Maligne Lake: Tripping in Canada

We’re off to do a boat ride on Maligne Lake today, but we digress to see a couple of other small ones first. Attractive in their own right but this is a country of thousands and we’ve hardly left our base at Jasper.

We also stop at Medicine Lake, interesting because one of the great recent forest fires happened here. They have a similar problem to Australia where, because white man puts out the fires, the ground cover is excessive and when one finally runs amok, it’s truly devastating. Canada has also realised the error of their ways and burns are now being regularly conducted.

Still, the lake is yet another magical stop in this country of spectacles.

Tripping in Canada

Then it’s Maligne, one of the highlights of the tour, I’m expecting. It’s pleasant enough at the embarkation point and the food is cheap and tasty before we board the launches that seat about 60. We roar up the narrow lake, slowing down regularly for canoes and other ferries returning so our bow wave doesn’t upset them.

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Tripping in Canada

As we near Spirit Island it becomes obvious why this will be one of the highlights. Vertical walls, denuded of vegetation, spawn landslides beneath, where some plants find a toehold. On high there’s snow with white feather duster clouds and down below the lake with its exquisite blue/green.

We do a U-turn and alight at the wharf of Spirit Island. We’re granted the usual ten minutes when you really want an hour; but that’s the scourge of being with a tour group. On a clear day this would be truly stunning, today it’s merely very impressive and beautiful in its own way.

Tripping in Canada

Of course, blessed with Lorraine as a passenger, we’re weather lucky yet again. Apparently it rained for the previous tour group and, later, it will rain on the next. We’ve managed a window in the weather and count our blessings for this is one of the special places. You can almost feel you’re at one with nature as your eyes navigate the panoramas from this special place.

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All too soon we’re back at the embarkation point and moving on, returning to Jasper for a “free” afternoon.

Tripping in Canada

After lunch we’re wondering what to do and I finally talk Lorraine into checking out Trefoil Lakes, that little gem we keep passing on the way in. We get a lift from one of the lodge vehicles right to the lake, shoot a few frames and then, one of those moments dictated by fate occurs.

I rarely take my birding lens along but I have it this time. I indicate I’m just ducking up an adjacent hill to get a shot of the Athabasca River. No sooner do I crest the rise than I notice a male elk just before he bellows his rutting cry on the other side. We’d been told they cross the river at this time, chasing the females. Some females had crossed the previous day as we passed in the bus, would we get lucky?

With his first tentative steps in the rushing river you could feel his emotion. He had to get to the other side, driven by instinct, pushed on by the natural drive of mating. From time to time he checked us out as he prodded, and then stepped, ever so slowly, first to a rocky island then the deeper section. It was one of those moments where you equate to a wildlife experience being worth a hundred viewings in a zoo.

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Tripping in Canada

You took every tentative step with him, admiring this magnificent creature as he took part of life’s journey, feeling the water as it washed his underbelly until he stepped out on our side, dripping wet, about 200 metres away.

From then, all we had to worry about was avoiding him, as we had been warned several times, especially when someone said that a dominant male had put one of its antlers through a car door. With an understandably nervous Lorraine in tow it’s a miracle we ever got back but you could hear the elk had moved quickly as its bellowing was now some distance away by the time we returned to Trefoil but we kept a wary eye out anyway.

Tripping in Canada

Trefoil itself is a small wonderland of colour; rimmed by yellow grasses and pines, the emerald and jade surface contrasting brilliantly with the surrounds and, of course, there’s always the Rockies in the background.

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Tripping in Canada

On the morrow we were off to Lake Louise, apparently it was going to get better though that was hard to imagine.

Have you been lucky enough to visit these beautiful lakes of Canada? Let Ian know about your own trip in the comments section below. 

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