Author: Larry St Aubin
From the dinosaur badlands to the Columbia Icefields. The Icefields Parkway is said to be one of the top 10 drives in the world. And it is. We have been lucky in that this is the 12th day of sunny blue skies. There were a couple light rains in the night, but every stop we made has not had any rain.
Jasper National Park is located in Treaty 6 and Treaty 8 as well as the traditional lands of the Anishinabe, Aseniwuche Winewak, Dene-zaa, Nêhiyawak, Secwépemc, Stoney Nakoda, and Métis.
Up early and caught this pic of the sunrise just behind the dinosaur. 2 hour drive to Canmore where I would stop for gas and a Tim Horton’s breakfast.
The Icefields Parkway is a 232 km stretch of double-lane highway taking you along the Continental Divide. It runs from Lake Louise in Banff to the Town of Jasper, which are both fantastic places in themselves. You can drive the parkway from Jasper to Banff, and from Banff to Jasper.
It is a jaw dropping, stunning drive. I wanted to pull into each lookout and take in the views. I didn’t have the time as I was scheduled to go on the Jasper Sky Tram.
When I was at the Tyrrell Museum there were a number of breath taking displays. However, I really fancied this one. So I bought a t-shirt of it at the gift shop. It is a juvenile Gorgosaurus. Rare because it shows the complete skeleton and the articulation (bones arranged as they were in life). I wear the shirt to Jasper.
Herbert Lake is a small glacial lake just off the Icelands Parkway in Jasper National Park. The loop trail is short and easy to walk so makes a perfect stop for us. When the morning sun is just right, the reflection of Mount Temple can be seen in its waters.
Herbert Lake allows us some quiet time in the morning after all that driving. We didn’t walk the loop but did find a stump to sit on. Here is a photo I found showing the reflection in the waters of Herbert Lake.
Columbia Ice Field. The Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies, covering some 230 sq km (89 sq mi) to a depth of 365 m (1,200 ft) and some 28 km (17 mi) long. Draped over the continental divide on a high alpine plateau along the Alberta-BC border, it receives an average of 7 m (23 ft) of new snowfall per year. Not all of that snow can melt in the short summers so it accumulates, turning to ice which flows outward through the surrounding passes, creating fingers of ice known as glaciers, the Athabasca Glacier being the most well-known.
Athabasca Glacier sits at the base of several notable peaks such as Mount Athabasca, Andromeda, and Snow Dome. These peaks sit along the continental divide and most notable is Snow Dome where water flows to either the Pacific, Atlantic, or the Arctic Ocean.
The Visitor Centre was packed but there is an exit to the Toe of the Glacier. That is what I came for. There is a small parking lot and I found a spot. I decided to use the stroller for Greta but it was not the right choice. It was rocky with too many large stones.
We did make it up the steep climb to the top. Actually, the Columbia Icefields was the starting point for this trip. I’ve always wanted to see it. There are excursions out on to the ice but the don’t allow dogs. However seeing “The Toe” was fine with me. Once I decided I would go in 2023, the rest of the trip fell into place.
Looking back down the hill we came up. You can see the parking lot in the centre far background. We started down but it was a struggle. However, two wonderful angels – a couple from Germany – helped. The male voice behind me softly asked “Would you like some help?” Both going up and coming down, no one else offered to help. I graciously accepted. On the way down I told them about the road trip and some of the sights I’d seen. I could see Greta was staring up at him wondering who is he and where is my dad?
From there we drove straight to the Jasper Sky Tram, located at Whistlers Mountain, just outside of Jasper. The Weather Network had been predicting a severe thunderstorm. Apparently this changed a lot of people’s minds because as we were waiting for the tram, no one else showed up. We had the whole car to ourselves. The operator took a photo of us, then she took a photo of the girls.
Jasper Skytram. The Jasper SkyTram was constructed in 1964 and it is the highest and longest tram in Canada. With a starting elevation of over 4,000 feet, the 10-minute trip to the top in the enclosed gondola will take you to over 7,500 feet, where you’ll be surrounded by magnificent views of the largely undisturbed Canadian Rockies, the town of Jasper, and the Athabasca River.
It is pet friendly so how could we resist. Beats climbing up the mountain. However, we walk the Alpine trail to the summit for a spectacular view. Had to buy 2 “Dog” tickets for Eve and Greta.
The climb to Whistlers Summit was steep. You can see it in the background. You can also see an intrepid mountain climber who is soon to be stuffed into a knap sack.
There were also “You are here” signs along the way. They helped with the motivation to keep going – up to a point that is.
The provided benches along the way. The approach we took was to stop regularly and have a 5 minute rest. Eve would jump up and sit beside me to give moral support.
When there wasn’t a bench, they had strategically placed large boulders to sit on.
There is a “False Summit” and then the Whistlers Summit. We got as far as the false summit and were proud of it. I considered it an accomplishment and decided to go back down.
The other side of the summit looked down on the city of Jasper.
Of course the decent was easier. I had my trail shoes on. We just went slow and sure.
Astoria Hotel and the De’d Dog Bar & Grill. Originally I was going to camp at Jasper National Park but they delayed to opening of the campgrounds. I checked around for pet friendly hotels because I wanted to see Jasper. I found the quaint Astoria hotel. I say quaint because if you want to call the front desk, this is what you use.
The hotel’s restaurant is called the De’d Dog Grill. The patio is not pet friendly, which I find ironic – why name your place Dog and not allow them. As I was carrying Greta into the hotel along with Eve, 3 woman in the patio shouted out pugs. I stopped and introduced them. When I told them I was on a road trip from Toronto, they were all from Parkdale. They were on the Rocky Mountaineer train with a stop in Jasper.
I had a pint of the De’d Dog Red ale, organic greens salad and bison chili. The pugs had been fed and were sleeping.
I took Greta out for a caring. All day she had either been in the back seat, stroller or back pack. She needed to get out to move her joints and have alone time with me. I checked the map and there was a green space about a block down. We stopped first in a gift shop to get a Jasper t-shirt. We then ended up at the Jasper Information Centre – a national historic site.
It was built in 1914 for the park administration offices and the residence of the park superintendent. It is the timber and stone style which makes it historic.
Greta walked all the way there and back – with a few contemplative stops along the way. As I write this blog, she is snoring away all cuddled in the blanket. Life is good.