When we arrived in Jasper it was very smokey because of some forest fires in neighbouring states so it was hard to see the mountains
. Unfortunately it stayed that way the whole time we were there so we didn`t see the place at its best. Google maps let us down a bit too. We had printed out a map showing where our cabin was going to be and the map pin said it was just a block up from the train station. When we got there though, a block up was shops and petrol stations. When we looked closer it turned out that the printout said the hotel was 5km out of town and the map pin just didn`t line up for some reason! Our fault I guess for trusting the map pin and not checking the address. Never mind, we are in an English speaking country so we didn`t freak out. We stocked up on groceries, not knowing if we would make it back to town at all during our stay, and called a cab.
The cabin we stayed in was lovely. It was called Bear`s Den and is a privately owned cabin on the edge of a park of cabins. They rent it out when the park is full and it was much nicer than the park ones I have to say. It had a little kitchen and a bathroom all of our own and everything; a bit of a treat really. It was really cosy and right next to a stunningly clear blue lake and heaps of walking trails. We were told several times that this was "Bear Country" which was a bit scary, but exciting too.
We were there for 5 nights and on the first day after we arrived we followed a walking trail into town which took about an hour at a quick pace, but was a great walk
. The forests around there kept reminding me of the Twilight movies and the TV series Supernatural. The lake was creepily still and clear and the forests were eerie at times; dark and mossy. There was one part which was all poplar trees surrounded by weirdly luminous green grass. It really did feel supernatural. The town of Jasper is small and friendly and we were constantly reminded about the presence of bears by the shop names; almost all of them had the word `bear` in the title. They also had an odd way of using quotation marks; they use them for emphasis all the time which creates some unsettling suggestions. We have noticed it in the rest of Canada too and they make fun of it in Corner Gas (that Canadian comedy we told you about) as well. One of the signs we saw in Jasper said Money Exchange "in hotel lobby"...hmmm sounds to me like it`s just a guy mugging you in the parking lot. Another one said "Great Service" which makes me think they probably have just the opposite. I think grammar has gone down the drain. Another sign we saw was outside a newsagency which said Books-Magazines-Kids...I didn`t realise human traffiking was so openly accepted now.
Ok, enough grammar jokes. Once we got back from town we went for a swim in the lake which was incredibly creepy. The lakes around there are crystal clear but incrediby deep, so we were well out of our depth but could see the tree trunks and rocks at the bottom
. I couldn`t help thinking some creature was going to come snatch me any second, which was kind of irrational since I should have felt safer in clear water cause we would be able to see anything coming, but I guess fears are often irrational aren`t they.
That evening we went on a wildlife tour. It was 4 hours driving around the area to the wildlife hot-spots with a really funny Swiss guide who liked to pay out Belgians for their driving. We saw mountain sheep, elk, lots of squirrils, chipmunks, a marmot and even a couple of black bears! It was fantastic. We have only really seen these animals in cartoons until now so it was good to see what they really look like. Although cartoons have been helpful, that`s the only way we could tell which were little squirrils and which were chipmunks!
The second day we took it easy and went for a walk to a nearby lake (there is water everywhere there) and later went canoeing on our lake (Patricia Lake). The next day was a big one; we walked back into town and paid a mint to get on a shuttle to Maligne Lake which is meant to be the best and beautifullest in the area. It was named by a missionary who had nothing but trouble when he was there so I think he decided the place was evil. They pronounce it Maleeeen to make it sound less like the Devil`s swimming pool, but we couldn`t help calling it Maligne anyway
. When we got there we hired a double kayak from an Aussie and a Kiwi (seems like everyone here is from our neck of the woods) and kayaked around the lake for a couple of hours. It was stunning even though the smoke made the views less than postcard perfect. The mountains were huge, the water was clear, the sun was sunny, the forests were cartoony, it was great. Most of the time it was easy paddling but sometimes the wind picked up and we had to go pretty hard to not end up back at the boat shed. I was pretty sore in the morning, but Pete`s a tough nut and he was pretty fine the whole time. We saw wildlife on the banks as we paddled past and got freaked out by the incredibly sharp drop-offs in the clear water. We got the shuttle back (about an hour`s drive) and wandered back home with a huge icecream each. That wasn`t such a good idea, in fact we felt pretty sick by the end of the walk, but it was the only non-Nestle icecream in town and that`s the size it came in so too bad.
After a sleep-in the next day we walked to another nearby lake and generally took it easy the rest of the day. The next day we checked out and managed to get a lift back to town, which saved us a taxi fare, then hung around the town until the afternoon when our train to Edmonton arrived. Edmonton was only about 5 hours away by train so this time we just got a regular coach ticket and we really noticed the difference in service. It was quite strange actually, the way they spoke to us as well as the amount of information given was in complete contrast to the first trip when we had more expensive tickets. For example on the first train trip they had come through the cabins slowly and calmly saying "Last call for dinner in the dining car sir" to each person as they passed. This time they stomped through the carriages like an Orc commander yelling "GET IN THERE YOU DOGS
! YOU MANGY SLAGS SHOULD BE IN AND OUT BY NOW! LAST CALL I SAY!". Ok maybe they weren`t quite that harsh, but the difference was definitely noticable. When we were in the sleeper class there were lots of announcements to say where we were and what we were passing and how long the train would be stopped for. In the coach class there wasn`t a single announcement except for the Orc commander whipping people in to dinner and they didn`t even tell us when we had arrived in Edmonton! It was pitch black and we had no idea where we were, the train stopped for about half an hour and we had no idea if we were supposed to be getting off onto the tracks or not, and then they finally backed up to the platform and let us off after all the upper-class people had been let off. Oh well, I guess we wouldn`t have known it was bad service if we hadn`t had a taste of the good life!
So that`s Jasper, we are having a great time travelling, but are also looking forward to coming home. We can`t upload on this computer but should be able to in a couple of days so you will have to wait for the photos. We`ll send a notice thingy around when we put the photos up. Hope you miss us!
Catching the train out of Vancouver was no trouble, but it was a little sad. Cherie dropped us at the station which was nice; it`s good to have someone to say goodbye to instead of just leaving. The train journey was 18 hours overnight and most of the next day, so we got sleeper class tickets. It was strange when we were checking in because as soon as the guy saw what class of tickets we had he started calling us sir and maam and helping us out with maps and information and what not. It was odd to be treated well on transport; we usually have the cheapest tickets so no-one cares what happens to us and if we`re comfy or not. We got to sit in the lounge to wait for the train instead of lining up with the coach people, very odd! All our food was included in the ticket and there were snacks and yummy things whenever we wanted and 4 or 5 different places to sit throughout the journey; we didn`t just get squished into a seat and left there to mind our own business.