– Jasper National Park –
We had a nice, mostly relaxing day today. Our alarm went off at 5am, but we lounged until 5:30 before we got out of bed and got dressed to go run. Our run was along the main stretch of town, and it was entirely empty for most of our run. I guess no one else on vacation wants to get up that early to run on Sunday. Are we really so crazy?
Since we are in Jasper for four nights (three more, after last night), we didn’t have to pack up or anything. After we showered, we put the essentials in the truck and tidied the room before rolling out of our hotel for the morning. It was still early, not long after 8, but town was still mostly quiet and still.
Our hotel here doesn’t have a continental breakfast, so we were on our own this morning as far as food was concerned. Yesterday we spotted a bakery while driving around town, so we decided to test it out this morning. It was called The Other Paw. The line was actually a little long, even though it didn’t seem like anyone was around town.
They line you up next to all of the baked goods while you wait, letting you really make good eye contact with all of the beautiful pastries before you get up there to pay. We ended up with a lemon blueberry muffin and a chai latte for me, and a morning sunrise muffin, a rhubarb tart, and a coffee for Mark. Ripley ended up with some handmade biscuits, and Mark and I also picked up sandwiches for our lunch later. They put each item in its own little bag. We almost needed a bag to carry all of our bags when we left.
It’s too bad, really, that the muffins were only passable (a little dry), and my chai latte was too sweet. Ripley enjoyed her biscuits, but she tries to eat cow poop, so her opinion can’t be trusted. The warm drinks were nice to have though, as the weather was a little brisk this morning. It wasn’t exactly freezing, but we did have cold fingers when we were outside. Warm cups help with that for sure.
Our first destination of the morning took us up to Maligne Lake. To get there, you take the eastern route out of Jasper, then turn off onto the aptly named Maligne Lake Road. The drive takes about an hour. Along the way, there are a few pull-offs to look out and admire the scenery.
Our first stop was at Maligne Canyon overlook, which you can see in the featured image at the top of the page. The place was mostly empty, and the view was pretty nice, especially for so early in the morning. Sure, there were clouds around, but you could t least see the mountains, which seems like it can be a challenge around here.
The road to Maligne Lake follows the Maligne River, which flows through Maligne Canyon. Again, another creative naming scheme. It’s worth noting that “maligne” means bad or evil in French. Maligne Canyon is a 160ft deep slot canyon, formed by the erosion of the limestone through which the river flows. The canyon is an average of six feet wide, though you can spot areas through the canyon called potholes, where swirling water has hollowed a hole out of the road and widened the canyon. It’s incredibly cool. It also makes a lot of noise, and you can hear it from quite a distance away.
It was quite cool at Maligne Canyon, but we walked around for about 15 minutes, crossing all of the bridges that were close to the car. There’s a longer hike you can do here that Mark wants to come back for. I think we will likely do it tomorrow, after we do the hike to the foot of the glacier tomorrow morning. We’re planning to dress warmly to prepare for the colder morning hikes.
Our next stop was Medicine Lake, which is full during the summer, but shrinks down to a much smaller lake during winter, when the running water that fills the lake freezes and what remains sinks mostly into tunnels (which contain the underground Maligne River!) beneath the lake. You can just see the path disappearing into the lake in the photo above. That path is usable in winter. We saw more of it as we drove around the lake, dipping in and out of the water. It’s a nice enough lake, but it doesn’t seem to move much, so it seems much dirtier than other lakes in the park, which spoils the allure a bit.
After Medicine Lake, we continued on to Maligne Lake, which is quite large, and seems to be very popular for boating. We saw a ton of people out launching boats and waling around this morning. We got Ripley out of the truck and let her drag us around the lake area, where we took some photos and just generally enjoyed ourselves. There’s still unmelted snow on the ground in that area, but the sun was coming out while we were walking around, so I wouldn’t say things were too terrible.
Maligne Lake had a nice lodge and a restaurant and a gift shop, as well as a multi-day hiking trail that leaves from the lake area. It’s supposed to be one of the most popular long hikes in Jasper. I don’t think Ripley was allowed, likely because this area is home to an endangered species of caribou, the Woodland Caribou. They don’t want dogs disturbing any caribou that might still live in the area. They are so uncommon that if you see one, you are supposed to report the sighting.
On our way back down from Maligne Lake, we spotted an elk grazing along the road. That wouldn’t be uncommon, as we’ve seen plenty of female elk standing or laying beside the road, but today’s was a bull with an impressive rack. He didn’t seem concerned with us at all. I was particularly fascinated by the velvet you can still see on his horns. He’ll shed that as summer progresses. There’s something very pretty about it, I think.
Between our next destination and us was the town of Jasper and out hotel, so we decided to make a quick pitstop to see how much it was going to cost us to use the laundry machines and to get some things from the room. It was already after 11am, as we’d spent about 2 hours driving and at least another hour or so walking around. Jasper has a lot to see, so it is incredibly easy to fill a few hours.
