The Rockies Rock (Part 3)
Trip Start May 06, 2010
79Trip End Dec 17, 2010
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The fascinating fact about Medicine Lake is that it actually vanishes every Autumn! The lake sits on a bed of underground caves through which the water drains into the lower valleys below. This is a continual process and water is constantly draining from the lake. In the summer snow melting from the mountains above means that more water enters the lake than drains out of it so the lake is evident and looks very full. However the changing seasons and colder temperatures in Autumn reverses this process until there comes a time when more water leaves than enters the lake and it entirely disappears leaving a canyon in it's place. It must be amazing to see it empty but I am rather glad I saw it full- it was too beautiful to miss
After taking some photos we pressed onto our next stop, Lake Maligne. This is another beautiful lake situated amongst beautiful mountains. There are many activities on offer here including a cruise and kayaking. The lake is large (14 miles long) and a boat is the best way to see it. We did have the option of doing a boat tour but having wasted money on the icefield yesterday I couldn't afford it which was a great shame because it would have been lovely. Spirit Island sits in the middle of the lake which is a well photographed part of the rockies, appearing in most calendars and most postcards which are produced of the area.
We walked along the lakeside path for about 20 minutes and then took a woodland trail back to the van. During this walk we came to tourist sign which highlighted Mary Schaffer. Mary Schaffer travelled extensively through Canada in the early 1900's. She was the first non native to do so and the first non native credited to visit Maligne Lake. She had heard of the lake from natives and had visited the area previously but due to weather conditions could not get through. During her travels she came across a native who had been there 14 years earlier and he drew her a map from memory. Using this sketch she later discovered the lake
Shelly also told us the story behind the Inuikshuiks which are stone sculptures which are seen throughout Canada. Like Mary Schaffer in the days before google earth and sat nav people actually had to think for themselves when they travelled and were wholly self reliant when it came to finding their way. Imagine that! Natives built stone sculptures along paths as a way of marking them to help subsequent travellers find their way and also to let those travellers know that they were not alone. They signified that other people had been there and experienced the feelings that those travellers were feeling and are a symbol of the human spirit offering friendship, guidance and protection. They were often put along rivers to mark the edges as during winter it was difficult to tell where the mountains ended and the water began. The sculptures resemble humans and traditionally both arms are outstretched. One arm is longer than the other and this arm indicates the safe path.
On our return to the van we headed to Maligne Canyon, a fantastic place and a must see
Able to drive on we subsequently arrived at the canyon. We had one more wildlife spotting opportunity along the way as mountain sheep walked along the road side. We were dropped off at the top of the canyon and followed a trail to the bottom. The trail is very steep and I must say I was glad we were walking down it! It took us 30 minutes to complete with lots of photostops. The sound of the water was thunderous as you worked your way down the trail and the steepness of the descent meant the water charged through the rocks at a very fast pace. I loved this canyon, every twist and turn offers views of beautiful rock formations, torrenting water and the noise is fantastic. This canyon made Mistaysa Canyon look amateur, a wannabe, out of it's depth. You really must visit here if you are in the area you won't regret it.
Our last stop of the day was Edith Lake. We opted to go there rather than spend time in Jasper as some of us wanted another swimming opportunity
We left the lake, heading for Jasper to get suppies for dinner and spent the rest of the day relaxing in the hostel.
Jasper is a very small town, much smaller than I had anticipated. I had assumed it would be a similar size to Banff but it has one main street and a few shops shooting off it but that's about it. Again it is charming but it has a bit more of a touristy feel than Banff does. One plus for Jasper is that butchery meat is really cheap here. You can get steaks for $3! You pay $7 for chicken fillets everywhere else so I'm not sure why it's so cheap in Banff but it was certainly welcome! The people here are extremely friendly too and you are made to feel very welcome. It is a nice little town but unless you are very sporty ( ie skiing, hiking, cycling), you would probably not want to stay more than a couple of nights. If you are sporty then there are a plethera of things to do and you will really enjoy your stay.