Friday, August 28: Jasper to Banff
Back in Canmore. Still lots of smoke/haze down here. This is turning into somewhat of a quiet travel day. My right hand is definitely swollen, but I have more motion in it than I did yesterday.
But to start at the beginning, we got up and had a rather nice breakfast at their restaurant. Their hash browns were interesting. They seemed to be baked in a muffin tin or something, with some onions, tomatoes, and other things.
For the second day in a row I again slept normally; i.e. not waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning.
Michael got a second stuffed bear at the gift shop, a slightly larger version of the previous bear. I have to admit that he was very cuddly and pettable though.
We were sort of waterfalled out, and none of us felt like hiking 1-2km just to see another one, so we loaded up the car and set out for the glacier ice fields. The weather was fairly clear but overcast. In a few cases, the dark clouds were a dramatic backdrop to the mountains, but mostly they were bad for pictures.
As we neared the ice field, we begin to notice a few droplets on the windshield, and felt a little spitting when we stopped for a photo. We got to the ice field place just before 10:30, and it was barely raining lightly. So we put on our rain coats (in my case over my down vest), and we went in and got some tickets for the 10:30 “flight”.
We were surprised to be boarding a regular tour bus rather than the fancy snow coaches (called something like “terra-bus” as in “Ivan the terra bus”), but then we realized that the buses take us across the street to the edge of the glacier, and the snow coaches take us from there. (Apparently they built 23 of them. 22 of them are in Jasper, and the 23rd is in Antarctica.)
We got into the snow coaches and then started a slow, narrated trip down the moraine and onto the glacier. Amy got a good view of a rainbow, but I was on the wrong side to photograph it.
The vehicles just drove slowly along a road graded into the top of the moraine, down a steep section onto the ice, and then up the ice to a big cleared spot. There we could get out and walk around. Of course, other than the “gee whiz” effect of standing on a glacier, it was no different from standing in a frozen parking lot in the middle of winter.
The rain had started lightly again, and there was rather a wind, so it wasn't the most conducive to enjoying the outside. I wandered around, took a number of pictures, and then climbed back into the snow coach (where it was warmer).
The “parking lot” was about 3-6 feet lower than the rest of the glacier. So there was a small ice wall clearly marking where we could and couldn't go. I imagine that this caused by the vehicles churning the surface into slush, and then their regrading it to a decent surface. There was a small ditch at the base of the ice wall to redirect meltwater around the parking area.
You could hire a guide to take you onto the glacier, but it hardly seemed worth it.
The guide told us that a neighboring mountain “snow globe” was a triple continental divide, in that water from it flowed into three different oceans: Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic.
On the way down, there was another rainbow, so this time I could get a bunch of pictures.
The overall trip lasted just over an hour. When we came back in, it was about 11:30 or 11:45, and the place was much more crowded than when we had arrived. I guess we missed the arrival of the big tour buses from Banff.
We had lunch and then continued south. Ahead of us, we could see increasing haze the further south one looked. We hoped that it was just transient rain, but it was the awful smoke. It wasn't as bad as the day we left, but it was much worse than what we had at Jasper.
At one picture stop, Amy found that the family next to us had a stuffed wolverine that they brought with them, and which they put into their photographs. So Amy had to tell them about our bears. Our bears tend to be indoor bears, however, and they rarely venture into the wild.
We got in to Canmore around 3:15 and unloaded the car (and gave the new bear a chance to meet the other bears).
So now I've been typing up the day. In a while we plan to back up to Banff to look for dinner and maybe just wander around. The weather forecast is for varying chances of rain until we leave. On one hand, I wouldn't want to be hiking in the rain. On the other hand, if the rain would come and clear out the smoke, I would welcome it. Unfortunately, it might be the worst of both worlds, just enough rain to make one wet if one were hiking, but not enough to clear the air.
I have to echo John's opinion that we greatly preferred Jasper to Banff.
We drove in to Banff for dinner. It is only about 15-20 minutes away from Canmore. I wanted to try some place new, but Amy and Mike voted for Tooloulou's again (Cajun food). Michael ended up getting a gator burger, which was not a euphemism.
For some odd reason, two of the knives were magnetic, so we spent some time before the food arrived playing with them. You could spin one knife on the table by using the other, without touching them. Or you could dangle one from the other, and then spin the bottom one.
One strange thing about Canadian money is that a lot of it (most? all?) has a steel core. That is, it is attracted to magnets. My iPhone case has a flap held closed with magnets, and whenever I pull it out of my pocket, there is usually one or sometimes two coins stuck to it.
Another thing that struck me was that when we were planning the trip, I was thinking that the major expense was going to be the lodging, and we were trying to choose that carefully so that we were staying in decent places that didn't cost too much. But it turns out that the food is in many cases more than the lodging. For example today's meals: breakfast was about $50, lunch was about $50, and dinner was about $100. So the food was more than the lodging.
After that, we did a little window shopping, then came home for a peaceful (and hopefully early) night.
My hand is definitely swollen, particularly between the base of the first two fingers and the base of the thumb. Fortunately it is more mobile and less painful than 24 hours previously. I have about 1/3 of the normal range of motion, and it doesn't hurt unless I exceed that range, or put pressure on my fingers.
Unfortunately, it looks like the smoke will be with us until we leave, and there is a varying chance of rain each day until we leave as well.