We woke this morning to misty drifts of fog slipping in and out of the hills around us and by the time we dropped down to the town of Hinton for fuel, the fog was so thick it was hard to find the gas station. Even early in the morning, there was considerable traffic on Canada 16, where Hinton is the gateway town between Edmonton and Jasper National Park.
We were in no hurry, though, and as we climbed into the massive Rockies, the fog lifted, exposing a higher level of cloud cover above us. When you enter the National Park, if you don’t plan to stop, they will wave you through without a fee. We told the agent that we wanted to kayak a bit and then find a place to camp somewhere between Jasper and Banff and she smiled and charged us a little over 16 bucks for a pass to both Jasper and Banff that was good until 4PM tomorrow. Perfect.
With a park map in hand, we decided that Maligne Lake looked like a perfect spot for kayaking and turned east, crossing the Athabasca River to travel beyond Maligne Canyon to the lake. About half way there we found a great empty turnout and parked the MoHo, thinking we could save a bit on gas if we just drove the baby car. I am so glad we did that, because the parking situation at the lake was tight to say the least, and while there was plenty of room when we arrived at 10am or so, by the time we got off the lake it was an entirely different story!
We launched the boats in cloudy skies, but after a bit of time on the lake the sun peeked through, warming us and making everything in view just sparkle. Maligne Lake is famous for the island at the far end of the lake, Spirit Island. It was a photo of this little island that made me want to put my boat on this lovely water. The only problem is that once again, we are in a very popular national park, and concession boat rides to Spirit Island are the only way most folks get to see it.
The cruise boat traffic was busy, with a boat leaving about every ten minutes and another one returning. The lake was beautifully calm, so the big swells from the wakes from these boats were dramatic, and we just rode along with them. The lake is more than 7 miles long and we really didn’t have the time for a 14 mile paddle, so we traveled along the west side of the lake about half way before crossing over to the eastern shore for a break. The water was perfectly clear, and Abby loved her swim while we walked a bit along the shore.
When we arrived back at the launch dock, we were surprised to find it crammed with people. They were all hanging around in the middle of the boat launch taking photos, standing around everywhere, and there were so many cars in the parking lot that we knew there was no way we would manage to get the car down to the launch. Instead, we picked up our 34 pound wonder boats and carried them up to the lot for loading. The rental RV’s were bumper to bumper trying to find parking, and one lucky person in a sedan had managed to park in the ditch and was stuck. We just loaded up the boats and got out of there as quickly as possible. By this time the sun was out in full force and it was actually hot.
We were happy to see the motorhome peacefully waiting in the one turnout that wasn’t occupied, hooked up the baby car and made some lunch before heading back out the Maligne Lake Road to the highway. On the way we saw several wildlife traffic jams, but one of them was actually worth stopping for, and I joined the crowds taking photos of a very unconcerned bull elk. Mo said she had never seen a rack as big as this guy, and I don’t think I have ever been that close to a bull elk ever. Probably not very smart. Back in my soil survey days, we had stories about encounters with bull elk, but usually that was in the fall during the rut. This guy was pretty darn tame, I guess.
We ambled on through the park, enjoying the views and the animals and decided that stopping in Jasper for cute little shops wasn’t worth the effort to park. Instead we drove slowly with all the other tourists, and I took photos out of the window cafes, and stores, and tourists. Jasper town was really quite nice, with many old homes converted to B&B’s, and lovely gardens. I could enjoy staying in Jasper for a week or so and taking more time for hiking the many trails and kayaking the many lakes. The maps looked so enticing.
Instead, we were getting into the home mode, and after six weeks traveling magnificent Alaska and the Yukon, this lovely little park full of tourists was a bit less exciting than it might be if it were our planned destination. We continued on south along the Athabasca River, planning to stop at any of the campgrounds along the Icefield Parkway that had room for us without a reservation.
Not far south we saw a campground down along the river, missed the turn somehow, and pulled into another turnout to retrace our steps. Mo said, “Wow, that is a great mountain”. I stepped out of the rig with the camera in hand to get a good photo, and Mo said one minute I was there and the next minute I was nowhere. With my eyes gawking at the mountain and my camera pointed up, I stepped into a deep hole in the asphalt and went down with a very hard crash. All I saw was broken glass and plastic strewn out in front of me, and I didn’t give a whit about whatever was going on with my body. There were half a dozen people in the parking lot who must have thought I was nuts, screaming, “It’s thousands of dollars, it’s thousands of dollars!!”
I was a bit skinned and bruised but that had nothing to do with the sick feeling in my stomach. Deanna’s lens. The super fast, super heavy, (later I found out it is $1539 bucks of super) lens took the full brunt of the fall. Not to mention my brand new camera. The lens filter was splintered and the metal edge of the lens was bent, the mechanism was stiff and acting funny. Duh. I clicked. Nothing. Clicked again. Nothing. I am so sick I can’t even cry. I put one of my other lenses on to see if it was just the lens. Click. Nothing. Then I look a little bit closer and see that the on/off button has shifted in the fall. Turn the camera on. Click. IMAGE! I put Deanna’s lens back on. Click. IMAGE!!
I think it must have been the heft and solidity of that fancy NIKON lens that took the hit and saved the camera. I tried several shots with Deanna’s lens, and except for a bit of stiffness in the zoom, it seems to still have perfect auto-focus and the images look fine. Incredible. Of course, I have to replace her lens, and insurance is $1000 deductible, so it’s coming out of my pocket. The good part about all this is that I never would spend 1500 bucks to get that lens for myself, and now I have one. Maybe a bit bent, and maybe not perfect, but still working and now mine.
By the time we backtracked and settled in to Mt Kerkeslin campground, $12 for a dry site, I wanted nothing more to do than sit and drink a beer on the sofa. My body hurt, my mind hurt, and I was a wreck, even with the reasonably good outcome. I felt like any step I took was going to put me on the ground somehow, it was definitely disconcerting! Mo took Abby for a walk, and we canned any plans to hike Athabasca Falls. I sat there alone on the sofa saying a ton of “thank yous” to the powers that be for letting the worst moment of our trip not be any worse than it was.
The rest of the photos are linked here