GRMA Day 26: Perfect Day in Jasper and Banff National Parks
(Note: All pictures can be enlarged.)
I don’t think I could have had a better day riding to the Icefields Parkway and then south until I veered west to head for Radium Hot Springs, my current locale. Great weather: blue skies, temps in the 70s after 11 a.m. This was a great day for photographing one of the most scenic parts of the Rocky Mountains.
When I rode the Icefields Parkway about a week ago, rain and an accident marred the trip. Today, the weather cooperated and, once again, so did the critters.
This area of the Canadian Rockies, as I noted two years ago, is “Spectacular.” But of course I’m not the only one to notice that. This place is crawling with tourists, half of whom come from half-way around the world to see the sights. Parking lots along the parkway are always packed; tourist sites such as the Columbia Icefields is mobbed, vacant hotel rooms are non-existent and, as I discovered tonight even finding a place to eat that can seat you in less than 30 minutes is a chore. I fear that, like the Smokies back home, this place is being loved to death. Not much that can be done about it, though. Everyone has as much right to be here as I do, even though I wish they’d stay home.
And while I pulled over to get a shot of the hide-and-seek mountain top, a white-tail doe was having breakfast in the field in front of me. She’s barely visible in the mountain shot so I snuck up on her for a close-up. When I was at the visitor’s center I struck up a conversation with a couple from Illinois touring on a trike. She asked if I’d seen any animals on my trip and I had to brag and show her my griz and mooses from yesterday. She said they’ve been on the road for two weeks and have only seen a couple of mountain goats and a coyote. I guess I’ve been pretty lucky, except that I hadn’t seen a mountain goat so far.
Not much further up the Yellowhead Highway toward Jasper, I spotted a big elk with a nice rack. He was in the shadows so the contrast isn’t what I would have liked, but this big boy goes along nicely with the rest of my growing animal collection. When it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to throw a saddle on him, I packed up and continued on my journey to the parkway.
I’ve tried to take pictures that show the majesty and scope of these mountains, but they just don’t do them justice. So I recommend that everyone make a trip out here to see them. You might as well, everyone else in the world seems to be here.
So, I’m riding along the parkway, admiring the mountain views that get more incredible with every mile, when I noticed mountain goats near the road. “Mountain goats?” I said to myself. “I need a mountain goat for my collection. What a coincidence.” Like many of the animals I’ve run across, the goats didn’t seem to be too disturbed that I was about to give them lasting Internet fame via hdriderblog. I picked out one of the larger ones and focused on him while he munched clover desperately growing on the hillside. I think he would be pleased with the results if he were to log in.
Despite my good fortune with the animals, today was really about the mountains and the glaciers. I stopped frequently to stand in awe of the view and even took a one-hour round-trip hike to near the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. You can actually walk out on it if you buy a rather expensive ticket and stay with the guide. I had neither the time nor the money, so I satisfied my glacial urges with some pictures. As with other publicly accessible glaciers, interpretive signs show where the glacier was in the past. This particular glacier has lost 50% of its mass in the past 100 years and the pace seems to be accelerating. But by following the path of the receding glacier, I got a feel for the massive power of this river of snow and ice that leaves in its wake huge piles of moraine (gravel) and scars on the rocks that it doesn’t move. A series of straight lines on the large rocks are caused by smaller rocks under tons of ice being forced over the top of the larger ones and scoring their surface.. The Athabasca Glacier is part of the Columbia Icefield, the largest (125 sq miles) icefield in the North America. Most peaks in the area are around 11,000 feet.
I rode slowly along the parkway, waving impatient tourists around me from time to time. I wanted to spend as much time as I could surrounded by the Canadian Rockies. I’m still in them tonight, but the tallest and most rugged peaks are now to my east.
Tomorrow I’ve got a short ride planned to near Crows Nest Pass to see one of the largest landslides in North American recorded history. More on that tomorrow.
Other pictures I liked from today (the bird is for my NC neighbors):