Putting years of effort in dreaming about the Icefield Parkways finally resulted in a visit to this incredible scenic road! At dawn, coffee was consumed in Lake Louise and with the first light, we went north. The rental car was packed with food, drinks, outdoor stuff, cameras and empty memory cards. The road through the valley of the Bow River and along the Athabasca River was so beautiful. Leaning over the dashboard of the car with our noses fixed to the windshield made driving uneasy, but for sure nothing was missed of this stretch of rocking beauty. But it was cold. Very cold outside!
Driving many miles through the unscathed Canada makes you often say ‘Wow!’ or ‘Awesome!’ And it actually makes you very thirsty after a while. I asked my map-reading best driver’s mate to have a zip of water to have some soothing relief in my throat. Cycling bottles are very handy when you’re on the road. Such a bottle has a very convenient small opening in the middle of the lid so you don’t have to unscrew the whole lid when cycling. You can easily take a zip without losing water or time in the process. My co-pilot saw I was very thirsty, and unscrewed the entire lid of the bottle, without me noticing this little detail. Being thirsty and driving at the same time, I took the bottle and a deep breath, and a zip of water. I emptied half the content on my shirt, mainly collecting all the fluid into my crotch before comprehending the unusual extra wide opening of the bottle… Being wet is acceptable when it’s hot outside, but it was freezing and the water which had been in the trunk was seriously cold. We also had scheduled two small hikes between Lake Louise and Jasper. It was fun but only for one of us. The only thing my best friend was doing was laughing as loud as she could and she couldn’t stop so after a while I overcame the cold shock and began laughing too…
We went out of the car along the road halfway the Icefield Parkways for having a fresh nose. The only thing I felt was a very fresh and frozen underpants. Walking near the Columbia Icefield, I looked like a small outdoor boy with a stiff diaper reaching the impressive tongue of the Athabasca Glacier. Nothing was left of my outdoor courage and the small piece of manhood I was carrying with me. Further north, my igloo underpants was a bit less unnerving reaching the whimsical frozen world of the Athabasca Falls as a second stop. A local beer accompanied with a vast bowl of nachos put us back at ease in Jasper!
True love never grows old! Finishing the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route few years ago in Banff, located in the Canadian Rockies, left deep memories and true love for this part of the world on the border of Alberta and British Columbia. Leaving Amsterdam around lunchtime in December sets the plane more or less on the line between dusk and dawn. That sounds weird but it is kind of true. From mainland Europe to southwestern Canada, the plane flies in such a way that the dusk phase in Europe transits to the dawn phase in North America. The colors belonging to this sunset were splendidly spread across the horizon in a very very broad way. Incredible lights! It seemed so unreal! The light you would almost expect in a fairy tale. This surreal view was completed by the fantastic fjords of the coast of Greenland fully covered in X-mas’ whites and colds. This memory will be floating in my mind for a very long time. Continuing over Canada, the landscape of Baffin Island was really fictional, while in the meantime, dawn was moving gently into daylight before arriving in Calgary.
After touching the holy Calgarian ground, life went back to what it should be! The first impressions of the Canadian Rockies in the winter were so perfect. Snowshoeing to the Chester Lake in the Spray Valley, close to Canmore, was of absolute beauty. When entering the parking lot of the trailhead, no one was there except one big female moose. Somehow this animal of scary proportions decided to have her salt lick on the rental car so within few minutes she approached the car and licked it pretty clean! Big female nature! On the same day, the Canadian wildlife stroke again with the amazing species called the mountain goat. Being from Europe, we are used to seeing mountain goats having the size of a domestic goat. But when encountering, in not such a feel-safe distance, this huge white animal trudging in the snow, the first reaction was ‘ARE THERE POLAR BEARS IN ALBERTA?’ Knowing perfectly that it didn’t make sense, this creature nevertheless dominated the whole hike until Google finally gave the answer. After this day of wildlife, it was time for some cross country skiing on the nicely groomed lanes at the Canmore Nordic Centre, including the 1988 Olympic cross country track! Personal records were set! The views around Canmore and Banff were incredibly awesome! It was a very intense visual pleasure to be traveling around here! Time to go further north!
Two weeks were spent in the white French Alps when time changed from 2013 to 2014. This change of year was spent with friends, all adoring sports and a sheer load of fresh air! Les Deux Alpes saw our snowboards on- and off-pistes. What a great material snow can be! We had our camp based in the smallest apartment ever to be found in this mountain village. Cosy but smelly as only guys were around! The first couple of days, a blue sky accompanied us finding the best off-piste trip we could dream of. Extraordinary feelings came to us when cutting these virgin snow fields with our own tracks! It made decent memory! Few homemade movies were compiled showing grown-up kids having fun in the outdoors! You can find the videos on my Facebook page. Mesmerizing beauty!
After being exhausted in the grand Parc National des Écrins (Les Deux Alpes), the mountain range of Belledone was next! Snowshoe walking and again a bit of snowboarding were on the agenda. The ‘Espace Nordique du Barioz’ was extensively flattened by three enthusiastic female mountain goats (two of them you can find below!) and me. Starting the journey at the Refuge du Crêt du Poulet, close to Allevard, a circle was made with majestic views on the Belledone and the Chartreuse. Highly enjoyable for the eyes!