The clouds engulf the white coat of the Rocky mountains, as though protecting them from the incessant rain. With only my umbrella to protect me and my boots miserably wet, I walk, somewhat reluctantly, to the bus that would take us to Spirit Island. My original plan was to hole up in a cosy cafe with a hot cup of tea, as befits a rainy day anywhere. But then came news that for the first time in a decade or so, the snow has been cleared off Maligne Lake in the month of May itself. And we’d be the first people to make it there this year. How could I resist?
We wind along Laundry Lake, and when our driver explains that it derived its name from the laundry outlet on its shore, the only one in all of Jasper, my mind darts back to the Ganga and pictures scenes of it being used as one big laundry stop. We make a quick stop at a waterfall, and hearing it roar through an ancient canyon sends a chill down my spine.
On the shores of Maligne Lake, cobalt blue waters stretch before me. I imagine them wrapped in snow just a day ago, and marvel at science for figuring out how white glacial snow can, almost magically, turn to calm blue water. On board the boat, I step into the open deck and let what is now a light pitter-patter, fall on my face. As we zoom along, I do a mini “Titanic” in the cold breeze and feel like I’m flying into the mist that engulfs the shore!
When we finally arrive, Spirit Island turns out not to be the big, empty stretch of land that I had imagined, where locals would picnic during the day or camp at night with a barbecue. Or anything that I could have imagined.
A narrow piece of land juts into the calm waters of the lake, elongating into a perfect oval shape. It resembles the form of a person peacefully at rest, though awfully lonely in the middle of this vast blue expanse. A handful of pine trees stand in its centre, and line the shore all along. Beyond them lies a faint outline of the Rockies, enveloped by the mist. The boat pulls over, and I step off in awe, carefully treading on the wooden jetty to the shore, almost afraid of stirring the serenity that surrounds me. I follow the demarcated trails along the periphery of the forested shore, and find myself gaping each time I catch a glimpse of the surreal mass of land that sits before me.
No one knows how Spirit Island got its name. Some suggest that it was given by the first person who photographed it. Others that it was a love story; girl meets boy secretly on the island, they fall in love, girl confesses the affair to her father, father forbids girl from going to the island, boy dies waiting for her on the spot they first met, boy’s spirit is Spirit Island. Despite my affinity for tragic stories, I find myself hoping it is the former.
I would later find out that Spirit Island is one of the most photographed spots in the Rocky mountains. But not for me. For I see no mountains, no peaks covered in snow, no blue skies. The clouds that drape the Rockies slowly descend upon me too, and engulf my spirit, as though reading my mind: Can’t I stay here forever?
Would you like to visit Spirit Island? Or does it remind you of any place you’ve visited before?
Practical Information about the Spirit Island / Maligne Lake Cruise:
- Maligne Lake is a scenic one hour drive from the town of Jasper. (All drives in Jasper are scenic).
- Glass boats take 45 minutes to reach Spirit Island, and let you wander around for 15-20 minutes, before the 45 minute journey back. The bakery at Maligne Lake serves delicious muffins and cookies, and it’s a good idea to stock up for the ride.
- I took this cruise with Maligne Adventures, as organized by the Canadian Tourism Commission and Tourism Jasper, and loved it.