May 26, 2008

Jasper Provincial Park!

The final segment of the Icefields Parkway dropped steeply in elevation as we neared Jasper. The fresh grass and flowers along the roadside lured many animals from their winter’s den, including this first sighting of a black bear.

The fabulous scenery continued to unfold after each & every turn, delighting us with numerous crystal green & blue lakes, like Muncho below...many having pockets of ice still showing.

We stopped for lunch at Mt Robins, which had a nice visitor’s center, and a great view of the 14000-plus foot giant that is a favorite of late summer climbers. This early in the year, it rarely breaks free of the clouds, and is subject to hypothermia inducing storms with little or no warning to climbers.

We arrived at Whistler’s Campground just short of the small town of Jasper late in the afternoon. By now, we’re starting to get used to the longer days, allowing us to plan for more activities along a route. The Campground was surprisingly clean and nice. Large spaces between campsites, surrounded by spring colored aspens provided an ideal backdrop for this first evening’s fire, and a little refreshment, of course.
(oh, and free firewood!)

Yes, it didn’t take us long to decide that this place deserved at least three night’s stay!

Next day we were off to Sunwapta Falls, a nearby picturesque example of the many that abound in these Rockies. An easy hike, we spent a little extra time taking pictures from almost every angle.

There was a bridge and trail that led to the “downside” of the falls area, where fast waters over past centuries had etched a small slot canyon into the walls. Nature completed the rest of the scene with an array of colorful plants & lichens.

Bob found a nice view of the River down below, which with a little encouragement, I would have loved to paddle. The rapids, however, are a bit too much for a canoe, and the raft rentals were very pricey (well, like most things in Canada!)

While combing the shore below Bob found an array of Inukshuk cairns and it wasn’t long before he and Joy were leaving their territorial mark on the landscape.

The next day led us to a contrasting area of finger lakes, interesting flora and grassy meadows…Five Lakes. This string of glacial lakes is linked by a 3 mile trail that starts off with a long, long boardwalk across a swampy meadow. Although we didn’t see any on the hike, no doubt that earlier ths morning, elk were grazing just off to either side.

Just past the elevated crossing, we began to notice these tiny but beautiful orchids, often growing in clumps of a dozen or more. A few interesting birds were seen along the way also, maybe one day I’ll talk Bob into starting a separate blog just for his excellent birding photos. I also noticed an early elk or mule deer had found the perfect tree to “rub” …makes me wonder when the rut is here?

Joy had boasted about this being an easy hike, “level” you know…well, maybe level between the steep hills! Anyway after a bit longer walk than expected, we got our first glimpse of “Lake 5” (the trail leads bottom to top order). Kim found that Five was no exception, again delighting us with those impressive colors!

Between each lake lay an area of shallow waters that gave a marshy appearance, with a mineral stain hue….

As we walked back towards the start of the loop, my attention shifted to the smaller side of things again, noticing an array of variety in areas of rich loam.

The boardwalk view from the return gives one the feeling of just how vast and diverse this area is, contrasting the spring meadow below against the ice-capped mountain in the distance…the end of another great day!

Our final day in the Jasper area found us in this quaint Alps-like village. It was nice to have that European feel to things as we walked around enjoying a break from the great outdoors. As we passed the train station, the large town totem reminded us that we weren’t in the Swiss Alps, but the native lands of Canada….