From Lake Louise I head North. Somehow I didn’t realize that the drive would really be the attraction and the park itself. Banff and Jasper National Parks seem to bleed into one another and the line between the two isn’t necessary and I suspect, only really there because of their remarkable size and scope. As I drive, the mountainous cliffs around me are powdered with the fresh snow, highlighting their textures. I come across teal lakes and fissured glaciers and delicate waterfalls. The sky was filled with dark billowy clouds. So this is why this place is famous.
About halfway up the highway I come to the Columbia Icefields. It is a flat expanse of a glacier plain coming down between two mountains as if a flood of water from a broken levy was suddenly frozen in its decsent. They offer a bus ride out onto the glacier’s center for $50. I decide not to do it. Instead I hike out to the glacier’s edge in the valley and find that the ropes are about 200 feet away from the glacier. Signs are everywhere saying how you can fall in the fissures and die. Well, fine… but is there a reason why I can’t get closer to the glacier? I won’t even touch it, but I hiked up here and I’d like to be close enough so that it doesn’t just look like snow. But I stay behind the rope because there are people around.
When I get to Jasper I find they have a gondola ride up to the tallest mountain in town, so I decide to go. It’s a fun little ride to the top, although a bit crowded and once the gondola reaches its end you can hike up the hill to the summit if you choose. It’s so relatively close I decide to go. It’s violently windy and I’m wearing my flip-flops, but it’s my face that’s cold not my feet. I stick to the middle path as much as I can, because there isn’t really a trail, just compacted dirt where people have gone before, and some people are crazy. The hike is worth it. To be able to see in all directions around you for miles. I walk back down to the gondola center café and get a hot chocolate to warm up.