Close Encounters of the Wild Kind ~ Jasper, Alberta, Canada

Landscape: view of snow-capped Rocky Mountains over the Athabasca River, Jasper NP, Alberta, Canada

Rocky Mountains
Looking over the clear waters of the Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Clear waters are laughing, they sing to the skies
The Rockies are living, they never will die

– John Denver, Rocky Mountain Suite

As John Denver knew, there is something truly magic about the Rocky Mountains. I can’t help humming or singing whenever I think of them – and Denver’s song Rocky Mountain Suite (Cold Nights in Canada) fits the bill perfectly.

Banff National Park was an integral part of my childhood and I never pass up the opportunity to spend time there. This year, however, we decided to venture further north: to Jasper National Park. It was a fortuitous choice, really, as major flooding from torrential rainfall plus snow-melt in the area just days before our arrival forced the evacuation of numerous southern Albertan cities. Mudslides and flooding cut Banff off from the east, so we would not have been able to enter.

Although it rained much our drive west from Edmonton along the Yellowhead Highway, we were relieved to meet perfectly dry roads and clear skies as the mountains came into view and we neared the boundaries of Jasper.

View of mountains, highway and oncoming traffic, Yellowhead Highway, east of Jasper, Alberta.

Jasper Mountains
Looking west along the Yellowhead Highway, east of Jasper National Park, Alberta, magnificent mountains come into view.

Close-up: a large bull elk or wapiti (Cervus canadensis) eating grass, Jasper, Alberta.

Bull Elk
We had no sooner entered the park than we met our first elk or wapiti (Cervus canadensis). He’s so close we can see the velvet on this season’s antlers.

A young male elk or wapiti (Cervus canadensis) grazes on green grass in front of a Park signboard.

Young Elk
Just down the road, a younger male grazes.

A group of elk graze on the road verge, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

“White Rump”
Herd animals, the Wapiti (“White rump” in Shawnee and Cree) graze in small groups in the fading light.

A white Bunchberry flower on fresh green leaves, Sunwapta Falls, Jasper, Alberta

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

A dirt path through cedar and pine, Sunwapta Falls, Jasper AB Canada

Path to Sunwapta Falls
Morning sun peaks through western red cedar and lodgepole pine.

White water rushing behind tall cedar trees, Sunwapta River, Jasper AB Canada

White Waters
The fast-moving Sunwapta River roars along side the path…

Landscape: rushing white waters over rocks, in cedars and pines, Sunwapta Falls, Jasper AB, Canada

Sunwapta Rapids
… crashing over rocks as it rushes downstream…

Landscapes: Rushing white waters over lower Sunwapta Falls, Jasper AB Canada.

Sunwapta Falls
… and over the lower falls.

Tiny purple fairy slippers on a forest floor, Japer AB Canada

Fairy Slippers (Calypso bulbosa)
Tiny orchids grow on the forest floor.

View over Upper Sunwapta Falls

Tumbled Trees and Tumbling Waters

View of the bridge over Sunwapta Falls, Jasper AB Canada

Bridge over Upper Sunwapta Falls

Landscape: view over Upper Sunwapta Falls, Jasper AB Canada

Upper Sunwapta Falls
White waters roar down in splashing torrents.

Castilleja Miniata (Red Paintbrush)

Red Paintbrush (Castilleja Miniata)
Everywhere we walked or drove, the meadows and verges were alive with colour.

American black bear (Ursus americanus) on a green field of grass and wildflowers. Jasper AB Canada

American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)
Our Canadian friends get pretty blasé about the black bears which can be nuisance around garbages…

American black bear (Ursus americanus) sitting in green grass, in front of a woodpile, Jasper AB Canada

American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)
… but I still get excited seeing them in the wild.

Highway with one caravan on it curving into snow-capped mountains, Jasper AB Canada

Mountain Roads
The roads were pretty quiet ~ although the park seemed to have plenty of European visitors.

Large bull elk, partially obscured by cedar branches.

Elk / Wapiti (Cervus elaphus)
We were told that elk numbers were diminishing in the park, but we saw many powerful bulls.

Portrait: large bull elk with velvet still on his six-point antlers, Jasper AB Canada

Portrait of a Bull Wapiti
This fellow may not be that old: apparently Alberta’s elk mature quickly and three-year-old bulls can sport large racks.

 Male bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) walking on the highway beside Medicine Lake, Jasper AB Canada

Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis)
I am used to having to scour the mountain ridges to see these animals – never before have I met them on the road!

Portrait: The head and horn of a Male bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) in profile, Jasper AB Canada

Portrait: Male Bighorn
Unconcerned by our presence, the sheep walked straight past our car windows. Medicine Lake, Jasper.

Family group of bighorn sheep: females and babies, on a steep gravel slope, Medicine Lake, Jasper.

Bighorn Family
As we drove back along Medicine Lake in the late afternoon, a family group were scrambling along the slope.

A family of bighorn sheep jockeying for position at the tailpipe of a vehicle. Jasper AB Canada

Bighorn Sheep & Car
For some reason, the whole group decided to lick the backend of another car stopped on the road. Our vehicle was of no interest!

A Baby Bighorn Sheep walks across a roadway, Jasper AB Canada

Baby Bighorn Sheep
A little one gives up, and crosses back over the roadway.

A male photographer with a large lens shoots photos of a male elk, Jasper AB Canada

Encounter with a Bull
A photographer with a large lens shoots photos of a male elk.

Bull Elk against greenery, Jasper AB Canada

Bull Elk
The bull, weighing in at between 320 and 330 kg (710 to 730 lb), stares back.

Text: Keep smiling

Beautiful scenery, beautiful flora, beautiful animals…

It’s enough to make you sing!

Happy Travels,

Cold nights in Canada and icy blue winds
The man and the mountains are brothers again
Clear waters are laughing, they sing to the sky
The Rockies are living, they never will die

– John Denver, Rocky Mountain Suite

Pictures: 23-24June2013

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