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A Song of Ice & Fire

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

It’s been a ramble since the last dispatch from Calgary.

We stopped at the farm in Tonasket, Washington to visit Tom, Linda, Margaret, and too many dogs and donkeys to list by name. They keep threatening to sell this gem which I am adamantly opposed to because it has a vineyard, a tiny amphitheatre (with water feature), and a rooftop sleeping porch on its 160 acres. Plus donkeys. So if you're in the market, call me.

Also, a friend of theirs incorporated this Spartan Trailer right into her house and has a fabulous bar inside it, which increases the value of both houses in my estimation. I must have one of these.

And, as we were in the neighborhood, we popped over the mountains to Seattle to celebrate the wedding of nephew Sean and his bride Chelsea. Alex and Zach were both in the wedding party and Mount Rainier made a big appearance. This was also the only wedding that I've ever been to where a beer mile was run the night before. Kids...

The rest of the month we rambled through the Canadian Rockies. I would love to detail every hike, waterfall and jaw-dropping peak we saw for you, but I know you have a life outside of this blog. So check out the Ramble On Canadian Rockies Destination Guide that covers Banff, Jasper, and Yoho National Parks for a bit more on our favorite place in the whole wide world.

Oh, Yoho!

I will do a quick shout out to Yoho National Park, which is the smaller, less famous cousin of Jasper and Banff, and has the funnest name to say. It’s right next door, and a bit less crowded than the other two. Most of the highlights can be managed in a couple of days, or a few more if you want to do some of the best hikes.

Here are just a few of the magical places in Yoho National Park.

Takakkaw Falls

Wapta Falls

Emerald Lake & the Iceline Circuit

Moving westward from Yoho, we came to Glacier National Park. No, not that one, Canada’s GNP, located a bit further north in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia. While not as famous as its namesake in the U.S., it is the cradle of North American alpinism. The Canadian Pacific Railroad built Glacier House in 1886 there to feed passengers traveling on the brand new transcontinental railway. Train was the only way to reach the remote region below Rogers Pass and they needed a place for folks to eat because dining cars were too heavy for the trains to pull up and down the steep passes of the Rockies. Glacier House began as a restaurant and quickly became an internationally known hotel with Swiss Guides leading guests to the tops of peaks once thought to be unclimbable. Today the park serves as a world-class hiking and climbing destination as well as a museum to the early days of mountaineering and to the rather absurd and ingenious lengths engineers went in order to connect the two ends of the continent by train.

While the rail line through the pass was an engineering marvel of its day, constant avalanches on the tracks persuaded the Canadian Government to tunnel under Rogers Pass in 1916. That signed the death knell of Glacier House. With no rail stop on its doorstep, it began a rapid descent into mountaineering folklore.

A Song of Ice & Fire

Also passing into history are the glaciers themselves. Glacier House was so named because it stood at the foot of the Great Glacier (now the Illecillewaet Glacier). Guests used to stroll an easy kilometer to its base down in the valley. Now reaching it requires a long, strenuous climb into the high country. Still, Glacier National Park Canada does still have mighty glaciers to visit.

Here in the Glacier National Park U.S., where I write this post from a month later, there are only a few remnants left of the once abundant glaciers. In 1850 they numbered 150. Today there are 35. Current estimates are that they will be extinct in just six years. No Glaciers in Glacier National Park in 2030.

The Age of Ice has ended

Lori and I first visited Glacier in 1990 as the first stop on our round-the-world honeymoon. Here is a shot of Lori then, hiking in the Sun Rift valley, and me now in a similar spot just about exactly 33 years later. There was some lovely symmetry to that.

We also hiked Grinnell Glacier and the Hi-line which are two that had been on my list for that entire 33 years. It was tinged with some sadness, not only because of the sight of disappearing glaciers, but because sometimes we could hardly see anything at all.

Here is the view from Siyeh pass on the same hike before the wind shifted:

The Age of Fire has begun

Our five days in the park was shrouded in everything from a brown haze obscuring the peaks to a full-scale don’t go outside, don’t breathe “Red Flag Warning” where we stayed inside Stanley all day. British Columbia is having its worst fire season in history. Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories is being evacuated as I write this. Smoke covers nearly every part of the western United States right now.

Here is the major fire map for Aug 21, 2023. It's the new normal for summers in the west.

As RV Ramblers, sometimes we feel like we're on the front lines of the climate emergency. On Monday this week, we were driving away from the smoke of Montana, got hit by rain from an unprecedented hurricane spreading up from Southern California, and drove into a heat dome in the Plains state that is the hottest on record since the Dust Bowl.

So profound has our impact been on the planet these past 200 years that scientists have declared a new geological epoch. Geological epochs, by their nature, don’t come along every day. Things move pretty slowly with the earth typically. Thus, epochs are about 7 million years in length. But the planet has changed beyond recognition from the last epoch and so we begin the “Anthropocene” – The geologic epoch of man.

I'm sure I was like all of you though. I believed Rush Limbaugh when he said that climate change was a hoax and that more study was needed. I just took his word for it. Sure, he slept through his science classes in school, but he was super rich, and I always bet on the money.

Lesson learned. I think we should really hurry up those studies.


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