Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Top of the Rockies

Jasper, AB Canada

Jasper is the most northern town of the Canadian Rockies. Our campground is in the forest and the nicest of all the campsites so far in Canada. As with the others, the fire permit is $8.70 per night and they supply the wood which is a bit green. Again our campsite doesn’t have a fire ring, so we can’t have one. There are over 700 campsites in this campground but you would never know it as it is over such a large area. The mosquitoes are ferocious and many people have insect tents out, so maybe we wouldn’t want to be sitting around a fire anyway. A ranger told Lindsay today that last years mosquitoes were so big and vicious they would have carted you away. The Information centre has Internet so we can check our mail. The girl on the desk lived in Busselton (south of Perth) for nine months and was very helpful in letting us know what to do in the area and where we might find some bears.

Peyto Lake

While yesterday was really quite warm, today is cold, wet and wintery. No wonder everything is green around here. We went in search of bears and saw one cinnamon coloured black bear but he had his back to us. Along the 93A (the old highway) there is another campground called Wabasso, which is smaller and closer to where the bears like to inhabit, so we might try that one another time if we are up this way again. We later saw a black cub on the side of the road. After checking if Lindsay had got his pictures (which he hadn’t but the bear had gone), the ranger set off a wizzer (which sounded and looked like fireworks) to frighten the cub away from the road, it also got rid of all the cars that had banked up. At the Maligne canyon trail there was ranger who had two bear pelts: a grizzly and a black bear so that you could see the difference between the two and touch their fur. He said that the bears here are considerably smaller than Yellowstone, so it may have well been a mature bear that we saw earlier. After walking some of the trail around the canyon the weather started to close back in again.

Lindsay had found out that there were some grizzly bears up on a plateau along the Opal trail. It is the steepest trail in Jasper, of course! with a 468 metre rise over 1.8 kilometres. Taking photos of bears from the roadside 100 metres away is a lot different to walking in their territory and I was a bit worried. I took my iPod with us hoping that the sound would let a bear know we were coming, so as not to surprise him. It’s not the way I like to go walking in the wilderness but it made me feel a bit better. Not long into the trek some deer were foraging along the path. We stood like statues and they walked passed us within a couple of metres, munching on the foliage as they went. They were not worried about us at all, it was pretty special. Lindsay was having a hard time trekking up the hill, he was getting very hot and couldn’t breathe properly with the altitude. He tied his jumper to a branch, at least if we didn’t return, they would have some idea where we had gone. We really should have told someone where we were going or left a note on our car. I was still cold, we were in deep forest where no sunlight could enter and I still had my jumper on. His jeans and the 9kg backpack with his new camera and lens made it impossible for him to go on. So after 45 minutes of very steep walking, we turned back. No grizzly sightings today.

Before we left Banff we booked our car into have its first service at Hinton, which is about 70km east of Jasper. The visitor centre had patchy internet which enabled us to check a few emails. The lady there told us we should definitely see bears up the Miette Hot Spring road, so we went there, but we didn’t see anything. We should have gone after dinner, but it rained both nights we were there, so there wasn’t any point.

While Canada is metric, it seems they won’t let go of imperial completely. I quizzed a lady at the supermarket in Hinton as to why all the vegetable prices were still in pounds in big letters with the kilo price in tiny writing down the bottom. Oh, that’s to help the older people convert. But you changed to metric in 1975! Oh, ummm. Is it because it looks cheaper in pounds than kilos? No I don’t think so. Mmm. We show the deli goods and bulk goods in metric, yes in “per 100g”. So ham will show $2.19 per 100g instead of $21.90kg. It’s like they are scared people won’t buy things because they will look too expensive. I just love all the stuff you can buy in any quantity that you want from spices to sweets, rice to granola. It’s not always cheaper, so you have to know your prices. Some stores in the States have these too (Whole Foods in a number of states and Smiths in Montana) but all the supermarkets in Canada seem to, one had three aisles of them. I haven’t seen any in Australia. We have found it virtually impossible to buy black tea, I managed to find some Dilmah brand yesterday in the 4th supermarket we went to. I have since found out that orange pekoe is black tea.

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