ATHABASCA GLACIER

The Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Ice fields…that is our next destination.

The drive was amazing and picturesque…

Bow Lake is a  lake on the Trans Canada Highway as you drive from Lake Louise to The Columbia Ice fields. It lies at an altitude of 1920 meters and is formed by the melt water of the Bow Glacier. The beautiful turquoise color of the lake is due to the glacial till. It is one of the largest lakes in Banff National Park. We had a small photo halt by the Bow Lake. Some pictures…

The Beautiful Bow Lake…notice the color of the water…

After this beautiful view, we continued our drive to the ice fields and arrived at the Ice fields discovery center.

A small overview on this mighty ice field and glacier…

The Columbia Ice field is the largest ice field in the Canadian Rockies lying astride the Continental divide  along the border of British Columbia and Alberta in Canada. It lies partly in Banff National park and partly in Jasper National Park . It has six major glaciers…Athabasca being one of them.

The Athabasca Glacier is one of the six principal toes of the Columbia icefield. This glacier has receded 1.5 km and lost over half its volume in the past 125 years at the rate of 5 metres per year of depth loss…..so much for global warming!!!

Being easily accessible from the Trans Canada highway, it is the most visited glacier in  North America.

The Columbia ice field discovery center located across the glacier is used as a lodge for sightseeing on the glacier. Standard buses take you to the center . From there you board special snow coaches to reach the steep grades of the glacier

Riding on the glacier….a lifetime experience!!!….feel it as you read along…

After a small break at the discovery center, we were asked to board the snow coaches. These buses have huge ribbed tyres which help them to manouver on the ice and prevents slipping and skidding. However, the driver warned us that it is going to be a bumpy ride and seat belts are compulsory on this coach. It does feel a little scary as this vehicle manouvers on the rocky hard ice making a lot of noise and throwing off a lot of ice as it moves towards the glacier.

Athabasca Glacier

The snow coaches used to reach deep into the glacier….note the strong tyres

The old snowmobile that was used ealier to reach the glacier…. now an exhibit

Once we were on the glacier, we played around in the snow . Another unique experience we had was drinking the glacier water. At places on the glacier, there were small pools of water…melted snow. Our guide assured us that it is very pure and it is safe to drink it. The snow surface may look dirty but it is due to the rock deposits and not dirt. So we collected some in a small bottle…it was sweet!!!….some unadulterated water from the melting snow on a mountain top!!!!!

The glacier floor and the potable water stream!!!

Though we managed to get some pictures here, the numbness of our fingers was an issue. You can well imagine how it must be; standing on sheets of ice and surrounded by ice every where!!

Our next destination was the Jasper Skywalk,...a large semicircular glass bottomed bridge that extends out from a cliff edge at a height of 300 mts from the Sunwapta valley floor. We walked for around a kilometre on the bridge. Wonderful unforgetable experience in life!!!….

The opening image of this blog is a picture of the Skywalk jutting out over the valley below

On the Jasper Skywalk…notice the Sunwapta valley below

The glacier sky walk experience is an audio presentation of the exhibits along the sky walk. As we enter the sky walk we are provided with an audio kit and as we walk along, we can get the description of the exhibits.The exhibits include wildlife, fossils and much more.

After finishing the sky walk experience, we were driven to Golden...a town in British Columbia enroute Vancouver from Calgary. Much of the town’s history is connected to the Canadian Pacific Railway and the logging industry. It is also closely associated with the Kicking horse river. With the development of the Kicking horse resort and associated adventure activities, it has transformed into a tourist destination with facilities for paragliding, hang gliding and mountain biking. The river flows from the glaciers of the Columbia ice fields and creates the Kicking horse canyon. The Kicking horse pass is the route taken by the Canadian Pacific railway to connect the high Rockies to the Bow Valley below

The Kicking Horse river got its name from a funny incident. James Hector ,one of the geologists of an expedition was kicked by his pack horse here. He decided to call the river The Kicking Horse river .

As an ecological, recreational, and historical jewel of the Canadian West, the Kicking Horse River enjoys the distinction of being the first British Columbia river to be recognized as a Canadian Heritage River.

There is a cute timber bridge across the river. Built by the local timber framers, it is a popular photo location.

The Timber bridge across the Kicking Horse River

We were put up at Kicking horse ski resort and that was a bonus…living at a ski resort overlooking the ski slope.That was another unforgettable experience….the ambiance of a ski resort….with the room overlooking the cable cars that go to the ski slope….Being summer, there was no skiing activity but the ambiance was truly exceptional! The rooms are equipped with all kinds of skiing equipment too !!

The Kicking Horse Mountain and Ski Resort

View from our room at the resort

After the overnight stay at this wonderful resort, we proceeded next morning to Vancouver. The drive to Vancouver is also very picturesque.

We passed The Sushwap Lake and the town of Salmon arm

The Sushwap lake is a popular house-boating and water recreation destination. Salmon Arm is the urban centre on the lakeshore with a long curved wooden wharf and sandy beaches,

The Sushwap Lake

Enroute, we also visited the Last Spike…a historic site for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The Canadian Pacific Railway was built between 1881 and 1885 to connect Eastern Canada with British Columbia in the west.It literally runs across the width of Canada .The Rail tracks were supposedly built from both ends and finally met at this place marking the completion of the track laying.

One can take a picture against a painting giving the appearance of driving the last spike into the track.

Driving the last spike …..

We arrived Vancouver by evening and checked into our hotel. It was indeed a great road trip from Calgary to Vancouver. By doing it as a road trip, we got to see the entire stretch of the beautiful Canadian Rockies. This is probably one of my best trips ever….the sheer beauty of the Rockies and British Columbia is something to be experienced at least once in a lifetime!!!

So plan your Rockies trip AS SOON AS YOU CAN……

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See you next week at Vancouver….