Alberta, Canada travel series: snow and ice (and a rest stop)

Banff National Park is located within the mountain range east of Calgary in the Alberta province of Canada.  It is extremely popular that a few million people visit it each year and has contributed immensely to the economy.  The history of the park goes back to the 1800’s and it has gone through a lot of changes since then.  We will be heading to the mountain range of the park.

We were awake and ready before the break of dawn.  I can sense that Che’ was a bit worried with the long drive but little did he know that I was actually excited if he would allow me to drive his truck!  I was aware that mountain winter condition here is totally different from back home and I was actually looking forward to some real winter driving experience!

Apple Maps. Calgary to Banff.

The darkness of dawn gave way to streaks of light across the highway.  The fall foliage became illuminated and splashes of green, yellow, orange, and red can be seen on both sides of the road.  The well-maintained highway was framed with trees, fall foliage, glimpses of creek and river water, and sloping landscape strewn with rocks.  At certain points, wildlife crossing can be seen and it is heart-warming to know that wildlife can safely cross roadways without ending up as roadkill – a common occurrence back home.  The mountain range at a distance were becoming visible and have started to tower higher as we drove closer.

I had to ask for a restroom stop since I could not hold my water anymore.  I had seen several road signs a few miles back indicating places with a washroom (toilet) but I couldn’t see any as we drove by.  Finally, we stopped and I looked for the washroom.  It was then that I found out that a washroom here was not the same as a restroom stop that I expected.  It was an outhouse – an open pit dug in the ground with a commode on top and a structure surrounding it.  I saw the same outhouse when we went to Drumheller but I thought it was only because we were at Drumheller.  Well, it was good enough to relieve my need and decided that I had to be wiser in controlling my liquid use.

The road to Banff.

Che’ asked me to drive.  I couldn’t be more happier but also apprehensive.  Anyway, the road and the weather looked clear and I shouldn’t worry.  Vehicle traffic was sparse and the speed limit was slower.  The drive went smoothly with everybody settling in. It was when we started to go uphill that the weather suddenly changed!  Dark clouds thickened and the temperature dropped!  The side of the road and the treetops turned white with snow and the road became slick with the forming ice!  The greatest danger that I anticipated was slipping on the icy road from sudden deceleration.  I focused on maintaining my speed and keeping my distance from the next vehicle.  This went on for several miles then it disappeared.  We just drove through a storm!

The next stop cannot be more picturesque! The road was clear and without a trace of snow or ice, the trees were vibrant with color, and the mountain range capped with snow at a distance were clearly visible!  The weather change was certainly remarkable!

The next stop was in a place that was more familiar to me – a building with a restaurant, novelty store, small grocery, and real restroom.  We took advantage of the amenities available.  One thing I noticed during the stop was the presence of busloads upon busloads of tourists.  I figured they were all heading in the same direction and each busload was a guided tour.  We had to compete with them to secure our place in the food line, the restroom, and the grocery store!  We even felt envious when we found out that they actually had a reserved room for dining!

We were getting closer to the glacier fields.

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