Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Backtracking Banff, AB, Monday, 29 August 2011 8:02pm

I had a great night's sleep. The chill air made it easy to stay in my sleeping bag, rather than get up. It was bright, but quite cold at 8:30 when I finally started making breakfast.

In the morning, I rode the rest of the Icefields Parkway up to Jasper. Ominous clouds loomed over the road ahead, and it got colder as I went north. I passed through the town of Jasper and visited Edith Lake, because Edith is my grandmother's name. At the lake I decided to add another layer of clothing, the most I've worn so far this trip.

It was starting to drizzle a bit, so I headed back into Jasper. Camping when all of my riding gear was wet didn't sound like a lot of fun, so I found a restaurant with wifi (and, incidentally, poutine!) and booked a motel in Banff for the evening.

It rained pretty steadily while I ate lunch, but by the time I was finished, it was too, so I started back down the Icefields Parkway. I mentioned the Parkway yesterday, but didn't say much about it. The Parkway was a depression-era project meant to open this region to visitors. It's an actual park way—you can't drive on it without paying the National Parks fee—so there's little non-tourist traffic. It's generally two lanes with a lane-wide shoulder on each side so you can pull off almost anywhere to watch wildlife or enjoy a view. There are lots of official view points as well, and a trail or a campground every 10 km or so.

Despite the fact that I'd just driven this road, there was still plenty to see. I stopped at a couple of waterfalls. Athabasca Falls is a large, powerful fall that churns through eroded "pot holes". The waterfall in Mistaya Canyon (recommended as "frickin' incredible" by the gas station attendant yesterday) was smaller, but very pretty.

Today was also a good day for wildlife. I saw two bighorn sheep near one of the viewpoints for the Columbia Glacier. They were content to forage just on the other side of the viewpoint wall until some passers-by spooked them and they crossed the road and scrambled up the mountainside.

I also saw two black bears by the side of the road. One was moving along pretty quickly, and the Bear Guardians were there in a truck with flashing lights telling everyone to stay in their cars. The other was perhaps half a mile further on and just minding its own business without an audience of stopped cars.

I still haven't seen any mountain goats or caribou, so I guess I'll have to come back some time.

246mi in 8:58