfect background music to this wild and beautiful setting and welcome to the Rocky Mountains!
Back on the road, the peaks are all around us now. Snow capped and sculpted by water and glaciers, they sit proudly on either side of the highway with spectacular rivers and lakes at their feet. Every corner you turn is another postcard view and we are continuously asking our cameraman Gary to film yet another shot.
Arriving into Jasper, we are enchanted by this small and friendly town. Quaint and perfectly designed to sit harmoniously in its natural landscape, Jasper is full of timber and stone buildings, parks, historical monuments and views of the surrounding landscapes everywhere you look. It is also a busy little town, with locals and visitors all enjoying the sunny day, cafés and shops.
People come here for a relaxed Rocky Mountains experience, a touch of discovery, and a lot of adventure! Just another one to be had around these parts is jumping in the sidecar of a Harley Davidson! We meet Ted, who is going to be taking Clint for a spin, and it is immediately obvious how friendly the locals are.
Donning his motorcycle leathers and jumping into the sidecar, Clint and Ted take off with the loud roar only a Harley is capable of. After a quick zip around town, they take the road out towards the Rocky Mountains and are soon winding their way up into Jasper National Park. Whizzing past road signs warning of bears and elk, it is clear this is an adrenalin rush – Clint is letting out whoops of delights as the motorbike guns its way up the foothills of the surrounding mountains. The trees on either side of us are in full autumn glory, and, around another bend, Medicine Lake comes into view. And what a view it is! It is definitely worthy of a stop and, getting out, we learn that this might look like a normal mountain lake, but, in fact, isn’t.
The beautiful blue lake, surrounded by mountains, is a glacial fed lake – filled each year with the waters melting off the nearby glaciers. In autumn and winter, though, the water disappears. But unlike other lakes, where there is a drainage channel, there is none here. The water actually drains through sinkholes in the bottom of the lake – like the plughole of a giant bath. It then streams through a cave system, surfacing again in Maligne Canyon 16 kilometres downstream. This is unique and makes it one of the largest sinking rivers in the Western Hemisphere.
Taking the Harleys around the lake, we see more of this spectacular sight and also stop to get to know Ted a little better. Ted has been living in these parts for many years and loves the community, safety and the privilege of having landscapes like this in his backyard. It really is a natural wonderland, and if further proof was needed, Ted drops Clint off at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, home for the night and in a unique natural paradise of its own.
The lodge is set in acres of natural wilderness and is completely in synergy with its surroundings. Luxury log cabins surround one edge of a lake, and Canada’s #1 golf course sits along another. The luxury inside is magnificent and faithful to a true wilderness lodge experience. And after a relaxing beer by the lake, watching the sun set on the national park around us, you can’t help but thank your lucky stars you got to experience this.