Jasper National Park
Ever since I saw Richard and Karina’s photos of the summer they spent in Jasper National Park, going there myself has been the number one thing on my to-do list for Canada. It turns out that I am friends with the right people because as soon as I arrived in Canada a little over a month ago a trip to Jasper was already being discussed. The guide books recommend booking campsites for the trip several months in advance as numbers are very limited. However we lucked out and a cancellation meant we were able to secure a spot for a canoe/hiking trip less than a month away!
The drive to Hinton in Alberta where Karina’s parents live was a 12 hours drive and 2 hour ferry journey, that included a stopover in Vancouver with some of Richard’s family. As we approached the Rockies the next day my anticipation only grew as the scenery became more and more jaw dropping. After some expert barbecuing and an early night we woke at 4:30am to head for the park which itself was a stunning journey. As we unloaded the canoe onto Maligne Lake with the the sun rising I couldn’t help thinking that this moment was the reason I was in Canada.
A 14km canoe trip took us to the Fisherman’s Bay campground where we would spend our first night. Despite this being my first time in an open top canoe we made good time. Although my shoulders were asking for a break, we had another 1km to paddle for the highlight of Maligne Lake – Spirit Island.
I heard that this is the most photographed spot in Canada and it is easy to see why. Altough we were one of only a handful of campers during the day a tourist boat drops people off to appreciate the sight. We would be back tomorrow to have the place to ourselves.
Waking up at 5:30am we packed our gear into the canoe and made our way to Spirit Island for a second time, with not a soul in sight. We ate breakfast overlooking the island appreciating the almost eerie silence. I have never experienced anything so peaceful and calm.
Unfortunately we could not stop all day. We had a 15km paddle to do before me and Richard started hiking Skyline the same day! It’s a strange feeling starting a three day hike already tired but I couldn’t wait to get going. Packing light we set off for Snowbowl campground 12km away. The hike turned out to be mostly uphill so food and sleep was high on the agenda when we arrived.
Unfortunately the campground turned out to be especially bad for mosquitos and for some reason I am especially good at getting bitten! As I write this I am sporting around 40 bites all over my body while Richard has “maybe one”, despite him not using any insect spray. As we hid in our tent I vowed to make it my lifetime goal to find a way of overcoming the hikers nemesis.
At 18km which includes summiting highest point of the hike day two is the longest and toughest day – but we didn’t even notice as we walked through some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen. When we arrived at The Notch we climbed a little higher for a near 360 degree view of the park. The view was breathtaking. On one side a sunny peaceful green valley and then a turn of the head reveals striking mountains partially hidden by dark angry rainclouds on the other.
With high spirits we finished the second day at Tekarra campground for some well deserved rest. Day three flew past as we overtook and chatted to groups of other hikers we had gotten to know over the course of the hike.
Karina arrived to pick us up just as we finished. This is easily one of the best hikes I have ever done and I hope to do lots more to rival it during my time here.