The Big Finish

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Did I mention that this is a fifteen mile day-hike, starting off with with the sudden and unending 1500 foot, 300 meter, 150 story or so, ascent up to The Notch and ending with a five mile slog down what is politely known as the “Fire Road”? I know that I did, but if you missed that, these pix cover a lot of territory.

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So many scenes are left out. But the thing is, you need to go there and hike the route yourself if you can, to glorify God in the simplicity of walking through His creation.

That route through the valley down there, by the way, is the route the horses take when they bring provision up to The Lodge. It’s overall a 6,000 ft.ascent, with 3,000 of those feet being very sharp and demanding. Evidently they’ve stopped trying to bring tourists up through the trails as few can handle it. (And I’m fine with the hundreds of other fine trails in the area…)

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Ten thirty in the morning, and me looking like a lobster head. My hat was on as soon as we were off the ridge, but the wind was blowing everything away faster than you could recite a Glory Be.

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I’m pretty sure, tho could easily be wrong, that somewhere back there is the Tonquin Valley.

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This site made my morning. My spirit rejoiced and I sang a song of joy to see this long, flat trail and mild ascent. An interesting point, is that The Notch is the highest point of the trip, and here we are about to hike uphill again. I just had to pretend I didn’t notice that, flatlander that I am. If you squint you can see Laura and Chuck ahead of us.

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Walking on scree has its issues. Researching this trail one can’t help but note that it’s used by long distance runners who do long sections in a day. I think what this means is that I need to do more walking on scree to just get the hang of things.

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This was one of my favorite parts of this hike.

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Nothing can describe the strong, brisk wind here. The pic caught my walking sticks in the downswing.

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You can also catch your first glimpse of the trail ahead. But first you go through an area that reminded me of every movie I’ve ever seen about Mars.

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Fr. Jimmy (who took these pics, as my Nikon CoolPix P6000 was revolting against my compatible storage cards…) has a good eye for contrasts.

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The mountains…

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The valleys…

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The city of Jasper!

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The Athabasca River! The Icefield Parkway!

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The scenery!

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The Priests!

I’m fairly certain, tho correct me if I’m wrong, that Athabasca Falls is directly behind me.

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The path ultimately wends down to the Valley…

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… but not before one last intriguing jaunt through the mountaintop.

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Amazingly spry. Notice all the rocks?

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Suddenly it seemed as if we were on the moon. There were no views other than being surrounded by rocks and rock formations.

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But in our amazement we took no photos… we just wandered on eventually to gaze again upon the valley below.

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I know, God bless you. You’re thinking that this post goes on forever and a day.

But so does this hike!

Fr. Jimmy was determined to gather drinking water from this small glacier. We have different views on glacier water, as on most things. Still, we travel well together.

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The trail spirals downward over a mile or more.

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Fr. Jimmy, pretending to be me.

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The glorious valley spreads before you, after forty-five minutes or so of sheer downward hiking in scree. But by this time you’ve adjusted your hiking boots and cinching things and are ready for lunch by one of the pretty lakes that lay ahead.

They only seem far away because they are.

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After we passed this one we stopped for lunch next to the group of German tourists who were ahead of us, then made our way through the very pleasant and entirely lovely valley.

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The Trail at Valley Level. Only ten miles to go from here!

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Another lake.

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A marmot, shortly before being noticed.

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Yet another lake, which brings into mind the whole question of marshland type terrain in the mountains. It does if you’re me at least, being from South Louisiana and owning hundreds of acres of marshland.

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Later in the day, you begin to look over into what’s known as Maligne Valley, which is another wonder entirely.

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And of course you wander, off and on, off of the ridge and into woodlands where you see these type of… dead trees which hold such fascination for some photographers.

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I don’t have the words to describe how beautiful the Skyline Trail is, let alone the part before the Fire Road. This doesn’t begin to do it justice, but it’s all we have.

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Ultimately, you end up, after a valley and a few (long) mild up and downs, at what’s known as the Fire Road. By this time I had considered the hike to be over, and most people do. But the thing is, you still have to walk five miles down the Fire Road.

The flowers and scenes are unforgettable in my mind. They’re just not present in the end of this photo series.

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The Fire Road is an old trail which used to be used as an access route by rangers on the way to a fire lookout. Way back when. These days it’s a trail, overgrown in the end of summer, with zero views other than immediate forest, and which more or less takes you downhill at a grade which would not encumber a ranger’s vehicle. It’s overgrown and pretty boring, and filled with berry bushes, and is five miles long. Although we walked it seemingly quickly, for close to two and a half hours, it seems in retrospect a blink of an eye.

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We drove immediately to the Jasper Pub, and met fellow hikers for a beer. Just don’t have your meal there.

Just sayin…

Evening came, then the night. And everyone slept soundly after the long day’s trek into light.