HAHAHA. I just finished uploading some photos from my latest mountain adventure and it’s cute how I thought I’d be able to recap everything in one post. Perhaps you should grab a snack or a latte before proceeding. Brace yourself: tons of photos ahead!
In all the years I’ve been living in Alberta and exploring the Rockies, I’d never been to Jasper until this past weekend. Most tourists and Albertans favour Banff for it’s close proximity to Calgary, making Jasper feel like a hidden treasure. Although it requires more effort to get there, it’s definitely worth the extra hours in the car. The drive alone is spectacular.
Our road trip kicked off bright and early on Friday morning. We hit the road (from Canmore) around 10am and made a brief stop at Lake Louise for a photo op.
The snow-covered lake is quite the contrast to it’s brilliant shade of turquoise in the summer!
The drive between Lake Louise and Jasper is absolutely stunning and offers world-class views of the majestic Canadian Rockies. We traveled through the Columbia Icefields and Continental Divide, passing several glaciers, snow capped peaks and frozen waterfalls along the way.
That’s a glacier in the centre of the mountain.
Winter conditions can be treacherous and cars must be equipped with snow tires to complete the journey between Lake Louise and Jasper. (Snow tires and an SUV are the greatest purchases I’ve ever made!)
After 3.5-4 hours on the road, we arrived in Jasper eager to settle into our accommodations and kick off some weekend fun. Upon arrival, we were immediately greeted by some friendly locals who didn’t mind posing for a few photos.
The elk in Jasper are friendlier than the herds around Banff/Canmore. #Observations
Unfortunately, I don’t have much to report from our first evening. After checking into the hotel and exploring the resort, we had dinner then called it a night. We were tired! (I hate staying up late.)
THE “thing” I wanted to do most was delve into the depths of Maligne Canyon. The initial plan was to go off exploring on our own, but at the urging of the hotel’s concierge, booked a guided 2.5 hour tour with Maligne Adventures. For $70 per person, it included a shuttle, gear rental (boots + snow cleats) and an enthusiastic interpretive guide to show us the way. I actually preferred having a guide with us to educate us on the park’s history, geological formations, wildlife and so on. One of the first things he told us was that we were ‘going to see a lot of strange things in Maligne Canyon’. He was right.
Geo-thermal heat prevents sections of the river from freezing over. There were times when we could hear the river flowing underground underneath a seemingly “dry” or frozen river bed.
We witnessed a ton of frozen and flowing waterfalls. We even filled our water bottles with fresh spring water. I have Giardia now. (Kidding)
During our exploration, we climbed inside a cave that was breathing. I can’t remember the science behind it, or where the air was coming from, but it was warm and dusty. The cave was filled with crazy ice formations and crystals.
I know what you’re thinking. We’re all on the same page. I’m certain of it.
The entire experience overwhelmed these two boys. They kept taking breaks to hold each other tightly and sigh.
I lost count of how many waterfalls we climbed behind. I licked one. And ate ice crystals.
The view while looking up inside a cave
At one point, our tour guide said, “I’m going to go see if I can find my friend” and disappeared into the canyon. A few minutes later, he appeared with what I “think” is a marmot, but I’m not 100% sure. Anyone?
It was dead. And frozen. When it was my turn to hold Fluffy, I accidentally broke one of it’s claws off, but don’t tell anyone.
After spending a couple hours exploring the canyon, it was time to begin our ascent back to stable ground. During our walk back to the shuttle, I chatted with our guide about his time in Jasper and completely related to a couple things he said: “I haven’t been on vacation for over 8 years – I don’t need to!” and, “Some people are just mountain people!” I feel you, mountain man.
Pyramid Mountain looming in the background. Jasper is located in a valley, giving the mountains the appearance of being much higher than I’m used to. They looked so far away, too! At home, the base of the mountains are right at your feet.
And that concludes our tour of Maligne Canyon. I would definitely do it again and I’m already looking forward to a Summer 2015 trip to do some hiking in the area.
What’s the funnest tour you’ve ever been on?
Have you been to Jasper? Where are some of your favourite treasures within the park?
Tell me about your weekend! How’s your winter going so far?