After visiting Alaska House in Dawson Creek, we said good-bye to the Alaska Highway. We had enjoyed driving it and learning of the history surrounding it’s construction. We were excited for the final days of our road trip. We were headed to Jasper and Banff National Parks. Because it is Canada’s 150th birthday as a country, all the national parks had no entrance fees for 2017. We stopped in Beaver Lodge, Alberta, because how many times do you have the opportunity to take a picture with a beaver…
We had heard that there would be snow between Dawson Creek and Hinton and they were correct. At least the road was dry.
We made a brief stop at the Grand Cache Visitor Center. They closed early the day we were there, but they had nice exhibits inside the building….
and a cool collection of fire look-out towers that had been moved to the visitor center.
A quick stop at Victor Lake provided a nice view of the Willmore Wilderness.
We also stopped at Kelly’s Bath campground. In the summer, this is a popular swimming area. The day we were there, it was great for writing messages in the snow.
The snow on the mountains, meant that tomorrow in Jasper NP, it was going to be cold and wet.
We found a camping spot at the Hinton KOA, which is usually packed during the summer, but it had more tenters than you would expect. We settled in for the night, and when it is cold, you sit in the restrooms and hook in to the wi-fi. Jerie’s phone was telling us our elevation which was interestingly all 3s.
The next morning we headed for Jasper NP. It is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies covering 4,200 sq miles. It includes the Columbia Icefield as well as the 11,000 foot-high Mt. Edith Cavell. It was established in 1907 and named after Jasper Haws, who operated a trading post in the area.
Just inside the park we spotted Stone Sheep.
We really liked the signs pointing out the surrounding mountains.
The scenery was awesome…
We decided to drive to Maligne Lake. We were told it had been 20 years since there was this much snow in September…but it did make everything look so clean and bright. We stopped at Medicine Lake. It is a geologic wonder as it is not actually a lake but more like a bathtub that fills too fast and can’t drain. There is no outlet in the traditional sense, but a seepage through the rocks at the northern end of the lake. The lake has one of the most extensive underground drainage systems in the world. As the water has been traced to numerous streams and rivers.
There were deer walking down the road…
And moose walking out in the lake. It was a Mama moose and her calf, who were being followed by an unwanted bull moose.
At the Maligne Lake lodge, we took some pictures with the resident “mascots”. Then decided to take the boat tour of the lake.
Normally there are up to five boats doing tours, but due to the weather, there were only 3. We had a very nice driver and tour guide.
It was a beautiful winter day and the water was smooth as glass. Maligne Lake is the largest lake in Jasper NP. It was formed by the valley glaciers and is dammed at the northern end by moraine deposits. The name Maligne is French and means wicked. It was used to describe the river flowing into the lake during the spring runoff. The lake is approximately 22 miles in length.
We went out to a place called Spirit Island. There is a boat dock and walking path for you to view the island.
The nearby First Nation believe that Spirit Island is a gateway to the afterlife. You are asked, out of respect for the First Nation, to not go out on the island.
There was a nice display for the mountains at the far end of the lake.
We had about 20 minutes to explore and saw a deer and a “pack” rat.
We couldn’t believe the color of the water.
After our boat tour, we decided to eat in Jasper. It was a bit too cold and blustery to setup and cook. We chose Jasper Pizza, which was very good and inexpensive.
From the town, you can see the Jasper Skytram that will take you to the top of Whistlers Mountain. It is the highest and longest tramway in Canada. Next time we visit, we will definitely do this.
The mountains with a touch of snow were magnificent.
We stopped at Athabasca Falls.
We walked across the bridge and got a different angle of the right side of the falls.
The canyon below the falls was equally impressive.
Even though it was a gloomy day, weather wise, we were glad the clouds stayed high above the mountains.
Next we stopped at Sunwapta Falls. Sunwapta is a First Nation word that means “turbulent water”. There are 2 falls a lower and an upper.
Upon returning to the parking area, we discovered 2 ravens that had found a comfortable spot on the roof of our camper shell. Not wanting to be too disruptive we tried gentle persuasion of clapping of hands. Even Jim walking toward the vehicle would not get them to leave. Finally Jim tapped on the side of the pickup and they flew away.
More impressive mountains…
While stopping to look at a roadside waterfalls, we came upon a group of mountain goats.
The road crossed into Banff National Park and continuing with our waterfall theme for the day we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls. We could see the falls from the road, but there was a “short” trail to get a closer look.
We continued to follow the trail and came upon Panther Falls.
Panther Falls appeared to flow right out of the rock wall. So now we were curious. After ascending the trail, we headed off to find the top of Panther Falls. It flowed through a narrow cut in the rocks and then shot out with a hole. This is why it had so much force.
With darkness coming, we stopped for an evening lake reflection of the mountains. We drove the bottom half of Banff in the dark, but we had a tour of Banff scheduled for the next day and knew that we would learn more about some of the sights we had experienced and those we couldn’t see in the dark.
After arriving in Banff, we had to either get a hotel or find a campground. With it being cold, we looked on hotels.com and only 4 hotels were available at 250+ for the night. So we thought we would eat first to discuss our options. We settled upon the Magpie and Stump. It was a Mexican restaurant and was excellent. The name comes from the English term for Judges and criminals.
The restaurant had wifi so we found the Tunnel Mountain Campground which is part of the national park system. We were able to get a spot at Camp II for $52.00 for 2 nights. They had already started to close parts of the campground down, so felt lucky to have a spot. We set-up our canopy and settled in for the night. It would be a long day on our tour, but there would be a few exciting surprises!!!