Photographs: Twelve Exciting Hours in Alberta’s Scenic and Adventurous Kananaskis Country
By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor of three amazing websites, Simergphotos, Barakah, and Simerg dedicated respectively to Photographs, His Highness the Aga Khan and Literary Readings
Canada Day, July 1, 2022, was 48 hours away. The forecast for June 30th called for sunny skies. Should I make my routine trip to one of the many parks in the city I had fallen in love with since arriving in Calgary at the beginning of this year? I knew I would not be bored at any of the parks, despite having been to some of them multiple times, as nature changes so fast, and each time you go you see different colours and meet different people. There is also happiness on people’s faces — the joy and laughter of children make your day.
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I turned to the fastest and greatest resource in the world — the internet. I searched Google for “best day trips from Calgary.” There were countless suggestions! I quickly glanced through a few pages, and decided on Kananaskis — 80 kms from Calgary. I wanted to leave before sunrise, so that if I approached Kananaskis going clockwise, via Longview, I would have the chance to see the eastern sunrise light up the Kananaskis Mountain Range in the Canadian Rockies. Errands that I had overlooked, delayed my departure until well after 1 PM. With fruit — apricots, juicy pomegranate seeds bursting with flavor, and red cherries packed in my “green” bag — I first decided to stop by at one of the several Jerusalem Shawarma restaurants for a take-out chicken shawarma plate with garlic potatoes and Canada Dry Ginger Ale. If you asked me how I first came to know about Canada, it was through the soft drink! “Hey (today’s kids and I quite like it now), dad, Ginger Ale is a drink like Coke, Fanta and Vimto, but what is Canada?” His reply: “The second largest country in the world!” A unique introduction, through a drink, to a great and beautiful country!
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In the late 1950’s and early 60’s it was not in my wildest imagination and dream that this majestic country would become my home one day. It did, beginning in late December 1980 and has remained my home for more than 40 years. I am fortunate that I have also driven through the country from Vancouver to Ottawa — an almost 5,000 km journey that I undertook in June-July 2017. I celebrated Canada Day in downtown Winnipeg and was overjoyed to see thousands of people dressed in red jerseys participate to create our simple but beautiful Flag, the Maple Leaf.
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Despite the delayed start from Calgary, I stuck to my original route. I drove to Longview, filled up at a gas station, then drove past all the cattle ranches, and soon I was at the foothills of the Rockies. I crossed the Highwood Pass, the highest paved road in Canada at 2,206 metres (7,237 ft). One turn after the other, and I would cry out “wow” in astonishment. If you are all by yourself, this is when you see the advantage of self-driving cars to see the superb scenery all around you without focusing on the road ahead! I wonder, though, whether the automated cars would be able to handle the speed variations as you drive through the mountains. I stopped at creeks as well as several view points and ponds, and this is where I met wonderful people such as Randy Carson and his wife who told me where I might be able to see bears, mountain goats, sheep and the elusive picas during my drive. I have been to some of the best natural wonders and parks in the world in East Africa — Marangu Falls, Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro (in Tanzania) and Tsavo (in Kenya)– and seen all the big 5, and I will admit that I am as excited seeing the small and big birds and mammals in North America. As per tips from the Carsons’, I saw plenty of wildlife. I was also thrilled to see a bald eagle perched on top of a tree.
I left Kananaskis, day 1, June 30, before sunset and was home in Calgary by 11 PM.
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Sleepless for much of the night after that those thrilling 5 hours, I woke up late on Canada Day, way past 10 AM. It was gorgeous outside and after a McDonald’s coffee and bagel, I spontaneously set out for Kananaskis again — this time travelling on the Trans Canada Hwy, and taking the Hwy 40 exit well before Canmore, to drive through Kananaskis in anti-clockwise direction. My focus was to spend an hour or so at the Kananaskis Village, and then move on to the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to see the Lower and Upper Kananaskis Lakes and, time permitting, to take the Smith-Dorrien or Spray Trail Road (also known as Route 742) — a gravel road — to Canmore for a late dinner before returning to Calgary.
When you see animals on road, you want to take photos; when you see the mountains piercing the blue sky, you again want to stop to take photos; and when you reach beautiful lakes worthy of post cards you can’t help but explore more and more. So the 70 km gravel road, route 742, was a no go on July 1.
I stayed at the Lower and Upper Kananaskis Lakes past sunset, and what a sight over the Upper Kananaskis Lake as the dipping sun transformed the colours of the clouds from orange to pink in a matter of minutes. I stood in awe at the beautiful gift of nature that God has bestowed upon mankind. At once, I remembered the late Aga Khan’s message on nature. He wrote:
“Next I would place appreciation and enjoyment of the glories of nature. All those sunrises and sunsets – all the intricate miracle of sky colour, from dawn to dusk….then comes night – “a night of stars.” I look up at night and I know – I know the glory of the stars. It is then that the stars speak to us. All that splendid spendthrift beauty. As a very rich man treasures the possession of some unique picture, so a man should treasure and exult in the possession — his individual possession — of the sights of this unique world.”
Then, I recounted what his grandson and hereditary successor to the Ismaili Imamat, the present Aga Khan, had said in 1995 during his first visit to see his Ismaili followers in the Pamirs of Tajikistan:
The Qur’an refers very often to nature as a reflection of Allah’s power of creation, and it says, look at the mountains, the rivers, the trees, the flowers, as evidence of Allah’s love for the people whom He has created. Today, I look at the environment and I say to you, I believe Allah is smiling upon you, and may His smile always be upon you — His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, Gorno Badakhshan (Tajikistan), May 27, 1995.
After a thoroughly eventful day, dark clouds finally formed over the Kananaskis Lakes and beyond. At some point along Hwy 40, there was heavy rain, with occasional lightning. I was alert and watchful and arrived home safely at around 1:00 AM.
What a memorable 12 hours I had spent over two afternoons and evenings at the Kananaskis Country, a true gem in Alberta. Enjoy the photos.
Date posted: July 4, 2022.
Last updated: July 5, 2022 (added photos).
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As always, you have come up with a wonderful article and engrossing pictures. It has been a pleasure to read and reflect on the nature that Allah has created. Best of luck again and again.
Mubaraki Malik !
You visited a hidden gem in Alberta . Shukhar
May you be blessed with many more . Thank you for sharing that amazing picture of the Upper lake 👍.
Awesome pictures and story! The Canadian Rockies are a site to behold.
Beauty! Nice write up too.
Very nice story and indeed the scenic pictures.
Amazing pictures and story.