Day eight! Time to drive up to Jasper on the famed Icefields Parkway – one of the most scenic drives in the world. It’s just beautiful – pictures cannot do it justice. I was snapping away in car the whole way. You can basically take an amazing shot just by randomly pointing your camera out the window and clicking, but no matter how gorgeous the photo it’s still not as incredible as being there.
There are dozens of spots to stop along the drive, for lookouts or hikes or to see fascinating features like waterfalls. But for our drive up we only had one stop in mind – the Glacier Adventure, which allows you to actually walk on the Athabasca Glacier.
So we drove out for a bit:
And then we stopped at the Glacier Adventure centre, which is about two and a half hours up from Banff. We had pre-bought our tickets online, because the tickets are for a specific time and we didn’t want to get there only to find we’d have to wait around for another three hours to actually go out. It was very busy there but they were sending out tours every 15 minutes and so I don’t think we actually would have had to wait for very long, but whatever.
We got on a shuttle bus that took us out to the ice bus, the massive vehicle that actually goes out onto the ice. Then we headed over to the glacier itself for our designated 20 minute walkabout. It was short, but it was enough – my feet both got soaked (it was a very hot day, so there was a lot of meltwater on top) and it was windy and chilly (we had jackets and gloves, and used both).
The ancient ice has a the same blue-turquoise colour of the glacier fed lakes and it was just so beautiful. The best part was when my brother in law scooped up a bit of meltwater in his water bottle for us all to try – impossibly cool and clear and delicious. Verdict: must do.
Side note: visiting the glacier definitely does make you think about preserving nature, and what is and isn’t good for the environment. Most of the Banff and Jasper national parks are fiercely protected by law – you literally can’t touch anything or take anything without penalty. So to have thousands of people walking out on this glacier that is rather quickly melting away felt a little out of place. The company that runs the glacier tours was grandfathered in – they were running these tours before the area was a national park – and that’s why they can do it. Also, I do want to mention that the glacier is melting as part of a natural warming cycle to the Earth, and not because of people walking on it. But it still felt like we were almost trespassing, and I know the Jasper locals do not have a good opinion of Brewster, the company that runs the Glacier Adventure. Food for thought, in any case.
After the glacier walk we also went out on the Glacier Skywalk – a clear glass floor thing that goes out over a canyon for a view. We went because a) the kids really wanted to, what IS their thing with glass floors?, and b) we figured, we’re here, we’ll never be again, let’s do it all. But really, the skywalk is quite skippable – the view is nothing different than is available for free at several other points (the skywalk is like, $30 adults) and of course, I had another panic over the glass floor. I’m sure, given the same scenario, we would do it again – the kids did like it, we saw more bighorn sheep there and also a mountain goat, and we always would have wondered about it if we had skipped it. But definitely: skippable.
Next up: on to Jasper!