Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Monday, June 17, 2013
Another day of little sleep although I felt more rested when I woke up this morning. Lots of snoring by Mom (must be all that exercise and fresh air!) so, instead of yelling at her all night and keeping all three of us awake, I took one for the team and slept in the bathroom. Amazingly, I didn't hear a thing. The bad news? The floor is extremely uncomfortable and the bathroom is furthest from the heater and the fireplace so it was FREEZING. It didn't help that we got a bit of frost overnight either. However, that meant it was beautiful outside first thing in the morning, the air was crisp and fresh, and overall I felt wonderful (probably delirious from lack of sleep!).
After packing up all our stuff and checking out of Tekarra Lodge, we headed into town for breakfast as usual. The previous two mornings we'd stopped at Papa George's for their breakfast special. Its adequate but honestly nothing special and today we wanted something different. We wandered down Patricia Avenue getting a bit discouraged and thinking we'd end up at Smitty's; suddenly we came across a small little restaurant that intrigued us, Lou Lou's Breakfast and Pizzeria. I know... breakfast and pizza? For some of us, that's the perfect combination but for most it probably sounds a bit of an odd combination. We didn't care; we were hungry. Holy schmoleys Batman. Best. Breakfast. Ever. Sure, twice the price of Papa George's breakfast special but it was soooo worth it. I had the most amazing veggie scramble while Mom and Betty were over the moon about their ginormous veggie omelets. I want to go back to Jasper just to have breakfast (and the fettuccini from Cassio's). Alright, you're probably bored with the food talk and want to know what we did on our last morning, right? Fine but you'll thank me when you're looking for somewhere to eat when you visit!
A trip to Jasper MUST end with a visit to Athabasca Falls. I say end because you don't want to peak too soon. The last three trips I've made to Jasper have all ended with a trip to the falls and its the perfect way to wrap up your visit. Nature at its most magnificent. Its about half an hour west of town so if you're based in Edmonton (or flying out from there) it seems odd to be going the opposite direction but trust me, you'll understand. As usual, we stopped along the way to take in the breathtaking views.
Ok, so Edith Cavell is hidden by clouds but trust me, its still there.
A few minutes later, and a right turn off the highway, you'll find yourself in a parking lot packed with cars and tour buses. Its probably one of the Park's most popular spots but don't let the masses of tourists get to you. If you can ignore them and wait patiently to squeeze yourself into the perfect viewing spot, you won't be disappointed. First thing you'll notice? The noise. You can hear the faint sounds of the falls from the parking lot. While it's not Niagra or Victoria, its still pretty darned incredible. The approach to the Falls is a bit deceptive.
Looks pretty peaceful, just a little bit of rough water along the Athabasca River. Nothing major, right? As you head down the path, the noise begins to rise and the water starts to disappear into the rocks.
I'll let the rest of the walk around the falls speak for itself.
You can view all of the pictures from my trip to Jasper HERE.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
OMG could my mother snore any louder? Unlike the first night where we all slept soundly, the second night proved to be a disaster for all of us. Mom was snoring loud enough to wake the dead, I was yelling at her to shut up/roll over, and poor Betty was caught in between the two of us. At one point, I ended up trying to sleep in the car (no luck) and Mom wound up on the bathroom floor with the door closed. We were a cranky lot when the sun rose on Day 3. It was cold and cloudy out; not the lovely sunny day we'd had the day before. It was so chilly out, I had to wear gloves.
This was our best food day of the trip. I know; its not how you usually measure the success of an outing but with the exception of a so-so breakfast, our day was a big hit with all of us. I'll talk more about the munchies as the day progresses. First up though, horseback riding! We headed up to the Jasper Riding Stables in the rain. At least we wouldn't be sweating. We'd brought rain ponchos and bug spray though just in case as Mom had booked us a three hour ride. That's a long time to be wet and at the mercy of the mosquitos. Betty's ridden horses for a long time now so this was old hat for her. Mom and I on the other hand were, shall we say, a bit apprehensive. Betty hopped on her horse, Bert while Mom gingerly crawled onto Artie. Me? I got this beautiful boy, Alamo.
