Well, What can I say?
Last Year, I used my leave to go to the Canadian Rockies with my friend Ginger. (Read the blog entry here.) I thought it would be good to repeat the experience, but planned a slightly different trip. Instead of visiting Banff National Park and Yoho National Park, the plan was to do a loop visiting Edmonton, Jasper National Park, the Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, and Calgary.
The trip started by going to Edmonton, Thursday Night. Spent the night there and had some opportunities to visit some great friends, including a visit to The Buckingham (a cool place that everyone should visit). On Friday there was a visit to Newman Theological College/St. Joseph’s Seminary, as I had just heard that they had built a new campus. I didn’t get much of a tour, but did get to see the new chapel. It was great, although, I was a little disappointed with the acoustics.
A highlight of being in Edmonton included driving along ‘Wayne Gretzky Drive’, seeing Rexall Place, and driving along ‘Mark Messier Trail’. As a young kid, I had a bit of a thing for the Oilers, back when these legends played for them…
I had hoped to exchange a pair of boots on the base, but clothing stores was closed, so off to the mountains I went.
The drive to Jasper was awesome. It took awhile to get to the park, and mountains, but was well worth it when we did. Once in the park, I quickly saw the largest male Elk that I have ever seen. But there was much more wildlife for the day, a big horn sheep, a young grizzly bear, and a mama bear and her cubs, and a few other elk.
Checked in at the HI-Jasper Hostel, and decided to go explore the mountains. First stop was Maligne Lake, it was a bit of a drive, but well worth it. I was quickly mesmerized my Medicine Lake. It was getting late when I arrived to Maligne Lake, but not too late for a hike. The Mary Schäffer loop, was the perfect length, only 3.1 Km to get the legs warmed up for the next day. It was a great quick hike to stop and see some of the highlights of the area, exposing hikers to many different micro ecosystems along the way.
It was still light, when I had finished the walk, so there was some quick photo stops on the drive back, and a chance to do some exploring near the Maligne Canyon, and its many bridges. This made for some nice photo’s, including some flower shots. Always time for some flowers!
It was a good night. Jasper is one of the largest dark sky reserves, and with the hostel, being outside Jasper, I thought I’d get a good view of the stars. I stayed up till it was dark, but the sky didn’t look too different from what I was used to. The next morning I was up early and it was off to Maligne Canyon. I hiked from the first bridge to the fifth bridge, about 2.5 km, along the canyon, then I decided to go high above the canyon for a different view. While in the canyon, the trails were busy although it was early enough there weren’t too many, but on the high trail back, it was fairly quiet. Which is great.
Back in the car and off to Mount Edith Cavell. The drive was as beautiful as the hike. I was surprised how many people were in the parking lot, and also hiking to the Angel Glacier, however, the Cavell Meadows Trail, was just busy enough. It was also a difficult 8 km hike, with an increase in elevation of more than 500 meters, climbing to 2288 m above sea level. Not as big as last years hike, but big enough.
It was great to realize that in one year, I had went from the Rockies in North America, to the Andes of South America (even if it was a bit of a rough trip) back to the Rockies. The year really did have a lot of ups and downs.
The hike was great, but the day was not over.
The drive to the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre, was long but beautiful, and included a stop at Athabasca Falls.
I wanted to stop and hike a few other places, but wanted to get to the discovery centre, as I knew it would be busy and had reserved tickets for the Glacier tour/walk as well as the Glacier SkyWalk. I was guessing this would be touristy, but had no idea what to expect. WOW what a tourist trap. Although, the activities were pre booked, it was unknown if I’d be able to do both. But I did manage. Although touristy, I’m glad to be able to say that it is something I did. Once you got out off of the discovery centre, there were fewer people, and it became more manageable.
The Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure was Awesome. I learnt a lot about glaciers, went for a ride in an ice buggy, got to walk on a glacier, and drink glacier ice water. It was pretty cool! Literally!
The Skywalk, was also just as touristy, but I needed to use the bathroom so bad (and none there), that I really didn’t take the time to enjoy it and take in the sights and the full tour. But I did take time to lay on a glass floor, that overhangs the valley below.
When I got back, I did use the bathroom, and it was far later than I thought. I had just sat down to eat supper when I started to overhear different people talking about the road being closed. Sure enough, it was. The road ahead to Banff had been closed due to smoke from a nearby forest fire. I decided to jump in the car and head back north.
I had heard that there wasn’t a hotel room left in the parks, nor a campsite. I guessed there would be no rooms left in Hinton, and I’d be lucky to find one in Edson. As soon as I had cell service, I employed some family help to look for a room. They were able to book me a room at the McCracken Country Inn, in Hinton. Although a big change to my plans, I made the best of it.
The next morning, I hit a few geocaches to remember Hinton, and was off, back to Penhold. I cut across some back roads down to Red Deer, and made some great time, thanks to the lady that was running the McCracken Inn, for suggesting the ‘short cut’.
All in all, what an awesome weekend in the Mountains.
I look forward to the next time, we get to spend time together!
Canada truly is a gem, with so much to offer. I was glad to visit a National Park, and even happier to see so many park users!
Have a great summer, get out there, and enjoy some nature!
Well, it almost took me a week to write this update… But hey, I’m a working man!