I dream of venturing into space one day, but unless my script for Mostly Amazing: The Movie gets picked up it doesn’t seem likely to happen.
The next best thing: Gazing deep into the cosmos through a powerful telescope in Jasper National Park. Jasper isn't the world's largest dark sky preserve anymore — having lost the title to nearby Wood Buffalo National Park in 2013 — but it's still one of the most compelling places to stargaze thanks to dozens of designated observation sites that are both free of light pollution and jaw-droppingly scenic.
I had a chance to visit with Ryan Bray, Jasper’s digital media specialist, in April of 2014, and was enthralled by his demonstrations of time-lapse and astronomical photography. (I mean, just look at the photos by Bray and his colleagues displayed above.)
Bray is among the interpreters at the 2017 Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Now in its ninth year, the nine-day fest kicks off on Oct. 13 and typially includes an astronomer-led tour of the gargantuan Columbia Icefield, as well as free and ticketed events encompassing live orchestral music, themed dinners, and plenty of organized astronomy and photography.
Another compelling nighttime option: The Maligne Canyon Icewalk (pictured below). I have already picked my way across the frozen river at the bottom of the 20-metre-deep limestone chasm with a Jasper Adventure Centre guide, and was struck by the countless spring-fed icefalls and caves formed by warm air vents. It was gorgeous in daylight, so I can only imagine how it would look under a full moon with a headlamp illuminating the icy canyon walls.
WHERE TO STAY
Out-of-province visitors to Jasper will likely pass through Edmonton, where the upscale Delta Hotels Edmonton Centre Suites offers a “Best Rate Guarantee” for Marriott Rewards members.