|After leaving the Icefields Center we finished the drive to Jasper, the second half of which was equally as beautiful as the first half. We are staying at a wonderfully wooded RV Park, which has numerous elk (all female, as we found out, since it is calving season and the males are all off at a bar somewhere) just wandering around. We took numerous pictures of several that were very close to our campsite and very well acclimated to the presence of people. Our neighbors told us that there had been several calves born over the past couple of nights in a wooded area less than 100 yards away, so we feel like we’re staying in the maternity ward!
Our second day in Jasper we decided to take the boat tour on Lake Maligne, which has just started running for the season, now that the ice is off the lake. We made a reservation for an afternoon trip and on the way stopped at several points along the canyon to look at waterfalls along the river. From the main Maligne Canyon visitor center we took a short hike down the canyon to the third of six bridges from which one can look down into a slot canyon. There is a great deal of water flowing through the canyon at this time because of the amount of runoff, not to mention to the nearly constant rain that has fallen over the past few days. The waterfalls are impressive and memorable. We spent quite a bit of time oohing and ahing, not to mention taking photographs.
The boat trip turned out to be a great way to see the lake, particularly with light rain and cool temperatures. The boat is enclosed, with a guide giving information and tidbits about the area along the way and pointing out several impressive glaciers in the distance. We went to the famous spot from which the iconic photographs have been taken of Spirit Island, a very small island some ways down the lake. We got off the boat for about ten minutes, enough time to take several photographs while fighting off swarming midges and other tourists. Then it was back on the boat for the return trip. It sounds much duller than it actually was, and we highly recommend the trip. We returned to the campground for another evening watching the elk.
The next day, as we were preparing to leave for a drive back along the Icefields Parkway to look at several impressive waterfalls, we were diverted by the spectacle of an elk giving birth in the trees right in front of our truck. Brian was the first to spot the activity and by the time we got out, cameras at the ready, the calf was already born and the mother was in the process of cleaning up. We watched for about an hour as the mother cleaned the calf, the calf took its first wobbly steps and began nursing, after which we figured we could leave them to get on with the adjustment. It was an amazing thing to see, especially for a couple of city folk who have no experience with animal births. We have now seen a number of calves around the campground, all very young, but this is a first.
After this experience the waterfalls seemed ordinary, but in fact are anything but! Athabasca Falls are huge, powerful and noisy, not to mention wet and cold, with the spray covering everything nearby. We spent some time viewing it from several angles and then moved on.
Sunwapta Falls were next and, although impressive, were something of an anticlimax, partly because the viewpoints are more removed from the actual falls than at Athabasca. Our last stop on this waterfall tour was at Tangle Falls, which we had seen on our drive to Jasper but had not had time to stop at. It’s a very unusual waterfall, with several flows coming together and separating again (hence the name “Tangle”). Getting a good photograph is a challenge because of the large number of people who stop to gawk, climb up the path along the side and take pictures of each other standing in front of the falls. But we did our best.
We returned to Jasper, hoping to catch a glimpse of what we now thought of as “our” calf, but they had moved on to another area. We did, however, see a mother and calf the next day that we believe to be the same calf we had watched being born. At this point, the calf, having definitely learned to use its legs, was leaping and playing with abandon displayed only by baby animals and young cats. It was perfectly charming.
The next couple of days we spent pretty much housebound, as it rained constantly. We had wanted to go back to Maligne Canyon, as well as a couple of picturesque lakes in the area, but shelved the plans because of the cold and rain. We went into town a couple of times for brunch at an internet café we had found, so we could check e-mail and other information on the internet, as we can’t get reception for our internet satellite at the campground. We were not able to make a journal posting, however, because of the difficulty of getting pictures uploaded.
This is a beautiful area, and more populated with tourists than we’ve seen so far, but doesn’t show itself off to best advantage in the rain. Although our pictures seem to be turning out a uniform shade of gray and don’t contain the fluffy white clouds and blue skies we’ve seen in the picture books and on postcards, we can supply those things with our imaginations. It’s an area we’ve both wanted to see for years and we’re happy to be here, if cold and wet.
We have noticed since we’ve been in Canada that most of the RVs we are seeing are rental units. We suspect many of them are driven by Europeans who have flown in and rented campers to see the country, but many also seem to be driven by Americans and Canadians who had the same idea. Given the vast distances it makes sense, but we’re still astonished at the sheer number of rental units we’re seeing on the road. Many of the rest seem to be Americans on their way to Alaska, and we’ve met several whom we hope to see somewhere else along the road, as we all will be going to the same places, although on somewhat different schedules. There does seem to be a connection between travelers going to Alaska (the Escapees web site forum has a special thread dedicated to RVers going to Alaska); it’s as if we’re all moving into uncharted waters and welcome any reassurance from those that have gone ahead of us. Regardless of the fact that there are hundreds of people traveling to Alaska by RV every year – it still “where no man has gone before”.. .