The to do list for today was a long one. Our ride would be from Golden to Jasper, in Jasper National park. I have to admit that today was not a good day. I was pretty much miserably cold all day until about 3pm. A major cold front had come down and even with many layers on I was freezing. I thought we would warm up as the day went on, but that didn’t happen. We stopped at one point to dig out my heavy winter gloves and our rain jackets. That helped a bit. I even rode with my face covered, which generally annoys me, but I wanted more skin covered up. I hate being cold.
In addition to the cold, I really let this dark thought cloud loom over me almost all day. The smoke from the fires was so bad that we could barely see the mountains that were towering around us. You could make out the shape and see some snow, but there was no blue sky. I was cranky, the kids were cranky, and I was trapped in this negative attitude about how our vacation pictures were going to suck, and I would have to keep telling everyone how there is smoke in the sky. Plus did I mention I hate being cold?
Our first major stop was the Saskatchewan River Crossing, a restaurant, gift shop, lodging and gas station. We welcomed the chance to stretch walk around and go inside out of the cold. They were making fresh popped popcorn, so we grabbed a welcome snack. I knew we would be back here tomorrow, so I did some reconnaissance in the gift shop area as the side car needed more stickers.
The road we were driving on is called the Icefields Parkway ,which is about 230km. Fun fact about the waters from the Icefield area: they flow to three different oceans: the Arctic, the Atlantic and the Pacific. Frank was great about pointing this out to us as we traveled. We would go over a mountain pass and not so suddenly the rivers would be flowing in the opposite direction. He always notices those type of things.
The Athabasca Glacier was our next stop and it is the only glacier on the Columbia Icefield accessible by road. It is located at the Icefield Center, and it is a huge tourist destination as you can actually walk on the glacier or ride a tram onto the ice. We opted to park and walk up the path to the edge of the glacier. There were quite a few signs warning of the danger of not exploring past the ropes or the path. One sign was especially disturbing, as it yelled the tale of a 9 year old boy who died after the area of ice he was walking on collapsed and he fell into a crevase. People tried for 3 hours to get him out, but unfortunately he succumbed to hypothermia. I am always a bit nervous when we are hiking along rivers, cliffs or steep areas with the kids, and it makes me sad to see signs like this.
We had lunch near the glacier at some picnic tables near the bottom, then hit the road continuing north. Our next major stop was Sunwupta Falls. It is an easy and quick hike to a bridge that is high above rushing water that has carved a gorge out of the limestone rock, and now the height of the falls is 75ft. Sumwapta means “turbulent river” in Stoney Indian language.
Our day wound down as we finally made it to Jasper and our hotel. After what was a very long, taxing day, the hotel hot tub after dinner helped me to finally get warm. And I collapsed on the most computable bed I have slept on in a long time.