August 11-24 2007: Jasper

...and a few points going to and fro

August 19: Columbia Icefields

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After 5 mights in the Wapiti campground, we finally decided to head south and see some more of the park.  The landscape started changing fairly soon after we left.  It was a cloudy, misty day, which suited the scenery really well.

We stopped frequently to take in the view and stretch our legs.  We stopped for this photo at a youth hostel.  A little boy asked his mom what a hostel was, and we heard her tell him that it is place for people that were stranded.  Hmmm...I'm not so sure where she got that one...but the strange scenery did make me think about getting stranded.  I think that viewing such a powerful and raw landscape helps to put our 'normal' existence into proper perspective.  It was not a welcoming, cushy place.

As we proceeded south, the landscape got progressively more alien.  It was not like anything I had seen before.

It was hard to believe that it was mid-August!  It was pretty chilly.  But - I think this was a great way to see this part of the park.

These rather large ravens were hanging out in one of the pullouts.   They almost seemed to like getting photographed - the one in front posed for us for a few minutes, and the one in back hopped up to join him. Maybe they have learned that people who take their picture tend to toss them something to eat.

Waterfalls were everywhere - it was clear to see how the glaciers and snow pack keep the rivers in these parts flowing strong all year long.

These big-horn sheep were very mellow.  But I have seen them engage in head butting - which is why we stayed in the van to take this photo.  Amazingly, we saw a woman get out and approach to within about 10 feet of them to take photos!

The river we had been following (Sunwapta) got smaller and smaller as we headed up to its source at the Athabasca Glacier.

This is a picture of a toe of the Athabasca Glacier.  The highway comes right up to this spot, which makes it a fantastic opportunity to see a glacier first hand.  It is hard to get a perspective on the size of this glacier - but those are dozens of campers and trailers in the foreground, and the little dots on the edge along the rising mountain on the left are bus-size snow coaches that offer tours.

To see something so huge that is being affected by human activity was something that had a big impact on us.

A short walk up from the parking lot allowed us to stand on the very edge of the glacier.  The ropes and graphic warning signs did not discourage people from risking their lives due to the danger of hidden crevasses.

The glacier's view of the more or less continuous streams of people coming to visit.  The chilly weather did not keep people from coming to see this powerful scene, which has become a recognized symbol of global warming.

This viewpoint did quite a good job of stating that the glacier was receding and that this was agreed (by those who have taken the effort to study this first hand as opposed to those who take a stance based on an economic, political, or philosophic theory) to be largely caused by human activities.  There were several markers such as the one above showing exactly how quickly this is taking place.  At the current rate, this glacier could be completely gone within a generation or two.   After spending a week or so enjoying the rivers that this glacier keeps flowing through the summer, this was a sobering thought.

Our last night in Jasper park was at Wilcox Creek campground, just south of the glacier.  This was one of the greatest campsites ever!  The sites were large and private, and you really felt like you were somewhere very remote.  Which you are.

There was a hike from the campground which led a few kilometres up to Wilcox pass.  I was terrified that we would run in to a grizzly bear, but other than a group of 4 Bavarian hikers, we did not view anything larger than a few bugs.

It was breezy as the trail got higher up!

Eventually we were in a 'sub-alpine tundra' ecosystem, where everything was stunted due to the harsh climate.  If this was summer, I would not want to see winter.

A last view from the hike, back towards the Athabasca glacier.