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Published: August 7th 2014
As previously mentioned, Jasper is held to be the better of the two biggest Canadian Rockies national parks for viewing wildlife. It held up that reputation today.
We began the day in Maligne (pron. Maleen) Canyon. The origin of the canyon is not yet determined. It is a narrow canyon through limestone. One theory is that it is a canyon cut by a stream back cutting back through the stone, but timing of glacial deposits makes that less likely. Another theory is that water rushing beneath a glacier that was here cut through the rock. After seeing the canyon, it appears most likely to me (and is apparently the theory favored by geologists) that it was a cave that was unroofed by the passing glacier. Regardless of its origin, it is fascinating. The water rushes through narrow walls and is propelled over waterfalls with great force, then the canyon opens up and it slows down to a placid looking stream, only to rush through a narrow portion again. Potholes, now no longer underwater, are everywhere. The only thing that struck me as unusual was the lack of birds. In fact, we have seen very few in Jasper. Don't know why.
As we reached the end of the section of the trail along the river, we made a short but steep climb and then a fairly level walk to a summit location overlooking the entire valley. Magnificent.
After a brief respite from our 3.5 km hike, we set out again for the Maligne Lake area. Along the way, we stopped and dangled our feet in Medicine Lake. Medicine Lake is seasonal. The rock underlying it fractured extensively during uplift of the Rockies, and now those cracks have been gradually expanded into fissures and caves. This forms an immense underground stream system. In the spring, when water flow is heavy, the water can't get out through the underground system and the lake fills. By October, the flow has been slowed sufficiently that water has drained out and the lake becomes nothing but a small stream meandering through a meadow. The disappearance was attributed to evil spirits by the native tribes, and they gave the lake the name for bad medicine.
Further along the road, we came to Maligne Lake, a much larger and more reliable body of water. There is a boat that takes tourists on rides around the
lake, and canoers and kayakers. Grabbing our hiking poles, some water, and cameras, we set out on another 3.5 km hike to Moose Lake. Upon arrival at the lake, we discovered a mother moose and her calf feeding on water grasses and algae in the shallows. The mother would put her head under water for a minute or more at a time and finally come up chewing the last of the stuff she had grabbed. The baby soon got full and went to the shore for a rest. A third moose was further down the lake.
After a rest, we went to dinner and while we were eating by the window with a view of the mountains, brief but heavy shower went through the mountains nearby and gave us a nice rainbow.
Tomorrow: Columbia Icefield, an 8 km steep hike up 1100', and then on to Banff.
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