Jasper

As I reflect upon the past year, I can’t help but think about my time in Jasper National Park and my first ever camping experience (believe it or not).

After a day spent at Lake Louise with our friends, we decided to make the breathtaking drive up north to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway. If you ever find yourself in the Canadian Rockies with the opportunity to make the drive up to Jasper from Banff, DO IT! This is such an insanely beautiful drive, so much so that it made focusing on the road a bit difficult. Good tunes, good company and unreal scenery made those three-some hours fly by.

We made a few stops along the way:

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Unknown Lake (to us that is) PC: Steph Kennedy

 

Icefields Parkway

 

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Columbia Icefield

We eventually arrived in the quaint townsite of Jasper, greeted by summer like temperatures (it was late April). Our plan for our brief trip to Jasper was to hike and camp up on Mount Edith Cavell, this beauty here:

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Mt. Edith Cavell (background) PC: Not my picture

Our plans, unfortunately, were derailed by an avalanche that had closed the road to Edith Cavell. So off we went to the Parks Canada station to check in with the rangers. They informed us that there really weren’t too many camping options available for us, especially at elevation. After a few suggestions were thrown our way, we decided we would make the drive to Jacques Lake and camp there for the night. This route entailed negligible elevation gain and a 12km hike one way to the camp site by Jacques Lake. After studying the route and inquiring about bear activity, we set off to find food.

It took us a while but we finally found this sweet pizza place in town and I savoured every ounce of that whole pizza (throwback to not being vegan haha). I also knew that it was the last proper meal I would have for a while, and oh man did it taste heavenly.

With our stomachs satisfied, we were off to Jacques Lake. The drive was nothing special but it did feature some interesting sights, notably the scorched remains of forest fires

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Forest Fires PC: Steph Kennedy

and the quirky Medicine Lake.

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Medicine Lake (an anomaly according to wikipedia). Not my picture

A short while after passing Medicine Lake, we arrived at Jacques Lake’s trailhead. Being constantly paranoid about running into grizzlies, I was relieved to see that we’d have company, with two other cars at the lot, one of them being from our home province of Ontario! Within those first few minutes of unloading our gear and getting ready to set out, we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes, rough times, man. Oddly enough, the further we got into the forest, the less there were, much to my delight.

The Hike

The first few kilometres followed an old fire road that went deep into the woods, adjacent to Beaver Lake, as it made it’s way to the first Summit Lake. There really wasn’t that much to it, but there were some beautiful views of Beaver Lake.

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Steph by Beaver Lake. PC: Steph of course
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Me smiling from ear to ear cause I love this place

 

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In high spirits despite having 10km to go

After a few kilometres of walking in a straight line, we reached the first Summit Lake.

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Summit Lake I. Not my picture

Instead of heading straight to the lake, we veered to the right and made our way into deep woods, on a single track. The first 5km of this hike were spent on that broad, fire road, meaning we could walk side by side, but from here on out, it was single file and really muddy.

From this point forward, we pretty much just powered through the remaining 7km, wanting nothing more than to arrive at our site and set up camp. We didn’t stop for photos at all, heeding the warning given to us by the ranger, that certain sites along the way were prone to avalanches. We constantly made noise, whether it was me blowing my whistle, or Steph and I just speaking (or singing) loudly and clapping.

It was a strange feeling to me, being a bit on edge while in nature. On one hand I was thrilled to be in such a beautiful place, but on the other, I was constantly on the lookout for signs of bears. The only footprints we saw in the mud were those of horses, which would carry rangers and wardens to Jacques Lake and beyond.

Several kilometres and conversation topics later, we began to see the sky light up and the forest thin out. A large, beautifully coloured lake seemingly appeared out of nowhere and we could see our site up ahead. The sun began to set and the alpenglow on the surrounding peaks was astounding. We were finally out of the woods, 12.2km later.

Camp

Exhausted and hungry, we greeted our fellow campers, of which there were four, and picked a suitable campground.

Once the tent was set up and we took a little breather, we wandered off. I explored a little island nearby and took in all of the sights.

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Queen Elizabeth Range in the distance

 

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Not a bad place to camp for the first time

The sun didn’t set until about 10:30pm or so, but we were already all huddled around a fire long before then, exchanging stories and eating protein bars (at least I was). Two of the other campers were from Edmonton, while the other two were from Ontario, going on a North American wide odyssey.

Many stories and protein bars later, it came time to pack the food up into the bear bins and get some rest. Steph and I agreed to wake up at 2am to get outside and see the stars. I remember excitedly waking up and getting ready to head outside, despite how cold I was. I attempted to wake up Steph but she told me to let her sleep haha, so that was that.

Out I went to see a sight I’ll never forget. Shivering and a bit disoriented without my headlamp, I peered up to the night sky. Now, there’s a reason why Jasper National Park is the world’s largest accessible dark sky preserve (according to them). When I gazed up, there were more stars in the sky then there was black space. In all of three minutes out there, I had already seen a few shooting stars and constellations could be picked out with ease. I remember wishing that my GoPro could somehow capture this, but I quickly disregarded that thought and told myself to just capture it the best way possible – with my own eyes.

The cold, darkness and sounds from the woods began to play with my mind a bit, and constantly craning my neck upwards began to take a toll on me. So back to the tent I went, having witnessed an unforgettable sight.

This was all new to me, as I said, this was my first time ever camping, and no better way to get into it than by immersing myself in beautiful Jasper, a place that will always be special to me.

As always, thanks for reading! Much appreciated

Steven

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