– Revelstoke, BC to Jasper, Alberta –
Today, we basically did a reverse of yesterday, with a few additions. We started our morning in Revelstoke with a nice run along a levy. It was relatively warm, which shouldn’t be surprising, considering how warm it was during the day yesterday. Our run was pleasant and flat, as levies tend to be. Our only hiccup was a gentleman out walking his dogs without leashes, because clearly the signs all saying, “dogs must be on leash” somehow don’t apply to him. I’d be more inclined to agree if his dogs weren’t a puppy and a Rottweiler. But I digress.
We did get up at 5, by the way, but that is 5am pacific time, which is an hour later than the mountain time we’ve been on for most of this trip. We lost an hour again when we cross back into Alberta. Once we’d showered and packed, we went over to our hotel’s free breakfast, which was the best one we’ve seen on the entire trip. They had fruit, cereal, pancakes, waffles, any bread you could wish for, yogurt, eggs, and tons of other breakfasty things. I was impressed, given how small the hotel was.
While at breakfast, we learned that since today was Saturday, Revelstoke was having their Farmer’s Market and Craft fair, and since we needed to drive over into town to get gas anyway, we decided to check it out. It didn’t open until 8:30, so we puttered around cleaning the windshield and filling up at the gas station until just shy of that.
We were some of the first people at the market, but all of the booths were already open and waiting. They had a ton of fresh vegetables, some fruit, and then things you’d expect: honey, beeswax candles, handmade soap, jewelry, art. It was cute, though not very big. Revelstoke is an adorable town.
We left the farmer’s market with a bag of dried apples, which we munched on later in the morning. They we nice and thin and crispy, which is just how you want your dried apple slices to be. We breezed back through the first part of Revelstoke National Park, only stopping at one of the boardwalks we missed yesterday.
The boardwalk is called Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk, though Mark insisted on calling it Sasquatch Blossom, as he’d forgotten the real name. The first time he called it that reduced me to uncontrollable giggles. Sasquatch Blossom. As if the name Skunk Cabbage isn’t funny enough. It was already getting warm, and the sun was coming out when we arrived. It was a beautiful day almost everywhere we went today.
Along the boardwalk, we spotted some giant slugs, which are apparently called by the creative moniker, “black slugs.” I’ve learned from Wikipedia that they are an invasive species in British Columbia. Boo. Bad slugs. The Skunk Cabbage area is a wetland, which is apparently prime turf for the little guys. The wetland is also the reason for the Skunk Cabbages, which are those giant, leafy looking plants in the photo below, next to Ripley. Somehow, they make you feel a little like you’ve been miniaturized, and you’re walking among normal-sized cabbages. Most of them were bigger than Ripley.
With that done, we pushed on out of Mount Revelstoke and on into Glacier National Park for the second time. We really wanted to see all of the parks out here, but seeing them meant that we had to do a lot of backtracking, as there’s no other easy way to get up to Jasper. I think it was worth it, though backtracking is never ideal. We’ve done more of it than usual this trip, since our journey is sort of locked in a single relatively small region, unlike previous trips where we’ve been rapidly ranging across the whole country.
After we finished Glacier but before making it back to Yoho, we stopped for lunch in Golden. It was a little bit early, but we wouldn’t have another chance to get food anywhere but Lake Louise for the rest of the afternoon, so we decided to try out the deli and bakery that we’d spotted when we came through yesterday.
It wasn’t anything special, though they did have lovely pastries. We elected to get the lunch special: a pre-packed sandwich served with macaroni or potato salad, and a pastry from a particular set of marked pastries. We ended up with egg salad sandwiches and macaroni salad. Mark, for some reason forgetting that macaroni salad isn’t usually anything to write home about, ordered a large one, while I stuck with the small. For our dessert, he had a bear claw and I had a cherry turnover. They were passable, but again, nothing spectacular.
From Golden, we drove back through Yoho, which was sunny and warm, though it started to cool off the closer we got to Lake Louise back in Banff. We briefly contemplated stopping to visit Lake Louise again in the warmer, prettier weather, but in the end, we decided against it. We had too much to do and too long to drive today to stop again for pictures that would be very similar, but with slightly fewer clouds.
Once we got to Lake Louise, we turned north. Around Lake Louise, the TransCanada Highway (1) turns to the west, and continues through the parks we’d driven through this morning. To go into Jasper, to the north, you take Highway 93, which is also called the Icefield Parkway. This was the road that was closed for snow only a couple of days ago. Of course, as we went north, the temperature dropped. It did stay mostly clear, though.
Neither Mark nor I had realized that Banff continues all the way up to the Icefield Centre, which is quite a ways up Highway 93. We knew, of course, that Bow Lake was still in Banff, since we were there only a few days ago. Still, it seems like everything north of Lake Louise is Jasper, even though that isn’t the case. That’s certainly where a lot of tourists end their adventure. So for Jasper hasn’t been nearly as crowded as Banff, though there are more people here than I really expected.
We did stop again at Bow Lake today, since the last time we visited it was snowing, and you couldn’t see anything. It turns out that Bow Lake is very pretty, and there are even mountains behind it, which were definitely hidden behind banks of clouds and fog the last time through.
