Jasper National Park has always been a spiritual place for me. Not in a formal, religious sense, but as a place that has always inspired me to see how beautiful the places around us can be and how lucky we are to be able to experience them. I try to come to Jasper as often as I can.
This time, I’ve come to hike the Fryatt Valley.
A Multi-Use Trail
Parks Canada allows hikers to bike the first 12 km in from the Geraldine Lakes Road off highway 93A south of Jasper. An old fire road, the beginning is quite open and not too difficult.
However, not far in I am required to take off my boots and push my bike across a stream in my bare feet, not made any easier with the 40 pound pack on my back. Riding further along, the road really becomes a trail where I need to once again dismount and push, but just for a short while up a couple of switchbacks. Not much further up, the trail opens upon a grand view of the Athabasca River valley. The sand dunes that fall away from this outlook make it even more unique.
Further along through the woods, I make it to the Lower Fryatt backcountry campground. I take a short break to wash my hands and face in the crisp, cool water of the rushing stream that neighbours the picnic area. The ride took me 2 hours. “Not bad,” I think.
Going further needs to be done on foot: both out of necessity due to the narrow, more challenging trail, and also because Parks Canada does not allow bicycles past the Lower Fryatt campground (where I lock my bike to a tree).
It is almost unknown to me just how beautiful the surroundings are as this part of the trail is heavily forested. As I begin to parallel Fryatt Creek (about 4 km into this 6 km hike) an opening to the creek from the trail leads allows me to take advantage of one of the most gorgeous lunch spots I’ve ever had the privilege of encountering. I carefully step across and through the many paths the water takes, branching off and rejoining time and time again on its journey downward; dropping my pack and resting it up against a fallen tree now left stranded in the middle of the stream bed.
The view overwhelms me as I set to making my lunch: a flatbread ham sandwich with cinnamon honey, some trail mix, and refreshing water from the stream itself (treated with some tablets I carry with me).
As the sun streams down, the blue sky, green trees, white rapids, and multi-coloured rock – including the copper coloured mountain around which I have come – all come together in what I think of as pure beauty.
On to Brussels Campground
But I must continue and after just 2 more km I have completed my 3 hour hike (lunch time included) and arrived at the campground I shall call home for the next 2 days. Setting up my tent, blowing up my air mattress and spreading out my sleeping bag doesn’t feel like work; rather, more like a reward.
With my camp set up and food carefully hung from the high cables provided (protecting it from bears) I am already eager to see if I can make it to nearby Fryatt Lake this early evening.
And I am able to make it their in under a half hour. Standing on the shore of this blue-green lake, seeing the “Headwall” at the far end, with its snow white waterfall cascading down, I’m already thinking of tomorrow.
But now, after walking on the way back to the base of the two waterfalls on either side of the valley…
… and having enjoyed a warm pasta meal and cup of hot chocolate cooked over my tiny backpacker’s stove, I set to taking a few pictures during this twilight time, with the last light of day now falling across only a few of the peaks at the north end of the valley, and only slightly illuminating the spot I have chosen for my tent.
A Good Night’s Rest Awaits
As the dark progresses, it is time for me to gladly retire. It is warm here in my little tent – though it shall cool off more throughout the night I’m sure.
And with the light now gone I realize it is the sounds here that are just as special as the sights. Water rushes down the valley, insects are singing their buzzing and whistling songs. And zippers are being drawn on tent doors by those nearby who too are ready to rest, ready to be ready for tomorrow’s adventure.