Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Mountain Top Experiences
Monday morning, we started our vacation with a 5:00 a.m. wake up call. Five hours later we were at our destination on Hwy 93. (Yes this is the same highway that wanders down through western Montana.) We were at the closest driving point to the Columbia Icefield.
Although I have lives most of my life within driving distance of this spot, I did not witness it until a few days after 9-11. We were on our way to Montana and could only stop briefly. I desperately wanted to take the "SnoCoach" tour onto the Athabasca Glacier. A few years ago we wized by again. This time we were on our way back from Montana to Sexsmith, Alberta.
This year I decided this was our opportunity. With the help of my son-in-law, we turned the trip into a three-day mountain adventure. Brian helped me get a great deal on a two night stay in a motel in Banff.
The Columbia Icefield adventure was great. We took the "SnoCoach" up the Athabasca Glacier as far as it could go. The machine looks like an armored bus on tractor tires. This makes sense since it was a farmer turned engineer who designed it. I met him some 15 years ago after he returned to his farm and started a specializes farm equipment manufacturing business. All but one of the snow coaches are at the Athabasca Glacier. The other one is in Antarctica!
On the Glacier we could see the melt-water running down into a man-made ditch in the ice to preserve the ice road. The water was murky because of the "rock flour" in it. These fine particles disperse minerals into the water and produce the emerald colors found in some alpine lakes. I found it interesting that the rocky moraine pushed up by the glacier on either side of it was actually ice covered with an insulating layer of rocky debree. The glacier we were on was only three per-cent of the whole ice-field. Most of it was invisible behind us. Google Earth gives you a good view of its proportions.
On our way to Banff we saw many more awe-inspiring sites of mountains, glaciers, and lakes. Banff itself was different too. Colleen and I have been there several times for church conferences. They were always in the fall after the summer tourists had fled and before skiers had arrived. But this time we were there simply as tourists.
The shops on Main Street were open late, many as late as 11:00 p.m. So we did the tourist thing and shopped and shopped and shopped. Don't worry, we did a lot more looking than buying. Trinkets of every Canadian icon were to be found: Beaver, Bear, Mountain Sheep, Moose, Moose in Mountie uniform, Moose canoeing, Moose drinking beer, Moose playing hockey (you get the picture). One shop sells Christmas ornaments all year long. I found it most interesting. However the most bizare items were in a gem shop that also sold petrified artifacts, including ( I lie not) petrified dinosaur poop!
We toured up Mt. Norquay. I was there some 45 years ago the summer my sister worked in Banff. That time Ted and I hiked up the ski run to the special building for the judges to watch the ski jumping. About then Banff was bidding for the winter Olympics. 20 years later, when Calgary hosted the Olympics, the ski jumping took place there. This summer, I could barely see that building because the area was closed. However, it has obviously grown to some four lifts and twenty runs today.
Before leaving Banff we took the gondola up Sulphur Mountain. Forty years ago, on a Thanksgiving trip home from Bible College, I took Colleen up that mountain. It was the weekend I asked her to marry me. Nine years ago we did the same venture. The first time I do not remember being afraid. If I had been, I would not have let on. But these last two times it bothered me going up in the Gondola. ( I do have a fear of heights) This trip they displayed pieces of the cables that supported and pulled us up the mountain side. 38mm and 26mm respectively did not seem very reassuring to me. But the ride down, both times, was like we were floating and I was not nervous at all. I think the pulling and straining of the equipment on the way up was a big factor.
Form the top we could see many other mountains and the town of Banff down below. Up beside the lookout area were sever Mountain ewes and their lambs. We could almost touch them.
We felt a little sad to leave the mountain and return to Alberta's parklands. Overall it was a relaxing and enjoyable little vacation.
Blogger is giving me problems, so go to Facebook for photographs.