Jasper July 2006
"A traveler without observation is a bird without wings." — Moslih Eddin Saadi

So there we were, married a year and looking for a nice place to celebrate an anniversary. Jasper was near enough to be a weekend trip, and far enough to be interesting. Off we go!

 (click on any image to view full-size)

We stayed at the Pocahontas Cabins, which were not Disney-themed, just near the old mining town of Pocahontas. The scenery was... well, choose your own adjective.

The drive from Pocahontas to Jasper itself is half an hour. Every time we drove it, we saw wonderful things. It was hard to resent the time spent on the road.

The Bighorns were very much in evidence. This little creek paralleled the highway and most mornings had some inhabitant.

Here's the younger generation of Bighorns from later the same day. We saw so much wildlife along the highway I began to feel there must be a crew of technicians somewhere busily setting up animatronics.

Pyramid Mountain stands behind the townsite. Here it is viewed from the base of the tramway, which as tourist things go, is very worth the visit.

This view is taken from the tramway gondola. You can see the Victoria Range, with Mount Robson (the whitest one) peering over the nearer mountains.

The tramway top is at 7472 feet, which puts you into alpine tundra. You need to get in close to see much colour at all.  If you visit, prepare for wind and cold, even in midsummer.

From the tramway station a trail leads up to the peak of The Whistlers. From the trail, Mount Robson now is clearly head and shoulders above those nearer mountains.

As the trail comes over a shoulder of The Whistlers you get a very nice view of Mount Edith Cavell. Be ready for regular stops along the 8 km trail; the view is great, and the air is thinner than you might be used to.

Further up and around the corner you see the Tonquin Valley. In Jasper it's not a very great step from the touristy, to the backcountry.

This is the view from The Whistlers' summit, looking north towards Mt Robson. You can see a trail along the ridge. Clear signs warn that this is a trail for people with proper equipment.  Also, we are now at 8100 ft,  above the snowline for July 1.

The Tonquin Valley view was good for me, as it gave me strong colour, something in short supply at this altitude. So I took more shots on the way down. The huge moraines tell of glaciers long gone.

Again with the tiny flowers. If you take this trail, be cautious with your feet. These plants get little growing season and even a very little punishment is beyond their vitality.

This rock outcropping teased me into thinking there was a great picture in it somewhere. This is as close as I could get to it on that day.

The wildlife in this biome is sparse and well-camouflaged. This Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel fits in almost perfectly, until he stands up. (insert "lessons in how not to be seen" quote here)

Back at the upper tramway station, we felt like we'd done something, for all that we'd taken the easy way. For hardcore climbers, you can skip the tramway.

I took this picture planning to tease my father-in-law who has a thing about heights, but it does a fair job on me too. It also happens to be a nice view of the townsite, as well as the Athabasca River, and lakes Beauvert, Annette, and Edith

Driving back to the cabins... there were those suspiciously convenient wildlife poses again.

Here's the same pair, exploding any myth about how Mountain Goats are invariably surefooted. My theory for species survival: they are made of Nerf.

Keep your eyes peeled when driving in this park. You might miss something. Worse, you might hit something.

Eventually, they got tired of the roadside and headed uphill again. This suited me, as the terrain was fascinating in it's own right. Being greedy, I could have asked for better light, but the subject was ideal.

Off we go the following morning.  And yes, I actually like the occasional lens flare. Some don't, I know.

Mule Deer were the next obliging critters we spotted.

The valley was still tinged with smoke from  small wildfire that had started and been contained the previous afternoon while we were up on The Whistlers.

We drove up the twisty highway to Maligne Lake and, as many visitors do, photographed the living snot out of it.

The hiking trail along the lake offered us a series of foregrounds for the main view of Mount Charlton and Mount Unwin.

A tiny side-trail showed us this memorable sight, straight from Dr Seuss to the wilds of Canada.

Of my Maligne Lake pictures, I like this best. We'd hiked far enough up that it was as peaceful as it appears in this photo.

Driving back down from the lake we had frequent scenic stops.

The highway snarled along and across the Maligne River all the way. This frame is rewarding to me, because I was trying to capture the variety of colours, and did.

This highland pasture overlooks the highway. It's another spot where I'm sure there's a fantastic picture, and this is as close as I could get to it. I'll be back there to do better.

Meanwhile, the Maligne River continued to provide some lovely subjects.

Here's another. This is one tough juniper.

For those bored with glacial rocks, here's a straightforward view up the Maligne River.

Maligne River flows into Medicine Lake which has no outflow above ground. By midsummer the high end of the lake is drying out. This frame is exactly what I intended to shoot, always a happy outcome.

This frame isn't quite as tidy, but shows well how the upper end of the lake becomes a gravel shallows anytime other than during spring runoff. Plus, the colour came out well.

Here's the 'deep end' if you will. The exit of the lake was sealed off by a slide 700 years ago and now water only leaves the lake by underwater caverns and crevices.

Again experimenting, I find this frame succeeds more than the previous because it has better colour. I like the composition less though.

After a not very pleasant stop in the Maligne Canyon we hit the road again, and we see some big wildlife almost immediately. The Elk cow was grazing among the trees, near the burn from the day before.

And then we got our obligatory roadside attraction as we went back to the cabins. As you can see, this was pushing the boundary of what can be called roadside.

I'm certain this fellow knew he was being watched, and loved it.

Back in town we see bull elk. Yes, in town. In Jasper, the wildlife comes to you. That's walking trail just past the elk, with park benches and such. Sturdy benches must be a help to walkers, in case the elk get rambunctious.

Here I do a better job of disguising the locale. These big fellows still have velvet on the antlers, but they could make hash of me and any small car I happened to be in.

The end of the day, sunset over the Athabasca River. Sara and I sat and watched the colours go away. It was our anniversary trip, recall. Allow me some hallmark time here.

This concluded the trip, and very prettily too.

Text and images copyright Glenn Gill. Permission is granted for personal use at no charge. Contact me for commercial use, or to order prints.