A friend and I took a weekend trip to Jasper. We went in hopes of finiding some bears, or rutting elk, but unfortunately we were a week or two late as the bears had moved up into the mountains, and the Elk rut was pretty much at an end.
We thought we would take the scenic route to Jasper (because Hwy #93 is not scenic enough), so getting up early we headed out past Cochrane and then turned north on Highway #40 (a.k.a. highway #734 or Forestry Trunk Road).
Not to much to say about the drive except it was long slow winding gravel road with lots of ups and downs. It was scenic at parts, but mostly treed in so not a whole lot of views. We did see a few moose, including one nice close encounter with a big bull, but that was about it.
It was still early morning when got to Ram falls and did the short walk down to the viewpoint. The falls were nice, but the early morning shadow and the low water level made them a lot less impressive than I had hoped for. I think I’ll have to go back sometime in the spring when the river is flowing at full capacity.
We spotted a Spruce Grouse on the side of the road near the falls and stopped to chase it around for a while. I’m not sure why, but it looked a bit different than other Spruce Grouse I’ve seen. Could be that it was a male, or a male in breeding plumage, or in normal plumage, or maybe just because of the difference in location, I’m really not too sure, but at the time I was convinced that it was a different bird all together.
By the time we got to Nordegg, he had just about had enough of gravel roads, and so decided to change course and take the David Thompson Highway (Hwy #11) west to Saskatchewan Crossing and Highway #93. Originally we had planned to take Highway #40 all the way to Jasper (apparently it goes all the way to Alaska) but the going was a bit too slow. I had also wanted to see Abraham Lake because I know of a professional photographer that raves about it, although looking back I think all his photos I’ve seen are in the winter when it’s frozen over. It was nice, but not overly exceptional under midday sun in the fall, and we only stopped for a few minutes.
While passing by the lake we had a run-in with a herd of really nice lookiing Rocky Mountain Sheep on the side of the highway.
Quite possible the highlight of the entire trip was a couple of Mountain Goats that we encountered shortly after turning north on the Icefields Parkway (Hwy. #93). They were right up on the side of the road, and we were able to get riddiculusly close before they attracted too much attention and got frightened away by people chasing them around with cell phones.
Eventually after about 10 hours on the road we did make it to Jasper, and after resting up a bit we headed back out for a bit of exploring. We ended up doing a short walk and taking pictures of the lake and glacier at Mount Edith Cavell. The glacier and icebergs frozen in the lake were neat to see, but what was really impressive was how it had been a warm autumn day in the town of Jasper, but by the time we made it up all the switch-back to the parking lot at the top of the mountain it was fully winter, complete with ice and snow.