We entered Jasper National Park in the late afternoon and set up our tent at the Pocahontas campground.
After spending many hours in the car we decided to visit the Miette hot springs and watch the sun down. The springs offer 40C warm water in outside pools with a fabulous view of the surrounding Fiddle valley. While the water comes from natural springs it is treated to reduce the Sulphur smell.
As we drove back to our campground that evening we spotted a young black bear at the side of the road. We stopped immediately and from the safety of our car watched and listened the young fellow grunting and chewing while stripping the roadside bushes. He was completely occupied with his bushes and did not let anything disturb him from his dinner 🙂
Next day we had one of our standard chocolate chip cookie and coffee breakfasts (yummie, yummie!) before we packed up our tent and continued driving into Jasper.
We visited Maligne Canyon which has dug into the rock by more than 50m and can be hiked downstream for several kilometers.
Picturesque Maligne Lake is a must see according to any guide book.
Some of the more tame wildlife:
And a Canadian Mounty which has quite some resemblance with Emilio from our FIRST lab, doesn’t he?
The mysterious Medicine Lake, which has no visible inlet or outlet and still empties every autumn and refills in spring of the following year.
And some mountain goats grazing at the banks:
On the way we had another encounter with a black bear. This time at bright day light.
And again the bear sat peacefully on the side of the road and stripped the leafs and berries off the bushes.
Then he decided to cross the street. He looked to the left and the right, just as he had learned in bear school.
And then quickly crossed the street right in front of us, before he disappeared in the brush. Probably off for more bushes…
I believe that was probably the closest we had ever gotten to a bear so far and surely an unforgettable experience!
We continued driving south until we arrived in the city of Jasper.
Jasper is located at the foot of mount Whistlers which can be “climbed” by gondola. We decided to hike up Whistlers and use the gondola on the way down.
After close to 3 hours of hiking up Whistlers we were rewarded with a great view.
Looking down at Jasper one can see that the layout of the town forms a “J”. Not sure if the city was intentionally laid out that way.
Panorama shot of the Jasper valley:
The two slightly exhausted hikers:
But reaching the gondola station was not yet the top of Whistlers. So we continued up the debris mound until we had really reached the top.
But even this was not the top of Whistlers yet…
The top-top was a huge rock and had to be climbed to claim reaching the summit 😉
Within only minutes some dark clouds appeared and it began to hail on us! It was really amazing and also a little scary how fast the weather changed. However we can’t claim they didn’t warn us…
After taking the gondola down we past a herd of elk crossing the river on the way to our campground. The water was so deep, that the youngest elk almost entirely disappeared under water, before showing up on the other side of the river.
And as most of the nights we had an amazing sundown from our 12$ overflow campground.
The next day started off with a clear blue and almost cloudless sky.
As for most days, clouds started gathering in the afternoon without loosing a single drop.
Here a single cloud has gone astray and placed itself over the peak of this mountain.
Next stop were the Athabasca Falls. They really look and sound impressive when you are standing in front of them and the water is thunderously roaring into the abyss with the fine spray providing a welcome cooling. Unfortunately our picture doesn’t capture all of that 😉
On the outflow side of the falls the turbulent waters colored greyisch from the glacial flour, pours out into the river and provides a beautiful contrast to the blue sky…
Some of the water-carved canyons can even be walked.
Those few drops of spray were nothing compared to the next water which was about to hit us on our rafting adventure. We had signed up for a class 2-3 white water rafting tour on the Sunwapta river. Rafting on that icy-cold glacier river was so much fun and for sure one of the highlights of our Jasper experience. See for yourself!
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the sexy dry suits we got to wear 😉
Our recommendation if you ever get the chance to go rafting: Do it!
On campgrounds we usually cook dinner ourselves, for example bell peppers fried in olive oil and later mixed with couscous and spices:
In the mornings we enjoyed grabbing breakfast in local places, for example Smithy’s in Jasper. While Andy preferred more the hearty breakfasts, e.g. egg Benedict on a bagel with tomato and bacon
Tini was more the sweet tooth and there is not much that could get between her and her blueberry pancakes in the morning 🙂
After a couple days around Jasper we continued down south, towards Banff National Park.
Passed majestic mountains:
The Sunwapta Falls:
The Endless Mountain Chain followed the road on the left side for hours.
And Tangle Ridge:
Eventually we reached the Athabasca Glacier.
In their visitor center Martina made friends with two park rangers:
That night we shared a camp site with Doug from Calgary. He was kind enough to offer us the tent space as the campsite was entirely full and he slept inside his van anyway.
Next morning we started exploring the Glacier.
For everybody wanting to get really close and on the ice, there are special glacier busses that drive you right up and onto the ice.
Continuing down south we entered Banff National Park.
And hiked Parker’s Ridge.
From the top we enjoyed a great view of the valley we had been driving through.
As well as of the Saskatchewan Glacier.
On our way up we got to know Antje and Elias, a friendly couple from Germany.
More impressions from the top of the ridge:
The highest point of the Icefields Parkway is Bow Summit (2115m) and provides a great viewpoint of the valley we’ve been driving through.
We continued heading on towards Banff.
With all the mountains around, it is interesting to know, that starting in 1899 the Canadian Pacific Railway started employing Swiss mountain guides. One of them being Edward Feuz. It is said that over the years the Swiss guides introduced an attitude about mountains and a disposition towards climbing that gradually changed the way many Canadians and Americans thought about their summits.
