Whistler’s – Jasper

Pretty nice site

Richard rode his longest stretch, all the way from the Icefield Center to our campground in Jasper. I stayed as close as I could in case he wanted to bail because it rained on and off during the first leg. It never ended up coming down hard, so he kept on going. Right when we got to the turn off for the much smaller road, 93A, it cleared up and was smooth sailing all the way in.

Athabasca Falls

Along the way, we stopped to admire Athabasca Falls. This is one powerhouse of a waterfall. We had been following the Athabasca River for some time and it is huge. Much of the Icefields Parkway heading north tracks through the wide, more barren, river valley. The water retains its icy blue color the whole way. To see all of that force go churning and crashing through the narrow channel at the falls makes quite the impression. Photos do not do it justice.

What a beauty!

93A runs about 7 miles between Athabasca Falls and Jasper. It is one of my favorite stretches of road. It is narrow, with just enough pavement for two lanes, but there is hardly any traffic except for those wanting to take it slow. It passes by numerous little ponds and lakes, barely visible through the trees, and looks like prime moose territory. I scanned relentlessly for moose. I did see a beautiful elk, but no other wildlife. There is a bridge, just past the turnoff for Edith Cavell, that passes over the Astoria River and that is a beautiful sight.

Well done, biking Sweetie!

Richard met me at Whistler’s Campground, having completed around 185 miles all told. We celebrated by dumping. This is a privately run campground that has hundreds of sites, some with hookups, some dry. There are four dump pull throughs with two sewer inlets each, plus freshwater spigots for all. Our site was in loop 30, which is one of the ones around the back, closest to the woods. I really liked those. There are other loops in the center of things that looked very exposed and not private. I spotted another Alto while we were dumping, but also made a mental note to not get one of the in-the-middle sites. Our site was woodsier, with enough solar to keep us topped up for our three-night stay.

Very few campground bathrooms inspire Richard to text me and say, “You have to see the bathroom.”

I have to talk about the bathrooms. They are amazing. Obviously brand new, with all the look and feel of a nice hotel. This is one place I would not mind taking a campground shower. Except there was a line, eight people long, waiting to take a shower by the evening. Just another reason we love our Dory shower. Every time.

Whoa. I mean. Yeah.

Our next order of business was to head into town to check things out. Jasper is a wonderful town. It has all the fun of Banff with not all the people. It was easy to get around and find parking (paid close to the center of town, or free if you’re willing to walk a few blocks). Ever since Richard knew we were going to be in Jasper, he has been looking forward to Jasper’s Wafflato. Just thinking about it now makes me want to plan a whole other trip to Jasper. They do breakfast all day and their waffles are perfection. As an Altoiste friend said when I posted the picture: #screwthediettoday. Indeed. So worth every single calorie. With the mountains dominating the horizon in every direction, this town is Rocky Mountain Perfection.

Cute picture taken while Richard was blowing up his blood pressure.

I had several items on the Jasper Bingo Board that I wanted to see, primarily including a trip up to see Maligne Canyon and lake. Unfortunately, before we could head off on Friday, Richard had to make sure our daughter back home got her prescription for insulin filled. As I’ve mentioned in the past, our daughter has had Type 1 diabetes (aka “Juvenile Diabetes”) since she was 7. This is the insulin dependent kind, the kind where no insulin, even for a few hours, means you die. Every three months, Richard has to do battle with either the pharmacy, the insurance company, or the prescribing physician to refill either the insulin, the insulin pump supplies, or the glucose monitor. This time it was the doctor, who was on vacation and the person whose job it was to approve the refill (last week) inexplicably forgot. Keep in mind Richard starts this process weeks in advance because he is so used to someone in the chain not doing their job, not following up, and ultimately pushing the process to the point where it becomes an emergency. We sat in a parking lot by the train station, where there was cell service, for hours. Meanwhile, our neighbor, who had offered to help with the pick-up, was also inconvenienced. Richard was steaming mad by the time this all resolved and it didn’t seem like anything was going to salvage the day.

Impressive Maligne Canyon, which may, or may not, have to do with the meaning of the word: malign.

Nevertheless, we drove out and I put on an audio tour through an app called “Gypsy.” People had mentioned it and I had purchased it way before we even left. Then I forgot to remember it. Until Jasper. This is incredibly fun! It is like having your own Disneyland tour guide chime in when you pass through specific GPS locations, and they start talking about what you are seeing. He tells you where to pull out for the best viewpoints, gives you history tidbits, and geology lessons. I’m just sad I didn’t remember it sooner!

