Cross country skiing in Jasper

So here I am in “outdoorsy” Jasper in the north of the Canadian Rockies. Before getting here I’d read all about how Jasper is “wildlife central” but nevertheless it still surprised me to see a herd of elk roaming the main street when I arrived. They sometimes come into town at night to use humans as protection from wolves, smart!

The drive up from Lake Louise sure was brilliant; it’s called the Icefields Parkway and is one of the most scenic drives in the world. 230km of snow-capped peaks, lakes and glaciers. I’ve posted some pictures into Canada Snaps!

It’s been almost a week and todays the first day that I haven’t been out and about either skiing or walking on water – well ice to be exact but water sounds better right?

Maligne Canyon icewalk is one of Jasper’s main attractions and it sure was a fun and slippery experience. These huge frozen waterfalls were majestic and our group even got to wriggle into a cave – as Andy from Australia rightly pointed out “we’ve now been in the Rockies too”.

15/12/12 - One of a few frozen 20+ metre waterfalls at Maligne Canyon
15/12/12 – One of a few frozen 20+ metre waterfalls at Maligne Canyon
Walking on water at Maligne Canyon
15/12/12 – Walking on water at Maligne Canyon

Then there was skiing…again. Last time I had skied was four long years ago so I had to recall all the muscle memory I could when I went skiing at Marmot Basin with Andy – bit of a stretch? No way!

Surprising myself even, I was back on some black runs by lunch – albeit not with the style or flair of some…

This skier shows me how it's done
This skier shows me how it’s done at Marmot Basin

One of the most memorable days in Jasper so far would have to be giving cross country skiing a go for the first time. No doubt it’s a tough sport. Think of it as a cross between speed walking, sliding on timber floors wearing socks and skiing. It’s all about the glideeeeee.

I just so happened to go with two Canadians who had been cross country skiing for nearly ten years so they were fast. They said I did really well so gotta be happy with that. Boy I was happy to get back to the car though, 19km and 5 hours later. We saw plenty of wolf and cougar tracks but no sightings of the wily beasts – maybe not a bad thing?

18/12/12 - Keeping up with the two speedsters.
18/12/12 – Keeping up with the two speedsters, Andes and Bree, on the ski to Moab Lake

Something I didn’t know beforehand (but realised straight away) was how dark the skies are here. In fact the dark skies have been officially recognised and Jasper National Park is the largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world. Great for star gazing but northern lights are still quite rare here. Come on northern lights!

“Moose”ing about

What an awesome experience! Just me and a moose in an up close and personal encounter for nearly half an hour.

Here’s how the story unfolded…

I went for a drive to Spray Lakes in search of a “photogenic” sunset. What? No sun? The sun didn’t come out at all. Oh well I thought – another day.

Then as I was walking back to the car I spotted a prime “car photo” opportunity. So I jumped in and moved around into perfect position – wheels turned and all.

Camera in hand, I jumped out and started running down the snow covered road for the photo. “Woah”! I stopped in my tracks. Something big, brown and tall about 100 metres away.

A moose! It’s elongated horse-like head gave it away straight up. What else did I see? No antlers. Mrs Moose.

I scurried back to the car pretty quick though I can tell you that. My first thought was I can drive up and get a photo out the window. But then I remembered what Damien had told me.

So I stayed in the car, windows up, just a tad anxious as it was coming.

12/12/12 - I see it approaching!
12/12/12 – It’s coming!

Next thing I know I’ve got a big moose licking the boot. I can see it in the rearview. Yep Damien was right! Moose love licking cars. Random I know but I’ve since found out it’s for the salt.

I figured what could possibly go wrong… so cautiously opened my door and hopped out. As I moved around the car to get a photo so did she. Always one eye on me and one tongue on the car.

12/12/12 - Huh?
12/12/12 – Big alright hey. See where she’s licked already?

She was a peaceful giant though, if I moved towards her she would back off and run away. Then slowly and carefully amble back to the (unbeknownst to me) astronomic salt supply. But as you can see I got really close, only a metre or two away. Amazing stuff.

12/12/12 - Just me and a moose
12/12/12 – Just me and a moose
12/12/12 - Compare the pair
12/12/12 – Compare the pair

Cowboy country near Calgary

Cowboy country. Where big belt buckles are earned and worn with pride, where just about every vehicle is a monterous “truck”, where coffee is downed like there’s no tomorrow, and where conversations revolve around that last successful (or unsuccessful) hunting trip.

It’s a place where the neighbour’s house is a five minute drive away, where being asked “Do you rodeo?” is the norm, where tobacco is chewed, not smoked, and where the Cowboy of the Year lives 10 minutes down the road.

Yep, this is life on the cattle ranch.

29/11/12 - Herding cattle down the road
29/11/12 – Herding cattle down the road on a chilly -10 degree day

It was fantastic staying on the ranch these past ten days. I got an insight into a completely different lifestyle – and climate! “It’s a bit chilly out” was John’s way of saying it’s -15.

Along with feeding the cows and jumping hay bales, I got to see the “Hoodoos” rock formation and the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller. Amazing. No wonder it’s one of the most complete dinosaur museums in the world. As you walk through it you are walking through time, from 500 million years old to 10 000 years ago.

The "Hoodoos" in the Drumheller badlands. To the natives they represent evil spirits turned to rock
4/12/12 – The “Hoodoos” in the Drumheller badlands. To the natives they represent evil spirits turned to rock.
4/12/12 - Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller
4/12/12 – Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller

The Bass Pro shop in Calgary was mind blowing as well. Literally hundreds of stuffed animals makes the place more of a museum than an outdoor store. Waterfalls, fishtanks and fake life sized trees all included in the “experience”. And it is an experience, check it out.

4/12/12 - The pack of wolves and herd of caribou in Bass Pro, Calgary
4/12/12 – The pack of wolves and herd of caribou in Bass Pro store, Calgary

What else? Well at the local stockyards cattle auction I learnt the ranchers had developed a sixth sense – understanding the auctioneer! I couldn’t (and still can’t) believe how anyone can possibly 1. talk that fast; and 2. be understood.

The Olympic standard speed skating rink at the Calgary university was spectacular and the speed of the skaters equally so. Most of the speed skating world records were set on this ice in fact. The fastest ice in the world.

My camera is filling up with too many photos I want to share so check out my new page “Canada snaps!” by scrolling to the top and clicking the tab, or click here. What’s your favourite picture?