On our way to Banff we stopped by the famous Lake Louise which is a glacier lake. It is fed by meltwaters of six glaciers at the head of the valley. The turquoise and vivid blue color of the lake originates from the rock flour which is very fine glacier ground rock and absorbs all other colors of the sunlight.
The ice in the center of the picture is the Victoria glacier and the mountain right behind it is Victoria Mountain.
And the quite famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise which was built in 1912 and is located right at the lake.
One of the most striking issues since we had entered Jasper and Banff were the many people visiting. Here for example the view of Lake Louise from few meters behind the lake.
Compared to Alaska these parks are very popular and very well visited. It does take some getting used to the crowds of people pouring out of the busses at all major sights. The only way to escape the crowds is to hike into the country and/or avoid the big attractions.
From Lake Louise we hiked up to Lake Agnes Tea House which was apparently not quite far enough yet to avoid all of the people…
Up at Lake Agnes we enjoyed the magnificent view of the lakes and the valley. The lake was named after Canada’s first First Lady, Lady Agnes MacDonald, the wife of Canada’s first Prime Minister. She visited the lake in 1886 and was delighted by the beauty of this idyllic lake and the hanging valley it sits in.
The tea house itself was built in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway as an added attraction for guests of the Chateau Lake Louise and began serving tea in 1905. They offer more than 100 different types of teas in front of the stone fireplace used to heat the water, if you are lucky enough to get a seat…
Waiting for a seat in the tea house we enjoyed the view while sipping on a warm cup of hot chocolate. Later on we managed to get seats and tried one of the delicious teas.
A golden mantled ground squirrel hoping for visitors to feed him.
That afternoon we drove on to Moraine Lake, but unfortunately it started drizzling and we didn’t stay very long.
Despite the afternoon drizzle we decided to camp in Banff.
We made some delicious flat bread on our campfire grill (which Tini managed to ignite despite the rain) and stuffed it with bell peppers we fried in olive oil. The only way to find out if the meal was so delicious or we so hungry, will probably be to re-cook it back home…
The toasting and turning of the flatbread obviously required a high level of concentration 😉
We finished supper with some delicious BBQ popcorn prepared on the charcoal.
Next day we took the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola up and into the mountains. From here we had a magnificent view of the surroundings.
And could even see Lake Louise.
On the way down with the gondola we were happy to have started the trip early and without any queuing. The press of people at this time was enormous.
For these four young women the gondola experience seemed rather frightening…
Whereas these young fellows seem to enjoy it a lot more 🙂
From Lake Louise we drove to the city Banff.
Here we restocked our supplies and also had to buy Andy a new pair of swim trunks. The white water rafting tour had demanded its tribute and ripped the old trunks to a non repairable state 🙁
To avoid nasty comments let me clarify, that the damage happened while changing after the rafting. Andy will however miss his light weight, quick dry and small pack (and eleven years old) swim trunks!
After successful swim trunk shopping we enjoyed some drinks.
For dinner we went to a very interesting place serving mainly pizza and Mexican food. Andy had a very delicious pizza with gyros and salad toppings. It was very spicy and before eating it, one would drip a sweet honey marinade over each piece. Very delicious!
Tini’s Fajitas were at least as delicious.
On one of the other nights we had Sushi in a running Sushi place. The chef prepared the Sushi right in front of us before he placed it on the train wagons driving the plates around in circles.
Banff by night:
In Banff we also saw a truly Canadian McDonalds. How could we tell? See for yourself…
We took the gondola up Sulphur mountain and a short walk up to the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station:
From up here we shared a stunning view over Banff and the neighboring valleys.
We weren’t the only ones enjoying the view!
Back down in the valley we enjoyed a soak in the Sulphur mountain hot springs before we hit the road and left Banff National Park.
We passed the Spiral Tunnels.
In order to avoid too steep of an inclination of the tracks the tunnel was looped and located into the mountain. Long trains can be watched as they leave the tunnel on the one end of the tunnel while part of the train is still entering the tunnel on the other end.
We made an afternoon picnic stop at Emerald Lake.
And stopped by the Natural Bridge of the Kicking Horse River formed by the water cutting through the limestone.
After crossing Rogers Pass of Glacier National Park…
we continued on towards Vancouver. After several hundred kilometers and some more minor stops we arrived in Vancouver and again met Yashar. He was kind enough to have received some packages for us. Together we enjoyed some delicious Sushi and saw Wolverine in the Cinema. Next day we returned the rental car after driving almost 12800km with it and headed to the bus leaving for Seattle.
If you’re still interested in the Jasper & Banff story, keep on reading!
Jasper National Park was established in 1907 and named after the former Hudson’s Bay Company fur trade post established in 1813.
In 1940 the scenic Icefields Parkway opened, connecting the towns of Jasper and Banff.
Banff was first settled in the 1880s, after the transcontinental railway was built. In 1883 three Railway workers stumbled upon a series of natural hot springs in the vicinity of Sulfur Mountain. In 1885, Canada established a federal reserve of 26 km^2 around the hot springs, and began promoting the area as recreational to support the new railway. In 1887, the reserve area was increased to 673 km^2 and named “Rocky Mountain Park.” This was the beginning of Canada’s National Park system.
In 1884 the area was named Banff after Banffshire in Scotland, the birthplace of the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway.