Banff to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway

Our Banff morning began with coffee in our very scenic campground. Tunnel Mountain Trailer Park has spots for over 600 campers and it is sold out almost every night. Wild right? Everyone is taking advantage of the Parks Canada 150 Free Admission. Wow.


And who can complain with a view like this?

Our path today was a very unique one. To travel the Icefields Parkway is to experience one of Canada's national treasures and most rewarding destinations. Stretching 144 miles through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, this world-class journey offers access to a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, ancient glaciers and broad sweeping valleys. This special travel route winds its way through two national parks, boasting a unique and irreplaceable landscape rich in history and natural beauty, second to none. 


The Columbia Icefield is a surviving remnant of the thick ice mass that once mantled most of Western Canada's mountains. Lying on a wide, elevated plateau, it is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies. Nearly three-quarters of the park's highest peaks are located close to the icefield; ideally placed to catch much of the moisture that Pacific winds carry across the British Columbia interior (and to be photographed by me). Most of this precipitation falls as snow; up to 21 feet a year!

This amazing road we traveled was created as an economic project during the Depression Era. The Government of Canada decided to transform what was then known as the “Wonder Trail” into a road. In 1931, construction began for the Icefields Highway; a new road that would make the famous mountain path accessible to everyone. It took 600 men and nearly 10 years to complete. With only one tractor per crew, most of the work was completed by hand and with teams of horses.

Interesting fact: the Columbia Icefield is the largest mass of ice south of the Arctic Circle, unfortunately only a very small portion of it is visible from the parkway. BUT Wow!
Extending over 4,000 square miles, Jasper is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies and part of UNESCO's Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.
Our day ended at the Columbia Icefield Visitors Centre. A highlight, for me, was the movie Through Ice and Time. This wordless, yet poetic film depicts an epic journey through the pristine Columbia Icefield. The story is experienced through the memory of an old man, returning to the area he discovered as a young boy and later explored as a mountaineer. Stunning and beautiful. I shed a tear or two.
I was mesmerized by the exhibit titled The Wonder Road: 75 Years of Exploring the Icefields Parkway. This exhibit of B & W photographs captured what is was like to be one of the hardy, early travelers who adventured here. The exceptional images depicted everything from the early outfitters; depression era road building of the 1930s;  early car touring, to some Hollywood connections that added a touch of glamour to the rugged backdrop. I love vintage photographs!
The main focus of our location is the Athabasca Glacier, the most-visited glacier on the North American continent. "Situated across from the Icefield Centre, its ice is in continuous motion, creeping forward at the rate of several centimeters per day. Spilling from the Columbia Icefield over three giant bedrock steps, the glacier flows down the valley like a frozen, slow-moving river. Because of a warming climate, the Athabasca Glacier has been receding or melting for the last 125 years. Losing half its volume and retreating more than 1.5 kms, the shrinking glacier has left a moonscape of rocky moraines in its wake." This image shows the glacier in 1918 (l.) and in 2011.
All through the park, there are markers, showing the distance of where the glacier once was. This marker, located high above is dated 1843. In the photo, I drew a red line on where the toe of the glacier is today about a mile away.


So this is our "campground" for tonight. For $15.70 CAD we were allowed to spend the night and gaze at the glacier for as long as we wanted to. And what time was this photo taken? It was 9 PM. It was as if it was still mostly daytime.
And here, at 10:15 PM, I say good night. Tomorrow, we walk to the glacier.

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2 comments:

Karen Booth said...

Picture perfect reflection photo. And those are Karen sunset times you are experiencing. That would be a version of heaven for me!

Aquí Ahí Allá said...

It is so hard to get used to the sun setting late, isn't it? It is difficult to go to bed at 9! (Like I sometimes do back home.)
How cool that you get to sleep right next to the glacier... unless there is a surge. Which there wasn't. :)

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