The trip from McBride to Jasper was only 101 miles but it took about 2:30 to get here due to a long delay waiting on them to blast down part of a slide area on the side of a mountain and clear it. The biggest problem is not just the wait but the traffic congestion as 20 minutes of traffic gets jammed up tight. We were really glad we only had nine more miles to go and didn’t have to contend with it long. The campground here at Whistler is huge! There are over 680 sites of which 117 are full hookup pull-throughs which is what we have. The sites are fairly large and very shaded, which also eliminates the DirecTV, but at least we have cell service!
After setting up camp, we went into the town of Jasper for a bite to eat and to get some trail and other information from the Visitor’s Center. Jasper is a town within the National Park and has a population of about 4,000. It reminds you a lot of Gatlinburg although not quite as crowded, at least this time of year. Unlike Gatlinburg, Jasper is actually in the National Park instead of just outside of the park. It has a lot of restaurants, shops and hotels just like Gatlinburg though. I understand the town of Banff inside Banff National Park is the same way. We will find out Friday when we get there.
Wednesday was a busy day. First off we went to Moose Lake Trail about 30 miles outside of Jasper near Maligne (pronounced Maleen) Lake. On the way there we came across a Grizzly cub eating berries alongside the road. I never was able to get a good picture as he never got his head out of the bushes. No idea where the mom was though we kept a lookout for her. Hopefully the cub isn’t by itself or it most likely will not make it through the winter. It was a nice two-mile hike and Doris came though it fine. Her knee had really been bothering her and then last week she had some excruciating pain it all of a sudden and it has been getting better, almost like something was in the wrong place and popped back in. We went by Moose Lake which is a small serene lake that was really pretty (but no Moose!) and also by Maligne Lake which is a much larger recreational lake, also pretty in its own way, especially with the mountains in the background.
After walking the trail, we came back into Jasper and took the tram up to the top of Mt. Whistler. It got its name not from the wind whistling over the rocks but by the sound the Hoary Marmots on the mountain make when communicating with each other. It was very pretty up there with all of the mountain ranges lying out before you and, luckily it was a clear day and we could see forever. We were even able to see Mt Robson which is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. It is much like Denali in that it is tall enough and large enough to make its own weather and is rarely seen in its entirety due to the clouds.
We then went on a late evening wildlife tour that disappointed us for the most part. We did see a couple of Mule Deer, a couple of Coyotes, and some Mountain Goats though.
Thursday we started with a hike to some glaciers. To get there we had to drive 16 miles of which 11 of it was up the side of a mountain: Mt. Edith Cavell which is a little over 10,000 feet high. We then hiked a mile over what used to be covered by glaciers to two glaciers: Cavell Glacier and Angel Glacier. They are almost side by side with Angel Glacier being quite a bit higher and laying between Mt. Edith Cavell and Sorrow Peak. It has the two wings going up both peaks and the legs lying in the valley between. Cavell Glacier has almost completely receded and continues to calf into Cavell Pond which is full if icebergs. Angel Glacier calves and causes small avalanches to fall on the right side of Cavell Glacier making it so dirty it looks like part of the mountain instead of ice. But you can still see the ice caves in it. The melting of Angel Glacier also sends a pretty good waterfall down as well. We just sat there for about a half-hour and enjoyed the beauty before heading back to the trailhead.
Next we started up the Icefield Parkway which is highway 93 and runs about 150 miles between Jasper National Park and Lake Louise in Banff National Park. We had no more than got started when we ran up on two black bear cubs eating alongside the road. We never were able to get close to them but I have included the pictures anyway. We then went to Athabasca Falls. This was a very powerful fall that the entire Athabasca River flows over. It has created a very deep, narrow gorge in the rocks which are mad of dissimilar materials so that they erode at different rates and it has created a very unique fall. I have included pictures and a few videos so you can see and hear it.
We then went a little further down the Parkway to Sunwapta Falls. This is another fall created by a river supplied by a glacier, as all the rivers in this area are. Interestingly all of the rivers run clear during the winter and during the snowmelt when the glaciers are not melting. Once the glaciers start melting the rivers fill with the silty water that makes up the glacier ice and the water is very milky in color. The Sunwapta Falls was a little smaller than the Athabasca but was unique in its own way too.
After leaving Sunwapta we stopped at several turnouts to see the incredible views that these mountains give. We encountered Tangle Falls which is right at the Parkway – no hiking required. It was the tallest of the falls we saw today but being fed by a small creek, had much less water flowing over it. It was still very pretty.
We then made our way to the Icefield Center which is 60 miles from where we started down the Parkway. We will be retracing this route tomorrow when we go to Banff but we wanted to get this part of it out of the way so that the trip will go faster tomorrow. The Icefield Center is front and center before the Columbia Icefield which is made up of many, many glaciers. I included pictures of a few, most noticeably the Athabasca Glacier which drains into the Lake Athabasca which then feeds the Athabasca River that flows all the way to Jasper and beyond. They also have what is called the Glacier Experience which is small busses mounted on caterpillar tracks to travel across the Athabasca Glacier. They take you out onto the glacier and then let you walk on it. We didn’t take advantage of this opportunity as we have been up close and personal with a lot of glaciers and didn’t see the need to spend $100 and two hours waiting to do it again.
After returning to the campground we started getting ready for the trip tomorrow. We have done everything but pulled the electrical plug and put in the bedroom slide so we can get an early start, allowing us to stop as necessary on the other 90 miles of the Icefield Parkway. While doing all of this, three female elk came roaming through the campground eating the grass. It was getting dark so we had trouble again getting good sharp shots since we didn’t want to use the flash and scare them. I don’t know when I will get this posted as I have no internet now and don’t really expect to get it for another week. You will have a lot of catching up to do when I get them all posted!!!