I was up early, excited for the day ahead. What I’ve eluded to until now is that Dan has been making his way north from Phoenix towards Banff. When it became clear he had a month to kill, it didn’t take long for him to decide to drive north and meet me. He’d been close to the Canadian border yesterday, so I was expecting to meet up with him at some point today. Unable to go back to sleep despite the early hour, the sun was up so I got up. I planned to busy myself with a ride before looking for Dan so after breakfast, I drove out of camp and towards Lake Celestine.
The drive took me on a dirt road which I hadn’t expected and the sun was shining orange through a fog, making the mountains look grey in the haze. I reach a point in the road with a sign that explained it was one way traffic, controlled by time. The sign read that entry was allowed between 8am and 9am and it was 8:10am! Sweet, I carried on despite the warning that high clearance vehicles were recommended. I started off with a creek crossing, though only a small one. I stopped after crossing it when I noticed the sun shining in the shallow water amongst the grey rocks.
The road was bumpy, but nothing the Astro couldn’t handle. On a couple of hills I had to pick a line and take it slow to maintain traction, but otherwise it was a nice drive.
The views into the valley were spectacular, especially in this weird morning light.
I took my time on the road, knowing I had it all to myself and not expecting to see anyone coming the other way made blind corners fun. I crossed a couple of narrow bridges and drove along a cliff edge before finally coming to the end of the road where I was surprised to see a few cars parked. My whole morning had been so isolated, I’d just assumed I was the only one out here.
I was thinking I’d walk the 6km to the lake (13km total hike) since my legs were a little achy from yesterday’s riding and I was in the mood for a slow stroll. When I read the sign about the one-way road, you were only allowed to exit at 9:30-10:30am or 12:30-1:30pm. I definitely did not want to hang around until 12:30pm so I quickly decided to ride to give myself a chance of being back by 10:30am. By the time I was ready to ride, it was just past 9am so I hustled.
I started by crossing a bridge over a huge expanse of flowing aqua water. Every time I see a body of water like this, I think immediately of my tube and how I’d love to use it. Maybe once Dan gets here? I climbed steadily on a narrow trail crowded by alpine bushes before the trail widened and took me into the forest.
It was a steady climb the whole way and I pedalled hard, watching the time and knowing I’d be able to relax on the way out. It went quickly, only twenty minutes later, I was approaching Lake Celestine. Maybe it was because of the weird hazy light, but the lake didn’t wow me. I still stood at the banks a while admiring it, but I felt a little intrusive to the people breaking down their backcountry camps from the night before.
I watched a dragonfly frolic around in the reeds for a while, amazed at how he could keep his body so still with the violent flapping of such tiny wings.
A few photos later, I started back on the trail, stopping in at Princess Lake for a look. Another big lake in the valley of mountains, there is definitely a trend to Jasper Natioanl Park.
I flew back down the trail, hardly pedalling, just letting the bike do all the work. As I approached the narrow section of trail towards the bridge, I almost binned it into the bushes when I was going too fast, but it was otherwise smooth sailing.
At the bridge, I found a worn trail leading down to the water so I went down for a look. I couldn’t capture the scene in a photo, but it was great to stand so close to such a raging body of water with cliffs towering above.
I got back to the car just after 10am, so I had plenty of time to stow the bike and set off on the dirt road. I had to stop once to readjust some things in the back to stop them falling over thanks to the roughness and half an hour later I was back on tarmac. The mountains were still playing their silhouette game in the funky light as I returned to camp.
It was 11am now and Dan had estimated he’d reach Jasper in the morning, so I figured I’d check at camp to see if he’d rolled in. I didn’t have phone service in this area of the park so I was on the hunt!
I didn’t see him so the only thing I achieved at camp was to surprise a guy having a shit on the toilet when I opened the door he hadn’t locked properly. “Sorry!” I said and immediately closed the door before he had time to react. Whoops. As I drove out of camp and into town, I kept imagining that I would see Dan’s van driving towards me, Cleo’s face right up in the windscreen. There was no such serendipitous event. Once I got into the town of Jasper, which is grossly touristy, I had enough service to call Dan. He’d sent a couple of messages since yesterday, none of which I’d received, but the short story is that he was turned away at the Canadian border because of his record. He’d tried once last night to enter, then again this morning, but no dice. And so, I would have Canada to myself. Dan started heading west instead towards Seattle where I could meet up with him after my northern adventure. We were both bummed by the situation since we’d both been pretty worked up to see each other again, especially in a different country, but shit happens.
We talked until we got cut off by Dan losing reception, then I drove off to Pyramid Lake to relax a bit. Once I got there, I got out of the car, walked to the beach by the lake and sat in the sand. I looked up at the mountains and at the flat water trying to readjust to the change in plans. All I wanted to do was hurry up and get done with Canada so I could get back to America and see Dan, but I resolved that I wasn’t going to rush too much. I looked at my Atlas and considered all the places I wanted to visit. I felt like I had another day to spend riding in Jasper but I wasn’t keen for another ride so I decided to drive an hour to Mount Robson Provincial Park in BC for an afternoon side trip.
