“Oh, sh–!” “Seriously?”: My Articulate Expression of Awe Upon Seeing the Canadian Rockies Between Lake Louise and Jasper

I really don’t swear that often. My friends would tell you, until I got divorced (the first time), they were shocked anytime they heard me say “damn.” I hate to admit, I do swear sometimes now. At bad drivers, mean people and injustices. I’m not proud of it, but there it is.

Yesterday and today, I found myself swearing at something that is NOT bad. No, it is very, very good. At the age of 54, I’ve seen a lot, and it’s tough to find something that takes my breath away…but God or somebody got the job done, and I didn’t have any other way to express myself.

Panoramic of glacial lake along Alberta's Icefields Parkway

From south to north along Canada’s Icefields Parkway–a big bite of the mountains my eyes gulped down between Lake Louise and Jasper. Wow. Just…wow.


I departed from Lake Louise, Alberta, about 5:00 p.m. yesterday and began driving northish toward Jasper on Highway 93, which turns into the Icefields Parkway. As dusk snuck up on the world, I realized I mostly had the highway to myself. True, the tourist rushes are waning as the summer season comes to an end, but by early evening I assume those who linger in this beautiful place are tucked in for supper and bed soon after.

Imagine this: You are loving the grandeur of the mountains, and you’ve almost gotten jaded to the height of the Rockies around Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta, and Field and Golden, British Columbia. You’ve been here about three weeks, and you’re feeling almost like a local. They know your name at the restaurant where you go to get Internet. So, you leave town for more of the Rockies, almost feeling a bit bored. (I know, I know!)

Then suddenly, in the dramatic long-shadowed early hours of evening, you come around a curve in the road and there is a mountain that looks about twice as high as any you’ve seen—and you’ve seen some high ones in the last few weeks. Not only that, the golden colors of dusk bounce off of the leaves of bush-style willows and aquamarine waters of impossibly beautiful lakes—and it blinds you with beauty. It’s like a human being created it for a Disneyland ride. Only, it’s so far beyond any human ability to create, it ties your tongue. And the only thing that will come out is “Oh, sh–!” And I’m a writer.

Canadian Rockies unknown mountains in Alberta, Canada, from Lake Louise to Jasper

I count six or seven layers of beauty here: willow bush, meadow, near forest, far forest, near mountains, middle mountains and far mountains. Deep and wide!

I dawdled at Bow Lake in the picnic area…

Bow Lake picnic area along Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies from Lake Louise to Jasper

The Bow Lake picnic area is accessed from an almost hidden road extending south off of a Icefields Parkway turnoff. It was clean, well organized…and BEAUTIFUL! And I was the only person there. Ahhhh….

Mountain peak across Bow Lake just off of the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

A view of the lake from the turnout. The glacial water is a fairytale aquamarine blue due to “stone flour” created by the movement of glaciers. The dust is so fine, it hovers in the water and reflects the light just right to produce this stunning blue.

Fall colors at Bow River picnic area off of the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, just north of Lake Louise

I’m beginning to see signs of fall…a little color here, a little color there. This deep red plant was standing guard at the beginning of the path to a picnic table. Bow River picnic area, Banff National Park.

I spent a little time by Num-Ti-Jah Lodge (below…looks like it’s from a fairy tale), then packed it in before it got so dark the boogy man would be about. A sign at the place I parked said it was “Campground Overflow,” so I’m not sure how to tell you where it is, except that it’s a few miles north past Num-Ti-Jah (a Stoney Plain Indian word for the pine marten, a small animal similar to a sable).

By Bow Lake and north of Lake Louise - Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, Banff National Park

Num-Ti-Jah Lodge was built by one of the most colorful characters in the history of the Canadian Rockies: Jimmy Simpson, a legendary outfitter (and his wife). 🙂

As I pulled into a nearly empty campground except for a lineup of six RVs, I realized the place was surrounded by mountains. No matter which pop-up window shade in my Jeep-bed  I peeked around in the morning, I would see a mountain. And not just any mountain. A Canadian Rockies mountain.

It was raining—a light, soothing rain to suit a log fire in a stone fireplace. As golden dusk filtered away almost unnoticed, a mysterious world of grey remained, accented by wispy clouds skimming the tops of some rocky peaks and engulfing others. It was getting chilly. 

My car temperature gauge said 55 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 13 degrees Celsius). I turned off the car and just sat, staring. Finally realizing it would not get totally dark because the moon was lighting up the smoky sky, I called it a night, slipped into my merino Icebreaker woolies and lay down on my 5-lb. 3” Therm-a-Rest  sissy backpacker mattress.

In the morning I hit the road, on my way to the Glacier Adventure, a bus ride onto the Athabasca Glacier (another blog topic). So…I thought I had seen it all, but no. For the rest of the day, until I pulled into Jasper, Alberta, at about 3:20 p.m., I was regularly and increasingly blown away by the mountains, lakes, waterfalls—and even the flora. I didn’t see any fauna, but I understand mountain goats make regular appearances.

IMG_2651[1]  IMG_2647[1]

Every time I came around a corner I found myself swearing. It jolted me. But I didn’t know what else to say. If you haven’t seen them, you will not believe the size and magnificence of these mountains. I know, it sounds trite. But if it makes me swear, it has to be something to see. I’m telling you, these mountains will not only take your breath away—if you are sentimental at all, they will make you cry. Yes, okay, I did. How could I be so lucky to see such a miracle? How could such a thing exist? (Of course, I’m from the flatlands of Nebraska, so you have to give me a break.)

Honestly, when I approached the Endless Chain, second longest unbroken chain of mountains in the world, according to the Glacier Adventure bus driver, I felt like a small mammal witnessing the earth-altering slide of behemoth tectonic plates. You can see the plates right there. And then there’s a place where you can see plates in the mountains on both sides, and you realize you are running along a trough between them like an armored red Jeep-species rodent. The crazy thing is, you are not insignificant. You get the feeling you are important, and the Endless Chain has been waiting for you to come here.

The Endless Chain, welcoming me to Canada…

Banff National Park, Icefields Parkway, The Endless Chain of Mountains

It’s easy to see where the Endless Chain mountain range begins: the rock is a distinctive rose color. Located toward the north end of the Icefields Parkway (after the Athabasca Glacier). Hello, Endless Chain. I’m happy to see you, too.

Needless to say, now that I sit in the Whistle Stop bar and grill in Jasper, I feel I have been humbled today. I also have been lifted up. You’re going to think I’m crazy, but  feel as though there is more to me today than there was before I made the drive between Lake Louise and Jasper. Maybe I’ve been lifted up so far as to not need to swear next time I am awed by a rocky mountain. Ok…I doubt it. The swearing seemed complete appropriate…but you get the idea.


1 Comment

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One response to ““Oh, sh–!” “Seriously?”: My Articulate Expression of Awe Upon Seeing the Canadian Rockies Between Lake Louise and Jasper

  1. Great description of what sounds like heaven on earth.

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