The trip from Banff to Jasper, AB is one of the most beautiful drives in North America. It covered 185 miles and traveled the Icefields Parkway
for most of the trip. About halfway, you cross into Jasper National Park from Banff National Park. The scenery is remarkable as you view peak after peak and glacier after glacier. About halfway is also the Icefields Discovery Centre
positioned in an area that has five glaciers viewable from one spot. The largest of those five is the Athabasca Glacier
and they have specially configured buses that will take you out on to the glacier and let you hike a little on it. We didn't do that as it is very expensive and we have spent enough time hiking on glaciers when we went to Alaska in 2009. We did stop at the Discovery Centre for a little break as they have a huge parking lot and easy in and out access for the Mothership.
We are staying at Whistlers Campground
inside Jasper National Park
, just outside Jasper Townsite. We have a 30 amp full hookup site that is fairly large and very woodsy. We did see two elk in the campground shortly after arriving and one in someone's yard when we went into town. We were able to get a satellite lock but the signals are only strong enough to get the one satellite so we are restricted to SD and no HD reception, but I think we will survive!! We do have good Verizon reception but of course only use it for texting with an occasional short call. Our Global Verizon plan for Canada gives us unlimited texting but only 250 minutes of voice and 250 MB of data per month. We cannot do much with that so avoid voice or data use 99% of the time.
Thursday, we headed back down the parkway a bit to see Sunwapta Falls
and Athabasca Falls
, the two largest falls along the parkway. We did get to see two black bears on this trip, though very briefly. The Sunwapta River flows along the parkway from the Discovery Center down to where it joins the Athabasca River about 30 miles south of Jasper. Just before it joins the Athabasca, it goes through a gorge that constricts the flow and gives a pretty nice falls. After it joins the Athabasca, the Athabasca goes through another gorge and creates a dramatic display as it passes through it. It then parallels the Parkway the rest of the way into Jasper.
Friday, we hiked the Path of the Glacier Trail
a little south of Jasper. It is only a one-mile trail round trip but it is almost straight up going to the glaciers and then straight down coming back. It does get the heart beating! We also did this trail in 2009 and it has changed quite a bit. There used to be the three glaciers on Mount Edith Cavell: Angel, Ghost and Cavell. In 2012, what was left of the Ghost Glacier slid off the mountain and avalanched down into Cavell Pond just under the Cavell Glacier causing a flash flood and destroying a good bit of where the trail used to lead down to Cavell Pond. When we were here in2009 we hiked to the shores of Cavell Pond and if you check our 2009 blog entry for Jasper you can see pictures of the hike then. That trail is now closed off about a quarter-mile from the pond and you are not allowed down there as they fear a future avalanche as well.
It rained all day Saturday so we just stayed inside the Mothership and relaxed but Sunday we put over 120 miles on Libby as we journeyed west on highway 16 out to a small hike at the Pocahontas Mine
area. The trail wasn't significant, other than a few pretty wildflowers, but we did run into a herd of Bighorn Sheep going out and back so that made the trip worthwhile. Coming back east towards Jasper, we then turned back south to Medicine Lake
and Maligne Lake
. The area around Medicine Lake was where they had a significant fire just a couple of weeks ago and much of the road, though open, is still restricted to no stopping for a good distance around the lake due to avalanche danger. Medicine Lake itself is very beautiful with its blue-green glacier water though access to it now is very limited, including being able to stop and take pictures.
Just a few miles farther south is Lake Maligne which is a very popular destination. It is also fed by the same glacier stream and is larger than Medicine Lake. We were able to stop there and get a couple of decent pictures. On the way back into Jasper, we just missed a black bear sighting but were rewarded with a moose cow wandering down that same stream. She was a long way off but we managed to get a couple of shots from behind.
Monday we returned to the Lake Maligne Road and hiked the Maligne Canyon
. This was the highlight of all our hikes here in Jasper and also gave us the biggest workout, of course. Similar to the Johnston Canyon hike in Banff, it seems we saved the best for last! Remarkably, during our first visit to Jasper in 2009 we were not even aware the Maligne Canyon existed. We had traveled the Lake Maligne road, visited Lake Maligne and hiked the Moose Lake Trail
near it but were completely unaware of this gem. DO NOT miss it if you are ever in the area. It can be strenuous as you hike down the mountain next to the canyon which isn't very bad but what goes down must come up and that will get your heart pumping!
Today, Tuesday, was spent just puttering around the Mothership, getting this blog entry uploaded and posted, and getting ready for the trip back down the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louisa from which we will take Misty back to Calgary for her plane home. We will then stay in Lake Louise until we depart back in the USA to St. Mary, MT on August 5.