To move, to breathe, to fly, to float… To gain all while you give… To roam the roads of lands remote… To travel is to live! – Hans Christian Andersen
June 24, 2018 – We had been traveling for over three weeks now, and had seen the most spectacular landscapes I had ever witnessed in my life! Every place that we visited, from the Badlands on, had its own brand of beauty, but this stretch of mountains in Canada had no rival, in my humble opinion.
The ruggedness of the massive granite rocks, the glaciers that towered above were just so incredibly impressive! It’s difficult to take it all in through the eyes of a tiny little human… the magnitude of it all is so overwhelming…
I had a powerful desire to set up camp and live in this rugged beauty, to not just “see” it, but to let all of my senses revel in the wildness, absorbing every sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and spiritual depth of perception. At this point in time, I had still not overcome my fear of backcountry camping in grizzly territory. Sure, we had stayed in our van in campgrounds where bears were frequently seen, but a flimsy little polyester tent compares not to a steel-sided conversion van! The seed of adventure had been planted. Now, for the growth of courage to take root…
We woke up to a gorgeous, sunny day on June 24th, with the promise of 75 degree weather in the forecast. Jasper National Park, located in Alberta, Canada, was a name we had heard several times in our travels from people who raved about its beauty and noted that there was less competition for prime views, since fewer travelers ventured that far beyond Banff.
On our way to discover this lesser-known area of the Canadian Rockies, we stopped many times to gaze at the even more stunning mountain views than we had seen in Banff or Kootenay! It just didn’t seem possible that the Rockies could get any better!!
When we arrived at the Athabasca Glacier, we assumed we could walk directly on it with no restrictions, but soon learned we could not walk on the glacier without either going on a guided hiking tour, or riding on a Sno Coach, or Explorer. However, this restriction we had learned, had not stopped several people from falling to their deaths, down deep crevasses in the ice. The fines for needing to be rescued, either alive or dead, were as steep as the crevasses were deep… we decided to proceed by the rules.
The Columbia Icefields are considered one of the largest accumulations of ice and snow south of the Arctic Circle, and can reach depths of 2,000 feet. The Columbia Icefields are incredibly important for the northern hemisphere’s water supply as it feeds all three oceans – Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic.http://www.canadianrockies.net/john-andrew-mckiernan/cold-hard-facts-about-the-icefields-parkway-and-athabasca-glacier.html
Since the Sno Coaches were able to drive in much further than the hikers could walk, we opted for the massively cool machines!
We waited for two hours at the Columbia Icefield building where we had bought our tickets, found some t-shirts, coffee mugs, and magnets in the tourist shop, and waited some more… They shuttled us over to the Sno Coaches in big tour buses, then we boarded one of only 24 in the entire world! Each Sno-Explorer costs $1.4 million dollars! Brewster’s in Canada own 22 out of the 24… two Sno Coaches are currently exploring the Antarctic.
This massive machine carried us down a 33% grade gravel road… the 2nd steepest gravel road in the WORLD!! Such an incredible experience we shall never forget!
We were informed, before we boarded the bus, to bring one empty water bottle per person for the purpose of filling it with mineral-laden, pure glacier water! As soon as our feet landed on this impressive field of ice, we took some snapshots, then walked to where the sparkling, ice-blue rivers of glacier water ran, filled our bottles and tasted the refreshingly arctic-cold beverage. We were warned not to drink too much of this water, which is high in mineral content. Apparently, some people have a low-tolerance and experience stomach issues if they over-imbibe.
We are standing on a GLACIER!! WOO HOOOO!!! After enjoying our 30-minute walk about, soaking up the intensely, bright sunshine and breathing in the crisp, clean mountain air, it was time to leave the glacier and experience part two of our Athabasca tour… the Skywalk!
Phil and I both share a fear of heights, but Phil’s phobia is higher on the “fear spectrum” than mine. (Pun intended, tee-hee) I couldn’t have been more proud as he took his tentative, baby steps out onto the clear, acrylic, horseshoe-shaped walkway that spanned over the top of a very deep canyon, which one could feel move as people walked on it… we could watch mountain goats below us, grazing and climbing the steep ledges on sure-footed legs. Amazing sights that are forever emblazoned in our pictures and memories!
After an incredible day in the wilds of the Canadian Rockies, we had the privilege of seeing more wildlife on our drive back to Johnston Campground. A black bear was walking down below the road we were on and I just caught sight of him before we zoomed past. Phil did a U-turn and we pulled off to the side of the road, cameras in hand, waiting for him to walk up beside us. He was definitely on a mission and didn’t let our close proximity stop him from his chosen path…
We were able to watch this bear walk down the left lane for quite a distance, but then, to our horror, a pick-up truck came speeding over the hill behind us, flying around us without slowing a bit, even though we had our flashers on and were pointing down the road at the bear. HELLO!!! We stopped taking pictures and watched as the truck drove right alongside the bear, which was still walking in the left lane, never slowing AT ALL. The bear jumped a little to the left as the guy driving the truck, barely touched his brakes and missed him by a few short feet. Unbelievable!! There is no way he could not have seen that bear!
Thankful that we didn’t witness a crash before our eyes, we turned the Vandura back around and, still shaking, continued on to our campsite. Only four more days left of our epic adventure!
In the next blog, we will take you to Yoho National Park where Takakkaw Falls, made famous by the movie, “Last of the Dogmen“, was filmed. It is a spectacular waterfall and the whole area is immersed in beautiful, rugged, breath-taking wilderness…
HAPPY TRAILS! 😀