In mid September, 2020, I ventured from my home in Vancouver, B.C., on a 10 day camper van road trip and headed points north to escape the smoke from forest fires in adjacent U.S. states. It wasn’t an easy escape, the smoke was still pretty thick when I overnighted in Glacier National Park. The smoke gradually lifted during my 4 days journey through Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.
Banff and Jasper, two neighbouring national parks, share in common the Canadian Rockies, the beautiful Icefields Parkway, and towns that share their names within their respective boundaries. Banff is the largest town of the two and has more of a touristy hustle and bustle vibe. The smaller town of Jasper has a more remote feel to it, and the park is perhaps better for wildlife viewing and majestic vistas. You can access the BritishColumbia.com link to view a map of the two National Parks.
My last stay in these National Parks was in the summer of 1979 when I attended, at 16 years of age, the Banff National Army Cadet Camp (BNACC, 1948-1998). The camp was located just north of the town of Banff with its cadets drawn from across Canada who had completed the Master Cadet requirements of the Cadet Programme. The course, entitled “Leadership and Challenge” was designed to challenge the cadets leadership, cooperation and stamina by using mountains and rivers of the park as the training ground. The Camp followed the English “Outbound Schools” where 16-17 year olds were put into situations where they encountered new challenges. My travel through the parks was very much one of remembrance.
Banff National Park
The first day of my Parks visit began with my arrival via the Trans Canada Highway into Lake Louise then Moraine Lake. For off-season, I was surprised how busy it was, I had to park in the overflow area. As you can see below, it’s not often such photos are captured in smokey circumstances.
I spent the night at Parks Canada Tunnel Mountain Trailer Park on the outskirts of Banff, Alberta. I didn’t have to venture far to photograph deer.
The following video captures the whitetail buck deer shedding its velvet from its antlers. The antlers start off as soft cartilage and surrounded by velvet which contains blood. The velvet sheds off once the antlers eventually harden at full growth. The deer experiences a strong itching sensation during the shedding period which motivates him to remove its velvet in a few days, or even hours.
Jasper National Park
On day two I left Banff National Park and traveled along the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park. The Parkway is a 232 km stretch of highway that winds along the Continental Divide among majestic rocky mountain peaks, icefields, and sweeping valleys. I spent the night at the Ramparts Creek Campground just 11Km north of the Saskatchewan River Crossing. My primitive campsite was in an amazing setting, adjacent to the North Saskatchewan River which originates from the Athabaska Glacier within the Columbia Icefields. You can see my camper van nestled in the woods. The featured photo on top of this blog post from Ramparts Creek Campground captures an amazing sunrise from the mountainous backdrop.
On day three I ventured further along the Icefields Parkway, stopping at points of interest along the way.
My stop at the Columbia Icefields brought back memories of Banff National Army Cadet Camp days of my summer of ’79. That summer my platoon climbed the Athabascan Glacier and the adjacent mountainside. From the photos below, you can see how much the glacier has receded since 1982.
After exploring the toe of the Athabasca Glacier I met up for a brief visit with a Vancouver friend, also traveling in his camper van in the area heading south to Banff. I continued along the Parkway and stopped at a few point of interest including the Athabaska River and its falls.
Later that day and after exploring the town of Jasper I settled into the Snaring Campground for the night. I set up my amateur (ham) radio station and made a few contacts as I cooked up a steak on my BBQ. If you’re interested, I have lots of photos of my portable radio operations from my @VE7NB Instagram account.
On the fourth and last day of this trip segment I passed through the town of Jasper again and later exited the park as I continued Westbound to my next destination. I was so happy to have made this visit to the National Parks!