Our destination next day was the Fairmont Lodge at Jasper National Park, a distance of 636 kilometers and about 7 hours and 40 minutes of driving. Luckily there were to be many stops on the way. The first stop was the Columbia Ice fields. The drive was back onto Rt 40 and Rt 1 into Banff National Park and past it. Once you turn onto Rt. 93, it is mountain country galore. Spectacular and breath taking scenery all along the drive, nothing more of nature you could ask for. We drove through about 20+ avalanche prone areas. The ice fields themselves are an amazing place to visit. The Discovery center is where you buy tickets. From there you are taken to the fields on this bus sort of vehicle which has tires that are roughly four feet in diameter, each of these costing four thousand dollars!
The top speed of the bus is 5 km/hour. The guide jested that we need to put on seat belts, only there were no seat belts in the bus. Also due to the top speed of the bus, it had no breaks. This as he pointed out was due to the fact that there was no gear system for transmission and hence no need to slow down any part of the transmission. The slow ride up the glacier took about 20 minutes. The Athabasca glacier is melting away and has lost half its volume in the past 125 years. It is about 300 meters deep at its thickest.
It took about 2 plus hours at the discovery center. We then headed towards Jasper. The road was hugged by the Sunwapta River which finally led to the Sunwapta and then the bigger Athabasca falls. The water had maintained its turquoise color and there were a few refreshing stops. It is just awesome to get of the car and walk a few steps onto the white, limestone like rocks to watch and feel the cold, pure water flowing endlessly. The Fairmont Lodge in Jasper National Park is set amidst scenery that lacks words to describe the beauty. Adjacent to a lake and surrounded by endless pines going up the peaks, it is the charm of nature enticing you into peace. These lodges are so much different from the typical busy downtown hotel. The lobby itself is over 5000 square feet and the many restaurants give one access to different kinds of food. We reached there late and settled for the bar food near the lounge. It wasn’t dark yet at 10 PM.