Sky Line Trail, Jasper National Park – Beautiful, but very, very long!
Overall Distance: 49km
Hiking Time: 11h20
Total Ascent: 1’680m
Total Descent: 2’230m
Feet in pain: 4
The Sky Line Trail is one of the most classic backcountry hikes in the Rockies. Philippe was somehow talked into this overnight hike by Yasuko. We were on the trail almost 8 hours on both days – that includes many breaks to enjoy the impressive views. It also had ups and downs too many to count.
On the first day a shuttle bus brought us and a couple of other hikers to the trailhead (hiking starting point), Maligne Lake, at 9 am and off we went for the first 20km to our overnight camp, the Shovel Pass Lodge.
After going through the dense forest and coming out to the creek, we passed two campgrounds, Evelyn Creek and Little Shovel. These campgrounds were equipped with anti-bear food hanging poles and Philippe lifted his backpack to test it (see photo – pack without bear demo). Our well laid out plan (not true) to stop for a lunch break at one of those camping grounds for lunch was rudely dismissed by a few thousand mosquitos. We prefer to eat our food rather than mosquito on sandwich so we marched on until we found a spot with a view and enough wind to blow away not all, but many mosquitos. A German couple, a doctor and his doctor-to-be girlfriend who work in Switzerland, joined us and we chatted a bit.
Above the tree line, the Meadows. Pretty with wild flowers and a nice rocky backdrop but somehow familiar – a bit like the view from Philippe´s family mountain house.
As we had a long break, chatting away with the same German couple who caught up again at the 3rd campground, Snowbowl Campground, we arrived at our lodge, Shovel Pass Lodge, 10 minutes late for dinner. That earned us a not particularly hospitable check-in. No “Welcome” but a grim “You have to wait for 30 minutes as our cook has to start over again” instead. Dave, the owner of the lodge, is a man cut out of a Clint Eastwood cowboy movie. But the location of the lodge at a river with some wild mountain sheep roaming peacefully made up for it.
The lodge was rustic with no running water, no electricity and only an outhouse (Canadian term for a toilet – or better a hole in the ground with a bit of timber around it). The luxury item was the gas stove in the cabin. The nights get very close to freezing even in summer. The food is carried in by horses. We brushed our teeth by the river and going to the outhouse during the night with the headlamp was a little adventure.