Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jasper National Park (part three) --- canyons, waterfalls and a reunion

Bright Green, Moss-covered Cliffs at Maligne Canyon

Roger here...  Since leaving Missoula, Montana, our connections with the outside world have seemed to always be a surprise.  Sometimes we had campground wifi. Sometimes we did not.  Sometimes we had cable TV.  Sometimes we did not.  Sometimes we had Verizon phone coverage.  Sometimes we did not.  We usually did have at least one of something.

We did not expect to have any kind of communication at our current location at Lake Louise, Alberta.  However, we do have Verizon coverage, so our hotspot works.  I had better post our last blog from Jasper National Park while I can.  Dianne here:  We have Verizon as our phone carrier, and while we're in Canada we're using their new "Travel Pass" option.   For $2/day per device you can use your regular phone/data plan without incurring roaming charges.  It's $2/day for Canada and Mexico, but $10/day everywhere else.

This post will cover visits to Maligne Canyon and Athabasca Falls.


A Bridge Photo Looking into the Churning Water Below
The drive along Maligne Lake Road was filled with amazing sights. The easy walk along Maligne Canyon was a highlight.

This was another example of a deep (narrow) slot canyon with noisy and surging water below.  The photos were taken from the several bridges that criss-crossed the canyon, as well from the canyon-side trail.  Dianne here:  It was like the falls we recently saw at Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, only on steroids.

This is a nice view from the top of the waterfall.

This is a view of the same waterfall as the cascading water plunges to the bottom of the canyon.

Dianne here:  Photos of these falls just don't do them justice, so I took a short video:

Cascading Water Sliding through Pock-marked Boulders


We drove alongside the Athabasca River for miles before arriving at the falls.  We immediately noticed yet another colour anomaly.  The waters of the Athabasca River were not brown, not black, not turquoise, not ochre, nor mint.  They were milky white.  In the picture above you can see that the flowing water from the river is white before it plunges over the falls.  

Dianne again:  The water really did look like skim milk.  A placard at the falls explained the milky white color of the water better than I could:

Rainbows are visible in the next few photos.

These were not gentle falls.  They were roaring, turbulent and powerful.

Dianne again:   Here's another video, this time of the roaring Athabasca falls:  (this one is a bit longer)  


One of the joys of traveling in a motor home is connecting with friends from the past.  (We have done quite a bit of that since leaving Texas in May).  Those meetings are especially fun when they are unexpected.  

Through Facebook, Dianne discovered that her high school classmate and friend, Penny, was enjoying a tour with her husband, Larry, in the same region of Canada where we would be.  Calendars were checked.  We amazingly discovered that we would be in the small town of Jasper, Alberta on the same day.  Serendipity.  We decided to spend the evening together.

We met for drinks at the De'd Dog Pub.  It was a warm evening so we sat outside.  

After drinks we walked a few blocks to Earl's, a great restaurant that Penny and Larry had found.  The scenery was great.  The food was great.  The company was the best.

Many old stories from Frankfort, Indiana (where Penny and Dianne graduated from high school) were relived.  Dianne here:   Penny and Larry are world travelers, and we heard lots of good travel stories.  They had also just left Lake Louise and Banff, where we are headed next, so we received a few valuable tips.

  Who would have believed in 1968 that these two Frankfort "Hot Dogs"  -- yes, that is our school mascot --  would cross paths, not in Frankfort Indiana, not where she lives in Florida or where we live in Texas, but in Alberta, Canada.  Facebook has good and bad qualities, but the best and highest use of it is the ability through serendipity to reconnect with friends in new places.

After dinner we drove Penny and Larry back to their hotel.  The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge --- quite the swanky place.

Many of the rooms were in cabin-type units that were nestled into jaw-dropping settings along a river and a lake.

We relaxed with drinks outside their room.  I had a very weak drink followed by a straight ginger ale (driving home).  We then walked along the lake....

We relaxed for a bit in chairs by the lake that had been set up for a wedding before ending a very enjoyable evening.

This post from Jasper National Park marks the northernmost point of our journey.  We are now beginning the long southeastern trek back to Texas.  We do miss our winter home in Texas.  However, we are in no hurry to get back.  There will be lots of wonders to see and joys to experience in August and September along the way.  Some of those wonders can be found at our current location at Lake Louise in Banff National Park --- next time.

