The Columbia Icefield (which are made up of numerous glaciers) are a huge attraction in the Jasper-Banff area and a trip to Jasper wouldn't be complete without a visit. The drive along Highway 93 or the Icefield Parkway as it's more commonly called, is one that really drives home the majesty of the Rocky Mountains and awe at the forces that shaped them.
In May the ground near the Icefield was still covered in deep snow and the trees are still bare except for the hardy evergreens. But in the wide flat swath that follows along on the right side of the road the trees are few and most of them are small. This flat area makes the sudden eruption of the mountains even more awe inspiring. As we get closer to the icefield, I am reminded for the reason for the flat barren section.
It marks the path that the glacier carved through the rock in eons long past.
The reminder of what ice and water and force are capable of is always stunning to me. Especially when the results are so easily seen.
When I was in my early teens my family would often go camping in Japser. And almost every time we would visit the icefields. We would walk up the path to the foot of the mighty glacier (which in summer looked like a pile of unmelting, dirty snow) and see the markers for each year and imagine how big the glacier was then, and how much smaller it was now. I remember stopping at one of the markers to take a photo of my mom next to it. The marker showed where the toe of the glacier had been in the 1970's when she first traveled to Jasper with her parents. As I snapped the photo of my mom next to the marker, I couldn't help but notice that where the toe of the glacier was now wasn't even visible in my shot, just brown dirt and rocks that it had left behind.
This memory is so clear in my head because I remember feeling sad that the glaciers were slowly (very, very slowly) disappearing. I felt sad that I would never see it as it was when first discovered in the late 1800's, and people in a 100 years from now will never see it as I have.
Mike and I took a group bus tour up on top of the Athabasca Glacier (which is one of the larger and most easily accessible glaciers in the Columbia Icefield). It was very awe inspiring to be so close to the glaciers, to stand on them and to even put our hands in some melted rivulets of glacier water.
It might be hard to believe, but on the spot where our buses parked and where we stood, the ice of the the Athabasca Glacier is thicker than the Eiffel tower is tall.
So of course I took a photo of my feet, with an Eiffel tower high worth of glacier beneath them.
It was pretty amazing to be at the bottom of Malign Canyon one day, and on the top of a glacier the next. That's one of the beautiful things about Jasper.