Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day 26: Jasper to Calgary AB, July 26

Today was running hot and cold attractions, starting with the hot springs at the north end of Jasper National Park. It was a bit out of our way, but Will desperately wanted to see it, and I figured a hot soak would do me good too. I'm glad we went to the Liard Hotsprings in the Yukon, because there you get to actually go in the natural springs; in Jasper they pipe the hot water into a regular swimming pool, and it's just like going to your local community centre for a swim, except for the 40 degree water. After half an hour we were bored and took off back to Jasper and the "Icefields Parkway", which I had read was the prettiest stretch of roadway in Canada.

It's certainly hard to beat glacier-topped mountains with their icy blue-green creeks. I had carefully not mentioned the Columbia ice field to Will, since I figured things would have changed since I was a kid, and you wouldn't be able to actually go out onto the glacier anymore. And of course you can't; the receding glacier has formed a large lake and river underneath, and the toe is unstable now. Will was disappointed not to have a chance to pelt me with glacier snowballs, but the big graphic poster about a nine-year-old boy who fell in a crevasse and died of hypothermia before they could get him out seemed to convince him he was safer where he was. They have markers showing where the glacier used to be, and there was one for 1982, pretty close to the time I was there. It's amazing how much it has shrank.

For the record, we reached the highest altitude just before the ice field; at 2035m above sea level, it was the highest we'll get on this trip! Bobby did just fine, although there were hills we were climbing at 30 km/hr, and the dipstick for the oil was a bit too hot to comfortably hold, for the first time ever. The cylinder head temperature never got higher than 350, though.

From there it was off to Lake Louise, although by then we were getting a bit saturated with scenery. I didn't attempt to show the lake to Will; he has been converted to the Where to Eat in Canada way, and had picked a restaurant on the "old road" from Banff to Lake Louise. This is probably the road we travelled when I was a kid, so we headed off on it to find the Baker Creek Lodge, which did indeed have marvellous food (I had the lamb, Will had mac'n'cheese, and we split a chocolate paté for dessert). I drank two cups of coffee, which I estimated would get us as far as we needed to go that night.

The road was winding and dark, although there was still light enough to see a confused-looking wolf on the side of the road. We took the first opportunity to get back on the main road, which south of Lake Louise is a major highway, rather than the simple two-lane road we'd been on since Jasper. Most of it is fenced to keep wildlife off, so they've built these crazy wildlife bridges they seem to think will give the deer and what-not a safe way to get across. Perhaps they work, but if I was a deer I think I'd find them a bit too exposed.

I had wanted to get to Calgary before night, and amazingly, we did (it helps that Calgary is so close to Banff). It was late and I was exhausted, though; fortunately it was easy to find the Calgary West Campground, which is inside the city limits and right off the Transcanada. The noisy neighbours (who were all there for a folk festival, coincidentally enough) didn't bother me in the least.

Total so far: 9820 km

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