I woke up to a dank room that vaguely smelled of wet cigarettes.
We stayed in a motel–no, not the type where you get lucky; the one where truckers might stay overnight to get some shuteye after a whole day driving. I know, I can be such a priss, right?
We never found accomodations in Jasper so we had to stay in Hinton, a town 81 kilometres away from Jasper. Even then, Hinton accommodations were also mostly fully booked. It wasn’t until past 7 in the evening when we finally found our motel.
We got packed up and threw our stuff back into the truck, then shuffled out of Hinton. With the past couple of days not having gone as planned, I was not looking forward to the hour drive to get to Jasper.
I wanted to follow a tight itinerary; I had planned everyday of the 9-day trip and when that plan started to fall apart, it was difficult to stay optimistic. I wanted the adventure to start. I was growing impatient.
Your guidebook and experience will betray you.
Part of the Rocky Mountain parks (often called the Rockies), Jasper National Park is touted as a larger, less traversed version of Banff, or at least this is what guidebooks and articles often say. It is exactly these qualities that has always made me partial to Jasper. It was the quiet small town feel to Jasper that made me fall in love with it every time I went.
Except this time it’s ultra fucking traversed! The town of Jasper, found at the very heart of Jasper National park was abuzz with tourists. Main street was crawling with people and the whole place was littered with trailers & camper vans. It was insane and it was just too crowded for my crippling introversion and hermitry. Note to self: Jasper gets very busy during the Labour Day weekend.
Weaving through the crowded sidewalks, we beelined to an outdoor store to get some bear spray, speed walked to the visitor information centre to grab a trail map and drove out of the town. We were off for a hike. As we drove further and further away from the crowded town, my optimism was renewed.
Let’s go trail-hopping.
We headed south hoping to hike the Valley of the Five Lakes, a 4.2 kilometre loop that promised some amazing views of jade and blue lakes. Supposedly, the 4.5 kilometre loop was an easy 2 hour hike.
We reached the parking area–it was FULL! My recently renewed optimism waned. I thought, Is this going to be a trend throughout this trip? When will the adventure start?
Heading back north, close to the town we tried our luck Old Fort Point Loop–a short but more challenging hike. The 3.5 kilometre trail is a favourite among hikers and tourists alike, was even more busy than the Valley of Five Lakes, with traffic slowing down as tourists look for a place to park. Discouraged by the number of people, we drove on.
Having passed a couple more crowded trails, we decided it was time to reconsider today’s itinerary. FInding a nice, quiet hike was nearly impossible, but we resolved not to let that bring us down. With the power of what felt like blind optimism, we continued heading north to Maligne Lake.
The scenic drive through Maligne Lake Road was a wonderful surprise. Since Maligne Lake was not part of the original plan, we didn’t realize that it was going to be an amazing drive, with lots of pullouts to take in the view.
A change in perspective.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
Just when it starting to feel like yet another less-than-spectacular day, by chance, we found an unexpected gem of a place. Truth be told, the adventure did not begin simply because we found the perfect place. Rather, I was able to finally see what an adventure we were actually having because I was finally giving in–letting it take me wherever the adventure leads.
We never made it to Maligne Canyon. Instead, dropped all plans and guidebooks to sit back and enjoy the journey. By chance we found this gem–a gorge under a bridge along Maligne Lake road.
On a relentless quest to reach our destination, it was so easy to overlook just how amazing the journey was. Until plans started falling apart; Until we finally gave up all preconceived plans, only then were we able to finally enjoy the journey. So I guess Yvon Chouinard was right after all, “when everything goes wrong, that’s when the adventure starts.”