Day 36: My Favorite Highway. Again.
I’ve now ridden the Icefields Parkway in Alberta five times. Once with Marilyn, twice last year coming and going and twice this year coming and going. It never gets old. The craggy, snow-covered peaks, the massive ever-changing glaciers, the solid rock faces rising thousands of feet at 45 degree angles, the teal colored glacier-fed lakes and rivers, the unmistakable sweet fragrance of the lush spruce and pine trees.
I wish I could describe the awe-inspiring, breath-taking, soul-satisfying view from the Ice Fields Parkway adequately, but I can’t. Maybe a Nobel Laureate poet can. I wish the pictures I take could do it justice, but they can’t. Perhaps the world’s best professional nature photographers can capture a brief moment and a small portion of it’s incredible beauty. How can anyone fully capture in a few paragraphs or a few pixels what it took hundreds of millions of years to build, to sculpt, to paint with a palette only nature possesses? My advice? Just go there. Drive it slowly. See it for yourself. Stop often on the many pullouts to breathe deeply and hope some of its majesty goes home with you.
We stopped first today at the Mt. Robson Visitor Center, along with teeming busloads of nattering tourists, but the view of the mountain was obscured by clouds as it usually is, so we explored exhibits related to climbing the mountain, building the Yellowhead Highway, and the flora and fauna of the area. In the process of going through the visitor center I finally got a shot of a moose with a nice set of antlers. I’m afraid it’s the best I’ll do for moose this trip.
In the past when I’ve been on the Yellowhead Highway and the Icefields Parkway, I’ve seen an abundance of wildlife. But today not so much as a scraggly goat or a mangy caribou. After we left the Parkway and headed southwest on the final leg of today’s journey to Radium Hot Springs, we did, once again, see a black bear briefly standing on its hind legs next to the road looking curiously at passing traffic before dropping to all fours and lumbering downhill into the bushes and non-tourist tranquility.
No day on the road, it seems, is complete without a stop for road construction, but at least today’s stop had the advantage of a great 360 degree view of mountains all around. I even spied a raptor of some sort perched high on a leafless tree several hundred yards away. Extending my camera lens to its fullest length and trying to hold it still, I shot what I think is a Cooper’s Hawk, though I wouldn’t swear to it. If there are any ornithologists out there who would like to correct me, please feel free.
The traffic stop at the construction site was extended for about 15 minutes while workers maneuvered a huge yellow Caterpillar excavator onto an equally huge 18 wheeler for transport to another location. The behemoth Cat crawled and creaked its way up the truck’s ramps and was finally situated and tied down for its trip to who knows where. But not before nearly 100 cars and RVs full of tourists were nose to tail on the road in both directions waiting for their trips to resume to who knows where.
Tomorrow is our last day in Canada, with its Loonies and Toonies, liters and meters, and lots of memorable folks. It’s the last day in Canada for this trip but not the last time I’ll return to Maple Leaf country. The draw is too powerful. I’m still dreaming of a cross-Canada motorcycle ride from Newfoundland to Vancouver at some point. And maybe someday I’ll ride to the Northwest Territory, one of two Canadian territories I haven’t seen yet. Although I’ve been to all ten Canadian Provinces and one Territory, there’s much of this welcoming country I haven’t seen and much that I’ve seen and want to see again.
I think Mark has also developed a fondness for Canada country and Canadians and I don’t doubt that he’ll make an effort to return someday, too. But for now, like me, he’ll be glad to return to the land of the Stars and Stripes.