Sunday, 9 September 2012

Rockies 1

After only one night in Vancouver we headed off again, this time to the Rockies!

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We left Vancouver and drove through the interior of BC (perhaps not quite on the route Google is giving). We stopped a few times, once near Craigellachie, at the Last Spike Memorial, for the last spike in the cross-Canada railway.

Our last stop was Golden, where we stayed the night  for the night at a lovely B&B run by a friendly couple who made us fabulous brie-stuffed french toast topped with strawberries and maple syrup... mmmmm! Then we were off again, heading into the mountains...

We arrived at Lake Louise as the parking lot was beginning to fill up, but before the line stretched half-way to Banff. Lake Louise is gorgeous, obviously, 

but I also love it because my grandmother worked at the famous hotel (which I apparently didn't take a picture of, although I did take plenty of pictures of the panel talking about the history of the hotel... Yes, I am a historian/museum geek, as if I needed more proof!)

Lake Louise is a major tourist spot, however, and was starting to get too filled with people (and dogs, and even a few parrots) so we filled the car with gas, picked up a few things for a picnic lunch and headed off on the Icefields Parkway. We hadn't gotten very far before we came upon a mass of cars stopped on the road.  In the Rockies a mass of cars stopped means one thing - ANIMALS! You can normally guess what type of animal it is based on how many cars are stopped and whether other cars are driving by or stopping.  The fact that all of the cars were stopped and, wonder of wonder, all the tourists were actually staying in their cars suggested it was a bear...

Can you spot it? He was sitting in the forest just off the road, cleaning bush after bush of berries. He was blissfully unaware of the chaos he was creating only metres away and kept on eating and eating.

After taking plenty of rather bad photographs, we were off again.

There are many many reasons why this road is called the most beautiful drive in the country!

We stopped at a picnic site by a river for our lunch.

And then continued on, the road climbing higher and higher into the mountains.

We stopped at the Columbia Icefields and climbed up to see the glacier.  It seemed to be a longer climb to the viewing area than I had remembered, and you can no longer walk on the foot of the glacier, as I had been able to last time I was there (unless you climb over the clearly marked path despite dire warnings of the dangers of going out of bounds) I know that the glaciers are disappearing, I have seen pictures showing how far the glaciers have "receeded" over short periods of time, but  standing at this marker took my breath away (and no, it wasn't just the altitude!).  I spent a lot of time in the Rockies during the summers of my years as an undergrad, working in Jasper the summers of 2001-2003. I last visited the summer of 2005, when driving through. Standing at this marker I realized why the walk seemed longer than I remembered.

It is a bit hard to tell in this picture just how far the marker is from the foot of the glacier, but it is a fair distance.  About half-way to the foot of the glacier are markers that are waist-height. I couldn't find the albums of photos from my summers in Jasper to compare, but it was a shock to see just how quickly the glacier is disappearing and realize that there may not be a glacier to see, or at least one that isn't perched up on the mountain top, in a far too short amount of time!

We left a little inukshuk to guard the glacier, and as a promise to go back again.

Back on the road, since U is forever stopping at little trickles that he calls waterfalls we stopped at Sunwapta Falls to give him a glimpse of a Canadian waterfall (yes, we will go to Niagara sometime!).

And then it was time to stop for the night, at a place we've been staying for years and always loved, but after the horrible service, self-righteousness of the staff, and the generally sub-par state of the accommodations we were given, I don't think we'll stay there again.  Despite all of the negatives, however, it sure does have a beautiful viewpoint to watch the sky turn pink with the sunset! 


  1. The water in that second photo below the bear photo ... that has to be Photoshopped! It's the most gorgeous colour I've ever imagined. Umm. Never imagined would be more correct.

    Stunning photos. Everything in Canada is just so BIG!

    The glacier, though, made me frown. So much beauty in your country, and so much damage caused by global warming: glaciers, pine moths, who knows what else. :(

    1. Not photoshoped, at the start of the season every year the locals get together, drain the lake, paint it turquoise, and let the water back. The colour stays for the summer but disappears when the lake freezes over the winter, so they must do it every summer. Some locals want to change the colour but it is a tradition and there are still a mountain of leftover paint cans in another guy's garage, so...

      Big, yes. The openness and scale is... it takes my breath away and soothes me all at once. I miss it terribly! But, Africa has the same sorts of wide open spaces, vast expanses with nobody there, and aweinspiring nature, right?

      The glacier was a very depressing experience. I've seen the old pictures, I've heard my grandfather talking about where the glacier was when he visited, I know it is a problem and I was worried about it, but coming face to face with the enormity of what has happened, not since I was born or since my grandfather, but since I was there last (it doesn't seem too long ago for me)... it just hit really really really hard. The Columbia Icefields is extremely comercialized, with "bus" tours going out onto it every few minutes. It is one of the few glaciers that allows for a direct experience for many many people. There are definitely problems with the amount of commercialization (see "bus" tours above), but it is also a unique opportunity to teach about glaciers. And I really do think that teaching about glaciers is an important way of teaching about natural history and global warming.

      Phew... long reply!

  2. Sad about the glaciers. Apparently the same thing is happening in the Swiss Alps. But it's lovely to see these - reminds me of some great visits too. love and hugs, C