Now, I thought they originally called him Elmo and had to apologize to him after the first few minutes for calling him the wrong name. Poor fella. They put me right behind our guide as I was super nervous. I'm not afraid of horses in general; I'm just worrisome about trying to control such a large animal from on its back. See, animals have free will and a mind of their own and frankly, that scares the bejeebus out of me. Turns out, there was little to be afraid of. After the first uphill and then slightly steep downhill, I was riding like I was a rodeo pro (ok, maybe not quite like that!).
Mel, our main guide (we had two) was fantastic. Keeping everyone together, chatting to calm us down, and being extremely patient with us noobs. Unfortunately, my knees and Mom's butt had had enough by the two hour mark so we decided to head back to the barn with our other guide (Analise?) while Betty and the one other rider stayed with Mel to complete the last hour. Unfortunately, the other lady's horse, Apache, wasn't having any of that and as we walked off, he bolted and trotted up to the front of the line. Any effort to separate him from our three horses and stay with the other two caused him to get excited and anxious so we all ended up returning together. Other than that, and an incident with a deer which I was sure was going to result in Alamo taking off like a horse on fire, things went smoothly. I highly recommend Jasper Riding Stables if you want to go for a ride while in the park. The views we had were incredible. Just make sure you're not deathly afraid of heights; there were a few nail biting moments along a particularly steep valley.
Good luck to Mel who's off to school in the fall to study equine massage therapy. Yes, apparently that's real.
Onto the food. It was Betty's day to chose where to eat and she settled on Something Else Steak House for lunch. We were all so glad she did. Mom and I each had an absolutely delicious cheeseburger that tasted just like homemade. Mmmmmm. The Greek salad I had on the side could have had a little bit more oregano and other spices but it was loaded with feta so I can't complain. Everything on the menu looked good and we were all happy (and full!).
Since we were all sore following the morning's ride, we chose to take a trip up to the Miette Hot Springs for a soak. Now, I have to admit that, like the Jasper Tramway, I wasn't all that keen on going to the springs. I would have rather gone for a hike which we hadn't done much of at all but I was "enjoying the journey" as Betty kept telling us all to do so I packed my swimsuit and towel, and hopped in the car. Again, so very glad I did. The ride there was about 45 minutes I think but its gorgeous. Once you leave the highway, the road winds back and forth so you have to slow down, allowing you to really enjoy the views. Our first stop along the way was at Punchbowl Falls, a small waterfall a few minutes off the highway.
Nature is incredible, no?
Next up, we pulled into a viewing area to check out the Ashlar Ridge and Capitol Mountain. Takes your breath away, it does. And makes you feel very insignificant.
The hot springs were great - relaxing, soothing on the muscles, time to wind down. And all in shadows of the mountains. We even had goats greet us in the parking lot! The cold pool that you're supposed to dunk in every 20 minutes? FREEZING. Combine that with a chilly wind coming down off the mountains and it certainly will toughen you up. Or give you a heart attack; I'm not sure which. If you go to Jasper, definitely visit the springs but save until the end of your vacation.
Back into town, all we could think of was a nap and dinner. We'd all agreed to Italian earlier so we ended up at Cassio's Restaurant. Wow. As with most North American restaurants, I doubt it was truly authentic but it was the perfect meal to end our short stay in the mountains. Absolutely, incredibly, delicious. I woke up on the next morning craving the fettuccine alfredo I'd had the night before. You simply MUST eat there. And, I think we met the only waiter in town who was born and bred right there in Jasper.
After we rolled ourselves back to the car, we headed home for one last night. Fingers crossed, we all get some sleep!
You can view all the photos from my vacation HERE.
You can view all the photos from my vacation HERE.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Day two began with sunshine. What?! The forecast had been saying rain and clouds all week long. We weren't going to complain though; we had a white water rafting trip scheduled with Jasper Rafting Adventures for this morning and the water was already cold enough without it raining on us. None of us had ever gone rafting before so we were all really excited to hit the water. Getting into our wetsuits wasn't too bad but the booties (including plastic bag "socks") were interesting.
We exited the water cold but exhilarated. Both Betty and I were definitely up for doing it again (and maybe going up to level 3 rapids!). Mom wasn't so sure but she loved it.
