Orlando Bingles’ Rocky Mountain High: Day 12

by Bingle on May.30, 2009, under Richard Bingle Family

We got up in the morning and headed back south down the Icefields Parkway to Athabasca Glacier. We had planned on taking the Brewster Ice Coach tour onto Athabasca Glacier, but the girls didn’t know that. Fortunately, we had two little “detours” along the way. Both of them black and both of them bears.

Sleeping black bear

The first was literally less than a mile outside of Jasper. A largish black bear was sleeping beside a stream near the road. We watched him for a while, but he was partially hidden by brush and not very active, so we were soon on our way again.

Small black bear crossing road

Karen and Rich spotted the second bear down below the side of the road as we passed it while we were driving along. We stopped as soon as we could on the shoulder just in time to see the smallish bear come up the hill onto the road. It looked at us for a few seconds and then continued on across the road and into the woods on the other side. We made a quick U-turn, but it had disappeared into the woods.

Family on Athabasca Glacier

The Athabasca Glacier tour includes a “bus” ride up onto a flat spot of the glacier. You are allowed to get off the bus and walk around on the ice. Apparently they have been using the same section of the glacier for the tour since they started doing it (although the ice obviously moves over that spot) because the flatness of the bedrock beneath closes any of the crevasses that develop. It was pretty cold up there (at least Alyssa thought so) and you had to watch where you stepped. We saw one woman get her entire foot soaked when the ice she stepped on turned out to be slush. After the tour we spent some time looking over the exhibits in the visitors center there.

Black bear and one year old cub near Columbia Icefield

We had just left the icefields visitors center with the plan to visit Sunwapta and Athabasca Falls on our way back to the town of Jasper when we encountered a “bear jam”. This time it was a female black bear and one year old cub near the side of the road. We did as we were supposed to and stayed in the van while taking our pictures, occasionally leapfrogging ahead as the bears moved farther down the road. Of course, a few folks got out of their cars for better shots and we were a bit concerned when the bears decided to get a drink of water from the little stream flowing next to the shoulder (probably less than 25 feet away), but thankfully nothing happened. The bears continued down a ways and had just started to climb the fairly steep cliff away from the road when a park ranger arrived and used some firecrackers to scare the bears to climb faster.

Just a little ways farther down the road there was yet another “bear jam”. A grizzly was a few hundred feet from the road on the flat. Way too far for pictures, but Karen got some video. The highlight was the bear rolling in the dirt occasionally. Suddenly in the distance you could see legs sticking up in the air as it rolled over.

Hiking near Sunwapta Falls

We made our planned stops at Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls. At Sunwapta Falls, there was supposed to be a 15 minute hike down to the lower falls. Since we hadn’t hiked in a few days, we decided to give it a try. After about 15 minutes we came to a view that showed the river curving away around a bend in the distance, but with no sign of any falls. At that point we decided we had hiked enough and turned back.

There are lots of different viewpoints at Athabasca Falls, from both sides of the river. There is a also a little walk down an abandoned channel. From one of the viewpoints Karen and Rich pointed out where they had entered the river on their raft trip back in 1989.

We finished off the day with a dip in the hotel pool.

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