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Published: August 22nd 2016
So, in a somewhat last minute decision, we took off for a week camping trip to Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yolo National Parks. We had heard the area was beautiful, but had no idea how incredible the scenery is! The Icefield Parkway, particularly driving from Lake Lousie to the town of Jasper is jaw dropping along most of the turns. Yes, it was crowded, very crowded at the popular spots, but we found it very easy to getaway from the crowds, sometimes, in as short as a 5 minute walk. We stayed in campsites, with most of them large, nice and quiet. Except for the night train traffic at Lake Louise. There were a lot of trains!
Fortunately, we had made the first two nights reservation at Lake Louise campground, as when we pull up to the campground, the site is full. Its a large campground, with over 200 tent sites. That evening, we drive to Lake Louise, but it is very crowded, so we don't stay long and go over to Lake Moraine. Not nearly as crowded, and a much prettier lake with the mountains.
One of my goals was to see a bear.
So on the first morning at Lake Louise we took the ski lift up to the top. It was a beautiful clear morning, and much to our surprise, no crowds at all, as we walked right on. As we wandered around the top, one of the park employees told us of Olivia enjoying berries right under the chair lift about 2/3rds of the way down. So, we had some idea of the location which was helpful. And Ed is definitely the person you want with you spotting animals (and errant golf balls...). So, as we approach, he spots the bear. "There it is". I see nothing but trees. "right there Michele', he takes the camera and snaps a couple of pictures. In the end I do see a black something, but it could have been Bigfoot for as much as I can tell.
At the interpretive center, we ask the Park employee, what hikes he would recommend. He tells us the Lake Lousie area will be way too busy and suggests driving north about 20 mins. So, we spend the rest of the day following his suggestions. Emerald Lake is gorgeous with its aqua blue glacier fed
Our first evening at Lake Louise
Way too crowded for any decent pics
waters and the occasional red kayak. A couple of short hikes and wandering and then on to Takakkaw Falls. Great weather and not many people. We return to Lake Louise and are amazing to see cars parked 1-2 miles along the road to get there.
The next day is a stunning drive along Icefields Parkway, seeing so many glaciers along the way. The Columbia Icefield is the major glacier and a very popular tourist stop. They have posted signs along the pathway of where the glacier was in various years. Not too surprised to see in 1932 it was much much larger. But definitely surprised to see how much it has receded since 1982. Afterwards, we enjoy a beautiful hike at Parker Ridge enjoying the double waterfalls and another ice field. But, still no bears.
The next day it is lunch in Jasper, and then a 30 minute drive to Lake Maligne, another gorgeous glacier lake. Lots of kayaks to rent, but this lake is know for Spirit Island a tiny tree covered island that is only accessible by the Lake cruises as it is too far to paddle. The sold out sign for
This is only 5 mins away from the Lake Louise shot
cruise tickets is disappointing, but we are finding, as with campgrounds, does not always mean sold out. So, we ask if they have any cancelations. I am quite thrilled when she tells us she can get us on the 4:30 boat.
It is a beautiful 90 minute ride with the sun peeking out from the clouds. At the island, the sun is only out for a few minutes, but enough to enjoy the gorgeous view! As the boat guide tells us, this is probably one of the only places you can take pictures without any people in them.
On the drive back, we see about 6 cars pulled over on the side of the road, all watching a beautiful black bear. It has been a bumper crop for buffalo berries and this bear is definitely taking his time, enjoying them. We watched for about 30 minutes, as s/he meandered thru the underbrush. It was amazing to see! We are all standing along the roadside and there is quite a deep area between us and the bear. But it is still abit disconcerting when s/he comes out of the bushes. He must get a whiff
of us, as s/he turns around and decides to move on.
The next morning, we wake to cold and clouds. It has rained some, but never enough to interfere with any of the days. We decide to take 1A, an alternate route to the busy Route 1.
About 5 miles south of Lake Louise Village, we again see 3 cars pulled over, with several people on top of their RVs, cameras ready. We pull over and see the bear on our side of the road, about 40 feet away. Ed opens the sun roof and I stand on the seat, thru the sun roof taking some pics of the amazing Grizzly. We continue to just watch. I see flashing lights, but don't want to take my eyes off the bear. Over a loudspeaker, the Park Service employee in the truck announces, do not block traffic, and then parks in front of our car, with lights flashing. By now, the bear has decided she has had enough and wanders off.
The park employee walks over to our car. Wondering how much a fine might be, for whatever sin we have just committed.
So, quite surprised when she asks if we noticed a tag on the bear, which we did. 'Do you have a picture of the tag?' Oh yes, I have lots of pics and gladly show her one with the tag 142 on the right ear. She tells us, it is a female and 142 has been seen in the area. No cubs, she is about 3 yrs old. I am thrilled, as now I have definitely seen a grizzly!
We spend the last night in Kootenay park. As we drive in around 4pm, the campground appears deserted. By 7pm most sites are filled. The Swiss campers next to us, refinishing their 18 month North America tour beginning in Halifax last June. We enjoy their stories. The evening is completed with a Ranger Rick campfire talk about the animals of the park.
We were very impressed with all of the parks we saw. They do a phenomenal job in maintaining the parks and in encouraging people to get out of their vehicles and walk. Most places are accessible for everyone. Trails are maintained and well marked. But the best part, which I hope they do
This is what I saw, on the ski lift
Ed sees the bear to the left of the tree
not change - there is no cell service between Lake Louise and Jasper. They even advertise it, stating 'turn your phones off and just enjoy the scenery'. At the only rest/gas stop on this stretch, a gentleman could not believe it was another 40 miles before he would have cell service. The park employee very politely said 'well, sir, you are in
a National Park.'
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