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.
— GEEKY PHOTO ALERT —
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.
— END OF GEEKY BIT —
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.