Ten days in the Canadian Rockies, one less line on a family’s bucket list.
Our readers share tales of their ramblings around the world.
Who: Brittany Sperbeck (the author); her parents, David and Brenda Sperbeck; and her sister, Cara Sperbeck, all of Gaithersburg, Md.
Where, when, why: Traveling approximately 2,500 miles from the District, my family and I explored the vast peaks and gorgeous lakes of the Canadian Rockies for 10 days. From the unique, turquoise-colored Lake Louise, to Banff and Jasper national parks, the Canadian Rockies have been on my family’s bucket list for years. In August, we finally crossed it off as we embarked on an adventure that led us to discover Mother Nature’s amazing gifts, including deep canyons and high mountains, cold glaciers and hot springs.
Highlights and high points: At an elevation of 7,486 feet, Sulphur Mountain was the literal high point of our vacation. As we soared above the clouds in the Banff Gondola, which carried us to the top of the mountain, we were greeted with spectacular panoramic views that made us feel like we were stepping into a postcard. Following the boardwalk to the peak, we got a bird’s-eye view of a few places we had visited up close, including the beautiful Bow River, the renowned, palace-like Fairmont Banff Springs hotel and the quaint town of Banff.
Another high point was Takakkaw Falls, Canada’s thirdhighest waterfall. The word takakkaw means “it is magnificent” in the Cree language, and that pretty much sums up the experience of visiting this famous site, where we managed to see and stand under a double rainbow. However, I would recommend bringing an umbrella, as we got quite wet from the waterfall’s mist!
Cultural connection or disconnect: It only got up to 27 degrees while we were there. Brrrr!! Just kidding! It was 27 degrees, but in Celsius, which means it was about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Since our neighbors to the north use the metric system, it was difficult at times to know the exact temperature or even how fast we were driving. All of the hiking trails were labeled in kilometers, so we had to use our basic knowledge of conversion and math to figure out trail lengths. Also, because the currency is different, it was a nice surprise to figure out that my $10 bag of maple-flavored coffee was actually just $7 in U.S. currency.
Before leaving, we also had the chance to try some Canadian cuisine, including the country’s most famous dish, poutine. This tasty side consists of french fries topped with cheese curds and light brown gravy. It tasted just like it sounds — delicious! We also couldn’t leave Canada without trying Tim Hortons, a Canadian chain that is famous for its scrumptious doughnuts and coffee.
Biggest laugh or cry: During an eight-hour scenic drive from Jasper to Banff on the famous Icefields Parkway, we took a detour to see the ancient Athabasca Glacier and the Glacier Skywalk. Not only did we get to ride in a massive vehicle with huge tires up to the glacier, we also got to walk on this enormous, 1,200-foot-thick piece of ice. After walking on the glacier, we faced our fears and walked onto the Glacier Skywalk, where all that separated us from a 918-foot drop was a piece of glass. I will never forget the feeling of sheer terror, combined with absolute amazement and a sprinkle of wonder, that we experienced with the waterfalls and valleys below us and the clouds right above us.
How unexpected: It was definitely wedding season in the Canadian Rockies: We were able to witness two elopements, a bride rushing to her wedding and two wedding parties posing for pictures with the famous reflecting Vermilion Lakes as a backdrop.
Fondest memento or memory: My family and I left Canada with a new favorite color: the rich, deep blue of Moraine Lake. As in some of the other lakes we visited (among them Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, Peyto Lake and Maligne Lake), the unbelievable blue is caused by “rock silt” that comes from melting glaciers that run into the lakes. The silt then reflects both blue and green colors. Some may say this is just simple physics, but I think it’s magical, just like all of the peaks and valleys we saw during our trip.
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The Sperbeck family, from left, Cara, Brenda, David and Brittany, are treated to a panoramic view after riding the Banff Gondola to the top of the 7,486-foot Sulphur Mountain in Alberta.