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.