Now that I feel that I have a chance to recuperate from our trip I will share some of the details of the trip. (Warning: This is likely going to be a really long post.)
We left for Edmonton on Sunday morning and got into town around 2pm. Since it was too early to check into our hotel room we had decided to go check out the Edmonton Zoo. We found our way there and I have to say it wasn't too bad. It was definitely not as big/extensive as the Calgary Zoo. I would compare it size-wise to the Saskatoon Zoo but it definitely had a lot more exotic animals. I would say the highlight of the zoo visit was being about 3-4 feet away from an uncaged elephant. They were moving her between two buildings and we just happened to stumble on her between buildings so Jay got some pretty cool pictures of her without a cage in the way. After that we went to check into our hotel (same hotel and same room as last summer! I have to say there is something nice about a familiar hotel...knowing what to expect). Then it was on to the Olive Garden for supper. YUM! Amazing food! Then back to our hotel for an early night so we could get on the road to Jasper early the next day.
Monday morning we headed to Jasper. I always find it interesting to travel a highway that I have never traveled before. I wondered how long it would take before we started getting into the foot hills and when we would be able to see the mountains. It was a rainy day so we finally got our first glimpse of the mountains in Hinton. I have to say that Hinton is a very smelly town. We could smell it miles before we even got there. We didn't know what we were smelling until we saw the big pulp mill when we drove through the town looking for a nice place to park to eat our bagels that we had liberated from the hotel's free breakfast offerings. We finally settled on the Canadian Tire parking lot. We then carried on the last short stretch to Jasper. I have to say we were quite awed by the mountains. Both of us being prairie kids through and through and not having been to the mountains since we were in our early teens. They are so big and beautiful! We drove around Jasper a little bit then decided to see if we could locate our cabin. We managed to find it and even though it was at least 2 hours early, we stopped in to see if our cabin was ready and it was. We quickly unpacked and headed to Pyramid Lake. Very nice place. And while we were there the sky cleared up and the sun came out. We stumbled upon a ramp that lead down to a bridge across part of Pyramid lake to a small island with some benches and paths on it. We hung out there for a while then headed back. I can't remember exactly what else we did after that. But our cabin had a kitchenette and we planned to prepare/cook most of our meals, so we headed back there for supper. After supper we strolled around the group of cabins where we were staying (which just happened to be right beside the Athabasca River) and called it a night.
Tuesday morning we planned to drive down the Maligne Lake road. We headed off down the road and stopped at a very nice look out point with a gorgeous view of mountains. After taking some pictures and just taking in the awesomeness we carried on. I was pretty sure that Maligne Canyon was not going to be very accessible, but we stopped in just so I could take a quick look. I soon realized that there would be no way for Jay to maneuver the path so I walked down for a few minutes and took some pictures and headed back to the van and we carried on. The next stop was Medicine Lake. It is a neat lake because, from what I read, it nearly disappears at certain times of the year because it drains into underground river systems. When we were there it was quite full and looked deep. Part way around the lake we saw a bunch of cars pulled over at the side of the road and figured that could only mean there was some sort of wildlife near by. We stopped and looked and couldn't see anything. Jay told me to grab his camera and zoom in as much as I could and see what I could see. I finally was able to see a little head swimming across at the far side of the lake. I wasn't sure what it was until it came out the other side and I saw the side of it and could tell that it was a female moose. We carried on our way and eventually made it to Maligne Lake. It was a nice lake with some walking paths. I think their big thing is boat cruise tours (which I emailed about and found out it's not accessible). We walked a bit even though it was starting to sprinkle a little then headed back to a picnic spot we had seen on the way in that was next to a river. I think the highlight of driving the Maligne Lake road was just the magnificent scenery and mountains. They are right next to the road and are so big. You feel so small when you are driving next to them. I think this drive was one of the favorite things we did in Jasper. Once we got back to Jasper we planned to drive south on the Icefield's Parkway to check out Athabasca and Sunwapta falls. They were beautiful, however not very accessible at all! So that was a fairly wasted hour and a half of driving. Again the driving is gorgeous in the mountains, but we had done a lot of driving by this point and it sucked to get to Sunwapta falls and find that it was pretty darn inaccessible :P We drove back to our hotel and then headed to a local restaurant called Evil Dave's Grill for supper. The food was good, but pricey. After supper we went for a walk around Jasper. They have some neat architecture!
Wednesday morning brought my rafting trip! It was a lot of fun! Jason dropped me off at a store in Jasper where I would be picked up. There were 18 people plus three guides in the three rafts that went on our trip. After we got dressed up in all our gear (wet suit, booties, fleece jacket, rain coat, helmet and life jacket) we headed out to the Sunwapta river. It was a 40 minute drive from town to where we got in the river. They then went over some safety protocol with us in case we fell out of the rafts. There were six people in each raft plus one guide who did most of the major steering with long oars. I was in a raft with four people from Australia and one girl from Edmonton and myself, our guide was from Quebec. The first fifteen minutes on the river were relatively calm waters just to get used to being on the river and to practice some of the different commands (ie paddle forward, backward, lean in, etc). After that we spent another 45 minutes to an hour in pretty steady rapids, some bigger than others. I have to say that I was pretty nervous to go rafting, but that I never once felt unsafe in the raft. Even though I was sitting on the edge of the raft with nothing to hold on to. I just had my feet tucked in under the cross support of the raft and the raft itself is pretty sturdy. When it was time to get out of the river, it was only about 500m from the top of the Sunwapta falls. Our guide said it's very important to back paddle when I tell you to or else we may end up having to swim for shore. It was a little unnerving to see 'Danger: Falls 1km ahead' signs on the side of the river. And we went floating right past them. But we got out and I am still alive to tell the tale.
After that, our plan was to head to the Jasper Tramway to go to the top of the mountain for lunch. By the time we got there, and purchased tickets there was about a 45 minute wait to get to the top. When we finally got loaded up (those trams felt a little like a can of sardines!) it only takes seven minutes to climb all the way to the top. We got off and felt a little dizzy. It feels like you are on top of the world. We wandered around the boardwalks up there a little and looked around then it started to sprinkle a little so we headed back toward the building where we caught a rumor that there was a 45-60 minute wait to get back down. At this point I went in to see where the restaurant was and realized it was upstairs and there is no elevator to get to it, so we decided to get in line and wait to go back down. While we were in line it started raining a bit harder and even snow/sleeted a bit. When we finally got back down we were heading for the van it started pouring on us! We were pretty soaked by the time we made it to the van. By this point it was about 4pm and neither of us had eaten lunch so we decided instead of cooking supper at the cabin we would go out for supper. We went to the Jasper Brewing Company and had really good burgers and fries that were a lot more reasonably priced than Evil Dave's was.
Thursday morning we headed back to Edmonton. We got back to town around 2pm and headed over to West Ed Mall. It was super busy and the excitement of it from last year was just not there. We had a couple of stores we wanted to check out (Bed, Bath and Beyond was much less exciting than I thought it might be....it was just like Home Outfitters) and once that was done we decided that we still had time to check out Ikea before supper. We did that, and picked up a few items before heading to our hotel to check in. Then off to the Cheesecake Cafe for supper. I had a delicious pizza that I am sure if we ever end up back at that restaurant I will order again. So good! And of course some cheesecake....Mocha Kaluha, yum!
The next day we headed for home and made it to Saskatoon by about 3pm. We were excited to see Kiwi and she was even more excited to see us. It was a good trip, but it's always so nice to get home :)