But it was relatively dry out, and, sure enough, the top of the Jasper Gondola was completely covered in clouds, so we decided not to go do that and go into town for a few errands instead, and then look around the north end of the park for things to just go explore. One of the things I had really wanted to do was just buy some postcards, postage, and send the cards to the people that I knew wanted them.
Okay, and to have donuts at the Tim Horton's, because... well... Canada. I had to. And I had to have one with maple frosting. *laughs* They and the extra coffee were very nice. The restrooms were nice as well, and when the rain started again, people came swarming into the warm shop and it was very busy and crowded.
This is Jasper the bear, of a different incarnation than the one that greeted a tiny John when he was last here 47 years ago. He remembered the bear in town, and wanted a picture with the new one, so we got to take it for him. It was fun to see them side by side. There seem to be various incarnations of the Jasper bear, as we saw another one standing in front of a shop elsewhere, and another at the base of the gondola which was much more like the one tiny-John had a picture with. So that statue may simply have been retired to less strenuous duties.
I loved them. Sturdy Adirondack chairs in bright red were perfect for resting in after walking... but these were so close to the trailhead that we thought we'd try our luck with the next part of the hike. But it wound through swampy forests and there had been a lot of horses by, and it turned out that the next site was a few miles from the viewpoint and one set of horse riders was kind enough to tell us that.
The weather hadn't really improved, so we were alternately getting dry and getting drizzled on.
One of the things we'd seen in town were all kinds of stores advertising "Bear Spray!" and "Bear Bells" for sale. Which I think might have been a serious method for keeping bears at bay or warning the bears that people were coming; but John and I kept wondering how hard it must be to put the bells on the bears. This was especially striking when we were hiking and we suddenly heard bells approaching us and we kind of looked at each other and started giggling. I don't know, but it really felt like gullible tourists were being taken in by those selling the items.
Turns out that of the studies that have actually been made, there still isn't a firm conclusion as to whether or not they're effective. But they sell well. *laughs*
There were quite a few people that were braving the walk over the water, and the walkway, as you can see, was quite close to the water itself, so we could see the reflection of the clouds and the mountains while we went. The water was clear and relatively uncolored compared to all the silt-filled rivers and streams we'd seen up to that point. There was a family of six at the top of the island, with a baby in a stroller who just watched everything placidly from where he was strapped into the chair.
John, being John, helped them take a family photo on the edge of the water with the mountains behind.
It was peaceful out there, and while we walked back across the island to the bridge and parking lot, we heard the familiar bugle of a male elk across the water. They were in the woods at the feet of the mountain. We couldn't see him from where we were, but it was fun to know exactly what that sound was since we have a lot of bugling male elks in the Rocky Mountain National Park especially in Estes Park.
One of the places we decided to go was to the back to back lakes of Annette and Edith. They were right next to each other, and off the same road, so we drove out there.
Lake Annette had this large grassy park going from the parking area to the shore of the lake, and there were dozens and dozens of people scattered across it with easels, canvases, huge paint boxes, water, and cloth and they were all painting. It must have been some club or a class that was offered in the park. There was a man commenting on a poor woman's painting saying, "You started off all excited and had all these things that drew your attention and you painted them beautifully; but then you started running out of things to paint, and you started to just dabble in things that you didn't care about. You should have stopped sooner!"
I just shook my head. *laughs* The hardest thing, I think, about painting is knowing when to stop, and it seemed oddly cruel for him to announce that to everyone in the group when he could have said something to her alone, earlier and gotten her to stop when she should have. It seemed... weirdly like grandstanding.
They are definitely different than our quaking aspens here in Colorado, they're sturdier, darker along the bottom (though someone said that these were that way because the deer had eaten the bark off the bottom parts of the trees). I liked the one that had fallen and was still growing from that position. There were three of the painters parked in front of or in this grove, and they were using oils, faithfully doing the dark green background of the mountain and fir forest behind them, and then the ghost white of the aspen bark against the darkness of that background.
I loved the striking contrast of the shadows and light. The meadow was filled with wild flowers, too, amid the gold of the seeding stalks. I actually had all my watercolor gear in the Eurovan, and we had water, but I didn't want to just sit and paint with all those other people around, so we didn't.
They had swimsuits and life jackets, and as she told them about the safest way to get on them, get out, and then stand up in deep enough water, the rain started to fall steadily. We just sat out in it for a while, and eventually moved under some of the fir trees. The ground was still pretty dry there, so the trees did a good job of keeping the bigger drips off of us, and it worked out really well. Mom helped with translating some of the instructions to her two sons, who were strapping big men, really, but it was fun to hear that same inflection any mother uses when instructing her kids on what to do. *laughs*
It was still raining, so we decided to just do our laundry while we could. There was a very nice little coffeehouse that doubled as a laudromat, with wi-fi, so we went and did that. It was nice to just chill and get things clean, and then we went and had dinner in town because it was simpler and cheaper than trying to buy something and make it.
There was a lovely little Greek steak house. Since we'd come up through Calgary, I'd wanted a Canadian steak, and they specialized in steaks. They cooked it differently than we do, marinating them and then grilling them, so that they were tender and juicy and very very flavorful. They were served with what they called "roasted potatoes", which were actually braised in a broth with lots and lots and lots of garlic. I'm going to have to try that at home some day, but they were delicious, especially with the gently steamed fresh vegetables that had plenty of butter on them.
It was a wonderful dinner.
We went back to the campsite, and read outside until about 10:30pm, as the sunlight was still bright in the sky. I hid under the tree when it was raining, and just sat by the fire when it was not. S'mores were mandatory, and they were so good, and the coals toasted them perfectly. Who says that one can't have s'mores without a kid?
That was one of the interesting dynamics of this trip. We didn't have Jet, but it was all right, with all the things that we were wandering about and doing, and with just the two of us doing all the deciding it was just easier. I missed him, sure, but not... it wasn't bad? Especially knowing that he was having his own adventures. Besides, in London and Paris they weren't going to have wi-fi, so being out in the woods with no connection at all wasn't a bother, since there really wasn't much to communicate anyway.
One of the fun things was that I'd brought along a hand fan, one of many that I'd gotten on my adventures with Carl in the Bay Area. Nearly all the Japanese stores had some version of a hand fan, and I'd accumulated half a dozen since, including one that Carl had given me last year simply to cool off with. But the one I'd brought along was very useful as a billows for the fire! I was really impressed at how much air it could give the embers.
The book I was reading was Specials, the third in the series by Scott Westerfield on the Pretties universe. I enjoyed them a lot. I read two before we left, one on the road, and then the last, Extras, after getting back. They're fun, imaginative, get a lot of the teenage girl attitude pretty much down, and I love capable girl protagonists. *sighs happily*
We slept easily that night, as it was warmer than the night before, and with the memory foam mattress, the Eurovan is a familiar and comfortable place for me to sleep. And in the middle of the night, I suddenly heard the rain falling, heavier and steady, and that made me smile as I went back to sleep.