The 2017 summer in the Rockies has been one of the hottest in recent years. The temperature has consistently reached 30 degrees and above. While from the outset these may seem like the perfect conditions for exploring the mountains, the extreme dry conditions have come with some dire consequences.
This year it is estimated that 11,500 square kilometres of forest has been charred in British Columbia alone by forest fires. If an area wasn’t touched by the flames it was certainly filled with the resulting smoke, blocking visibility of even the most monumental mountains.
Many people have had their lives affected by the fires, and of course that makes any scuppered mountain hikes I had planned seem of little consequence. However, I did get out to the mountains this summer and here are some of the beautiful sights I got to explore:
All day long smoke had filled the Bow Valley Parkway, where Banff town is located. It seemed unlikely that I would get much of a view, but on the off-chance I headed to the edge of town to the Vermillion Lakes for the sunset. I got lucky. As the sun set the sky seemed to clear, and the peak of Rundle Mountain illuminated as it reflected in the waters.
We had camped overnight just outside of Banff town and decided to make an early morning excursion to Moraine Lake, which is about an hour away, to catch the sunrise. As we went, we were unsure what we would see because Bow Valley was filled with smoke which we were driving through. However, after ascending an incline we left the smokey haze behind as we arrived at the iconic Canadian Lake. The sunrise was spectacular as the Valley of Ten Peaks were illuminated by the sun.
Driving in Kananaskis Country looking for a location to catch the sunrise seemed as if it would be a futile exercise. Smoke was hovering just above the mountain peaks seemingly blocking out the sunlight.
We decided to pull over at a small body of water called Wedge Pond to see if we were in for any luck catching a sunrise. For the most part the sunrise was unspectacular, until the last minute, when suddenly the smoke lit up in vivid colour transforming from the grey scene we had before.
Just less than an hour away from Moraine Lake is the Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park. It is located on the Emerald Lake Road near Field in British Columbia. It is a nice place to stop off and take in the power of the Kicking Horse River as it rushes through the Natural Bridge itself. It’s hard to believe that during the winter the onrushing water freezes to a standstill.
Emerald Lake is located about 7km further down the Emerald Lake Road from the Natural Bridge. It is in a basin surrounded by mountains, and the vivid blue water is from powdered limestone. It is a scenic place to hike, kayak or even swim within Yoho National Park.