Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On to Jasper and the Beautiful Mountian Vistas Continue

We left Banff and drove the 296km to Jasper National Park on the Icefields Parkway with beautiful mountains soaring above us on both sides of the road. The weather continued to be less than wonderful but we were not totally shut out as we had been on the drive to Banff.
Our crossing Bow Summit, the highest point on the parkway (2,088m), was very timely as snow that had fallen minutes ago was off the road and the clouds lifted to offer this spectacular view. We did not stop because the pull off was snow covered
  Our luck continued to hold with no snow or rain, just clouds, north of the pass. The clouds were high enough for us to have this great view. Imagine what it would have looked like with a bit of blue sky.
The Saskatchewan River meanders along the road for miles, flowing with snow melt and ALL that recent rain. The river valley bottoms are covered with rocks that have been carried from the mountains.
What a view looking down on the parkway from the next pass.  Because of the lower elevation it had not snowed at all. You can really see the round bottomed glacial valleys. Center right is the Weeping Wall, a stretch of a couple of kilometers with waterfalls and much water coming down the stone wall.
  The parade of animals goes on. Bottom left are a mother and young Big Horn Sheep and right is a male. Top is a Mountain Goat we watched scurry across what looked to us like a shear cliff. We saw several of both species. The back drop for this Mountain Goat was much more dramatic than the herd we saw in a parking lot last fall in Montana.
  We did not get up close with this elk, she got up close with us right outside the rig. This beautiful Spruce Grouse was scurrying through the woods.
  Our we did not miss this experience by not going to Alaska tour continued when we saw all these bears. We have discovered that you really don't have to travel very far off the beaten path to have these kinds of encounters. We took a short drive on a secondary road and saw the Grizzly and Black Bear (left) right along the highway. I loved the picture with the dandelions in her mouth.
  This is the mother who was eating the dandelions with her two year old cubs. We watched them until a couple of people walked to within about twenty feet of them and the bears moved farther into the woods. The rangers came along and warned the idiots how dangerous it was so I did not get a video of an attack that I could have sold to some reality TV show.
Another thing we had hoped to see in Alaska was glaciers. We got to do that here also. As you can see the clouds moved on (for a day) and we had a beautiful, sunny day to visit the Columbia Icefields. This is the largest area of ice outside the Arctic. This picture was taken from the terminal moraine, the spot of the glacier's furthest advance. All the rocks across the road are moraines left behind as the glacier melts. The lateral moraines on the side gives you an idea of how thick the ice is
To get out on to the glacier you have to take a Snocoach, a modern vehicle built in Calgary specifically for this job. They have one of these in Antarctica for the scientists and over twenty here. They sure are a big improvement over the old bus they mounted on treads for the original tour machines. You can take a guided hiking tour onto the glacier, but you are not allowed to venture on to the ice alone because of the danger of falling into the crevasses.
Because they get more than seven meters of snow each year, the road on to the glacier has to be remade each year. The trip starts down an 18% grade on the lateral moraine. By comparison the steepest road we have driven on was 10% and anything over 6% is always a thrill in the RV. The dark dots at the left on the glacier are the snocoaches.
Looking across the Athabasca Glacier at the ice at the top that is part of the Columbia Icefield. The icefield which covers 325 square kilometers is the largest in the Rockies. The glacier moves down the mountain while a cap stays in place. This location is unique because it is on three continental divides, with the melting water flowing into the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This is the only place in the world that this occurs.
Here we are on the Athabasca Glacier. The ice at this point is thicker than the Eiffel Tower is tall, over 350 meters. It was a really neat experience.
The marker indicates where the glacier's toe was in 2000. Several kilometers of it have disappeared in the last century. For all those global warming skeptics, it should be here for you to see in your lifetime, but it might be a good idea to get the grandchildren here because it will probably be gone during theirs.
The views here are some of the most spectacular we have seen in our travels. We have been to the Tetons, Yosemite, Zion, Gros-Morne and many other national parks. They are all beautiful but they cannot match Banff, Jasper and the Icefields Parkway when it comes to the total volume of beauty. For almost the entire 300 km you are surrounded by soaring snow capped peaks, rivers and waterfalls.
Just a couple of the many waterfalls. Left is Tangle Falls and right the Athabasca Falls. The background is the marks in the rock from the glaciers moving across them. Some were as smooth as a sidewalk.
This mountain was overlooking the campground at Jasper. This picture was taken at 10PM. It stayed light very late. It took us a while to realize that we have never been this far north. We are even closer to the North Pole than we were in the Northern most tip of Newfoundland. Not Alaska, but really far north.
While we are not in Alaska we continue to enjoy Mark and Renita's adventure. We had a Betty's RV Park sign we promised to put up at the sign forest in Watson Lake, Yukon and Mark made sure it got there this year.  Many thanks and Betty thanks you too.
To River Cat, the header photo on the blog is at the Elks Lodge in the Keys. I thought of changing it but I love it and we will be heading back there in January.

1 comment:

Bobbie and Salvatore said...

Great blog post! Love the photos!!!