Monday, May 29, 2006

Icefield / Jasper Weekend: Part 3

As I'm sure I've mentioned in the past, Chana has a real love for waterfalls. She loves to look at them, feel their mist on her face, and surround herself with the sound of the crashing water. I'm not kidding when I say she can sit and stare at a waterfall for hours! That's why every trip we take to Banff includes a stop at Bow Falls, one of her most favorite places on Earth.

Well, this little trip to Jasper provided us with the chance to visit a place that neither of us had been before... An awesome display of power and beauty known as Athabasca Falls.

The Athabasca Falls are located on the Athabasca River (who would have thought, eh?), which originates at the Athabasca Glacier. That's right, the very same glacier that we had the pleasure of standing on. That means the same microscopic particles that makes the ice of the glacier look so amazingly blue also gives the river a distinctively milky-green color. That is, until it plunges over the falls and is churned it to a frothy white...

Now, my previous experience with natural attractions such as these told me that the best picture-taking opportunities would be found off the beaten path. You know, sneak out onto a rock here for a better angle, jump a guard rail there for a unique vantage point... That sort of thing. It's always easier to find a more picturesque view than the Park planners originally envisioned.

But I was wrong this time.

The paths and lookout points laid out around the Athabasca Falls couldn't have been more perfect. All the amazing sights that people drive hundreds of kilometers to see are actually visible from a multitude of breath-taking angles. And, on top of that, little things that would normally go unnoticed, such as channels carved by the falls hundreds or thousands of years ago and then abandoned in favor of easier routes, were pointed out. It seemed that around every corner there was something new to discover, turning a mere trip to the falls into a mini-adventure.

One of Chana's favorite spots had to be this little lookout on the south side of the falls. It was so near to the thundering water that mist fell like a heavy rain and drenched her within seconds. Despite the freezing glacier water, she laughed and screamed like a little school girl, trying to coax me over to "share the experience". Even though she called me a "chicken", I preferred to stay dry and take pictures from a distance.

Just when we though we'd seen it all, we discovered another path that seemed to lead away from the falls. In fact, it led right into the middle of one of those abandoned channels I mentioned, and ultimately ended where the water left the falls, widened, slowed, and continued its journey through the valley. It was an awesome sight! And it was here, too, that you could see the mark of Man and the influence of abundant tourism. Yet, unlike so many attraction that are spoiled by graffiti and litter, here, where the water was shallow and the jagged rocks plentiful, people had erected dozens of inukshuks, giving the place an almost mystical feel.

I'm glad we found that path.

After returning to Jasper from the falls, we spent the rest of the day exploring the little stores and shopping for souvenirs for our kids. In the evening, we treated ourselves to a viewing of The Da Vinci Code in the town's tiny little theatre. Although the movie was less impressive than I had expected (maybe I'll get into that another time, but not now), the theatre itself took me back to a time in my childhood before the giant Megaplexes that dominate our city now. It was nice.

And so ended our stay in Jasper. Next, the journey home.
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