Over the past couple of days we have paid our penance for the ice cream cake and walked nearly 40 miles. Who needs a gym when you have the Canadian Rockies on your doorstep! Whereas Canmore was perfectly beautiful, Jasper is ruggedly so and we just love it here. Jasper is known as the gentle giant of the Rockies and the many mountains and rivers continue to captivate us. We have walked on the wild side, getting up close and personal with a range of species. On the drive into Jasper National Park we encountered a bull elk (Wapiti) at the side of the road - he was a big and handsome boy! (see photo). We hoped this was a sign of things to come and have not been disappointed.
We are staying in the basement of the SleepEze guesthouse on Connaught Drive and have received a very warm welcome from Ernesto and Shannon the owners (more about their fabulous hospitality later). This has been a gem of a find as it has a kitchenette, bathroom and bedroom and is VERY reasonably priced for this time of year.
Our first hike took us to Pyramid Lake, a reasonably long but gentle hike to get us acclimatised. The Pyramid Mountain dominates the skyline as you walk towards the lake and you get some excellent views of the snow caped Mount Edith Cavell in the distance. Our next wildlife encounter was with Tufty the squirrel - not quite so scary and intimidating!
The following day we set off early in the direction of Maligne Canyon. This is a stunning walk along the Athabasca River, passing Lac Beauvert, Lake Annette and Lake Edith. Early on in the walk we spotted a female elk on the Athabasca River and became somewhat wary as we passed signs warning us of Cougar sightings. Don't tell Stuart but this did make me a little anxious and whilst we were 'speed' walking through the danger zone I mistook many a rock and tree branches for a cougar which I think Stuart found a little tiresome after a while.
After getting through the danger zone without an attack we started to calm down a bit only to be confronted by another female elk lazing in the trees - she was much closer to us than the recommended 30 meters but seemed very un-phased by our arrival. With a shaky hand I did manage to get a photo and then trundled quickly on - thinking that perhaps wildlife photography is not my calling as my heart rate once again rapidly increased.
After a quick lunch at Lake Annette we continued our journey to the Malign Canyon which is spectacular. We walked along the Maligne River through the canyon across a series of bridges and witnessed some spectacular waterfalls. The walk back to Jasper along the long and winding road was indeed long, winding and steep; we were really starting to feel it in the old legs.
In the evening we met up once again with Sandle family who were spending the weekend in Jasper. We enjoyed a well-deserved Jambalaya which as with everything in Canada was huge and left no room for pudding which is probably no bad thing. We said our goodbyes and Stuart and I staggered (quite literally) back to the guest house via the Jasper Brewing Co. for a swift half of 'Honey Bear'.