Once we were loaded up again, we headed back down Highway 93 toward Banff and Glacier Centre, though we had no intention of reaching either. There are two waterfalls down that way that we didn’t have time to stop at last night after we left the Icefield Centre, so we thought we would get them today.
By this time, the temperature was about 60°F, and the sun was shining in earnest. It was a pretty day, and the clouds were starting to burn off, leaving behind only white, puffy clouds randomly dotted through the sky. Our first waterfall was called Athabasca Falls, which I’ve noticed is a popular name around here. The internet tells me that the word comes from the Cree name for Lake Athabasca, which is in Saskatchewan (and Alberta), but I don’t know if the same applies here.
We ate our lunch in the parking lot at Athabasca Falls, having our sandwiches from the bakery and some chips and dried fruit. We didn’t even bother looking for a picnic table, since we were just grateful to have found a parking space. As usual, Ripley had kibble.
There were a ton of people at Athabasca Falls. I was a little surprised, considering some of the other attractions were only half full at best this morning. Still, a couple of tour buses had parked nearby, but I can’t imagine what this place must look like in a month, when the tourist season is really in swing. It’s still a little early right now. A lot of the roads and thing have only been open for about two weeks.
Athabasca Falls is a smallish waterfall in size, about 80 feet tall and 60 feet wide. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in power. The waterfall is incredibly forceful, according to my national park guidebook, and is the most powerful waterfall in Jasper. The water in the area flows through a canyon that is similar to Maligne Canyon, and you can really see the force of the water as it slams into the walls of the canyon on its path downstream.
Mark and I dodged and hopped over and around the tons of tourists flooding to area to get our pictures, which look strangely peaceful, given the sheer number of people surrounding us while we took them. Even Mark, a giant compared to pretty much all of the Asian tourists from one of the buses, had to jockey for a position close to the rail for every shot. I wonder how many photos some of those folks took of exactly the same view, over and over, before they let someone else have a turn. It was madness. I’m glad Ripley stayed in the car.
There are several points at the falls stop to look around, from views of the canyon, to the waterfall, to the river itself as it leaves the narrow area and continues on its merry way. The trails and paths were wet and muddy, and it made it difficult to get around, especially with the crowding. Nobody wants to step in a puddle. Still, we did make it to all of the sights we wanted to see. I think Mark is a miracle worker, making it look like we had that waterfall all to ourselves when it was positively slammed with people.
Another 20 minutes down the road, we stopped for our last view of the day at Sunwapta Falls. This waterfall was not as impressive as Athabasca Falls, and it had correspondingly fewer tourists visiting. It was still popular, but this was a more manageable popular, and we didn’t have to body check any old ladies to get a good shot.
Sunwapta has an upper and lower falls, though we didn’t really notice that immediately. We saw the upper falls, and took our pictures, though the bridge for viewing the waterfall was totally swamped with water. Ripley couldn’t cross all of the wet without becoming a mud ball, so she and I waited for Mark on the side while he got better pictures from the bridge. The trail to the lower falls was a little ways away, and since we didn’t want to get muddy, we didn’t bother with it. It’s possible the lower falls are even cooler, but I couldn’t say.
After Sunwapta Falls, we turned back to Jasper, with the goal of getting back into town around 3pm to start doing some chores and maintenance to keep our trip going into next week. We had laundry and repacking to do, among other things. Ripley was getting a little stinky, and since we have to share a truck (and sometimes a bed) with her, it was definitely time for her bath.
On the drive back up to Jasper we spotted a bear being washed downstream by the river current. He was swimming for all he was worth, but the current kept dragging him on. I imagine he eventually made it to the opposite bank, but we never did see for sure. It was a very strange sight, and the bear, though it was likely a rather large black bear, looked small as the massive river dragged it downstream. It was lucky that we spotted it at ll. I’m usually the one to spot wildlife, but Mark saw this one initially, and then left me to identify what exactly was flowing down the river off to our right.
By the time we made it back to Jasper, it was just a little before our appointed return time of 3pm. We went to find an ATM to get some cash for the laundry, then we had to stop at the grocery store to get some of the cash turned into change. While we were there, we refilled the bits of our cooler and food tub that have been emptied by our many meals from said tubs.
This afternoon, we did our laundry and repacked our bags and washed our little girl, all like we’d planned. It was nice to sit around and rest for a little while, too. We decided we didn’t want to go back out again, so we had dinner from our cooler and watched videos on YouTube for our evening entertainment.
Tomorrow we are off to do some hiking, likely in the colder places in the park. So far the weather forecast for tomorrow looks promising. We will try to get out of bed with purpose to get our run finished before first heading back down to the Icefield Centre to walk out to Athabasca Glacier. I’m looking forward to another photo of Ripley and me touching glacial ice.
– Trip Total : ??? miles –