Human Drama at Lake Louise

There are plenty of other incredible sights along Highway 93. Here's something that made me happy as a designer and a lover of not seeing dead animals along roads.

And the lovely Lake Louise, which comes well before the Columbian Icefield. It's not that far out of Banff.

One more thing about Banff before I discuss Lake Louise - it's lousy with Aussies. I was married to a Kiwi once, and I'm still a proud New Zealander by association, but even if I wasn't, there seemed to be an absurd number of Australians in the area. This is what you get, Commonwealth!

I joke, but that was about the ratio, 1 to 3. The other two kids shown above were vacationing Quebecois. They were my first hitchhikers. I don't normally pick up hitchhikers because I have no seats, but when they're just trying to get up from the highway to the lake, it's not that big a deal, like jumping in the back of a pickup truck. Solomon likes the company too.

Well he would if he'd have noticed.

Lake Louise is stunning. The icy water makes everything else glow a little blue.

There was a fancy hotel (not much to look at on the outside), that framed magnificent views of the lake from every vantage point.

But by far that most exciting thing that happened here was after reading this placard about Georgia Engelhard Cromwell. Her exploits in the mountains of this region make my little glacier excursion look like a drunken stumble to the corner store. She's the first female mentioned on one of these explorers of interest signs in my whole journey. I tried googling her and ludicrously, there's a mountain named after her which shows up in wikipedia, but there is no wikipedia entry for her!

Georgia was awesome, but she just got me talking to these two kind people.

Turns out they are long lost siblings meeting for the first time on this trip! Their story is incredible, including going to school in the same English village briefly without knowing they were brother and sister. He'd moved to from England to Canada as an adult and was at last hanging out with his sis. They were adorable and it was a great joy talking to them.

When traveling alone, don't forget to talk to people. They are always amazing.

FINK REBORN, or What's the Ice Version of a Phoenix?

And now ... The Exciting Conclusion of the Supersonic Iceworld Saga !

I wish I could report that I've been blogging from a dark subterranean ice cave this whole time (like the one seen here from Final Fantasy, a video game I worked on in the world before computers way back in 1996, but we both know that wifi is terrible under a glacier.

Before we begin the end, let's review the theme of this series of blog posts: How Not to Hike.

If you are in/on Nature, and you are alone with no supplies at all except for a camera bag, a camera, and the clothing that you will see below - stay on the path. You are a tourist.

If you wish to venture off that path, be prepared, don't travel alone, and have supplies appropriate to the journey.

With all that said, here's how I survived falling away into a cold black sleep: blind panic. I twisted my torso at a speed I didn't realize I could and flopped onto what solid ground there was. My only thought was, "wow thank goodness I put my camera away, but boy this would have been funny to catch on video." I dragged myself up and out, and though I was probably being overly careful (it sure seemed like there was solid ground there somewhere), I lost my penetrative desire and moved on.

I'd finally reached the point I was shooting for. The spot where I'd climb over the ridge to the next glacier. Here's what I was thinking...

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I was knackered. And the climb was almost sheer and mostly smaller, slippery rock. It was almost hour 3 and I hadn't even really started. I wasn't actually worried about the boy, the weather was perfect, but I'll blame him and say I had to go back to check on him. Then I'd just go around the "pond" and walk up from the front. If I was still up for it.

Here's me having my first break.

This is what I was wearing. Camera bag. Shoes. Socks. T-shirt. Shorts.

Whatever my fate, I hereby claim this rest spot, and name it Fink's Couch™.

So I'll admit, I was pretty spent at this point. Luckily I had pancakes that morning, and I drank glacial water (how I knew it was deathly cold beyond common sense). I was ready to call it a hike and walk back around the pond to Hobox and Solomon and maybe see if there in fact was a parking area closer to my glacier of choice.

Here's one of the curious sights on what I thought was the end of my journey. In the background you can see a little tree that appears to be growing normally, smaller branches near the top and longer at the bottom, but this poor guy wasn't getting any taller and continuing to throw branches outward. Looked bizarre.

