Thursday, July 22, 2010

NOW - the Real Fun Begins;-)

Monday morning we awoke full of anticipation as we were off to Jasper, Alberta, Canada. First we had to give Magic a bath at the local car/RV wash - we did this in the pouring rain!! Yes - in the pouring rain. An hour and a half later we were on our way;-)

After a short jaunt down Canadian Hwy 1, we turned onto the Icefields Parkway at Lake Louise (Lake Louise is in the Banff National Park (NP) - which butts up against the Jasper NP about half way up the Parkway). As mentioned in a prior posting, Glacier NP (US) and Waterton NP (CAN), combined, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So are the Jasper, Banff, Kootenay and Yoho NP’s (all together as one UNESCO World Heritage Site) along with three provincial (state) parks. These Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks combined as one World Heritage Site makes one of the largest protected areas in the world. And, the beauty is stunning!!

The Icefields Parkway IS the most beautiful road we have travelled - anywhere in the world. It is over 130 miles of continuous World Heritage Site scenery completely protected in the two NP’s (Banff & Jasper). This Parkway was begun in 1931, when the Canadian government put hundreds of unemployed men to work (sound familiar??) building the “wonder trail” through the heart of the Canadian Rockies. The men were paid twenty cents a day. Using picks, shovels and horses these hardy folks hacked a single-lane gravel track from Lake Louise to Jasper. The road opened quietly in 1940, while the country was at war. Thankfully, the tourist boom of the 50’s and 60’s required some widening and paving - although it is still only two lanes wide and could use some pavement improvement even today!!

The Parkway IS a scenic drive, not a transportation corridor. You ned a park pass to drive the parkway and large trucks are banned. There is NO traffic on this road. There are some of the most rugged mountains you will ever see - topped with seven icefields and about 25 smaller but still notable glaciers. (Note - just as rivers flow our from lakes, glaciers flow out from an icefield. An icefield is a sheet of glacial ice that is trapped by higher surrounding land and which feeds more than one glacier.)

About half way between Lake Louise and Jasper is the Columbia Icefield, which is the largest accumulation of ice south of the Arctic Circle. It straddles two NP’s (Banff & Jasper) and two provinces/states (Alberta and British Columbia (BC)). It is a hydrological apex - the meeting point of three continent-wide watersheds. On the western side (BC), the meltwaters flow into the Columbia River and on to the Pacific Ocean. On the eastern side (Alberta), the meltwaters flow into both the North Saskatchewan River, which empties into Hudson’s Bay, and then into the Atlantic Ocean; and also into the Athabasca-McKenzie system, which empties to the Arctic Ocean. A lot of water!!

The Icefield feeds six large glaciers - the Saskatchewan, Castleguard, Dome, Stutfield, Columbia and Athabasca. The Athabasca Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. One can hike to its ‘toe’ or take an ‘ice explorer’ (looks like a bus) onto the glacier. This glacier is 3.6 miles from the icefield to the toe and the depth of the ice at the toe is approximately 200 feet! You will not get the feel of the size by the pictures - as you don’t even standing across the street!

A View from the Icefields Highway.

Athabasca Glacier. (Those little specks part way up are the busses!)

As you can probably tell - we were in awe of this site. But, we finally had to tear ourselves away and continue the journey to Jasper and our home for the next four days. And, let me tell you - the Canadians know how to make NP campgrounds;-)!! They make the sites so you hardly see your neighbors - in the absolute beauty of the forest, turn off the wind machines and bring out the sun. After hooking up - a cocktail was in order in the fantastic setting to celebrate -

Our site is so private it's like no one else is here.

We pulled ourselves away from this serene setting to go into Jasper ‘to check it out’. It’s a cute little town - not as sophisticated as Banff - but cute in its own way. Gary managed to find a wood fired pizza place - so his turkey tacos had to wait for another night. Our arrival back at the campground was in time to check out the Ranger Lecture - ‘An Overview of Jasper NP’ - only to be rained out half way through. No matter, we got back to Magic just before it really started to pour.

Tuesday was another fabulous day in Paradise;-) First stop - Athabasca Falls. (Athabasca means the place where the bulrushes grow in the native language.) Here the Athabasca River (flowing out of the Athabasca Glacier discussed above and ultimately into the Arctic Ocean) pours into a VERY narrow canyon cut into a very hard, quartz-rich rock. A softer rock would have allowed the river to flow over it and create a gradual flow of rapids. But, this very hard quartz broke off in very large chunks as the river flowed over it - creating the narrow, DEEP canyon. The pictures won’t due it justice, as you need the thundering of the water falling over the rocks - so loud you can’t hear another person talk!!

