Breakthrough on The Icefields Parkway

Posted September 3, 2018 – Narrated by Carmen
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“Every breath of your life’s breaths
      is a jewel.
Every new atom
      is a guide towards God.” 

  —Farid un-Din Attar, The Conference of the Birds

We’ve seen fire and we’ve seen rain. A blessed reunion of the elements is reviving the customary balance of fresh air and sunshine.

And, already, the early fragrance of Autumn has us giddy with anticipation for our favorite season’s glorious entrance.

Yes, it’s shoulder season in Alberta – a perfect place and time to be living in Beauty!


We took precautions that last week in Jasper when health advisories estimated that – due to the fires – the accumulated effect of outdoor activity was equivalent to smoking nine cigarettes per day.

With Pico’s tiny lungs in mind, we sought refuge in the lowlands – taking quiet, languid strolls along lush ferned paths and wooded brooks beneath the dense oxygenated canopy.

True, the majestic views we sought remained hidden …

but in the deep forest sanctuary campground, rare beauty appeared right before our eyes …

On the smokiest days, we’d go downtown to dine at The Wicked Cup and hang out at the fabulous indoor pool, sauna and hot tub at the Jasper Aquatic Center.

The Drive

As we pulled out of Jasper, it rained – poured! But, from where we stand now, that’s all Bow River water under the bridge.

Within an hour of our stormy drive on The Icefields Parkway, the veil of smoke slid down revealing the towering Rockies.

A bit further up the road, the water turned a brighter shade of turquoise …

and we found an ideal, private pull-out for lunch and a walk in the rain …

Mercy, how to describe that 140-mile drive?! I’ll settle for breathtaking. Or, how about breathgiving?

We gasped often. Said, “Oh my God” frequently and meant it. Taking it slow and reverently, we stopped at every convenient pull-out … treasuring the moments.

Six hours after leaving Jasper, we pulled into our Lake Louise campsite where the ranger told us that all hikes are dog-friendly!

Lake Louise

Our campsite in Lake Louise

And, after hot showers, we treated ourselves to a brew and a bite at Bill’s.

Located in the Lake Louise Hostel

Home. Food. Shelter … these things give strength. But, there’s no place like the unpredictable, magnificent Canadian Rockies to imagine yourself with wings …

We took our time on Lake Louise, paddling for about three hours …

…so, at $110 per hour for canoe rentals, our inflatable kayaks saved us over $300 in rental fees! And, our portable table makes the set-up go lickety-split.

Moraine Lake

I’d heard people say that this place is “alive” but I was entirely unprepared for the maternal embrace of the Valley of Ten Peaks and the love they evoke – tender and ominous, emotional and scintillating.

Just before leaving, I thought to pause and give the lake greetings from my friend, Linda – and instantly, as if on cue, Moraine tossed up a confetti of rainbows! Absolute magic!

It’s Cold!

Here it is, Labour Day, and in the low-50’s, daytime – high 30’s at night. That’s a severe winter by San Diego standards. So, we’re cocooning in our silver nest.

To keep things cozy and warm, I bake fresh loaves in my sweet LeKue Breadmaker.

We’re burning propane 24-7 to keep the trailer warm, wearing four layers when we go outside …

Moraine Lake

And, we love it!

That’s a breakthrough! What’s more, if weather permits, we plan to stay in Alberta for another month.

Someday, in the early Fall or Spring, we hope to return for cross-country skiing lessons. Never before have we even considered such foolishness.

Maybe it’s the thin air, but this place energizes us. In fact, I think Jim’s going native.

Does Tommy Bahama make longjohns?

Bow River

Yesterday afternoon, we took our last walk on the Bow River Loop Trail to the village of Lake Louise for our ritual coffee …

… and walked back home to hitch up and prepare to pull out. This morning, Beauty and The Beast was on the move again…

Along the Icefields Parkway

But don’t imagine, even for a minute, that we’ve said goodbye.

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Happy Labour Day!

21 thoughts on “Breakthrough on The Icefields Parkway

  1. You were lucky at Lake Louise, when we were there two years ago there were so many people you could barely walk. Didn’t enjoy our visit but glad it worked out for you. We camped beside the Bow river outside of Calgary for three weeks. Enjoy reading your blog.

    1. Thank you for being with us, Larry! We went to Lake Louise twice – once at sunset and when we paddled – arriving at 6AM. The hotel serves a wonderful breakfast buffet that opens at 6AM – so we did that and then went back to the truck and prepared to paddle. It was truly lovely. It was never crowded, but we arrived the first day after a rain. I think many people left due the smoke. So, we got lucky.