After a trip back to the cabin to change and lunch in town, we decided to take the Jasper Tramway up the Whistlers. I had received mixed reviews from my coworkers on whether it was worth the money or not (most said no). I had told Mom about this and part of me didn't really want to go however both Betty and Mom were excited about it so off we went. Boy oh boy am I glad we went! The ride up wasn't too bad for me but the last 100 yards or so right before we stopped at the top made me slightly panicky (as did the entire ride down!). The tram ride costs $32 for an adult ($16 for children) but it was definitely worth it.
Check out this view of the Jasper townsite. Its shaped like a J.
See that view though? I don't mind not making it to the top. That shot makes it worth it even making it that far.
Mom went inside the restaurant to wait and I sat outside. Despite being on top of a mountain and windy, it wasn't as cold as you'd expect. While I waited, I wanted to see a hoary marmot, one of the few animals in Jasper I've never seen (including bears). Instead, I met little Geoff, a chipmunk of some sorts who thought I was da bomb. He crawled across the bench and sat beside me three times! I was sure he was going to climb up my arm at one point. And yes, I named him Geoff, just like the mountain. Uh, I mean... yeah.
After spending a few hours up in the clouds above the tree line, we headed back down thinking we'd relax at the cabin and then head out for dinner. As we drove back down towards town, I stared out the window as usual, off in my own little world. Suddenly, I shouted out, Betty slammed on the breaks and put the car in reverse. There, off to the side of the road, was a brownish lump. Just as we stopped, it began moving and turned to look at us. It was a grizzly bear! Not one of those massive bears you see on TV and nature documentaries but he was probably a year old or so. Young enough definitely that you'd expect to see Mama close by. We decided to quickly snap a picture and be on our way before we met her. And that's when we learned our biggest lesson. ALWAYS keep at least ONE camera in the car with you at all times. Do NOT stick all four cameras in the trunk of the car because you're "done for the day". So, sadly, no picture but all three of us definitely saw him.
Best moment of the entire trip.
I spent the rest of the evening sitting outside looking out over the river and writing cards to friends and family. I even treated myself to a Caesar. Life doesn't get a whole lot better than today.
The vacation officially began with us wishing the kitties good luck (their first time with a kitty-sitter) and hitting the road in the rain. It was a looooong drive, longer than normal as we ended up stopping in Entwistle (potty break), Edson (lunch and potty break) AND Hinton (gas and potty break). My Aunt apparently has the world's smallest bladder but, as a trade off, we managed to spot four deer before we even hit Edson. And then, there they were: mountains. Despite being exhausted and bored by the drive, the minute I catch a glimpse of them, a peace settles over me and I have a feeling of coming home. I loves me some Jasper!
Along the way to the townsite, we encountered wildlife almost everywhere you looked!
We checked into Tekarra Lodge, our home away from home for the next few days, around 2pm and went for what my Aunt claimed would be a short "walk" before dinner. Two and a half hours later we stumbled back to our cabin, sweaty and tired. Our first excursion took us along the banks of the river outside our door (where the Miette and the Athabasca converge), through the woods and along a path towards Old Fort Point. After crossing the river, we headed up a steep staircase and then along the edge of the cliff. There's also a less steep, longer trail that leads to the top of Old Fort Point but we didn't know it at the time. Mom and I went about half the way up while Betty powered onwards (a recurring theme this week!) up the steep climb and almost to the top. The only thing preventing her from continuing all the way was a big ram that realllllly didn't seem like he wanted to share the view with her. Speaking of views, even from where Mom and I were waiting, the views were quite something...
Back to the cabin and a much needed shower. Everyone was pretty pooped so we went into town for dinner at Embers Steakhouse. Mmmm. Every trip to Jasper includes a steak dinner at Embers, complete with their purple cabbage braised in apple juice and spices (trust me).
Thoroughly stuffed, it was back to the cabin. Thankfully Tekarra Lodge is only a few minutes away from Jasper townsite. Our cabin had two beds and one pullout sofa - a bit cramped as the cabins are tiny but we managed. I lit a fire and went to sleep while Mom and Betty sat outside enjoying the sunset and a bottle of red wine.