Wednesday 1st June - Banff
Today we went up into the Rockies.
We left High River and drove up to Calgary before turning west. The Rockies looked amazing from a distance but as we got closer so did their magnitude.
The ski jump from the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988.
We were heading to Banff where we had an open top bus tour booked. We got ourselves into a RV park in the town and had lunch. We were parked by the station and a goods train came through which took 3 minutes to pass. We walked through Banff which is a pretty town, rather reminiscent of some Swiss Alpine towns.
We found our bus which was a replica of a 1930s one with all mod cons, even a USB port! Our driver was Dylan who had a really bad sense of humour – bad dad jokes he called them! There were only three of us on the bus so it was a pretty personalised trip. Dylan was very knowledgeable and we went to some lovely view points. We saw Cascade Mountain, Rundle Mountain and Tunnel Mountain, which doesn’t actually have a tunnel through it though a railway tunnel was planned, but it never happened as it would have been too expensive. Dylan pointed out the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel which was built the wrong way round. The owner left the builders and architects to it and when he came back they had turned in by 180 degrees to that guests had the front of the hotel which looked over the side of the mountain and the staff had the beautiful views down the valley! Banff had a rule that no building could be higher than 3 stories which the hotel has, from the front, but at the back it has 7 floors.
Back in Banff we did a bit of present shopping before making our way back to the RV and setting off for the cable car which took us 7846 feet up Sulphur Mountain in 8 minutes. The views, as you can imagine, were spectacular.
Lake Louise was our campground for the night. We were in the hard sided campground as opposed to the soft sided campground. Draw your own conclusions!
We changed our plans tonight and will now do the whole of the Icefields Parkway tomorrow.
Thursday 2nd June – Icefields Parkway & Columbia Glacier
We heard two goods trains through the night as they obviously had to whistle very close by us. I love the sound the North American trains make but I’m not sure about in the middle of the night.
This was the view from our last night’s site.
We left Lake Louise and set off the Icefields Parkway. The scenery was stunning, amazing, magnificent and I was totally awe struck!!! Every corner bought a new mountain. We kept stopping at view points so we could see a bit more. I will just let my photos tell the story.
Our first stop was Bow Lake which is at 6,300 feet. In the summer months, when the lake thaws, it turns blue from the glacier melt of the Bow Glacier, Crowfoot Glacier and Wapta Icefield. Along its shore lies Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, a historic site built by one of Banff’s early mountain guides, Jimmy Simpson. The mountain above the lodge that sits at the North end of the Lake is also named after the man, Mount Jimmy Simpson. It felt very warm there so I checked the thermometer and it was 21.8 degrees.
We stopped at other lakes but I really can’t remember which one was which!
We chose Coleman Creek to have lunch, which is just south-west of Coleman Lake. It really was perfect.
We were booked onto the Columbia Glacier trip the next day, but decided to see if we could change our tickets to today, which we were able to do. We caught a coach to the Ice Explorer terminus which was about a 5 minute drive where we transferred on to an Ice Explorer coach. It was a pretty amazing vehicle. Our driver was Shayne who was very knowledgable on glaciers and was also very funny, everyone was in stitches at times – well those who spoke English anyway! We had to go down a 1 in 3 hill which was a bit alarming especially as Shayne was busy telling jokes at the time! We got off the explorer and walked on the glacier, we thought it would be slippery, but it wasn’t, though we had been warned to keep off the slush. It was then back on the explorer and a transfer to a coach before setting off to the Skywalk. There are 22 ice explorers in the World, 1 in Australia, 1 in the Arctic and the other 20 are on the Columbia Glacier.
The Columbia Icefield is the largest ice field in North America's Rocky Mountains and it sits astride the Continental Divide. Great I thought but what is a Continental Divide! “Every continent except for Antarctica has a continental divide. Continental divides separate one drainage basin from another. They are used to define the direction that an area's rivers flow and drain into the oceans and seas.” Ah that makes sense then as the Athabasca River runs into the Arctic Ocean, The Fraser and the Columbia run into the Pacific and the North Saskatchewan into Hudson Bay and then the Atlantic.
The Skywalk juts out about 115 feet from the cliff face and has a thick glass bottom. It has a clear view of Jasper National Park’s Sunwapta Valley 918 feet below. Opened in 2014, the Skywalk is a u-shaped observation deck that spans 1,312 feet. It was constructed of steel, glass, and wood, and built into the cliff’s bedrock. It was designed to change with nature, so rather than using paint, designers planned for the structure to blend in with its surroundings as it rusts and weathers.
It was 5.30pm before we got back to the RV and then had to drive the last part of the Parkway to Jasper which was 65 miles.
We we were booked into the Wabasso Campground, a last minute change to our schedule and we were able to get electricity. We were both shattered and had a very good ready meal for dinner.
Here is a video of Mokey II, our current RV.