      The weather in Banff today is stunning! Pefect, cool, bright and clear.

      We love Calgary and will visit as often as possible. We were even looking at those new 40+ condos that are going up everywhere. Very nice. The sales reps say it’s mostly American retirees buying them to escape summer heat. Smart marketing!

      Safe Travels!


  2. First time we drove the Icefields Parkway it was cool with low moving clouds and occasional mist and light rain, but not enough to prevent us from stopping many times in amazement along the way. The second time (last year) it was sunny, smoky and crowded in places. We were let down because we had so looked froward to driving through there again, but with the sun, warmth and smoke it just didn’t seem right, was a mismatch.

    Last year was the year of many fires in BC. We called it our sepia-toned vacation, but at least we didn’t lose our home as many did. Sadly, fires seem to be becoming more common in the Northwest in the latter half of Summer.

    1. Hey Mark! Yes, we sympathise for the many visitors we met who had to deal with the smoke or just go home. For most, it’s valuable vacation time lost. We’re fortunate that we can wait it out, but for many people it was mostly a loss during those very severely smoky two weeks in August. I think the worse is over. It’s very cool right now – below 50 degrees – and we’re preparing. BUT the lowest temperatures we’ve ever experienced so far was in Marathon, Florida last December. And our very first vacation as a couple (when we were in our 20’s) was in Lake Tahoe where we were snowed in and our flight was delayed for a week. Both of those events were more unexpected than the smoke here. But we feel Beauty and the Beast are our vacation climate insurance plan. If it’s unbearable or unsafe, we can always leave.

      Thank you for being with us, Mark. Safe Travels!


    1. Thank you for being with us! I highly recommend Shoulder Season! Though we have only experienced crowds a couple of times over the summer we’re expecting many post-season rewards here in The Rockies. In fact, today we noticed SALE! signs going up in many stores in Banff.

      Safe Travels!


  3. Glad to see the smoke is starting to clear up there. We left Glacier NP a few weeks ago under an umbrella of smoke from the Howe Ridge fire in the park. Seemed like a nuclear winter around Many Glacier the smoke was so heavy at times.

    Carmen has great kayak paddling form. We are enjoying our Eddyline kayaks. We put in on Lake McDonald, Bowman and Swiftcurrent lakes in Glacier NP and Diablo Lake in North Cascades. We traveled south to McCall, ID and put in on Payette Lake. We are now in Salt Lake City to visit our daughter. Air is getting clearer to more we travel south. We cancelled Crater Lake and Lassen Peak NPs due to smoke.

    Got the Ram water pump recall finally perfroformed in Washington and had to get new tires for the Airstream in SLC because my Michelins developed crackers in the side walls. Got 5 1/2 years out of them. Decided on Goodyear Endurence vs switching to 16” rims and new tires.

    1. Kelvin! SO great to hear from you two! Summer and Smoke … another epic fireseason would be behind us, but we’re heading back south along the coast and fire season extends well into November! At least we’ve escaped the heat.

      Wow! You’ve managed to paddle quite a bit this summer! If you’re ever in San Diego you should paddle in South Bay. You have to watch the tides though. That’s where we learned to paddle from Ernesto our instructor at the boathouse on the public beach near the Loew’s resort. He knows that bay as well as he knows his own kids. We should meet up there sometime! I’d love to try out your Eddyline. Those are lightweights right?

      Be well and safe and may your tires never blow!


      – Carmen

  4. Beautifully written, and such a beautiful place. Can’t wait to hear about the additional month and how the weather will be. Safe travels.

    1. Thank you, Katherine. Have you been here? We’d love suggestions about what to do. Today, we’re catching up on laundry and house cleaning. It’s sunny, clear and almost 50 degrees. Locals tell us that it’s a bit cool for this time of year. We’ve been dry camping for the last four weeks, so this is a real treat to have full-hookups! Yay!!!

      So happy to have you with us.


  5. Beautifully written and illustrated blog. Videos are wonderful too! We enjoy following your Airstream adventures and the fact that you’re so happy with your choice to live this way.

  6. Breathtaking photos, I love this post so much. That photo of Jim may get him the cover of Outdoor Living. Another account of your adventures leaving me wistfully musing, “Carmen take me away!” Just beautiful😘😘

  7. You’re killing me… wish I could get there also… maybe next year.
    Seriously, one of your best post.

  8. Wow – here we are in the Black Hills and Devil’s Tower while you’re making us long for Jasper even before we reach Yellowstone. Guess we’ll plan next summer in the Canadian Rockies-but leave before 9/1 as 30 degrees at night is a bit too cold for us thin blooded Floridians. Great times for all!!!!!!!

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