Continued from last post…
Monday, August 26. Jasper to Lake Louise.
11:30am MT: Well, good news and bad news. The good news is that it’s finally cold enough for me to wear my warm clothes. The bad news is that I don’t happen to have any of my warm clothes with me. That is because it’s not the weather that’s cold, it’s our location that’s cold. Our location is on a glacier in the Columbia Ice Field, where it is 2o Celsius.* It is also windy. And slippery. Because, let me repeat, it’s a glacier. To get here, we had to take a vehicle called a SnoCoach, driven by a wise-cracking Quebecker who unceremoniously dropped us off seemingly at the North Pole. It was then up to us to venture out onto the ice in our sneakers and stand upright long enough to take photos.
You may be wondering why, if I knew we were going to a glacier, I didn’t think to wear, say, a light jacket. Well, Greg the tour guide had told us the temperatures could be anywhere from 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit,** so I thought the long sleeve shirt you see me wearing in the photo above would be enough. If I had given it a bit more thought, though, I would have realized that it’s probably not 80o F on the glacier very often, what with the glacier being made of ice and all. And in any case, 2o C is colder than 40o F, possibly to make up for the one day it was 80o F. And F you Canada, for not using American temperatures so I know how hot or cold I should be!
On the way back, the SnoCoach driver points out some hikers coming down from the glacier and tells us that, if they are descending now, they must have started up at around one in the morning. In the dark. On ice. They must be quite fearless and physically fit, I think. They must also be lunatics.
The Ice Field, by the way, is on a triple continental divide which means that, at any given time (perhaps even during our visit!), North America could divide into three pieces right at that spot. Just kidding. A triple continental divide just means that the rivers flow in three different directions, toward three different oceans, so that if you go white water rafting, no one will know where to pick you up.
Earlier in the morning, we had departed Jasper at 8am because Greg wanted to catch the 11:20 SnoCoach and we had a few stops to make along the way. Since we were running late, Greg would say things like, “Okay, we can only spend about ten minutes here.” That is not something you can seriously say to a bus filled with retirees. It took longer than ten minutes just for everyone to stand up, much less get off the bus, make it to the scenic spot, take a picture (“Can you take us?” “I’ll take you.” “Get a little closer.” “Do you want it to be mostly you, or the waterfall?”), and get back to the bus.
Later that afternoon: I’m not even sure what time it is. Half past Peyto Lake, I think. That was a truly spectacular view from a mountain above the water. We stop briefly in the town of Lake Louise, where, for the first time today, our cell phones are working. We immediately get a message from our daughter wondering if we’d been eaten by bears. There’s also spam waiting for me from Tauck, trying to sell me a tour of Canada. Tauck is a great tour company, but not so hot on e-mail marketing.
While in town, Barbara discovers that we both slept through the dinner sign-up sheet that had been passed around the bus. No one woke us up. Is there a message in that?
I should mention that our tour director Greg, while being very helpful and extremely knowledgeable, does tend to repeat himself a lot. For instance, over the past couple of days, he must have told us six or seven times that the odd, almost radioactive colors in the rivers and lakes here are caused by something called “rock flour” which is a fine powder that the wind and water grind off the mountains. When it falls to the water, it reflects sunlight to create the colors. Then late this afternoon, someone on the bus called out “What causes the color of the water?” I guess Greg knows his audience.
5:50pm MT: We’re at the beautiful and antique Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, in a room overlooking the lake and the glaciers behind it. I had some work to do, so Barb went out to take care of the picture taking, and has just returned. Barb has pretty much taken care of all the picture taking on this trip. I have taken two pictures: one of Barbara sleeping on the flight to Vancouver, and the photo at right, of a pretty black and white bird. Yes, I know, it looks more like a photo of a parking lot (which is why Barb takes the pictures), but if you look very closely (possibly with the aid of a magnifying device), you can see the bird toward the top, to the right of the red car bumper. I found out later it is a magpie. I may also find out later how to use the zoom on my iPhone. (Note: I believe I inherited my photographic inadequacies from my father, who never in his life took a picture of someone without his or her head chopped off. My dad could have been the official royal photographer of the French revolution.)
My work is done now, so I accompany my lovely bride on a walk around the lake. Well, halfway around the lake. Maybe a third of the way around the lake. It’s a big lake. We pass an Asian gentleman fishing, which brings up an ethics question. Greg has told me that there are virtually no fish in the lakes around here, because there’s not enough oxygen in the water or some such thing. He also said that Lake Louise is known as “the lake of tiny fishes” because what few fish there are don’t grow beyond a couple of inches. So the ethical question is this: should I tell the Asian man that his efforts are likely to be fruitless? And if he doesn’t speak English, should I try pantomiming my message, perhaps by making fish lips and then slapping myself in the face? I decide that he likes the act of fishing more than actually catching fish and I leave him be.
Barb and I continue on, Barbara taking pictures, me saying, “Ooh, that would be a nice picture.” Every time the sun moves even a little, all the light and color over the lake, glacier and mountains changes. It’s quite spectacular. On the way back to the hotel, we pass the Asian guy again, and I notice that he’s using a hook and lure that are way too big for anything that might be in there. I once again say nothing, but now it’s because I have this scenario in my mind that I’ll tell him there are no fish and, as he’s reeling in his line for the last time, a whale will rise up from the lake and eat him. After all, we didn’t see any whales between Vancouver and Victoria, and they have to be somewhere, right?
To be continued Tuesday, September 17…
P.S. By the way, Barb has posted on Facebook the photo of the two of us at the Columbia Ice Fields (see top of post). Our daughter comments that it’s the cutest photo of us ever. It’s sort of nice when your 27-year-old daughter thinks you’re cute.
*We are told that, to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, you double it and add 30, but who wants to do math on vacation?
**And vice versa.