Sunday, August 7, 2011

Columbia Icefield, Saskatchewan Crossing and Banff

The Most Beautiful Road in the World...
The Icefields Parkway brochure makes this claim on the brochure they give you at the Ranger Station when you enter Banff and Jasper National Parks.  As far as I am concerned, they are right.  I took over 120 photographs with my little digital camera with which I have a love - hate relationship. On this day, I love it.  Here are some of the best pictures I managed to snap. Sadly, I wasn't able to keep up with names of all the mountains, streams, rivers, lakes and scenic stopovers.  The best I can do is what I've done here: display them in the order taken, coming from the north to the south.

Because we left the park last night to go into Hinton, we must re-enter today.

I think the pyramid shaped mountain is Whistler.

Because we're traversing via Mona towing Blackie, it's not easy to find a place to park.  Most of my pictures, therefore, are taken either through Mona's windshield or by holding the camera out the window. Hence, Wayne and I are in a very few of the pictures taken today.  Lexie is almost always in my lap, so I am a one-armed photographer -- mostly pointing and shooting in rapid succession.

Here we did manage to stop for Lexie to walk and to stretch our legs.

Can't say for sure the mountain or river name here.
Even Wayne has taken note of the wildflowers we've been seeing along the roadside.  Most are new to us.  I've got some pictures of them too -- don't know what they're called.

These are shiny, pinkish-copper and morph into cotton-like bursts.

Which are wildflowers? 
And which is Lexie?
Hint: It's Lexie from the rear.

Sunwapta Pass marks the Columbia Icefields and the enormous glaciers are easily seen now. This is the entry area into Saskatchewan Crossing. It's not easy to see in the pictures as the glaciers and the clouds seem to run together; but the snow is several hundred feet deep and is probably hundreds, maybe thousands of years old.  The largest is the Columbia Glacier.

Mountains that appear to shoot up like these are called "hoodoo".

Ice and snow are easier seen here.  It is hundreds of feet deep.

The Icefields Parkway passes within viewing distance of seven ice fields (huge glaciers) and about 25 small ones. The centerpiece of the glaciers is the Columbia Ice field, largest in all of the Rocky Mountains.   

Let me say here that I had forgotten all I ever learned in school about glaciers so it's worth repeating here (direct from the brochure) about the making of glaciers and ice fields.  Snow that remains after each summer's melt gradually changes into hard, interlocking ice crystals making the glacier. Beneath it's own weight, a glacier becomes elastic and slowly flows downhill, like a river of taffy -- becoming an ice field.

Entry into the Columbia ice field.
 It can be driven on and there are places where campers can set up for a visit.
 We did not.

I've found to get the best size perspective for mountains is to include common items in the picture.
This is a common scene along the highway anytime wildlife is spotted.
Here, several mountain goats were standing on the roadside.
One can be seen near the center of the picture -- to the left of the white camper.

Another common sight: Wayne with binoculars.
Now tell me... would you want the campsite beside this guy?

Almost all of the lake waters we've seen along this route are aqua-milky colored.
We're told the milky appearance is because of the amounts of silt coming off the rocky mountains.

As the day wore down and we needed to stop for the night, we opted to pass by Lake Louise and drive the few minutes more down to Banff where we were more likely to have success in finding a campground.  We plan to stay in Banff for 2-3 days and will make a car trip into Lake Louise. 

View from the rear of our camp site at Tunnel Mountain Campground in Banff National Park.

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