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Day 7 - Jasper and the Launderette

It started raining large spots of rain just as we were leaving the 'Whistle Stop' Pub last night, and by the time we were back at the campsite it was raining consistently. And it continued raining all through the night. The night-time temperature was definitely warmer though - the heater was on its lowest setting, and only turned itself on a couple of times. In the morning it was still raining, and the day was not warm, so we decided to make this a day of washing at the launderette. Now the 'Coin Clean Laundry' at 607 Patricia Street is a very friendly launderette, and even has an internet cafe (The Snowdome Cafe) and showers attached to it. So you can sit and watch your smalls whirl round while drinking latte and updating your on-line diary. So the likelihood is that everything you've read in our diary up to this point was uploaded from this launderette.

Internet laudromat

Next on the list was more money from the 'hole-in-the-wall' aka 'money machine' aka 'ATM' (that covers all countries, I think), then off to find a book for Art to read - always a difficult task. He tends to read photographic manuals, travelogues and New Scientist - and not much else. There aren't any bookshops in Jasper, but we were pointed towards 'Maligne Tours' (look for a red roof). And - yes - they had a reasonable selection of local travel books and novels. Not exactly Whitcoulls or WH Smiths - but enough. And finally, a late lunch in the 'Soft Rock Cafe'. Now, I'm afraid it wasn't the best meal we've ever had. We picked cheeseburgers, only to find when we reached the counter that 'burgers were off'. OK - Art went for a BLT and fries, and I had hot wings. The BLT was fine. The fries didn't look like anything I've ever had before, but tasted reasonable. The 'hot wings' were decidedly mediocre, and were smothered in an orange-coloured sauce that stained everything (including my lips and fingers). I wish I'd stuck to healthy rather than waste an unhealthy meal opportunity on this!

The rain stopped, so, with a couple of hours to kill before a wildlife trip we've booked for the evening, we headed a short way out of Jasper to Pyramid Lake. The idea was to go for a short walk, but Art decided a short snooze was in order instead. We parked up, and I was going to go for a walk by myself, along a well-formed gravel road. But then I read the notice-board, all about the local wild-life, and in particular the bears. It says very clearly to always walk in a group, and to make some noise. Well, me on my own, even singing 'The Sound of Music' at the top of my voice, doesn't make a group - so I wimped out! So we're now sitting in the van, looking over the lake, with a cup of tea in hand.

I am not getting many comments in, I often do not get the chance to read Terri's prose, so not sure what I am being called. Time is tight, putting the pages together and uploading the snaps, it will be better when we get to Calgary on Saturday and I can use the hotel room internet. We have 3 days in Calgary, that could be a challenge

Sundogs Wildlife Discovery

Athabasca Falls, another mountain, but with a water fall

Our 'Wildlife Discovery' tour started at the Sundog office, in Patricia Street, at 5:30 pm. There were five of us, plus the driver, on a small coach, so we had plenty of choices to sit and move around. Our driver (a salty old huntin' fishin' type, who didn't hunt or fish) took us out of town and up some back roads towards Edith Cavell Mount, and Athabasca Falls. The first part of the trip was uneventful - just a few tales of animals he had seen in the past, on the route we were taking. Again, our driver told us that spring was about three weeks late. Big excitement - we saw one white-tailed deer. Then a drive to a lake to see some waterfowl. Unfortunately none of them had come out to greet us! I felt quite sorry for our guide… We played with a shoal of small fish under a rickety jetty (which apparently used to be the back entrance to a castle in a film with Bing Crosby in it), then got back on the coach. Six pairs of eyes were watching the sides up ahead. Then - 'Ahead!' - in the middle of the road was what we'd come to see - a solitary black bear. He very obligingly shuffled off into the woodland at the side of the road, and stayed around for long enough to have his photo taken. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief - everything now was extras.

Things settled down for a bit more. We drove down SH 93a, the road to Athabasca falls, and stopped for a view. These were quite spectacular - but apparently not as much as later in early summer, when all the meltwater is coming down from the mountains. Again, that three weeks late spring was having an effect. It could be seen in the deciduous trees, which were just in bud. But we could also see that the buds were out more than they were even two days ago, when we arrived in Jasper. The couple of days warm weather we had, plus the day of rain, was having an effect.

Then back towards Jasper. As we were approaching it, one of our fellow passengers shouted 'Coyote!' And sure enough, there was a female coyote, on the grass bank. She disappeared over the road behind us, then just as the van started up again, the cry (from the same passenger) 'Another coyote!'. It was the male, and a beautiful specimen.

Mrs Coyote
Mr Coyote


We spotted a couple more white-tailed deer, then a male Elk, resplendent with his antlers. The ground squirrels did not make a show ('This cold snap must have sent them back into hibernation'), but our guide pointed out a number of Osprey nests, and one Canada Goose nest. Then out towards Edmonton (on SH16, the road with large trucks that we'd taken the day before). Along here were a number of small herds of Wapiti, including three mature males. Our driver explained that the current 'typical' Rockies scenery of fir trees actually isn't how it used to be. The valleys used to be full of grasslands, that were grazed by deer and buffalo (cue for a song??), and now there is very little grassland left, except along the man-made roadsides. The Canadian Parks department tried re-introducing 20 buffalo, but they didn't stay, as the land just isn't the same any more. So there is now a controlled burning of some of the trees in the valleys, in an attempt to bring back some of the grasslands. Then they'll try the buffalo again.

The railway also runs alongside SH16, so we were told about Mr Hays, one of the richest men in Canada, who owned the railway that runs through Jasper. At the time his competitor on the line that ran through Banff and Lake Louise was busy building luxury resorts, and the Banff Springs and Lake Louise luxury hotels (both now part of the 'Fairmont' chain, where we will be staying later). He decided he was going to build his own string of luxury resorts, including in Jasper, and he was going to fill them with furniture from France. So he went to Europe, stocked up, and sailed back with them in the hold of a brand new luxury liner - the Titanic. Neither Mr Hays or the furniture made it back to Canada. And Jasper has stayed the nice, small resort it still is. We definitely prefer it to the bigger Banff, and the slightly on the small side Lake Louise.

A bit further up SH16 and our guide pointed out a Bald Eagle, roosting in a tree. It was quite a distance away, but it's another one to tick off the list. We do want to see one soaring though.

Then off we went, back into Jasper. The whole tour lasted until 9:30 - 4 hours. So together with the fact we got to see Mount Edith Cavell and Athabasca Falls without using our vans petrol or any extra kilometers, we reckon our $60 CAD tour fee was worth it! If you want to see more Sundog tours, visit www.sundogtours.com

Photos of the wildlife we saw on our trip. These were challenging, animals do not pose, the light was going, and a few were taken through a tinted window

Black Bear, a young one
White Tailed Deer
Bald Eagle
Elk
Wapiti
Terri took this one, a bird with attitude

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terris_travelogue/canada/g_jasper_wildlife.txt · Last modified: 2011/05/21 11:48 by tel
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