Wednesday, 30 August 201 – Banff/Lakes Louise/Moraine/Columbia Icefield/Golden – Day 4

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 – Day 4 – Banff/Lakes Louise/Moraine/ Columbia Icefield/ Golden

After breakfast, it was an early departure from our Banff Inn at 7.15am as we had a lot to fit in today. We spent longer in Banff yesterday as we were hoping a couple of our tour group who missed their flight from Los Angeles would have arrived but they were still delayed so we saw more of the sights around Banff.  It was quite misty and cool but when we arrived at our first stop nearly an hour later at Lake Louise  – Jewel of the Canadian Rockies” – it was quite nice and sunny.  What a sight !!!  Beautiful calm turquoise waters with its backdrop of the Victoria Glacier.

Lake Louise with reflections in the calm water

I was with Russell and Sal from our group and we had time to wander leisurely beside the lake up to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise  through the grand entrance of the hotel with its beautiful chandelier and the stunning staircase leading up to the guestrooms of the hotel.  It is noted that the stunning chateau and the Lake have become one of the most photographed landscapes in Canada.  You can see why.

The three of us took in the scenery on our way to the coach.  I put in my order for the jazzy vehicle, but I am still waiting for its delivery!!!!

We then headed towards Lake Moraine, a glacially fed lake in the Valley of Ten Peaks. Another spectacular sight. There was a huge rock pile and some of the group climbed up to a better viewing platform but some of us declined and were just happy to stay below and take in the scenery all around.

Lake Moraine and the Rock Pile

After our stop at Lake Moraine we left the Trans-Canada Highway and joined Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway (232 kms/144 miles) and we were told that this is one of the world’s most scenic stretch of road and it is easy to see why – so many skyscaper high rugged mountains, many lakes and streams and lush ancient pine forests. We passed Glacier and Crowfoot mountains just to name a couple and then we had another stop at Bow Lake, one of the smaller lakes in Banff National Park. It is the source of the Bow River that we travelled along in many places – sometimes right next to it or else seeing it down in the valley as we made our ascents.

Bow Glacier and Snowbird Glacier were passed and Ron, our guide played the song – “”Snowbird. Each day we also heard the song – “Rocks and Trees, Trees and Rocks”. Very appropriate as that is certainly what we are seeing heaps of, but it makes the journey interesting.  Our time was delayed for some time as the road was blocked because a stray mountain goat had got itself onto the road. We felt quite sorry for it as by this time it was becoming quite distressed as people kept on approaching it to take photos – it finally managed to free itself and headed into the countryside. We wound our way, ascending, descending with magnificent scenery of mountain lakes, rivers, glaciers and valleys along the way, over Parker Ridge until we came to the Columbia Icefield Visitor Centre in the Improvement District No. 12.

We boarded an “Ice Explorer” massive vehicle (snow coach) ($1M each and a tyre cost $4,000) specially designed for travelling over the steep grades, snow and ice part way up the glacier and Zak, our driver took us onto the Athabasca Glacier.

Along the slow haul up to the glacier, he gave us information about glaciers, icefields and their impact on the environment.  Athabasca Glacier  is one of the six principal “toes” of the Columbia Icefield. The glacier currently recedes at a rate of about 5 metres (16 ft) per year and has receded more than 1.5 km (0.93 mi) and lost over half of its volume in the past 125 years. Easily accessible, it is the most visited glacier in North America.  We made our way to the edge of the glacier  – what an experience – but one had to be very cautious as the surface was very very slippery.

On the Athabasca Glacier

On Athabasca Glacier

The pristine water was safe enough for us to fill our water bottles – marvellous in such diverse conditions.

We then boarded the massive vehicle and down for lunch in the very appropriately named Altitude Restaurant.  It was then onto our ordinary coach and we made our way down – saw a few mountain goats – past Peyto and Bow Lakes once more joining the Trans-Canada Highway.

The beautiful Banff National Park was left and we were now in the Yoho National Park. Once more we were travelling along lakes, rivers, glaciers and pine forests.  Our next short stop was at Kicking Horse Pass – one of the two viewpoints where one can safely watch trains and learn more about the very complicated system of the Spiral Tunnels. From this viewpoint 7.4 km east of the village of Field on the Trans-Canada Highway, you can see the Lower Spiral Tunnel in Mt. Ogden. There are some very interesting facts about the Spiral Tunnels here at Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site and you can see how this project was so challenging.  How the Spiral Tunnels work:  As trains snake their way up to the Kicking Horse Pass and the continental divide, they circle deep into the mountains on both sides of this valley. The two giant underground loops they follow are the Spiral Tunnels. Because each tunnel makes a complete spiralling turn, trains actually cross over themselves.  From this viewpoint, IF you saw an engine emerge from the upper portal while 15m below it, the last cars are still entering the lower portal!  Hard to imagine, but the trains are extremely long and can be up to a mile long. On average, 25 to 30 trains pass through the Spiral Tunnels daily, though not on a regular schedule.  A wonderful engineering project as the benefits of the Spiral Tunnels Line were many including: Improved safety for downhill trains, Runaway spur lines no longer required, Rear pusher locomotives no longer required, Scheduling delays reduced and Operating costs reduced. We were told we would hear more about the Canadian Railway System down the track  – pardon the pun! (tomorrow).

We finally arrived at the Golden Travelodge (Room 201) our accommodation for the night.  I read the diagram for our rooms and thought my room was furthest from the office and stairs BUT I got a surprise as it was near the office and Andrew kindly took my luggage up and it seems I had the “executive suite” as I had a huge king sized bed and a double spa bath.  I chatted to three chaps who worked for the Canadian Railways and were interesting with information.  After a snack, I had a wonderful soak in the spa and another one at 11.30 – Couldn’t waste the opportunity.

Feeling nice and relaxed after our very long day, got into my huge bed and thought what a wonderful, wonderful day we had. The trip onto the Glacier was very special as not experienced anything like that before and the scenery just breathtaking. Was hard to know where to look. We certainly did and saw heaps.

 

 

 

 

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