Category Archives: Stories

Sto­ries of sites and adven­tures.

All Aboard the Jasper Santa Train!

Thanks to the Volunteers

Each year, VIA Rail work­ers & togeth­er with oth­er kind Jasper folks vol­un­teer pre­cious time, ener­gy & resources to put on this great event: the Annu­al San­ta Train. They don’t just vol­un­teer on the day of the event, this year Novem­ber 29th. They put in count­less hours plan­ning & then mak­ing it hap­pen.

Jasper Food Bank

Patrick Mooney, president of the Jasper Food Bank Society
Anne, head vol­un­teer & Patrick Mooney, from the Food Bank

This entire event is all about the true spir­it of Christ­mas. In addi­tion to pur­chas­ing tick­ets, pas­sen­gers are request­ed to bring food items and oth­er dona­tions for the Jasper Food Bank.

Patrick Mooney, pres­i­dent of the Jasper Food Bank Soci­ety spent the day sit­ting in chaos cen­tral of the train sta­tion as kids, par­ents & dona­tions piled up inside the old build­ing. By the end of the 2 train runs that day, one in the morn­ing & the train we took at 3pm, there was a pret­ty decent pile of dona­tions for Patrick to haul away.

Anne, head of the vol­un­teers, sold raf­fle tick­ets to help pump up cash reserves for the food bank.

Building up the Santa Buzz

You can’t imag­ine the excite­ment that built up from the moment we left the Jasper train sta­tion. As we left head­ing west, towards B.C., we were told that San­ta had missed the train. But, if we kept watch­ing out the win­dow towards the south, we might see San­ta fly­ing past in his sleigh. I swear I even­tu­al­ly was believ­ing I’d see him out there!

The looks on those lit­tle faces were price­less. But when we entered a train tun­nel through the moun­tain, I swear one of my lit­tle com­pan­ions was going to loose it. Just as the tears were build­ing up in his eyes, a VIA vol­un­teer loud­ly announced that San­ta had been spot­ted … per­fect tim­ing.

Santa landed on the Train

Volunteer Elves
Vol­un­teer Elves

… Or so we were told. San­ta didn’t dis­ap­point us. He walked through the train singing Jin­gle Bells, fol­lowed by his helper elf vol­un­teers who hand­ed out bags of lit­tle gifts.

I didn’t even notice when the train stopped and start­ed revers­ing back to Jasper. The trip was about 2 hours total. On the return trip, kids were invit­ed to take their turns head­ing back to the dome car where they could have their pic­tures tak­en with San­ta.

Waterfalls — Poboktan

Waterfalls — Poboktan: Off-trail fashion.

There I was, at the horse gate just before Water­falls camp­ground. My plan was to ascend a steep slope along the creek (left side climber view). The pine for­est was quite open with few dead­falls on the ground, I quick­ly got to the top.


Once there, trav­el­ling was easy. Keep­ing with­in earshot of the creek I nav­i­gat­ed effort­less­ly in the mixed for­est. The moss cush­ion was a lit­tle thick­er yet progress was fast as there were open lines all along. In time I came to a bot­tle­neck and got back to the creek, soon I was cross­ing in search of new­ly col­o­nized ground where the veg­e­ta­tion made walk­ing thru the low­er mead­ows much eas­i­er. The mis­sion: escape the wil­lows if I could.


My goal was to get to the top of the val­ley. From there on I could ascend a shoul­der towards a sis­ter of Mt-Poboktan, and while I nev­er rushed any­thing I got there ear­ly, set­ting camp with plen­ty of time to spare. There was a great gold­en hour in the mak­ing and the light was per­fect.


The next day I went up a ramp, it took me about two and a half hours to get to the top. There where great views on the Water­fall Peaks and even bet­ter ones down towards the Swan Lakes (unof­fi­cial name). It would take me anoth­er day and a half to get to the lakes.


An easy tra­verse below the peak got me smack in front of Poboktan’s North face; and while I made my way down on a mod­er­ate­ly steep rib it seemed to grow taller and taller. I took a break by a tarn; and those who know the moun­tains won’t be sur­prised to learn that every­thing was still­ness.


