Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff

Oh dear, I think we’ve been in the wilderness too long. Hitting Touristville on a Friday afternoon in summer was probably unwise.

We drove from Mt Robson to Jasper on Friday afternoon, intending to stop at the Visitor Information Centre to find out about campgrounds, but there was so much traffic and so many people that we bought fuel and headed south on the Icefields Parkway. We had been given an information booklet when we paid our park entrance fee, and were able to work out where our preferred campgrounds were from the maps in the booklet. At the park entrance there was a board advising which grounds near Jasper were full … and by 3pm that was all but one! The Columbia Icefield ground about halfway between Jasper and Banff sounded appealing – close to the Athabascar Glacier and ‘tent only’, meaning that RVs weren’t allowed because of the narrow access road and small sites.

We got the last ‘walk-in’ tent site, so¬†we had to park the car and carry our stuff for a couple of hundred metres, but it was a secluded area and not too noisy. Wonderful view from the carpark of the icefield and a couple of glaciers just across the road. We walked to the Athabascar Glacier the next morning and as with all the glaciers we have seen, we saw and learnt new things. This one has left very tall lateral moraines as it has receded, and as we walked where the glacier had previously been, I commented that it looked like a lunar landscape. At the far end of the glacial site, vegetation has started to grow – grasses, groundcovers, small shrubs. Trees will eventually grow there too, and change the former icy landscape further.

Driving down the Icefields Parkway, we were amazed at the huge volume of traffic heading north – loads of tour buses, cars, RVs but not many trucks as no through traffic is allowed, ie: if the trucks aren’t delivering within the Jasper/Banff National Park area they have to find an alternate route outside the parks. We drove through the village of Lake Louise and got to the lake at around 10.30am. The carparks were already filling, and there were lots of people around, but by the time we got back to the car 20 minutes later, all the carparks were full. We had 2 people fighting over our car space as we were leaving, traffic waiting to get into the carparks was backed up for a couple of kms and I predicted that there would be several nasty incidents of severe carpark rage by noon. As for Lake Louise itself – well, my mother taught me that if I couldn’t say something nice, I shouldn’t say anything.

We headed west to Yoho National Park to visit Emerald Lake and the Burgess Shale, which is one of the world’s most celebrated fossil fields. The actual field is only accessible via a guided tour and looks difficult to get to, so we just had a look at the lake, which is much prettier than Lake Louise and without the seething hordes of people or the huge ugly lakeside hotel, and read the information boards at the lake’s edge.

Further south to Banff, which we drove around and left fairly quickly (‘cos of all those cars and people – we obviously lack the herding instinct) and planned to spend the night in Calgary until we found out the prices of accommodation. It’s the final weekend of the Calgary Stampede, so it’s a very busy city at the moment. We kept on driving south to Fort MacLeod, a little town on Highway 2 which is historically significant because it was established by the North West Mounted Police (The Mounties) to tame the whiskey traders that came up from the western States.

We’ll be back in the US of A today, in the Lower 48 as they say in Alaska.

A small sample of the crowd and Lake Louise. Can't take a picture of the lake too many people and canoes.

A small sample of the crowd and Lake Louise. Can’t take a picture of the lake too many people and canoes.

Athabascar Glacier

Athabascar Glacier

Natural Bridge in Yoho Park

Natural Bridge in Yoho Park

For the geologically minded this is the hill that is the site of the world famous Burgess Shale fossils

For the geologically minded this is the hill that is the site of the world famous Burgess Shale fossils

Parked next to a little truck at McDonalds using their free wifi again (thanks McDonalds!)

Parked next to a little truck at McDonalds using their free wifi again (thanks McDonalds!)

Reflections in Glacier lakes

Reflections in Glacier lakes

 

 

 

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7 Responses to Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff

  1. Fay says:

    How the years pass, I remember Lake Louise in 1979 as a serene lovely place. Of cause there were only 225 million in the USA and now 317 million + and all the visitors.
    Crowded house I would say.

  2. Margaret & Derick Smith says:

    Hi Judy and Greg
    Memories come rushing back . Like Fay ,our first visit in 1989 to Lake Louise ,was before it was commercialized. No visitor’s centre then. We also hate crowds , give us the outback every time . Have a good day xx

  3. Michelle says:

    Hi Judy, the world is such as small place your name just came up on Facebook as someone I may know and I saw that you were back in Canada/USA.. Oh my does this blog bring back memories, lovely ones.. I hope your trip on the ferry to Skagway was warmer than ours, we went in April and everything was still covered in snow so we pitched the tent on the snow. John’s bathers from a dip in the nearby hot springs were frozen like cardboard in the morning and I was freaked out about bears.. We did have a squirrel jump in our car and John was telling me not to panic it would come out eventually.. It then raced off with an apple which he pulled all the way to the top of a tree only to drop it as he turned around..Do you remember the time we went camping on Vancouver Island? Such a beautiful part of the world. I hope you go the speed limit as we got stopped doing almost 100km as the Alaskan Highway was only 80km, oops… The officer said” Agh, your Australian Ayh” as we hopped out of the car and were quickly told to get back in as he placed his hand on his gun.. Enjoy the rest of your trip and the wonderful wildlife.. Michelle

    • Judy says:

      Hi Michelle, thanks so much for visiting and commenting. I have thought so much of you and John during this trip. As Greg and I drove beside the Columbia River just north of the Oregon/Washington border I remembered that first weekend when we camped at Ashford and visited the Ape Caves & Mt St Helens. And when we were on the ferry I remembered a photo of you on the deck. We’re in Montana now, and I’m sure you recall what John said about driving through Montana … and what he said about old Faithful? I remembered his comment when we watched the Midnight Sun in Norway last year – http://gregspurgin.com/tents-trains-and-tales/more-about-the-midnight-sun/index.html Yes, so many happy memories. xx

      • Michelle says:

        If you go to Yellowstone you’ll have to see if they still clap.. I also clearly remember Mt St Helens and the wonderful lava tube we walked in until we could go no further.. I also recall going to that huge mall!!! Enjoy Mt Rushmore while in Dakota.. We even went into an RV display village just to see what was inside those huge Winnebagos.. They’re certainly a house on wheels.. Sounds like you’re having a great time, Michelle x

        • Judy says:

          Hi Michelle, when we visited Yellowstone in April 2011, just a couple of days after the park was open for the season, they clapped. And last year when we went to Nordkapp, the northern-most point of mainland Europe to see the midnight sun, they clapped. We didn’t go to Old Faithful this time – already seen it, thought it would take ages to get anywhere close enough to see it ‘cos of the summer crowds, and too much else we wanted to see.
          Yes, we must go and have a look at some RVs – and yes, we are having a great time xxx

  4. Wendy and Trevor Harris says:

    Thanks Judy for posting these awesome photos ,when we were there in May they were still Ice Lakes so its great to see them in there rich beautiful colour ,hopefully when we go back next Year in June it will be as beautiful as this ..Wendy

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