Day 12,13,14 Banff National Park


 

We left Dinosaur Provincial Park relatively early after a quick breakfast.  Driving back up through the valley was surreal as we left the badlands and re-emerged onto the plains of Alberta.  Our first stop this morning was Calgary for a quick provisioning before we headed into the park.  After a satisfying lunch (with not so satisfying wifi) at Montana’s we were off.

The flat plains are starting to give way to rolling hills.

As we headed west into the park the haze from the BC fires was getting thicker.  It looked as though a dense fog was descending from the mountains.  I’ve driven that drive many times over, but can honestly say I’ve never seen the mountains look more ghost like!

This photo explains why I couldn’t see the mountains from Calgary. The ghosts have been hiding until we are almost upon them!

We entered the park along with a long line of others.  Because we had a “National Parks Discovery Pass” we bypassed the lineup and headed toward our campsite.  We were again stopped just past Lake Louise for another park pass check and then proceeded on our way.  Our campground is Rampart Creek Campground.  A smallish campground on Rampart Creek which flows into the North Saskatchewan River. 

 

This is a self service site, so we simply drove to our reserved campsite and set up camp.  Pot toilets, no showers, potable water for drinking and washing at your campsite, this is a pretty basic setup.  Oh well, we are here for 3 nights then off to a hotel in Fort St John and fluffy white towels.

Our campsite for the next 3 nights
Public cook house. ( look at the firewood for campers…only there’s a fire ban! OFF LIMITS!)
Inside the cookhouse, 2 enormous wood stoves stand idle because of the fire ban.
Fancy pit toilets. ( hand sanitizer out of shot). The cedar planking gave off a woodsy smell to the place!

In the meantime, we did a little campground orientation hike and discovered a short trail to the creek side.  The sun started to breakthrough and let us take a couple of mountain shots!  This was taken about 2 hours before sunset!  Colours are from the ash from the BC fires just on the other side of the range!

Looking north from our campsite, the mountains decided to come out to say hi!
A surreal site. Ghostly mountains sitting in the pinkish haze from the BC fires.

With our camp set up and our dinner done and cleaned up it was time to retire to the tent for a scotch and a good book!( away from hungry mosquitoes!).  It was going to be cold tonight so we buttoned down the hatches to maintain some heat!  Until tomorrow!

 

Day 13, Banff National park

We woke up to a cool morning ( about 8C) and made a hot breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. Something to warm the bones! It was a dreary morning ( hard to know whether it was smoke or rain clouds…turned out to be a bit of both).

When we looked at the car, you could see the ash that had fallen through the night. We are a mountain range away fro the fires, but the effects were still very evident. You could smell the smoke as if every campfire had been lit throughout the day and night. Combine this with the smell of the firs that surrounded us it was an interesting effect on our senses!

We decided to head towards Lake Louise today and do some of the hiking at the south end of the park. ( hoping to do Morraine Lake and Lake Agnes). Unfortunately when we arrived, the village was so crowded there were no parking spots to be had at either the Lake Louise or Morraine Lake trailheads. We had an option of driving down the road another 6 kms to pick up a shuttle that would drop us at the trailheads, but this would cost us another hour plus, and we didn’t relish the thought of getting on a bus with a bunch of strangers!

So, we headed north again towards Saskatchewan Crossing and did the Bow Falls hike. The weather was overcast and cool, probably about 15C, actually not bad weather for hiking. We soon set off by Bow Lake and walked along the lakeshore for about a km before following the Bow river.

It’s hard to believe we are surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, but their ghostly figures just peep through the haze. Again, look at the pinkish patina in the haze… this was taken at around 1 pm!
The wildflowers were not deterred by the haze!
We walked along the river flood plain until it was time to climb up for the view of the falls,

After we walked another km along the floodplain, we came to step stairs that let us climb the cliff face towards the falls,

Sadly, I didn’t get a pic of the steps, but this was the start of the cliff face we needed to get over.

