Lake Louise and the Icefield Parkway.

24th June 2015

Wow has today been eventful!

The weather forecast looked fairly dire, which for our most scenic drive was disappointing, but the clouds looked as though they might break.

We packed and checked out of the Rundlestone Lodge, having spent half an hour trying to find a missing iPod, which it turned out was packed all the time (the kids will sigh knowingly…!) and set off for the Lake Louise Gondola.

This one has a choice of chair lifts and enclosed cabins.  It wasn’t raining, so we opted for the chair lift and settled back for the ride up the slope.

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About two thirds of the way up there was a shout from the occupants of the chairlift coming towards us that there was a grizzly two minutes ahead of us.  We craned our necks in anticipation, but no sign of the bear, it must have wandered back into the forest.  We weren’t too upset as we had seen one yesterday, but it would have been great to spot another.

By now the sun was making an appearance, and at the top the scenery was breathtaking.  The iconic Fairmont Lake Louise castle like hotel was visible in the distance, sitting in front of its turquoise lake.  However every photo we took turned out hazy.  This is my photo

Fairmont close up

And this is what it looks like at its best

Fairmont as it should look

We had been warned we were in bear country, and that the electric fences around the paths were little deterrent. Instructions were to shout as you walked along, but this seemed one eccentricity too far for us!

We had bought gourmet’ride and dine’ tickets to use the restaurant at the top, and after a while trying to locate it (down the hill!)  we went in and were shown to a table just in front of the glass screen looking out to Lake Louise.

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Lunch arrived quickly, rabbit and bacon fricassee for me, and wild boar chop with raspberry vinaigrette for Roger.  Both delicious, washed down with cider and ginger ale.

We set off back to the top of the lift, hitching a ride on the golf cart back, we must be getting old, but felt weary.  At the top we chose the chairlift option again, and down we went.  Another comment from those coming up was yelled across to us, ‘two bears to your left, and three on your right!’  And indeed there were!

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A mix of black bears and grizzlies, we strained round to catch video of them as the chairlift drifted past.  Six bears in two days, amazing!

I was aware on the descent that the abdominal gripes I was feeling were getting worse, and it was a desperate run to the loo the minute we got off.  I had obviously got a serious stomach upset, and it was a while before we were able to leave the building, I had to keep running back.  Two Imodium and everything crossed, we set off for the Icefield Parkway, the famous road that runs between Lake Louise and Jasper.

I had found an app for the phone which acts like your personal tour guide, telling you all the interesting bits about the journey as you pass them, and telling you what is up ahead.  We were learning all about the road (built purely for the tourists in 1940, no trucks allowed) and the names of the mountains, glaciers and lakes and who discovered them.  The first glacier we saw was the crows foot glacier, perched on top of a mountain, so called when it used to have three claws to it, now down to only two as the climate changed.

 

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The app also told us when rest stops were coming up, which proved invaluable given my current state! And it was becoming clear that Roger was rapidly heading down the same route…..

Eventually we arrived at the Athabasca Glacier Explorer Station.  We had tickets for the glacier walk and the Skyway, a glass hoop walkway over the canyon below.  We shot into the loos, then queued up to exchange our tickets for timed ones.  The Skywalk was closed for the day we were told, due to high winds and lightning in the area, but we were given the 5.30 slot for the glacier experience.  This was going to be touch and go if we could survive the one and a half hours without needing a ‘washroom’ as we were leaning to call them.  Rog was looking paler by the minute, and left the queue again as we waited, but he wanted to try and make it and the Imodium packet was further raided.   We couldn’t work out whether it was the turkey roll at lunch yesterday, or the awful steak the night before, but something was causing havoc.

Eventually we joined the bus to take us across the road and up to the glacier.

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We stopped at another car park and boarded  $1.3 million worth of Ice Explorer bus.  The tyres were as tall as Roger, and inflated to only 14 psi so as not to damage the ice.

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We set off up the edge of the terminal moraine pushed down by the glacier, up to the top and then we were looking down on this vast sheet of ice.

It looked a little grubby, but not surprising with the tyres going over it I suppose.

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Next it was down the 1 in 2.5 hill and onto the ice itself.  Gasps from the passengers as we were bounced around on the descent!  We were driven to the middle of a circular area which had been flattened, and warned to stay on it, or we risked falling down a crevasse.

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There was the sound of running water everywhere, as melt water tricked through, and there were patches where the ice was a stunning shade of pale blue, as well as stark white.

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The surface was not the sheet ice which I had been expecting, more like the surface of really old snow.  It wasn’t too difficult to walk on, if you took it slowly, and everyone was taking photos of everyone else, and themselves, with the towering glacier behind us.

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We learnt that the glacier melt water feeds eventually into four different oceans, being used for farming, business and personal use across Canada and the USA.  Also that the modern vehicles we were in (built in the 1970s!)  replaced very small ones with caterpillar tracks that damaged the ice, and thought had to be given into what vehicle would be more environmentally friendly, and the current ones were specially designed.

Photo opportunities over (we hadn’t sampled the melt water, though lots did, I gather it was absolutely pure) and back on the Explorer bus, and then the coach, back to the car park.  Rog looked dreadful, but he hung on, leaving the coach at a run.  I was at last beginning to feel I was over the worst of it.

We had warned Brenda and Ron that we would be late arriving at their B and B ain Jasper, so that took a bit of the pressure off.  The App commented on the Athabasca Falls, we knew these were world famous, so stopped to take a look.  The noise of the torrential cascade over and through the rocks was tremendous, and we were so glad we did get to see them.  We found ourselves directing local visitors how to get across to the other side, we must be fitting in!

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Okay, so now we were going to be late for the new time.  Rog was putting his foot down a bit, when something large and black ambled out straight in front of the car – a black bear!  We were forced to stop as it slowly trundled across the road, and stopped at the side, about four feet from the car.  Panic ensued trying to find a camera with a battery still working, and I did my best to film it, but the reflection from the window kept getting in the way, and I didn’t dare lower it.  The poor thing seemed to be suffering from quite bad hair loss on its flanks. It looked a youngster, but perhaps it was just that we had become used to the bigger grizzlies.  We must have spent almost five minutes so close to this completely wild bear, who wasn’t in the least bit bothered about our presence.

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Realising time was ticking on, we tore ourselves away, and picking up speed nearly ran over a chipmunk dashing across the road.  A little further on there was a large deer by the side of the road, with lots of cars stopped, but we felt we could not stop again.

We made it to a warm welcome at Brenda and Ron’s B and B in Jasper, shattered, but now beginning to recover!

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