Tuesday, August 25: Banff to Jasper
We in fact got up early (which is to say our normal time of 6:20). Just to be different, I was awake at 4:45am, although I did doze slightly amid my tossing and turning between then and the alarm.
We just packed up our stuff and headed out. The air was still full of smoke, and the mountains were almost completely invisible.
We stopped at McD's for a quick breakfast, and then hit the highway. Amy drove the first leg, and I (not surprisingly) dozed in the passenger seat.
We could see faint outlines of the mountains through which we passed. They looked like they should be rather spectacular, if one could actually see them.
As we traveled further north (well past Lake Louise), the haze gradually thinned a bit. We stopped a few places to get pictures of some adjacent fields.
Eventually we got up to the Glacier Center, where we stopped for food. By that point, we could actually see the mountains, but there was still some haze in the air. We had a slightly early lunch there. We hadn't originally planned on doing anything there, but we decided to drive across the street to the parking lot that was nearest the glacier, and see what we could see there.
When we got there, we decided that the hike up to the glacier wasn't that bad, so Mike and I would do it. Amy was still having problems due to the smoke and altitude.
I just had on a tee shirt, fleece, and soft-shell. I was afraid that it wouldn't be enough, but it was fine, even though it got really windy once we climbed the slope.
You couldn't go up to the face of the glacier, but you could get fairly close to it. They had a number of posters warning people about traveling on the glacier. One had the chilling detail that the last three crevasse rescues on the glacier had been unsuccessful.
After the glacier we stopped a get pictures of a small waterfall (Tangled Falls?).
Then we drove to the Athabasca Falls. This is where the fairly sizeable river that we had been following for quite some distance falls over a rocky ledge. It is a big tourist spot with a number of reasonable viewing platforms. Then it was on to Jasper.
Not surprisingly Jasper is a much smaller place than Banff. We parked next to the railroad yard, then started wandering down the main street.
Our first stop was to get some ice cream. After that, we were looking for something to do for about two hours or so. Mike wanted to rent bikes again. Amy didn't want to go, so it was just Mike and I.
The weather was sort of interesting. Up by the glacier it was cold and windy. I had been hoping that I had packed enough warm clothing. But now when we were renting some bikes in Jasper, it felt rather warm. I would have preferred shorts to long pants, but I didn't have any handy.
The biking was a rather interesting experience, as it was the first time that I had ridden a bike significantly off paved or improved roads. I had opted for just front suspensions. Next time I would go for dual suspensions. The bike trails were more like halfway decent hiking trails. There were lots of rocks and tree roots, among dips, potholes, and other things.
Obviously we traveled more slowly than we would have on a paved road, but it was sort of fun and interesting. We had a little trouble at one point trying to figure out whether we were on the trail or on some side road, but we had fun and got the bikes back within the hour.
One thing that amazed us was how clear the air is. Compared to a clear day, we would probably complain that it was slightly hazy, but compared to what we were seeing down in Canmore/Banff, it looked amazingly clear. We could actually see the mountains! The sun was even shining!
Amy and Mike got something to drink, and then we drove off to look for a tea house that we were thinking of visiting. Halfway there we realized it was much further away than we thought, so we turned around, drove back to Jasper, and found a restaurant for dinner. (It turns out that the “tea house” was not as far as we thought; it also wasn't a tea house.)
We found a decent restaurant that was a cross between a steak house and a Greek one. Interestingly, the root beer I had was brewed by a Canmore brewery.
After dinner, we drove to Hinton to find our hotel. It turns out that Hinton was further away than we expected. I was thinking (hoping?) it was about a half hour away, but it is more like an hour away. Bringing back memories of Yosemite and the Bug, there were two bridges being worked on, resulting in one lane that alternated directions.
One good detail was that we saw a small bus pulled over to the side of the road with a bunch of people looking at something off to the side. Amy looked as we went past, and it was a bald eagle! So I turned around, and we pulled in behind the bus. I got out my Bigma lens, and Mike got my previous telephoto.
We drove on to Hinton and found our hotel. We were not impressed. It is better than a dive, but a step down from what we had in Canmore. The name “Lakeview Inn and Suites” sounds impressive, but is more like a semi-cheap motel. There was no lake in view. At least were only here for two nights.