Up two very long stair climbs, think about climbing to the top of a stadium, twice!…and the stairs were sometimes 18-24” high – shades of the Inca Trail. We got to the top of the ridge that overlooked the valley and what a view!

At the top of the second set of stairs, just a 10 minute hike to the lookout.
Beautiful view of the falls and the valley below

We could hike another km to the base of the falls, but the weather was changing and we decided to head back before we got drenched with rain. The temperatures were quite cool in the mountains and we didn’t want to get soaked, with no chance of warming up save a few hour visit to the cafeteria at Saskatchewan Crossing

The vistas heading back were beautiful, and surreal in the midst of these great mountains hidden by misty rain and ash clouds.

Ghostly reflections in Bow Lake
Return trail
The trail led through the woods as well. Keep talking and walking as you don’t know what is lurking in the shadows!
Wildflowers certainly welcomed the rain!
Brilliant colours dotted the trail, brightening our walk inspire of the rain.
Almost back at the trailhead… you can just make out the red roofed lodge that marks the trail’s start.

After our walk here, we decided to do a short hike before heading back to the campsite. Our next stop was Mistaya River gorge. It was a short 500-750 m one way walk winding down to the gorge below. Here we saw the incredible power of water and it’s carving through the limestone rock creating fascinating curves and cuts.

Hiking down to the gorge.
View of the incredible erosion created by the river.
Looking downstream from the bridge.
A view of the river upstream from the gorge

It’s been spitting rain for a couple of hours now, so we decided to head back to the campsite. The night was supposed to be quite cool (low of 6C), so we wanted to have time to dry out! When we arrived back at camp we were quite hungry so we had a little snack of veggies and hummus, and a small charcuterie snack, accompanied by an isotonic beverage. Just what the doctor ordered!

After our snack, we decided to go into the tent and play some cards and try and warm up. The rain kept up, and quite frankly I didn’t feel up to cooking dinner in spite of the tarp Dan had created over head. So we decided after our healthy snack we would have a dinner of champions!

As our friend Alan would say, “it filled the hole!” And combined with the beverages, the evening was quite tolerable!

After our “supper” we opted to tuck in under the covers and try to warm up while we read. The evening promised to be colder than the last! Oh well, we have each other to stay warm, thankfully! Until tomorrow…

Day 14 Banff National Park

The night proved to be both cold and rainy! It rained pretty much throughout the night and all I could think of was that I hoped the BC side of the mountains were getting the same steady drenching that we got! We heard the sounds of someone setting up camp at around midnight next door… they were very quiet, and we felt badly for them having to set up in the cold and the rain. We also heard neighbours from another campsite abandoning their tent around 2:30 am to probably seek shelter at the motel at Saskatchewan Crossing. Fortunately, our new tent was toasty (as you can get without a heater) and dry! We are loving our recent purchase more and more!

I woke up and was energized enough to make a good breakfast as well as sandwiches to take us through another day of hiking. As I cooked, I coughed as if I had smoked a pack of cigarettes the night before. That just indicates the affect of the smoke on our lungs. We opted not to do anything today that was going to be long or aggressive as another day of heavy hiking might do us in!

Entering Jasper National Park (bordering Banff National Park where we were camped)

Our first stop was to the Athabasca Visitor’s Centre just inside the Jasper Park boundary. It’s a beautiful centre, but filled with tourists on the main level trying to get bus tickets for the Athabasca glacier viewpoints. We scooted to the lower level to the Park’s Visitor guide and got some excellent advice on hikes.

Driving along the Ice field Parkway, you could see glaciers pouring over the mountains from the Colombia Ice Field.

The first hike that we were advised to do was one that, while marked on the map, was not included in the park’s hiking guide. It’s a place called Beauty Creek, featuring Stanley Falls at the end of the hike.

A lovely hike!
The hike began relatively level. The sun really wanted to make an appearance!
Hiking up to get views of the 4 or 5 falls along the creek walk.
The first of many falls along the path
Another of the falls. Just look at the erosion cut into the limestone here.
Looking upstream towards more falls to come
Interesting rock cuts along the path. Kind of reminded me of crossing through the stone walls hiking in Yorkshire!
Stanley Falls

The Parks Canada trail went a short distance further, where we decided to stop for our lunch. The sun was trying to come out, and this would be the best spot we could think of for our stop. Of course, we had been warned that taking the trail beyond the Parks Canada sign would take us into Grisly territory, so we were on alert while we ate! But who could resist the views!

