Sunday, 30 June 2013

Canada Hols - Glacier National Park

Sunday was a quiet day of gentle walking. We drove to nearby Glacier National Park. The Roger's Pass Discovery Centre is the National Park HQ, and hosted a museum regarding the beginnings of the park. Outside one window was what we discovered to be a Columbian Ground Squirrel sitting upright & alert on the edge of the burrow, showing off his red belly. We wondered at the guns, and found they are used to bring on avalanches. We decided to go west and work our way back towards the east, so began with Hemlock Grove Boardwalk which was through a remnant of old-growth forest. Apart from the 2 major tree species, Western Red Cedar and Hemlock, there seemed only to be under-story plants. This was a very moist area with small creeks running through. At morning tea we were entertained by more Columbian Ground Squirrels, and beautiful blue woodpecker. Further back was the Rockgarden Trail, an interpretive walk which centred around a huge rock avalanche, and featured the gradual rehabilitation by nature. The Loop Brook Trail commemorated the history of the original rail line through the pass, and some of the walk followed the old rail track. Huge stone piers had been built early in the 1900s, and a figure-8 design for the rail was required to get up the steep slope. Past Illecillewaet camp-ground was the Glacier House Site, ruins of a Hotel built in the 1900s for the tourist brought by the railroad, including mountain climbers. Past this site was the Meeting of the Waters, the confluence of the Illecillewaet River and Asulkan Brook. The water was really thundering down both, and it was really relaxing to sit and listen to it, and admire the surrounding mountains, and receding Illecillewaet glacier. All of the walks we had shared with other walkers, but when we arrived at Bear Creek Falls, we were the only ones. Darryl made good use of his whistle the whole way....just in case the creek lived up to its name! (As we were alone when we got out of the car, I decided to 'test' my personal alarm – which I always carry with me – as I had been feeling very confident on all our walks, only to discover that the batteries are flat. I guess it was better to find out when I really didn't need to use it). This walk was a fairly steep downhill & stairs to a waterfall which was almost hidden under the veil of mist being whipped up by the force of the waterfall pounding over the cliff.

Canada Hols - Jasper to Golden

Although it is only just over 300km from Jasper to Golden, it took us most of Saturday to make the journey, due to all the wonderful sights on the way. The stunning mountains, scattered with snow just got better and better. There were waterfalls by the dozen: Athabasca Falls, on one of the major rivers, Sunwapta Falls on another major river, Tangle Falls just pelting down the mountain beside the highway, and Weeping Wall, a sheer cliff beside the highway with numerous falls just tumbling over. Excitingly, at Sunwapta we were thrilled to see a Red-tailed Chipmunk running under our car. Back on the road we saw our first bear beside the highway, but were far too slow to react with cameras, he high-tailed it back down into the forest, but shortly after there were 2 cyclists heading that way... we joked - “meals on wheels”! Ground squirrels darted across road at various places, and I spotted a male Bighorn Sheep (once again, far too slow to react). Finally we got our big break, with some cars coming the opposite way pulled over, and there was a black bear grazing on grass on the verge. We stopped at Columbia Icefield & walked to the toe of Athabasca Glacier. Here it was fascinating to see the deep grooves scored in rocks by the glacier. This glacier is retreating, and has lost 60% of its volume since the 1880's. There are 25 glaciers along this drive and we certainly saw quite a few, with Snowbird Glacier & Crowfoot Glacier just visible from the road, but we were able to walk in to view Bow Glacier & its bright blue Lake. Lakes were also plentiful on this route, and Waterfowl Lake was one of the prettiest. Part of the way there we passed through Yoho National Park and the town of Field, and at that stage a wild storm hit. The Nissan was being buffeted with the high winds, and lightning was flashing, but we didn't hear any thunder. The pelting rain was quite heavy, but we were able to keep driving through to Golden, where we stopped for the night at Rondo Motel (we are booked in here for 4 nights as it is quite central and good value).

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Canada Hols - Jasper National Park

On Friday morning we went to the Hinton Beaver Boardwalk, which was really interesting. The beaver had created several levels of dams, and had a huge lodge in the centre. It was only 80km to Jasper National Park, but the lovely mountains & lakes meant quite a few stops for photos, so it took a while to get there. We were shocked at having to buy a yearly pass at $136 to get in. Pretty Maligne Canyon is eroded into limestone, and has lots of lovely fossils. We also checked out Edith Lake which looked idyllic in this beautiful weather. We checked into our accommodation, Maligne Lodge, then drove up to try out the Jasper Tramway, but decided that it was too late in the afternoon to go, so went to Patricia and Pyramid Lakes. Pyramid Lake has a little island with a wooden walking bridge across to it. While on the island we saw a waterspout on the lake. Apart from all the people also enjoying the island was a red squirrel. It was a very relaxing way to spend the afternoon.