Wildlife sightings again!?!?!?!

Trip Start Apr 20, 2012
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Trip End Sep 01, 2012


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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Thursday, July 5, 2012

It was a cold night last night, getting down to about 3 degrees celsius and all of us were tucked down into our sleeping bags. Poor Jess was the coldest as she had to get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night and requested Tim to get up and guard her from bear, sneak attacks. All went well, but she had lost the warmth of her bag and had to start all over again when she climbed back in. Needless to say, no-one was in any rush to get up in the morning and we kept turning over and going back to sleep. When Tim lifted an arm out of the warmth of his bag to check the time, it was 8:45, our latest sleep-in by far!!! It must have been the cold night and late evening drive that allowed us to sleep so well, but luckily we were in no rush to get up and explore this morning. We had a nice breakfast as the sun slowly rose high enough in the sky to hit us with some morning warmth. We cleaned up the campsite, took down the tarps we had pitched to prevent the rain the night before and, exposed the tent fly in order to allow it to dry off. With Odie loaded, we headed out to explore Jasper National Park.
We travelled east out of Jasper township for a really long drive of about 10 kilometers in order to get off the beaten track and arrive at Lake Annette. This was a small lake of incredible blue hues which we were able to walk around. It was only about a 45 minute walk but it was amazing to see the different shades of blue from light aquamarine to rich, dark turquoise. Jess took lots of photos and we enjoyed the warmth of the sun as it beat down from above and flickered on and off of us as we walked through the trees. Along our walk, we found an old dock at the edge of the lake that simply screamed "lunch break" to us. We all agreed that this was where we would come back to after our walk and have a picnic lunch in the sun. We finished walking around the lake, which also had a small sandy pond next door, unfortunately this was fenced off and labelled:    "Danger, Quicksand! " Then it was back to the dock for some lunch. The kids splashed in their sandals on the water that was above the lower dock and we all enjoyed the sun and the warmth with our lunch. Then, due to the warmth in the air, the crystal clear blue water,  the depth off the end of the dock (about 4 feet deep) and the great launching/leaping pad the kids got changed into their togs and played and swam for a half an hour. Tim had a beer and Jess warmed her toes and feet in the sun, all the while gleefully wriggling her bright red toes as they had been the coldest items in the night last night. The kids earned themselves afternoon ice cream with 2 mix-ins at Cold Stone for their great leaps and splashes off the dock. Cold Stone is a chain ice cream parlor that allows you to choose your flavors and then the candy to 'mix-in'. This mixing occurs behind the glass counter top (so you can see) and with two flat spoons they spread and fold and chop the ice cream on a frozen marble counter top; i.e. Cold Stone. We took some great photos and had enjoyable chill-out time at Lake Annette and because sometimes things just work out, as the sun went behind the clouds and the parking lot filled with cars and people spilled out and down to enjoy the lake, we left.
We carried on down the road, scanning dutifully the sides of the road for wildlife and were rewarded shortly after with a large mature bull elk with his antlers still in velvet, grazing on the side of the road. Good old Uncle Pete, he always says follow the cars so every time we saw people pointing and pulled over, we stopped and generally speaking, we were rewarded. We passed up the Maligne (ma-leen) Canyon as were were heading to Maligne Lake because we had heard of the possibility of renting canoes and going for a paddle. The other half of the plan was, after checking out the lake and the possibility of a paddle, to drive another 20km up the road and stop off at a hot springs. Halfway to the lake, Tim realized he had completely miscalculated and the hot springs were a backtrack of 30 km and then 61km further down another road….Tim had misread the guidebook and map….this is perhaps sweet justice as every chance Tim gets to tease Jess about her map reading skills, he takes! After a short debate we decided to finish going down to Maligne lake and go for a paddle instead of the hot springs. When we got to the lake, it was tourist mecca, the sun had gone behind some clouds and the general consensus was to head back for petrol and ice cream and see what happens from there. On the return journey, we saw a much larger conglomeration of parked cars and what looked like an official-type person in an orange vest talking to cars. Our hopes were high and then we heard the whisper of "bear". Our nostrils and ears pricked and we joined the crowd of cars and fought to get our own spot to see. It was an adult Black Bear. This one was actually black in colour and in name and was happily munching on grass and flowers on the side of the road. He (we guess it was male) was 10 metres away and in no hurry to go, so we gawked and were amazed for about 5 minutes and then we were on our way; happy and grinning. Our next stop was Maligne Canyon and an intended short walk there since we had spare time due to the map reading error. As we were pulling into the canyon, a young black bear which was only 1/3 of the size of the one we had seen before, shot across the driveway and walked across a small meadow while we watched from 50 feet away. Wowee!!! 2 bears in 45 minutes.
After this, we passed up Maligne Canyon and headed for the town of Jasper and our ice creams. Tim and the kids had ice cream with 2 mix-ins each, while Jess shopped for important things like toothbrushes and wet wipes.We cleared our email and posted our blog in an internet laundromat and then mailed some postcards. Tim then finally caved and suggested we go get hot chips and sprite from…..The Jasper Brew Pub!!! Tim got himself a sampler platter of beer (he loves those things) and sampled while we all ate hot chips. It was a great celebration for our amazing wildlife day. Cheeseburgers, pickles and carrots for dinner were eaten before packing up and going for a 'night drive'. We headed back down the road to Maligne lake because at one section of road along the side of Medicine Lake, we had seen lots of poop when driving there earlier today. By our reckoning, whatever had made those fresh piles of poo that we drove past, would be most likely to come out in the evening, not long before dark. We had just been gone for 30 minutes when we passed another and larger bull elk grazing on the side of the road. These are impressive animals indeed and their size puts their shoulders at head height. Quite a lot of steak indeed! It was funny, as we spotted the bull elk, a car was following us and its occupants were clearly using the same principle of animal spotting as us and when they saw Odie pulled over, they stopped and were rewarded as well. I tell you this because a couple of km up the road we stopped so Jess could take a photo of a raging waterfall that we had identified earlier. The man following us pulled in as well and all the passengers in his car looked around expectantly for 30 seconds before realizing we were stopped to let them pass. It made us all chuckle; there is certainly an art to knowing when it's a panoramic photo shoot that has caused cars to pull over or a wildlife sighting. We stopped at the first pullout overlooking Medicine Lake and saw a small rodent scurrying around with mouthfuls of grass which it kept running and depositing in its burrow underground. This was a Pika and it was gathering stores for the winter.
We jumped in the car and just around the corner we quickly shot to a stop as we spotted what had been making the mess on the road. It was a small group of bighorn sheep; 3 ewes and 2 lambs. They were quite calmly grazing on the side of the road and one even lay down as we pulled up. Then, after taking some photos, one wandered over to Jess's open window and stuck its head in the car. Jess, ever the quick thinker, hid her apple ("DON"T FEED THE WILDLIFE!") and shut the window. The ewe then calmly went to the front tire and started licking it. We were off, laughing all the way. Bighorn sheep have been on our wish list for a very long time now and we got them! It was another stunning end to an inspiring and compelling day. When we have days like this, I don't want this trip to ever end.
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