Monday, November 8, 2021

A Mountain Cruise High in the Canadian Rockies: Maligne Lake

The smell of sizzling bacon permeates our little cabin in the woods. Since we have a kitchen, I decided to save a little money by cooking our breakfast each day. Last night, I went into town to buy enough food for our stay and now I'm cooking the first meal in the cabin.

Watch the Video!

It gives it a homey, campout kind of feeling.

The range hood doesn't clear the smoke quite fast enough for the smoke detector, however, so we open the windows and turn on the ceiling fan to help clear it out. This has the side effect of pulling that very crisp, early morning, Canadian mountain air in.

We counter that by turning on the gas fireplace next to the dining table. It's a very good breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and some locally baked, whole-grain toast.

Well fed and ready for the day, we head out for today's adventure. About an hour's drive from the cabin, we cross back into Jasper National Park where a snowstorm last week leaves it presence with a covering of snow on the ground as we climb higher in elevation.

It's a long enough drive that Tim falls asleep in his seat but in good time, we're pulling into the lot for the Lake Maligne Boat Cruise. An email exchange before we left home told us that if we called the morning of our tour, they'd have an accessible boat ready for us. I called this morning and was told "that's not accessible." When I brought up the email exchange, I was put on hold while the operator checked. "You're right, they'll have an accessible boat for the 1:15pm tour."

It's a bit of a walk from the parking lot since the normal trail to the ticket hut is covered with snow so Tim and I have to backtrack to the road and go around that way. We check in and head to the dock.

A lady named Sarah meets us there. She'll be the tour guide on the boat.  She leads us onto the dock, to the back of the boat, where the entrance is. There's about a 12 inch step into the boat.

"Do you want us to back up so you can bring out the ramp?" I ask.

"We don't have a ramp," she responds.

"How are we supposed to get on board?"

She calls up for help and the boat's driver, Scott, shows up. He helps me steady Tim while I pop a foot-high wheelie to get him over the lip. On the boat's fantail, I see the next challenge...a skinny door with a 4 inch lip.

I ask them, "do you expect him to sit outside, here on the back of the boat?" The sheepish looks on their faces tell me that they did. That just won't do in this near-freezing temperature on a speeding boat.

We're very lucky that Tim's travel wheelchair was just skinny enough to fit through the door. A little manhandling over the lip, then the aisle to the front of the boat was plenty wide enough and there is ample space up front.

It does concern me that they told me ahead of time that it was wheelchair accessible. If we'd had Tim's regular power chair, we would have never have made it on board.  You definitely need a light, fairly narrow chair, a lot of gumption, and patience if you're a wheelchair user who wants to take this tour.

Well, we have the necessities so Tim's ensconced in his position near the bow. Scott backs the boat out and Sarah begins her spiel. The journey is underway.

Maligne Lake sits in a glacial valley between two sets of mountains, the Maligne mountains on the east side and the Queen Elizabeth range on the west. The surface of the lake is over a mile high and recent storms have left their mark with the snow. It's cold outside but warm inside the cabin of the boat.

The guide passed around rock samples from the surrounding mountain ranges. Fossils are apparent in the rock from the Queen Elizabeth side.

After we clear the bay where the docks are located, it's full speed ahead. The boat is surprisingly fast. It slows when kayakers or canoers are about but continues it's pace when another tour boat passes the other way. This makes for a little thrill as the craft bashes through the wake of the other boat.

Along the way, Sarah points out a couple of huge glaciers high up in the surrounding peaks, one of which she says we can only see 5% of. It's amazing how big they are and the power they have within. This lake and the entire valley were carved out by glaciers.

About a half hour in, we get to the tour's destination, Spirit Island, several miles south of our departure point. It's actually pretty tiny, maybe fifty feet long, and is not an island. At least not today, when the water level rises in the spring, the small isthmus is covered, cutting off the small land mass from the shore.

We're given about a half hour to explore the area but are told to stay off Spirit Island. This is holy ground for the First Nations people of the area (what we in the U.S. would call Native Americans) and a spear stuck into the ground is evidence of a recent ceremony from these native Canadians.

Unfortunately, this part of the tour is not accessible in the least so Tim has to wait on the boat. I stay with him while Letty goes out to take pictures. Tim and I use the time to strike up a conversation with the driver and guide...Scott and Sarah...and find Scott is getting ready to make a 5-week trip to our neck of the woods. This allows for Tim and I to be a guide to one of our guides and let him know what he should not miss on his visit to California.

Ten minutes before we leave, the boat's horn is sounded to alert passengers to head back and get on board. The trip back is pretty much without narration. Passengers and crew mingle. We can go outside for fresh air, take pictures, and socialize.

Back at the dock, we work our way out and back to the car. On the way down the valley, we make a stop at Medicine Lake.

This lake is famous for it's disappearing act that happens each year.  The bottom of the lake is riddled with limestone sinkholes.

While the spring thaw fills it to overflowing, in the fall the Maligne River does not fill it fast enough. The lake drains to a mudflat, with the river flowing down the middle.  Today, it looks about ten feet below it's peak showing that the draining is well underway.

Next spring it will fill again.

We stop off in the town of Jasper for dinner at the Jasper Brewing Company before heading back to the cabin to relax for the night.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment