We just unpacked some days ago and it is now time to pack again and hit the road, as always for us, after a good lunch and really slowly, we will never be able to leave on a early morning!
This time we are going to Jasper National Park, north from Banff, we will drive the famous and spectacular Icefields Parkway, 230 km of road among massive peaks and huge glaciers, along a wood and forest valley, with many little and big colorfoul lakes.
We decide not to take the route which passes through Banff, but better go directly north, driving trough Saskatchewan River Crossing town on less crowded road, but so much more interesting and beautiful.
We are taking it slowly, enjoying kilometer after kilometer, every turn and each step of this long road.
It is, unusually, a really good day. It’s hot, but a light fresh breeze and the altitude help not to feel the heat too much, not as it would be in the flat lands we have left – it actually is an upland 1.000 meters on the sea level, even it if doesn’t seem so. All this shades of blue are just stunning: both the sky and the Cline River shades of blue are so full and bright, and the Cline River in this point seem more a lake than not a river, it is so wide. We end up staying here a lot, admiring the landscape and only the thought of what is waiting for us, let us hit the road again.
We are driving again, we are somewhere more than half the way down and we are finally entering the parks area, leaving the endless flats and fields behind us. We passed the town of Rocky Mountain House more or less one hour ago, which is the city that signs the entrance in the mountain area – it is easly understood by the name – but until now, we just see the peaks in a distance. Now, instead, the road is pointing straight to the high mountains, where we know there will be turns and switchbacks to wait for us, even if we still don’t see them yet.
Then, finally, the road begins to climb up and quickly we are on top of a mountain pass, still in Banff National Park, and this is the real welcome in these wild and beautiful lands. The sight from up here is breathtaking, with the Parker Ridge peak on our left and the road, a little narrow line down in the valley, stright to the glaciers and Jasper city.
We sit again in the car and begin to drive, but it doesn’t last long. After just 15 minutes or so, we have to stop again: we are arrived to the Columbia Icefield Center, the research center of the the huge Columbia glacier, as well as the starting point of the notorious tour on the glacier on board of the particular and big red snow coaches.
Up above, we can just glimpse a little bit of the big glacier which until some hundreds years ago used to be so big to reach the road we are driving today.
We decide to have a walk up to the foot of the Athabasca Glacier, on of the many big feet of the Columbia Icefields that come down the valleys carved of thousands of years of moving ice. The Columbia Icefield is up there, hidden in a huge hollow up among the peaks, covering many of them.
Along the way up, starting from the parking lot, there are a lot of signs pointing our where does the glacier used to be over the last century. At the beginning of the 1900, it was almost on the taday’s road, then quickly, sadly too quick, it has shrinked up to its actual size, and it continue to shrink every year.
We walk the whole path, a kilometer more or less – it is just incredible that in a hundred year the glacier has shrinken a kilometer, if not more – just up to the safety limit.
We arrive at the bottom of the glacier – which is the beginning for us! – and the show is so unusual.
This gigantic mass of ice is just meters from us – we cannot get closer for safety reasons – and between the ice and us, a big muddy and lime river is flowing fast; it is unbelievable how much water can melt every single second, while the glacier is always there, static, or at least it does seem so. The interpreter actually told us it moves some centimeters every day.
At this point, we have seen enough for the day. We just need to find a good place to pitch our tent, eat and sleep. A 100 kilometers or even more, separetes us and Jasper city and we are not willing to drive all the way there. There are three campgrounds before Jasper, and the first one is almost half the way down, so we decide that it will be our home for the night, under Kerkeslin Mount.
So we stop at Kerkeslin Campground and we know all the procedure very well by now, so we go through it in seconds. We take the wood we would need for the fire along the way to the campsite and while we pitch the tent, we light the fire and begin to cook our dinner. At this point, we are already eaten by mosquitoes and the fire smoke doesn’t help at all. We don’t have any bug spray – it will be tomorrow first purchase! We just dress us much as we can and we eat trying not to be eatn too much, slapping each other more than once.
We then decide to have a little walg along the Athabasca River, the river which flows just beside us, which pour from the Athabasca Glacier water we saw little ago, and we still don’t know what is going to happen.
Once we clean the dishes, Attilio decided to shoot some picture with this perfect light – it is almost 11 p.m. by te way! -but he pushes it too far and the tripod doesn’t hold up against the flowing and…SPLASH! The camera has a good bath in the frozen limestone water. Afterwards is just sheer panic and a pretty sad goodnight, already thinking about where to go tomorrow to buy a new camera, since this one seems to be dead.
So we go to sleep happy, yes, for the amazing place we are, but also quite worried and sad, since the wallet will soon be lighter and tomorrow we will just have our phones to take pictures of all the wonders we are going to see.