Banff to Jasper

Woke up at an Inn in Banff, Alberta. Round about 8:30. We were out the door by 9:15 or so and went to Safeway (west coast grocery store) to get some breakfast. I got a traditional hoagie, Anne and Will got bagels. We bought some fruit and I got a coffee from Starbucks. Anne and I were feeling really sick so we loaded up on Neocitrine. We first found an auto shop in town to replace the driver’s side headlight. We were worried about having to drive through the night at some point; although to this point we had planned our driving really well in between stops. Oh – I found out from Wendy Darling (the Nano coordinator) that I didn’t have to rush home from my trip to mark those work reports. That relieved quite a bit of stress and I think we’ll change our trip around to go to Edmonton after Jasper so that we don’t have to double back along the Icefields highway.

Our next stop was inside Banff at the Upper Hot Springs! It’s run by the federal government and you can rent towels there. The entrance fee was something like $7. This was really worth seeing! The water is 39 celsius and treated so it doesn’t have the nasty sulphur smell. It was essentially a pool that was warmed up to a hot bath temperature. The setting is incredible with mountains behind you and frosty air above the water’s surface. We stayed for about 20 minutes and then decided to hit the road. When we went back up to go to the car we passed was a running brook with a nice fountain, and I decided to put my hand in to see if it was hot water (turns out it wasn’t). But to my surprise I found these little silver trinkets right where I put my hand in. One is an Indian feather, a tiny buffalo, and a small flower. All of them have small holes so they seem to be for a necklace or something. Fortunate fountain I guess.

After the hot baths we hit the road heading towards Jasper. I was really surprised at the amount of ravens in the Rockies. They’re also massive and quite frightening. Poe really picked the right bird for his creepy poem. Our first stop was Lake Louise which took about an hour from Banff. I slept most of the way due to the grippe. Lake Louise was stunning. Beautiful blues, gorgeous greens, and … brilliant browns. The mountains frame the view so nicely. White snowy caps. There was a faint mist on the water and a couple canoeing. I took some nice pictures like a good tourist would. It was surprisingly quiet and peaceful there even with the other tourists. We went into the Fairmont Hotel right on the lake’s edge. Got a hot water and filled it with Neocitrine. Also bought a metal waterbottle for $9. Got it filled with free lake/glacier water. Even with the tourists there is was quiet and peaceful. There was snow on the ground and some of the leaves were starting to turn yellow already in September!

Next we went to Lake Moraine which is a lake created by a blockage caused by a glacial moraine (I think …). There were tons of rocks and boulders that formed a big mountain at the foot of the lake. I took one of the very flat rocks from the pool as a souvenir. There was a hike to a lake called Consolation Lake (a slightly depressing name), but it required 4 people to go on it because of the danger of bears. Cool! I’ve been yearning to see a grizzly, but I think I’m alone in that wish. Whenever we stop a game we sometimes play is I’ll point out a tree or rock in the distance and say, “If a bear were there, then I’d be worried”. Anne and Will usually pinpoint some distant tree about 15x farther away. I guess I should take grizzlies more seriously. I found a little pamphlet that said you had to be 10 bus lengths away (100m) from a grizzly to be safe. They can run as fast as a race horse. Anne and Will seem to be placing their money on the bear winning the race rather than themselves.

After that we hit the road and started off on the Icefields Parkway. We took some incredible photos on this trip up Banff National Park. We didn’t stop anywhere until we hit Jasper National Park. That’s where we stopped at the Athabasca Glacier. The altitude was 2000m above sea level at the parking lot (higher than the height of Mt. Revelstoke from the day before), so the air was pretty thin and it made the hike a little tough. It was about a 5 minute hike up to the tip of the glacier. Along the way there are many signs warning you not to go on the ice at all. Apparently the last 3 rescue attempts were unsuccessful because it takes hours to get you out of the crevasses and hypothermia usually sets in quickly. It was very cold as well so I can imagine how you would be in some serious trouble on the glacier. Also, along the way there are signs showing where the glacier edge was historically. In 1982 it was about 100-200 meters away from where it is now. A lot of the signs say that this is due to climate change (which is due to human activity). However, when we were on our way back down, I saw the same separation (100-200m) between markings from 1902 and 1925. I wonder how much human activity there was back then that would have affected these glaciers? This was before automobiles, plastics, and multinational oil/mining industries were ubiquitous. Curious … I wonder how this is explained. Anyways, the glacier was gorgeous, and the massive lateral moraines it leaves on the sides of it. The glacier must be about 4 stories high of solid ice. You can also see the large rocks on the ground have deep scratches and gouges in them from the glacier. There are parts of the ice that are bright blue from the extreme compression making dense ice which absorbs longer wavelengths and reflect shorter (blue) back.

After that we stopped at two beautiful waterfalls, the Sunwapta Falls and the Athabasca Falls. Athabasca has a lot of unique features such as massive potholes made from circular water flow over years as well as abandoned paths that the water took. These left deep, narrow canyons which you could walk through. Interesting fact: The bull trout is the only fish above the falls, whereas below the falls there are several varieties of fish. It is a mystery as to how the bull trout exists above the falls. It may have been human intervention to create marine life up the river. Second interesting fact: I’ll have to show a map, but the Athabasca Glacier is the source of the water for Falls which then drain into the Mackenzie River and end up in the Arctic Ocean above Alaska. To me it always seems weird when water flows North because it seems as if it’s going uphill (Treebeard reference any Tolkeineers reading this).

OK I’ll speed this up because it’s getting long. We finally got to Jasper just as it was getting dark. The most hilarious hotel we found was called “Lobstick Lodge”. We drove around town till we found the Toquin Inn and stayed in a 2 bedroom place there (so that Will doesn’t wake us up with his thunder-snore). It was $160 for the night, so pretty pricey – but Jasper is more expensive than Banff for some reason. We went to the local town pub, De’d Dog, and I ordered a Keiths Dark and a Game Burger (Elk, bison, and venison) Yum! It didn’t taste like beef at all.

We hit the road and went to sleep pretty soon after we got to the hotel.