For our fifth wedding anniversary Christine and I headed north to Jasper National Park. We reserved a campsite in Whistlers Campground and planned on doing some hiking, stand-up paddleboarding, and relaxing. The last time I was in Jasper was for a friend's bachelor party (read my previous post titled Ben's Stag in Jasper for a recap), but Christine hadn't been to the park outside of snowboarding season (which you can read about on this post titled Marmot Basin), so it was a great opportunity for both of us to see something new.
We hit the road after work on Friday and headed for the spectacular Icefields Parkway. From Calgary, the drive to Jasper is approximately 415km and takes anywhere between 4.5 and 5 hours, depending on traffic. After a major delay due to a tragic accident we rolled into the campground after the sun had set and had to setup camp by the light of our headlamps. Sleep came quickly for both of us. We slept in the next morning and after breakfast we loaded the paddleboards and headed for Maligne Lake.
Neither of us had been to the lake before so we were looking forward to seeing how it compared with other mountain lakes we'd previously paddled (see Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Emerald Lake as examples). I was happy to report that the water was warmer than those previous three, but the lake was also much larger. Spirit Island is roughly 14km from the launch point making it beyond our reach for the day. Despite its size and a slight headwind to start we still enjoyed a leisurely paddle along the eastern shoreline before making our way back via the opposite side.
Not wanting to go back to the campsite just yet we decided to launch our boards on Pyramid Lake, a kidney-shaped lake that lays at the foot of Pyramid Mountain. Although I would never describe the water as warm, it was certainly warmer than Maligne Lake and I even went for a brief swim to cool off. We paddled around Pyramid Island, a beautiful destination for sightseers, and even explored some of the opposite shoreline. Pyramid Lake is a very popular place and has numerous access points along the shoreline to launch your watercraft.
That evening we saw two bears from the safety of our truck, bringing the total on our trip thus far to four. We saw a Black Bear along the Icefields Parkway and another along the Pyramid Lake Road, but weren't able to get photographs of either bear. The two we saw in the evening were both near the campground, but luckily not directly in it. I find it really exciting to see bears in the wild as long as you remember to always keep a safe distance and never put yourself, or the bear, in harm's way.
The next morning we woke to find a herd of Elk camped near our tent. There was one large bull Elk, probably the biggest Elk I've ever seen in person, and a number of females, calves, and young males. Rutting season was starting soon so this was likely his harem and he would attempt to mate with all of the breeding females. It was obvious this herd was used to humans because they were all completely at ease with our presence.
After breakfast we traded our paddles for hiking boots and set-off for the trailhead. Eventually we decided on the Mina Lake/Riley Lake Loop; a 9km roundtrip trail that gained roughly 175m in elevation. The trail is easily accessible from town and offers great views of the Jasper town site, as well as the aforementioned lakes. Despite its proximity to Jasper the trail felt like a ghost town. We only saw a handful of other hikers, which was a bit unnerving with all of the recent bear activity in the area. I'm happy to report we didn't run into any bears on this hike, but speaking with a local in town afterwards we were informed that it's quite rare to complete that loop without seeing any wildlife whatsoever!
It rained overnight and the entire way back to Calgary, but that was fine as we had a fantastic weekend getaway. Banff is our go to national park simply because of its proximity to Calgary and we seem to explore Yoho quite often, but there's just something about Jasper that I can't get enough of. Christine and I both agreed that we need to try and get up to Jasper on a more regular basis. The park really is a hiker's playground and a paddler's paradise and I haven't even mentioned the mountain biking yet! Just sitting here thinking about all the possibilities has me excited for next summer already!
|A male Rocky Mountain Sheep along the Icefields Parkway|
|Our campsite in Whistlers Campground|
|My GoPro paddlecam was back in action on this trip!|
|Rome still fully focused on the deer!|
|It's not hard to see why the lake is so popular!|
|Christine and Rome|
|We stopped for a break and a snack on this rocky beach. That's Mount Charlton (left) and Mount Unwin (right) in the background. Both are part of the Queen Elizabeth Range.|
|Crossing the lake|
|These are called the Frog Rocks, but I'm not really sure why|
|Paddling with the sun on our backs!|
|Medicine Lake is a picturesque spot along the Maligne Lake Road|
|Pyramid Mountain standing tall above Pyramid Lake as we paddle around Pyramid Island!|
|I found this action figure on the bottom of the lake and Rome didn't really like it for some reason!|
|Paddling on the lake with Pyramid Island in the background (right)|
|This guy made the trek across the lake with us!|
|Heading back to the truck|
|This Grizzly Bear was gorging himself on berries|
|He knew we were watching, but didn't seem to mind our presence|
|The final bear of the evening was this cinnamon-coloured Black Bear. He was moving pretty fast and we were losing daylight quickly, so the photo is a little blurry.|
|A herd was enjoying a leisurely morning nap when we spotted them|
|The big male|
|A young female|
|A young male that might challenge the old guy one day!|
|A calf of the year|
|He's likely the biggest Elk I've seen in person!|
|This Raven was squawking nearby!|
|Lower Mina Lake|
|Upper Mina Lake|
|We watched this Loon dive for snacks as we ate our lunch|
|Riley Lake with Pyramid Mountain in the background|
|Above the town of Jasper|
After dinner and some delicious ice cream from town we took another drive up to Maligne lake to see it at sunset. The temperature had dropped a little and it had started to rain, but the lake did not disappoint once again. We were also treated to a few more wildlife sightings, bringing our bear total to six!
|Maligne Lake at sunset|
|The Black Bear cub popped out of the bushes along the Maligne Lake road before disappearing just as fast. Momma bear must have been close by!|
|These Elk were frolicking in Patricia Lake as we continued our scenic drive|
|The final bear on our trip was this healthy Black Bear inhaling berries like they were going out of style!|