Day 09: Wild Jasper

I was awake and rarin’ to go early this morning, but Jim was sound asleep and I decided to sit still so as not to disturb him.  You know what they say about sleeping bears, and all.

Short walkers

A coupla short walkers

It was a beautifully sunny, albeit frosty cold, morning and eventually we got moving and headed to the Visitor’s Center for the hiking guide we’d seen advertised in several places.  We approached the Visitor Center lady and asked for the guide but were told they were out of English versions.  But then she said she could tell us about some hikes, sized us up, and then added, you’re looking for short walks, yes?  Boy, she really had our number.

After getting the info we set off for Maligne Canyon.  The hike is and out-n-back and crosses 6 bridges along the way.  There are a few starting points but we’d read the hike from the 6th bridge to the 5th bridge was a beauty and not to be missed.  So that’s where we dutifully started, the temperature reading a brisk -1C (that’s 30F for the rest of us).  After crossing the 6th bridge we found a wide, scenic, easy to traverse trail that ran alongside a rushing river with the clearest water, but there was no canyon in sight.  Along the way we discussed what to do if we saw a bear (after all, bear warning signs are everywhere in these parts).  We weren’t sure if we were supposed to holler like mad, curl up into a ball, or run like hell, but we both agreed it wouldn’t be a bad idea to carry pots of honey going forward.  During this walk I also made Jim promise to never tell anyone if, God forbid, I’m ever eaten by a bear.  I made him swear he’d make something else up to tell authorities, because such situations never end well for the bear and there is no reason a bear should suffer for just being a bear and me being stupid.

Goodbye, Medicine Lake

Goodbye, Medicine Lake

Once we reached the 5th bridge and hadn’t seen a canyon we voted on returning to the car, making it a 4km round-trip hike.  It was a great start to the day, but we found it to be odd that 1) the area is called Maligne Canyon, and 2) this is one of the highlights of Jasper.  Scratching our heads, we continued south toward Maligne Lake (would there be water there?), passing Medicine Lake along the way.  Medicine Lake is unique in that every year at this time it drains out like a bathtub and it was well on its way out when we saw it.  I guess people who see Medicine Lake when it’s drained out would scratch their heads and wonder why it was called Medicine Lake.  God help them if they then go to Maligne Canyon…

The big and au naturale Maligne Lake

The big and au naturale Maligne Lake

Continuing on our route we encountered very little traffic on the roads and animal warning signs everywhere.  Can we cue a lumbering bear across the road, please?  The closest we got was a darting squirrel, but that’s okay, as even bearless, the mountain scenery was breathtaking.

After driving several kilometers we reached Maligne Lake and were pleased to see it was an actual lake.  And at 22km long it’s also the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies, in case you didn’t know.  Every centimeter of it was spectacular, with crystal clear water and a snow-capped mountain backdrop.

Moose(less) Lake

Moose(less) Lake

We decided to hike the almost 3km out to Moose Lake and back, where we were rewarded with a flock of grouse hiking the same trail.  There was a stunningly gorgeous little lake there, too, that reflected the mountains like a mirror.  It was so very peaceful and there were only a couple other people in the area.  I would say it was very quiet, too, but the grouse were little peeping noisemakers.

The road to Maligne Lake dead ends so we started to double-back up the 47km road.  But first:

Cue the bear.  And I really mean it this time.

This needs no explanation

This needs no explanation

There were a few cars pulled to the side of the road and everyone was looking up.  Sure enough, there it was, sitting up the hill a little ways, completely oblivious to the bear jam it had caused.  In spite of the row of photogs snapping away it just continued eating, never once looking at the people.  It was such a marvel, and our second bear spotted lifetime.  This was one for the books.

After gaping for a good long while we pressed on but just had to stop at Maligne Canyon one more time to get to the bottom of the mystery.  This time we decided to start with the 1st bridge, and from there it was a very short walk until the actual canyon got deeper and deeper.  And it was most definitely a canyon and not just some sort of language barrier.

Camouflaged cuteness

The pika:  camouflaged cuteness

Because it was such a gorgeous, cloudlessly sunny say we decided to take the Jasper Sky Tram gondola (CAD$39.95/ea) up the mountainside for sweeping vistas.  At the top I personally found the most exciting part to be the pika we spotted first thing.  After that I was more interested in finding its friends and family instead of looking at views.  I mean, the views were nice but, and this may be blasphemous so close your ears, they weren’t really any more breathtaking than what we’ve seen since we’d arrived.  We were only seeing them from a different angle.

There is a summit hiking trail that you can take to the top-top but it was covered in ice and, as one might imagine, slippery.  It was hard to walk and look for pika at the same time (and I do not have the mountain goat balance Jim has) so we decided it prudent not to go up very far before coming back down.  The next cable car down was just about to leave so we took the 7 minute ride back down to the parking lot (we were also told during peak season there can be a 3 hour wait for a cable car, both going up and back down.  Yowza).

Mt. Edith Cavell, which kept getting further and further away

Mt. Edith Cavell:  the closer we hiked, the further she got

The lady who checked us in to Bear Hill Lodge had indicated that making our way to Mt. Edith Cavell was well worth the trip.  She said the road is closed at the top but you can park and hike 10 minutes for stunning views.  Who doesn’t like the sound of that?  So we loaded into the car, drove over to Edith Cavell Road, and turned up the windy road to a barricade point where others had parked.  We continued on foot up the paved road, not knowing exactly where we were headed but wondering as we went around each turn if we were close.  About 20 minutes later we reached another parking lot and a couple coming toward us indicated it was another 20 minute uphill hike to the lake and whatnot.  Oh, geez.  Because it was after 5pm and because we were getting tired, hungry, and a little fussy we decided to scuttle the mission and turn around to walk the 20 minutes back out.  I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we’d been hiking our brains out all day, which isn’t bad considering I’m ultimately an indoorsy type of gal.

Large and most definitely in charge

Large and most definitely in charge

We drove back to the north side of Jasper townsite to check out Pyramid Lake.  Along the way we encountered another family of elk, where one of them definitely reigned supreme.

Pyramid Lake was pretty, as expected, but we were getting seriously hungry at this point so made it a brief stop before heading to dinner at the Jasper Brewing Company.  We carb-loaded by sharing a plate of nachos and a salad, which was a nice reward after all the day’s movement.

Because we plan on getting an early start in the morning we headed back to our cabin after dinner for a good sleep before heading south to Banff National Park the next day.

Proud as a grouse

Proud as a grouse

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