A Clouded View; The Icefields Parkway

The day of spectacular driving had arrived as we headed to Lake Louise along the Icefields Parkway. A World Heritage Site, the highway is renowned for its stunning views and we anticipated a journey surrounded by the beauty of the Rockies and breath-taking scenery. As we loaded up the car we couldn’t fail to notice how thick the smoke had become. We desperately hoped that as we headed south the smoke might have dissipated. I can sadly say that our prayers were not answered! The 230km drive provided us with clear views to about 50metres in front of us and no more. It was ever so slightly heart-breaking. You could feel that you were surrounded by greatness and grandeur, but the infamous Rockies were only a faint outline in the distance against the thick smoke. As for noticing the difference of moving from the Montane to the Subalpine zones, shown through the difference in trees- no chance! Still, every cloud (of smoke) has a silver lining, right?
On our way to the Glacier
We stopped off at the Athabasca Glacier, where we were to ride on an enormous Ice Explorer vehicle and visit the glacier. Had we not pre-booked the experience, I would not have bothered to wait the one and a half hours until our slot. However, this time gave us the opportunity to walk the small hike up to the toe of the glacier, giving us a true idea of the scale of this natural wonder. As part of the Columbia Icefield, one of the largest areas of snow and ice south of the Arctic Circle, it gave us some idea as to how gigantic the area must be. Yet it was incredible to see how dramatically the glacier has reduced in size over the years; with markers on the gravel pathway that led to it showing where the glacier had been years before.  Our Ice Explorer journey that followed was one of organised chaos which gave us the opportunity to see the glacier up close and personal. However, with these large vehicles driving onto the glacier every day I felt that I was helping contribute to the destruction of this wonder. Upon asking my guide he couldn’t say that little excursions were doing anything to help the glacier and simply said that the nearby highway was probably doing the same amount of damage with all the pollution… I’m not sure that is really the point… After ten minutes of exploring the glacier within the circular ‘safe’ area the company had carved out I left feeling disappointed. The glacier was beautiful, but here was a perfect example of its destruction at the hand of man. There were also 3 hour walking tours onto the glacier and in hindsight this may have been the better, much more satisfying, option.

Toe of the Glacier

On the Athabasca Glacier

Our journey continued towards ‘the Jewel of the Rockies’ whilst the smoke failed to rise. We arrived at Lake Louise village, a tiny place with a handful of shops, where we were to spend two nights in the hope of a view of this picturesque lake. 

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