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We travelled up from Banff to Jasper along the very scenic Icefield Parkway, reputedly one of the most scenic road trips in Canada. The day started with rain detracting from seeing the scenery at its best, but fortunately cleared along the way with some weak sunshine or a clearing up of sorts. The trip is only 288 km but with all the sights to see en route it takes much longer. Around lunch time we stopped at Saskatchewan Crossing for some warming "tomayto" and vegetable soup. The most spectacular of the stops is undoubtedly the Columbia Icefields where you can board a snowbus and drive on to and walk on one of the large glaciers there. We did not do that as we had already had a great experience in Juneau walking on Mendenhall. There were bus loads of tourists at the Icefields - a very popular stop. Jasper is much much quieter than Banff and we really enjoyed our stay there. We decided to take a small guided bus tour to the very picturesque Maligne Lake where we boarded a 90 minute boat cruise to Spirit Island

We were rewarded early on with a close sighting of a female black bear with her two cubs eating by the side of the road. We were not allowed out of the bus but could go to the open door to take photos. Rangers take the role of "wildlife guardian" very seriously and only let vehicles prop for a short time before moving them on. We passed by Medicine Lake, formerly known by the natives as Bad Medicine Lake because it would completely drain out each year in winter. In more recent times, geologists have discovered that a karst runs underneath it, which is made up of sedimented quartz, limestone. The Lake is fed by Maligne Lake, a glacial lake, but when that freezes in Winter, no water feeds into Medicine Lake and its water drains out through the karst. So interesting. Spirit Island was serene and in such a picturesque setting as evidenced by the photos and we jagged a fine day, if not completely sunny.


On Sunday we went for a drive to Miette Springs - another hot springs - high up in the mountains with evidence of landslides on the way. We did not come prepared with towels and swimmers, but it was packed - maybe the thing to do in Jasper and surrounds on a wet weekend. In the late afternoon we drove out again and saw male elk very close up from the safety of our car. The male elks shed their horns each year. The one Adrian is holding was so heavy. You can tell the age of the elk by the number of points on their horns


However, elk cows are the ones to heed at this time of the year protecting their young and there were signs all around the town to caution tourists wanting to get a close up. People have been injured by elk charging and tramping on them. Unfortunately, we did not see caribou or moose. Apparently the moose population around Jasper has been decimated by wolves in recent years. A young woman at the Visitor Information Centre has seen moose a few times and she described them as "terrifying". As for other wildlife, we saw baby coyotes not far from town in Jasper, a small herd of deer, cheeky chipmunks and birds. One creature not visible to us but doing irreparable damage to the pine forests in Jasper National Park is the pine beetle boring into the trunks and killing the trees. At first, one would think the forest is displaying autumn colours, but the red/orange signifies dead trees. The forest is a victim of climate change as the beetle could not, in the past, survive in the cold temperatures. We suspect it will be a very different landscape in future years.

Our young tour guide on Saturday, Kelly, relayed her "bear story". She likes to mountain bike on her own. Normally as she rides she makes lots of noise to alert bears, but this one time, it was a difficult downhill trail with a sharp turn around a boulder at the bottom and she was concentrating. As she rounded the corner at the bottom she came upon a black bear and, despite braking, could not stop the bike in time to avoid colliding with the bear's back. The bear was startled and she instinctively screamed, then apologised to the bear and slowly tried to reverse backwards up the hill. The bear wandered off, but she told us that the incident would have ended very differently if the bear had been a grizzly. Cyclists are referred to as "meals on wheels" in Alberta.

Found another pizza place selling Gluten free on our last night in Jasper and they were also delicious!! The Canadians have certainly nailed GF pizzas. Forgot to mention both Banff and Jasper are awash with young Aussies on working visas and they're loving it.

On leaving Jasper, we travelled back along the same route towards Banff and on to Calgary and the scenery was spectacular and we were blessed with sunny weather allowing much better visibility. We have travelled on many splendid scenic road trips but the Icefield Parkway is by far the best. Having our own wheels afforded the opportunity to stop as many times and stay at stops for as long as we wanted. Just when you thought the scenery could not get any better, you'd drive around a bend to another dramatic vista. Visited Athabasca and Sunwapta Falls not far south of Jasper.

We caught up with Will and Danielle Brownrigg (son and daughter in law to good friends Dot and Jeff) and met dear little Amélie, aged 9 months. Such a great personality. They live in Calgary and were kind enough to share a meal with us in their home. And so to Calgary airport at 8 pm to drop off the rental car, followed by a sigh of relief from both of us and huge gratitude to Adrian for doing all the driving. Many cowboy hats, jeans and check shirts in the airport, either coming to or going off from the Stampede.

Our final destination of the holiday is Sacramento where we will spend some special family time with son Luke and his wife, Tran.

This featured blog entry was written by Wilson53 from the blog Wilsons on the move.
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By Wilson53

Posted Wed, Jul 10, 2019 | Comments