Thursday, June 23, 2016

Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada: C'est Magnifique!!


Canada has two official languages, English and French. Unfortunately, Philip has taken this to heart and generally speaks in English, but with a swarmy French accent (think: Pepé Le Pew after a two-day bender). But I won't let this dampen my enthusiasm for our beautiful neighbor to the north!




As we drive the 144-mile, world-renowed Icefields Parkway, I understand why National Geographic notes this as a "drive-of-a-lifetime and one of the world's most spectacular driving tours." We are dumbstruck at the natural beauty all around!


If a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll just deposit a bunch of jaw-dropping photos **here** and let them speak their million-gazillion-trabillion words for themselves! (Worth noting, I don't have a big fancy DSLR camera, just a point-and-shoot, AND the day we drove, it was overcast. That's JUST how gorgeous this drive truly is!)


The otherworldly, vivid blue-green color of the rivers and lakes in the Canadian Rockies is due to what is called "glacial flour," Basically, this is crushed rock that the slowly-moving glaciers have ground down to a fine powder (like baking flour), which becomes suspended in the water and creates vivid blues and green, particularly in the sunlight. /end science lesson/


The Icefields Parkway has over 100 ancient glaciers, many visible from the road. This is Crowfoot Glacier, which had 3 toes when it was named, but 1 one of them has disappeared over time, and the second toe is slowly melting, too.  (More about glaciers later in this post.)

  
The roads are wide open and everyone is driving slowly, oohing and aahing along the way.  Canadian rental RV's are our most abundant road-mates, but few from the U.S.  Visitors in this area are from all around the world, and English-speakers are the minority, it seems.



Around every corner is a new and different view of amazing sights.
Here is just a small representation of the hundreds of amazing photos we gathered in just a few short hours.






The Icefields Parkway is the prettiest part of Highway 93, which extends north all the way to Jasper National Park, our next destination and "Mile Zero of Hwy-93."  Surprisingly, Hwy-93 ends in Wickenburg, AZ, which seems a very long way and a world apart from this!  


 Numerous wildlife crossings ensure the safety of the critters AND the motorists! 



A must-do is to step aboard the Athabasca Glacier.  See the little dark speck in the middle of the big snowy blob?  That's where we're going!


A walk on the glacier requires a ride on one of these snowcats.  There are only 23 in the world and 22 of them are here (the other 1 somehow inexplicably ended up at a military base in Antartica).  They cost $1.3 million each, and the tires alone are worth $20,000!


Once on the glacier, you notice something immediately.  Frick!  It's COLD out here!


Philip takes a taste of the pure, frosty glacial water.  Over 75% of the world's fresh water supply comes from melting glaciers.



The barren beauty is awe-inspiring.  The Athabasca Glacier is part of a huge icefield that is the size of 100 of New York City's Central Park and up to 300 feet thick!




Another worthwhile stop on the Icefields Parkway is the Glacier Skywalk, a glass-bottomed observation platform that is 918 feet above the river below.  I have no fear of heights, but plenty of people (ahem, Philip) needed some gentle coaxing to take that first step out!






The Lucky Charm's first international foray was celebrated with an addition to our sticker map on the back of the RV.



We're slowly getting used to all things Canadian, including metric conversions and their weird money.  Their paper money is terrifically high tech (with a clear panel containing holographic images), they don't use pennies (everything is rounded up), and don't have a dollar bill.  Rather, it's a dollar coin (called a "loonie") and there is a also a two-dollar coin (called a "toonie").  What this all means, is that you can buy a pack of gum, hand over a $5 bill, and get all coins in return.  Your trip to the Coinstar machine with a quart-ziplock bag of coins would net you maybe $50 in America but $1,000 in Canada.


Having traveled the Icefields Parkway, we've arrived at Jasper National Park, our furthest stop at 1,657 miles north of home.  In our next blog post, we'll show you some local wildlife (grizzly, anyone?) and take a trip to the top of Whistlers Mountain, where we are stranded in the tram station for a few hours by a sudden ice storm!  The Lucky Charm travels on!