I was happy to get out of the town of Jasper, way too populated for my liking with RVs and trailers everywhere. The highway that extends between Jasper and Mount Robson winds through the forest and is absolutely gorgeous, especially when it opened out to Moose Lake. I stopped at the border between Alberta and British Columbia that signified the border between the Jasper and Mount Robson parks. I learnt a bit about the provincial park through an information sign and found I had to drive most of the way through the park to get to the visitor’s centre. That didn’t bother me none, it was a stunning drive, only slightly ruined by the tailgating assholes on the road that were irrationally wanting to speed through this beautiful area.
The visitor’s centre sat at the base of Mount Robson, the tallest mountain in the area at over 3,000m. It’s peak was hidden by cloud but I was confident it would clear up given a few hours. Inside the centre, I found out that the most famous hike to Berg Lake was 42 km return, so I ruled that one out. Instead, the nice ranger told me that Kinney Lake, which is on the way to Berg Lake was well worth to 9km round trip. I was convinced. After a photo of the mountain, I drove the short way to the trailhead where there were a line of RVs and cars along the side of the road.
I grilled myself a ham and cheese tortilla for lunch as a group that parked behind me talked boringly about their hiking shoes and outdoors gear. I kept to myself, feeling super antisocial. I packed a bag and set off down the road walking at a glacial pace. At the trailhead, I discovered you could ride up to Kinney Lake but I was having none of it, I wanted a leisurely stroll and so I set off slowly.
Crossing a bridge over yet more raging blue waters, I was in the forest and climbing ever so gently along the wide trail. Being the most popular trail in the park, there was a constant stream of people in both directions, each saying hi as they passed. I could hear the water raging nearby with every step and I walked off the trail a few times to view the raging sight close up.
I was lost in thought as I climbed, thinking how much Dan and Cleo would have liked walking with me, but I tried not to dwell on it. I was determined to enjoy the rest of my time in Canada!
For some reason, I thought the hike to Kinney Lake was 7km so I was surprised to reach a big expanse of hardly flowing water just past 4km. Turns out the Kinney Lake campground was 7km away since it sits on the other side of the huge lake.
This was a beautiful place, it definitely made me go “wow”. Two mountains towered above the bright blue lake and the whole scene was the definition of serene. There were a few picnic tables aptly placed by the lake’s shore, all of which were occupied by families enjoying the view after their hike. I managed to find a spot right at the banks where the original trail had been washed out and a detour worn into the soil nearby. There was no way I wasn’t going for a swim in this glacial lake.
A few people walked past as I was getting ready for a dip so I faffed around a bit until a curious couple eventually moved on. My clothes came off and I ran into the freezing cold water. Diving underwater, all I could see was a haze of bright blue. It was like being on a different planet.
I stayed in the water as long as I could, just looking up at the magnificent towers above, marvelling at how a bit of snow from their caps could produce all of this water. The sun was out, but it wasn’t especially hot so I dressed myself straight away after getting out to stop myself getting too cold. I found me a spot on a log in the sun and sat to continue admiring this beautiful place. From where I sat, I could see two glaciers, one on each mountain. I can only imagine what the views are like from Berg Lake where the elevation is double and there are plenty more glaciers around.
After eating a snack and finding myself completely dry thanks to the sun, I started back down the mountain. I kept my head down and listened to a bit of music, so lost in thought I barely lifted my head to acknowledge other hikers. I’m glad I’d done the hike, it was a nice wind down after the morning’s speed ride.
I drove back out to the visitor’s centre where I dropped in to ask if all Provincial Parks in BC are free. Turns out they are! Alberta too. Ontario might be the only province that charges people up the arse to enjoy nature. That was a bonus! On the way back to Jasper, I stopped for a quick look at the Overland Falls which was another example of raging blue water, but not as impressive as the volumes I’d seen at Kinney.
The highway was just as beautiful heading south but the trucks were fierce. I actually put my hand out the window to one that was sitting right on my arse behind me. I was surprised when he backed off, I’d actually expected him to get pissed off and get even closer. I sat behind an RV most of the way back as people raged past us while we were happy to just take our time.
I sussed out a potential free camp by the railroad and it was a perfectly feasible camp, but I like the idea of going back to my spot in Jasper, even though I had to pay for it. I didn’t feel like hiding out, I wanted to sit out by my car and look at the mountains. An hour later, I was back at the Snaring Overflow lot and found it almost deserted compared to the crowds of last night. The weekend was gone and with it, many tourists. I picked a new spot in amongst some trees with a picnic table before walking back to the office to pay my way.
I spent the rest of the night relaxing as the sun went down slowly behind the mountains. I was exhausted in a good way and looking forward to a solid sleep.