Staying for 2 nights at Jasper National Park was a good choice for us.  Jasper National Park was one of the most beautiful places within the Canadian Rockies, and that’s saying a lot, because the Canadian Rockies itself was already immensely impressive.   Staying here for more than a night also meant that we had time to explore more of Jasper townsite on our own, other than the half day Jasper National Park tour covered by the Rocky Mountaineer and its partner Brewster.

The heavenly view of the mountains from across our dwelling place at the Marmot Lodge.

Jasper’s townsite, nestled within the large Jasper National Park, is connected to the rest of the world via a railway centre.   At this time of the year where tourists arrivals were still low, the animal population here at this quaint and quiet little town may very well be higher than its human population.

Nothing beats the fresh mountain air and a connection to nature, as we were to discover on our very first evening at Jasper, right after disembarking from the Rocky Mountaineer.

‘Beware of elks roaming the streets’ we were told as we were ferried to the Marmot Lodge, and as if right on cue, an elk was spotted right there from the bus.

As we crossed the road from the Marmot Lodge to explore the scenery beyond, we find the pavements littered liberally with animal droppings – a clear indication of their rampant presence.  We were staying in a national park after all!  And as if to prove the point, we spotted a large elk right down the road.  Thankfully he or she had more interest in grazing than in running us down.

At the railway tracks just opposite to the Marmot Lodge, we find a deer peering over the tall grasses as she cautiously ate her dinner, all the time keeping a close eye on us.

We were lucky to enjoy some precious daylight hours on our first day at Jasper before night fell.  By the way, at this time of the year, the shops and eating places all close pretty early, so its a very good idea to look for dinner before the town turns in for the night.

As luck would have it, it also happened to be the full moon on this day.  So we got to watch the orb hang over the mountains as the sky darkens.  This was a photographer’s dream come true.

Spotted an entire herd of elks hanging out at the railway tracks as we continued to moon-watch.

We must have sat on the public bench for more than an hour gazing at the lovely moon and enjoying the cold.

As evening became night, more and more of our train-mates on the Rocky Mountaineer passed us on their way back to the hotel, having enjoyed a good dinner in town.  We, on the other hand, were still too laden with the good lunch we had on the Rocky Mountaineer and needed no further subsistence.

Face to Face with an Elk

Eventually, it became too dark to continue to sit in the open, and we slowly made our way back to the Marmot Lodge.  That’s when we had our first up-close and personal contact with an elk, a wild one.

Lurking at someone’s backyard and hidden in the shadows, I did not see it watching me approach until it was too late.  By the time I turned my head, I find myself face-to-face and eye-to-eye with my new friend, the elk (his eyeball was huge, by the way).  For a small little moment, the elk and I stared at each other (my jaw dropped at this moment as well, but I am sure the elk didn’t notice), each not knowing what to do with the other, but I recovered quickly and regained my footsteps while saying a silent hi and bye to him, my mind repressing the urge to break into a run.  My god, if you are standing right beside an elk, you would then appreciate its size, and realize how dangerous it can be if he decides that he wants to race you down the road.

I snapped these photos of my new wild friend once we managed to put some safe distance between us.

After that, we spotted herds and herds of the elk’s clansman opposite the road, all lying on the ground and getting ready for bed.  That’s when we decided we better go tuck ourselves safely in bed as well, before our next encounter with wildlife in the streets of Jasper town turn out to to be a roaming wild bear.  I am sure the bear would not be as friendly as the elk.

Shopping at Jasper Townsite

Right after the Jasper National Park half day tour,  the coach driver gave us an option to either alight at our respective hotels, or to alight at Jasper Townsite.  Most of us chose to explore the townsite.

Enjoying a leisurely stroll down the streets of Jasper Town is one unique kind of luxury in life. Under such idyllic settings, where else can shopping be so peaceful and blissful.

And which other shopping street have beautiful snow-capped mountains as its backdrop. Certainly not in urban Singapore!

Jasper’s main shopping areas are along Connaught Drive and Patricia Street.  This is where you will find a great variety of gift shops, cafes and restaurants.

I especially love this road sign with the face of the bear on it.

The gift shops are everywhere, but perhaps because it was the beginning of summer, prices are still pretty steep.  In any case, we found later that the town of Banff was actually a lot more vibrant than Jasper and there were so much more to look at and buy, although it was also correspondingly a lot more commercial and less charming than Jasper.

Ammolites seem to be the gemstone to buy in the Canadian Rockies.  They look good, but they are all pretty expensive and way beyond the means of my shallow pockets.   Anyway, Tommy very helpfully pointed out that ammolites were used to create the crystal LCD display screen of my Samsung tablet and that took away all the romantic ideas I had about this gemstone.

Another great thing to buy in the Canadian Rockies are these dream catchers.  If you are as passionate about dream catchers as I am, then you are in the right place.  Some of these are hand-made in Canada, are of better quality, and of course comes with a heavier price tag.  Regardless of whether they are made locally or imported, the variety, sizes and shapes of these dream catchers sees no parallel elsewhere.

Tip:  Banff actually is the place to go if you want better choices.

Irresistible finds in the souvenir shops.  I am so glad we had half a day to explore everything here.

One of the cafes recommended by the coach driver of our day tour was this Bear’s Paw Bakery, which supposedly serves the best coffee in town.  Well, when someone tells me that there is a best coffee in town, I just had to give it a try.

But I just had to say, the coffee at the Bear’s Paw (or maybe, at anywhere in Canada) was just too dilute for my liking.  If I were the one grinding out the coffee beans, I would have made my cup of caffeine at least 3 times thicker.  But just to deviate from the point, the pastries at the Bear’s Paw are supposedly good as well.

Another recommended F&B outlet was this Something Else Steak House, so-named because the local authorities told them to change their original name to ‘something else’ and therefore, they took them literally and did as they said!

I simply love the architecture here at Jasper Townsite.

Totem poles just like the ones we saw in Alaska.

Standing at the edge of Jasper Townsite and looking down the long long street in the direction of where our lodgings at the Marmot Lodge was.  It was so far, that it was not even visible in this photo.

And this was from the other direction, about midpoint between Marmot Lodge and Jasper Townsite.

Morning at Jasper

On our last morning at Jasper, while we were having breakfast at the Embers Steakhouse, we spotted these herds of elks grazing at the fields just opposite.

One of them would very possibly be Mr Wild Elk that I encountered 2 nights ago at somebody’s backyard.

And so we abandoned our breakfast to watch these elks eat theirs.

If I could put my breakfast table at this beautiful spot, I would have enjoyed my breakfast as much as these elks.  I am not sure if these elks appreciated the privilege they had on an everyday basis.

This ends our stay at Jasper.  Join us next as we travel to Lake Louise via the Athabasca Falls and Columbia Icefield.

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