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Report 1739: Six Weeks in Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC where English Tourists Don’t Get to....

By Eleanor from England, Summer 2009

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Page 8 of 9: Saskatchewan Crossing to Jasper

photo by Eleanor

Snout of Cavell Glacier and Cavell Pond. The figures on the shore give an idea of the scale of the area.

I had a leaflet, which gave distances between all the sights along the parkway but even keeping a close check on distance we still managed to miss many. A lot of the smaller sites are not signed or else you are past the parking area before you realise. There are also all the trees - very often there is a stunning view but you can’t see it for the trees.

It took us quite a while to get used to the red trees. Much of the forest is old mature forest as over the last 50 years there have been major efforts to suppress and control forest fires. It is now realised this has caused problems as cones need the extreme heat of a forest fire before seeds can germinate. There is less ground cover in old forest, so less food and fewer animals. The pine beetle population however has boomed and is now a major pest as it attacks older trees. In the first summer the needles turn deep red - the trees stand out against the green and it looks like autumn colours. The following year the needles fall off. The dead trees are referred to as the ‘grey’ forest as that is the colour of the dead, standing wood. Seeds won’t germinate because of above... There are huge swathes of grey forest covering the hillsides.

Like all good tourists we drove up to Lake Louise. We did the short climb to Fairview lookout - shorter and thought it would be quieter than Agnes Tea House walk. It was certainly quieter as we only saw two other people. It was good exercise with a good view back to Fairmont Chateau but not much else. We wouldn’t do it again. The lakeside was thronged with tourists. Moraine Lake was quieter but by midday parking was getting difficult. We had done the 'must see' views but another time wouldn’t bother. I think they are overrated.

We gave Athabasca Glacier a miss. (We have seen glaciers close up in Iceland and Greenland so it wasn’t a priority.) The car park was full and overflowing with other tourists. It is an inspiring walk to the glacier snout. I also have very mixed views about the trip onto the glacier. I feel we do enough damage to our planet without this. If you want to get close to a glacier Mt. Cavell is much better.

Mistaya Canyon and Sunwapta Falls, particularly walking to the lower falls, were both worth visiting.

We had four nights in Jasper. We drove up to Mount Cavell early on a beautifully bright and clear day. We were nearly the first car in the car park. Be warned the park isn’t very big and fills up quickly. The Path of the Glacier Loop is an easy walk and gets you close to the snout of Mt. Cavell Glacier. We did the lower part of the Cavell Meadows path - the top end was still closed until the snow had melted and the ground dried out. This climbed up the side of the valley past huge piles of stones with Pikka and marmots sunning themselves. It gave super views across to the Angel Glacier and down to Mt. Cavell Glacier. A well worth while visit.

We also did the drive up to Maligne Lake - another nice drive. We didn’t go on a lake cruise but did the Moose Loop Trail. Where it gets back to the lake there is an unmarked trail continuing along the lake shore which we followed as far as we could. It wasn’t far from ‘civilisation’ but felt like real wilderness. We sat eating our lunch on the shore miles from anywhere waving at the people on the cruises. Unless you do the cruise or are wanting to walk, there isn’t much else apart from the huge restaurant and gift shop.

Coming back down we saw our first ‘bear jam’. We turned a corner to find a coach, several RVs and a dozen cars parked all over the road with various people rioting around trying to take pictures. As we wove our way round cars and people we got a glimpse of a black bear that was trying to have a quiet meal down a break in the trees 50 yards off the road. I felt sorry for the bear.

We did the Maligne Canyon Walk on the way back to Jasper. We parked by the Fifth Bridge and walked up the river. We were glad we did it this way round as there were some stiff climbs, particularly near the top. The path is narrow in places where it runs along the side of the canyon. The limestone has become polished from feet and was quite slippy in places. If it was wet it would be very slippery. Again we enjoyed this walk and felt it was very worthwhile.

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