Dianne again:   The evening before we left Jasper the skies opened up for a brief downpour, then we were rewarded with an amazing double rainbow I snapped out the window of the rv:


This is one of my favorites.  Tequila and Dianne having a moment at Maligne Canyon.

I LOVE this little girl!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Jasper National Park (part two) --- Lakes and Mountains

Medicine Lake in Jasper National Park

Roger here...  This post from Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada focuses on the Lake and Mountain scenery that we saw during the five days of our visit.  Let's start with...


Medicine Lake...  can be found along the Maligne Lake Road.  This gorgeous little gem was a definite bonus along the way to the much larger Maligne Lake.

After passing Medicine Lake, the delta-styled flats, where the turquoise stream entered the lake, were just as scenic as the lake itself.

Maligne Lake...  This jaw-dropping lake was the destination of a 3 km hike along the Mary Schaffer Trail.  The lake is 22 kilometers in length.  Mary Schaffer was the first white person to discover it.  She paddled the entire length of the lake in a raft.  

  The picture below is one of my favorites.  Dianne took it as we walked along the trail (singing the bear song).

Pyramid Lake...  Pyramid Lake was one of those surprising delights for us.  We had intended to hike the Five Lakes Trail on the journey back from Athabasca Falls (next post).  However, the trail-head parking lot was full.  

I remembered seeing pictures of Pyramid Lake and knew it was a short drive north of Jasper.  It was on the way back to our motor home.  Why not?

This very serene one-kilometer walk began by crossing a bridge to Pyramid Island.

The short pathway (built by local residents) circled the island.  

You have to love all that clear water --- a myriad of reflections --- clouds, trees and mountains.

More crystal clear water showing every rock and limb underneath

A historic shelter (recognized by the Canadian National Parks) was erected on the island.  This is a picture taken through one of the windows.

Pyramid Lake is a good segway to the mountain views segment of this post.  The lake is adjacent to Pyramid Mountain, which is widely visible in the entire Jasper area.  The picture below was taken during our walk around the island.

Colorful Pyramid Mountain


Columbia Ice Fields...  I will start this section with views of the Columbia Ice Fields that were visible along the highway as we drove from Radium Hot Springs to Jasper.  This is just a teaser.  We intend to visit the ice fields during a later stop at Lake Louise.

Vista photos along Highway One between Lake Louise and Jasper...  

Vista Photos along Maligne Lake Road...

We stopped along the stream next to the roadway.  Dianne took some interesting photos.

Look at the pine tree growing from the top of the boulder in the middle of the stream.

Our third and final post from Jasper National Park will be dedicated to canyons and waterfalls. We also had a night on the town with yet another surprise visit with friends who just happened to be in the area.  Please be patient.  We know that we will not have wifi for the next seven days.  It might be a while before we post again.


Bandido wading in the clear waters of Pyramid Lake

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Jasper National Park - part one (animals, hikes, campground)

Wild Animal Paparazzi

Bear Jam
Roger here... We were recently in Jasper National Park for five nights.  We have enough great pictures to fill three posts.  So, I have divided them into categories (as all concrete sequentials are wont to do).  The opening pictures fit well into the category of (wild) animals, as the animal paparazzi and subsequent traffic jams were prevalent throughout our time here.  

I visited the Canadian Rockies with my parents and younger brother when I was 20.  It was my last big trip with them before graduating from Purdue, getting married, getting a job, and raising our own family.  I did not want to go on the trip at the time. (Dianne and I were dating at the time).  However, it was my most memorable trip with Mom and Dad.  

One of my fears on this trip was that the wild animals that I had seen years ago, would not be as prevalent, or as easily seen.  I was afraid that, if they were gone as they seemed to be during my last visit to Yellowstone, that Dianne would not have the same wonderful experience.  My fears were unfounded.  They are still here!


Let's start with this group of young bighorn sheep that were grazing along the roadside.  We saw bigger and older ones at Radium Hot Springs, but these younger guys were fun to see.

These bighorn sheep seemed to hang out in the same area during every drive through the park.  We counted 20 of these females last night...
...and a magnificent ram
We had seen mountain goats before, both here and at Glacier National Park; however, they were not as animated as this group.  It was intriguing watching the young kids prancing around.

There were "Watch out for Caribou" signs all along the roadways.  When we saw one, we understood the warnings.  This enormous female (sans antlers) was chomping away in an effort to maintain her body mass.  A bump into her would do considerable damage to a car.

