Friday, September 24, 2010

Lake Louise to Jasper

Bow Mountain Summit
This was the first time we’d seen Lake Louise in all it’s beauty, when we visited last year it was completely frozen over and there was about 3 inches of snow lying too. If I’m being completely honest, although the lake looked beautiful in today’s bright sunshine, I preferred it in its winter setting.

Unable to visit Lake Moraine on our previous visit last year, the road was closed due to snow, we finally got to see this spectacular lake, some say more beautiful than Louise but personally I think not! The 15km drive to Moraine was stunning and we managed a mammal first for Canada while stopping for photographs in the form of Pika. This intriguing little mammal looks more like a miniature guinea pig with big ears and can only be found high in the alpine, usually amidst boulder strewn fields and slopes. The birding today was slightly disappointing, the only species we could muster was Gray Jay, Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junko, Yellow-rumped Warbler and of course the ever present Raven, but today was really more of a sightseeing tour.

The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper is by far the longest, completing 237km passing the Saskatchewan River Crossing and on into Jasper National Park at the Columbian Ice Fields. The weather across this section can change in an instant but luckily only a few snow flurries hindered us on our way.

Cedar Waxwing
During the journey we stopped at Bow Summit (pictured top left) and took the short walk to the top, ending up around 7,000ft. Bow Summit is the height of land between the Bow River system, flowing southeast to Banff, and the Mistaya River flowing northwest. The view was simply awesome and is of a glacial-fed and brilliantly turquoise Peyto Lake. I was also delighted to make contact with a large flock of around 100 Cedar Waxwing swirling from tree to tree and showing beautifully in the bright sunshine, could this get any better!!

We stopped for lunch overlooking the Saskatchewan River and encountered our first Golden Eagle of this visit as it glided majestically over the top of the RV giving some stunning views before moving off down river.

There are many small lakes on route to Jasper and each one was scrutinised but produced surprisingly little in numbers. Lesser Scaup, Blue-winged Teal and Common Loon were the only bird species of note. Other notables were Elk, Mountain Goat, Red Squirrel a plenty and Mule Deer.

Jasper is our furthest point north and we now turn southwest and begin to descend on route to Valemount where we hope to stop tonight.