Rocking the Rockies – Banff to Jasper (sort of)

Traveling is much more fun if you have a spirit of adventure, though maybe jumping half naked into an icy cold lake is just a step too far.

Today, we’re off to Jasper.  We don’t have any fixed agenda, though the ladies have heard that the glacier excursion at the Columbia Icefields is pretty good, and, they have that new skywalk.  Oooh – the ad says you get to walk out over the edge of the cliff on a huge glass-bottomed walkway.  That’ll be crazy exciting!  We take the advice of the website and pre-book four spots.  It’s only two and a half hours from Banff, so, if we grab the 1:30 timeslot, we can have a leisurely breakfast and still leave plenty of time for little detours and stops to photograph bears on the side of the road.

At 9:45 we’re all loaded and off on our first detour – a quick jaunt to the lake at Two Jacks.  The guy at the hotel recommended it, and it’s just out of town so no real time issues there.  La la la, travelling along.  A cry comes from one of the passengers.  “We have to go back.  I’ve left my undies in the wardrobe in the room.”  “Ah, can’t you just get some more?”  “No, they’re, well, special.”  And so, it starts.

Detour back to Banff, then we’re off again.  La la la, travelling along.  Now the driver needs to stop.  Apparently three coffees with breakfast was a bad idea.  No worries, we’re flexible, and look, here’s a handy little roadhouse right next to a lake with fantastic views of the mountains.  We make our stop and are about to re-board when, hey, what’s happening over there?  A tour group of twenty-somethings is gathering down by the water.  By the look of things, they’re about to take a group dip in the lake.  We love adventure, so I suggest we could join them.  As tempting as this sounds, we decide it’s best not to scare the kiddies and just watch as half the group rushes into the water, the other half captures proceedings with their phones, then the first group rushes out again.  Wow, that thrill was over pretty quick, but at least they’ll have the uploads.

Off again.  La la la, travelling along.  My, time is slipping by isn’t it.  One of our group starts giving that little “I told you we should have left earlier” talk when, suddenly we’re at the icefields.  Look – seventeen minutes to spare!  Ah, take out ten minutes to find a car park, then six minutes to get to the loading area and we just manage to secure the last spots before the line closes.  The big tourist coach doesn’t look too exciting, but we’re informed that this just gets us to our all-terrain ice vehicle.

We make the swap and soon we’re crawling along the dusty track and onto the ice.  Our guide fills in the time telling warning stories, like the one about a guy who fell down a deep hole in the ice and by some miracle popped out relatively unharmed at the bottom of the glacier.  Wow.  That sounds like fun!  When we arrive, it’s actually pretty “cool” to walk around on the glacier, though you have to wait in line to take a selfie at any of the good spots.  I’m a bit disappointed that I couldn’t find any of those deep holes, but hey, we’re off to the skywalk over the cliff next!

The skywalk is much smaller than we imagined from its pictures, but there are some good views from the concrete path along the hillside, and the small section that goes out over the edge is a bit of fun, as long as you don’t mind crowds.  Ah well, it’s only a short drive to Jasper from here, so maybe we can go bear spotting after we check in tonight.

La la la, travelling along.  Hey, does anyone know the address for the place at Jasper?  Fumble, fumble.  It’s 49 thousand something Highway 16.  No worries, we have a GPS.  Twenty minutes later we reach, well, nothing.  Just highway.  Maybe if we go a little further.  Nope, still nothing.  Time to try Google maps.  “Continue on Highway 16 for 56 kilometres then …”  What?  That’s half way to Edmonton!  Oh well, let’s look on the bright side.  If we get far enough away from civilisation, we’re sure to have bears at our back door in the morning.

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