Meeting the locals in Jasper

Trip Start Sep 10, 2009
Trip End Oct 22, 2009

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Monday, October 5, 2009

On 3 October 2009 (Thursday) I got up and the world was all white.  It snowed overnight and the staff at the hostel must have gotten up really early because there were even snowmen.

The Moose bus picked me up about 11am and we headed off to Jasper.  We stopped first to look at Crowfoot Glacier and go for a walk to a Lake. It was really cold, lots of snow but we warmed up a bit while we were walking.  We saw a bird which Shelley, our driver/guide, identified as a Whiskey Jack - the real name is a Gray Jay; took me a while to identify in the bird book.

Usually on this leg of the Moose tour they stop at Mistaya Canyon for lunch but it was so cold that we decided to eat in the van and just walk to the Canyon.  It was a really pretty walk and I think the snow made it even prettier but it was hard to take good photos.  After that Shelley took us to see a waterfall that she isn't supposed to take us to - there isn't a proper trail.  However, it was a great waterfall; we got right up to where the water comes straight out of the rock.

After that we went to the Athabasca Glacier.  The Athabasca Glacier is part of the Columbia Icefield which is the largest icefield south of the Arctic Circle,  three times the size of Greater Vancouver.  We got into these huge buses called Sno Coaches.  They are worth $1 million each, the tyres alone are about $5000 each.  So I got to stand on a glacier.  In the summer you can look down into the glacier beneath your feet.  We couldn't really see into the glacier but on the other hand, it's apparently quite hard to stand up when the top layer of ice is melting.  It's pretty slippery even with a little snow over it.

Our last stop of the day was Maligne Canyon just outside of Jasper about 5pm.  This was another gorgeous walk and then on the way into Jasper we saw our first Elk.

Jasper is at a lower altitude than Banff or Lake Louise so is much warmer and there hasn't been lasting snow in Jasper yet this fall.  There has been snow in the mountains around and also in the Maligne Valley which is higher up.  The Jasper town site is very small and seems to be mostly for tourists.  Most of the permanent population are connected with tourism somehow although there are probably some Parks Canada staff who live here.  The hotel I'm staying at is right on the edge of town but you can walk the whole town in about half an hour.  I had a look around yesterday morning; there are lots of hotels, a couple of nice little gift shops and some restaurants.

Yesterday, I went to Maligne Lake for a cruise on the lake.  It was the last day they were running the cruise so I was really lucky.  I thought this lake was even more beautiful than Lake Louise but that might be because it was a bright sunny day.  I know I keep saying this but its really true that unless you are a much better photographer than I am it's very hard to do justice to the colour of these glacial lakes.

Maligne Lake is closed during the winter because of the risk of avalanches and I saw lots more avalanche chutes.  If you look at the picture the long bare patches you can see are avalanche chutes where avalanches have cleared everything in their path.

After the cruise I went for a walk around the lake and met this charming little guy.  I couldn't believe my luck when he sat on this branch and let me take his photo.  Of course, I only got one chance before he scampered off.

Then I got even luckier and saw a Moose - well two actually, a cow and a bull.

On the way back into town we saw big horned sheep and more elk and then when I got back to the hotel, there was an Elk buck and his harem of does sitting in the grounds of the hotel.  It was amazing.

This morning I went on a bus tour around Jasper, back to Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake (although I had already been to both, it's always good to go back at a different time of day) and Medicine Lake.  We saw lots of deer and elks this morning and also some little creatures called Pica which are a bit like rabbits without the big ears.

We also saw Bighorn sheep but only the females - it's the males who have the big horns.  These are lovely creatures but very stupid.  As soon as you pull a car or the bus up they come to investigate and we saw a whole group of them in the middle of the road, completely surrounding it and licking it.  No idea why they were licking it.

Its been a great couple of days.  Tomorrow I'm going to Banff for a couple of days.  I'm hoping I can get a decent cup of coffee in Banff - I haven't had a good cup in days.
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