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Road Trip to Alaska, Day 6

Calgary to Jasper (Canada)


On the road early to spend as much time as possible in the Canadian Rockies.

Truly excellent road trip app with descriptions all along the route of the geology, things to see, potential places for wildlife (I would have missed the mountain goats if they hadn’t given the tip about a certain cliff). The narrator also tells some good background stories. There are several road tours available:

I drove through Banff, but wasn’t tempted to look at anything. Reminded me of a tourist mountain town in the Adirondacks.

Lake Louise was a beautiful stop. Unfortunately, the world-renowned blue water was still frozen. I did hike around the lake to a place that had a tiny edge melted and I put my boots in. The blue color is from rock flour (or glacial flour). Rocks are pulverized into superfine-grained silt by glaciers and they are suspended in the water of the lake. They absorb most colors of the spectrum, but reflect the blue-green wavelengths.



The Canadian Rockies are entirely sedimentary layers of rock (e.g., limestone, sandstone, and shale) that have been thrust upward and toppled over by tectonic plate action and then weathered by glaciers and water. They are more jagged than the American Rockies due to the glaciers.

Daily Wildlife Report: I didn’t see any bears or woodland caribou. I did see mountain goats on a very sheer cliff! Apparently there is a good chance I’ll see elk in Jasper. They are the equivalent of the Alaska moose in Homer.

One recommended overlook was Peyto Lake. I pulled over at what I thought was the parking area and the “quick walk to the overlook.” Well, as soon as you leave the parking area, there is snow pack. You climb upward for almost a mile. I was beginning to wonder about this wide, snow-covered trail, when I saw a “No Parking” sign low in the snow. Apparently the road still had about 4 feet of snow on it. As I got closer to the sign to take a photo, I post-holed up to my hip. Should have brought the snowshoes! The summer parking area really is adjacent to the overlook, but for now, it’s a snowfield. It was fun to see all the road signs (see the 30 km per hour speed limit sign below) and interpretive signs down at dwarf level due to the snow. The overlook was really gorgeous, and I heard an avalanche while I was there (I was in no danger).


I think I’m spoiled by the glaciers in Alaska. We have such remote access that I may have been a glacier snob today when I opted to not take the giant tourist bus to the glacier to walk around on a small area. It think the icefield and glaciers looked amazing from the road. I didn’t need the tourist center and busloads of (mostly international) travelers. Overall, the parks were empty today, but that one area had lots of people. I can only imagine what it would be like in the summer during the high visitor season.

I added photos to almost all of my waypoints today, so take a look at my TrackMyTour website to see some of them.


While the photos are fun to share, there were several times today that I thought poetry would better represent what I was experiencing more than photography. I’ll have to work on that.


When you are out riding a bicycle, running, or walking, make sure you don’t go so fast that you miss the special moments that you can find along the way. These two turtles were seen on the American Tobacco Trail (Durham, NC) while I was out riding. I saw them out of the corner of my eye and stopped to explore.

This little Mud Turtle hatchling was about the size of a quarter.

This little Mud Turtle hatchling was about the size of a quarter.


Notice the pollen on the shell.

Notice the pollen on the shell.

This box turtle was closed up tight!

This box turtle was closed up tight!

I could barely see the eyes!

I could barely see the eyes!


I’ve been so excited about the e-NABLE group that I am a part of, but I haven’t had the time to write about it. So, here’s a quick pic of the glow-in-the-dark test hand I printed on my 3D printer and then some links to the group’s social media presence. Please do check out all the work we are doing. It’s pretty amazing to see how the web, a 3D printer, people who care, and people in need can all get connected and see magic happen.


Google+ Community: e-NABLE

e-NABLE Facebook page

e-NABLE blog: E-NABLING the future

e-NABLE at ScienceOnline Together 2014

Blog post about my collaboration on Tully’s hand

Coming up: My trip to NASA JPL for an Earth Science NASA Social!

Next week I’ll be in Pasadena for a NASA Social at the Jet Propulsion Lab!

This view of Earth comes from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard the Terra satellite. Click the photo for larger image.

This view of Earth comes from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard the Terra satellite. Click to embiggen.

Here are some details from the JPL Press Release about the event:

NASA is inviting its social media followers to apply for participation in a two-day NASA Social on Nov. 4 and 5 at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The event will highlight NASA and JPL’s role in studying Earth and its climate and will preview three Earth-observing missions JPL is preparing for launch in 2014.

The event will offer people who connect with NASA through Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks the opportunity to interact with scientists and engineers working on upcoming missions and participate in hands-on demonstrations. Participants will also interact with fellow tweeps, space enthusiasts and members of NASA’s social media team. They will get a behind-the-scenes tour of JPL, including:

— The Spacecraft Assembly Facility, where hardware for two upcoming Earth missions is currently under construction. This clean room is also where NASA’s Voyager and Cassini spacecraft and the Curiosity, Opportunity and Spirit Mars rovers were built and tested.
— The JPL Earth Science Center, where data from many of the agency’s Earth-observing missions are showcased in interactive displays.
— The Mission Control Center of NASA’s Deep Space Network, where engineers “talk to” spacecraft across the solar system and in interstellar space.
— The JPL Mars Yard, where engineers and scientists test engineering models of NASA’s Curiosity rover in a sandy, Mars-like environment.

The two NASA/JPL Earth-observing missions being assembled at JPL are the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) spacecraft and ISS-RapidScat. SMAP will produce global maps of soil moisture for tracking water availability around our planet. ISS-RapidScat is a scatterometer instrument that will be mounted outside the International Space Station to measure ocean surface wind speeds and directions. ISS-RapidScat is scheduled to launch first, in April 2014, with SMAP scheduled to launch in October 2014.

A third NASA/JPL Earth mission, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), scheduled to launch in July 2014, is in final assembly and testing at an Orbital Sciences Corp. facility in Gilbert, Ariz. The mission will be NASA’s first dedicated Earth remote-sensing satellite to study atmospheric carbon dioxide from space.

To join and track the conversation online during the NASA Socials, follow the hashtag #NASASocial.

More information about connecting and collaborating with NASA is at: NASA Connect
For more on SMAP, visit: SMAP
For more on ISS-RapidScat, visit: ISSRapidScat and RapidScat Mission
For more on OCO-2, visit: OCO-2