Tag Archives: Jasper

Jasper, Much Maligne’d

Saturday 10 September 2022 – In declaring yesterday’s rest day to be the End of Part II of our grand odyssey, it turns out I was a bit previous; we still had a little bit of Rocky Mountain-style business (i.e. lakes, waterfalls, that kind of thing) to attend to. Also, since we had failed to visit Jasper, we thought we should at least go in and see what was the state of affairs there.

Accordingly, we set out towards Jasper. As we drove the short distance in, we saw something a little out of the ordinary:

a helicopter carrying a bucket. There was no smoke visible, but we guessed that this was attending to some wildfire business or other – see later. We also saw a temporary roadside sign on the highway which said “Power out In Jasper. Do Not Stop”, but we ignored that.

We went in to the town, wondering whether there was any power to any of the infrastructure. Having parked the car, we discovered that at least the parking meters had power – of course they bloody would – and spent a few minutes negotiating with one. It looked like we’d chosen the station car park.

There were plenty of cars parked in the car park, but the roads were very quiet for a Saturday morning.

Some of the shops seemed to have the lights on, so we popped in to one of them, a tourist gift-type shop, and pretended to look as if we were going to buy something in order to ask the shopkeeper for his assessment of the situation. He said that most businesses now had their own generators and were open, with the main exception being some hotels and restaurants, which had not re-opened; we made a mental note of this to update Brendan later.

Jasper is an attractive place;

the downtown has some nice buildings and some street art on display, too.

It did seem that many businesses were operational, but there was a variety of generator solutions on display and a pervasive hum

and not every business was open.

However, there were a few people about in the attractive downtown area.

Seeing the Tim Hortons, a Canadian coffee shop chain, we thought we’d try out the experience.

It’s a perfectly decent way of getting a coffee (and any manner of cake), but is workmanlike rather than classy. Whilst we were there, we did see evidence that there really was a town shuttle bus,

despite its non-appearance the previous day. Having reassured ourselves that Jasper was gradually getting back into the swing, we headed back to the car, past a streetcar that was handsome, but looked somewhere between faded and disused.

(We saw it in operation later in the day, so it’s not disused, at any rate.)

Right: onward to the last bit of Rocky Mountain stuff, then. There’s a road out of Jasper which leads past two lakes, Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake; both of which are fed by the Maligne River, which in turn feeds into the Athabasca River. Going along this road brings you first, though, to Maligne Canyon, which was therefore our first stop. As you drive the road towards it, there are signs off to “Sixth Bridge” and “Fifth Bridge”, and this starts to make sense once you see the trail map in the canyon car park,

although not much sense; it has to be said that this trail map is somewhat confusing. We saw a signpost to “Second Bridge”, so we thought we’d better start somewhere. We walked from Second Bridge to Fourth (which did need repainting, actually) and back, and then, because it would have taken too much time to go further, back up to First.

We covered a couple of miles, which was much more than I’d expected – I’d thought it would be something like the Mistaya Falls we’d seen on our Icefield Parkway drive. The idea was the same – a torturously twisted canyon carved out by a fast river – but this was much bigger. I’ve tried to condense the trail from start to Fourth Bridge in a video:

it’s an engaging hike, unsurprisingly quite popular.

Next up: Medicine Lake. As we approached, we passed an area which had clearly been affected by wildfires.

Medicine Lake has a viewpoint at its north end

and close examination of everything on the right bank from that viewpoint showed that it had been severely burnt and fairly recently, as there was little evidence of regrowth. Looking back up the lake from the other end

showed that there had been some fire damage to the other bank, too.

We pressed on to Maligne lake, and it became clear that things were, erm, not clear; the visibility was very poor, and we assume that this is because of smoke from the fire that has affected Jasper so badly.

When visibility is good, Maligne Lake looks to be a wonderful place to visit – see my brother Chris’s blog post that includes their visit here – but there was nothing really to see here, and time was beginning to press, so we headed back to the main road that would take us to Edmonton, our next stop. We spotted the same bald eagle’s nest that Chris had

and also some roadside wildlife in the form of bighorn sheep which were wandering about, eating some of the scenery.

That really did conclude the Rocky Mountain section of our holiday. As we motored on towards Edmonton, the scenery changed. Interestingly, though, there was still the danger of wildfires and smoke – signs by the roadside warned of the possibility; and we even saw a wildfire in progress in the distance

and the knock-on effects of the smoke.

Soon, though, the scenery flattened out and we just motored on relatively flat roads towards Edmonton. The main interest in the drive for me was my gaming the Lane Assist function available on our rental car so that it didn’t realise I only had two fingers on the steering wheel, and trying to move into the overtaking lane before the adaptive cruise control slowed us down. I know how to have fun at the wheel of a car.

