Friday, June 14, 2013

Jasper Vacation Day 2 - Tackling the River like A Grizzly

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 had the greatest guide for our trip - Wendy from Australia.  She was a blast, talking us through the whole trip and giving great instructions.  No one fell out of the boat and our "shipmates", Uvo/Udo and Mike (a German father and son), were hilarious. Our second guide, Geoff, was pretty quiet for most of the trip but towards the end told us a story of young English boy who was asked what Pyramid Mountain was called.  His answer?  Geoff.  Guide Geoff was then teased for a while by his coworkers and suddenly everything in Jasper was named Geoff. More on this later...
Wendy got soaked for the first time ever on this section of the river.  Somehow the wave mostly missed me and doused her in the back of the boat.  So awesome. 
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.
Here's what you see when you get off the car. To the right of the building is the "summit" and then the ridgeline extends off to the right.  Betty made it to the top and halfway across the ridgeline before coming back down.  She's a trooper.
Unfortunately, Mom and I started getting lightheaded and a bit dizzy about 1/3 of the way up and the walk is STEEP.  You don't feel the difference in the air when you get off the tram and start walking around but go up even 15 or 20 feet in elevation and blammo.  I love reading about mountain climbing and tales are always filled with struggles against the lack of oxygen.  It didn't really hit home for me until I felt slightly woozy and got pains in my chest.  Damn you blood pressure!  Even three big, athletic looking guys coming down behind us as we sat on a bench said the same thing; "thin air, man".
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.

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