What we had not counted on for this trip was that the lakes and rivers would be partly melted and even where there was still ice, the green colour still showed through the ice in the bright sunshine. The valley floor here is often much warmer than the mountainsides above. The valley and Jasper town at 1,060m ASL (3,480 feet) are snow free, but the snow line is visible at about 1500m (just under 5,000 feet).
I had seen the perfect shot when we entered the park 2 days before, but stupidly kept on driving. The shots I got on this day, while still beautiful, were not a patch on what I had seen.
The red tinge you may see in the trees in the bottom photo is due to the infiltration of the Mountain Pine Beetle from the other side of the Rockies in BC. The current outbreak in BC started in the early 1990s and since then they have destroyed more than 50% of the commercial lodgepole pine in that province. The mountain peaks proved to be no barrier for the insects and they have now spread into the Alberta boreal forests with disastrous results. With favourable wind current and climate conditions, they can disperse to forests more than 100 km away and recolonize where they land. No longer satisfied with just the lodgepole pine, they are also reproducing in jack pine, the dominant pine in the boreal forests. While our 2019 winter (February) was colder than in the past few years, there is little likelihood that this will delay their advance. I imagine we will see them in Edmonton in the future.
(Source:Natural Resources Canada)
Under attack from the Mountain Pine Beetle, the evergreen trees turn red and orange and eventually to a lifeless grey. At that point, the trees become a fire and safety hazard. Efforts are underway in Jasper National Park to improve safety of the residents and the public. Whistlers campground will be closed all of 2019 while reconstruction of over 700 campsites takes place. We drove by the campground on this trip and all of the diseased trees have been removed, leaving the forest looking more like a parking lot. A sad day indeed.
We were due for further heartbreak, when we passed Cottonwood Slough on the Pyramid Lake Road. Large swaths of evergreens have been removed, leaving a few lonely aspen to hold the fort until newly planted seedlings can take hold. Climate Change is very real, folks.