There were a couple of possible digressions on the route, but we ended up diverting only to one of them, the intriguingly-named “Beaver Boardwalk” in Hinton. It actually does what it says on the tin; there’s boardwalk and it leads past the evidence of beavers, erm, beavering: a dam;

and a lodge (we think).

The place is quite a nice diversion

but it seems that it needs some TLC – some of the boardwalks were closed, and others needed some attention. It borders on other terrain in the Maxwell Lake area, and this is obviously a place where people can walk and bike around, and where there is significant wildlife. I found it amusing that somewhere that tells you what to do when attacked by a cougar

or a bear

could, erm, bear this name:

So, refuelling aside, our next stop was to be Edmonton. We were a bit disconcerted to see this sign

as we thought we’d left Jasper far behind.*

In Edmonton, we encountered a slight issue that one doesn’t come across so much whilst driving in the UK these days.

Despite these slight visibility problems, and with help from the satnav, we found our hotel, the impressive edifice that is the Fairmont Macdonald (pictures tomorrow). It was past 7pm by this stage and so we forsook any actual unpacking or such domestic admin to head straight down to the restaurant which featured a patio. This was lovely.

We were expertly served by Tyler, who was clearly a seasoned campaigner (emphasis on the “camp”, but assured, courteous and expert), after which we tried for some after-dark photos in the hotel’s garden.


The hotel has a nice view over a suspension bridge which is illuminated. There was a low, full moon of a beautifully muted hue, which I tried to capture on both my mobile phone and my Big Camera. The difference between the two is striking:

The top was my mobile phone, the bottom the Nikon. The mobile phone photo is a nicer scene, although it’s much noisier; but unless you need a technically high quality image, the mobile won this round.


That was it for the day. We have nothing planned for the morrow, so wandering about will be the order of the day. Come back and see what we found, won’t you?

* English comedian reference. Sorry.

End of Part II – well, nearly

Friday 9 September 2022 – We departed the UK one month ago and we return thither in one month’s time. Our time in Jasper marks the end of Part II – the Rocky Mountains Bit – and it’s been excellent. Part I – the Rugged North West and Wildlife Bit – took three weeks, which was relatively leisurely; Part II has been more full-on.

So we declared today a rest day.

We had originally considered visiting a couple of nearby lakes or taking an easy hike, but the lure of a lazy day proved stronger. Also, we had thought to go into Jasper itself and report back to Brendan, our long-suffering travel agent in the UK, about what it was really like in Jasper (which still has no power; we’d overheard a group yesterday discussing how they were moving on from Jasper because their hotel had no heating and no hot water). That plan got scuppered by a shuttle bus which departed too early.

Since the sun was shining, we took the opportunity to walk around the (considerable) grounds of the Lodge. It’s very photogenic.

We had some other encounters:

in the Smokehouse, where they serve breakfast, a Bison’s head (making this not so much a Breakfast Bowl as a Breakfast Bison);

A statue that can’t bear weight;

next door to it, an Eagle statue;

a greedy squirrel, stuffing his face with pine nuts;

and a Loon, also called a Great Northern Diver in Europe.

Sorry about the Loon photo, but that’s the best my camera could do. Also observing it, though, was a chap called Neil who was not so much a Loon enthusiast as a Loon obsessive; he even described himself as such. We had a very pleasant chat with him about these remarkable birds. He had a very expensive-looking long lens and video setup and was pulling together a four-minute piece on some aspect of the birds. The Loon is depicted on the Canadian one-dollar coin, which is why they’re called Loonies. That knowledge will win you a pub quiz one day, see if it doesn’t.

The main objective of our stroll, though, was to see a particular group of cabins, collectively called Outlook Cabin.

The reason for our interest was that these cabins were used during one of the many visits to Canada by HM Queen Elizabeth and her retinue, because they offered peace and a degree of isolation. Apparently she liked the Park Lodge for its tranquility; in the light of the news of her death, it seemed appropriate to visit it.

And that was the extent of our activity today, resulting in a mercifully short blog entry. Reader, you can have time off for good behaviour.

Tomorrow we embark on Part III, which is largely a series of successively easterly city visits. We start with a drive to Edmonton. The only thing I knew about it was that it was where Wayne Gretsky, a world-famous ice hockey player, expounded his art, playing for the Edmonton Oilers, a team name which doesn’t somehow convey the image of a chic place. However, we’ve chatted with a couple of hotel staff who are from Edmonton, and it sounds like an interesting town with a few ITTDs. We also have a few digressions en route, so we’re back to relentless tourism after our day panting in the shade. I hope you’ll come back to read about them as we go.