Columbia Icefields & Skywalk – Drinking Glacier Water

Neek sez about Columbia Icefields:

Being a California “ahem” girl, I had never really experienced winters with snow and ice.  I didn’t even know what an ice scraper was for.  Lex, being from Oregon, brought his own scraper.

But at 6:00 in the morning, I was scraping ice from the car’s front and rear windows before heading out to the icefields.  I should have worked out my arms more before leaving on this trip.

We drove on the Icefield Parkway which has one of the most beautiful mountains and lakes that I had ever seen.

But then we saw the Athabasca Glacier……..

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Athabasca Glacier

The wow factor was intense and it’s an awe-inspiring site that will impress and amaze.

We took one of the Brewster Tour snow coaches to the Athabasca Glacier which is actually receding at an alarming rate each year.  There are markers to show how far the glacier has retreated and when.

This massive expanse of ice was formed through hundreds of thousands of years of compression and freezing of snow.  It is indeed a wonder of nature.

You can even drink water from the glacier if you bring your own container.  I couldn’t believe how pure and delicious the water tasted.

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The icefields are actually straddled between British Columbia and Alberta in the continental divide. It’s approximately 125 miles in area and receives about 280 inches of snowfall a year.  It’s also a source of freshwater for major areas in North America.

I hope that it lasts.

Lex sez about Columbia Icefields:

We left around 6am as the sun was starting to rise.  We had tickets for the Athabasca Glacier Walk at 11am and we didn’t want to take a chance being late.  We drove three hours through Banff National Park crossing over into Jasper National Park, a drive even more spectacular than the previous day – each side of the road crowned with towering peaks stuffed with ancient glaciers – including crystal clear lakes and all different kinds of wildlife such as rams that we had to slow to allow them to cross the road.  We arrived at the Columbia Icefield early enough to change our tickets to a half hour earlier.  From the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, we could see the mighty Athabasca Glacier with a single bus winding its way up the hill toward it.  My excitement increased as we boarded our bus.  Soon I would be walking on a glacier!

Riding the bus toward Athabasca Glacier, we could see a number of trucks with humungous tires.  These were the Brewster Ice Explorers, specifically designed to drive over the steep hills and onto the massive glacier.  We transferred off of our bus and got inside one of the Explorers.  It was designed with windows not just on the sides but overhead so that we could see everything.  We stepped off the Explorer and I felt the crunch of snow under my shoes.  It was a clear sunny day, which produced an especially bright glare for which I fortunately remembered to wear sunscreen lotion.  There was a flowing stream of water and we both drank a cup of glacier water.  There is no other water on earth that compares to glacier water.  It is the clearest, cleanest, coldest drink you’ll ever have!    What made the experience extra special was knowing we were doing this on the day my father, who traveled to 55 countries in his lifetime, would have turned 73 if he were still living.  But I felt his spirit living on in us that day, and I raised a glass of the best tasting water in his memory.

Neek sez about Glacier Skywalk:

The Glacier Skywalk was pretty awesome and I enjoyed it.

First, when you get off the bus, the guides there will offer you an audio device to take along explaining the environment and the wildlife of the area.

The actual skywalk is at the end of the trail but along the way, there are stops where you can hear the audio about that particular scenery.

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When you get there, you’ll notice that the walkway is hanging right above the Sunwapta Valley and it’s a pretty steep drop.

I’m not usually afraid of heights but this was pretty intimidating.  As soon as I started walking on the walkway, some idiot began jumping up and down, causing the walkway to shake.  I got really pissed off but then, I forgot to get scared and began to walk and look over the sides of the railing.

I saw the beautiful waterfalls gush off the precarious cliffs into the valley, and the teal colored water from the glaciers flowing by.

You get a different perspective of the Sunwapta Valley being 900 feet above on a transparent walkway.

That hungry mountain goat in our video was standing right on the side of the mountain.  Did he have super glue on his hoofs?

Lex sez about Glacier Skywalk:

The Athabasca Glacier was quite a high to come down from riding back toward the Discovery Centre.  But our adventure was not over!  We drove past the Discovery Centre and passed several mountain goats trotting along the side of the road.  We stopped at something neither one of us knew was on our itinerary: the Glacier Skywalk.  When we bought our tickets months ago, we didn’t include this attraction, but when we walked off the bus to the entrance, they scanned our tickets and let us in.  I had heard about this sort of glass-floored observation platform being at the Grand Canyon, but had yet to experience it personally.  Honestly, it took a while to get my equilibrium set.  I had to hold on to the railing to maintain balance; it gets a bit scary looking straight down at what looks like a thousand foot drop!

The natural mountain scenery from that view was obviously spectacular, but what was really amazing was seeing a billy goat standing on the side of the steepest of cliffs beneath me, just munching away on a clump of grass without a worry in the world.

When we got back to the Discovery Centre, we made sure we got some souvenirs that were memorable.  I got a snow globe that will be a wonderful reminder of our great trip when Christmas comes around.  Then we made a beeline back to our car in the parking lot.  It was 3pm and Neek and I were ravenous!  Fortunately the ham sandwiches that we bought the night before from Tim Horton’s were still fresh.  We devoured those swiftly and shared some Pringles too.  Then we headed back to Canmore, gazing once again at all the breathtaking beauty around us.

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