As I mentioned in one of my other posts, this was a trip where we melded many slow mornings-sleeping in and hanging out-with just the right amount of sightseeing. Maybe its a sign of our age but it felt the right prescription for recovery from a grinding day-to day routine.
It was past ten am as we stepped out for breakfast. We saved the iconic Tim Horton’s for the last morning and went to Smitty’s family restaurant, instead. The menu was akin to what one would find at an IHOP locally, so chose pancakes and they didn’t disappoint.
I really enjoyed the vibe in Jasper, it being a small town. We didn’t have to drive far to get anywhere, in fact we could have walked, if not for the intermittent rain. There was just enough of a visiting crowd and the temperature felt warmer than in Banff.
Sated with a good breakfast, we set out to do some sightseeing. Our first stop was Patricia Lake, about 15 mins from our hotel. We saw some people biking this route from Jasper downtown. The lake was serene with few people on its shores. We soaked in the warm morning sun before heading to Pyramid Lake which is next door. Its situated at the base of Pyramid mountain. This is a larger lake and has the Pyramid Lake Resort offering lodging, rental facilities for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboats, and restaurants along its shoreline. Despite this, the area wasn’t crowded.
We first accessed the lake from the beach on its opposite shores. There were many locals with their kayaks either actively kayaking, or enjoying time on the beach. We then made our way to the Pyramid resort area. Here, the winding road lead to the parking lot for Pyramid Island. The island is connected by a wooden bridge. Although small, we really enjoyed our time on this island, the tranquility that surrounded us, the superb views of Pyramid Mountain with its striking colors, and the pleasant sunny weather. This is, apparently, a favorite spot for weddings and I could see why. There was a pavilion, a few picnic tables and an open area for the weddings with a few benches overlooking a vast expanse of the lake. Many families were out and about, kayaking and canoeing on the lake.
Once back at the resort area, we decided to rent kayaks, one for Mr. JJ and me and one for the kids. There was only about a 10 CAD difference between an hour-long rental and a half hour, so we chose the hour long. We got our life jackets on and one of the staff members helped us steer our kayaks onto the lake.
The kids went ahead of us and were having a grand time. We followed close behind and it was really lovely for the first 15 minutes as we learnt how to maneuver the kayak, having never been in one. The water was cold but we managed to keep most of it out of the kayak.
A short while later, the sky turned grey and we could see the clouds building up in the distance against the face of Pyramid Mountain. The scene became disturbingly hazy and it soon became apparent that rains and wind were headed our way. We decided to turn around and get back to shore and shouted to the kids to do the same. Somehow, their kayak made a smooth turn and they were soon headed back.
Our kayak was being buffeted by the winds and the now turbulent water currents and it made turning much harder. Desperate to get out of the water, we managed to steer the kayak to the opposite shore after several minutes of paddling hard. The kids had seen us struggling and decided to come after us, so we all ended up on the same stretch of shore, and beached our kayaks. We stood in the shelter of some trees that provided sufficient protection from the driving rain. About 15-20 mins later, the rain abated and we felt confident to get back to the other side.
The next 20 minutes were probably the most hilarious ones of our lives. For some reason, Mr. JJ and I were just not synchronized with the paddling, so the kayak took us everywhere except the shore. I kid you not, had someone been filming our efforts, they would have had the laugh of their lifetime, watching us go around in circles, and yet making little headway to shore. It was enough of a drama that the girl at the rental center came out and started shouting directions on how to get the kayak turned around.
We did, eventually, make it back to shore, a little embarrassed, a little frustrated and a lot chilled, but the kids had a wonderful time talking about it all the way back. And we shared some good laughs, reliving those moments many times that week. It was our first kayaking adventure and one that will remain etched in our memories for ever and bring a smile each time!
Back at the hotel, we freshened up and spent some time idling before heading back to town. There were periods of rain throughout the day. Our first stop was at Coco’s cafe, a vegetarian friendly cafe. A small, quaint place on busy Patricia Street, right in the heart of Jasper, it’s very colorful and offers many options for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets. As well as tons more for our carnivore friends.
We chose the Quinoa Chili which was warm, tasty and mighty filling. Their coffees are supposed to be special but we were too full to try one that evening. Well fed and warm, we set out to see Maligne Lake. Normally people do a cruise on Maligne Lake which takes them to Spirit Island, the iconic spot for Jasper. But we decided to forego the cruise because of the rain and cloudy weather all afternoon.
We stopped at the Maligne Canyon overlook for a short while before heading to Maligne Lake. Our first big stop came at Medicine Lake which was filled with blue-green water. This lake is situated over a wide network of underground limestone cave tunnels that drain this water, channeling it to the Maligne canyon area. In summer, the lake is filled with water from the glacial melt and overflowing. And by the second half of the year, the lake is but a few small pools. Since the lake seemed to disappear and reappear, the native settlers named it Medicine Lake.
We didn’t realize how large this lake really was until we started driving past it. We stopped to enjoy seeing wildlife on the road. By the time we reached Maligne Lake, the boat tours office was closed and the last tour was returning. There were a few people at the restaurant and a couple walking the trails, otherwise, we had the lake to ourselves. We admired the lovely views from the shore. There are several hiking trails along this area and we walked one for a while before calling it quits.
On the way back, we stopped at Maligne Canyon, which was quite impressive. Made of limestone, these deep gorges, the flow of water along them, the tall and imposing trees all around against a background of a deepening evening, all created a powerful tapestry of elegance and power. Everywhere on this trip, the sound of rushing water created an evocative background to the scenery, underscoring the true power of this resource.
Back on the road, we decided to make a short visit to Lake Annette and Lake Edith. Both have small beaches where we could have spent the afternoon, had the rain not interfered. Lake Edith offers rentals for kayaks and canoes. It was late by then and the kids were not in a mood to get out and explore. So we made our trip short and sweet.
Back in Jasper, Mr. JJ had worked up an appetite with all the driving and walking. So we stopped at Jasper Pizza Place for dinner. This restaurant was the largest one we visited in Jasper and had a bar and flat screens for viewing sports, a patio outside and one on the rooftop with a bar. The kids shared a bowl of oven baked penne marinara while we enjoyed a freshly made vegetarian pizza.
As dusk settled on the town, we stopped to admire views of Pyramid mountain in the distance. We had one more day left in Canada and a long drive to reach Calgary. But we had yet to visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, so that was high on our list. The following day promised to be a very hectic one.