Meitte Valley Hike and Mountain Gate Bonanza

We were so happy when today dawned with pretty decent weather. There were some scattered clouds but mostly blue skies, the temps were forecast to be in the mid to upper 60s and no rain was predicted. So; after coffee and breakfast we headed out for our trip over to Meitte Valley. This is a valley on the far east side of the park back towards Edmonton and was about a 60 or 70 mile round trip…but things are just spread out up here so we headed out after filling the car with gas and finding a place to get diesel for BAT later in the week.

Our first stop was at the Snaring River about 6 miles east of the city of Jasper…where got some nice shots of the mountains and rushing waters.

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Continuing on east on Highway 16 we encountered the first mountain goats we’ve seen on our trip…these are female Big Horn Sheep and were right by the side of the road. As you can see they’re shedding their winter wool so they look sort of scruffy…it took us awhile to figure out what they were doing but eventually it dawned on us that they were licking up leftover salt from the road treatment during the past winter.

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After getting some pretty close up photos we continued on towards Meitte…coming around a bend a mile or two up the road we saw this beautiful vista of Jasper Lake which is on the north/west side of highway 16. The water in the lake was almost dead calm and the sun had come out pretty strongly so we got some really dramatic shots of the lake, mountains, and the reflections of mountains and clouds in the calm lake surface.

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Wow was about all we could say here. When Neil hiked a hundred yards or so from the road down to the beach you see in these pictures he saw tracks of bear, elk, and some sort of cat…they resembled the bobcat tracks we had seen previously but were a bit larger so they were likely catamount or mountain lion tracks instead. No way to tell for sure since he’s not that good of a biologist and the owners of the feet making the tracks were not around any longer.

Arriving at the entrance to Meitte Valley our first stop was the abandoned Pocahontas Mine…we were unable to figure out from the signs what kind of mine this was but it was a company town mine so was either a large corporate gold mine or perhaps coal since we did see some coal lying around. We headed out on our 3 and 1/2 mile hike and almost immediately started climbing…the hike was essentially an out and back and we climbed over a ridge about 120 meters or so high almost right from the get go. Pretty steep; we had to stop and rest a couple of times but at least the elevation here is lower so we didn’t have quite as hard a time breathing as we did back in Colorado Springs. We grabbed a shot of the mountains across the other side of the valley as well as some pretty purple/pink flowers we saw.

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and finally after about 2 miles or so came to what we thought would be a highlight of the hike…Punchbowl Falls. The fall is about 60 or 80 feet high and is on a stream very originally named as Mountain Creek. The lip is about 4 feet wide where the stream passes between two stone outcroppings then falls in 2 cascades down to the base. Unfortunately we could not get any decent pictures; the clearest view was from a bridge directly over the lip of the falls looking straight down…the best side shot Neil could get to without falling off the cliff (and he had to climb slightly outside of the “approved viewing area” to even get these) didn’t really give a very good view of the falls either. Nonetheless…any waterfall is a good waterfall is what we always say so here are the photos even though they aren’t the best views we’ve ever gotten. First is the vertical looking almost straight down shot and then the side shot from out on the left side as seen in the vertical shot.

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It was actually a pretty decent fall…we just couldn’t get anywhere we could get a decent view of it for a photo. C’est la vie. To actually reach the falls we had to come down about 1/3 of the way off the ridge we climbed before…so we debated whether to hike back up the ridge and then return to the parking lot via the trail in the woods or whether to just hike straight down the road to the parking area. The shorter, all down hill trek down the road won out…the clincher was that we were getting hungry and wanted to get down to the Meitte Hot Springs area before we ate lunch and that was another 17 kilometers down a road with a speed limit of 50. So we hiked down the road grabbing a picture of some Lady Slipper flowers on the way,

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hopped in the car and headed out to Meitte Hot Springs. Unfortunately; the hot springs pretty much were a bust; the springs themselves are hidden and the water is piped into a swimming pool arrangement so there were no good pictures to be had. We stopped and had lunch while watching a red tailed squirrel keep picking up pieces of bread that had been left at another picnic table, running up a tree, eating half of the piece and then hiding the remainder up in the tree, then running back down to get another piece. Here’s the best shot we got of the squirrel and also a shot of the Aligarth Ridge which is an almost vertical 4000 or so feet tall cliff bordering the left side of the road as it heads toward the hot springs. We looked up there for some mountain goats since Neil wanted to find some but no luck.

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After lunch we headed back towards home and shortly after getting back off of Meitte Hot Springs Road and turning south onto Highway 16 again we figured out where the mountain goats were…they were hanging out right next to the road on Highway 16! These are Rock Mountain Goats…we couldn’t figure out whether they are male or female as both have identical horns. Notice how they walk around seemingly unconcerned on rock slopes that a person would have a hard time standing on, much less walking or running across. This group of about 12 or 15 were about 25 yards away and maybe 20 feet off the level of the road but are on a pretty sleep slope feeding.

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Continuing on down the road we came across another spot where 2 cars were pulled over…we’ve learned that out here this means there’s something worthwhile to see so we (amazingly enough) joined the pulled over crowd where we spotted this moose lying down about 30 yards from the road. The antlers are still growing and are covered with velvet still; in another couple of months they will reach full size and then the blood vessels will dry up and the antlers will harden to the bone like consistency one normally thinks of antlers as…when they’re in velvet they’re soft like a finger would be.

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Neil stood around for a few minutes talking to this couple from India hoping the moose would get up; all you can see in the photo above is the antlers and ear, the nose pointing to the right, and a little bit of the shoulders. No luck there…but by hanging around for a few he did spot this Bald Eagle flying by and was able to get a couple of frames although it was pretty far away; he cropped these so it’s not just a brown dot but no so much as to completely blow out the resolution.

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We finally gave up and headed home…but again spotted the pulled over group of cars so stopped and looked to our left and saw this male Big Horn Sheep and his harem. This was about the same location as the first set of female Big Horn photos so it’s possible that this is the same group that was joined by the male.

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Neil climbed up behind them and got 1 decent shot…then naturally they climbed down to the road to eat some salt and walked about 4 feet from Connie sitting in the car. Neil scampered down the cliff and got a few more before we headed for home.

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And with that our day of hiking and Mountain Goats was done. We dropped off the cameras at home and went down to the Brewery for dinner…our original plan was to make panko crusted pork pounded thin with some noodles…but that’s not a very quick dinner so we saved it for tomorrow and had a couple of brews, fish and chips, and steak frites.

Tomorrow is supposed to be another nice day…so we’ll do something but haven’t figured it out yet.

Cyas.

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About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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2 Responses to Meitte Valley Hike and Mountain Gate Bonanza

  1. ronlaubenthal says:

    hi gang, hope all is well… nuthin’ new to tell here, SSDD… really nice lake fotos, but where are the fishermen? out of season maybe? gotta figger those picturesque lakes oughta be smack-dab full of picturesque trout… brookies, browns, rainbows, oughta be some great fishin’… yall be good.

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      They’re all in National Parks so I don’t think fishing is allowed. Most of them have really cold water anyway and we didn’t see any fish swimming near the shore despite the clear water. I figured we would at least see some minnows and I know the rivers have some brown trout in themand he have seen a few people fishing on the riverbanks but not in any of the lakes.

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