Tag Archive | Jasper

Alberta 2012: En Route to Calgary

White-tailed Jack Rabbit

After leaving the Valley of the Five Lakes, Doran and I drove south until we reached the turnoff for Athabasca Falls. Although my family had visited these falls when I was a kid, I didn’t remember them at all; it would be like seeing them for the first time. The falls are only 23 metres high, but the large volume of water that funnels into the waterfall makes the Athabasca Falls one of the most powerful falls in the mountain parks. The Athabasca River, which is fed by the Columbia Glacier about 70 kilometres south, thunders into a narrow gorge, where the quartzite and limestone walls have been worn away and potholes have been created by the force of the rushing water.

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Alberta 2012: Mt. Edith Cavell

Hoary Marmot

On Thursday afternoon we visited another famous Jasper mountain, Mount Edith Cavell. The snow-covered, craggy peak of this mountain dominates the skyline south of the town of Jasper, and it is about a 45-minute drive from the townsite. It is reached by taking Highway 93A to Cavell Road, and following Cavell Road twelve kilometers to the parking lot at the end. Cavell Road is narrow and has sharp turns and tight switchbacks that are unsuitable for trailers and large motor-homes, which should be left in a parking area at the beginning of the road. While it wasn’t quite a “white-knuckle” ride up the mountain to the parking lot, the road was steep enough and narrow enough to make me uneasy. There were no shoulders….the white line at the edge of the pavement was all that separated the road from the rocky slope on one side and the vegetation on the other.

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Alberta 2012: On Top of Whistlers Mountain

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

The next morning was mostly sunny and clear, so Doran and I decided to take the Jasper Tramway up to the top of Whistler’s Mountain. The Jasper Tramway is the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada and takes visitors from an altitude of 1304 metres (4279 ft) above sea level to 2277 metres (7472 ft) above sea level in about seven minutes. On a clear day a 360° view of six mountain ranges, glacial fed lakes, the Athabasca river, the Jasper town-site, and Mount Robson in nearby British Columbia is possible. It costs $30.95 per adult, or $35.00 with breakfast included, so we paid the extra money to have breakfast at the Treeline Restaurant in the upper station.

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Alberta 2012: A Quiet Evening

Black-billed Magpie

After our trip to Hinton we spent a quiet afternoon at our cabin. I spent an hour or so trying to identify the bugs I photographed in Hinton but wasn’t making much progress, so I decided to walk around the Pine Bungalows property to see if I could get some better photos of the Mountain Chickadees. However, when I heard a couple of Black-billed Magpies calling from somewhere nearby, I went looking for these birds instead as they are not as common in Jasper as they are in Sherwood Park. I knew they had been hanging out somewhere along the road beyond the laundry, and it didn’t take me long to find four of them, perhaps a family group, foraging on the ground beneath the trees.

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Alberta 2012: Wildlife Along the Highway

Bull Elk

They say that your best chance of seeing wildlife in Jasper National Park is by driving along Highway 93A, Highway 16, or the Maligne Lake Road early in the morning or late in the evening. The fall and spring tend to be the best times of the year to see mammals, especially bears, caribou and moose. Elk, on the other hand, are easily seen along the highways in Jasper during the summer months, as the elk population numbers in the thousands. Highway 16 East, Highway 93, and the Maligne Lake Road are all excellent places to see elk, and they even venture into the town of Jasper looking for a safe place from predators where vegetation is plentiful. Large bull elks with velvet antlers are often seen along Highway 16 East or near Medicine Lake.

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Alberta 2012: The Maligne Canyon

Waterfall along the Maligne Canyon

Later in the afternoon Doran and I visited the Maligne Canyon, said to be one of the most spectacular gorges in the Canadian Rockies. This gorge is about 1.2 km long and 55 metres at its deepest point, with the glacier-fed Maligne River running through it. The water of the Maligne River is a unique green colour, which is caused by an abundance of fine clay particles and rock powder suspended in the water. Although some photos I’ve seen show the river as a clear, emerald green colour, the water was a frothy, milky green when we visited.

We started our hike at the parking lot near the Fifth Bridge. A total of six bridges cross the river along the trail, allowing hikers to look directly down into the gorge. The sixth bridge is downriver, while the other four bridges are all upstream. The trail starts on the other side of the suspension bridge, which swayed a bit as we crossed it.

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Alberta 2012: Butterflies and a Bull Elk

Christina Sulphur

After leaving Pyramid Lake we drove back to our cabin to get some lunch. Doran wanted to relax afterward, but I couldn’t sit still so I decided to explore the grounds of Pine Bungalows.

Our co-inhabitant, the Columbian Ground Squirrel, was sitting in front of his burrow at the back of the cabin when I checked. There was a pine cone on the ground in front of him, and although he tried to look nonchalant, I figured he had been trying to eat the seeds inside for there was a flake on one of his eyes. These squirrels are larger and much calmer than the American Red Squirrels that also call Jasper home. Although the one under our cabin sometimes darts away when he sees me, other times he just sits there. Fortunately today he decided to allow me to look at him.

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Alberta 2012: Pyramid Lake

Greenish Blue

The next morning Doran and I drove into town to check out the Information Center. I was looking forward to visiting the store as I wanted to purchase some maps, brochures and checklists for the various trails and wildlife species in the park. Normally I order these in advance to figure out the best trails to see wildlife and where to find specific species, but their online store has been down for the last six months. This was a source of frustration to me, as I had had much happier experiences ordering from Algonquin Provincial Park and Point Pelee National Park.

To say that the Information Center was a disappointment is an understatement. The only checklist they were able to provide me in the store was a bird checklist. At the information counter I asked the girl if there was a naturalist or park interpreter available, but there wasn’t – apparently the naturalist is at a different location in the park each day. So I asked the girl about the best spots to find birds. She had a bit of an accent which I couldn’t place, so when she looked at me and asked what I meant, I said, “Birds. Oiseaux.” She clearly wasn’t French and didn’t understand my translation. Instead, she thought I was saying “Bears” and pointed out a few places on the map where they had been reported. Finally Doran made a flapping motion with both hands, and she turned to ask the other fellow at the counter about birds. He recommended the trails around Cottonwood Slough and Pyramid Lake. I thanked them, but I didn’t bother asking about good places to find western butterflies or dragonflies.

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Alberta 2012: Jasper National Park

Columbian Ground Squirrel

After spending an hour shopping at West Edmonton Mall, my fiancé Doran and I drove west to Jasper National Park. It’s about a 4-hour drive but seemed shorter than that. We saw an Osprey on a nesting platform by a lake, a couple of unidentified raptors, and several deer near Hinton. The deer were too far from the road to tell whether they were White-tailed Deer or Mule Deer. Once we reached Hinton we could see the mountains looming in the distance. It didn’t take long before we reached the first one, and as soon as we drove around it we saw other mountains ahead of us. We were in the Rocky Mountains!

We reached the park gate and paid the entrance fee. The skies were clouding up, so we didn’t stop to take any pictures on our way in. We didn’t see any mammals on our drive, either, though I was happy to see a pair of adult Bald Eagles were perching in a tree near Jasper Lake.

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