Banff and Jasper National Parks while based in Jasper (10 – 12 July 2013)
The day we left Banff to get to Jasper we drove along the Icefields Parkway and saw some more of the famous sights along the way. We had been on that road the previous day and visited some famous sights such as Peyto Lake.
It was a long journey and I felt sorry to have to make F do all the driving. Furthermore, we stopped at almost every viewpoint that we came across and that ultimately made the journey even longer. He was absolutely knackered when we finally reached Jasper!
Nevertheless, I think the day we went north to Jasper was the most fruitful one for me on this visit at the Rockies. There were a whole series of pretty sights, some more amazing than others of course, along the way.
It was also on this road that I started to see the name “Athabasca” so very often. This was the name of at least a mountain, a river, a waterfall and a glacier. I cannot however remember what the mountain looked like. Come to think of it, I cannot even be sure if I had seen the mountain. I probably eyeballed it but it did not register as the Athabasca.
I do however remember the Athabasca Glacier. I had even walked on it and the experience was unforgettable.
F did not climb the glacier with me since he had rather bad knees. He took a break in the car while I joined the other visitors. The landscape in the glacial valley was almost lunar. It was mainly gravel and there was not a tree to be seen in the entire valley. Surprisingly however, despite being so close to so much ice, it was not too cold.
In actual fact no one was supposed to climb the glacier without a qualified guide. Doing so is dangerous and people have died that way. Apparently there are spots in the glaciers that are like booby traps. It may look like solid ice but is in fact merely a layer of thin ice hiding a massive hole underneath. A sign warned that two boys had fallen into one and had died from hypothermia before they could be pulled out. It seems that it is not easy to pull a person out of these holes. It was quite chilling to learn also that the sign marked the very spot where the boys had fallen into the hole and it was practically on the path taken by all the crazy people like me who chose to take a walk on the glacier unguided.
The glacier unfortunately looked a bit melty. There were little rivulets of melted ice flowing down the glacier and so it could get quite slippery. It got a little scary after a while although the sight of so many people on the glacier was a bit of a comfort until I considered how all that trampling might have weakened the ice and made it more dangerous for me. In any case, everyone walked till a certain point on the glacier and then turned back. I did likewise. But I did notice someone trudging onwards in the distance. He was a very brave man.
It was quite sad though to realise that the glacier was receding year after year. In a bid to raise awareness of the plight of our earth, the authorities planted markers showing the position of the glacier toe in various years. Just 20 years ago the glacier ended maybe about a 100 metres further down the valley.
We spent the whole of the following day exploring a little more of Jasper National Park. F needed to go slow that day after all the driving the day before and so it was more relaxing for us. Somehow we did not feel that the sights we visited that second day were as noteworthy as those we had seen in Banff National Park or along the parkway. It was however here that we saw our first live moose. Despite having lived in the US before for quite some years and enjoyed the great outdoors there numerous times, F had never seen a moose. He was quite excited to see it foraging by the road. But it was a female without the distinctive horns and I was quite disappointed about it.
There is a lake called the Medicine Lake that disappears in winter then reappears in summer. People in the past put it down to magic. Now we know that there is a much more scientific reason.
In winter, water leaves the lake through a complex underground cave system. In summer, glacial melt waters flood the lake and the amount of these melt waters exceed the amount that the underground cave system can handle so that the lake fills up.
The morning before we left the Rockies, we visited Mt Edith Cavell and Angel Glacier. F was somehow super impressed with the glacier. It does have a distinctive shape, but it did not impress me as much as the view from Bow Summit or Morraine Lake or that walk on the Athabasca Glacier.
We had fast food for our last meal on the mountains. It was not like we had no other options, but it was A&W’s. Nothing could be more special than having A&W’s! F and I had not had A&W’s since at least 20 years ago before it stopped operating in Singapore completely. We were very pleasantly surprised to see the outlet in Canada. According to F A&W’s had also stopped operating in the States. The root beer float was so so so very good. It definitely brought back many good memories.
Our tour of the Rockies ended in Edmonton where we spent the night before parting ways. F was heading to Vancouver to spend a day there before going home. I was going to Montreal to start my city adventures again.
I definitely had a fantastic time on the Rockies and that climb on the Athabasca Glacier was the highlight of the entire trip. I hope Canada continues to protect the Rockies and they always remain the way they were when I saw them. Well subject to all that erosion and weathering and whatever earth movements that may happen there anyway.
If the Rockies had taught me anything, it was that the world was far bigger and more spectacular than I could ever imagine. That made me want to see the rest of the world even more. Whenever life wears me down nowadays, I think about my time on Bow Summit and remember that my problems are absolutely insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Or should it be I think about my time on Bow Summit and remember the days I spent travelling to avoid life? Oh whatever works!