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.

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