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Brian Oh: {food, travel, photo}

Canada (ii): Highway Giants

I headed north in the morning to outrun the rain. Emerging from the clouds on the Icefields Parkway I found myself surrounded on either side by towering peaks and more glacial lakes glimmering in the early morning sun. The Icefields Parkway is rightfully considered one of the most scenic drives in the world. I stopped almost every 15 minutes to step out of the car into the crisp, mountain air to just stand at the feet of geologic monoliths.

About an hour up from Lake Louise was Bow Summit. A short and easy trail up to a viewing platform over Peyto Lake. Bare faced rock reaching up above the tree line dotted with fat, low hanging clouds resembling sinking dirigibles rising up to frame another pristine aquamarine lake and a valley of evergreens. Breathtaking is an adjective I've used before, but none so aptly as when I was standing there. 

Further north, just before reaching the divide between Banff and Jasper National Parks, I pulled over to a trailhead by the highway. Parker Ridge is a few miles up a seemingly featureless plateau. Switchbacks through a brief section of alpine foliage and then just a clearing for the last mile or so. At the top is a broad, flat headland that was backdropped by a thick veil of mist. As I approached the edge, the last wisps of cloud floated by and revealed a dramatic glacier hewn gorge in front of me. It's trails like this that make this place so satisfying. Short hikes with minimal effort yield such spectacular rewards. I sat in the grass and ate a granola bar while I watched the glacier drift in and out of view behind the swift clouds. 

Nearby was a mound of loose shale framed in front of mountains that looked like it would make for an interesting photograph. In order to get the kind of perspective and depth of field I wanted, I set my camera up on a tripod about 20m away and zoomed at 70mm.  I put it on a timer and hit the shutter. Bear in mind, that means that in 10 seconds, I have to run 20m and up a hill of loose shale (which is sharp) and stand in frame. It took several tries to actually get myself in the shot, including one attempt where I almost slipped off the other side down a very steep slope. Thankfully no one was around to see my ridiculous scrambling. 

For the rest of the afternoon, I made my way slowly toward the town of Jasper as I meandered the different sights along the Icefields Parkway. Once there, my first stop was the gondola to a high peak with another dramatic view of mountain ranges and the town of Jasper below. It felt almost like cheating to get so high without actually hiking. The view was also not as dramatic being so far removed from the other formations.

Afterward, I made the drive to the nearby Maligne Lake for one of the most pleasant sunsets of my life.