Today we crossed another of the major geological milestones in our road trip. Last evening we caught a glimpse of it as we were driving through the Alberta ranchland: the white peaks of the Rockies. We turned in to Calgary for the night to a hot tub (Fran) and Vietnamese cuisine.
Saturday morning we woke up to the news of a snow warning for Canmore and vicinity. Fran had organized a meeting with her RA for breakfast so we packed up ready to leave as soon as her meeting was finished. It was a lovely meeting in spite of my anxiety about what we were likely to find along the way.
We gassed up and headed west to one of the most awe-inspiring parts of the trip - with a little apprehension about the threat of snow.
As we passed the outskirts of Calgary we could see the results of urban sprawl which is such a key part of this automobile-dependent city.
Unlike our other approaches to the Rockies this time they were nowhere to be seen. The low clouds obscured everything on the horizon, leaving us to focus on the landscape nearby the road. Even so, it was clear that things were changing. Within an hour from Calgary, the rolling prairie had become rolling hills, the valleys had deepened, and evergreens were taking over from the grass and poplars. I find it moving to know that this transformation provides the first hints of the 250 million-year-old collision between the North American and Pacific tectonic plates. As we continue west we will be traveling through land that foretells the shape of what this area will become.
But now that future is hidden by the low-lying clouds and occasional mists of the eastern foothills. Instead of seeing the show-capped peaks in the background, it is only grey clouds we see - even as we enter the deep valleys of the Canmore region.
It wasn't until after we crossed the BC border that the clouds cleared and thrilled us with the brilliant whites, towering peaks, and sweeping slopes that line the highway. We had clearly arrived.