Sunday, September 17, 2006

Day 15 & 16...Our Cross Canada Trip....East to West

Day 15 & 16

We got an early start, the countryside is beautiful, farmland for as far you can see. At 10:00a.m. I could see blue form off in the distance. We kept driving, closer and closer, Oh My God! We are in the 'Rockies'. I can't put my camera down!

It was still early when we arrived in Jasper National Park. We sure weren't the only ones with Jasper for a destination. It was hard to find a campsite, but we did. It was in an overflow parking lot with only hydro, but we didn't care. We filled out the necessary paper work and paid for two days and off we went back to the town of Jasper.

A four lane divided highway right through the center of town, the traffic is slow and laid back, good job, for people were milled about without a concern. On one side of the highway was a railway line with trains continuously running and on the other side shops and restaurants and a bank.

We had to go to the far end of town to find a place to park the RV. There were crosswalks everywhere for pedestrians ruled. We made our way to the Visitor Information Centre, booked a wildlife tour for later that day.

Our tour guides name was Fred. He loaded us all into the small van and away we went in search of the wildlife in Jasper National Park. Fred was very pleasant and informative. He took up one roads we never would have found for ourselves. We did see elk, deer, big horned sheep, and squirrels. We didn't see any bear. As we were hiking to a picturesque lake we came across a squirrels nest in the ground under a tree. Fred stopped the group and began telling us all about the squirrels habitat and habits of survival. Richard gave me a poke, and mumbled in my ear,
"Yeah, like we don't know about squirrels, he's just trying to kill time to justify the cost of the tour."

We clamored back into the van in search of more wild animals. All along the highway were signs telling tourists not get out of their cars to view or take pictures of wild animals. They went on to say it's especially dangerous when the males are in rutting season and when cows have young calves.

As we made a turn in the road we could see up ahead many cars stopped. Fred said that was a good sign, and that there must be something to look at. Sure enough, right along side of the road was a magnificent male elk sporting a hugh rack still covered with fuss.

Fred whipped the van into a safe position, came to a stop and jumped out. We followed close behind and why not, everyone else was out of their cars snapping pictures.

The elk was oblivious to we humans and just kept grazing and slowly moving along in our direction. Then, all of a sudden we heard this great roar coming from behind us. We snapped around and saw this man, in hiking gear carrying a tripod and camera with a very powerful looking telescopic lens. He was roaring in our direction,
"Do you have a guide in this group?" Not one of us answered, especially Fred. Well, he asked two more times getting louder and angrier each time. Finally Fred stepped from among us, and spoke up,
"Yes, I am, what seems to be your problem?"
By no the elk was no more than five feet from us. The angry guy asked why Fred allowed us to get so close to this animal. Then he angrily went on telling us that just a few minutes before a park Ranger had ordered him to get back at least 40 feet.
"What right do you have getting so close?" he asked.

Fred was quick, he replied that the elk had gotten close to us. That answer only ticked this guy off even more and he stomped off in discussed. Later on we came across the camera guy again and he was still looking for that perfect picture of something or anything. Fred slowed down to check out his license plate, he was from Texas.

We then made our way back to the town of Jasper to end our tour, but before doing so, we agreed the highlight of our tour was the guy from Texas.

Day 16

Our plan for this day was to take a tram ride up into Jasper National Parks alpine tundra area. The Jasper Tramway is the longest and highest guided tram ride in Canada, and is the only guided aerial ropeway in the Canadian Rockies. The view from the tram all the way up was spectacular to say the least. We could see three mountain ranges, glacial fed lakes, Alberta's longest river, the Athabasca River, as well as the entire town-site of Jasper.

The building where we purchased our tickets was already 1304 metres (4279 ft.) above sea level. The tram cabin holds 30 people and takes 7 minutes to reach the upper station on top of Whistlers Mountain which is 2277 metres (7472 ft.)above sea level.

Once we reached the top Richard and I took a stroll along the boardwalk, took some great pictures and just huddled and relaxed as we watched people leave the confines of the station to hike to the summit of the mountain. The wind was brisk and I'm glad I put on three layers of clothes, but it was not unbearable at all.

When we arrived back in Jasper we discovered a back street that was just as busy and had as much to offer as the front street. We heard music and smelled food and followed our nose to an upper level Italian restaurant. We sat out on the balcony encompassed about by pots of herbs, tomatoes and flowers. Our waiter was of Italian decent and was a delight. He told us they used the tomatoes from their pots in many of their recipes. Of course we ordered pizza, and I have to say it was the best pizza we had ever eaten. The crust was so light and crisp and the spices and toppings were in perfect proportions.

We got a chuckle when a girl was busily watering the many potted plants and made a mistake and put too much on one. There was a splash and a laughing scream rise up from below. Everyone was of good cheer.

We did a lot of shopping, for the grandchildren back home, for the rest of the afternoon, then retired to our campground for some R&R.

I was restless, I was not happy with my shots I had taken of elk, so decided to go for a walk. It was around 3:00p.m. and there was lots of light left for more pictures. I walked out the campground road to the main highway. There on the side of the road just in the woods a ways was the elks pathway. It looked just like the pathway cows in a pasture make. So I decided to take this path. I walked for a ways and the pathway veered deeper into the wooded area. The highway was still in plain sight and I could see the cars passing by.

I heard a noise off to my left, there no more than 15 feet from me was mother elk and her calf, oh shit. I stopped dead in my tracks, she stopped grazing and watched me. It seemed like we stood staring each other down for a long while. Now what do I do, well means I'm in this predicament I might as well get that good shot came after. Now I had the attention of both calf and mother, and they weren't moving away. I knew I had to get out of their sight. Close by was a young 10 foot high spruce tree, I buried myself in it. I couldn't see them and they couldn't see me. O.K. now maybe they'll move along. The calf kept blatting, yeah, it's probably calling it's father to come see this implant in the tree.

Just then a car had to come to a complete stop to let another elk cross over to my side. Great, this one is probably the calf's aunt. As the elk made it's way across the road and down in the ditch coming my way, the darn little calf came over to greet it. They met, touched noses, yes, I got a shot of that too. She was so close her eyes lit up from my flash. She sauntered out of sight, but the calf hung around where I was.

I could come from out of the tree and walk up to the road out of her territory, but by doing so I would be coming out in plain sight again and the calf was closer than ever to me. I could go back the same way I came, but I would have to pass close by the calf, bad idea. Just then a car stopped, seeing me close to the elk, they rolled down their window and began asking me questions. O.K. it's now or never. I nonchalantly strolled up toward the car, all the while checking out the back seat. Good, the door was unlocked and only one person was in it, if I had too I would jump in.

As I was walking toward the car I kept glancing over my shoulder at the reaction of the mother elk. I answered the questions the people in the car were asking, just like I knew what I was talking about. They moved on, and now I was on the road and out of her territory, she went back to grazing. I was happy with my pictures and hurried back to the campsite. You know what, that little calf walked in the woods beside me right into the campsite. Once in the campsite there were many other people walking around, I felt safer, but the most safe when I got inside my RV.


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