Aaaaah. A hot shower. The first time we’ve showered in three days. We feel like a million bucks. Greg spent over 20 minutes in his, making a case for timed showers at campgrounds but all in all it was a great way to start the day. Unsure about tomorrow’s weather we had a decision to make. Either the Ice Roads Parkway or hiking up one of the smaller peaks overlooking Lake Louise. We decided to stop at the visitors center (ranger station in US speak) to determine our best course of action. We ended up being “helped” by a very hungover Canadian student who could barely get his brain to work. In addition he had toothpaste smeared on his hand and arm and his hair was completely uncombed from the previous night. In the end we decided that it would be best to do the Parkway today in order to take advantage of the sunny weather for all of the turnoffs, etc.
The Ice Road was beautiful. It runs for about 260 km from Lake Louise through Banff National Park and Jasper National Park to the town of Jasper. There were tons of scenic vistas along the way. We first stopped at Pyrna Lake. This was a short walk from a parking area. It was the first crystal blue lake that we’d encountered and you could see the water draining into it from the feeding glacier above. We hung around here a bit until stopping along the Bow River. Jared loves rivers and these rivers look like the ones from White Fang and Into the Wild so we really enjoyed these stops. Greg and I put our feet in the frigid water. Though icy, it was pretty easy to get used to as well. After these river stops, we climbed significantly towards the Columbia Ice Fields. Here we were able to hike right to the base of a glacier. The name of the glacier escapes me but I know it started with the letter A. It was striking to see all of the previous marks of the glacier. It has receded over 2000 feet since 2000 and when we stopped at the visitors center (almost 2 miles away) we saw a sign denoting the glacier’s edge back in 1948. It is sad to see that even these glaciers are rapidly disappearing and that we’ll likely be unable to show these to our children – unless we really hurry up! The trek to the glacier was steep and rocky and looked a lot like photos of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s hard to believe that people fight over such arid and useless land as much as they do. While we had hoped to get to walk on the glacier, we were scared away by the copious warning signs indicating that a lake and swift flowing river had formed underneath the glacier. As such, we decided to instead pose right at the base of it for photos. We later found a sign informing us that the last three rescue attempts for people who fell into crevasses and the water below were unsuccessful. It was over 30 degrees colder at the glacier than in the parking area.
We then stopped at the Columbia Ice Fields visitor’s center to briefly look for magnets (of which there were none) and t-shirts (which were hideous). Overall, we are quite disappointed with Parks Canada. They just do a bad job with pretty much everything they do. Their facilities are not clean, their park rangers don’t seem to leave the desks of the visitor centers and they pave many of their hiking trails. It’s a shame Canada gets Banff and Jasper. I know the US Park Service would do a tremendously better job managing and educating about these lands.
After leaving the Ice Fields, we descended a steep 8-10% grade north into Jasper National Park. The peaks here are much more jagged and you can see where the rocks were pushed up almost at a 70 degree angle towards the sky. I liked this variance. Jared and Greg napped so I drove straight through to the town of Jasper. This is a very built-up touristy town. It seemed like it would have been a very fun place to spend a lot of time. We stopped at a gift shop where Greg found a hand knit hat depicting an animal’s face. He thinks it will make him a babe magnet at Richmond during the summer. Jared picked up a t-shirt and then we refueled. Our “international” credit card kept getting rejected here (as did everyone else’s) and the clerk had to come out and set the pump to allow us to pump and then we paid inside with the same international credit card. Odd system for sure… Oh and since this is the furthest north that any of us have been we had to get a picture with the Jasper sign. This town is about level with the southernmost point in Alaska.
On our way back into Jasper, we hit a 30 minute delay as paving crews worked to vacate their work site for the weekend. Once we were on the road, we stopped at 3 beautiful waterfalls and climbed among the rocks on the edge. We then returned to Lake Louise. On the way, Jared got super angry at Greg and I when discussing politics and started screaming like rants similar to those of Sean Hannity regarding health care reform, liberals, and stupidity. It literally hurt my ear drum and was frightening. When we got back into town we picked up some very overpriced hot dogs, built a campfire, grilled, and went to bed. It was pretty fun to cook our own warm dinner!