The Rockies Rock (Part 3)

Trip Start May 06, 2010
Trip End Dec 17, 2010

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Where I stayed
Youth Hostel

Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Sunday, June 20, 2010

Following our stay at the HI hostel at Beauty Creek our tour took us to Medicine Lake.  Bathed in the morning sun it was a beautiful sight, crystal clear water glimmering in the morning light and the scenery reflected onto it. 

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.  She returned again many times to further explore and document the area.  Mary Schaffer is a popular figure in Canadian history and she wrote journals of her travels in the most beautiful, descriptive prose.  Her guides of the rockies were all subsequently published and are renowned in Canada as being amongst the best.

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.  On the way we came across deer in the road.  A mother deer was crossing with a young fawn and a couple of other adult females.  All the traffic had come to a complete stand still as the mum was standing in the middle of the road.  At first the fawn wasn't evident and it was unclear why she wasn't crossing over but then he emerged from the grass at one side of the road and took a couple of tentative steps onto the tarmac.  He was however scared and after surveying the traffic he about turned and went back into the safety of the long grasses.  The mother remained in the road and moments later he reappeared for another try.  He managed a few more steps and encouraged the mother crossed to the other side and stood just over the verge in the grass.  However, courage once again failed the little fawn and he once more retraced his few steps and once again disappeared into the undergrowth on the opposite side of the road to his mum.  The other adult females crossed the road and he was now alone on his side. Thankfully the traffic remained still and the fawn made his 3rd appearance!  He must have given himself himself a firm talking to about not being a coward as this time he paused at the side for a few moments, once again taking in the view of the traffic, and then he once more walked onto the road.  Slow, small steps took him a quarter way across the first lane.  He then had a bit of confidence wobble as he started to bolt across the remainder of that side but then suddenly he slowed to a steady walk.  It was like he was telling himself off for being scared and was determined to show he was a man and not a baby!  His steady walk, head held high, remained for the rest of the crossing and at the edge a cross between a skip and a leap reunited him with his mum.  I could imagine him standing there immensely proud of himself saying excitedly to his fellow deer companions,  "I did it, I did it, I crossed the road all by myself!!" 

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.  This lake is not as pretty as those we have seen before but attracts visitors as it has a sandy beach running along it.  Tourists are well catered for here as there are lots of picnic tables and BBQ spots and there was even a large firepit housed inside a wooden gazebo.  The weather started to turn shortly after our arrival and it soon became clear that it was no longer sun bathing weather.  Distant rumbles could be heard rolling across the hills indicating a storm was coming.  Rather than be girly and take refuge in the van we chose to collect our raincoats and sit in the rain for as long as possible at the waters edge before the storm hit.  After 20 minutes or so though the rumbles stopped, the drizzle cleared, although the clouds remained, and it was evident that the storm was not going to happen after all.

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.
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James Davenport Forsyth on

Wonderful writing and photographs Carol!. I hope you are planning to have your journeys published!!

cazza_macca on

Thank you,I am glad you are enjoying my blog. Hope all is well with you X

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