Aw! Now we know they lick the ground for a reason. Smart goats.

We walked down Maligne Canyon (pronounced “mah-LEEN” thanks to Gypsy for correcting all of my pronunciation errors) and followed the steps and bridges as far as the third bridge. This is a really cool canyon, made all the better by being able to view it from so many vantage points. It was a hefty trek back up to the parking lot already, so we opted not to walk all the way down to bridges number five or six.

Waffles bought with U.S. health system Karma points.

We stopped at numerous viewpoints on the way and ended up at Maligne Lake just before four, right when we were both feeling peckish. Richard noticed a small building by the shore with a sign partly obscured by an umbrella. As he went to check it out, he froze in disbelief and exclaimed, “It literally says: Waffle Hut!” We went in immediately, which was lucky, because they closed right at four and we ordered the last two waffles of the day. Day = Saved.

It really seems like moose should be here.

With all of the morning’s stress dispelled by a one-two punch of tour trivia and fresh waffles, we set out on a short hike to Moose Lake. I really did want to see a moose there, and so did a handful of other intrepid hikers. Two of them had thought to bring chairs to make the waiting more comfortable. I think we lasted about a half an hour and I reluctantly called it.

Stealth bear

The day was not without wildlife spotting though! I spied lots of geese, a group of mountain goats with a couple of adorable tiny new ones, a very handsome caribou buck, and a big ole black bear, munching on shrubberies by the side of the road. I did not get a good picture of the bear, no matter how much I zoomed, but I got a good peek at the munching.

We came back to town and had an excellent dinner at Andaaz Indian Cuisine. We had the chicken curry and mixed veggies, and both were absolutely delicious. The sauces were rich with hints of cinnamon and lots of things I couldn’t identify. But oh so good. Richard had ice cream afterwards, but the waffle had put me over any reasonable calorie budget for the day, so I was good.

Pyramid Lake

The next day Richard rode up to Pyramid Lake and I drove, listening to the Gypsy tour on the way. There are so many fascinating facts about Jasper! My favorite on this day had to do with engineers in the 1940s building a scale model aircraft carrier whose hull was made of ice. Remnants still remain at the bottom of Patricia Lake. We walked around the island in Pyramid Lake for a bit and then headed back down separately, meeting in town. We grabbed a couple of treats from the Bear Paw Bakery and headed out to Miette Hot Springs.

The drive to Miette Hot Springs was in fact the whole point.

My goal for that drive was, once again, not the hot springs. This tour has become a bit of a “let’s go to all the famous hot springs and then not go in them” adventure. We do ponder the hot springs. But at the end of the day, these are all just public pools with water that has been massively sanitized and then artificially maintained at a warm temperature. I don’t get it. I could picture going in some natural pool in the middle of nature with like two other people there. Anyway, we both passed, despite having brought our swimsuits in the car, just in case.

Remains of original hot springs pool house

We did walk a short trail out to the actual source of the spring water, and that was cool. The water was warm and very stinky, so you could tell it was legit. We saw the remnants of an old bath house that used to be the big attraction for rich travelers. Even imagining it back in the day, we still say it is just a big public pool filled with pee and unpleasant smells. Pass.

Stealth elk

At one of the scenic viewpoints on the way, we surprised a hidden elk. She was in some bushes by the informational kiosk, and we got right up next to her before we saw her. That was a startle moment. She was chill with us as we slowly backed away and gave her space. What a beauty!

Heading back to rain, but still so pretty

For our last night in town, we had dinner at a sort of healthier food chain place called Freshii. That was good, but also gave me implied permission to have ice cream at Scoops and Loops afterwards. Their mint chip was the kind where the chocolate is shaved into tiny pieces that melt in your mouth and mix with the mint properly.

Finally, we made the rounds in gift shops and enjoyed our final hours in Jasper before heading to Dory and bed. This stop marks the farthest north we have been with Dory (any Dory). We get to drive the whole route back to Banff in one day, just like we did almost twenty years ago. We know ahead of time that there will be some melancholy leaving this beautiful place. But at least we’re not going home yet!

Total miles from Icefield Center: 64.6, 21.0 mpg, 3 hours 49 min because SAGing the whole way. Site 30E. Really liked all the loops at the edge, on the opposite side as the dump. Pleanty of solar. Cell service was great, 5g, except one day, but that seemed to be a glitch that affected everywhere. Lots of good dumps, fresh water. Amazing bathrooms.

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