After a captivating three days travel on the luxurious Rocky Mountaineer Train (encapsulated in Part 1 & Part 2), you alight at a beautiful small mountain town, an island of civilization in Wilderness, the Gentle Giant of Canadian Rockies – “Jasper”.
It is shivering cold outside. The hotel where you shall stay for the next two nights is situated pretty close to the station as well as downtown Jasper. Lying on the bed, looking out of the large window of your corner room, awesome cloud filled sky and snow-capped mountains ratchets up your delight compelling you to inexorably be drawn to its mesmerizing beauty. The words of E.O.Wilson that sound like an axiom then come to your mind that says “Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual Nature”.
Next morning after gastronomic breakfast you prepare to embark for the pre-booked two hour Motorcycle Sidecar Tour that shall show you some fascinating terrains of Jasper before reaching the famous Lake Maligne.
Ready with your winter wear, ‘Rob’, presumably short name for ‘Robert’, comes with his mini-van to take you to his shop located in downtown. There after few safety orientations you are made to wear special attire supposedly to insulate you from freezing cold out. You look within the mirror to find yourself look like a cow-boy san gun; smile and move on.
Sitting beside Rob on his impressive, well-polished jet black Harvin Davidson Motorbike, you shiver continuously as he speeds his bike out into the open. Soon you are now on a forty km scenic ride towards the Lake Maligne, road that follows the flow of the Athabasca River on most of its way.
(Athabasca River originates from Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park and after travelling for over 1200 km drains itself into Lake Athabasca.)
Winding through the awe inspiring vistas of the Jasper National Park you watch copious tall pines of mesmerizing hue pass by even as the awfully cold breeze touching your face gets increasingly intolerable. You have very little choice now but to brave this chill, or at least pretend to do so.
Rob points to the top of a Mountain where you notice on its peak a huge Rock having a massive hole at its top centre. According to Rob this hole is so huge that it can permit a big truck pass through it.
As you ride along the Maligne Lake road, to the left is the scenic Maligne Canyon that is consciously given a miss due to the Paucity of time. Maligne Canyon presumably is a 50 meters deep limestone canyon that has some impressive waterfalls around it.
Further passing through the secluded conifer forests you see few alpine infected with pine-beetle-viruses making these trees vulnerable to the danger of wild-fires.
Then to your right, is the famous Rosemary’s Rock situated in the middle of Maligne River. Rob stops there for a while to help you take few pictures of this stone that has plausible earned its name after it was showcased in the 1953 file “Rose Marie” starring Howard Keel and Ann Blyth. Incidentally Rosemary Clooney too had climbed this rock once and the beautiful Marilyn Monroe too did it during the shoot of 1954 movie ‘River of no Return’.
Further you cross huge swathes of eerie dark burnt forest. This part of forest ostensibly was incinerated due to the lightning strike in 2015 that then expanded into a wild-fire.
A couple of short halts in-between and you reach the 22 km long scenic Maligne Lake; the largest natural lake in Canadian Rockies and known for Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking.
One is awe struck watching the Lake’s vivid aquamarine waters. Nestled within towering mountains and glistening jagged glacier-studded peaks, you are mesmerized watching its grandeur.
Form the pier you see visitors queue up to experience boat ride that takes nearly 90 minutes for a round trip across the picturesque Spirit Island.
Literally frozen, you hop into the visitor’s center into the ambience of controlled temperature for a much needed respite. A café and a gift shop here have visitors who are here more to escape from the cold rather than to buy something. A cursory look at the display shelfs in the gift shop, you find nothing inspiring to take back home. Once out, you request Rob to ride you back to your hotel.
After some warming up at the Hotel, you decide to walk this time to explore Jasper’s downtown. Jasper is a small beautiful place also known as the ‘Gentle Giant Of Canadian Rockies’ has primarily two lanes. On one side is the Jasper Station and on the other are slew of restaurants lined up serving Italian, Indian and Continental cuisines.
Some alluring gift shops in-between allow you opportunity for some quick purchases. Screaming hungry stomach is now compelling you to draw attention towards it. Oh!… time to grab some meal; Pizza looks fine for now. A cozy Italian Restaurant seems an ideal place to placate your taste buds. Replenished with energy, you move on.
Jasper is a haven for the adventurous souls; you can chose to canoe or raft on the Athabasca River, hike appealing trails, or even get soaked in the natural hot water spring for complete rejuvenation. Jasper is a quintessential natural playground that stands up to its reputation. Place that can leave a mark on the memory of a true nature lover.
Watching attractive houses on the way you are back at the hotel. After drinks and dinner in one of its reputed restaurants, you pack your bags and prepare to bid adieu to the sweet little Jasper early next morning.
Like someone said: “Happiness is a way of Travel – not a Destination”. So in pursuit of sustained happiness, you endeavor to explore the next place in these amazing Rockies; the fabled hamlet in Alberta – ‘Lake Louise’.
And there you are; in another bus, to another place……..