There were also "Watch out for Elk" signs throughout the park.  Our first sightings were of female elk.

As amazing as the females were, we wanted to see a male with a huge set of antlers.  

One morning we did see a magnificent one right next to the road, but I was driving too fast to stop.  Gr-r-r.

However, patience is a virtue.  

We slowly drove up to these two beauties at the end of a day of hiking when we thought that our fun for the day had ended.

These are magnificent animals, and they are gigantic.  

You can see the velvet on the antlers in the close-up picture below.

OK, we spent $45 for a can of bear spray that I hope not to use while hiking.  We do not want to be in a position to use it, but we did want to see a bear, or two.  We were a little frustrated. Then, while driving slowly past a line of cars, we saw our first bear, and spent some quality time with him and the paparazzi that he attracted.

He was chomping on the red berries that are visible in the picture.

After a two-hour hike, we returned on the same road where we had seen the bear.  He was still there.  Dianne joined a different set of onlookers as she snapped pictures --- trying to get a good one from a safe distance.

The bear ambled to bushes full of berries, ate for a while, then moved on to the next bush.  At one point a few people edged too close to the bear (not an intelligent thing to do).  The photo below shows the bear just after he surprised the people with an aggressive lunge.  I am surprised that one of the people who dove into her car did not injure an ACL when she made a right-hand turn around the car.  

"Hey!  Back off!  I mean it!"

As we slowly departed the drama, I was driving right next to the ambling bear.  Dianne was able to get a short movie of those last moments.


The hiking that we have done at Jasper National Park has been a bit shorter than our normal 3+ mile-long hikes.  It has also been very level (something that Dianne likes).  Most of the hikes involved walking to a specific location so we could gawk at the wonders of the park.  However, we did get a few hiking pictures along the way.

This shot is of Bandido and me at the outset of the  Mary Schaffer Trail through the woods and along Maligne Lake.  We have some beautiful pictures of the lake that we will post in another blog.

The Maligne Lake trek required careful foot placement so as to avoid tripping over the tree roots that were with us for the entire hike.  It also involved a lot of singing to scare off any bears that we did not want to surprise:

Bears Bears Bears Bears
Bears Bears Bears Bears
S-t-a-y away from the Trail, Bears
Stay away from the T-r-a-i-l
We don't want you near
Cause we have great fear
S-t-a-y away from the trail.......   

(Eye roll -- D.)

The picture below was taken along the Athabasca River when we wandered away from the crowds at the waterfall.  

On one day we decided to try something a little different.  The work camper who checked us in at our campground, told us about a boardwalk trail through a colony of beaver in nearby Hinton.  What a great suggestion.

Three kilometers of boardwalk elevated us above this scenic wetland.

The residents of the town of Hinton introduced beaver to the wetland 20 years ago, and constructed the boardwalk over the water.

We arrived too late in the morning to actually see any beaver, but the evidence of their work was everywhere.  They have been busy.

The plant-life underneath the clear waters of the wetland was lush.

Water clear as glass....

What a relaxing walk in a tranquil place...

... So quiet.  So peaceful.  Time to head back to the car.  Uh-Oh!  The quiet ends.  This guy was guarding the exit.

This cute little guy could not possibly cause any kind of ruckus.

What you don't see in the picture is this:

"I'm not afraid of a red-and-white dog; think I'll come a little closer"

...And closer still....

Boy, those dogs can be LOUD, even the red-eared one!   Guess I'll stay up here for a bit.


View from our big front windshield
We are staying at the KOA Hinton/Jasper.  It is a 45 minute drive to the town of Jasper in the national park (15 minutes to the park boundary).  Although we did not care for the repeated long (but beautiful) drives to Jasper, this is the fourth park in a row where we have been very happy.  We have a large site with full hookups, including TV.  We need to walk 20 feet to a gazebo to get a good wifi connection, but that is very doable, especially with the expansive mountain views.  The staff here is very helpful and friendly.  The nearby town of Hinton is not crowded, and has convenient gasoline and a nice grocery store.  The dogs are happy here, too.  Check out the agility course in the enclosed dog park.

The sunset views through the front and side windows, visible from our recliners, have been amazing --- even though sunset is at 9:45 p.m. :-)

It doesn't get dark here until around 11:00 p.m., and it's already daylight at 5:00 p.m.   Long days!

Our next post will include lake and mountain views from our time at Jasper National Park.

My buddy, Bandido, watching me.  He must want something.