Orlando Bingles’ Rocky Mountain High: Day 11

by Bingle on May.29, 2009, under Richard Bingle Family

Family by snow in Banff National Park

Day eleven was supposed to be an easy travel day from the town of Banff to the town of Jasper, a 3.5 – 4 hour drive. It took us 8.5 hours. Of course we did stop for the occasional picture of a pretty mountain or some video of a deer, but then we spent 2 hours doing something that in a month or so would have taken less than 5 minutes – visiting the Peyote Lake overlook at Bow Summit.

Hiking through snow to Peyote Lake overlook

During the “summer”, visitors can park 150 feet or so from the overlook. Apparently the end of May doesn’t count as “summer”. The road up to the overlook was still snow covered and closed. But the lower parking lot was open. There were two choices for hiking up to the overlook, the trail through the snow covered woods (which had a sign on it recommending against it) or up along the closed road. We chose the road. You might think that hiking up the road would be easy. It wasn’t. The trail of footprints through the snow/ice was extremely slippery, the road was fairly steep, and where the trail had actually reached (or almost reached) the road surface, it was like walking in a stream. When we finally reached the overlook, we discovered that the lake was still covered with ice, only hinting at its unique glacier silt tinged turquoise color.

Rich at Peyote Lake overlook

We stayed for quite a while, resting from the slog up the hill and video taping the numerous avalanches of snow on the mountain across the valley. When we finally decided to head back down to the car, we opted to go back through the woods, which even though we were going downhill still ended up being a rough trip as the entire way down was heavily snow covered.

Black bear

The animal sighting highlight of the day came when we saw a tour bus, car, and bicycle all pulled over on the other side of the road. We made a u-turn at the next opportunity and drove back to see what was going on. It turned out to be a large male black bear loping along the river by the road. We paced it on the shoulder for a while until the river bent away from the road and the bear disappeared into the woods. We drove down a ways in hopes of spotting him coming back out of the trees, but we didn’t see him again.

Extent of Athabasca Glacier in 1908

We stopped at Athabasca Glacier (part of the Columbia Icefield) and hiked up to the toe of the glacier. On our hike, we passed markers for where the toe had been in 1982 (one year after Rich’s first visit to the glacier) and 1992 (three years after Rich and Karen’s visit) along the way, and we still had plenty of distance to go. They have ropes about 100 or so feet from the toe and lots of warning signs about the lake/river that had formed beneath the toe being deadly if you fell through, all to keep people off the ice. The ropes and signs are apparently pretty ineffective as there were plenty of footprints visible. After our hike, we stopped in the visitors center briefly, but with all of our hiking, it was already approaching 6:00 p.m. and they were closing. We decided we would need to drive back to visit their exhibits the next day.

As it was getting late and we knew we were going back to the glacier the next day, we skipped stopping at Sunwapta and Athabasca falls and just enjoyed the scenery.

While we were checking into the hotel in Jasper, the girls had fun taking pictures (from a safe distance) of a couple of bull elk across the street from the hotel. After checking into our room, we opted for pizza at a local pizza joint (good, but not as good as Outlaws Pizza in Gardiner had been) and called it a night.

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