After a quick breakfast at the Whitebark Cafe (note to self Katy - you intend to recreate their breakfast cups when you are home, this will jog your memory when you are rereading this post) we landed in the supermarket in Banff to stock up on the essentials for our night ahead. Tonights accommodation had no running water, electricity, plumbing and was miles away from anything so preplanning was very important. We quickly grabbed some pasta & sauce, some muffins for breakfast the next day and of course, the very essential, marshmallows for the inevitable campfire.
Next stop was Emerald Lake, somewhere high on Craig's list of places he wanted to see, and despite the dull and rainy weather it was still as beautiful. It is a stunning emerald green colour and truly lives up to it's name. We hiked round the lake on sadly what was a truly appalling path however the views more than made up for it (rain spots in lake).
From Emerald Lake we doubled back on ourselves back towards Banff until we hit the Icefield Parkway, this roadway is regularly spoken about as being one of the most picturesque in the world so much so that you need a Park Pass just to drive it. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with us and therefore rather than mountains we saw an awful lot of moody looking clouds. However we did make some stop offs and were able to enjoy the views. Our first was Peyto Lake, which is definitely one of the most turquoise lakes we have seen, sadly it is however also a massive tourist trap so we snapped our pictures and moved on!
We arrived at HI Beauty Creek Wilderness Hostel at 5pm ready to begin, somewhat nervously, our evenings adventure. It started off with a wander down the river before heading back to the gas powered kitchen to begin dinner preparations. Unfortunately this was when we discovered we had inadvertently picked up gluten free pasta and, the delicious looking pasta sauce we had picked up, was actually a pre-made bruschetta topping however needs must! It filled a hole but not a dinner we will ever be repeating! After dinner, the rain stopped and we settled in by the campfire for the night. We had a lovely evening putting the world to rights over a few drinks with people from all over the globe, so much so that by the time we reached our bunks for the night we were able to forget that we were essentially sleeping in a shed (even the drop toilet and lack of shower weren't enough to take the shine off the evening!!)
Up early the next morning we checked out of our shed and made our way to the Columbia Icefield Adventure. The adventure started with us taking a giant Ice Explorer onto the Athabasca Glacier, our driver Philip who likes to refer to himself as Prince Philip (thankfully his driving skills were better!!) took us through the history of the glacier, teaching us about glaciology and even delighted us with a song or two. We then got to step out onto the glacier itself (we were the first group of the day) and despite Craig's foot going through and him taking a bit of an ice bath (although with no shower he may have needed it) it was a truly memorable experience.
From the glacier we were taken to the Skywalk which is a glass walkway with views down the Sunwapta Valley, whilst the views were fairly spectacular it again felt like a bit of a tourist trap so we didn't stay long before hitting the road again.
Thankfully this time the weather cooperated a little bit more and we were able to see more of the stunning drive North to Jasper. This time we stopped off at Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls before arriving into Jasper just in time for lunch. Ravenous after our less than appealing meal the night before we made our way to Famoso for some of their delicious pizza and salad to tide us over until we could check in to our hostel.
We checked in to the Jasper Downtown Hostel, which was thankfully a big improvement on the hostel in Banff (and the night before) and got ourselves settled. On the recommendation of the lovely girl at check in we headed to the Jasper Brewing Co. for some dinner and some of their beers/cocktails. Craig had the nachos which were possibly the biggest we have ever seen (not even close to finishing them), and Katy had the Elk meatloaf which was absolutely delicious, a very gamey meat but very tasty!
The next morning we enjoyed a well needed long lie then set off to the Bear Paw for some breakfast (I think they have knocked the cafe in Iceland off the top spot for cinnamon rolls!!) and headed off for a hike on the Bighorn Alley Trail to Lake Annette. We enjoyed the walk around and then set off on a tangent to the Beauvert Lake at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and for Craig to use the fanciest loo he has seen so far before heading back to downtown Jasper. 14km later we were ready for some food and a late lunch/early dinner at Montana's was exactly what was required.
After a post walk nap we headed to the Chaba Theatre to watch Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Katy had never seen a Tarantino movie previously and walked away from the film completely befuddled, Craig however thoroughly enjoyed it!
Another long-ish lie the next morning we headed back to Bear Paw for breakfast before driving over to Maligne Canyon. We had been informed by the waiter at Famoso to begin at the Sixth Bridge as it was the quietest and where we were most likely to see wildlife. Well, our luck was in, as when we turned into the car park, we were greeted by a small herd of elk.
Our hike took us from the Sixth Bridge of the canyon up to the First, where it got noticeable busier with tourists. However, understandable as there were some pretty spectacular views down the canyon.
From Maligne Canyon we decided to drive up to Maligne Lake via Medicine Lake as all of the research we had done before leaving said that this road was the best place to spot wildlife. Thankfully our luck was in on the drive as we saw a moose, some mule deer and a female elk. All extremely impressive if a bit sad to see how many humans get out of their cars and intrude on the animals space, the phrase "it's not a zoo" was definitely used once or twice!
We had been so impressed with the animal sightings we had had during the day we decided we would head back out at dusk to tempt fate and see if we could see any bears. At about 6:30pm we set off back up Maligne Lake Road however, we had clearly pushed our luck too much and there wasn't even so much as a chipmunk! Coming back in to Jasper however there was a large herd of Elk (at least 30 of them) grazing at the side of the road which was just spectacular to see, especially getting to watch the calves play together and listen to them 'talking' to each other with excited yelps and more nervous grunts.
Back in to Jasper we headed for a quick dinner and back to the hostel to pack. Next stop Whistler (via Kamloops)!