Monday, September 17, 2012

Jasper National Park - Cavell Meadows/Path of the Glacier

We had been planning to do  the Cavell Meadows trail, a very popular (arrive early if you want a parking spot) 8.3 km trail in Jasper National Park, not far from the town of Jasper. To reach the trailhead you must go up the narrow, winding Mount Edith Cavell Rd, which is a bit of an adventure in itself.

The track is normally open from mid-June to mid-October, but for some reason the top area was still closed when we arrived in mid-July. I guess the thaw came late this year. That was a disappointment, but we still were able to do the first section of the track, and loop back around to our car on something called the Path of the Glacier track.

The trailhead is at a pretty high elevation, so expect the temperatures to be a few degrees cooler than in town. On the bright side, the cooler climate means fewer bugs.

Although we weren't able to hike to the meadows at the top of the climb, we still saw our share of wildflowers on the small section we were able to hike.

We also had a pretty good view of three different glaciers, two hanging glaciers and one that ended in a small lake. The glacier in the photo above is called Angel glacier.

Right around the spot where the track closure began we saw a hoary marmot hanging out on a rock. The marmot was in practically the same spot as one photographed in the hiking guide we had with us, which had me wondering whether he (or she, I couldn't tell) was a professional. You know, paid to sit out on a rock during set hours so the tourists can have an authentic wildlife encounter. Then I wondered if they took shifts, because most of us can't tell one marmot from the next. Anyway, he (or she) seemed completely unperturbed by the people walking around and taking pictures.

The accessible bit of the trail ended at the terminal moraine of a glacier, and despite the mid-summer weather there was still some snow on the ground.

We backtracked down the hill and rejoined the Path of the Glacier track, a tourist-friendly easy walk that takes you right to the shores of a small lake that acts as the glacial terminus. The lake is full of little icebergs.

While it was frustrating to be faced with a closed track and a shorter than expected hike, I can understand the need to keep a steep, wet path closed due to the damage that hundreds of pairs of boots per day can inflict in those conditions. Perhaps one day I'll make it back and get to see the meadow.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Jasper National Park - Suphur Skyline Trail

The Sulphur Skyline walk was our first hike in the Rockies. It's located at the northern end of Jasper National Park at the end of Miette Hot Springs Rd, so it's quite far from the town of Jasper. The nearest campground, Pocahontas, was swarming with so many mosquitoes that it was impossible to sit outside at all. Perhaps we just came at a bad time, but I cannot recommend staying there.

One of the nicest things about the walk is that the trailhead is right at the parking lot for the Miette Hot Springs pools, so you can go for a soak after you're done hiking. Just remember to pack your swimming stuff and bring some cash for entry fees. There's also a cafe on site with nice salads, sandwiches, soups and ice cream.

The walk takes you up to a ridgetop and returns the way it came. The total distance is around 9.5 km. It begins with a steady climb up an easy wooded track. Bring your bug spray if you're walking during bug season, as it was pretty thick with mosquitoes on the bottom half.

We were there mid-July, during the peak of wildflower season. This meant we were treated to lots of colourful blooms along the track.

As we approached the treeline there were several big horn sheep hanging around. They are often mistaken for mountain goats, but the only goats in this area are white.

Above the treeline the track becomes steep and loose, covered in scree. It was a tough slog under the hot sun. The summit is worth the slog though, giving you views in every direction.

At the top, the golden-mantled ground squirrels seemed keen to share the hikers' lunches. We relaxed for a while before making our way back down. This was a moderately challenging walk, but no real skills are required. The scree presents the only tricky section. If you're planning a trip to the springs, or will be passing through the area on your way to or from the town of Jasper, it's a worthwhile half day hike.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Welcome to Canada - Bienvenue au Canada

For those who have followed this blog over the past several years, things are about to change! After seven amazing years exploring the stunning New Zealand trails, I have returned to my home country of Canada. From now on, I'll be recounting my adventures in the Great White North rather than the Land of the Long White Cloud.

We began our new life in Canada in style, with a 7 week road trip which included lots of camping and hiking in the Rockies and in Ontario. While we weren't equipped for backpacking, we did lots of day hikes and I will try to upload photos and descriptions over the next little while.

So stay tuned, and thanks for dropping by!