On on to Jasper Town and to hook up with our Earthroamer buddies Brenda and Garth. First stop on our early start is Peyto Lake.
is Peyto LaThe lake is a stunning colour and we thought we would be lucky enough being there at 7am to have the place to ourselves...alas no! The first coach load had already arrived...we jostled for position and then waited 10 minutes until the group had been rounded up by the master of ceremonies and herded back on to the bus....ahhhhh....peace at last.
The stunningly beautiful Peyto Lake...even in dreary cloud.
As we climbed up the Parkway to the Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefield we saw the cloud coming down. By the time we past the visitors center there were probably 25 or 30 coaches already disgorging their occupants, ready to go on to the glacier....visibility was down to 200 to 250 feet. By the time we reached the highest point a mile further on, it was down to less than 50 feet and not a glacier in sight. There were going to be a great many disappointed tourists this day.
We had realized that it may be difficult to get into the campgrounds around Jasper at this time of year, but what we were surprised to find is that the Canada Parcs reservation system is far from reliable (this would not be the first time that what it says online is not necessarily the real position). In fact they tend to “overcook” things and are very quick to put up the ‘FULL” sign without giving you any alternatives. Fortunately we decided to try our luck at Wapiti Camp and much to our surprise were informed at the gate they had an overflow park with plenty of spaces. In fact the two nights we stayed here the parking area was never full….hmmmm.
Anyway, we were really looking forward to exploring the Jasper area, and despite the weather being on the cloudy side at least it was dry. So after getting Big Henry settled in we jumped on our bikes and hit one of the mountain bike trails back into the town along the river bank. Now,…this is all down to me….I picked up the track very close to the riverside, not appreciating that there was a much easier and more suitable track for us a little closer to the main road….it was tough going for two very inexperienced mountain bikers, and our bikes are really hybrids so more suited to good gravel tracks and roadwork than more hardcore rocks, tree roots and steep down and uphill climbs…I think for the first two kilometers we probably walked and pushed more than we rode. Good exercise though...that was my excuse and I was sticking to it.
Into Jasper Town and we liked very much what we saw. Found a great little coffee shop, with the best coffee we had had since leaving Ozo in Boulder (still not as good though Greg!). With the bikes secured we proceeded to explore the town, hit the information center and picked up loads of pamphlets and maps on the area….excellent.
Garth and Brenda arrived just before lunch on Saturday morning….good timing! We had a quick catch up over some lentil soup and sandwiches in Big H. and then got on our hiking gear and headed out to Five Lakes Trail just south of town….. for a short 3 hour afternoon stroll….more time to catch up on each others news...the track being a Saturday was quite busy.
That evening we were invited to have dinner with Brenda and Garth at Jasper Lodge where they were staying....bit of a rare event and a treat for us…unfortunately after a nice sunny sit on the deck initially for drinks the weather turned again and forced us to retreat inside for dinner….had an excellent rabbit "steak"....and so did The Blonde....who announced she quite liked the taste but the meat felt "squeaky" on her teeth?!
The beautiful deck at Jasper Park Lodge
Following morning we drove Big H. back to Jasper Park Lodge to meet up for brunch and a bike ride. Rory, Brenda and Garth's youngest boy joined us for brekkie as well. Unfortunately I had tweaked my knee the day before and so did not feel it wise to bike…the others all set off and I drove Big H. down to Brenda’s family lodge on the lakeside where I met up with other members of the family. Couple of hours later we were all back together again and enjoying the best weather we had had this week so far, chilling out lake side….Brenda and The Blonde jumped into a canoe and headed out for an hours paddle…it was so still hardly a ripple n the lake….great reflections…an elk moseyed through the water to a small island just 200 meters away from us…had a feed…and then moseyed back.
It was time for Garth and Brenda to make their long journey back to Grand Prairie, we were so appreciative that they took time out of their busy schedule to make the almost 5 hour trip down to Jasper to see us and play for the weekend.
Following morning we headed south back down the Parkway….this had not been our intention but the weather had been so wet on the way up, to include a very foggy drive over the high point at the Columbia Icefield, we wanted to drive back down and do a hike now that the weather looked more favorable. It turned out to be a real stunner!
Wilcox Pass is located near the Columbia Icefields, 100kms south of Jasper and approximately 110kms north of Lake Louise. The east end trailhead is located at the entrance to the Wilcox Creek Campground where we managed to find a great site to camp. The weather was still a little overcast but the cloud had lifted and we were promised some “bright spells” later.
The hike to the lookout point over the Columbia Icefield, there and back, would normally take 3 hours, with quite a steep initial climb through the alpine forest before reaching the tundra….it took us 5 hours….and simply because it was such a stunning hike….gets up there in our top 10 for sure.
Amazing reflections walking through the tundra in Wilcox Pass.
Great idea....Red Chairs donated to the National Park made from recycled plastic.
The amazing overlook point to the Columbia Icefield
We had a number of "encounters" along the hike...probably the most exciting was the small herd of Big Horn Sheep who decided they wanted to share the track with us....the rams were very much "in their own territory"..."so get off the track and out of our way"!!
Back at camp and a family from Namibia were camped up behind and came for an inspection of Big H. We shared some stories with them of our travels there a few years back...they were loving Canada and were planning to return taking more time to explore....seeing so much greenery and the flora in general was a big thrill for them. All they wanted....was to take back just one large lake with them!