Down the steep mead­ows and fol­low­ing the creek, I wait­ed until the bank got steep­er. I then cut into anoth­er easy pine for­est. No point to stay high up as I knew I would soon face a nasty rock slide sev­er­al km long. So, once again I fol­lowed the col­o­niza­tion line and made my way near the Brazeau. Not being fond of silty water I pre­ferred stay­ing on the rock side where I found a creek emerg­ing from the under­ground. It’s water was per­fect. Camp­ing in the shad­ow of an errat­ic, I could hear the song of a riv­er less than a hun­dred meters away.


The next day came a long chal­leng­ing angling up val­ley. Fol­low­ing the rock slide and hug­ging the for­est I crossed numer­ous errat­ic fields, most of them filled with debris. Wise peo­ple would have fol­lowed the riv­er instead, but since I am not one of them I went up the hard way. I gained ele­va­tion labo­ri­ous­ly and the views got spec­tac­u­lar. Grey lime­stone walls across the val­ley, silty blue waters, the deep green of the pines in between; and a cou­ple of tiny azure lakes dot­ting the land­scape. Once the rock slide sub­sided, the for­est took over once again. Not want­i­ng to get cliffed out I stayed on a bench, then there was this amaz­ing water­fall. I was mak­ing progress, slow­ly.


I knew exact­ly the way to the lakes, the famil­iar sight of a gigan­tic errat­ic marked the way, but before I went up the drainage (left side climber view) I caught glimpses of the majes­tic NW Brazeau gorge. That’s a trip I did ear­li­er in the sum­mer, com­ing in the oth­er way.

A glacial flat, and not so far in the dis­tance the low­er of the lakes. Near­ing the end of August the mead­ows where ripe, you could almost smell the fast approach­ing fall. A mag­ic gold­en hour lat­er I was more than like­ly snor­ing in my tent.
Up just before the sun­rise, guess what I did for the first hour? I had lots of time to spare so I packed up and went to one of the mid­dle lakes from where I tack­led a drainage up to about 2800 m. I want­ed to be on the oth­er side before the end of the day and at about four pm I strapped my pack on and crossed over the col. Anoth­er camp­site, with such a late start I near­ly missed per­fect light time.


Every­thing from there on is casu­al. It took me about two hours to pick my way down in a some­what nasty Engel­mann spruce for­est (down the creek right side climber view), and then the riv­er flat to the faint Swan pass trail, and fresh griz­zly drop­pings. Once back on the Pobok­tan trail there was only eight km to go. I got back to the car on the ear­ly side of a beau­ti­ful August day. I had been away for six days.

My boots nev­er got wet.

Gaston Synnott
Gas­ton Syn­nott — Author

This sto­ry is brought you by Gas­ton Syn­nott, thank you for shar­ing your expe­ri­ence with us and hope it will moti­vate some oth­ers to get out and enjoy the back coun­try of #myjasper #jaspernp #explore­jasper.  We wel­come more of these sto­ries, so feel free to con­tact us and sub­mit your adven­tures!


Wilcox Lake

Exploring the Wilcox area

Won­der­ful hike off the Wilcox trail, a lake hid­den behind some ridges. It was nice to see hid­den gems like these. I don’t think we saw this in a hike book when we decid­ed to do this trek. Word of mouth in around town amongst the like mind­ed crowd is prob­a­bly how we got here.

Elevation start at 1900 meters
Ele­va­tion start at 1900 meters
Wilcox area map
Wilcox area map

Trail­head park­ing for the south bound­ary trail or the camp­sites in the area. Most choose the trail­head from Wilcox to access this lake, how­ev­er,  you can access via Tan­go Falls from the north.

Wilcox view of the Athabasca Icefield
Wilcox view of the Athabas­ca Ice­field

Spec­tac­u­lar view right from the start of the trail.

Ptarmigan or Grouse?
Ptarmi­gan or Grouse?


This area retain snow slopes year round
This area retain snow slopes year round
Wilcox Lake
Wilcox Lake