I was in Jasper this weekend. How beautiful is this place? And yes, I met Molly Ringwald. And sang 80s karaoke, and lost my voice almost completely, rendering me unable to manage a squeak across the table to Molly at dinner. And I made Sriracha caramel corn and Nutella brownies and that Pixie Stick sandwich Ally Sheedy made in the Breakfast Club. I’m still recovering.
But even with all that pink 80s glam, one of the best parts was getting outside, soaking in the outdoors in all its greatness. (And yet going to bed on ironed white sheets – is there anything better?) The drive up to Jasper from Calgary on the Icefields Parkway (highway 93) is one of the most beautiful in the world – you pass somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 ancient glaciers and ice fields, emerald lakes, frozen waterfalls and the odd assembly of elk or bighorn sheep. The 10,000 year old Athabasca glacier is the highlight; as kids, we’d take the ice explorer – like an enormous Tonka truck with disproportionately large tires – right up onto the ice to stomp around.
It’s noticeably smaller these days (although still thicker than the Eiffel Tower is high), but no less stunning, especially when the wind blows snow off the peaks above in great billowing waves. Calgarians tend to be nervous about driving the 93 in the winter because its altitude can bring unpredictable weather. This is the clearest I’ve seen it – dry roads, glaciers to gawk at, and still half-frozen waterfalls, albeit with fewer ice climbers on them.
Once you get to Jasper, Maligne Canyon is worth a stop – in the winter, you can even do a guided ice walk – a stunning, dramatic series of waterfalls, underground streams and-smooth water-churned grooves in the limestone. The canyon is only two metres across at some points, with a 50 metre drop.
Apparently the Maligne valley is one of the most extensive karst regions in the world, full of caves and geological formations created by rushing water eroding soluble rock.
The canyon itself is carved into the Palliser Formation, a layer of limestone deposited in a shallow tropical sea by lime-secreting plankton about 365 million years ago. It’s a stunning walk – totally manageable after a late night of cocktails and karaoke – and the short bridges aren’t too terrifying if heights make your arms and legs feel like overcooked spaghetti.
(Chipmunks need to take a load off and have some snacks too.)
I always have the best intentions when it comes to nutty, seedy homemade granola bars. I imagine myself making a batch and wrapping them individually for packed lunches and to stash in the glove compartment to ward off impulse detours through the drive thru. And to pack in my gym bag, if I had a gym bag. But in reality the only time I manage to make a batch is during those final hours before a road trip, most likely as a procrastination measure to avoid finishing all the things that need finishing, and the essential things, like laundry and packing. But snacks are important too, right? Especially when hikes are in your future, and car trips involve long stretches of highway where the only stops are to gasp and take photos.
Road Trip Peanut Butter Trail Bars
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose, whole wheat or oat flour
3/4 cup oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or sliced almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, peanut butter, milk, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Add the flour, oats, baking soda and salt and stir until almost combined; add all the additions you want to add and stir just until blended.
Spread the batter into a 9×13-inch pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.
Makes 12-18 bars.
I love showing off my home province – thanks to Travel Alberta – for helping me do it! As always, words and opinions are my own.