Tag Archives: lake

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.

All a-bored!

Friday 12 August 2022 – We’re now aboard Silver Muse and underway. This is the view from our cabin’s balcony right now (it has been like that ever since we left Seward); appropriately we are in Disenchantment Bay.  (It improves – keep reading.)

We’re not missing anything right now, therefore this  is a fantastic opportunity to bring you up to date with how everything went yesterday.

This being a holiday, we were up earlier than would normally be the case at home. OK, the jetlag helped. Thing is, we needed to hand our luggage over to the nice Silversea people, conveniently located at a desk in the hotel lobby, between 8am and 9am, which means 8am ‘coz we always want to give ourselves maximum contingency for cock-ups. As well as handing over the suitcases, we had to prove that we were free of the Dreaded Lurgy and that we had ‘fessed up to the Canadian authorities about our imminent arrival in a week’s time. Jane, as always, had done a mistressful job of marshalling the necessary paperwork, which left the Silversea folks almost as impressed as I was.

It was our lot to travel by rail down to Seward, where the boat would leave. We actually had no particular idea about whether this was better or worse as an option than traveling by coach, but, whatever, we had to be ready to be picked up at 1215.  This gave me the opportunity to finish writing about our day in Anchorage on Wednesday, which had been sufficiently eventful that it took two days to write it up.

The rail trip to Seward starts, somewhat counterintuitively, from the airport. There are no scheduled trains from Anchorage to Seward, so this was a Silversea Special and it departed from the rail depot at the airport (presumably needed because of the massive logistical significance of Anchorage as a hub). A coach took us to the airport, where we joined a queue to prove, once again, that we had the paperwork, then another queue to get a boarding pass for the train and our cabin keys. There was a holding pen whilst we waited to board the train

and then we were called by carriage number.  They called carriage 555 first, and we were carriage 554, so held ourselves in readiness to sprint forward. Then they called….carriage 553. No matter, they hadn’t forgotten us and we were next to take the walk down the platform.

The carriage had big observation windows

and for the journey we had the pleasure of the company of the two ladies bottom right, Rebecca and her mother Margaret. Notice that there’s nowhere to put bags, so my super-heavyweight backpack had to be stashed somewhere else.

The carriage was run by a chap called Christian, who did the best he could to gee everyone up with tales of possible sightings of moose and eagles and bears and that, but his news that the train trip was going to take four and a half “ish” hours came as a bit of a surprise. The weather conditions also quite literally dampened expectations of fabulous and interesting views.

Christian started serving people from the far end of the carriage and it became clear that it would take him some time to work his way up to our end.  Happily, we discovered that we were next to the buffet car, which was rather like any British Rail buffet car except the lady serving behind the counter knew how to mix cocktails.  We satisfied ourselves with a hat trick of G&Ts before we were able to get a salad via Christian’s service, and that nicely lubricated the conversation with Rebecca and Margaret as we ground our way slowly along.

The most interesting challenge, photographically, was seeking a gap among the trees in order to get a photo.  The train might have been moving slowly, but the gaps between the trees seemed to flash right by.  I managed one glacier

and one lake

and that was about it (no moose or eagles or bears), which meant that by the time we got to Seward we were beginning to feel rather bored with the whole process. I don’t know whether the coach option might have been swifter, but we were all glad to get to Seward, where the weather conditions (as forecast)

weren’t all that conducive to any further beautiful photography.  Scurrying from the train to the boat was actually a higher priority

and, naïve soul that I am, I was surprised at the size of the ship.

The boarding process was very smooth and it was soon clear that we were going to be very well looked after during our cruise.  Every cabin has a butler; ours is called Francis and he came and introduced himself and talked us through some of the information we’d need throughout our cruise.  We also found the launderette, which is a nice thing to have the use of. These things are important, you know.

The rest of the day was taken up with the inevitable and important safety briefing and dinner, which we took in a restaurant called Atlantide.

Great food, nice surroundings and efficient and courteous service. After dinner, we thought it would be good to stretch our legs, so we walked around the ship to orientate ourselves.  It’s a big ship in our experience, but quite small in the general cruising context – a maximum of 596 guests if full. Relatively small as it is, it’s still an 11-story building  so there was a lot to take in.

We learned from one steward (Simon, German) that there are 437 guests on this cruise and somewhere around 360 crew, so the service level is near one-to-one; also that even if the numbers had been higher post-pandemic, the ship would not have been full, as they have to reserve some cabins for quarantine purposes. The pandemic’s consequences continue to affect the hospitality industry, even after all this time.

The strains of the day began to tell, and even the prospect of further free booze wasn’t enough to keep us going, so we called it a day at this point and got our heads down in order to prepare for a day at sea containing the prospect of seeing the Hubbard Glacier at reasonably close range from the ship. We therefore hoped for decent weather, not something that we’d seen thus far.  However…..

….the skies have cleared, making today’s activity a bit more promising.  I’ll write about that in the next post, so do come back and find out more, won’t you?


Day 8 – Making a great deal more foss

Tuesday 6th July 2021. Yes, I know that obsessing about the weather is terribly British, but it simply has to be pointed out that today was the first day that the weather outlook for us here

was better than at home.


In reality, the weather here today really was pretty good – even, at times, a little too warm.  So, we’ve been lucky so far.

