Off to the Canadian Rockies, Day 8

A grove of aspens at Pyramid Lake.
A grove of aspens at Pyramid Lake.

Thirteen days ago, June 19, 2015.

Exploring around Jasper townsite.

It was another misty moisty day and cloudy was the weather, as my mother would say (in sharp contrast to what we’ve got here in western Washington as I write this — we just came off the hottest June on record, and it’s supposed to get over 90F today, which is 20 degrees above normal), so I decided to start with something indoors, to give things a chance to improve.

But first I stopped at a Tim Horton’s in Jasper townsite, where they sold me a large hot tea and Timbits (doughnut holes) for breakfast. I’d never been in a Tim Horton’s before (I’ve seen their ads on the Canadian TV station I get on my cable at home), but they do very good tea and doughnut holes.

Jasper townsite has an active historical society, and an excellent museum telling all about its human history. The woman staffing the museum told me about at least one place I wouldn’t have known about otherwise, too, and was very friendly and informative in general. I am a big fan of local historical societies who are lucky enough to have volunteers like her.

A display at the Jasper Historical Museum telling about where the local First Nations lived.
A display at the Jasper Historical Museum telling about where the local First Nations lived.

It had cleared up a little by the time I left the museum, so I headed out to a pair of lakes, Patricia and Pyramid, which turned out to be a lovely short drive. I don’t know who Patricia Lake is named after, but Pyramid Lake was named after one of the mountains that looms over it, which is sort of pyramid-shaped. If you squint at it from the right angle. More to the point, Pyramid Lake has an island, accessed by bridge, with a pleasant walking trail around it. Even the rain, spitting and spatting, didn’t ruin the pleasure of that walk.

The bridge to the island in Pyramid Lake
The bridge to the island in Pyramid Lake
A robin and her nest on the island at Pyramid Lake.
A robin and her nest on the island at Pyramid Lake.
Pyramid Mountain.
Pyramid Mountain.
Yellow gallardia, white non-native oxeye daisies, and spiky butter and eggs, on the highway just outside Jasper townsite.
Yellow gallardia, white non-native oxeye daisies, and spiky butter and eggs, on the highway just outside Jasper townsite.

My next goal was Maligne (pronounced Ma-LEEN if you speak English, Ma-LINE if you speak French, according to the lady at the museum) Canyon, the third of those slot canyons I saw on this trip. More deep narrow recesses with water thundering down, more all but unnecessary bridges because it was basically close enough to jump if you were crazy, more wildflowers, more thundering waterfalls. And a sign telling all about how this canyon, at any rate, was created because I was standing on a karst formation. Karst. Here. I always associate karst landscapes with Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. It seemed very odd to run across it way off up here, for some reason. And the landscape was so green and lush. I’d had it in my brain that the whole of Jasper National Park was going to look like the area around Athabaska Glacier, but it doesn’t. Not at all.

The karst exhibit at Maligne Canyon.
The karst exhibit at Maligne Canyon.

Just after I turned around (the trail and canyon go on for several miles, but I only walked down to the third bridge and the waterfall, about a kilometer, mindful of the steepness of the trail going back uphill), the skies opened up. If I hadn’t been wearing my raincoat, I’d have been drenched. My feet absolutely squelched, though.

A view of Maligne Canyon.
A view of Maligne Canyon.
Another view of Maligne Canyon.
Another view of Maligne Canyon.
The waterfall at the third bridge on the Maligne Canyon trail.
The waterfall at the third bridge on the Maligne Canyon trail.

While eating my lunch in the car after, I discovered Jasper must have a repeater for the Edmonton CBC radio station, because I got to listen to a gardening show, which was fascinating. Seems to me like it would be an uphill battle to garden so far north (although many of the houses in Jasper have nice gardens), but apparently it’s worth it.

And so on to Maligne Lake. I passed Medicine Lake on the way, which, because of the karst, drains completely by late summer.

Medicine Lake, which had not disappeared for the summer yet.
Medicine Lake, which had not disappeared for the summer yet.

Maligne Lake is another of those jewels dropped into the middle of a forest, with mountains all around, and should be part of the seven wonders of the natural world, not Lake Louise, IMHO. If it weren’t for the mosquitoes and the rain continuing to threaten, it would have been almost too perfect. But about the time I got back to my car, I got showered with ice pellets. In late June.

Maligne Lake, seriously, utterly gorgeous.
Maligne Lake, seriously, utterly gorgeous.  That’s a historic boathouse on the left.
A view of Maligne Lake from the bridge at its outlet.
A view of Maligne Lake from the bridge at its outlet.

On the way back to Jasper townsite, I saw four bears. One lone male, then a sow with two cubs. Pretty exciting stuff, and by far my best bear photo of the trip.

Mama bear and one of her babies.  The other one was out of sight at that moment, alas.
Mama bear and one of her babies. The other one was out of sight at that moment, alas.  This was taken with the zoom, from the safety of my car, just so you know.

When I got back, I prowled town for a bit, ate supper (better than the night before, thank goodness), bought some candy called naked bear paws (cashews on caramel), and headed for the hostel. Back down the Icefields Parkway tomorrow, the first step in heading home <sigh>.