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Artsy waterfall near Jasper

We woke late this morning knowing that we were going walking and that we wanted to give the outside temperatures the chance to rise before we got going. At Tourist Information we had been given a copy of their Summer Trails  leaflet and had a couple of walks recommended to us. This whole area is criss-crossed with trails and paths used by horses and mountain bikers as well as walkers. We had breakfast, made a picnic lunch and then headed out to the Maligne Canyon.

The canyon is a short drive out of Jasper and there is a 4km round trip walk along the river. At the Fifth Bridge car park there was no one else around when we parked up and we expected a quiet walk. Bear warnings are still posted around town so we left lunch behind rather than running the risk that it would attract a bear. It was probably being over cautious especially as the trail turned out to be pretty busy with a steady stream of people going up and down.

We crossed a short bridge over the Maligne River and then followed the river bank which initially climbed gently up hill. It was a beautiful crisp morning but still very cold with it. We soon warmed up though as we walked along. The river was still running, and running pretty fast, and as with Lake Annette yesterday the water was very clear and a fabulous blue/green glacial colour.

Along the way there were pools that have been carved out of the rock by the water that looked very inviting for a dip. We would have to save that for summer though! The canyon soon started to develop and it was not long before it was way below us. The only evidence we had of it was the sound of running water, it was too far below us to see it.

Further on, bridges crossed the stream again but at places where you could see the water tumbling down. It looked like liquid ice, a really bright, clean white colour. At the top of the canyon the water crashed fifty metres down below us. It was a stunning sight to see and, as with the course of the water all the way up the canyon, the fast running water was ringed with icicles and solid ice. In spring and summer it must be a thunderous sight to see.

For the time of year, I was surprised to see so many people on the trail. I dread to think how busy it must get in the summer, not only with people walking but with horses, bikes and people swimming too. While there were a lot of people around most seemed to just walk down a short way from the car park at the top of the canyon. It suited me as it meant that for the best part of the two hours we were here we were the only people on the paths we were on.

We thawed out for a while in Morty with the heating on full pelt, eating our picnic lunch. Then we headed back past Jasper and out to the Old Fort Point for another walk. The car park here is on the side of the river and it was pretty busy with cars. We met people along the trail but most seem to have opted for the easy option and have walked along the lake.

The Old Fort Point Loop is a 3.5km round trip. Our information leaflet said that the quickest way to the top was up a steep climb up a set of stairs and that the better route is a trail winding around the hill. This gradually goes up hill apart from one steep section - thirty metres of elevation in a short distance. We opted for the latter route and set off through the woods.

It again was a beautiful walk but here the paths were covered in a thick layer of ice for most of the way. It was impossible to walk on the main path and both of us thought about Bambi slipping and sliding on the ice as we initially skidded ourselves. The forest here, as with Maligne Canyon, was full of pine trees and every now and again we would get a waft of fresh mountain air tinged with the scent of pine needles.

We reached the steep section described in our leaflet and unfortunately it was not one of the ice free sections. People were coming down the other way (having started the loop in the other direction) as we were struggling to get up. Unusually, I got further than Stef. He reached a point where he was quite literally stuck. Any time he put one foot forward his other foot slipped out behind him. Even with my walking pole he was stuck.

Got to the top at last!

Knowing we could not go up we decided to head back down but this was tricky too. I was trying to give suggestions to Stef of the way he could go back down but he again was caught in a tricky spot. As I started to come down myself I head a loud "aaarrggghh" as Stef slid a couple of metres down the hill. I think we were both frustrated that we had not made it up and there was a definite defeated air as we made our way back to the car park.

Back at the start I spied the stairs that constituted the "steep" climb for the fastest route for the top and we decided to try going up this way round. The stairs were OK, the steep bit came afterwards and it was on open rock with the wind whistling around us. It was a cold climb up to the top but well worth it for the views. On the way we met some of the local people we had said on the flatter route round and they had managed to navigate the icy slope up, obviously with more practice of walking in icy conditions than we have.

En route, we passed some mountain goats (or they could have been a variety of sheep) munching away while they watched us go by. As with the elk we saw by the Fairmont hotel yesterday, they were totally undistracted by people passing by and are obviously used to it.

With a double whammy of walking around Old Fort Point we must have walked about ten kilometres in total. Not bad considering we have spent a lot of time lately driving around in Morty and not really doing much walking. Although it was very cold it felt great to be out and about and doing something and we both felt pleasantly knackered by the time we got back into town. We rounded off our day with a Chinese meal before crashing out for a good nights sleep.