Maligne Lake takes its name from the Maligne River that feeds it. The river was apparently treacherous enough to be dubbed “malicious,” although it sounds better in French. Located in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies, it’s one of those places that I had never heard of before I started researching the area while planning our first trip there.
Maligne Lake is a popular destination. The tiny island, Spirit Island, located in the lake is apparently an extremely popular destination among tourists. One cruise to the island states the island “epitomizes the Canadian Rockies.” the island is supposedly one of the most photographed sites in the Rockies.
Whenever I see a claim like that, I have to wonder how anyone knows how often a particular site has been photographed. I didn’t notice any photo detectors going off while I and the boatload of people on our cruise started shooting like mad.
I did however notice a certain calm. I don’t know if it was a case of self-fulfilling prophecy with all the build up, but the place seemed aptly named. There is something about journeying across this lake to see this tiny island that makes the trip worth it, even if it’s been done by a million people before and will be done by a million people after.
Having done our tourist duty by contributing to the Jasper economy by joining a boat tour, we then separated from the crowd and headed up to hike the Bald Hills that were immediately past the lake.
We spent the better part of the day climbing in elevation. By the time we got into the hills, we were starving. At the same time, the temperature was dropping rapidly and a cold wind kicked up. We found a rocky outcropping to shelter us from the wind and quickly learned that not only big, scary predators can be a pest if they’ve been fed. At least today we had only to outsmart the chipmunks.
After a few minutes, they were so bold that we were afraid we were going to get bit. When one actually stopped and nudged Pat with its tiny little paw as if to say, “Hey, feed me!” I started to get more nervous than when we had encountered a bear! I just kept envisioning a finger getting nipped off while we hunkered down on this remote mountain and dying of some horrible illness like rabies.
We did manage to complete our lunch without any injuries, although we did lose a crumb or two. As we walked on, we passed a slumbering yellow bellied marmot soaking up what little was left of the sun. in fact, sunshine came to an abrupt and frightening end when dark clouds rolled in and snow started falling fast. Unprepared to spend the night in a snow drift, we moved out quickly, taking the chipmunks’ last hope for a grand feast with us.