Icefields Parkway

Published: May 22nd 2012
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Sunday - drove the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper, said by many to be the most scenic drive in the world. Before we set off we go to the village bakery to buy lunch. We were told the story of a Grizzly bear who hung around the village and became completely humanised to the extent that one day she walked into the bakery and stood up on her hind legs as if to see what was on offer. Parks Canada decided that she was an accident waiting to happen so gave her to Calgary Zoo. Quite sad really that she is stuck in a zoo after years of being a wild bear. I overheard another story of a tourist smearing her son's hand in peanut butter and offering it to a bear. Apparently the boy was killed but not sure if it's just an urban myth as when I researched fatal bear attacks I never came across that story.

The drive to Jasper would take 3 hours if you didn't stop. It took us 7 hours! There are so many lakes and viewpoints to stop at and we wanted to see as much as we could but all the sights near Lake Louise were still frozen or no access due to deep snow. I really wanted to see Peyto Lake so we put our wellies (me) and boots (Ian) on and started walking along a pathway through the snow made by other walkers. We didn't get far before plunging through fresh snow that was above my wellies. I only stopped falling cos I hit the frozen snow below. It looked like there were tiny Christmas trees everywhere but we found out they were 12 foot trees and we were only seeing the top 2 foot above the snow.

We drive on to the Columbia Icefield where you pay to take an Ice Explorer onto the Athabasca Glacier. The glacier is between two mountains and is as deep as the Eiffel Tower is tall and 2.7 kms long. In the summer you would actually be standing on the glacier itself but, because they are still having snow, we were standing on 1-2 metres of snow on top of the glacier. We had a guide called Mosami who was a New York accountant who visited the glacier 20 years ago. He decided when he retired he wanted to work here so at age 53 he got a summer job driving the Ice Explorers. They are massive 6 wheel drive vehicles with a top speed of 18kms an hour. Only 23 have ever been made and 22 are here at the glacier, the other one is at the Arctic. Great experience but, as with all of the tourist sights in Canada, very expensive at $105 or £70 for two of us. When you calculate that in the summer buses of 50 people leave for the glacier every 15 mins it's obvious they are raking it in. The Rockies are phenomenal. I preferred the first half of the journey as they were all covered in snow. As we approached Jasper only the tips had snow on and everywhere was much greener.

The whole journey was 230 km and for the first 200 we saw no wildlife but then we saw a black bear eating grass about 6 foot from the roadside. We got out the car and took some pictures from about 20 feet away. Some stupid American was going closer and closer and me and Ian were hoping the bear would charge to give him a fright but he just walked off very slowly. Very different from the timid black bears in B.C. but they get hunted so it is good that they run away from humans whereas the bears here are protected by the National Park and must be so used to bus loads of tourists disturbing their munching. We drove on only a few kms and could see a few cars stopped in the distance so we stopped to - it was a Grizzly. He walked across the road and into a small picnic area on the opposite side so we drove into the picnic area. Ian was getting out of the car with the camera so I said stay by the car, don't go any closer. So he did the complete opposite. The bear walked over to a tree, stood up on his hind legs and rubbed his back up and down the tree having a scratch, just like Baloo in Jungle Book! He then walked off with Ian and the stupid American following. I am shouting at Ian to get back in the car and the stupid American is being shouted at by his wife/ girlfriend. Ian was less than 20feet away from the bear which is far too close to get to a Grizzly. Parks Canada recommend that you never get closer than 100 feet so Ian was being very irresponsible but he did get some great pics.

Carried on into Jasper, much larger than Lake Louise village but not as big as I expected. On a map Jasper looks like it is a major town but it is probably only a square mile. We stayed at Chateau Jasper which looks like something out the 70's. Room was massive but we had a terrible sleep as it was noisy and too hot but if you put the air con on it was even noisier. We are really running out of money now even though we have used credit cards to pay for any hotels that were not prepaid. We are down to our last $300 or £200 and still have 3 days in Banff so as we couldn't decide where to eat we went to Subway!

Managed to upload a few pics today so scroll down to see the rest. I am going to try and add more to previous entries as we seem to have a good wifi connection here.

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