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26 July - 9 Aug 2015 Canada - Alberta - Jasper

Sunday 26th July

Bright and sunny morning with good views of the Rockies. Took Sandy for a walk along one of the forest trails around the camp. This is her favourite type of walk, where she can bound in and out of the forest undergrowth. Went out of town south-east past the Grand Cache lake and Willmore Wilderness Park. The road was very quiet, a few pickups and a couple of logging trucks. Across the Athabasca River Bridge we came to the small community of Entrance and a railroad crossing overpass. We turned onto Canadian Highway 16 west towards Jasper National Park.

At the Park entrance we bought an annual pass. There is a charge per day for being in the National Park and as we were staying for a while and then going on to Banff National Park it worked out more economical for us to have the annual pass. We came across a small herd of bighorn sheep perched on rock face at the side of the road.

The mountain and river views are spectacular

as we followed the pale blue Athabasca River towards Jasper. In the distance we could see cars parked on either side of the road, as we slowed down I spotted a large brown bear foraging in the grass a little way from the road. The park rangers were present with guns. We pulled over and heard two shots ring out.

They had fired them off to scare the bear away from the highway. At last our first sight of a wild grizzly bear. We went into the Visitor Centre in Jasper and Parks Canada were very good as we have found before. We soon came out armed with lots of things to do and campground information. Jasper is an all year round destination, tourists in summer and skiers in winter. It is a low rise town with some nice traditional style buildings, rail station and a compact town centre so that everything is walkable. We booked in at the Wapiti (means Elk) Campground just outside town on the Icefields Parkway. The campground is set at the side of the Athabasca River in amongst the forest. We have a nice mountain view and a meadow nearby which is good for Sandy to run around.

Monday 27th July

It was a lovely sunny mountain morning and we went into Jasper for a walk around and a look at the shops. Whilst there we booked a whitewater rafting trip for 2:30 this afternoon on the Sunwapta River. We met our driver from Jasper Rafting Adventures and the rest of the group in Jasper and set off in a retired yellow school bus

for the 45 minutes journey along the Icefields Parkway to where the rafts are launched. We had a briefing and had to sign the usual waiver in case of accidents etc. We were split into groups of six and introduced to the guides who would be the helmsmen at the back of the raft. We were in the raft with a family from Cardiff, Mum, Dad and two teenage daughters. All the outdoor clothing was supplied and we put on sleeveless wetsuits,

over-jacket, boots and helmet then down to the water to board the raft. All the guides were really nice young guys, lively, happy and ready for a laugh and a joke but also very professional. Our guide was Jake and once we were in the raft – the two girls at the front, Robin and Nia in the middle, Tony and me on the back seat – he went through a few instructions on how to sit, paddle forward and backward, lean in, sit down in the middle etc. The journey begins where the river narrows into a tight canyon with large waves and swift moving water. For a while we had a nice drift along while Jake told us about the surrounding countryside and the mountains, the animals and we practiced our raft skills. The water is fresh and clean, grey/blue and opaque, this is because it is a glacial river and the silt that comes down off the glacier gives it colour and denseness. Some of the water was freshly melted within the last 24 hours and therefore it was fairly cold. The whitewater is graded depending on degree of difficulty which can depend on how many boulders and rocks need to be maneuvered around on the way. Our first stretch of whitewater was rated as category ll. We all paddled when instructed and got through it very well with Jake doing a great job on the steering. As we progressed the water flow speeded until we reached category lll water. Well, the girls in the front got a thorough dousing. At times the boat was side on and that’s when I got covered in water which made its way over the neck of my wetsuit, I can also confirm the purity of the water as I got a couple of mouth fulls. We had lots of fun and thrills until we finally stopped along the river bank. For the last stretch each raft went on individually because we were now entering Catergoty lll+ water and it was important we did not miss the exit point. If we went past the exit point then we would be heading for Sunwapta Falls and a long fast, furious drop. They had saved the best for the last, this was an exciting stretch of river and we all paddled furiously to ensure we missed the rocks and kept going forward to the exit point. Wow, what an afternoon, a wonderful trip through the wilderness with mountain scenery all around us on a pristine river with a great crew of people who looked after us really well.

When we got back Sandy was pleased to see us and enjoyed a good run around the meadow chasing the ball.

Tuesday 28th July

This morning it was dull and cloudy as we started on our 40 kilometer drive up to Maligne Lake. The scenery was wonderful, rivers, canyons and sharply peaked mountains all the way.

