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Day eighteen in Jasper National Park, I slept in as Mike sneaked out for his morning recon mission exploring, fishing, and possibly taking a photography boat tour. I just wanted to be in one place for awhile. After I got up I went into the lobby to use the wi-fi and asked about a quiet place to write. Jessica, the young lady at the desk, bilingual and gracious in both English and French, showed me to a deserted dining area.
“Is that room okay?” She asked, looking concerned. She must know 19A is not a favorite.
“No, actually we hate it, but the girl last night told us nothing else was available,” I said.
“Oh, dear. Well, some people have checked out. Let me get you into something better.”
I took a hike by myself through the woods below Sumwapta Falls (the great rushing glacier-melt river we sat by for sunset last night. It has to funnel through a tiny chute, and the roar and chaos of it is so powerful) and sang and clapped my hands as I walked two kilometers by myself through the empty forest. It felt good to really stretch my legs, work up a sweat, and be by myself in nature.
I was moving our stuff to the new, much bigger, quieter room (it even had wi-fi) when Mike got back. “Good job, honey!”
“And I was even nice about it,” I said. “Channeling my inner Canadian.”
We took a drive out toward a hike we were going to take, and it was much further than we’d thought. The sun was getting high at 1:00 p.m. when we spotted a white mountain goat napping on some cliffs and pulled over to take her picture. She was sitting regally on the edge of a cliff overlooking a still, small pond, and we didn’t realize she was sheltering a tiny new kid beside her until she stood up.
A funny thing happens in Jasper when someone pulls over to the side of the road. All the other tourists do too, cameras in hand, gleam in eye, trying to see what you pulled over to get a look at. Many of them have what I call “Disneyland syndrome”—we’re on vacation, nothing bad can happen, we don’t need to even do basic driving safety. So many are still hanging out in the road and don’t even put their flashers on.
People vacationing in Hawaii do this also. We do not. We are always well off the shoulder with our flashers on–though Mike is the king of the sudden U-turn!
After the mountain goat sighting, we found a good hike, the Valley of Five Lakes. Mike had a one-day fishing license and was determined to use it, so he carried his pole along with cameras and a little water in the day pack. The hike was moderately strenuous, and at first, passing other returning hikers on the trail, we worried we were going to go a long way and find nothing but dried-up swampy mosquito-beds.
We needn’t have worried. The Five Lakes were like a turquoise necklace laid out in a row, crystal clear and brightly colored. Mike casted in every pool and caught a small trout in one of the feeder streams. People were swimming in the gorgeous water, and it was darned hot. If I’d known we could swim, that hike would have been perfect. We made do with splashing ourselves and I wetted my ballcap and poured it over my head and put it on wet, my favorite trick for hot hiking, try it if you don’t give a damn about your hair.
Getting back to the room, we both fell into the coma-like nap of the sun-stroked and over-tired, waking up to go to a gourmet dinner at the lodge’s dining room. By now I’d revised my first impression of the Sumwapta Lodge–the staff were polite young people, the good room was very good, and the food was excellent. They had a fine dining dinner menu and we both went for “local color” choices: I had the Hunter’s Pot Pie, with elk, bison and rabbit in a wine sauce with onions and phyllo dough crust (delicious, and different in taste) and Mike had a fresh-caught trout, since his had been too small to keep.
We made a fire in the room after another sunset shoot, this time at the poetically-named Honeymoon Lake, where Mike focused on getting a reflection shot.
Jasper National Park gets a 10 in our rating, and Sumwampta Falls Lodge, a solid 7 with pluses and minuses, and we count it all good.