Next to Bow Lake is Crowfoot glacier, which sort of oozes over the mountains in the photo above in roughly the shape of a crow’s foot. In the picture, you can see two different arms of the glacier, one obvious one of the left, where the big patch of white it, and one on the right, just below the area where the mountain tops V togethther, with silt spilling out toward the water beneath it. The featured image is Crowfoot Glacier as well. It’s a close-up of the left-hand side.
After Bow Lake and Crowfoot Glacier, we continued north to Saskatchewan River Crossing, which is a little town/big motel, where another highway leaves the Icefield Parkway. We looked around inside, but didn’t spot anything that we couldn’t live without in the gift shop. We did have to buy a bag of ice there, though, which cost $5. It was really dumb of us not to remember to get it this morning, since it would’ve cost more like $2 at the gas station where we filled up.
After we stopped at the town, we actually turned back south briefly to get some photos of the actual place where the highway crosses the river that the town is named for. We took some photos there before moving on. The river is very nice, but the real star of the show is the incredibly snowy mountains in the distance. We drove through mountains like that a little later in the day, and it was amazing.
It’s also worth mentioning that traveling down Highway 93 is nothing like traveling through Banff. The traffic is slower, and people will just stop in the middle of the road up here to take photos of wildlife. I’ve seen people stopped for deer more times than I care to count. How many deer pictures do you really need? It’s really bizarre to be cruising along on the highway and suddenly see 20 vehicles parked on the side of the road with people just standing in the lanes, taking photos of a bear that’s only 20 feet from them without a care in the world. We typically just drive through, though we do occasionally snag a drive-by photo on the way, if it is cool enough or close enough. Today’s offering is a hungry black bear, who didn’t get to eat any tourists, despite their deserving it.
After Saskatchewan River Crossing, the road starts to gain altitude. Before too long, we were seeing snow on the sides of the road, and the mountains on either side were increasingly white at the peaks. Jasper is an astonishly beautiful place, though I don’t think it is as spectacular as Banff. It certainly has its charms, and the white-peaked mountains and glaciers are certainly wonderful.
We stopped at the park entrance to get a family photo at the Jasper National Park sign. As happens at least once a day on any trip we go on, Mark was pressed into service as photographer for the previous group taking a photo with the sign. We must look really wholesome. Also there’s the fact that he, too, is always holding an expensive camera. I guess I’m glad we look trustworthy?
The weather conditions deteriorated as we continued our climb, and the mountains started to disappear behind banks of cloudy fog once again. It doesn’t necessarily detract from the beauty, since the fog seems so natural there. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see it in the sunshine. I wonder how rare that is.
It isn’t far from the park entrance to the Icefield Centre, which is the major visitor center in Jasper. The visitor center is named for the Columbia Icefield, which is a massive expanse (125 square miles) of ice that stretches between the mountains at the top of Banff and bottom of Jasper National Parks.
From the Icefield Centre, you can book tours to go up to the glacier, or even drive on it in massive vehicles made to traverse over snow and ice, like the super jeeps they use in Iceland. There’s also a skywalk, which is a see-through walkway that sticks out over the cliff overlooking part of the icefield. I can’t say I’m sad I missed out on that one.
We parked our car and went into the Icefield Centre for a look around. They have a hotel, a restaurant, a gift shop, and various other amenities. We briefly contemplated getting hot drinks, but in the end, it was just too much work, given the way they had their cafeteria set up. We also checked the gift shop, but didn’t find anything worth getting. Mark and I both want Jasper National Park T-shirts, so we are definitely on the lookout for the perfect one.
Outside the Icefield Centre, we crossed the road to look at Athabasca Glacier. Ripley got out of the car for a few photos with the edges of the icefield. Looking off at the ice and glaciers is almost intimidating. If you got lost out there, you probably wouldn’t survive. It’s a dangerous sort of beauty, and feels quite rare to see, though we were surrounded by other people.
There’s a walk out to the toe of the glacier, which we didn’t have time to do today, plus we weren’t dressed for the very cold weather. We are in Jasper for 4 nights, so I think we will drive back to the Icefield Centre in a day or two to walk out to and around the glacier.
When we finished at the glaciers, it was getting pretty late in the afternoon, so be booked it for Jasper and our hotel for the night, which was about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes away. We checked in and unpacked, then went out in search of hot food for dinner. We ended up with pizza, but I spotted an Indian restaurant, too, so we’ll be having that one of the nights that we are here. The pizza was passable, but not great. It was also way too expensive for pizza.
Tomorrow we will get up and run along the main road through town. There’s a path next to the train tracks that goes all the way around the town of Jasper, but only the stretch right in front is paved. Thankfully, it is long enough that we won’t have to do it multiple times.
We’re currently planning a lighter day for tomorrow, going out to see some lakes, canyons, and waterfalls that aren’t far from town before calling it an afternoon around 3pm. We need to do some laundry and wash Miss Ripley. We also need a little downtime. We didn’t get back to the hotel until 8pm tonight, and we’re beat.
– Trip Total : 3,208 miles –