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Mon, 01 Sep 2014
day 16 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
this morning we booked another night in jasper, and when telling our host that we saw caribous the day before, we were very disappointed to hear that there are no caribous around at this time of the year, and those few that had survived all the wolves so far, are rarely spotted. sad us. but our host also told us her husband has spotted a wolf these days on a certain road. so we will go there today in the afternoon - maybe we get to see a wolf (assuming they are not a legend and lie just as the rest of all the wildlife here in canada, because by now we are very certain the bear is a lie. such as the cougar. and the moose. and the lynx). although the weather did not look very promising, clouds covered the gray sky and from time to time there were light rainfalls, we still wanted to go up the whistler's mountain[001-067] with the jasper cable car[062,063], which is the lengthiest of its kind in canada and takes you from 1300 to 2300 metres altitude in approximately seven minutes. the ride itself was turned into an event; while we are used to having transported as many people up the hill as possible, so they can do their sports activities there, here you get a ticket with an assigned number and time. then there are loudspeaker announcements telling people to prepare for preboarding (yes, really), and then a few minutes later there is the final call for boarding. this repeats itself every 15 minutes. since it was quite early when we got there, and the weather didn't look so good, we only had to wait for one car to board the cabin. on board there was infotainment by a guy handling the doors. he did a good job actually, and told us what lakes and mountains we could see from up there. well, at least the guy still seemed to have fun and enjoy his job.
up on the mountain it was cold, very windy, and clouds and fog were climbing up on one side of the mountain. still we wanted to hike the few hundred metres to the summit. on the steep way up we took some breaks - low oxygen levels and such forced us to - and we spotted a rainbow[018-019], a gentian[029], and a little ground squirrel[033-036].
at 12:00 sharp, we made it to the peak[039-050] at 2450 metres, and built our own stone man, called "inuksuk"[047-048] - isn't it lovely? not as big as the other ones[039-041] built there, but still our lasting mark on whistler's peak.
back at the upper station of the cable car we had a coffee and tea to warm up again. from the little restaurant we spotted another one of those seemingly endless trains[066]. also we saw jasper[062,064-067], that looks like a big "J". and we found a little souvenir magnet, with a bear on a spring in a canoe, an oar in his paws. actually, super ugly and kitschy; but we liked the wobbling bear, so we kept it and placed it on the dashboard of our car for fun and wobble. next we did a little hike again, but this time in the plains. the trail is called "the valley of the five lakes"[066-139], is about 10 kilometres long, and takes in - as the name implies - five lakes, each with its own distinct colour.
it took us quite a while until we got to the first lake[094-103]. there are two loop trails; a short one, which covers some lakes, and a long one, which covers all of them, and includes the short one. and the longer one is the one we did. and while we walked a few hours, we only met a few living beings. one of them being a blue grouse[096-097] in camouflage plumage, which did not move all the time while we were staring at it and taking pictures. the second one was a human being with a dog. i wanted to ask him if the dog has sensed any wildlife, but he was passing by too quick; but then again, he most likely would have warned us anyway.
heading on, we soon came to the second lake[104-114], followed by the third lake[115-124]. there we found a pair of bright red chairs[115,121], which are part of the "jasper red chair program". there is a total of six of these chairs "placed in quiet, scenic locations carefully selected by parks canada staff because these places inspire the truest sense of 'awe'", as it said. and the place chosen for the chairs we found, really offered an awe-inspiring sight. so we did as suggested[121], and sat there quietly and discovered.
next, you might have guessed it, were the fourth lake[125-133], and the fifth lake[134]. the colour of each lake was really wonderful, from a lush green to a shiny cyan, really impressive. while hiking we found out something quite interesting. chipmunks have this unique alert sound when you come close to them. to me it sounded like a rattlesnake's rattle sound made by a bird. at least, that's how i would describe it. anyhow, as soon as one of those cute little rodents starts with this sound, you can hear it for a very very long time, even if you have already left the area where the chipmunk spotted you. but one time we greeted the chipmunk, and were waving in its direction. and suddenly... it had stopped. coincidence we thought at first, but then it was like that in over 75% of our encounters. funny thing. so from now on, we will always greet the chipmunks and wave. being polite is the least we can do when intruding into their homes we thought.
it was about 18:00 o'clock when we got back to jasper, so we decided to give the place a shot where our host's husband has seen the wolf a few days ago. we thought this might be a good time for the animals to wander around. so we drove up the marmot basin road, that would lead to an alpine resort, but since the season is not opened yet, the road is hardly used, thus the animals will not get scared away. we parked our car on a long straight segment of the road, to easier spot animals crossing the street. but no animals came. no bear, no lynx, no cougar, no moose, nothing. after about 20 minutes we gave up, and drove back on the road, when suddenly i spotted something on the side of the road. it turned out it was a big (but skinny) black wolf[140-152]. i jammed on the brakes, and kept distance to the wolf to not scare it. but the longer we followed the wolf, the more obvious it got, that he did not care at all what were doing. so i got closer, and even drove a short distance right next to him. then he branched off into the woods, but i guess not because of us, but rather because that was his route. how awesome is that, we got as close as about three or four metres to a wild wolf - lucky us. and we also were quite happy that we were safe in the car all the time.
we thought it could not get any better, so, after calming down again (we were soooo happy and excited), we drove down the road, when suddenly we crossed the path of the wolf[154-157] again. he must have taken the straight way, while we were meandering down the mountain road, so the timing was perfect; by happenstance. back in jasper we spotted some more elks[158-159], it seems they are so used to cars and humans, they do not even seem to notice them while grazing on the roadside. by now it was already pretty late and getting too dark for the camera, still we went to lake pyramid[160-166], where one can walk to a small island, called mckibbin island. the loop trail is only a few metres long, so we decided to add this one to our odometer. and one last stop at lake patricia[167], since it was on our way home. but it was already too dark, so we just hopped off the car, looked around, and hopped on again.
back in jasper we both were pretty tired and exhausted, so we did not want to put too much effort into deciding which food to get. across our accommodation there is a big gas station with a family restaurant right next to it, with a big neon-light sign saying "pizza". and that is exactly what we had; a big american style pizza, as seen on tv commercials. thick, cheesy, and surprisingly delicious - and it was good we ordered one to share, because we both were totally stuffed. fortunately we only had to cross the street to get to our beds, because that was just the place we wanted to be then. what a great day. track for day 16.

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