Trans-Canada Rail Trek

Day 6 - October 12, 2007 – Friday – Banff, Alberta to Jasper, Alberta

The sky was a bit cloudy so the sunrise was not quite as spectacular this morning. However, as we left the hotel at 9:00 the skies cleared and the snow white peaks glistened in the morning sun.

Our driver Mike pointed out a few highlights as we said goodbye to Banff, a town only since 1990. Before that time it was managed by the federal government as part of the National Park System.

Back on the Trans-Canadian Highway again, Mike told us about the Canadian government, the powers of the provinces as opposed to a strong federal government, and about the health care system which is near and dear to the hearts of the citizens.

We entered Canada Highway 93, or the Icefields Parkway at 10:00 and Mike explained about the avalanche control in this area as well as the origin of this road; a 1930’s make work project during the Great Depression!

We were lucky to see many glaciers on this route, so many more than we saw on our trip to Glacier National Park last year. Our first stop was at Bow Lake where we were able to take fantastic photos of the mirror images of the mountain peaks reflected in the calm lake. It was 36 degrees and about 60% humidity. The lake will freeze soon and not thaw until June!

At Bow Summit, we were very close to tree line which is 7,000 feet here this far north and at this attitude of 6700 feet. Mike continued his commentary about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their history and importance to law enforcement in the county.

Along the route we stopped when Mike spotted a herd of snow white mountain goats. We were able to get out and capture a few pictures of these magnificent creatures as they were literally bonded to the sides of the steep cliffs!

Just a few miles further and we saw three female big horned sheep, two adults and a young one. We stopped a few miles up the highway at Big Hill View Point where a few hearty photographers took a few shots of the sheer overlook.

We entered Jasper National Park at 12:10 and went right to the lodge. We had a burger and a bowl of clam chowder and then went out on the deck to get an expansive look at the Columbian Icefields. At 1:15 we met our group at Gate B where we were shuttled to the glacier.

Our expert Snow-Coach driver and guide Eduardo gave us an exceptional commentary about the Columbian Icefields and the Athabasca Glacier. This Icefield is one of the largest accumulations of ice south of the Arctic Circle in addition to being one of the most accessible ones in North America. We rode on an Ice Explorer up to the middle of the glacier and learned about its geological features.

The Icefield gets about 30 meters of snow each year but in spite of that, the glacier is receding about 30 feet each summer. We got to the turnaround at about 2:00 and had 20 minutes to explore the glacier.

The altitude was 7300 feet and the temperature on the ice was 31 degrees with winds gusting from 8 to 15 mph. The humidity was 82% so the wind chill was significant. Our fellow travelers have been teasing me about not being cold and seldom wearing a jacket, but today I certainly needed it today!

Above the Athabasca Glacier is Snow Dome Mountain which is the only Triple Continental Divide in the world. Water melting off of these glaciers goes either east to the Atlantic, west to the Pacific, or north to the Arctic Ocean, depending on the direction the water flows down the side of the mountain!

We came down from the glacier at 3:00 and had just enough time to use the wash rooms and then met Mike and the bus and were on our way to Jasper.

About 4:00 we stopped along the side of the Athabasca River and were greeted by our raft crew. About 21 of us got geared up, signed the insurance waiver, and then spent the next two hours on an exciting ride north on the river heading to the Arctic Ocean! Boy was that water cold! Our guide told us that about 14 hours ago the water running in the river had been ice on the glacier! After the first few splashes from the many rapids, we did not doubt that a bit!

We arrived at Jasper just as it was getting dark, but Mike took us on a quick tour of the town; only two main streets, and many of the shops had already closed, so it did not take long! We went back to check in at the hotel, where many of the group who did not go rafting were already settled in.

We had had a long day on the bus, so we chose to walk into town, only about 8 blocks to a pizza place Mike had pointed out to us earlier. He had told us that elk roamed freely in the city and the droppings on the sidewalks confirmed his warnings – “Watch where you step!”

We got back to our room at 9:00 and had time to repack our carry-on luggage for the train tomorrow, to look at the photos, and write the journal of our great day from Banff to Jasper!

Sawridge Inn and Conference Center (B)


It looks as if the Brazilian "santa" is freezing. Totally agree with the others on the mountain photo - superb.

Jesper   November 12, 2007 - 10:23pm

BEAUTIFUL picture of the mountains on the lake-- really awesome!

Eduardo A. Garcia   October 14, 2007 - 6:38pm

Great picture of the mountains reflected in the lake!

Duane H. Feisel   October 13, 2007 - 7:40am
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Trip Map

Trip Map

Our Driver - Mike

Our Driver - Mike

Bow Lake

Bow Lake

Snow White Mountain Goats

Snow White Mountain Goats

Garcias at Columbian Icefields

Garcias at Columbian Icefields

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