Two unknown ladies enjoy a day of Nordic skiing with their dogs on Pyramid Lake in Alberta's Jasper National Park.
JASPER, ALTA. Normally when you head out on an animal wilderness tour, you are taking your chances on actually seeing any wildlife. After all, it's not like someone opens the gates and says, "Okay fellas, go do your thing for the tourists." But not 10 minutes out with the folks from the Jasper Adventure Centre, we were slowing down our vehicle for a small herd of White-tail.
If we would have been faster, I would have had pictures to prove it, but these deer are skittish and with a flick of their tails, they were bounding over the ditch and disappearing into the trees.
Less than two minutes later, who's coming up the road? Mr. Coyote himself (or herself). Nonchalantly trotting up the road towards us and ignoring the crows diving over its head. Our guide, Dieter Regett brought back the reality of the animal kingdom by suggesting that there must have been a kill that both scavengers were after, thus the dive-bombing crows.
This was just the beginning of our morning adventure in Jasper National Park, and what a way to start.
The beauty of Jasper National Park and the Town of Jasper is that both are still rugged, the park especially.
Take a stroll down any of the streets of this quaint town and the people (locals and visitors alike) are bound to give you a smile and a hello. The town is surrounded by wilderness and it takes only a few steps to put you in the heart of that wilderness, which offers up some amazing sites.
The plan was to head towards Pyramid Lake and then backtrack to the other side of the Town of Jasper and head to the Athabasca Falls and take a walk around the Upper Canyon Rim of Maligne Canyon.
Great walking trails
Big Horn sheep are much more easy to see than coyotes in Jasper National Park.
Our road trip also had us running parallel in some areas to the Discovery Trail that runs around the Jasper townsite. Looked after by the Friends of Jasper, this is a great trail system that can be hiked year-round and is perfect for those looking to take a day off from skiing and riding Marmot Basin, or those who aren't into the downhill sports.
There are several trail-heads, but the easiest to find is located in between the Amethyst Lodge and the train tracks. It's an easy walk but sturdy shoes/boots with good grips that can handle some of the slick areas are recommended.
Whether we were sitting on the bus or enjoying the walk through the picnic sites of Pyramid Lake, Regett kept up a steady stream of stories that bounced back and forth between the history and geography of the areas we were travelling through and anecdotes of some of the various celebrities who visited the Jasper area in years gone by.
The man is truly a font of knowledge and a gifted guide.
Once we got to Maligne Canyon though, he was a bit more serious, stressing the point of using common sense when travelling around the upper canyon trailseven pointing out a plaque that is dedicated to a local photographer and experienced outdoors person who slipped to his death because he unhooked himself from his harness to get a better shot.
It was easy to see why going after that perfect shot is tempting. The views are stunning.
I've seen the canyon from the other end of the spectrum, the bottom, thanks to a few Maligne Canyon Crawl excursions, but seeing the canyon from the top is amazingly dramatic as well.
When looking at a frozen waterfall from the bottom, you can sometimes see the water still running through the thick ice and it looks just like running water. From the top though, it shimmers through the iceyou don't "see" the water, you see the shimmer of its movement, which makes it magical.
A child's eye
Water boils and churns at the foot of Athabasca Falls in Alberta's Jasper National Park.
Many of the tours provided by the Jasper Adventure Centre are great for the whole family.
We had a couple of young boys with us, and while they were more interested in slipping off the trails into the deep snow, when they got to the canyon, they were playing 'tourist' right along with the rest of us, taking in all the beautiful scenery.
I was admiring the erosion of the rock and the unique formations, but Issac, the youngest, was picturing a 'dragon's head' in the snow that was clinging to the rock. Try as I might, I couldn't see it. I even got down to his level but it just wasn't there for me.
It didn't matter. He was really excited to see it and that's all that counted.
For more information on Jasper Adventure Centre and the many tours the company offers, visit Jasper Adventure Centre.
For more stories and detail on Jasper check out our SnowSeekers' destination page.