Jasper Dark Sky Preserve

Home to one of the World’s largest Dark Sky preserves, Jasper by day offers a universe of outdoor fun in a wilderness playground and at night, Jasper is a stunning wilderness of stars.

Blue skies in the day led to a brilliant clear sky at night, doing a spot of research we discovered that Pyramid Island was one of the best places to take in the constellations, so we headed there. After heading down to the lake and adjusting my eyes, I looked up – WOW!! I was in awe… it was a truly spectacular diamond sky – I felt honored to have seen such a majestic night sky… On some nights you can even see the milky way, and the Northern lights have been spotted from here many times.

Unfortunately we couldn’t capture the scene on our camera, even though I’d read up on the settings etc – however I’ve included some images other people have taken so you can get a feel for what we saw…

Jasper-Dark-Sky
Photo by Thomas Pleiss

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Jasper National Park

Today, we took a walked, The Valley of the Five Lakes in Jasper National Park, known for being one of the best valley bottom hikes near the town of Jasper. Whilst walking we passed ‘you guessed it’ five lakes, the lakes themselves were striking in their beauty and the ones that weren’t frozen varied in colour, from emerald blues to turquoise clear glacier waters.

View of the valley
View of the valley
Valley of the five lakes - turquoise tones
Valley of the five lakes – turquoise tones
Lovely contrast of colours through the trees
Lovely contrast of colours through the trees
It was so peaceful here, I could've sat for hours just looking out to the lake
It was so peaceful here, I could’ve sat for hours just looking out to the lake

 

Ambling through stunning Icefields Parkway to Jasper

At a loss for words as to how breathtaking and rewarding this drive was, the words “Scenic” or “beautiful” don’t give it proper justice. It’s by far the most spectacular drive I’ve ever been on, and is without doubt the best I’ve seen in Canada – Stretching 232km through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, the journey offered access to a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, ancient glaciers and broad sweeping valleys.

The snow had fallen over the last two days and it made for beautiful but cold (-9C) scenery – snow covered trees as far as the eyes could see, mountains with snow that looked like whipped up marshmellows, frozen lakes and majestic glaciers made it look just like a scene from a Christmas card, better still, the sun was out and we had blue skies for the entire length of our journey!

I think the drive took us close to four hours, as there was so many places to stop and soak up the many vistas along the way –  pictures don’t do it justice, but I’ve included a few below…

One of the many stunning views on Icefields  Parkway
One of the many stunning views on Icefield’s Parkway
Me and Tom at the Glacier
Me and Tom at the Glacier
icefields glacier
Icefield’s glacier

 

We didn’t get to see Elks, Wolfs or Grizzly Bears, however we did manage to see a heard of Horned Mountain Sheep just leisurely strolling on the road…

Horned mountain sheep
Horned mountain sheep – they are known to charge!!

river

 

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Tom at one of our many stop offs

 

 

 

The Rocky Mountains

The drive from Cranbrook to Calgary, which saw us cross over from British Columbia into Alberta was stunning, we traveled up route 22, which is known as the cowboy trail, owing to its sweeping arid fields, long straight endless road and snow capped Rocky Mountains which dominate the backdrop, it truly was breath taking.

Cowboy trail to Longview – first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains
Longview Gas Station
Longview Gas Station

Calgary was literally a two hour flying visit, and then onto Canmore in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Everywhere you look is a perfect picture from a glossy travel book, the rockies are stunning and majestic, awe inspiring and just plain gorgeous – no picture will do it justice

Transcanada Highway - Calgary to Canmore
Transcanada Highway – Calgary to Canmore

We stayed in Canmore at this amazing penthouse condo with views looking out to the Rockies for a week and provided us with the perfect base to go out and explore Banff National Park (one of the most famous parks in the world). During our stay we walked Ha Ling Peak, a steep and popular hike to a mountain summit in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, it took us about 4-hours, with the terrain proving difficult, ranging from black ice and thick snow, however the view from the summit was something else.

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Reaching the summit – Ha Ling Peak

 

View from Ha Ling
View from Ha Ling
Tom on the ridge
Tom on the ridge

ha ling 4

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Took a trip out to Johnston Canyon, a spectacular walk that gives fabulous views of the Johnston Canyon, past the lower falls and to the breathtaking upper icefalls. (again the walk proved hard as we were walking on sheet ice – note to self, definitely need crampons)

Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon – Banff, Alberta (upper falls)

Another day we rented ‘Trail Fat Bikes’ and set off to take on the mountain trails through the woodlands, noting the warning signs for pumas and lynx’s and how to defend yourself against them. On the other days we headed to the slopes of Sunshine Mountain for some skiing, it didn’t live up to its name, visibility was poor and the sunshine was non-existent, but the ski and the runs were good! The following day we went for a gentle stroll around Lake Johnson, it was so peaceful and quiet, it was like seeing double looking into the lake and seeing the mountain reflection.

Lake Johnson - double vision
Lake Johnson – double vision

One night we decided to walk from the condo for a few beers in Canmore, it’s a 10 minute drive, so we didn’t think the walk would take long, we were wrong, it took us an hour and a half… on arrival at The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, having worked up a thirst and a bit of an appetite, we decided on the sample tray, where we sampled ten local craft beers and ordered up a plate of ‘Poutine’ a dish originating in Quebec, Canada, made with french fries, topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds (comparable to English chips and gravy, with a rubbery like cheese) it went well with the beer.

beer poutine beers list

Leaving the bar and dreading the long hike home, Tom suggested we hitch a lift, we put our thumbs up, two SUV’s went buy (by the way pretty much everyone drives SUV’s/4×4’s), but the third vehicle stopped, a guy, also called Tom picked us up, went out of his way taking us right to our door – the people of Canada are so friendly!!!