Jewels of Jasper

(August 23rd-26th )
With two full days in Jasper, this was to be our longest stop on the trip, and after some research I wasn’t sure if there was actually that much to do here, especially in comparison to when we had been desperate for more time in Whistler and Clearwater. Nevertheless, we still had a fair few things we wanted to tick off, with the first being the Jasper skytram taking us 2300m up to the top of Whistlers Mountain. Getting there at 11am we were still faced with a wait for an hour and a half until our tram time to take us to the top. With only two trams, one went up while the other came down. With about 15-20 people able to fit in a tram it went without saying that we got in our queue early to secure a position near a window! And what a view we were rewarded with for doing so. On our journey up the surrounding Rockies were revealed to us, snow capped, as the cold spell the night before had actually been freak weather, bringing with it some unseasoned snow! As we climbed higher we could see Jasper below us and lakes, a spectacular shade of blue, tucked in between grooves in the mountains. The chill definitely hadn’t left the air as we reached the top and luckily I had an extra layer to throw on- two jumpers, a waterproof and a scarf and I was ready for the hike to the top. 
Mount Robson
The extra 1.5km to the peak was normally estimated to take about 45 minutes. but as we looked up it seemed difficult to make out the path! Snow, a foot deep in some places, covered the peak like a blanket, with a faint slushy path having been carved through it by climbers earlier in the day. We started off, up to the top, taking our time to watch our step and take in the views. Despite taking double the amount of time to reach the top, with a lot of clutching onto my brother, Ashley’s, hand and at some points having both hands on the floor in what resembled a rather strange crawl, we finally made it. And it was without doubt worth it. We were surrounded by a 360 degree, breathtaking view of the Rockies- rugged, snow-capped and simply spectacular. And to top it off Mount Robson was proudly showing off its peak for all to see. When Dad managed to finally shut the family up it was silent we simply heard nothing. It was incredible. Despite the crowds at the bottom of the mountain, the busy tram and the groups climbing up, by the time we were at the top we were basically on our own, with our own piece of untainted natural beauty. The climb down seemed slightly easier than the way up, as we created our own route through untouched, crisp snow. Shelley decided that the method of quick, light footing, “keeping your body loose as to avoid injury if you fall” was best, and headed down the mountain, in one piece, but slightly too quickly for my liking! Before we knew it we had made it back, not before a slip over by yours truly on the steps to the tram- after all that careful footing on the descent as well!! I can’t express how fantastic climbing to the peak was. And the snow just added that extra dimension, not only to the mountain scene, but also to the experience, with our scrambling, slipping and sliding sure to be coming up in stories around the dinner table for years to come. 

The afternoon was spent at the Miette Hot Springs. A relaxing and much warmer end to the day! Unsure of what to expect I found the experience very commericalised and essentially they were four swimming pools of different temperatures ranging from a rather chilly 18 degrees to a lovely 42 degrees. Busy, but inexpensive, there wasn’t much else to them! We returned to the hotel relaxed, rejuvinated and ready for bed!  

Spirit Island

We woke up early and headed to Maligne Lake on day two in Jasper. We managed to get the last seats on the first boat heading out to cruise the lake that day and we made our way to the infamous Spirit Island. Discovered by Mary Schaffer in 1907, this incredible explorer was responsible for putting the lake back on the map and the consequential tourism brought with it! Understandably Schaffer fell in love with the lake and its mountains that rise up from all sides and with such a view before her did not even mark Spirit Island on the map after her first visit to the oasis. Her time at Maligne Lake led her to explore the Rockies further and she was truly a pioneer for female explorers. It is clear why she fell in love with the place. We spent our brief time on Spirit Island taking in beautiful views desperately trying to create mental and digital photos that could do slight justice to the scenery before our eyes. 

The first time Maligne Lake made it onto a map

Travelling back on the boat to where we had set out from I realised something quite sad. Whilst many had been admiring the mountains as they faded into the background, talking to the guide who showed us photos of the lake in Winter when it is covered in thick ice and snow, or simply talking to each other, many of the children had not been. Heads down, they were playing on smartphones. It was strange. A clash of untouched nature and intrusive technology right before my eyes. It’s true that even when we were younger there were gameboys and nintendos and whether we had them or not we probably wouldn’t have been too interested in admiring the view either. But as an adult it seems so gutting- I wanted to snatch the phone off of her and just say ‘Look Where You Are!!!!’ By the time we were back at the park we had set off from, the place was heaving!  Fleeing the crowds we jumped in the car and headed back to the hotel. We passed Medicine Lake which had been the scene of a large forest fire earlier in July, which had lasted two weeks and left the cliffs an eerie wasteland as thousands of tree trunks stood blackened and without branches. It was incredible to see how truly dense the forest actually is when you can see exactly how many trunks there really are. And the best thing is that these natural forestfires are mother nature’s way of regenerating the forest, not simply an act of destruction. 

Destruction from the forest fire at Medicine Lake
The afternoon gave us a chance to explore the town of Jasper, something we haven’t really had the chance to do in the other places we’ve stayed at. The neighbourhood was small and quaint, with houses and bungalows full of character and two main shopping streets that catered for everyone, locals and tourists alike. Cargo trains pulled through the town daily, stopping at the local station, with around 50 carton carriages they were around a kilometre long! From the top of Whilster’s mountain we had watched them cut their way through the bottom of the mountains, taking about 5 minutes to pass just one spot on their route down below. During this last afternoon what appeared to be mist began to cloud our view of the mountains. We later found out that this was actually smoke coming up from forestfires in Washington State. It didn’t look like it was giong to shift any time soon and continued to get thicker as we left Jasper and headed to explore more of the Rockies. 

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