Thursday, July 18, 2013


We were up early Wednesday since we wanted to get an early start on our 223 mile drive up to the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park.  I had my blog entry written by 7 am, and walked down to the clubhouse to upload it.  Our written in Jello goal was to leave the park by 9 am, and as we entered the street from Beaver Dam it was exactly 9 am…..then the Jello took over.  Since the entrance/exit to Beaver Dam is very narrow Tom and Forest decided we would stop on the lightly traveled street while they hooked up their vehicles…..normally takes about 7-8 minutes.  I saw Tom in my side view mirro opening the doors to his engine compartment, and I’m thinking did he high center leaving the parking lot?  After about 15 minutes I walked back to see what was what.

As I walked up to him (his coach was at the back of our procession) I saw what looked like coolant on the ground at the left rear of his coach, just below the side mounted radiator.  Of course I had flashbacks to when I walked to the back of my coach after parking at my sister-in-law’s home in Tyler, TX back in February of 2012 finding coolant flowing out of my just failed water pump.  In Tom’s case the amount of coolant was very minor, but portends a potential problem getting bigger. 

Well, we stood there examing the radiator from both sides and were not able to find the source of the leak.  After about an hour Tom decided that instead of heading north to the Icefields he would head back south to Lethbridge to his brother-in-law’s place to see if he could find the leak and fix it.  Normally if these radiators start to fail you see leaking at the bottom, not from the top as we were seeing.  The odds are it is a loose hose connection at the top of the radiator.  Nevertheless, an unexpected mechanical issue has once again affected our plans.  Forest and I decided to continue on to our destination for the day at Tom’s insistance.  I know it’s not my radiator that has a problem, but I feel just as bad as if it were.  TLE and I have been so blessed to have had so few issues on our almost 18 month odyssey, and the more we see our friends fall victim to mechanical issues it make us even more aware of our blessings.

So, around 10:08 am Forest, Cindy, TLE and I began our trek north on PH-22 to PH-11 to PH-93 up to the Columbia Icefields, while Tom and Darlene headed south to Lethbridge.  We stopped for a break about 64 miles into our day in Caroline, AB for about 15 minutes, then onward we continued.  About 10 miles north of Caroline I missed a turn to stay on PH-22, so we had to find a place in this remote area to turn two 60+ foot rigs around.  Cindy was on her Microsoft Streets and Trips and found a side road that would get us turned around…..thank you Cindy….we only went out of our way aboutr 3 miles!

As we were approaching  Nordegg I decided it would be a good place to take a break as we had driven another 80+ miles.  As we drove into town we were looking for a little café called Miner’s Café, but before we got to it I could see there was road construction going on and the road seemed to narrow significantly.  I am paranoid about driving my 62’ into narrow places, and was about to turn into a large gas station parking lot on my left when The Lovely Elaine said….”just a little further”…..well, a little further got us into a predicament (fortunately Forest stopped moving forward at the gas station and avoided our error).  We had to drive another 2 miles to turn around, and come back.  I told Forest over the CB to just head back out to the highway and we’d catch up.  I won’t go into all the gory details, but in short I had to make an 8 point turn backing my trailer into a turnout to turn around….not optimum, but it only took about 5 minutes….I swear it seemed much longer, but it was only 5 minutes.

We caught up with our friends a few miles down the road where they had stopped on the shoulder to wait for us.  Well, two mistakes in one day (missed turn, and failure to make a turn when I should have) is a new record, but no small animals were harmed, and no equipment damaged, so it’s all good.

About 20 miles further along PH-11 brought us to a glacial lake at the foot of Mt. Michener.  As it turned out this was the perfect lunch stop…..the pictures following prove my point.

After about 20 minutes we continued on to the entrance to Banff National Park.  In order to drive up and down the Icefields Parkway you must buy a permit….by the day…..the total cost for two days is $39 and change……unlike National Parks in the U.S. where you pay an entrance fee that is usually good for a number of days, Canada charges by the day….oh well, it’s only money, right?

Just a mile, or so past the park entrance we turned north on PH-93……I had been dreading this stretch all day…there is a 7 mile stretch where you go from 4,500’ to over 6,200’ and the road averages around 9-10% grade.  At one point I was down to 1st gear and only moving at 14 mph!  I think that stretch was over 11%, but it was only about ½ mile until my speed began to increase back up to 16, then 20, then 30 mph.  The temps on my coolant, tranny, and oil stayed just over 200 degrees…..not too bad.

We arrived at the Icefields around 4 pm and quickly found a place to park in the RV parking lot (where you can camp over night for a mere $15.70 per night.

We were now at 6,200’ elevation and the temperatures were in the mid 50’s, so we all put on heavier jackets and walked over to the Lodge to check out the schedules for the Ice Explorer buses that take you way up into the Athabasca Glacier.  Originally we thought we would do that trip on Thursday, but Mr. Jello was whispering in my ear….”why not today?”, so on the spur of the moment we decided to buy the $49/person tickets for the hour 20 minute ride and got on the 5 pm bus.  First you get on a regular tour bus which takes you up to the station where the Ice Explorer buses depart….these are 40’ custom buses with 5 foot tall tires inflated to 14 psi (that’s right only 14 psi!).  Just after boarding the  custom bus you head down a 36% grade that you swear will catapult the bus end over end down the long, long downhill……then up another very steep grade way up the glacier.  By the time we get to the parking area, which is on the glacial ice by the way, it has started to rain softly.  Our guide tells us the Icefields are so large (you could drop the city of Seattle in the middle and there would still room) that the large ice mass creates its own weather system.  We spent about 20 minutes outside the bus….it was quite cold….probably in the low 40’s……taking the requisite pictures, and sticking our pinky’s in melted glacial water…probably just a degree, or two above freezing.  Bob, our 28 year old guide was very informative, and had a great personality as well as a great sense of humor.

We arrived back at the lodge after transferring back to a traditional bus, around 6:15 pm, and headed for our coaches.  By this time the crowded parking lot had thinned out and there are probably only a dozen RV’s left…..the parking lot is several acres in size, so we have pleanty of space.  TLE prepared a great scrambled egg dish for dinner (eggs, mushrooms, spinach, bacon, onions, etc.).

We are just pinching ourselves that we are in such an amazingly beautiful place….some place we never dreamed we would ever visit except for Mr. Jello who knew way back in February what he had in store for us when we decided to tag along with our friends into Canada.

Thursday we are off to Jasper for the day……thank you for stopping by!

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