Monday, July 21, 2014

Skyline 50K - Jasper NP, Alberta, Canada (July 9, 2014)

Jasper NP's Skyline Trail is quite famous for it's stunning views as most of the trail is above treeline.  The hike is very popular during it's short season (July to Oct) and has quite a few established campgrounds with bear hangs and picnic tables, as well as a posh lodge (200 CDN/night) midway through, so you can take your time and go at your own pace.  I only had a day, and wanted to catch the world cup, so my pace was a slow jog.  

I had negotiated one free day to explore the mountains on this trip and after much thought I decided to run the Skyline Trail.  The trail is point to point, around the length I was looking for, and was popular enough so that if anything did go haywire, I wouldn't be crawling around for help for days... just hours.  I convinced the Schmidts to go out on a boat tour on Maligne Lake for the day (where I'd leave our rental car that they could drive back, as this was a one way trip).  With mild weather and my lightly strained hamstring feeling 90%, I was ready to go.  I woke up at 4 am, ate some cereal, went to the bathroom, and drove out to the trailhead.  On the drive I saw 3 mama bears, each with a cub.  

The trail, the camps, the signage are all very well maintained and marked.  Here's the sign at the Maligne Lake trailhead for the Skyline Trail.  The trail is 41km from Maligne Lake to Maligne Canyon... I added 15 more km to get to the local pub.  
I got a pretty early start as I didn't really know what the trail was going to be like... the Jasper National Park website deemed the trail condition as "poor"... whatever that meant, I was going to find out.   But from mapping the route, and reading some blogs, I knew that there wasn't much elevation gain, and that the trail was well maintained, so I knew I could keep up a decent pace, even if this was going to be my longest run to date.
The bear hang at the first camp.  Check out the picnic tables as well.  All very well maintained... quite impressive actually.  

Some of these sites had outhouses... I popped an immodium in the morning, so I didn't get to try one out.  
Through the forest, along the creek, and down several valleys... 
And soon the trail opens up!  There were so many water sources along this trail that I kept only one bottle full for most of the run.  I think you could honestly do it with no bottle and just drink from the creeks every km.  Granted this was towards the start of the hiking season for this trail.  
90% of the trail was perfect for running.

A nice view of Mt. Edith Cavell... a peak I'll definitely return to do in the future.  
Hi Marmot!

I think I re-injured my hamstring for this photo...
Some patches of snow, but the wind kept it firm enough so no post holing required.

Mt Tekkara

Part of the Skyline Trail allows bikes... but the majority is in a sensitive habitat, which doesn't allow bikes.  It'd be quite do able and it'd be a really fun ride.  
Bike racks... at the junction where skyline trail starts and the bike-able trails end.  
I was looking forward to this dip at Annette Lake since km 10!  BTW, this is an awesome lake, just outside of town for a dip.  
The Athabasca River runs right through Jasper.  
I knew I still has some time to spare so I decided to go up old fort point, as location our host at our B&B recommended.  A very quick hike up to a nice view for Jasper.
The view from the top.
Soon I was the Whistle Stop Pub for kickoff with a nice cold brewski in my hand.  Watched the game, then ran the 2 miles back to the B and B where I took a short nap while waiting for my family to return.  

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