Apologies for the little break in correspondence. I was going to post throughout my tour of the Canadian Rockies and the Columbia Mountains (for I now know that these are different entities). It soon dawned on me that this would be a futile endeavour. Wi-Fi was patchy in the hostels, we got there late, stayed one night, left early and when back on the bus, I was usually catching up on the sleep lost during the night to heat, being on the top bunk and sharing a room with persons of epic nasal and gaseous activity. This morning was the last straw, when I had to physically and verbally attack a man whose alarm clock blared an entire heavy metal tune at 5 and then again at 5.30. He won’t be doing that again.
So to give a taste of what I’ve been up to for the last ten days, I’ve put together my top ten things about the Moose Tour. This isn’t in order of preference, but if it was, the top spot would always be filled by my wonderful parents, who encouraged me to do it by offering it as a birthday present. I mean, how did I get so lucky?!
10 Athabasca Glacier and Falls
I love facts and statistics, in particular when they describe the scale of something that remains unfathomable. The Athabasca glacier is but a toe of the Columbia icefield, which is bigger than the city of Vancouver. We walked up to the base of it, but it is also possible to get a bus to drive you directly on to the ice. The glacier is the most visited in North America because it is so accessible, but we had the advantage of horrendous weather that day. Everyone else was cosy in the interpretive centre and cafe while we faced into the wind, rain, sun and hailstones, often at the same time. It did wonders for my hair volume.
The glacier has receded dramatically in the past century and its base is now 1.5km further back than it was 125 years ago. These signs hammer that home.
A personal highlight for me was the sight of an English bulldog who discovered a pile of snowy ice. He clearly loved snow, so went into rolls of ecstasy and slid down a hill, dragging his owner with him.
After examining the strangely moonlike rocks and meeting two new prospective suitors, we followed the glacier runoff down to the Athabasca Falls, where thunderous water swirls and eats away at the limestone rock to create impressive potholes and crevices, before emptying out into a beautiful but icy calmness.
9 Kayaking in Revelstoke
Is there anything better than a kayak? I know someone who will disagree with me based on a dicey experience on the Soča river a few years ago, but I love it.
This time was on the artificial Revelstoke Lake, formed with the development of Revelstoke Dam. I tried not to think too much about the subsequent depth of water below (there was an entire forest down there once upon a time). It was easy to forget with such a beautiful day. My kayak was a short speedy one and I didn’t look more ridiculous than usual in the enforced red hat. I could have spent hours messing about on the water, a la The Wind in the Willows.
There are more photos here.
8 Whistler in the sun
Whistler is not in the Rockies but it still formed part of the tour, so it’s getting shoehorned in here. The first day, as I mentioned in my last post, was dismal and sometimes snowy, but Sunday was a different world.
We ended up walking for hours, from Lost Lake, to Green Lake and along by the River of Golden Dreams, until we made it back to Whistler Village itself. Despite the sunshine, it was possible to imagine the buzz of the winter resort, with tons of people-watching potential and an insane display of caramel apples.
I could imagine going back here in summer or winter, to ski or hike or swim in all the lakes.
I don’t have any of my own photos of Kelowna. On the first stopover, en route to Banff, it was the place for introductions over dinner and karaoke. On the way back, the lake was the perfect salve for the intense heat. In the cool water, it was almost possible to forget that it was more than 35 degrees outside.
Elaine, who took this photo, is a human selfie stick and takes great and deserved pride in her accuracy.
That was the last night of the tour, but more of that later.
I feel like geography classes in school would have had even more of an impact if we had been able to get up close and personal with glaciers and all their offshoots. U-shaped valleys and the like. The glacial rivers start off looking cloudy, due to the sediment that the glacier grinds off the rocks. When these rivers hit the lakes, this sediment, known as rock flour, makes the water appear turquoise. It is something you expect to see at Lake Louise, as it is probably the more touristy option. Even on a cloudy day, it is a beautiful sight.
Moraine Lake (are you remembering those geography classes yet?) doesn’t even reach its peak colour until high summer but was pretty spectacular all the same.
An interesting fact about the lake and the ten peaks seen from the top of the moraine itself is that the view is called the Twenty Dollar View, as it used to be shown on the $20 bill. It would have been nice to explore the area further, but there was no time. I was somewhat satisfied by a perilous slide down the shale-covered moraine, holding on to roots and rocks for stability.
The biggest surprise was probably Peyto Lake. I had come across the name already when we visited the Natural Bridge waterfall, but thought no more of it. A girl on the bus suggested it to the driver and he gave it a try.
Imagine if we had missed that view!
That’s all for today. I’m back in Vancouver and must fold my laundry. The next part will follow eventually.