Columbia Ice Fields, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
Driving from Banff to Jasper National Park was uneventful. If moving along a road that offers mind boggling vistas around every turn and over every rise. We met a Blinking Raven at a pullout where we paused to photo an ancient glacial moraine lake. The flowers, waterfalls, vistas… well.
The weather had calmed considerably from the previous week’s snow storm – though it was cold, we didn’t have to drive in snow or ice. Our group planned to dry camp overnight so when we arrived after a short drive, everyone quickly leveled – so our refrigerators keep working properly – then took off for the Skywalk and Glacier Explorer adventure. Sadly, I was not one of them.
I stayed cozy in Scout laying around with A-fib and reading “Minds of Winter” by Ed O’Loughlin. It is historical fiction and involves the tight circle of explores of the Arctic, Antarctic and poles therein – with, of course, a contemporary storyline as well. I’ve read several books about Alaska in the last few months and Barb tackled James Michner’s “Alaska” – which she’s already planning to read again. In may ways, setting the stage for our adventures by steeping ourselves other’s visions and historical accounts.
The Columbia Icefields are a huge plain of ice from which the glaciers descend. There are four glaciers in the area. One glacier the group walked on was at least 1000′ deep (and shrinking from the very activity of our and other groups).
Open from May to October, 230 workers live in barracks with common areas. The workers are from all over the world. Barb describes the huge vehicle that goes up onto the ice field, “The machine costs 1.8 million dollars and travels at 18 miles per hour. The tires were taller than the tallest in our group. They run the machine through a glacier water bath before climbing onto the glacier to cool the tires and damage the ice less. Our driver’s name was Angela and she was from Manitoba. All drivers are well trained in the science of the ice field and in managing the huge machine. At the downhill end of a glacier is a ‘moraine’ composed of gravel and dust washed from under the glacier as it retreats.”
June 29 – 30, 2019, HInton, AB
Along our route were a startling array of waterfalls, including one mountain cliff that had hundreds of falls. We stopped at Athabasca Falls to see the river scouring a crevasse as graceful as water itself. The water was still the milky color signaling high concentrations of glacier flour. We walk down into a crevasse the water abandoned, it’s hard layered rock walls sculpted and rounded to softness.
The river water along here became less white and more blue. Barb says it has to do with the glacier flour and it’s inability to absorb blue and green colors, therefore refracting those. Whatever the phenomenon is, the river adopts a pale milky sky blue color. The river basin is flat here and water creates a shiny tapestry around and through the gravel. Barb says the nature of the material left behind by the glacier is to compact so densely that it won’t let water pass through thereby creating a ‘braided river’.
We popped out of the National Parks on a wet, rainy day to coast down to Hinton, AB. Barb and I are last of everyone (tail gunners) and pulled in to the park in just time to set up and assist with an AVC tradition (drumroll): Wampums! A dessert treat.
Okay, a wampum requires a special stick. It consists of a 1/2” dowel with a 2” dowel attached at one end – well attached. The 2” dowel is sprayed with non-stick stuff. Then we “WAMP” a pack of those refrigerator crescent rolls on the edge of the picnic table. You know the ones you whack on the counter and they kind of explode? Those.
The wary victim then picks up a triangle of crescent roll and artfully wraps it around the 2” dowel – creating a pocket. She then carries this questionable delicacy to the open fire and (presumably) gently toasts the roll (several rolls became fire fodder, slipping off into the flames). When the little rolls are toasted, one slips the pocket off the stick, fills the hollow with some kind of canned pie filling or chocolate and tops the whole mess, with canned whipping cream. No matter how skeptical our guests were… these toasty goodies got rave reviews!
Everyone enjoyed grocery shopping in Hinton and we all went to an amazing trail system that wound around and thru a beaver habitat complete with beaver dames, huge beavers and yet more wild flowers!
July 1, Dawson Creek, BC
After a long – 280 +/- mile drive, we pulled in to Dawson Creek, British Columbia. I vividly remember our family trip – in a truck camper – and arriving here in Dawson Creek! The town has grown about 75% in fifty-six years though.
Barb and I drove out to Kiskatinaw Bridge, the first curved bridge in Canada. The first one was destroyed by ice jams that broke free and took the bridge with it. This one was built in 1942 – it was the first and now is the only curved bridge in Canada and one of the last in North America. It consists of 500,000 board feet of creosoted BC fir that was shipped in from the coast. More than 100 men worked on the bridge and only one lost his life when he fell to his death on the ice, yes… they built during the winter. The new bridge that bypasses the Kiskatinaw was built in 1978 when they straightened the Alaska Highway.
I walked out on the bridge and though fifty-six years of experiences have buried the memories, teared up pretty badly remembering my dad and his determination to take his girls on an adventure of a lifetime. We traveled in a truck camper and ‘the kids’ didn’t sleep inside. My sisters and I stuck close to the camper though… we saw plenty of bear.
Today we also did “Photo OP” at Milepost “0” and the Welcome sign. It was super fun and the museum there had an incredible collection of all things necessary for family life in a pioneer train station.
BC is wide open country compared to the Rockies we’ve been traversing. Gigantic fields of canola (like in Alberta), cattle and trees. Lumber is a huge product here also – lodgepole pines making up a plywood and siding industry that is substantial.
Dawson Creek has all of the essentials but no big malls. There is Canadian Tire (a combo of Walmart and Home Depot) and Safeway grocery store. Cannabis is legal in Canada and there are a couple of shops on the highway. They have a skate park, senior center, hospital, schools and all the civic necessities. The sky is pale, pale blue (now that the clouds have pulled back) and stretches forever.
Tomorrow, we go north to Fort Nelson. This is Day 13 of our 58 day trip. It’s a long drive 282 miles and is followed by a short travel-day to Laird Hot Springs where we all will bask in the waters that bathed 1820’s gold rush stampeders.
p.s. some photos have captions, just click.