Day Ten – Getting to know the wildlife

Sooooo … our run of good luck with the weather has come to an end. We awoke this morning to low cloud and drizzly rain. Not the best for seeing beautiful snow-capped peaks, but we weren’t going to waste the opportunity to get out and about.

Our first stop of the day was Maligne Lake, to the east of Jasper. It takes around an hour to get there, and it’s slow going, with the speed limit along the road varying from 50 to 70kms. You pass Maligne Canyon not far off the main turnoff, but thanks to the low cloud, we decided to come back to that later.

We spotted the perfect straight patch of road, with the perfect snow-covered hill in the background and decided it was the perfect spot for some action shots.

A ranger saw our car pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. After assuring him we were fine and just having some fun taking some photos, he mentioned that there was a moose a little further down the road.

It turns out it wasn’t just one moose. A cow and her calf were grazing among the trees by the side of the road. After stopping the car and waiting, they finally ventured from their spot and onto the road itself. We had a car full of super excited people!!! The calf looked at us for quite a while, trying to figure out our intentions. He finally moved off to the verge and we were about to head off when the bull moose stepped onto the road to join his family.

After the animals had gone back into the forest, we continued on to Maligne Lake. More stunning vistas!!!!! It had recently been snowing, so there was a lot of snow and ice on the roads and pathways. While overcast, the cloud lifted just enough to take some beautiful pictures.

We walked around the lake and spotted another three moose standing in the lake and drinking the water. A photography group from Edmonton had come to the lake to photograph moose – so many super zoom lenses!!

We headed back to the car and started our way back, only to spot a beautiful fox, just zig-zagging his way across the road.

And we were also greeted about 30 minutes later by two elk, a buck and a doe, standing in the middle of the road. These beautiful animals were real traffic stoppers, but after pausing for long enough for us to take some photos, they retreated to the relative safety of the forest.

Our last stop on the way back towards Jasper was Maligne Canyon, a deep canyon carved out from rushing waters. The water is a brilliant milky blue, the product of minerals brought down by melting glacier waters.

A quick check of the Jasper Skytram webcams showed us that the low-level cloud was obscuring the summit, so we decided to postpone our planned visit until tomorrow and head down the beautiful Icefields Parkway towards Athabasca Falls.

The sheer beauty of the snow-covered mountain ranges either side of the road is almost overwhelming. We simply don’t have anything in this country which compares. Almost every corner you turn, there’s another stunning vista. We are becoming quite deft in taking photos from car windows and through the windscreen.

Athabasca Falls is another beautiful example of how glacial river waters carve their way through the rocks to form fast-moving waterfalls and deep chasms.

The path the waters take can change over time, and rocks once at the centre of a fast-moving stream can one day find themselves high and dry, albeit very worn down by the constant friction of water, rocks and other sediment. There was plenty of evidence of this at Athabasca Falls, including a short walk down to a viewing point through rocks previously worn down by fast flowing water.

We followed this up with a stop at Sunwapta Falls a little further down the road. It is similarly worn down by the action of water through rocks, and just as stunning as Athabasca. The blue of the glacial water seems a little bluer here.

Our last stop today was the Athabasca glacier at the Columbia Icefields, about half-way between Jasper and Lake Louise. Heading into this region, there was a very distinct change in the landscape – it became a lot more barren and the amount of snow on the ground increased.

The visitor centre and the Icefields tours are over for the season, but you can still park near the glacier and walk down the road towards it. This road also shows just how much the glacier has receded over the years – check out the difference between 1908 and 1925!

Back to Jasper then for a pub dinner and bed. Animal count for today was seven moose, two elk, a fox, a raven and a number of squirrels.

Tomorrow, we bid farewell to Jasper and head further down the parkway to Lake Louise, Banff and our overnight stop in Canmore.

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