Dan seen here tasting the water in the cold cold mountain stream. This is the view looking up stream.
Yum, but chose not to test the water for Giardia!
After lunch we headed back down the trail. The views looking downstream were every bit as beautiful!
Near the beginning of our trail, the stream begins to level out to join the Athabasca river on the other side of the highway.

When we got into the car we decided to head south towards the Parker Ridge hike and lookout. It would give us a view of the Saskatchewan Glacier and the head water of the Saskatchewan River. but first a stop at one of the many lookouts along the way.

With the blinking sun we could capture the sparkling water of the Athabasca River in the foreground.
Some creative soul with time and tools at hand did this carving on one of the stones that acted as a parking lot barrier to the hiking viewpoint beyond.

As we headed south, the cloud cover returned. We wondered if we should try to break camp and move to the Jasper area where the weather was better and we could pack away a relatively dry tent. Our next stop was Fort St John, and we decided with some minor needed car repairs, we would stay 2 nights to ensure we had a healthy car to drive into the far north.

Because of the spitting rain, we opted to first stop at the Athabasca Glacier and hike to the base ( or a close as they would let us go). The winds coming off the glacier were bitter cold, and the rain blew straight into our faces as we hiked up the Morraine.

A sign post indicating where the glacier tongue was in 1992, when our children would have done the hike on a trip to Alberta. As you can see, there is a long way to go to reach the current tongue.
Overcast, cold and wet Dan and I stood for a picture as close as we could get to the tongue. As you can see, we are standing where the glacier was just 15 years ago
Viewing the glacier at the edge of the public path
The path back down to the car park, about half way from our view point

Dan and I were quite wet and ready for a warm car ride back to our campsite. We were anxious to see if they had gotten the rain that seemed to follow us all day today. We though about going to the cafeteria at Saskatchewan crossing for a warm hot chocolate, but opted to head straight back to campe. When we crossed the entry point to the Parker Pass hike, it was raining steadily, and coupled with a necessary clink of about 850 meters vertical, we decided our cold bodies and abused lungs couldn’t take it on this leg of our trip. Maybe upon our return in 3-4 weeks.

When we got back to the campsite we found that there had been no rain here! (Tarp was dry). The hourly forecast indicated a rainy night so we went to work to grill up some burgers for our lunch the next day as well as a lovely steak for our supper. We got this done in no time, and decided to pack up everything we could the night before we needed to leave in the event it was raining in the morning.

With everything packed up that we could, we decided to explore our campground a little. This time we headed a little further east and discovered some wonderful campsites right on the Saskatchewan river. If we were to ever come back, these would be the ones to book!

We followed a path along the river and again enjoyed some lovely views with hunts of sun…so lucky given the forecast!

Looking south east along the Saskatchewan River.
Rampart Creek running towards the river. We can actually see defined mountains!!
A last glimpse looking north west along the Saskatchewan river. Just look at that Blue Sky!!

Back at the campsite it was time to finish off the bottle of scotch (only one short dram each!) and a few hands of crib then hit the sack! It was going to be an early morning. Our next day was a push to Fort St John, about an 8 hour drive. The reward of a comfy dry bed and hot showers were all we needed to get a jump on the morning! Until tomorrow, stay safe!

Categories: 2021 C2C2C Exploring Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast - a 40th Anniversary Tour

5 comments

  1. I hope the rain has settled the smoke and mist by now and that your lungs have not suffered too much. Buen Camino. Stay safe, stay negative!

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  2. Love Banff and the Icefield Parkway. We have camped there in late June and early July and had snow. The haze from the fires is not nice but does give you some great sunsets. And so much to photograph!

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  3. That picture of Dan with your “dinner” is glorious.

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