I kept strolling along, looking down. Here were some cool overlapping tracks.

And then something funny happened.

I actually said to myself, "Huh, this all you got?" to the glacier, referring to the small glacial lake created from the melting ice. Why I have thoughts like that is beyond me. It's almost as if my mind teases me with shallow thinking like a precognitive warning to think more carefully. I wasn't just taunting the Ice Queen again, I was being dangerously naive (you know, more so then crawling inside an ice crevasse).

The lake wasn't all she had.

This "pond" was an afterthought, a subtle pause where ice water went to collect its thoughts before raging on to feed an endless glacial river.

There was no way back across. Not for miles. It was either turn back through that endless march over miles of shifting rocks, or this thing above.

My photos from here on suffered because I got a tiny bit worried. Well, not until after this next foolish idea, which I didn't document. This is the only image of it I have. In the foreground above, you'll note a white rectangle. If you concentrate, you can see two thinner rectangles on either side. A steel cable stretches between these. This was clearly for crossing over the river. But with a cable car, or mechanical device - not with your hands. I don't know if it was laziness, brain cloud, or excitement, but I decided this was how I was going to cross back to Solomon's side of the river. I got as far as removing my socks and putting them on my hands and hanging over the river, the pain in my palms immediate, before I thought, "What the hell am I doing? If I fall, my body will go numb as its dragged downriver and I will likely die weirdly while trying to command my limbs to swim to either bank and failing."

Hanging there, all these beautiful images flashed thought my head ...

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That wasn't true, I just wanted to show some pictures from the trip I forgot to before.

What happened was I turned around, moaned, and made my way back to Solomon an hour and a half later.

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I'd been gone for over four hours!

And so, crawling to the Columbian Icefield Visitor Center across the street (where I took many of these big picture photos), I got myself my favorite dessert.

The End

except ...

Then I saw a map of what exactly Columbian Icefield meant and at long last that day, after plenty of exhilaration and joy, I got a chill ... and I smiled.

I generated this from Google Earth and added my four hour round trip.

And this.

Never the End !

The Glacier Strikes Back

Almost two hours into the first hike of this third Hoboxian Expedition, and I end up right back at the entrance I was trying to avoid.

Kids are on this lower surface, which seems like no big deal until you look down and note that it's less humans  walking on an icecube and more like microbes along the skin of a vast Ice Queen.

A queen who doesn't take very good care of herself at that.

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Here, let me give you a hand up on this old girl to have a look.

In addition to the many stunning diamond blue waterslides, (or Ice Queen Tears - she will likely be completely gone by 2030) there are frightening streams like this one just under the surface everywhere.

Even so, the footing seemed pretty solid. I'll point out now that, for the first time on the trip, I was wearing shoes. I gained a 30% bonus to boldness as a consequence. Not that I needed it. I mean, look at all those people way up ahead. Clearly it's safe!

When I reached the point where the furthest person is standing in the photo above, I was about here.

I went as far as this before turning right. There was a level in the strata I was trying to get to to save me a sheer climb.

If you've just joined me, my goal was to reach the glacier on the right of this one and I wasn't able to cross the river so had to go across the popularly visited Athabasca Glacier on the left.

Interestingly, across the glacier, there were dramatic bus tours that brought people down to the edge. Not sure if people could get out there.


I saw no one else at this height, but I wasn't after the top of this easy glacier.

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Then I turned the corner and saw this, the Ice Queen's hooha (I realize that messes with the SCALE of my previous metaphor, but things change fast on the surface of a glacier! Don't they?).

I looked back at the bus tours a million miles across the ice, hoping they would see my red shirt and remember to send in a rescue crew after their sightseeing.

I went down. The opening at the bottom was about three feet across and I could hear a roaring river deep inside. The moment I lowered myself, the rocks beneath my feet gave way and I had no footing. I started to tumble down into the abyss...






WARNING: This post contains no images of Solomon!

When last we met, I'd realized my hiking plan might take a little longer than an hour and a half.

