In our last blog we mentioned crossing into Canada and entering Waterton Lakes National Park. The border crossing was uneventful, with the amusing Canadian border agent asking when we are going back to ‘Straya’.
After having a drive around the accessible parts of the park but failing to find a car park near any of the accessible walks, we decided on a quick exit. Many areas were not accessible due to damage to infrastructure and environment during recent bushfires during the summers of 2017 and 2018. We marveled at the small but cute commercial street in this park, filled with trendy gift shops and cafes and at the large number of seemingly private homes and the fact that in the national parks in North America, boating and fishing are permitted in the waterways!
Driving north through green rolling farming land we passed tens of kilometres of broad-acre of canola and grain crops, some corn fields and a couple of dairies. We found a beautiful recreation site where many locals were spending the weekend camping. Despite the large number of people camped here, we woke to an almost silent morning, apart from a couple of cows.
With a couple of days until we were due to catch up with our travel ‘team’ in Banff, our intention was to arrive in Banff, arrange a couple of campsites for Tuesday when they were due, then enjoy the area while we waited.
Yeh, right! Banff (the town), is located in the middle of the National Park and is heavily visited (read – it’s a ‘zoo’ at this time of the year!). The main streets are shopping malls for tourists from all over the world and all campgrounds are run by the National Park Service. There are beautiful hotels and the town is surrounded by stunning scenery.
There are about 1500 camp and RV sites spread over 5 campgrounds in and around the town. To camp, you need to have reserved a site months earlier and the ‘first come first served’ sites fill very early in the morning. We are not that organized! We were allocated an ‘overflow’ site which was actually a park on the exit road for the RV Park.
Add to this, massive thunderstorms and the forecast of more wet weather and it was time to review the plan! We decided to bolt! A quick phone call to the others and it was agreed we would meet in Prince George in a couple of days time.
So after a quick look around Banff town while the sun was out on Monday morning, we headed north along the Icefields Parkway. Our planned visit to the beautiful Lake Louise was foiled. The ‘overflow carpark’ had over 500 cars and over 200 people lined up just to buy tickets for the shuttle bus that only ran every 15 minutes!
Perhaps July isn’t the best time to be here after all! Never mind. It’ll give us an excuse to come back!
We set off north along the Icefields Parkway, absolutely loving the scenery and marveling at the stunning aqua rivers and lakes. It really is a beautiful part of the world and this is a glorious drive. The road is wide, smooth and gently winds its way along through a glacial valleys following the rivers.
In some of our photos you can see that the pine trees are red. Theses are dead, having been infested with the Pine beetle, a cyclic environmental event which is currently having a severe impact on pine trees across North America after a number of warmer than usual summers. We have seen this in every park we have visited.
Having driven along this road almost 31 years ago to the day, we had very fond memories of the grand vistas and the colours but this is so much more stunning than either of us recalled. Glaciers, waterfalls, lakes, mountains…
and we even saw a couple of bears and an elk herd!
After 3 attempts we found a patch of ground in a campground on a river amongst the pine and birch trees near the base of Mount Robson – which unfortunately stayed pretty well hidden in the cloud and the misty rain – hence no photo!