September 30, 2008 Ice Age



We arrived at the trailhead late in the day, not knowing what we would find below Mount Edith Cavell in Canada’s Jasper National Park. A married couple from the USA–perhaps from Oklahoma or part of Texas by the twang–excitedly told us that this was the best area they had seen during their week in the Canadian Rockies!  So we got out our camera gear and started down the Path of the Glacier interpretive trail.

This snowy north side of Mount Edith Cavell was breathtaking (or maybe it was the altitude!), and it has always been a significant landmark in the Athabasca River Valley.  Three glaciers live on this side of the mountain:  the Angel Glacier, the Cavell Glacier, and the smaller Ghost Glacier.  All are retreating, as are most glaciers along the Rocky Mountain spine of Canada and the United States.  Blame climate change.  In fact, in a few short years Glacier National Park in Montana may have no glaciers at all.  What shall we change the name to at that point?  I know:  Glacier National Historic Park!  But I digress …

Mount Edith Cavell was named for a heroic English nurse who helped soldiers escape from the German onslaught during World War I.  When caught, she was executed by the Germans.  A genuine hero, she is celebrated in this Canadian outpost of the old British Empire by the mighty mountain.

The Path of the Glacier Trail meanders along a valley that was occupied by Cavell Glacier several decades ago, but has now been freed from the frozen grip of ice.  Conifers and a few wildflowers are starting to return to the valley, but the growing season is so short that it will be decades before the subalpine forest feels like a forest and not one of life’s most remote outposts. 

When we reached Cavell Pond, into which Cavell Glacier calves, it was near twilight.  The aquamarine lake was frozen, and numerous icebergs were stranded in the pond and along the shore.  It was a spectacular place.  We photographed until the light faded, then decided to come back the next day to see it again and to get closer to Cavell Glacier.



The next day, we hiked to the glistening face of Cavell Glacier and looked the ice age in the eye–then backed down, deciding the ice age was tougher than us and that we had no desire to live in the same terrain as Wooly Mammoths and Sabre-toothed Cats.We spent the rest of the morning photographing icebergs, ice details, pioneering lichens, and a pair of Common Ravens who had little fear of modern people.  Their distant ancestors undoubtedly interacted with ancient humans in this icy terrain, perhaps hanging around during the hunt in order to claim some bits of Caribou flesh–which undoubtedly would have been healthier for them than the Cheetos that some hikers tossed to the contemporary scavengers.



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2 Comments on “September 30, 2008 Ice Age

  1. Pingback: Environment and nature » Blog Archive » September 30, 2008 Ice Age

  2. The raven is beautiful.

    I was fortunate enough to have four in my life. Jekyll, whom I found dying on a “the griddle of pavement” on an August day – a long nestling almost but not quite ready for flight; Orville, whose egg I watched in an abandoned barn in the Mojave until something started to prey on the nestlings; Arthur, who was in the process of being killed by a guy on a grader who should have known better than to think a raven was evil (he just needed his wing feathers to grow in), and another who had been badly injured by a vehicle, pinned together, and given to the rehabber with whom I volunteered.

    Orville was the smartest animal I’ve ever know. He also had a sense of humor. Orville learned to fly on a houseboat vacation on the Sacramento Delta. He was fascinated with matches and fire, and tried to light the stove. He loved car rides, things that were crackly and shiny, playing keep away with chickens and eating on the back of our donkey, Samantha. He also loved opening mailboxes and sorting and destroying mail (ours and the neighbors) on the roof. He despised only one of my son’s young friends, and as a result, the boy only visited once. He played with the other kids, especially when they were playing with Hot Wheels or game pieces, which were stolen and hidden, usually in the pinch pleats of the drapes.

    He left home in a desert snowstorm, met his bride to be in the resident flock, mated and brought the kids and wife home to see me – strung on the telephone lines like clothespins. And then he said good-bye in a ritual on the corral gate. I could never touch him again. But he was still around a few years later in the neighborhood of Quartz Hill – with the entire Antelope Valley at his command.

    A truly wonderful experience, and probably the most satisfying of my life.

    Some of his stories appear in my book, which is sadly out of print. Waltz on the Wild Side – An Animal Lover’s Journal, sometimes available as used from Amazon.

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