The Icefield Parkway

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Aug 25, 2011

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Where I stayed
Whistlers Campground Jasper
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Friday, June 17, 2011

We left Lake Louise in light rain and under low clouds.  We could have waited another day in order to have better visibility but decided that the lower end of the trip could be done on a return visit to Lake Louise some time in the future. We took our time but only stopped at one of the viewing sites because we find that most of them are not set up for easy use by large vehicles and most are on the southbound side of the road.

There is something to be said for experiencing the Rockies under varying weather conditions. It makes for some interesting photography.  Unfortunately most of my shots are through the windshield so I've captured a few raindrops!  Next time ....

We stopped for lunch at the Icefield Centre and were pleased to find that we wouldn't have a long wait for the ice-bus trip up onto the glacier.  When we made the decision to take this excursion, the sun was breaking through over the mountains.  By the time we boarded the bus the clouds had closed in again!

The Columbia Icefield feeds a number of glaciers throughout the mountains.  The Athabasca Glacier is one of the larger ones and is more easily accessed that most.  The 'Ice Explorers', the vehicles we traveled in, are built especially for travel under the unique conditions of ice and snow found under arctic conditions and on glaciers.  They are designed to run on tires with very low pressure so that the tires flatten for maximum traction and are geared to negotiate steep slopes.  Don was intrigued as usual with this machinery!  I was more interested in the variation of color and texture found in the snow and ice and the rocks in the moraine and on the mountains....

As we headed north towards Jasper, the sun started to break through again and the clouds lifted so we got a better idea of the height of the mountains.  We watched as the Athabasca River grew from a roadside creek as it left the glacier to large areas of flood plain with small streams forming a mesh over its surface, to the rushing torrent we found here in Jasper.  It's interesting to note that the Columbia Icefield is the largest body of ice in the Rocky Mountains and the source for three drainage systems that lead to the Pacific, the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans.

After dinner we headed into Jasper by car to get a feel for the area and ended up taking the Pyramid Lake Road.  This was fortunate as we were privileged to see a herd of elk near the road and found the site where the 'ice ship' model was built during WW2 on Patricia Lake.  The story of Project Habakkuk makes for some good reading.

Today was another good day for sighting wild life.  We had to stop for a road block of Mountain Sheep at one point,  a traffic jam of people watching a grizzly at another, and a herd of Mountain Goats as we descended from the Athabasca Glacier.  When you add in the herd of female elk with their young I think today's count was good!

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