Alaska, the Last Frontier - Summer 2012 travel blog

snowy summit

near Banff

traveling north

getting colder

animal overpass

our rig in the snow

snowy lunch stop

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snowy summit drive


The day started well. Under partly sunny skies we headed north on the Icefield Parkway toward Jasper National Park. We shared the large highway pull-off lots with tour buses. Some of their occupants seemed more interested in our rigs than in the fabulous scenery their coach had stopped for. Most of the gawkers were German and they were especially interested in the tow vehicle. They had never seen a car being towed with the wheels on the ground rather than on a dolly.

We passed under numerous overpasses that did not lead to roads. it took us a minute to realize that these were built for the animals who want to migrate from one side of the expressway to another. Fences along the expressway keep them from wandering into our path and hopefully they understand that the overpasses are there for them to move from one side to another.

As we headed north the elevation increased. The snow line began to be at eye level rather than far above. The clouds began to thicken. At a spot overlooking a frozen lake the sun burst out, illuminating an eerie aquamarine color reflecting through the melting ice.

But as we neared the Columbia Icefield, our tour goal for the day, the light rain became heavy and turned into thick snow flakes as we climbed. As we stopped in the spacious tour lot to eat lunch, the snow gathered on the windshield and we began to wonder if it was safe to go on. We were so disappointed. Touring the Colombia Glacier complex was a high point of our visit to the Canadian Rockies, but if we had tried to take the tour, we wouldn't have seen a thing.

As we drove north and the elevation went down, we passed numerous bicycle riders who were headed up the mountain into the snow. They looked miserable. We were feeling bummed, but not nearly as bummed as they looked.

By the time we reached Jasper, the elevation was at 3500 feet and the light rain stopped. We were handed warning pamphlets by campground staff warning us that elk have gathered in the campground to give birth. This is not their normal behavior, but they have learned that if they hand around with humans, the cougars, bears, and wolves are less likely to sneak in to snack on their newborns. If we do encounter an elk we are to: Act dominant. Seek protection behind a tree or vehicle. Raise our arms or flap a jacket to make ourselves appear larger. Maintain eye contact and move away. If knocked down get up and move away. Do not play dead! Elk danger signs: eyes stare directly at you, flattened ears, raised rump hair, curled lips, tooth grinding, and following or circling.

We hope to return to the Icefield tomorrow, which prevent us from doing other sight seeing we planned to do here. But we are grateful to be away from the snow safe and sound. And not riding bicycles in the snow.

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