Trans Can HWY #9: Mother Nature is a fickle woman

Two years ago this past August, my mother and I ventured on a cross country trek in my brother’s Jeep across Canada. We drove west from southwestern Ontario to Vancouver, BC over the course of two weeks, and then down to northern California to meet up with the men in our family. The following are taken from emails I wrote to family and friends.

Day 9: Wednesday, August 8, 2012

So comrades, today was a day of spectacularly brilliant and altogether frightening weather. Read on.

IMG_2789Had a late start today, but gained an hour as we entered Pacific Time, woot woot! Took the 1A out of Banff to Silver City or some such thing, and not even ten minutes out we saw a black bear in all his glory. Well first we saw what is known as a “bear jam” (traffic jam created due to bear sighting). We made it to the front of the jam and that’s when Pooh Bear decided to walk in front of our vehicle. Fantastique. Unfortunately, later in the day we learned about “habitation” and it is in ours and the bears’ best interest to drive by and not stop. Wildlife is becoming too familiar with us, and as a result many untimely deaths occur.

We climbed north up 1A following the Bow River which has that very pretty, milky blue colour.

Pretty rock flour, Morraine Lake

Pretty rock flour, Morraine Lake

I recently learned  that the water in these parts has this quality due to the rock that has been crushed into “rock flour” by glaciers up at the top of the mountains. It then flows down via the melt water into lakes, etc., and as this sediment remains suspended in the water (it doesn’t settle), the sunlight reflects off of it and depending on how much rock flour is in the water depends on what kind of blue you see. Enough science.

The day was quite cool, and started to rain right before we reached Moraine Lake. Jackets on, umbrellas with us, we did the very short trek up to a viewing platform of the lake. It was über windy and fairly icy cold. The sky was a very dark grey. Still the water was a brilliant blue (rock flour!) and made for some great pics. One of the views of Moraine is on the CDN 20 dollar bill, don’t ya know.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise

Onwards to Lake Louise. Interesting thing happened, Mother Nature wasn’t so angry and let up and we had to shed our sweaters and jackets, etc., and had some great sunshine for the next couple of hours.

A little ways out from Lake Louise we thought we’d go up their gondola ride that advertised best chances of seeing grizzly bears. Beautiful scenery (surprise!), and had some fun snapping pics at the top of the ski slope, as well as learn about the wildlife that inhabits the area. Once back down the hill, we learned that this Texan couple a few chairs ahead of us had spotted a grizzly. He must have been shy when he saw us coming.

A view from up high

A view from up high

Booked it out of there and continued on the Icefields Parkway through Jasper National Park as we wanted to get to, or as close to, the Columbia Ice Field Centre as we could and had a few hours to go. Interesting mention: The Icefields Parkway is home to over one hundred visible glaciers! Made some stops along the way to take pictures of various trees and ice – saw Crowfoot Glacier amongst countless names I cannot recall and, what I thought was funny, Bridal Veil Falls – wonder which name came first: the one in Niagara Falls, NY or here in Alberta?

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Made a stop to see Peyto (pea-toe) Lake (above), gorgeous as expected. Apparently seeing the lake from the Bow Summit (as we did) is the best view as well as is the highest point in the Icefields Parkway.

Climbing further up the Parkway, we noticed we were approaching a wall-of-death-black weather. No bueno. As we entered said death weather I had to slow down to 30 km/hr: we were being pelted with hail, sleet, and rain, and it didn’t seem to want to let up. Terribly concerned we were going to dent Jason’s car… or plummet to our untimely deaths: whichever. There were motorcyclists about too! Poor lads… and lasses. The weather did subside and as we made our way along the Parkway, we were able to stop at various viewpoints.

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View of Athabasca Glacier and Mountain

The Columbia Icefields Centre is a sprawling 1995 era establishment. It only runs (I think) 6-months out of the year: during the winter, or upon the first snow fall, the roads all up that way are closed.  It gets to about -50 degrees Celcius. The Centre overlooks, you guessed it, the Columbia Icefield and a bunch of glaciers the field feeds into. They run the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure I convinced mom to partake in and because we had to do it the next day (and the Glacier View Inn was booked solid with all the cyclists) we decided to camp ½ km away. We had a quick and casual dinner at the centre’s dining hall and then went to set up camp.

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Athabasca Glacier

There were only about 30 small sites, based on an honour system – fill out vehicle form and deposit that and your money into a box, which a park ranger did show up to make sure you paid the $15.70 – she told us that a thunderstorm was rolling in, which we could hear. It was so chilly, and by this point, it was 8:20 pm… it had just started to sprinkle and we were pitching our tent and setting up camp in a frantic, efficient manner. With a minute to

IMG_3022spare, it started to come down harder. Phew. We hung out in the car until 9 and until the rain let up a bit. Partly out of boredom I thought I might as well go to bed. I slept in everything I had… still shivered a bit, had my sweatshirt hood on, socks rolled up over my pants, and slept with the sleeping bag way over my head. I’d rather not breathe than be cold. Tent leaked.

Kilometres achieved: 260

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