I have not built many traditions for our family. It’s just not how my brain works. But we have this. I know that a lot of traditions have been upended this year because of COVID, and I didn’t realize how grateful I was for this little one of ours until we hit the road on Friday. We have been taking some version of this November trip to Jasper since 2016 (with a break in 2018). There were some changes of course to this year's trip, but not a lot. We tend to stay in, and stay away from folks, so there were no changes there. We missed out on the cemetery wander, and our favourite pizza place was closed. But we still got pizza and we upped our game this year with a fire in our room. All said and done, our tradition remains.
For a multitude of reasons, we keep this trip to two nights/three days. That means we have a tight schedule. And yet also I hate schedules when travelling so we always just wing it! I have been traveling to Jasper for my whole life (aka 40 years), so I know what I like. And I also know there are lots of places I haven’t explored yet. As long as we’re on a trail, I’m good with whatever else comes our way on these trips. Just being here in this place is special.
Friday. Dan & I took the day off of work, which meant we were able to hit the road right after picking Lucas up from school. Getting a head start on the road felt like such a treat.
Saturday. Sleep in. Breakfast of bagels and apples in the cabin. Lucas did the dishes. We made wraps for lunch using groceries we brought from Edmonton, and packed them in our bags. One last bathroom and long underwear check, then we headed out. There is a trail that runs along the “back” of town and I absolutely love it. We jump on that and go north until it meets up with the Bighorn Trail (aka Grand Mouflon), and the Pyramid Bench trail system. The goal for today is to get to our fave place for trainspotting, and then set a new goal. After we crossed the Athabasca River at Maligne Road, we followed the trail to the Sixth Bridge (Maligne Canyon). Stopped for a quick lunch there at a picnic table, as it was very cold. Back the same way we came, except we stayed on Bighorn until we made it all the way back to town.
We each rested in our own way for the rest of the afternoon, until it was time to order dinner. Our favourite pizza place is closed right now, so we ordered from Northface instead. More resting - books, fire, Nintendo switch - until an early bedtime.
Sunday. Sleep in. Breakfast in the cabin and pack up. Check out (which was so seamless and I will chat more about this in the paragraph below). Drive up to Pyramid Lake for a hike around Pyramid Bench North. This is a really great trail system that I recommend to anyone who asks. Met up with our pals Nicole & Ian for another walk, this time down a CN road behind their home. It was a sunny gorgeous day in Jasper. Hit the road home around 2pm underneath the bluest sky. Late lunch in Hinton at the A&W. Smooth sailing the rest of the way to Edmonton.
WHERE WE STAY (AND WHY)
Gosh, there are so many reasons why I keep coming back to this place, and this cabin style. I recommend Bear Hill Lodge to everyone who asks. I have nothing but great things to say about them. But let’s narrow it down to the most basic basics.
Layout and amenities
Open year round
I choose the Heritage Cabin over their other options because it works best for our family. There are two bedrooms, so Lucas has somewhere private he can hang out when he doesn't want to be with his parents (he is 15), and the beds are so comfortable. The rest of the layout is an open concept living and kitchen space. There is no large table, but we make due with the bar for our meals. Again, as this is a small cabin, the kitchen is small, but it contains all the amenities we need for the weekend. We bring breakfast and lunch groceries, and make one dinner. This saves us money, and was particularly helpful this year with COVID precautions. Making our own meals lessens the contact we need to have with folks in town, and bringing our groceries saves the local resources for the locals.
In previous years the "in town" component was more important, as it makes it much easier to walk for meals, coffee, or just to wander downtown. We have stayed in cabins outside of town before, and it just seems harder.
Coming to Jasper in November is perfection. There is a lot of snow on the mountains, and very few other tourists! We also save some money on accommodations, as the summer season is done, but skiing hasn't opened yet. There are very few cabins that are open year round here, so Bear Hill Lodge checks all of the boxes.
CONTENT NOTE: MONEY TALK
I love to be up front with money! I personally think there are loads of benefits in being transparent and honest about spending, saving and budgets. But I also understand that this year especially, folks are struggling. And maybe reading about my vacation spending is not something you need or want in your life right now. If this topic isn’t for you today (or ever), this is your cue to keep scrolling! No hard feelings!
I wanted to break down my budget for this trip, because I think it often feels like a cabin in the mountains is out of reach for most folks. While we keep it pretty low cost, I am sure this is still out of reach for a lot of people. But seeing my costs might encourage some savings goals, or show some of you that a trip like this is totally within your reach.
We keep our costs down by:
- traveling in the shoulder season
- making breakfast and lunch (and one dinner at least) in our cabin
- bringing our own groceries
- limiting our activities to hiking and hanging out in the cabin (no shopping)
My family has been traveling to Jasper since before I was born. And I have been documenting my own trips, in my own ways for many years. All of my Jasper-related posts are accessible here (on my old Blog).
The creation, maintenance, and upholding of our park system is directly related to the ongoing genocide of Indigenous people and nations. Here are some articles that can expand your knowledge and awareness of this, an education that we did not and do not give our children in school.
"Canada's National Parks are Colonial Crime Scenes" by Robert Jago (The Walrus, 2020)
"Rethinking the colonial Mentality of Our National Parks" by Jimmy Thomson (The Walrus, 2019)
"From Parks to Prisons: Decolonization is the responsibility of people of colour too" by Shama Rangwala (The Star, 2019)
"The Shady Past of Parks Canada: Forced out, indigenous people are making a comeback" by Graeme Hamilton (National Post, 2017)
"Nations of Jasper welcomed back to the Park" (Fitzhugh, 2012)
"Hunting in Jasper - Reconciling the National Park Idea by Kevin van Tighem (Alberta Views, 2018)
"Five National Parks that honour First Nations" by Hans Tammemagi (Tyee, 2012)