Our first stop was actually to the “supermarket” just along the road so we could buy something that would serve as lunch.  It wasn’t what we’d think of as a supermarket and the selection was a little sparse, but we found some pizza-ish sort of things that would probably do, and – mirabile dictu – a couple of apples.  To be honest, whilst the food we’ve eaten in the hotels and restaurants here has been very well-cooked, well-presented and tasty, we’ve discovered that They Don’t Do Fruit And Veg Much here, so the quest for dietary fibre is often, erm, fruitless. That’ll be me showing my age, then.

So: a morning of waterfalls beckoned.  Firstly, the most powerful waterfall in Europe – Dettifoss.



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As I hope you can hear from the sound on the video, this is an awesome thing. It must be said, though, that we preferred those from yesterday.  Dettifoss, because it’s carrying such a volume of glacial rock fragments, actually looks a bit muddy.  I know it’s pathetic to expect pristine white water, but there you go: we’re tourists – what do we know?  Dettifoss is one of several waterfalls along a canyon, and there was an insight into the impact of the glacial sediment on the water flow via a view of whatever the geologists would call the side street of a canyon.

You can see the clarity of the water which is out of the mainstream.

The second waterfall of the day is visited on the same hike which took us to Dettifoss. It’s called Selfoss, and it’s also pretty impressive.

You can see photographers on the far side of the canyon. These are the keen beans who have risked the tyres and suspension of their vehicles and a possible broken ankle or two to get to the Dedicated Photographer side of the canyon. Ok, the view of Selfoss would have been better from that side, and you can also get a Classic Shot of Dettifoss from over there; but our schedule, and my not-preparedness to lug a tripod over rocky terrain and spend much time setting up long-exposure shots, conspired against my achieving anything other than the standard Tourist Pics (which I’m very happy with). Dagur did his Pro Photographer bit as best he could at Selfoss, given that his clients were too pathetic to go the extra mile.

But the two falls were anyway impressive to see.

And that wasn’t the end of the foss we had to make this morning, as there was a third waterfall to visit, Hafragilsfoss, down another rocky track.

It wasn’t possible to get really close to this one because the track, even under normal circumstances a somewhat tricky descent, was impassable because of rockfall.  Such a shame. No, really.

It was getting towards lunchtime by this stage, and we were understandably anxious to get at our pizza-ish goodies, and Dagur suggested that we could hike to lunch at Katlar, which was along, you guessed it, a rocky track a little further downstream in the canyon. So we loaded up with lunch goodies and set off. We hit a decision point and, through a process that I don’t quite understand but am very grateful for, took a side track. This was actually a revelation, as it led through a landscape that we simply hadn’t come across before in Iceland, involving, as it did –  trees!

and wild flowers!

It really was a gorgeous walk, beside a river which of course gave rise to more photo opportunities.

After a while, we wound our way back towards Katlar, which is a gorgeous gorge

but decided in the end, and mainly because of the increasing numbers and importunateness of the flies, to head back to the car, where we ate our lunch in air-conditioned comfort but with no view.

At the next stop, we agreed between us that it wasn’t worth spending time heading toward the lava cave that Dagur had originally in mind (we’d already passed a couple, maybe not so grand, earlier in our walk).  However, the car park for that trek was interesting as it illustrated the difference between how serious Icelanders go on serious camping holidays

and how the Germans do it in Iceland.

After this, we went to an oasis of calm called Ásbyrgi Canyon.  This is a huge horseshoe-shaped wall of rock with a lake at its foot (Icelandic legend has it that this was a hoofprint of Odin’s 8-legged horse, Sleipnir. I couldn’t possibly comment on the veracity of that.)

And yes, a rocky trail leads down to the lake and at first blush it didn’t look as if it was going to be all that calm

but fortunately the bus load of Americans left shortly after we arrived and it settled down a bit. From the lakeside, you can’t capture the scale of the place in a photograph. You have to climb up to a viewing platform to do that.

But I did try a little snippet of video (creative director again was the distaff side) to give some idea of what it’s like on the lakeside.

We then headed back to the hotel, via a small town called Husvik, the Whale Watching capital of Iceland, where Dagur took the Land Rover off to clean it whilst we pottered around. The town is typical of our experience so far here, in that there are some attractive buildings

but much of the town is basically workmanlike rather than pretty.  It does, however, feature an unusual church, which we of course added to our collection of same.

After Husvik, we headed back to the hotel but Dagur took us by an alternative route which enabled us to get some insight into the reason for the lupins in Iceland.  You  can see them dotted about in the laval soil here.

Dagur told us that he remembered being driven along this road by his father when he was quite young, and it was just black sand. And this sand had been a major problem, particularly as it blew in the wind; soil erosion was one issue, and damage to cars’ paintwork was another. So the lupins were planted to combat soil erosion and they work – but it’s still ongoing and will be a task that carries on for generations to come.  The authorities are trying to leaven the mix with grass planting as well as lupins and this seems to be working overall; the problem is really to decide exactly where to cover with the programme, as a huge area is affected by this issue.

And thus ended another varied and interesting day, apart from the bit where Jane educated the hotel bar staff about Boulevardier cocktails. We have another V&I day in prospect tomorrow, with – who knows? – perhaps even more puffins! But much of the schedule will be decided on the hoof and so you’ll simply have to come back here and find out what we got up to, won’t you?