Journey to Ancient Ice

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Connecting the two towns of Lake Louise and Jasper is the extremely scenic Icefield Parkway.  To travel it is to experience a world where snow and ice dominates the land.   Stretching 230 km between the two towns, the parkway offers easy access to one of the most spectacular mountain landscapes.

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The largest of the chain of icefield stretching more than 25 km across the Continental Divide, Columbia Icefield straddles the boundaries of Alberta and British Columbia, as well as Banff and Jasper National Parks. 

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The massive Brewster Ice Explorer is a modern marvel specially designed to clamber up the glacier, which took us out to the slopes of the Columbia Icefield, the Athabasca Glaciers for an up-close glimpse of icy crevasses and ice-fed streams.  

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A driver-guide led the 90- minute journey sharing information about glaciers and icefields.  We get to step out midway onto the glacier and stand on ice of yore.

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Columbia Icefield is a surviving remains of the thick ice mass that once covered most of Western Canada’s mountains lying on an elevated plain.   It is North Amercia’s largest sub-polar ice park.

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Parker Ridge Trail

Scenic Sunday

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Located in Northern Banff and closer to Jasper.  On the way to Columbia Icefield from Lake Louise is Parker Ridge Trail, a popular day hike and one of the best among several popular trail.

The trail leads to a ridge overlooking Saskatchewan Glacier and the Columbia Icefield and can be done in an hour.  A hike I would have loved to do if I had my way.  Here’s what the sign reads:

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More snaps from the road:

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To see more scenic snapshots, click here.

Bridal Veil Falls

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Bridal-Veil-Falls

Not too far away, on the same pull out as that of Crowfoot Mountain and Bow Lake is a sign pointing to Bridal Veil Falls.

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A popular name for waterfalls from Australia to Zimbabwe, I found out.  But this one is just a hop away from where we were and all you need is a telephoto lens to take this shot.

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There is a trail south of the sign leading to different views of the falls.  To learn more, click here.

Of Lifts, Gondolas and Tramways

Scenic Sunday

“You can do it!!  I’ll be right beside you.”  A convinces me as we walk towards the lift that would take us 2,088 meters above sea level.  So there I was on an open chair about 5 meters above ground, my feet resting only on a bar.  Although safely buckled, I was still intimidated and any movement sends me to stiffness.  A tries to calm me, “Here, let me hold your hand” and I let him.

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We were cruising for 14 minutes, which felt more like 30 to me.  But those 30 er 14 minutes were just full of glorious sceneries and as I started snapping away, a sense of calm came over me and I am all right.

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From the top, the spectacular landscape is there to be explored.  We however didn’t have the time to go trekking up the summit of Mt. Whitehorse so we soaked in the beauty of Lake Louise against the grand Victoria Glacier at the deck.

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It was just a speck against the mountains that surrounds it but amazing how even that small, the blueness of the lake just stood out managing to draw your eyes to it.  Imagine it up close.

Lake Louise Mountain Resort and the surrounding village are part of several important wildlife conservation in Banff National Park.  It is supposedly home to some of Canada’s most renowned wildlife including Black Bears, Elk, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goats, Wolves and the respected Grizzly Bear.  We weren’t lucky enough to see any.

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Banff golf course from the top.

By now, I have mustered enough courage to go on another mountaintop experience.  The next day, we hopped on the bus and got off at the Banff Gondola.

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No Sweat!

The journey to the summit of Sulphur Mountain in a modern, fully enclosed four passenger gondola cabin took only 8 minutes.  No sweat!  The view becomes more spectacular as we approached the summit at 2,281 meters above sea level with Cascade Mountain providing the backdrop.

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Round trip costs about C$30, pretty steep but the amazing view is worth the spend.  A definite must see when in Banff.  Easily accessible as well, the We Roam bus (I forget what route) will take you all the way to the base.

Banff-panoramic

Cascade Mountain as backdrop and the smaller mountain is Tunnel Mountain.

When we got to Jasper, we obviously couldn’t resist and so therefore found ourselves riding the tramway one afternoon ascending up Whistler Mountain.  The adventure begins at the foot of Whistler Mountain in the safety of an enclosed tram cabin that can fit about 30 passengers at a time.

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The view from the tram.

The Jasper tramway is the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada and I could feel my ears popping as we ascend.  But feeling more like a veteran now, I confidently hopped on the cabin to be hoisted 2 km up to the peak – a beautiful, scenic and enjoyable mid-air ride.

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View from the top.

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At the summit, we stepped out into an alpine tundra with views of six mountain ranges, glacial fed lakes, the Athabasca River and the scenic mountain site of Jasper.  An awe-inspiring view that has become my favorite among the lot.

Wildlife Crossing

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Since the mid 1970s, collisions between vehicles and large mammals on the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) have been a concern of the parks in Canada.  The construction of wildlife overpasses along the TCH began in the mid 1980s with the twinning of the highway from the east park entrance to the junction with the Bow Valley Parkway.

These bridge structures and various underpasses were installed at strategic locations in the park, providing safe passage to wildlife and hopefully minimizing traffic.

Banff National Park and its environs in Alberta are among the world’s best testing sites for innovation passageway to alleviate the effects of roads on wildlife.  This has helped maintain large mammal populations for the past 25 years and has allowed the gathering of valuable data.

In the mid 1990s, research began to determine the effectiveness.  Early results showed that the underpasses were very effective for elk, deer and coyotes, but that larger carnivores like wolves, cougars, black and grizzly bears were reluctant to use them.  The overpasses were built as a result.  Today, they are finding that many animals are beginning to adapt to the underpasses.

More on wildlife overpasses here and more sepia scenes here.