Rocky Mountain High – Jasper in June

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Lake Maligne as viewed from Spirit Island

Sometimes,when travelling, the weather gods are not on your side! Driving  from Clearwater to Jasper,  on the third leg of our road-trip  we intended to stop and see Mt Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. However, we couldn’t  soak in what is apparently an amazing view as we found ourselves surrounded by thick mist. All was not doom and gloom however for as we climbed higher, we drove out of the mist into the sun and found ourselves surrounded by the awesomeness of Jasper National Park. Nestled in its heart is the charming town of Jasper, where we settled into our own little cabin in the woods, a charming and comfortable lakeside cottage for two at Patricia Lake Bungalows.

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Patricia Lake from the porch of our cottage. It was  cold when we were there, so didn’t try the canoes. I probably wouldn’t have fallen in but you never know …

As we were staying for three nights, we had time to really explore some of this amazing World Heritage area. The management at Patricia Lake Bungalows couldn’t have been more helpful and gave us great advice about walks, attractions, the best supermarket, eateries and how to operate the hot tub. Nothing was too much trouble! There was even a special bottle of wine to help us celebrate a special anniversary.

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A very nice drop! Thank you Patricia Lake Bungalows!

Pyramid Lake and Pyramid Mountain

On our first afternoon, we decided to explore Pyramid Lake. Patricia and Pyramid Lakes are just a few kilometres from Jasper township and are connected to each other and the town by hiking trails. In fact, Jasper has so many hiking trails that you have to prioritize.  Even though we were staying next door, so to speak, we drove to Pyramid Lake to explore the lake via a hiking trail which took us along the shoreline, past the resort and across a small wooden footbridge to Pyramid Island. There we admired the wonderful views across the lake of Pyramid Mountain and its reflection.

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It’s easy to see why it’s called Pyramid Mountain!
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The lake was so clear and still, perfect for reflections.

Back home at Patricia Lake, we enjoyed similar views but the snow capped mountains added a special magic I think.

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Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake

We woke to a cloudy day and decided that it was perfect for exploring. About an hour’s drive from Jasper lies Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake. Although I had read that the upper Canyon could get very busy when tour buses arrive, I hadn’t appreciated what  ‘busy’ meant in this context.  We thought we were relatively early;  arriving at the canyon around 11am.  The carpark was reasonably empty and  we smugly set off  to explore the excellent self-guided interpretative loop trail that follows the upper reaches of the  gorge. We found ourselves crossing the canyon several times, the bridges providing wonderful photo opportunities.

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The water churns along
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carving out caves in the canyon walls
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cascading down waterfalls
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and disappearing into the forest!

By the time we reached the fourth bridge, an hour or so had passed and it was time to retrace our steps, for we wanted to check out Medicine and Maligne Lakes after lunch.  We were astounded by the number of people we encountered walking down, as we climbed to the top. The tour buses had arrived … in droves. Despite the crowds, which at times resembled a herd of wildebeest scrabbling for a spot at the waterhole,  this was a wonderful place to visit and explore. Next time, we would like to allow more time to explore the canyon further, as far as the fifth and sixth bridges perhaps.

Leaving Maligne Canyon, we drove past Medicine Lake to the beautiful Maligne Lake. Everything about this lake is wonderful.  It is the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies. Ringed by snow-and-ice-capped mountains, the 22 km long lake stretches past serene Spirit Island right to the melt-water channels of Coronet Glacier.

We lunched at the Maligne Lake Day Lodge & View Restaurant which had an adequate menu and a fabulous view and then explored the foreshore of the lake, learning about some of the history of the area,  while some of the locals tried to say hello.

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I can see you!

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The path winds past the historic boat shed where there are canoes for hire,
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while the  changing colours  of the lake invite you to linger … and contemplate.

As the afternoon drew to a close, we returned to Jasper where we still had time to wander around, looking for that special souvenir to bring home and enjoy a leisurely dinner in front of the fire,  overlooking Patricia Lake. Bliss!

 

Spirit Island

Morning bought sunny weather, so  we returned to Maligne Lake and took the Maligne Lake boat cruise to Spirit Island.  This boat cruise was definitely one of the highlights of our Canadian holiday. Excellent commentary and amazing scenery made for an unforgettable experience.

