Walking the Skyline Trial and more encounters with dangerous animals

Another epic hike in the Canadian Rockies is the Skyline Trail between Maligne Lake and Signal Mountain on the outskirts of Jasper.

The highest point on the trail is the “The Notch” with over 2500 m altitude and it is normally a three day hike with two nights spend on one of the official campgrounds.

As permits for the camp sites were difficult to obtain and as one half (not me…) of the team did not appreciate the idea of being woken in the middle of the night by a hungry bear, I had checked us in at the Shovel Pass Lodge which is the only solid structure on the whole trail.

The lodge was in the middle of the trail and the only issue was getting there which meant 22km of hiking each way crossing two mountain passes and having to carry your own wine and cognac (!)……

Backpacks filled with bear spray and only the bare essentials (see above….), we set off early in the morning and after three hours passed the tree line, leaving the mosquitos behind, which was a relief as we had forgotten our mosquito spray (and I didn’t want to try using the B-spray for this purpose….).

The first “Little” Shovel Pass was crossed and beneath us opened a pristine alpine meadow, with no roads and buildings and the home of thousands of ground squirrels and marmots.

These sizeable rodents looked super cute but perceptions can be deceiving…..

After another couple of hours we crossed the second pass and while descending towards the cabin we were amazed how relaxed and approachable the marmots were; especially an older one that just couldn’t be bothered to run away at all.

Finally – after 7 hours on our feet – we reached the cabin and enjoyed both coffee and home made banana bread.

At dinner we met the other- all Canadian- hikers and learned not only that the tame marmot had a name – Mervin – but that he also had a bit of a reputation:

“Take all your leather containing boots inside the huts or he will have them !” we were told….

Another bad habit was that he had taken a liking to – preferably used – toilet tissue……

“And that’s not all” said one lady from Calgary “he even tried to make off with my hiking pole!”….To proof her point she provided us with the evidence:

Mervin caught in the act…….

After running away with the pole for not less than 100 meters, Mervin then failed to drag it down into his borrow, so that it could be retrieved, but not without considerable damage:

…..and there we were just worrying about the bears……

The next morning we gave “The Notch” a miss and headed back the way we came across the lunar landscape of the “Big” Shovel Pass

and the plateau

still with full sets of hiking boots and poles.

Published by The Blue Vet

I am a veterinary surgeon with a German and Norwegian educational background. I have been the founder and for over 20 years I have been the senior veterinarian at the Virginia Water Veterinary Clinic in Surrey, England. When starting this blog I was also the President of FECAVA, the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations. In the summer of 2019 I left my clinic to work as an international locum and clinical advisor. I am interested in all aspects of clinical companion animal medicine, in endurance sports and in traveling and meeting people with and without their pets and especially in sharing my knowledge with colleagues in other parts of Europe and the World.

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