Athabasca Falls.

A rainbow at Athabasca Falls.

Up river from the Falls, we found a good spot for lunch with a beautiful view -

A perfect rock for our lunch break.

Our picnic lunch view.

Not too much time to rest - the next stop was calling. Yet another wonderful hike - this time following the Maligne (pronounced Ma-lean) River as it plunged more than 70 feet into a steep walled gorge of limestone bedrock in Maligne Canyon. (Have you figured out that we really like waterfalls??) Several footbridges took us over the canyon in order to get spectacular views of the canyon and the river.

Falls in the Maligne Canyon.

Lots of water moving down Maligne Canyon.

Back at the car, we followed the Maligne River upstream to its origins. (You might guess where it winds up - yup - joins the Athabasca and winds up in the Arctic Ocean!) But, first it travels through Medicine Lake - where you can see it flow into the lake, but not out?!?! There is no surface outlet. The water flows underground for many miles, emerging in Maligne Canyon. And, before that, it flows out of Maligne Lake. This lake is the largest lake in Jasper NP and the deepest. Brian and Guy took us out to Spirit Island close to the end of the lake where we could see the Maligne Glacier and the origins of the Maligne River;-) The scenery is awesome -

View from Spirit Island on Maligne Lake.

Spirit Island is on the left. Too bad there were no nice views here!

A bird flying over Maligne Glacier.

It was now the time of day we were hoping for animals on our way home - and were rewarded.

Laying down on the job.

Work day is over. I'm heading for the cave!

Ok, where is my mom?

Enough pictures already, take this raspberry.

No rest for the weary. Wednesday we had an early tee time in Hinton - about an hour away. We scheduled this as all the literature said we had to travel Hwy 16 east - and Hinton was that direction just outside the park. So, we were off a little before 8 and did get to see many of the animals out for breakfast - lots of deer and a wolf on the hunt -

One of the motley crew.

I'm outta here!

After golf (which needn’t be discussed;-() we were off to another ‘must’ drive on the eastern edge of the park - the drive to Miette Hotsprings (pronounced Me-at). A very small, winding mountain road leads up the scenic Fiddle Valley to the hottest mineral springs in the Canadian rockies - with incredible views! And, of course, we took advantage of the springs to soak our weary, golf-sore muscles;-)

View from the Miette Hot Springs.

Another fantastic day in Jasper NP ends with our ‘crock pot dinner’ in our private outdoor dining area upon our return to Magic. It is a terrible assignment - but someone has to do it;-)

It was mentioned at the beginning of this piece how the Canadian’s know how to do it with their NP campgrounds. They turn off the wind and bring out the sun. This is true - except for the wonderful late afternoon thunderstorms that Elizabeth grew up with and loves! And - they have real doozies up here!! Fortunately, these always seem to come as we were in the car on our way home from the day’s activities or very late just as the sun is going down - which up here is not until after 10PM. (We have yet to see the ‘path lights’ go on as we can not stay up that late.) It also rains during the night which has been true the last several nights. It wakes you up to let you know it is raining - then lulls you back to sleep with the ‘rhythm of the falling rain on the top of Magic’. What a nice way to sleep;-)

Last night it rained pretty hard - and is still at it this morning. This may alter our plans for the day - like eliminate the planned bike ride - which is a good thing since it is now 9 and Gary is at the computer working on pics in his pajamas and Elizabeth just got out of bed!! Our breakfast plans (before the eliminated bike ride) have now been moved to lunch plans. We are going to the Soft Rock Cafe, which advertises an internet connection, and may allow us to get these last few days posted before it becomes an entire book. Keep you posted (so to speak).

Lunch is delicious and the internet connection is really fast - so here it is;-)

Love to all - and back when we have internet again - E & G


  1. Great post about road tripping through the Canadian Rockies - sounds like you have a fantastic time here & great photos!

  2. Fantastic post! We've featured it on our Facebook Page at

  3. Great pictorial. I really enjoyed Elizabeth's and Gary's vantage point of the Ice Fields. I've taken a dip in the Miette Hot Springs and recently looked at a picture of myself when i was spring cleaning. Boy was I thiner! Now i cannot find the picture to scan and upload. Have to redo the spring cleaning. Thank you for these lovely pictues. Everybody should take this trip if possible. I'd love to do this sort of adventure one day with a family member. Back in the saddle again no matter what age and stage in life. Thank you for your memories.