Happy 150th Anniversary to Canada!

July 1st marks the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. To celebrate, among other things, admission to all Canadian National Parks is free for 2017. And to celebrate here on Handstands Around the World, I’ve put together a list of my favorite Parks Canada sites.

This is also conveniently my 100th post! I’m always happy for an excuse to make a list, and this seems a very appropriate time to do so.

Banff National Park, Alberta
My very first memories of visiting Canada are from Banff. We actually went to Waterton Lakes first, but aside from the fact that the wind bent our tent poles, I don’t remember anything. However, the rugged beauty of Banff was definitely imprinted in my mind. I’ve been back once since then and I can’t wait to return someday soon. The scenery is just so incredible and there’s so much of the park that I haven’t had a chance to explore. Continue reading

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Sometimes, things don’t go as planned – Jasper National Park, Alberta (part III)

Our next day in Jasper National Park was supposed to be the day we hiked Mount Edith Cavell. This was a hike we were all especially excited for.

Instead, it was the day that I woke up sick at 5am and my friends ended up driving me to the hospital a couple hours later. I was suffering from some pretty serious GI symptoms – suffice it to say that there was nothing left in my GI tract by this point – as well as a mysterious pain in my lower back. I couldn’t even keep water down. I’m told that when I showed up at the ER, I was so pale due to dehydration that I looked gray. I didn’t think to look in a mirror. I was too busy being sick and miserable.

And so I spent 9 hours in the Jasper ER getting abdominal x-rays and pain medication and something to calm my stomach. They infused me with 2 entire IV bags and I still didn’t have to pee. That’s how dehydrated I was. By late afternoon, though, I was sitting up in bed playing cards with my friends. And by dinner, I was out of the hospital and eating chicken fingers and fries at a restaurant in Jasper. It was the shortest – but most severe – illness I’ve ever had. Continue reading

Waterfalls & Lakes – Jasper National Park, Alberta (part II)

After a night at Honeymoon Lake Campground – in which our camping gear mostly dried out – it was time to continue our journey northward. We hopped back on the Icefields Parkway, poised to spend a day exploring the central section of Jasper National Park. Our first stop, just a short distance up the road, was Athabasca Falls. A very large volume of water travels over this 80-foot waterfall. It’s incredibly powerful! The parking area for the falls just off of the Icefields Parkway on Route 93A, and we walked a short distance in order to view the falls.

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Athabasca Falls – Jasper National Park, AB
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Receding Glaciers – Jasper National Park, Alberta (part I)

The Canadian Rockies never fail to amaze, and Jasper National Park is no exception. Together with Banff and other surrounding national and provincial parks, Jasper is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’m so glad this whole area is protected, because it’s utterly beautiful!

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Mountains along the Icefields Parkway – Jasper National Park, AB
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Shades of Blue – Banff National Park, Alberta (part III)

For the remainder of our time in Banff, we continued north on the main road, eventually leading us up to Jasper National Park, which will feature in my next post. Last week, I left off at Moraine Lake. In the same general area of the park is the other iconic Banff lake – Lake Louise. This lake is larger than Moraine Lake and – at least on the day we were there, which was very overcast – a much lighter shade of turquoise. There’s just something about the color of glacial lakes that’s always so beautiful. I love the way the hues subtly change with the weather and the sky.

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Lake Louise – Banff National Park, AB
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Valley of the Ten Peaks – Banff National Park, Alberta (part II)

The Valley of the Ten Peaks is, as you probably guessed, a valley lined by ten peaks. They form part of the continental divide as well as the border between Alberta and British Columbia. But most pertinent to this post, they form the backdrop for the iconic Moraine Lake.

You’ve probably seen Moraine Lake before. It’s arguably one of the most photographed/painted lakes in the Canadian Rockies. It appears on calendars, computer desktop backgrounds, and I even grew up with a photo of it hanging in the living room, though I didn’t know what it was at the time. Continue reading

Rocky Mountain High – Banff National Park, Alberta (part I)

After departing Waterton Lakes, we stopped for the afternoon in Calgary to catch up on the real world. The final installment of the Harry Potter movies had just been released and a little vacation wasn’t going to get in our way of seeing it. We had purchased tickets in advance for a theatre at a mall in Calgary, so we parked, ate some delicious Greek food for lunch, and then shed some tears as the lives of our beloved characters played out on screen.

This was the extent of our time in the city, as we had campground reservations in Banff National Park that evening. As we headed west out of Calgary on Canada Highway 1, one thing became readily apparent: the further north you go, the more rugged and spectacular the Rocky Mountains become. The peaks are taller, the glaciers larger, and the angles sharper.

In short, the Canadian Rockies are incredible! Continue reading