Entry 15 - 4 September 2000
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|The Columbia Icefield then Calgary
I was woken earlier than I would've liked by the clanging of kitchen equipment. It seems we were sleeping above the restaurant. Not a good idea.
Now that it was morning, it was possible to see the true view from our room. It was spectacular. Looming just a short distance away was a snow-capped mountain peak.
|We had our continental breakfast in the restaurant. I think we may have been some of the first guests to drag themselves out of bed.|
|Vanessa||Before we left the Tekarra Lodge, we drove around the grounds to where we could see the two rivers, Miette and Athabasca, join. The clouds had lifted a little, so we also had a view of the mountains. A short stop back in Jasper also preluded our travels for the day. I wanted to get some photos of the town with its backdrop of mountains. That didn't take very long and we were soon on the road once more, heading in a southerly direction towards, ultimately, Calgary.|
|Shortly after turning off the main highway, Route 93, onto Route 93A, we saw another male elk grazing by the roadside. Unfortunately, this one didn't provide much of a photo opportunity as it moved deeper into the trees when it became aware of us. This certainly is a very lovely place, with dense forests and lakes. I was glad we had chosen to take the more scenic route.|
|Our first major stop for the day was at the Athabasca Falls. The Athabasca River plunges through a very narrow rocky chasm, providing some really wonderful scenery. Tourists can wander around the falls on fenced paths and bridges that have plenty of good lookouts. There were lots of tourists and seemingly more arrived every moment. Many spoke French or German. Having taken photos of the falls from just about every angle we could manage, Chris and I jumped back into the welcome warmth of the car and headed off again, back to the main highway.|
|There are absolutely HUGE mountains in this area. Once again, they were shrouded by clouds. Every now and then the clouds would clear briefly, giving us a strip-tease vision of the landscape. It was all very beautiful... and COLD. At 11am it had to be only about 6 degrees! It certainly was the coldest summer day I ever had (and probably winter too!)|
|Our next stop was at a roadside tourist information board near the start of the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The clouds had lifted quite a bit in the direction of the Icefield and the view was magnificent. I had never seen anything like it before. It certainly was a wild looking country. I could only imagine how it would be in the deep of winter.|
|Chris||At one stop, we were approached by the fattest raven I have ever seen. We had seen others at times, but this loner got really close to us. There were signs about saying not to feed the wildlife, so we didn't give it anything, but I'd bet that other people have done so in the past.|
|Vanessa||From then on, we drove through an absolutely breathtaking landscape. We stopped at every opportunity, taking photos of glaciers, mountains, waterfalls... I was so glad Chris had made the effort last night to re-plan our route. This place was definitely something not to rush through! Many other people obviously thought so, too, as everywhere we stopped along the way there were lots of other tourists also taking photos.|
|Chris||Our stop for lunch was at Athabasca Glacier, at the tourist centre there. My memory of the last time I went through the area (1994) was a bit dim, but I felt certain that the centre didn't exist at that time. I seem to recall that it was just a roadhouse at the time. The tourist centre had a number of displays about the icefields, glaciers and the region. It was ok, but perhaps could have been better designed to handle the huge number of people going through the place.|
|Indeed, it was very crowded. I would guess there were thousands of people here, including busloads of Asian tourists. Our lunch was typical for a tourist place - fast food, mass produced of generally low to average quality - a hamburger for Vanessa and fish and chips for me.|
When we bought some items in the gift shop, the lady serving us mentioned that today was the best weather they'd had for some days as previously it had been raining and snowing with no visibility. I imagine that it would have been a lot colder than today as well.
From the tourist centre, special buses would head off to take people up to the glacier. You could see little dots in the distance as people walked across the surface.
|We crossed the highway and drove along a partially sealed road to the carpark at the foot of the glacier. At various points there were year markers indicating the location of the glacier. It certainly showed dramatically how far the glacier had retreated and the increasing speed of this retreat.|
|Vanessa||While we were there, it began snowing on the glacier and there was a whiteout. Someone said it was minus 3 degrees Celsius up there on the ice! I could believe them. The closest we went to the actual glacier was at the carpark near its foot and, to quote Chris, "it was FUCKING COLD" there. It was too cold for us to hike out onto the glacier itself and we didn't have the time for a bus trip. I made do with running around for a few minutes, taking some photos and freezing my butt off. It is an experience I will never forget.|
|We entered Banff National Park around 2pm. All the time, I kept praying that the weather wouldn't cloud over again - there were just too many wonderful things to see! We were lucky and the weather mostly held. It did snow on the mountain tops at some times, but it only rained lightly on the highway in the valleys below.|
|I could try to describe the scenery, but I think the best thing is to look at our photographs. Even so, those images won't, can't convey the feelings I felt when I looked at those rocky mountains. There was such a sense of sheer mass in them - these are the very bones of the Earth!|
Our next stop was a rest break at Lake Louise where we purchased some more souvenirs. As usual, there was a lot of interesting stuff for sale - much of it made by local First Nation artists and craftsmen.
It was nearing 4pm and the traffic was starting to build up. The landscape had opened out with green valleys and the mountains no longer loomed directly over the highway, but it was still very rugged country. The late afternoon sun broke through the clouds at one point and the golden light looked pretty on the rocky bluffs. Mt Rundle was a spectacular sight.
|It was a little surprising at how quickly the landscape flattened out into smaller mountains and rolling hills. Soon we were surrounded by hayfields and grazing pastures - once again I was reminded of the countryside of Southeastern Queensland, except that there were no gum trees, of course. We bypassed the famous Banff and took the main highway south.|
|We entered Calgary before sunset and were soon stuck in a traffic jam! This was a bit of a rude shock after so many miles of open highway. It seems that there had been some sort of sporting event that had just ended and we were caught in the resulting rush to leave the stadium. The sports fans were much like those we have at home, as many of them had decorated their cars with streamers and balloons in team colours.|
|My impression of Calgary was of a city much like Brisbane, with large outer suburbs and a tight knot of skyscrapers that make the city heart. We avoided the city centre. Our hotel, the Best Western "Port of Call" was near the airport. It was 6.15pm when we arrived and the temperature was 13 degrees.|
|We were too tired to bother looking for a restaurant. Our room was very nice (two queen sized beds!), so we stayed in. Dinner was room service pizza and hot chocolate.|
|This evening, Chris has again tried to adjust our route, but unfortunately there isn't much more he can do. Tomorrow is going to be a long, 10 hour drive to Bozeman, a town just north of Yellowstone Park. It has become quickly apparent to us that we should have taken 8 weeks for our holiday, instead of the 4 that we have. There are so many things to see and do and just not enough time!|
|Chris||And 8 weeks probably wouldn't have been enough either!|