” In God’s wilderness lies the hope of the world. “
We had never been to Jasper National Park. 30+ years ago we made the journey to Banff, but we were young and penny pinching and couldn’t afford to do both in our Toyota Pick up. We didn’t know what we were missing. And now after visiting Jasper, I honestly don’t know why we waited so long.
The first mountain that had our jaws dropping was Mount Robson-so majestic, huge and incredibly gorgeous ! We stopped off at the Visitor Center and the mountain was just off the rear deck of the center. Unbelievable. I just stood out on the deck wrapped in my own thoughts about what I was looking at. The amount of beauty in this world continues to amaze and astound me.
There were crowds in town and traffic heading up and down the scenic highways, but we didn’t notice. All we could do was stare and wonder at the beauty of the mountains. Their massiveness, coming right down to the shores of lakes and rivers. We were blessed with sunshine most of the time so it was like driving through picture postcards. On our way to Maligne Lake there were several cars pulled over-a sure indicator of some type of wildlife. So we joined them and were rewarded with a pair of the sweetest moose ever. They seemed like they were enjoying posing for everyone.
If you follow my Facebook page you will know that we tried to do some stealth camping at the railroad station. It was filled with RVs so we thought we would easily blend in. When we woke in the morning we were the only vehicle in the parking lot. We figured out why when we spotted the yellow ticket on our windshield. We apparently missed the no overnight camping hidden under a pine tree! We went to City Hall to plead our case and got it reduced from $65 to $50. Lesson learned!
Our drive to Maligne Lake was stunning. I can’t even imagine the crowds during the peak of summer. We could barely find a parking spot, but finally did and hiked around for a bit. We enjoyed the beauty but decided to flee the crowds and selfie takers and we headed back down the mountain.
We decided to take a short detour and check out the Fairmont Lodge at Jasper. As we were heading through the log arch entrance to the property we saw two cars pulled over and folks with cameras along the hillside-wildlife ! So of course we pulled over. We heard them before we spotted them-the bugling of elk-I got chills-it was the first time I had ever heard that sound. Down over the hillside were a couple of elk, a small group had already headed for cover on the other side of the river. But two of them kept bugling at each other. What an experience, and what majestic animals.
After spending a few hours hiking along the river and taking elk photos we noticed the setting sun and decided to start looking for a campsite. Of course we got lost ! We thought we were following a detour sign that would take us to some campsites just outside of Jasper but we ended up going in circles and it was getting really dark. We were more worried about running into wildlife on the highway then we were about finding the campsite. So we pulled into the first pullout to a trailhead that we spotted. We discovered when the sun rose the next morning that we were at the entrance to the Valley of Five Lakes Trailhead. Turns out we weren’t lost and had been going in the correct direction the entire time. We just ventured a little too far south in the dark.
We decided to really take our time , we were headed to Banff and figured we would run into the same type of crowds we encountered in Jasper. Our first stop for a short hike was Athabasca Falls. And lucky for us the hour we spent there was peaceful and quiet. As we were leaving a bus load of tourists arrived and were scattering all over the trailhead ! Whew, dodged a bullet !
Next stop, Sunwapta Falls. Jim’s ankle was bothering him, so I did the trail hike alone. Here is a tip for photographers, don’t forget you are not the only one out there who wants that perfect shot. Be considerate of your fellow hikers and please don’t hog the spot that gives you access to that perfect shot. After waiting about 45 minutes (I was very patient) for a woman to vacate one of those spots, I quietly moved in close to her and she got my subtle hint, lol. Anyway, when places are crowded it’s a good reminder for all of us to be considerate and aware of others.
I really wanted to climb down the hillside and knock those two fallen trees out of the way !
After spending some time hiking around the Columbia Icefields area we arrived at Peyto Lake. What a beautiful turquoise and emerald colored lake. We should have immediately fled the area when we saw cars, not only filling the parking lot, but lined up bumper to bumper from the parking lot out to the entrance-parked off along the road. We ended up having to reverse out of the area, drove down the road a few hundred feet and joined the rest of the crowd at an overlook. This was a challenge for both of us. We had just spent 3 1/2 months in Alaska-no crowds (other than combat fishing), no traffic, lots of solitude and quiet.
At the turnout we were surrounded by folks in the designer jeans dotted with rhinestones and dozens of selfie takers. Oh well, everyone needs to enjoy the wildness in their own way.
When we left Peyto Lake our next stop was Banff. You think we would have learned our lesson from the crowds at Peyto Lake. But we didn’t. When we arrived in Banff we knew we were going to be crowd challenged when we saw 4 people directing traffic in the village. We joined the line heading up the mountain. We knew we were really in trouble when we reached the top and there was a flashing traffic sign indicating that the Moraine Lake parking lot was full and that they weren’t allowing entry to anymore vehicles. Onward and upward to Lake Louise. Seriously, what were we thinking. We spotted 3 very large parking lots for Lake Louise as we were directed through and back down the mountain. All 3 were closed as they were full and no one was being allowed entry. So back down the mountain we headed. You won’t see Lake Louise on this blog-I couldn’t bear to entertain the thought of weaving through hundreds of people. And neither could Jim. Solitude had spoiled us.
We couldn’t get out of the area quick enough. We gave up any hope of camping closeby based on the amount of traffic. We saw more traffic in about 3 hours then we had seen in the 4 1/2 months on the road ! We checked our map and headed to Kicking Horse Campground. A nice quiet spot along the river. We both longed for the wildness and quiet of the places we had been. But we made the most of what the Universe presented to us and enjoyed our short time in this area. Yoho National Park is stunning and the climb up the mountain will make you think you have lost your sanity. The switchbacks were a challenge for Ruby and caused Jim to question my sanity and choices for this particular ride. It’s okay I was questioning myself too ! That’s life, that’s what being on the road is-one beautiful moment after another, peppered frequently with one challenge after another and salted with a small argument every once in a while.
Happy trails and safe travels my friends…
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more”