‘Happy Canada Day’ rings through the town, is sung from the rooftops and while almost all proudly wear Red and white, I’m standing in blue wondering what the colour blue means? But it’s all good fun with a clown, bears and fire trucks. Mounties on horses. Lollies being thrown out and children ducking and covering their faces before dashing to retrieve what they can. We wander the streets and check out all the tourist boards with what’s on offer. Make enquiries about the walking trails and find out there’s a free guided tour of the town’s heritage buildings in TEN MINUTES!
This was taken around 10pm. The sunset is just hitting the mountain behind the top right of the building which looks amazing. I can imagine a good camera getting some incredible shots here.
The Tour guide is a young girl and she’s excited about it all too. She has a curious quirk where she scrunches up her nose and holds it there when she gets really excited, and her whole body eases down and from side to side to emphasis different points. I thought it must be a young town as there didn’t seem to be anything too old and she confirms that with the first house built for the superintendent in 1907. It was made a national park at this time. We find out later that a line was drawn around an area covering 11,000 sq kilometres and the First Nations people are told to go somewhere else to live cause they’ve made this a national park to preserve it. Kind’ve seems a bit rich given that the indigenous people have been working beautifully with nature and living alongside the animals in harmony for centuries, but that was the way of the world then and the superintendent apparently ruled the town with an iron fist. For example he decided wash day would be Monday…and no other day, so as not to spoil the views!
…but I digress. The architect designs the first few buildings with lots of rock and in deference to the mountain peaks irregularity, he gives the top stories peaks that vary in height and size and varies the windows sizes and shapes. He adds natural red pine to have the rustic heritage look we see in many of the buildings and they are pretty cool.
We admire the pink tones and strata that come from the sediments and minerals of the rocks over thousands of years.
She shows us ‘Jasper the bear’ who ended up becoming a kind of mascot for the town but is a reflection of how views have changed over the years towards the animals. She showed us pictures of bears being taught to shake hands or children petting them, whereas now they are recognised as wild and dangerous beasts who must not be fed a human diet nor treated like a pet and indeed is a better way to live harmoniously. Treating them with respect. They are not human. Attitudes have changed.
Jasper the cartoon bear became a mascot for the town.
We see where the original totem pole was placed in 1915 by a carver from Haida Gwai that was removed due to its deterioration in 2009. It was returned to decompose where it came from as is tradition. A new 12 metre pole was placed there in 2011 called ‘two brothers’ and it tells the story of their journey to this area and one brother falling in love with a local girl leaving his brother to return home alone.
We stand up beside a steam train that came through the Rockies in the early days needing to carry ten thousand gallons of water and 19,000 tonnes of coal to function. Massive big piece of engineering, it is now sitting as a monument to the hard work and many lives lost breaking a trail for two routes through these mountain passes.
Now a major tourist destination summer and winter, population goes from 5,000 to 20,000 at peak times but popular for skiing as well as ice sports on the lakes, canoeing, white water rafting, rock climbing and mountain biking. It’s like New Zealand on steroids, someone tells us today! The place is buzzing with bus loads going out all over the place. Our guide tells us there is minimum lighting to protect the worlds ‘largest dark sky preserve’. At 11,000 sq kilometres it has the darkest piece of sky in the world making viewing the northern lights and star constellations the best, with a festival in October to celebrate it.
We head home and scoff some ginger and carrot soup with the best whole grain bread, thick with Arthur’s wild Salmon and chunks of Swiss Gruyere, finishing up with BC wine. Arthur, this salmon is amazing!
Even the trees are pretty here standing tall. I can imagine they would look amazing dripping with snow. It must look so different in winter. We head home and scoff some ginger and carrot soup with the best whole grain bread thick with Arthur’s wild Salmon and chunks of Swiss Gruyere, finishing up with BC wine. Taking a break before back out to the night party. We stop on the way to the party at a demo of the wild life here and are amazed to see stuffed wolves, coyotes, wolverines and see and feel pelts of the different animals. Antlers from the different deer and elk and even see replicas of their scat or poo. This is all going to be helpful on our walk tomorrow. A brilliant display where they are all about informing in a casual way to minimise conflict between the wild animals and the humans who must live closely here. It’s fascinating. For example everyone is scared of running into a bear but in actual fact the elks are more dangerous. Basically they are idiots he tells us. “If you disturb one they are very likely to attack you and there were 129 incidents last year”. “What do they do? Ren asks, bite you?” her eyes wide. “No, he says they will rear up and trample you”. We drag ourselves away and up to the park where we can hear music.
A live band and a few thousand people are relaxing with beers and BBQs, playing frisbee or just hanging out. Nice sitting and watching for a while where we enjoy a cider but we decide to head home, wandering some more around the different points of interest when we come across a large and beautiful community garden.
Getting home around 10.30 pm we hear great booms across town and remember there was to be fireworks display at 11pm. Sounded like a great display. I can imagine Ren may have stayed and enjoyed the revelry but she seemed happy as our chaperone.