Day 14: Jasper National Park and Canadian Rockies

Has it been two weeks already? Amazing. In some ways I feel like the trip is flying by. In others I feel like today is the day that it finally gets started. Today I head to Jasper National Park. This is the park north of Banff. And while Banff gets all of the attention, I hear Jasper is equally, if not more, stunning. I can’t wait to get back into the mountains.

I headed out of town a little later than I wanted, but I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to get out of bed. Then there was the dog feeding, walking, coffee, and removing the water, electric, and drain lines from the park. And diesel. I always need diesel.

After filling up I hit highway 16. The trans-Canada highway. And a straight shot to Jasper. The drive started off like all of the other drives. Farmland and more farmland. And then I came around a corner and BAM there were the Rockies. It was startling after so much rolling farmland.

As the Kilometers ticked off and I got closer and closer to Hinton (the town at the entrance to Jasper) the mountains got taller and individual peaks came into focus. As I entered Jasper National Park (another park that is free this year for the Canada 150 celebration), I crossed a glacial stream meandering through a lush valley with giant peaks on both sides. Every turn offered a new view that seemed better than the last. I stopped by the campground to get my bearings and then headed into Jasper township. It’s like Estes Park is to Rocky Mountain National Park, if Estes was in the middle of the park. I parked the bus near the Parks Canada information center so that I could plan out my next three days. I had a couple of notes of things I wanted to do, but nothing concrete. After talking with them I had a couple of options that I’ll explore of the next few days, including a couple of lakes that I can paddleboard in!

I left the Parks Canada office and walked around town. I picked up a few souveniers and postcards, and stopped by the post office to get stamps. After that I decided to head to the Jasper Sky Tram. The tram goes from near Jasper town up one of the larger peaks. I figured it would be a great way to get some aerial perspective on Jasper (since I can’t fly the drone here) and a perfect activity for the short part of the day I had left. I arrived at about 5, stood in line to buy tickets and was put in the 5:30 boarding group. No problem. I went back to the bus and took Pepper for a quick walk, then it was time to board.

The ride takes about 7 minutes to the top of “The Whistlers” peak, not to be confused with Whistler, which is in BC. On the way up we learn that the pine beetle is ravaging the Jasper forest which is almost exclusively lodgepole pine, the beetle’s favorite. We also learn that there is a great hiking trail at the top that takes visitors to the actual top of the mountain. Perfect. After disembarking I set off to continue the ascent to the top. It took me about 30 minutes (though I was stopping a LOT to take photos). But that’s fine, I wasn’t in a hurry to go anywhere.

The view from the top was incredible. I’m not sure the photos can do it justice. The mountains are rough and jagged and steep. The streams are bright blue from the glacier dirt they carry with them. The lakes are crystal clear. It’s seriously like something out of a painting or sci-fi movie on some far off planet. Its incredible. And makes you feel so small in comparison.

After a short wait to board the tram back down the mountain I arrived back at the bus to a very happy to see me Pepper. I fed her dinner, took her for a walk, and then we headed back into Jasper town. I was starving and didn’t want to cook so I popped into Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria, a place I’d read about online when I was researching Jasper. And pizza and a beer sounded awesome. And it was.

After dinner Pepper and I headed back to our campground. Unfortunately because of the Canada 150 my campground is about 30 minutes outside of Jasper town (yes, Jasper National Park is THAT big). I rolled into the campground, backed the bus into its space and closed all of the windows. This place is FILLED with mosquitos.

It’s now 11:30 and it just finally got dark out. Love the late daylight hours here. It’s like having more time in a day. But it also makes going to bed at a reasonable hour difficult.

Tomorrow is Maligne Lake (pronounced ma-lean) area for some hiking, swimming, and paddleboarding. It’s supposed to be really warm, so that will be great!