When we arrived at the lake we had a look around but did not stay too long because it was very crowded, it is a popular spot for coach tours etc with boat trips on the lake to Spirit Island. On the way back we stopped off at Medicine Lake a beautiful blue lake and very quiet.

Just down the road was the charred evidence of a resent forest fire. The blackened trees and devastation was quite wide spread. The fire is believed to have started by a lightning strike that caused fire to smolder underground for several days be igniting the forest.

The road had opened again very recently on the 22nd July.

Wednesday 29th July

Stayed around camp today and caught up on a few chores and relaxed.

Thursday 30th July

A nice clear blue sky morning. We decided it would be a good day to take the Skytram up Whistlers Mountain – the name comes from the sound Marmots make when they are threatened, they live in amongst the rocks on the mountain. There was an interpreter on the Skytram advising us what we were seeing and pointing out places of interest as we climbed higher and higher.

We were lucky to get a glimpse of Mount Robson - the top was just peeking through the cloud - which is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.

When we reached the end of the cable there was a café and shop and we had a fine view of Wapiti Campground and the river.

To reach the summit there is about an hour’s walk up a steep path but it is worthwhile, 360 degree views of the Rockies and the rivers and forests of Jasper laid out in front of you.

Before returning we stopped for a coffee and admired the view. This afternoon we went for a walk along the river that runs at the side of the campground. We were standing on a tiny bit of beach next to the river and Sandy had gone in for a swim. We heard a noise behind and turned to find a large female elk behind us who I think was surprised to see us there and she wasn’t quite sure what to do. We moved away as quick as we could and she then jumped onto the beach, into the water and started to jump about.

We moved up the bank and then another five elk came along. They all seemed quite young, some males were in the group with small antlers. They came along the bank frisking about, one of them picked up a bag of charcoal off a picnic table until the owner shouted out then he dropped it. They all ran off to a large beach further down the river. They really did seem to be having a lark. It was great to get such a close view of these wild animals, we would not usually get so near, especially with the dog but it just came out of the blue.

Friday 31st July

Another nice day today and we stayed around camp this morning. Went into Jasper this afternoon to the Visitor Centre. The building was once the Park administrative office dating from 1914 and is built like an old stone lodge.

The original fireplace from the living quarters is still there.

Later we went down to the river for a paddle and stick throwing for Sandy.

It is such a nice evening we decided to eat at one of the picnic tables in the campground near to the dell where Sandy loves to run and just opposite where we are parked.

We noticed a lone female elk that had been wandering around the open meadow. She came quite close to us as she walked through the campground.

Saturday 1st August

Went into Jasper to do some washing at the laundromat which handily is also an internet café which meant that we got some wifi and had a nice cappuccino whilst waiting for the washing. We like Jasper so much we have decided to stay another week. It has everything within a reasonably short distance, beautiful mountains, rivers, lakes, wilderness, wildlife, a nice town, good campsites and plenty to do. Back at the campground we went down to the river and sat on the beach in the sunshine watching the rafters drifting by.

Sunday 2nd August

Another lovely day. We packed a picnic and went to see Athabasca and Sunwapta River falls. We turned out of the campground left along Icefields Parkway and came to Athabasca falls first. There is a nice trail across the river and along the falls with interpretive signs ex plaining how the falls were formed. The power of the water is incredible and the way it has worn the granite walls away to make canyons of fast flowing water.

This is a holiday weekend in Canada and it was very busy so we moved on and found a quiet spot by the river for our picnic.

Next to Sunwapta falls where we would have ended up if we had not got off the river when we were whitewater rafting. There is quite a drop over the falls and a large boulder in the middle of it. Some of the area is fenced but there are warnings when walking around not to risk going too near the edge and that if you fell in there was little chance you would come out alive due to hypothermia apart from other things.

Monday 3rd August

Spent the morning around the camp enjoying the weather. The view from the front of the RV is Whistlers Mountain and the Skytram station at the top.

Ground level is a view into the forest where the picnic tables are and ‘Sandy’s’ dell, her favourite running place. To our right is the meadow and in the distance the Victoria Cross and Pyramid Ranges.

After lunch we went into Jasper for a look around the shops, to find some WiFi and get supplies. This evening we decided it was about time we built a fire out in the forest to cook our food. Each picnic table is supplied with a BBQ set up for cooking and a supply of logs for the fire. We set about chopping wood and eventually got the fire going but it was slow process. A very nice French/Canadian man supplied us with a good piece of well-cut kindling which helped a lot. The chicken and baked potatoes cooked really well.

