Saturday 6th June After a late breakfast we still managed to get on the road by 10am.
There was a relay race from Banff to Jasper. Www.bjr.ca. Supposedly it is a 260 klm fun race through the Rocky Mountains but there are those who are serious. Naturally they started the Lake Louise to Jasper leg before we got on the road so we were slowed in many places by the racers and their support crews and changeover locations.
The entire length, well at least the parts that we have seen of the Rocky Mountains drive is …umm err, spectacular all the way. Sorry I cannot find other words to describe the voyage. Like the Great Ocean Road in Australia I can enjoy the drive – both ways – as often as possible.
We stopped at the great Athabaska Glacier in the Columbia Icefield. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athabasca_Glacier. We opted to walk over a moraine created by the receding glacier to the toe of the glacier.
The wind whipping down from the glacier was both fierce and chilly.
Other people opted for a guided walk on the glacier
while others went for the comfort of a bus ride.
Anyway to view this giant moving grinding frozen wall of snow and ice is awe inspiring. The top of the iceberg, where the guided tours walk, to the valley floor, is higher than the Eiffel Tower. I would have happily stayed here walking around but the frigid wind whipping past my ears gave a painful earache. We were simply not dressed appropriately for the conditions. My gloves and Tuk were in the bottom of our suitcase. Across the road is the Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre which thankfully had hot food and huge lines of tourists waiting to book either a foot guided tour of the glacier or the more popular bus tour onto the glacier.
Just a little north of the icefields is the Glacier Skywalk. A glass bottom suspended platform over the Athabasca River where several glaciers can be seen. We opted not to stop here as we were on a schedule and the $30 each admission fee.
Next along the road was Tangle Falls which is accessible beside the Icefields Highway.
The highway for the most part follows the raging Athabasca River all the way to Jasper. http://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/canada-tangle-falls.html I felt a little uncomfortable here as the only parking is on the opposite side of the highway. A pedestrian crossing is on a steep curved section of the highway with cars and buses zooming along are expected to suddenly brake to allow a pedestrian cross the road. It is the only pedestrian crossing in a 150 Klm stretch of highway in the middle of nowhere.
We next moved on to Sunwapta Falls where the meltwater swollen Athabasca River roars its way through a deep and narrow chasm.
A lack of navigational skills on my behalf meant we missed the turnoff to Athabasca Falls. (directional signs in the Jasper, Yoho and Banff National Parks are a bit scarce and are not placed at the actual turnoff, often they are placed up to 1 klm before the turnoff)
A few Klms outside of Jasper we saw a Cow Elk with a calf.
The mothers are very protective of their young and will charge people who get too close. While Donnis was busy learning how to use the zoom we ran out of memory on the camera and the Elk crossed the road, with calf and disappeared into the forest.
Once in Jasper we searched for accommodation which we found to be scarce, probably because the relay race finishes here. Eventually we found a room in a private house basement. Jasper has a system of home stay accommodation which provides basic accommodation …at a price. In the winter ski season all other mainstream accommodation is booked solid. The homestay takes up where the usual hotels, motels and bed & breakfast are booked out.
Tags: Athabacsa River, Athabasca Glacier, Banff Jasper Relay, Banff National Park, Columbia Icefield, Elk, Endless Chain, Glacier Skywalk, Great Ocean Road, Highway 93, Icefields Discovery Centre, Icefields Highway, Jasper, Jasper National Park, Rocky Mountains., Sunwapta Falls, Tangle Falls, Tuk, Yoho National Park