I had hiked diagonally towards that pond-like water and then along that stream-like thing on the right.

Turns out it was a lake and a raging glacial river.

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Here's a video check-in.

I searched everywhere for a way across that water, but turns out it's really quite cold. This whole enterprise was about getting on the other side and I was already too far along to go back and hike around the pond (lake).  I was enjoying the walk, so the slightly maybe possible spots where I could jump across with dangerous ramifications if I slipped, I ignored, thinking there would be plenty of spots to cross.

Let's take a moment to talk about rocks!

Though I've given my character Brink, in my soon-to-be-published-fingers-crossed-eco-epic-novel-series, Leopold & Brink, a PhD in Geology, I think rocks are cool and that's about all I know (more or less). This hike was not a great time to fall deeper in love with rocks, though it gave me a very mellow and pleasant pace.

I mention rocks for a reason (beyond plugging the aforementioned book).

From the distance, the ground looks like a bunch of tiny pebbles, but I assure you, boulders abounded. The alleged pebbles underneath the endless sea of large rocks went unnoticed.

There was never a good place to cross and eventually, I curved all the way back to the base of the boring glacier.

Here are those folks again from our study of SCALE in yesterday's post. They will return, comically. From here, I could tell they were training. I remember foolishly thinking, "Oh, should this be hard?"

And so, after a very long, though enjoyable, detour, I had to use the glacier's frozen surface (and that little plank of wood) as my river crossing.

Little did I know, glaciers are sensitive.


Meet the Glacier, or


Alberta's Highway 93: The Greatest Drive on Earth?

We said goodbye to lovely Banff and began our voyage north towards Jasper.

This sign either means horseback riding and hiking available to the right, or centaurs and backpacking giants please go that way.

Banff was full of wonderful things .... like this field where I hope to build a football pitch one day.

There was a beautiful little farm, mostly for tourists, but full of two of the best things in the world: horses and gay women.

I learned about my camera's panorama feature while in Banff (yes, I know). I have since gone panorama crazy.

And then, a bit up the road, one enters Alberta's Highway 93 ...

I hiked to this waterfall off path in flipflops (all I've worn up to this point), and the ground was very muddy and it was a bit of a slapstick routine.

One of the endlessly diverse and gorgeous mountainscapes.

A couple Canadian Ranger-types were beside the road welcoming folks to this incredible drive.

They warned of the results of poor driving and reckless treatment of the environment. Also they claimed Solomon as an honorary adolescent lynx (living example).

Banff, Pt. 1

The day was finally a little cooler so the boy went for the the warmer blanket.

Canmore is a little resort town before the big resort town of Banff. I had a waffle at this farmer's market from a Belgian girl who explained that the TinTin cutout was recognized by everyone. Would never happen in the states. There was a special sugar cooked into the waffle so it supposedly didn't need syrup or anything. It didn't. Delicious.

"Hi honey, I'm home (and once again took for granted the 10,000 foot high, stunning mountainscape in our back-fricking-yard).

The main street of Banff and the local fuzz. She was very confused that I didn't want to be in the picture with her. I was rather aggressively interested in her outfit and story and then she explained she was a for real law enforcement person and part of her local gig was public relations and awareness. L.A. could use this sort of thing.

While walking down the main street, I was confounded by a store with this symbol on the outside. My first thought was, huh, someone bought the rights to use this old amazing brand, The Hudson's Bay Company, the organization that was the de facto government of the region, a veritable empire. Turns out HBC, founded in 1670, is in fact STILL IN BUSINESS, is owned by Americans now, and exists as a string of department stores!

Solomon was not at all interested in the gondola ride, though they said he was allowed to jump on.

The town of Banff was a joy, plenty to do and see. I'll go into more detail in Part Two but here are a few of the casual activities enjoyed by the hoi polloi ...

tennis with the chalet and mountain view, or other mountain view, or beautiful forest view ...

... golf - this hole is at the base of a great German restaurant hidden in the woods. To complete this Par 4, you have to clear a river ...

or a little pool time ...