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Monday, September 22, 2008

Summiting Whistlers Mountain 

In Jasper National Park, we climbed to the summit of Whistlers Mountain. Trail's end was a phenomenal view of the peaks around us and valleys below.
Wildflowers grew bright purple, yellow and pink amid grey rocks and white snowfields.
Exhilarated, we reached the top, the wind whipping around us.
on the summit

posted 2:39 AM

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Old Fort Point 

I hiked to the summit of Old Fort Point, which overlooks the gorgeous teal Athabasca River and the townsite of Jasper. Mountains rose on all sides of me, wildflowers swaying in the winds of a coming storm. The trail winds along a ridge, with stunning vistas on all sides.
Vivid orange lilies, brilliant red Indian paintbrush, and bright yellow rudbeckia grew all along the trail.
As I hiked, the storm clouds took on a more and more ethereal quality, darkening the sky with dramatic sweeps of cloud layers.

posted 2:52 AM

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Top Secret Habbakuk Project 

I hiked along the shores of Patricia Lake in Jasper National Park, gazing out over the gorgeous teal waters. During WWII, a top secret project was undertaken here, called the Habbakuk [sic] Project. German u-boats were sitting in a line in the Atlantic, picking off ships as they went by. The Allies needed a way to get their planes out there to destroy the submarines, but no bombers could fly that far. Aircraft carriers were sunk.

Enter Geoffrey Pyke, an ingenious inventor who realized an aircraft carrier could be constructed out of ice. Years before, after the Titanic sank, killer icebergs were targeted for destruction. But whenever a piece was blasted off, the iceberg merely shifted and remained, the bulk beneath the surface simply too tremendous to properly destroy.

Pyke had the idea that even if u-boats took a chunk out of such an ice aircraft carrier, it would persist just as those bergs did.

The project got the go-ahead, and they built a scale model in Patricia Lake, comprised of ice and wood pulp. Churchill wanted a fleet of them made, but there just wasn't the manpower and time to pull it off. Then advances in aircraft technology made alternatives to defeating the u-boat line possible. And so the project was scuttled, and it still remains on the floor of Patricia Lake. Divers can swim down and explore the remains of this ingenious structure.

posted 1:00 PM

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Banners over the Jasper Townsite 

You know how towns put up banners on light poles to advertise what the town is all about? Like if they have a famous jazz festival, maybe they'll have banners of trumpets or saxophones?

Well, I get this one for the Jasper townsite in Jasper National Park:
And this one:
But I'm a little leery about this one:

posted 1:52 PM

Friday, September 12, 2008

Maligne Lake 

South of Medicine Lake lies beautiful Maligne Lake. The day was amazing, the water still enough to capture the reflection of the sky. I sat along the lakeshore, trying to convey the vista in a sketch. A peaceful sit down was exactly what I wanted.

The mosquitoes had a different idea.

posted 12:46 PM

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mysterious Medicine Lake 

Every winter, this lake in Jasper National Park vanishes entirely, which is quite a feat, because it's huge.
It mystified explorers for years, before a cavern system was discovered beneath the lake. When runoff from snow decreases in the fall, the lake drains into these cracks and caves, emerging again in nearby Maligne Canyon. The lake becomes a stream which runs until spring, when snowmelt increases, filling up the lake basin once again.

It's one of my favorite places to sit and watch pikas, those diminutive relatives of the rabbit who live in rock piles.

posted 12:39 AM

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Camping During Berry Season 

We packed up our wonderful site at the Icefield and headed north, getting a great site at the Wapiti Campground. As I was sitting at the picnic table reading, I heard rustling. I looked up to see a young grizzly bear meandering through the campsite, pausing to eat buffalo berries, which are just now getting ripe.

We looked at each other for a few minutes, and then he continued on. An elk was grazing nearby with her calf, and when she saw that grizzly, she was having none of it. She bared her teeth and bellowed, causing the bear to rear up on his hind legs to get a better look at her. He decided to give her a wide berth, swinging far out of her way.

I watched him until he went out of sight among the pine trees.

posted 4:27 PM

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Toe of the Athabasca Glacier 

Hiking along the huge lateral moraine (the mound of sediment pushed out on the sides of a glacier), we hiked to the very edge or "toe" of the Athabasca Glacier.
lateral moraine

A freezing gale blew down from the Icefield. It's a world of rock, ice, and snow.

At the toe, water poured out from under the ice, creating a fast moving stream that has carried some people to their deaths by sweeping them into crevasses.
Huge chunks of ice, blue and cracked, marked the edge of the tremendous glacier.

It was a little bit cold.

posted 3:16 PM

Monday, September 01, 2008

Painting Along The Icefields Parkway 

Every now and again, I like to try my hand at watercolor. I spent a day wandering along the Sunwapta River, choosing different spots to paint from. A storm gathered over the mountains, bringing rain and thunder.
Fireweed was blooming brilliantly all along the river.

posted 4:58 PM

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