March 04, 2018

Ride Jasper on a Harley-Davidson

Jasper and 'The Wild One'

The roar of the engine had John Newton's adrenaline flowing immediately.

It was my first time on a Harley Davidson and what made it even more pulsating was that I was heading for the dizzy heights of Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada writes John Newton.

Clad in all black leather from virtually head to foot, I certainly looked the part but, unfortunately, it wasn't me with my hand on the throttle. I was all tucked up in the sidecar, while my (easy) rider/guide did all the work.

The spick and span (CAD$60,000) Harley was purring as we picked up speed on the way up to Marmot Basin, a renowned alpine ski area high above Jasper, in search of bears, moose and elk.

Look in every direction and you'll see unobstructed mountain views, emerald green lakes, waterfalls and the magical colour changes of the forest in the Canadian Fall.

But, despite going to the places he knew best, my rider – Rob – just couldn't find any wildlife along   the deserted, winding mountain roads in the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies.

With time running out during the one-hour tour, Rob noticed my frustration and decided to head back towards Jasper as bears, moose and elk are often spotted walking across the main highway  – and even into the town itself.

Then, just off the highway near the Athabasca River, there were cars pulling over to the side – a sure sign of wildlife. Unfortunately, it wasn't a 'bear jam' (as the locals call it when traffic banks up by the roadside). It was a family of elk grazing by the river, oblivious to the crowd building up behind them.

Parks Canada rangers were soon on the spot to stop people getting too close, but there are always one or two prepared to venture closer to get a better view - despite warnings that female elk instinctively protect their young.

During the elk rutting season – September 1 - October 15 – anything (like cars) and humans that get too close or come between a male and the females may be attacked.

The elk family eventually moved on and Rob revved up the Harley for the short journey back to base.

Jasper Motorcycle Tours is owned by Candace Broughton, who set up the business 11 years ago with a 2007 Roadking classic and a 2007 Electraglide, both with side-cars. "It was something that had never been done before in North America," she said.

"The response has been phenomenal and I am truly living my dream".

Jasper Motorcycle Tours now runs six Harley Davidsons with side-cars and often takes out up to 80 people a day.

The company, which was recently featured in a Harley Davidson documentary, has about 20 riders, two of whom are female, including Candace. "We all are of mature age and very experienced," she added.

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Hashtag: #MyJasper

Another Jasper company – Sundog Tours – run a Wildlife Discover experience in which its guides are well-versed in the ecology, geology and history of the area and its many wild mountain animals. These include bears, deer, elk, horned sheep, mountain goats, foxes, coyotes, wolves and moose.

The guides help passengers learn all about the way these animals contribute to the rich diversity of the Jasper National Park.

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Accommodation: Mount Robson Inn, features 80 rooms and suites and is a short stroll from Jasper township. Among other things, the property offers free breakfast, free parking, laundry facilities outdoor hot tubs and ski storage.

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Gemstone in second image: Korite Ammolite is a Canadian gemstone – one of the rarest on Earth – found in Southern Alberta's Bearpaw Formation.

A one-hour Harley Davidson Tour costs CAD$125 + tax per passenger (pillion and sidecar passengers) or CAD$165 + tax for a single passenger. A two-hour tour is priced at CAD$185 + tax each for two people and CAD$240 + tax for a single passenger. And for a three-hour trip, the cost is CAD$235 each for two people and CAD$310 + tax for a single passenger.

Jasper Motorcle Tours provide chaps (leather pants and jacket) and doorags (bandana, helmet and glasses). Prices quoted may change.

Jasper National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. It covers 11,000 square kilometres of untamed wilderness.

American motorcycle manufacturer – Harley Davidson - was founded 114 years ago in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Widely known for its loyal following, it's one of only two major American motorcycle manufacturers to survive the Great Depression. It's now one of the world's largest motorcycle manufacturers and an iconic brand.

Prices quoted may change.

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The writer travelled with the assistance of Destination Canada and Tourism Jasper.

Words and images: John Newton

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