Trip Report – August Long Weekend in Jasper

Three people had signed up for this trip; Melanie, Kristie and Tim. We left Prince George at 5 pm Friday and drove to McBride where we stopped at the Giggling Grizzly to have dinner. After sharing a Rutting Elk Pizza and some garlic bread we drove on to our reserved campsite at Tete Jaune Cache Lodge.

campThis is a wonderful campsite if you have never been there before and is highly recommended. The facilities are wonderful and the owner (a grandmother) is quite the character with plenty of personality to spare. With drinking water, hot showers, and flush toilets, we couldn’t have been happier with our accommodations.

The first day, we drove out to the Columbia Icefields to hike Nigel Pass which is about 108km south of the Jasper townsite. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day: blue skies, temperature in the high 20’s with a nice light breeze. The hike itself is considered moderate since it is a 14.5 km round trip. The hike starts on the original Banff – Jasper gravel highway. It passes an Outfitters corral and then past a Warden’s station further down the road. From there, the road ends and a well-worn, decades old trail begins. The trail led us down to Parker creek, where we crossed two wooden planked bridges. What struck us immediately about the creek was just how grey the water was. If you have ever seen cement truck being hosed down, then you have a pretty good idea of just how gray that water was.

Climbing the hill on the other side of the creek, led us to old Camp Parker. Camp Parker itself was used by early natives and the first explorers to this area. The tree carvings found here date back to and before 1940, when the original Banff-Jasper highway was built. Unfortunately the tree carvings have been defaced by vandals and time.

nigel1The trail leads north through Engelmann spruce and Hemlock forest. To the left of us was Nigel creek working its way over several small waterfalls. The trail continues across a couple of large meadows filled with willow bushes and where we had to cross several small streams. When we reached Nigel Pass, we hiked up a small ridge which granted us 360 degree views up three different valleys. Here we ate lunch while we soaked in the spectacular views of Parker Ridge, Mount Saskatchewan, Nigel Peak, Nigel Pass and the Brazeau River Valley.

On the second day, it was another hot and clear day with temperatures reaching 30 degrees Celsius. Melanie, Kristie and I went mountain biking while Tim took the opportunity to visit some of popular tourist stops along the highway between Mount Robson and Jasper (Overlander Falls, Athabasca Falls, Rearguard Falls, etc).

Our mountain biking trek started from the Jasper town site and followed Pyramid Road. After pedalling up the hill and navigating through the windy roads, we cycled past the crystal aquamarine waters of Patricia Lake.

Patricia Lake is named after Princess Patricia of Connaught, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Patricia Lake is notable for its involvement during World War II with Project Habbakuk, a plan to build an unsinkable aircraft carrier from an ice-based composite material termed “Pykrete” (a composite of ice and sawdust, maintained by refrigeration). In January 1943, Patricia Lake was chosen as the test site for building a prototype vessel. The planned vessel was to be 2,000 feet (600 m) long and the prototype was to be a 1:10 scale model of this (200 feet long). As of June 26, 2011 only the west wall of the boat remained intact on a steep slope just off-shore at a depth between 26 and 43 metres; the rest has fallen to pieces and is strewn from 40 feet to 90 feet in depth.

Two kilometers past Patricia Lake, we passed Pyramid Lake located at the base of Pyramid Mountain. Many people were out on the lake paddling canoes, paddle boarding or taking a guided boat tour of the lake. The paved road  stopped at a gated entrance to the forest service road that wound its way around the back of Pyramid Mountain. From here on out, it was all up hill. We did pretty well cycling up most of it, only getting off and walking our bikes on the steeper sections. Along the way, we were treated to some spectacular views of valley below us.

bikeWhen we reached an elevation of 1600 m we stopped for lunch. By this time we had cycled over 14 km and gained 600 m of elevation from the town site. With it being so hot, and no real shade on the trail, it was decided that we would turn back after only making it 2/3 of the way up the mountain. Our legs and butts were sore.

While it may have taken us about 2 hours to cycle this far, it probably took about ½ an hour to get back to the town site. Everyone was all grins as we raced down the mountain hitting speeds of 45 km/hr.

To relax after a hard day of biking (and the previous day of hiking), we met up with Tim at the Miette Hot Springs. There we soaked in 40 degree Celsius water for two hours to relax our sore muscles. Tim and I took the opportunity to tell a fellow bather that the life guard wasn’t looking while he attempted a back-flip into pool. Of course the life guard was looking and caught him doing it. He scolded the bather by saying, “You are not allowed to do anything cool here.” We all had a good laugh at that.

After bathing at the hot springs, we had nice authentic Indian dinner in Jasper as everyone was craving protein. While the food was good, the manners of the clientele left something to be desired with people cutting in line at the buffet table and taking all the food.

Getting back to the campsite, we roasted marsh mellows over the campfire while we had the centuries old discussion about what the best technique is for roasting the perfect marsh mellow. We watched the full moon rise over the mountains and literally light up the campground (it was so bright).

Robson2Monday was another gorgeous day with temperatures again hitting 30 degrees Celsius. Today we would hike to White Falls on the Berg Lake Trail at Mount Robson as no one other than myself have hiked the entire trail. As always, it was a pleasure to walk through the Cedar and Hemlock forest up to Kinney Lake. I couldn’t help but notice that the water level in Kinney Lake was higher than normal and very cloudy (normally the water around the bridge is crystal clear).  After stopping to take some pictures, we continued along the trail to the 5.5 km mark where we had to cross several recent rock slides which apparently had happened just the week before. It was interesting to see how these rivers of rock and mud had carved a path down the side of the mountain and into the lake, which would explain the cloudiness and the higher than normal water level of the lake.

When we reached the picnic area at the far end of Kinney Lake, we saw a group of hikers test their courage by taking a plunge into the cold lake. It sure looked refreshing to us as it was a hot day and something we might consider doing on the way back.

While hiking along the trail, we saw several helicopters flying up the valley, presumably to take people to and from Berg Lake. We learned that one of the helicopters was there to airlift a hiker that had slipped and broken his leg on the trail (somewhere past White Falls).

robsonAfter hiking 11 km we reached White Falls. We got as close to the falls as we safely could and enjoyed the cooling mist. It was very refreshing, especially after hiking all that distance in a hot valley. We had lunch at the Whitehorn campsite picnic shelter, while some of us took the opportunity to soak their sore feet in the cold river.

After taking a few photos, we began the 11 km trek back to the parking lot. By the time we got back to the cars, we were extremely sore and thirsty after 6 hours of hiking. I still find it hard to believe that people go to Berg Lake and back all in one day (44 km).

To sum up the weekend, we couldn’t have asked for nicer weather and hiked a total of 36 km and mountain biked 28 km. After the trip was over, here is what the participants had to say about the trip…

Kristie: “It was more enjoyable than not.”
Tim: “I think everyone had fun.”
Melanie: “I thought it was great!”

With ringing endorsements like that, you should book early for next year’s trip!

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