Tuesday 4th August

Very windy during the night but nice bright calm morning. Went to the Cottage Medical Centre in Jasper. Tony needs some more statins and requires a prescription. The doctor he saw has moved here from the Lake District. We tried to get Sandy into the Vets for her annual booster shot but there is only one vet in town and there was no chance until the 19th August. Thanks to the Whistler Inn pub we have found some good free wifi so we spent some time there but then spent a few dollars on snacks and drinks. We have found cost of living here is better than in the US due to the exchange rate of the Canadian dollar for the pound. There was quite a lot of lightening after dark, I think we are in for a storm.

Wednesday 5th August

Torrential rain through part of the night and most of the morning, I would not like to have slept in a tent last night. Eventually the rain stopped and we went into Jasper.

Thursday 6th August

Cloudy morning that turned to light but steady rain, nevertheless, we decided to take a walk down the Athabasca River trail from the campsite. The river was running high after all the rain. We could see from the tree bark that had been eaten that the elk have been down the trail recently. The trail came out near the road at one stage and through the trees we could see a small herd of elk running along the grass verge. A few vehicles had stopped to watch them and a couple of girls in high viz vests were guiding the elk across the road through the traffic. The elk seemed determined to cross the road despite the traffic around. The literature and signs about the park often remind us, the visitors, that we share the trails and roads with the animals and we are using the pathways that were originally created by them. We continued on past Alpine Village which has really smart log cabin accommodation, along the river and across the Miette River Bridge where the green Miette joins the blue/grey Athabasca. From here we turned right up onto a ridge overlooking the river, through the grounds of Tarassa Lodge. Lots of little Chickadee’s flying about on the ground pecking about for food. The next section of the walk was called Red Squirrel trail, especially for Sandy. This bought us back around to re-trace our steps to the campground via a different trail away from the river. Here we went through more open forest and came upon an interpretive sign that advised this area was where elk gave birth in the spring time and to be especially careful when female elk and calves are about. After our long walk we had a quiet afternoon, Tony was pleased to have completed the walk without too much trouble due to ongoing knee pain and tendon problems in one heel. For dinner we had one of our favourite meals burgers with all the fixings.

Friday 7th August

Went into Jasper, put some washing in at the laundromat and got some of their excellent coffee and sat outside in the sunshine. At 1100 I went off to Nava Hair and Beauty for a cut and highlights. Billie did my hair, she has been in Jasper for a couple of years, originally from Vancouver Island. I had a nice relaxing time and also managed to fit in a pedicure. In the evening we went up to Jasper Park Lodge for dinner. This was to be my ‘official’ birthday meal because we were on the road travelling back from Alaska on the actual date. Although we had stayed in a lovely place on the 19th July the dinner we had wasn’t great so tonight we went to Orso Restaurant at Jasper Park Lodge and sat out on the terrace overlooking the lake, the food, service and the view was excellent

and we got talking to a lovely family on the next table, David, Theresa and their son Andrew. We had lots of good conversation and laughs and Andrew was very knowledgeable about cars and Top Gear. They are here on holiday before visiting California where they used to live and then back to Shanghai where they live at the moment.

Saturday 8th August

Sunny morning with partial cloud. We drove down to the river on the 93a and crossed over an old iron bridge and parked where the rafts launch at the start of the Old Fort Point trail. It was a steep walk up for quite a while were we had great views of the river 130 meters up.

At the top we could see Jasper town and the beautiful deep blue/green Beauvert Lake at Jasper Park Lodge, where we were last night.

As we started to descend the landscape changed. There was a warning notice about fire damaged trees and their instability. We came across trees with no foliage and gaps in the forest. Because of the fire damage the sun could reach the forest floor and there was an abundance of wild flowers, rosehips and some interesting fungi.

We came to bedrock hills with fern covered glades.

We eventually came back down to the Athabascan River where Sandy had a good drink and a swim, although we had to be careful because the river was running fast.

Sunday 9th August

Went canoeing on Pyramid Lake which is about 5km outside of Jasper. The lake was like glass, quiet and peaceful with Pyramid Mountain as the back drop. We paddled around the lake and watched the loons flying in and out, took in the scenery and the reflections of the sky and mountains in the lake.

We had lunch at the Pines Restaurant that overlooked the water.

The weather had been warm and sunny whilst we were on the lake but as we sat down and glanced out of the window we could see the clouds gathering and the next thing it was heavy rain and thunder. The water started to chop up and we could see someone in a rowing boat on the far shore baling out the boat. It is just incredible how quickly the weather can change in the mountains. On the way back to Jasper we saw a young grizzly bear in a wide grassy opening in the forest. As it was young we expected big mother bear to be about but we didn’t see her.

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