Alaska Part 4: Cruising Jasper

Still looking at the map and saying “damn…”

But then I also look at the scenery and can only say the same thing.

I made the most of my weekend and spent my time in Jasper National Park. I would have loved to spend time in Banff as well but I prefer to stick to one park and know it better than be completely out of sorts and know nothing about both.

As with most things I do, I didn’t look into camping and reservations until the night before when I was stealthily parked in a college parking lot. Of course all of the spots were taken and I would have to wager with the first-come, first-serve. I was admittedly nervous and cruised straight through the entirety of Banff Park in order to get to the Wilcox campground, and found it half-unoccupied. I was also very happy to have my first truly cool weather of the trip as the temperature gauge dipped below 40 that night. It didn’t hurt that I was downwind from the katabatics of the Athabasca glacier.

I wanted to take full advantage of my time and wagered that running the hiking trails would be my best bet. That morning I went up to Wilcox pass overlooking the glacier, it was as clear as a bluebird day could be without a wisp of burning pine in the sky. The bighorn sheep were hanging around and I forced myself to stop and take a few pictures with the old, outcast alpha, that had lost a horn. When I reached the van, I noticed a RV had perfectly (purposefully?) parked in the sunshine of my solar shower, so my rinse off was more of a brain freeze.

I powered through Jasper to get to Snaring campground (another first come, first serve) and was glad I arrived early as it had already filled up. After checking in I hit a sizable fatigue wall and it took a lot of self-convincing to get out on another trail. The trail I found however had not been marked on any map and it was clearly a mix of human + game created. It followed the gorgeous turquoise waters of the Snaring upriver towards the northern boundary of the park. I was uneasy the entire walk, even with my can of bear spray it didn’t feel secure. Perhaps it was the riverside berm that had turned into a 60ft cliff which was pinging my fear of heights but I just wasn’t in the game that day. All the same, I was able to take some great pictures of the mountains from afar.

The following morning I awoke early and hit the road to find some hot springs. Upon arrival I discovered there was another 8km round trip trail climbing a mountain; a perfect post-run use for a soak I thought. I hit the trail at a slow tempo-ed trot and the first group of hikers on their decent greeted me with “oh so you think you’re going to jog to the top eh? It only gets steeper from here”. Challenge accepted. The 4-5 hour hike as posted was completed in 1 hour 10 minutes, 42 up, 18 down (including all the talks and waits I had with passerby). I sat down on the pool step allowing my joint to indulge in the hot water and I hear to my right “are you the guy who ran up? Holy shit, you are.” And if I didn’t say I was a little proud of myself then, I’d be lying. There were also cold pools at the facility and as I came up for air after jumping in one a couple to my left asked “Hey, aren’t you that guy who ran up that hike yesterday?”, apparently I was making a name for myself at the park. What I find most entertaining, is that if a quarter of any runners from Boulder had found themselves in Jasper that weekend, I would have been no better than middle of the pack.

I drove out of the park and back into the Pacific time zone, constantly looking back into the rear view mirror and pulling over every time one of the ginormous peaks from Robeson Provincal Park loomed in the reflection. I’ve gotten in a groove selecting where I go to camp for the night: preferably be off the road by 7 to let the engine cool down and thus not overheat the cabin when I crawl into bed, look for Canadian Parks and Trails recreation areas as they are free to camp at and meticulously maintained, always park in the shade, and finally always have a place available for the morning constitutional. I saw my first bear that Sunday, a small blackie scampering across the highway, and camped at a fishing launch. I sipped on a spruce tip ale and saddled up for the 5 days of work ahead, there was no way to deny my first week in Canada had been absolutely spectacular.

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2 Responses to Alaska Part 4: Cruising Jasper

  1. Larry Peha says:

    Beautiful photos. I thought you were going to get something stronger than bear repellent?

  2. Beth Stewart says:

    Spectacular! And proud of you, myself! Keep these posts coming! Xoxo

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