It doesn’t take long for our luggage to arrive off the train, and we face the final trek of our holiday carrying all our many bags as we pick up the car tomorrow. For now though, it’s a 20 minute walk up Connaught Drive towards Tonquin Inn. It’s a motel calling itself a hotel, but it’s comfortable, and most importantly, our room is on the ground floor so we don’t have to lug our luggage up any stairs. (Is that why it’s called luggage?).
We unpack all our clothes, then remember we’re only here two nights so throw some stuff back in the suitcase. We’re keen to stretch our legs after 18 hours on a train, and head out in search of Lakes Annette and Edith. We get to the main road and decide that we’re leaving it a little late for sunset and to return so we head back the way we came. Our path is blocked by what we think are elks but later identify as mule deer. We’ve read up on what to do when confronted by a bear or a moose, but not an elk/mule deer so we leave them to their own devices and take our chances with the traffic instead.
Our next stop is retracing our steps back into Jasper town itself. We follow a back street residential route and we’re soon checking out our dining options. Which mainly involves us walking around the block twice before ending up at one of the first places we spotted – De’d Dog Pub and Grill. Mr Fletche has the Roasted Vegetable sandwich with fries, and I have the bison chilli. It’s beers all round. We both woke ridiculously early on the train so we head back to the Tonquin Inn. The temperature has dropped considerably so we shiver our way back.
It’s a beautiful if slightly chilly morning in Jasper. We’re off to track down breakfast, and put on all our warm hiking clothing, only to go to the hotels own restaurant Whiskey Jacks. It’s $16 per person for a hot buffet breakfast and we try and make sure we get our money’s worth. We then walk down into town; this morning we’re picking up the rental car from Avis. First we pick up essential picnic supplies, and also the essential bear spray. Mr Fletche wants to know if we can get a refill; I hope we don’t have to use it all, much less have to get a refill!
Mr Fletche does the necessary paperwork in Avis, and then we’re off to the train station car park, clutching our supplies and a key fob to an unspecified silver car. We click in several directions before we hear the tell tale beep coming from a Ford Escape. It’s a bigger car than we were expecting, but this doesn’t faze Mr Fletche, we’re off and away after a quick initiation of all the necessary instruments and knobs. This is the Fletchemobile, Canada style.
Now we have a car, Jasper National Park is our oyster. Today’s plan is to head up to Maligne Lake, an hour’s drive from our base. It’s a beautiful drive and on this sunny morning the yellows and rust colours of the larch trees stand out against the dark green of the firs. The mountains of the Maligne Range and Queen Elizabeth Range loom over us. We make a quick stop at Medicine Lake, which still has a significant amount of water considering this lake usually drains every fall. It’s a beautiful sight, yet we know there are so many beautiful lakes we will visit on this trip.
The first parking lot at Maligne Lake is full, but there is plenty of room at the second lot over the bridge, at the trailhead of the Bald Hills trail. We return back to the main parking lot to use the facilities before embarking on the first of our two planned hikes. Maligne Lake is truly picturesque, and is the star of many a photograph. It’s the largest natural lake in the Rockies at 22.5km, but we’re attempting a much shorter walk – the 3.2km Mary Schaffer loop. We start along the shoreline, passing Curly Phillips boathouse, before veering up through the trees, passing through recently fallen snow sparkling in the sunlight. We barely pass any other people once we leave the lakeshore. It’s definitely time for lunch once we’re done, and we’re glad we bought a sandwich with us rather than being forced to purchase from the overpriced cafe. We sit on the beach at the foot of Maligne Lake, which results in two slightly sunburned Fletche faces.
Our second hike takes us from the Bald Hills parking lot to Moose Lake. Once more we are climbing away from Maligne Lake through the trees, until we finally get a glimpse of a small but stunning lake surrounded by forest. There are a few other walkers here, but the silence is incredible. We perch on a rock to soak up the peace, when a photographer next to us points out a moose in the shadows at the far end of the lake. I think I catch a glimpse but then spend the next 20 minutes watching a tree branch gently rippling the water. Mr Fletche doesn’t spot the possible moose at all. I count this as a wildlife sighting.
On our way back down from Maligne Lake we make a stop at Maligne Canyon. We don’t stop to hike this one, but we do drive between the viewpoints. We quickly swing by Tonquin Inn before continuing on to Pyramid Lake for sunset. We turn onto Pyramid Lake Road and we’re soon slowed down by a number of vehicles at the side of the road. This is a legitimate wildlife sighting, there are a number of elk standing close to the other side of the road. We continue up to Pyramid Lake where we are just minutes too late to capture the sunset. Mr Fletche vows to return at sunrise tomorrow. Our friends the elk are still providing entertainment on the way down; Mr Fletche even entrusts me with his precious DSLR to get a shot or two.
Mr Fletche sets his alarm early to capture the sunrise at Pyramid Lake; I’m awake so come along for the ride, throwing on as much warm clothing as I can as temperatures are hovering around zero and rain is forecast today. The sun struggles to make it through the clouds this morning; after five sunny days straight we fear the weather is turning. Mr Fletche manages to get a few impressive shots though once we move along to another part of the lake.
We stop in Jasper to pick up breakfast and supplies for our Icefields Parkway trip; it has to be the Bear’s Paw Bakery and indeed the pastry and pie selection look and smell divine. We come out clutching tea, coffee, muffins, a “sunrise” sandwich and a fruit parfait. We also pick up a salad and sandwich from Subway for tonight’s dinner, as dining options are expensive and limited at Glacier View. We check out of the Tonquin Inn and we’re ready to hit the road.