So much wildlife in Banff & Jasper

Today we did the Maligne Lake Road drive to Maligne Lake. The weather wasn’t cooperative, so the views of the lake were not as spectacular as at Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, but I can see the potential. We only did a short hike at the lake, the Mary Schaffer Loop.

Lake Louise

Moraine Lake

We had purchased bear spray at the Jasper National Park visitor centre, but hubs said that the trail was probably busy enough that we wouldn’t need it. Where we started the hike, on a paved path, I suddenly heard a strange sound. It was quite loud, and when I looked to my left, I noticed a large caribou bouncing past in the opposite direction in the treed area. It wasn’t a trot – it was bouncing and breathing loudly. Hubs thought it could be panting. Not far behind was a smaller version. As we meandered further along the trail, it became more remote, and we found ourselves alone in the forest. I teased hubs about how the bears would likely come after us now, since we left the bear spray in the car. He wasn’t expecting it to be just us. Just as a precaution, we periodically clapped our hands and made some noise.

Mary Schaffer Loop

Watch out

Obviously we had no bear encounters since I am writing about the hike, but I couldn’t resist making this photo. Once out, we continued on the well trodden path around Maligne lake.

Set amongst the towering Canadian Rockies, the majestic 22 kilometres long Maligne Lake is the second-largest glacier-fed lake in the world. While its azure-blue waters can be cold for swimming, there are plenty of other activities to do in the Maligne Valley: hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and boat tours to Spirit Island.

Maligne Lake

We stopped at the restaurant on site, which is cafeteria style. The food was nothing memorable, but it wasn’t awful. It was pricey, so if you can, pack a lunch. After refueling, we drove back towards the start of the road, first stopping again at Medicine Lake (also known as vanishing lake). We had stopped here on the way out to Maligne Lake, but it was raining, making the views flat and wet. It was also crowded. But upon our return, the skies were blue and the sun was peaking through, making it a great time to be there, especially since we were practically the only people there for the first little while.

Medicine Lake 1

Medicine Lake 2

Love at Medicine Lake

I should mention that on our way back, there was a traffic jam. Cars were stopping on the side of the road and people were everywhere. A man walking past us announced that there were two grizzly bears. As we drove by, I saw one black bear. We didn’t stop because we had seen black bears yesterday. It surprises me that people don’t follow the posted signs saying that you should be 100 meters away from wildlife. The bear was about 30 meters. Yesterday on our way to Jasper, at Bow Lake, I spotted a mama and baby black bear by the side of the road. It was so cool to see them, and I was also surprised at how small black bears are. That was at 3:30 in the afternoon. At 5:50 pm, we were half an hour from Jasper town and we spotted another black bear. This time hubs saw it too, because people were again stopping on the side of the highway and getting out of their cars to take photos. Dangerous! Last night after a nice dinner at Raven Bistro, we spotted three elk near our house! They were at the start of a trail head. We snapped a few photos before they took off.

 

elk at bearberry

 

When hubs told me about our accommodations in Jasper, I was a little weary. He told me that we were staying in the basement of a house, but it’s a nice enough unit and the location is very close to town. We are here for one more night.

Back to our day in the park. After taking lots of photos at Medicine Lake, we drove back to Maligne Canyon, which was near the start of the drive. Again, we had stopped there on our way to the lake, but the parking lot was full and it was spitting. It wasn’t a good time to view the bridges over the canyon. Upon our return, it was less busy, and again the skies were clear. Due to time constraints, we only crossed four of the six bridges.

Maligne Canyon is situated in a deep river gorge surrounded by eroded limestone cliffs measuring over 50 metres high. The highlight of the canyon attraction is the tumbling waterfall, wilderness scenery, the underground streams and the surrounding limestone jagged cliffs.

DSC_8763

We chose not to view all bridges because we wanted to take advantage of the clear skies and take the Jasper SkyTram up the mountain. The base (lower station) is at 1,304 meters, and once on board, the seven minute ride up takes you to 2,277 metres, giving you an amazing vantage point.

Jasper Skytram

Jasper Skytram at the top

It was misty at the top, but you could see the mountains and the town of Jasper down below. We also spotted adult and baby hoary marmots.

DSC_8795

We only went partway up the trail from the tram’s upper station. I’m actually not sure how long the full hike is, maybe 6.1 km, but the trail was steep, and it was getting a little cool. We lined up to go back down on the tram, and it turned out to be a good thing that we went up when we did. As we were waiting to get down, dark clouds rolled in and it started to rain lightly. Boy, were we lucky! The drive back into town took 10 minutes, and we went straight to the Japanese restaurant, Sayuri. Don’t go. The food was mediocre, and for $20, you get 16 pieces of sashimi with no rice, no soup, and no salad. And they didn’t even provide ginger slices!

We are hoping for good weather tomorrow so that we can do the icefield glacier tour.

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