Published: October 20th 2009October 20th 2009
Jasper—More than a dot on the map!
Our plan to go to Jasper was frivolous—we had perused the map of BC and seen that the road past the Columbia Icefields went north to Jasper and then there were roads from there heading back south. We had no idea what a treat and challenge and bed of serendipity the Jasper area would be for us.
We got to Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park about 4pm and joined the peak hour rush of RVs trying to get a campsite for the night. All the powered sites were taken (as they were every night we were there) so some large vehicles were turning around, heading for a venue which would allow a continuation of their 21st century (dying?) lifestyle, but most accepted a tent site and hunkered down for a more basic night.
As we inched forward in the long line of vehicles, we turned the car engine off and on again, as we'd learned that the 'No Idling in BC' policy didn't refer to unemployment, but to car exhaust and an effort to maintain air quality for the park rangers at the entry gate and for everyone else.
When we finally got to the gatehouse, in full view of the large green mobile bear trap/evacuation unit, we were advised that it was rutting season for elks and we should keep our distance from them as they were aggressive at this time, would even attack cars, and we should in no case ever walk between a bull and a doe.
“Are they in the park?” I asked, somewhat surprised.
“They're in the park,” replied the ranger simply. Another ranger later told me they extimated that there were somewhere between 30 and 100 elk in the park (a fairly wide-ranging estimate, it seemed to me) and there were 3 head bulls who were currently sorting out the field of does available. (Sounded uncomfortably like a freshman mixer...)
As usual, we asked for a site near the washrooms—making it through the night was challenge enough for me, without adding on meeting bears (and now elks) on extended camp pathways.
We hadn't been in camp long when there was a strange, loud, high pitched sound, like you might hear in a faulty plumbing pipe and a woman washing dishes at the outside sink started shouting, “Dean! Dean! I
need your help!” As Dean didn't appear to be responding, and I was close by, I raced over to her. Now what she thought was her problem was that the knob on the tap had fallen off (I had, if fact, already had occasion to deal with that faulty knob without shouting for Phil! Phil! but never mind.)
But what I had perceived to be reason for her alarm was that not far beyond her a gigantic male elk was making his way up the slope! I pointed past her and she looked around, and then we saw most of the other people in the tent sites beyond either go into freeze frame or scoot for their cameras, and this enormous majestic creature let out his high pitched squeal (“Here I am!”) a couple more times as he passed through various sites and moved on through the park.
A while later, when we heard the sound again, we didn't look for a ranger with plumbing experience, we looked back at the bushes where the Elk had disappeared, and there he was again, retracing his steps back through the tent sites. This time he hung around for a while,
fairly near the washrooms, then sauntered off.
Later that night, Phil and I had just fallen asleep in the van and were awakened to something or someone banging on the windows. As I opened my eyes, I saw a man with a tortured looking face peering in, then he fell to the ground. OMG! Has he been gored by an elk? What should we do?
I opened the window and asked, “Are you ok?” and saw he was struggling to his feet.
“Yes,” he said. Then “No...I don't know where I am.” And I realized he was just drunk. I asked where his site was, and it was only 4 spots away from us, so I tried to direct him back to it, told him to watch out for the elks, and off he wobbled, after falling again.
In all my years of camping, a drunk has never entered my campsite, but neither has an elk-gored person. I'm glad I just had to give him directions, rather than triage.
Next day we found Jasper to be a pretty little place, more laid back than Banff, and full of eating places and shops. Jasper also has an
enormous number of private homes that take in travellers, in addition to heaps of more conventional accommodation. A large brochure of these homes is available at the info center, and after hours, to aid late travellers, they post a list in their window of which homes still have vacancies.
As usual, we sought out the library for catching up with internet work, did some laundry at a place which turned out to be very expensive, and, wandering around, acted upon a sudden whim...we went into the train station and asked about taking a train to somewhere (as yet undefined to us), because Phil loves train trips.
When we walked out, we'd decided, quite uncharacteristicly to book a FOUR DAY round trip to Prince Rupert and back!!! We had never heard of Prince Rupert, or Prince George, where we would have to overnight, but the trip was described as “One of the ten best train rides in the world”, so we thought, what the heck? We're here now, and may never be here again. Being spontaneous was one of our aims, and this sure fit the bill!
To get the discounted tickets, we had to book 3 days
Clever Garden technique in Jasper
Cover the bare areas with cones and the mini-beds with slate.
in advance, so we decided to hang around Jasper, and during that time we saw some more amazing places.
We had a picnic at Pyramid Lake when a rainy day turned suddenly sunny and glorious. This is also where I went into Nancy Drew mode. As we were finishing our lunch, two people appeared through the bushes down the lakeside from us a bit, and put some giant antlers on a picnic table. They were running and laughing. They disappeared again and reappeared with more and more antlers of different shapes and sizes.
“What are they doing?” I asked Phil, who clearly didn't know any more than I did, but who's always willing to make a guess at things. “Who has antlers for their lunch? Why are they running? Why have they disappeared?” I started to wonder if they were some sort of poachers. My mind was turning and turning...till shortly a group of 12 elderly tourists appeared with a leader with a stentorian voice, who gave them a lakeside lesson on the structure and reasons for antlers on various animals, and then they had afternoon tea and were gone.
So far in Jasper I'd been spared
both a rusty attempt at first aid and a faulty attempt at a citizens arrest. What next?
Next was a trip to Maligne Lake, another stunning spot with a path to follow along the lakeside. The trails deeper into the forest had this advisory -- “It is Carabou rutting season, so please consider not taking this trail at this time, so as not to disturb them.” As we're basically not into disturbing quadripeds or others during rutting, we kept to the lake.
After the lake, we saw a sign for Maligne Canyon, so we stopped there, too. What the heck, eh? Maligne Canyon is hard to photograph as it's both deep and extremely narrow. It has several bridges going across it. We got as far as the 5th bridge, then decided to return to the parking lot, as the descent so far had been very steep. And as anyone in Australia knows, with those “upside down mountains”, if you start off by going down (eg in the Blue Mountains) you still have to go all the way back up in the afternoon!
So here are some pics from Jasper and environs.
The 4 day train trip
is the next episode.
There are more photos below