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The boats are not so big that they intrude on the landscape or impact the environment in a negative way

On the water, we were amazed by the changing colours of the water.

 

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Is it blue,  blue green, aqua, turquoise, jade ……?

But nothing prepared us for what awaited at Spirit Island.

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 Here it is impossible to take a bad photograph for it is so beautiful where ever you look! 
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An amazing place!
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Even google liked one of my photos and decided to ‘play’.

Alas, our cruise was over all too soon and we headed back to Jasper. Reluctant to let go of the magic, we decided to have a late lunch at the Fairmont Jasper Lodge. There on the deck, overlooking the pool and Beauvert Lake, enjoying a delightful meal and exceptional service, we certainly felt we were living the good life.

All too soon, our time in Jasper was at an end. There was one disappointment. We travelled to Jasper in early June and the road to Mount Edith Cavell was not yet open. Locals had rated this hike as good as the boat cruise if that’s possible, so this too, will also have to wait till … next time.

 

 

Road Trip through the Canadian Rockies

 

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Spirit Island, Maligne Lake, Jasper

Returning from  one of the most memorable and enjoyable holidays we have ever had, a month long trip to Alaska,  British Columbia and Alberta,  I wanted to share some of the highlights. From the start, Kenn and I wanted more time than an organised tour would allow, to do our own thing and soak in the magic. But, early in the  planning phase, I discovered that there was very little explicit information about possible routes and itineraries for couples like us who wanted to drive themselves through this beautiful region of the world and didn’t want to break the bank in the process.

Although we would be travelling at a popular time, late May and early June, I knew it couldn’t be that hard.  After all,  Canada is like Australia only with more snow and much higher mountains. Alright, they drive on the wrong side of the road, but my daughter Melissa assured me that the roads were excellent and that if she could co-drive an old Camry from Whistler to Alaska without getting eaten by bears, then  her father would have no problems whatsoever sedately driving from Vancouver

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View of Burrard Street from our window of the Sutton Hotel

to Whistler along the Sea to Sky highway

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Panorama from the top of Whistler Mountain

and onto Jasper taking the back road through Lillooet and Kamloops

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Pyramid Lake, Jasper

 and then along the Icefields Parkway to lovely Lake Louise ,

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Banff

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The Bow River at Banff

and back to Vancouver. A mere 3000 kilometres give or take a kilometre or two!

The outline of the route decided, I perused the map to pinpoint other wonderful places to visit and explore along the way. Some of the names of the lesser-known towns were seductive such as Lillooet,  Clearwater, Field, Revelstoke and Golden.  Yoho  and Glacier National Parks as well as the Wells Grey Provincial Park seemed well worth visiting and for anyone who loves driving, the thrill of driving one of the great scenic roads in the world, the Icefields Parkway, cannot be underestimated.

Car hire from Thrify was very affordable. We booked it through our travel agents, Narelle and Amanda at www.dynamictravel.com.au and  it worked out to be about $60 a day for a VW Jetta. We organised to pick it up from Vancouver Airport following our stay in Vancouver itself.

One  interesting thing we found out when we picked up the car was that we could have taken our car over to Vancouver Island on the ferry. We had been informed in Australia that if we did, we would not be insured. This is apparently not the case. Next time, I would check directly with the relevant car hire company by phone and email, as being able to take the ferry would save time and money.

Once, the route had been decided it was time to book accommodation. I decided on a combination of hotels, motels, cabins, apartments and BnB’s mostly sourced through Booking.com or through recommendations on Trip Adviser.  I restricted my search to mostly 4 stars. I’m not really a hostel or yurt person! I love a few creature comforts like fluffy bath robes and the occasional hot tub. Although we didn’t get to stay at the Fairmont, I was really happy with all my choices and found that booking early ( four or five months in advance)  saved a significant amount of money. The accommodation bill for three weeks  totalled approximately $3ooo.  One thing that I hadn’t factored in was the number of daylight hours at this time of the year in Canada. I’ve never been anywhere where it’s still light at ten o’clock in the evening and had worked out travel times so as to arrive at about four o’clock in the afternoon.

We had a fabulous time, helped by great weather. I am looking forward to sharing details of each stage of the road trip in later posts and hope you will join me. I would also love to hear about your adventures in Canada if you would like to share.