This story continues from my previous post, “Ah part of my heart is still in the Rocky Mountains”.
As I was leaving Banff, I thought ahead to my campsite in Jasper. I knew that it was near Athabasca Falls and planned to stop there along the way. I’d briefly visited the falls the previous summer and wanted to spend some quality time exploring and taking photos. First I checking out the walkway areas around the falls, taking in their pure magnificence and revelling in the unharnessed power of the water against the rocks. Seeing this will never grow old. I wandered down the rocky stairway that was once a swirling torrent of crashing water, imagining it as it might have been once and marvelling at its possible history. I made my way down past the falls to the brachytherapy area along the Athabasca River. I poked around on the beach snapping photos with a throng of other visitors, eventually following a people-free trail along the river for a little ways. The river is a pale greenish aqua colour, such a lovely contrast to the rocks walls, trees and sky. I gazed across the valley to the mountains and imagined the area as the glacier it may have once been. I took s few more photos, snapped out of my visit to the past and decided it was time to find my campsite.
I climbed back up the amazing water channel staircase, passing new visitors… families, couples, explorers from all over the world, like me, in awe of this marvel of the earth.
I hopped in Fiona and checked my map (Fiona’s GPS) to my camping destination, Wabasso Campground, 14 Kms down the road from the falls. I found the directional road sign and was in my way! So exciting! I’d never been there so I felt like a true explorer for a moment. I expected a decent, paved road to the campground… I was completely mistaken! Yes it was paved, but was pretty much a patchwork of tar that was barely wide enough for Fiona! I was quite amused as I drove along, expecting Wabasso to loom ahead soon. Again, wrong! The sign said 14kms but it felt like way more! (It wasn’t though) As I puttered along, I happened across a couple on s big motorcycle, parked squarely in the middle of the road. As I slowed to pass them, I saw that they’d stopped to watch a big black bear munching on grass in the woods. They waved and pointed to the bear, big smiles on their faces. An awesome sighting for them, but I live side by side with black bears and there was no way I was stopping! Although this bear was happily nibbling grass, you never know when they’ll want to shoo you away and I don’t want to be around if that happens! I waved at the folks and kept rolling along. The folks weren’t in danger but it was still too close for me.
I continued along this patchwork roadway, noticing the tall Alberta pines looming like guardians. Such beauty. Soon enough I saw a sign indicating that I was on the right track and before I knew it, I was there! I signed in and searched for my spot for the next 2 nights. I’d booked my campsite online and was able to see photos of the spot. I was looking right over the Athabasca River. Perfect! Exactly what I’d expected! I was literally one happy camper!!
I familiarized myself with the grounds by going to get firewood first, then walking around to find the shower facilities (I always book sites near showers) then wandering along the sandy river bank with my camera. Soon I returned to my site to start a fire, cook some dinner and just chill until the sun started to set. As night fell, I took my chair and camera to a small ridge behind my site where I could view and take photos of the setting sun reflecting on the river. Pure bliss.
I sat there as long as possible, watching the colours morph from yellows to oranges to pinks and finally, deep midnight blue. I headed back to my site and sat by my little fire, thinking about my plans to hike Mount Edith Cavell the next day to see Angel Glacier.
The road to the glacier is near Wabasso campground and I set off early the next morning, hoping to beat the crowds and the mid-day heat. When I arrived at the parking lot I was pleased to see that it was still fairly empty. I grabbed my backpack and headed up the trail.
This hike has two dimensions. There’s a relatively short kike to the glacier and a long full day hike up into the alpine meadows. Since I was travelling solo, I chose to take the short hike to the glacier. Along the path, there are a number of information signs pointing out the details of the mountain, picnic tables, small log bridges over little creeks and incredible views of the valley. When I arrived at the viewing area, there she was, Angel Glacier in all her glory, wings spread as though ascending to heaven. At the base, is a small mountain lake, a tarn… In the most lovely subtle pale Aqua green, the same colour as the Athabasca River. There were wooden barriers around the viewing area to deter people from going down to the tarn where massive chunks of the glacier had fallen but there were a few of us rebel souls that had to go see. Beside the tarn was an ice boulder the size of a small 2 storey house. Although there was a family taking massive amounts of photos with it and I got a few photos without the people in them. I really wanted to stand in the water of the tarn but the bottom, even by the shallow shore was too rocky so I swished my hands in it instead, loving the iciness on my skin. Looking around, I saw a smaller pocket of deep turquoise water nearby that I wanted to check out. I had to leave the trails to get to it and was watching the ground to carefully pick my steps and as I looked down, I saw a very small Aqua colour rock, right in my path. I stopped in my tracks and stared at for a few moments before picking it up. It was the identical colour of the tarn. It was smooth and polished. What was it doing up here? Did somebody drop it? What are the chances of even seeing it? I’ll never know but to have found it at all was astounding. As I rolled it in my fingers, feeling it’s smoothness and admiring it’s gorgeous colour I accepted that this was the memory of this mountain that I was to take with me. I thanked the universe for this gift and with gratitude, slipped it into my pocket. I continued to the turquoise pool, took a few photos and decided it was time to get back on a trail. I felt like a mountain goat trying to navigate on the rocks but I’m certainly not adept like one!
Near the bottom of the path to the parking lot I passed an older gentleman who stopped me to ask about a can of bear spray I had hanging off my backpack. He was visiting Canada from Israel with his wife (who was not hiking that day) and we ended up chatting for about 15 minutes. Meeting people from all over the world is such a bonus to travelling. We bid each other happy travels and went our ways.
It was only noon so I headed into Jasper to find myself a big axe. I have axes at home but wasn’t able to find the axe I wanted (since I had recently moved) so figured a hatchet would be enough. I was wrong. The firewood in Alberta is so tough that I had an awful time trying to cut kindling and realized that I needed a proper axe. I google mapped the nearest hardware store and tried to find it. Nope! I was somehow missing something and just could not find this place! I parked along the Main Street and decided to window shop for a while and ask for directions along the way. I went into s store and was given verbal directions and some scribbles on a piece of paper which didn’t make much sense since I’d never been to Jasper before and tried to find this place. After driving around the same streets for 10 minutes I stopped a man walking his dog to ask for directions. He gave me simple, clear directions and in 5 minutes I was there! What was the issue? You ask, the store was on the other side of a railway bridge on the other side of town! I found my axe and headed back to Wabasso.
I had only booked 2 nights at Wabasso and had to start my journey home the next morning. I got a fire going, ate dinner and packed up Fiona for the trip to Telkwa the next day.
The adventure continues, check back soon for more travels!