Monday, July 23, 2007

Loving Jasper

Still in Jasper. I think it's been the favorite spot all around. It's a nicer National Park. I'm surprised because Jasper is the bigger of the two, something like 300 more campsites. Usually bigger means they slack on the amenities.

Today was a very tiring day physically. We had breakfast, the usual cereal and toast; no one's been brave enough for pancakes yet. And headed out for the Columbia Ice Field.

We had a few stops along the way. Most notable, Athabasca Falls. It was mildly busy but worth it. Rolling falls, mist, and a trail around the front of the falls. Shelby went along for the walk and made a few new human friends. She was really good.

On the road again and we had to pull over for a spectacular sight. Mountain Goats! I've been hoping to see them (or long horn sheep) for days. They were gorgeous. And attracting a lot of attention. I got some video and a few pictures. Jeff was able to get respectably closer but I won't see those pictures until we find an Independent to develop them. A gentleman who pulled over said he does a lot of hiking in the area and that it is very rare to see mountain goats on the side of the road. So we considered ourselves blessed.

We finally made it to the "visitor center" at the Colombia Ice Field. I had to go up 60 stairs. Hello? Is that any way to treat visitors? Who the heck thought of that? We had lunch in the cafeteria which was hopping. The food was surprisingly good for the quick output they were doing. Bus loads of tourists were lining up. We drove over to another area at the base of the field. Jeff and I hiked up a 200-300 meter incline to reach the ice. Momma Mia!

Jeff and Shelby went on a head. I probably had about ten rest stops along the way: two sitting, one chatting with a few people, another offering to take pictures, reading signs... any excuse to stop and smell the roses or catch my breath! It was really breathtaking all around and not just because it was crazy windy. I had to wear a solar fleece jacket because it was a few degrees cooler than the base which was already cool. When I finally made it to the top (where the ice began) I had to cross a metal grate across a petite rushing stream before I could step on the glacier. I walked another ten feet and I called it quits. The incline was too steep and I was wearing sneakers. My fear of falling and breaking something won out over my adventurous endorphins. In my book I made my goal - I walked up the mountain and stepped on the glazier. It was a surreal experience. Walking up with everyone reminded me of those religious pilgrimages where devotees walk in droves to a historic monument. Have a look...

Going down was definitely easier. The wind was at my back and Jeff and Shelby were with me. We took our time and only took a few breaks on the flatter areas. We were wiped out but happy at the bottom.
The effects of global warming can really be seen here. There were markers set up along the route from the visitor's center marking where the glacier use to lie. It is receding quickly in length and in depth. It boggles the mind the area that has been lost in the last 50 years. I'm sure all the people walking on it isn't helping but it was poignant; especially after having watched Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

That was pretty much all we could take. Next stop, grocery store, hot dogs, pack up and here I am writing with sore hands and forearms from chopping wood. I think I have a bit of sun/wind burn on my face but I plan on sleeping well tonight.

We're off to Edmonton in the morning and hopefully internet access.