Waterton to Banff and Lake Louise
The day started out beautifully and morphed into a frustration drill.
When I woke up, the moon was still hanging over the river. It was breath-taking. I had emptied the van the day before and reloaded everything, so I was organized and ready to go. All that I had to do after I got out of bed was brush my teeth, wash my face, get dressed, and close the pop-top.
I was on the road by 7 AM, and that's a great time to travel, the deer were out everywhere. I was hoping o see a moose, but no luck, just lots of deer and birds. And I think that I saw a swan on one of the little farm lakes when I drove by, but I'm not positive. I don't even know if swans are out here. Up here. Whatever.
I drove back through Pincher Creek and picked up Route 3, heading west. I drove and drove and drove all the way down and around and up 93 to Banff. I drove through Kootenay, but all that was running through my mind was "Another mountain. Another river." Ho Hum. I thought that I had possibly reached my N.W.S.P. (Natural Wonders Saturation Point). Then I hit the town of Banff and it was packed full of people, even more so than Glacier had been. No Vacancy signs flashed everywhere before my eyes. I hot-footed it out of town. Pronto. I drove the back road between Banff and Lake Louise and it was wonderful; until the very last section, there were no other cars on the road. I took my time and stopped a couple of places and hiked a little. I saw a lot of Bighorn sheep; they were just milling about. I saw a beautiful and very large falcon. There were a lot of ravens flying around. Ravens are a lot bigger than I thought. I really enjoyed the drive.
Then I hit Lake Louise and it was even more crowded than Banff. I cruised through town, drove up to the lake, and waited for a place to park. I was on automatic pilot by that point. The only thing that I remember, other than the lake, was a really cool purple Vanagon Westy that was in the parking lot. I walked the lake, went back to the car, and shot out of town.
The crowds were DisneyWorld strength. I would never recommend to anyone (unless I hated them) a summer visit to Banff or Lake Louise (or Glacier, for that matter). Maybe in May. Maybe in September. Either month could be kind of iffy, weather-wise; lots of passes could be closed and that would make it extremely difficult to get around. I'm glad that I saw what I did, but I don't have to go back. And I do understand that what I've seen is no real showing of what is there. I hit the easy spots, the same ones that every bubba stepping off of a tour bus wanted to see. As a destination, if one were a hiker, there is probably nowhere better in North America.
When I hit the Icefield Parkway, I was enchanted. It possibly has the most magnificent array of mountain splendor that I've ever seen. It's very dramatic. And the road, itself, is pretty amazing. It was begun as a make-work project in the depression, and finished in 1940. Nowhere on it does the grade exceed 8 percent (which is why you see a lot of bikers). It was gravel until it was resurfaced in 1961.
I thought that I had to drive all the way to Jasper to camp for the night, but I came upon a little campground on Waterfowl Lake, which is built on an alluvial fan. I was given one of the last available spots, which sat right next to the highway, but I was thankful to be off the road. I rigged up a shower curtain on the back hatch with the groundcloth for the tent, and hosed down. I read for about 5 minutes before I fell asleep. And I didn't hear any traffic noise until 7 the next morning.
The Parkway drive was magnificent, but I didn't pay as close attention as I would have had I been alone. I picked up a couple of kids just out of high school who were hiking and camping their way back to Vancouver. They were really sweet and I missed Jordan so much when I dropped them off in Jasper. There are so many kids hitchhiking out here. I never see anyone thumbing in the states anymore. And I have never picked anyone up (other than those people in Glacier), really have never even considered it. I see these kids in pods by the side of the road, usually a girl and a boy, and they look so young. I just kept thinking that Jordan keeps humming about going to Europe next summer, and that I hope she meets kindness wherever she goes. Hopefully, this trip, I've added something into the good fortune karma pot. Or maybe I'm just balancing the books after killing that marmot. Whatever. I gave two more kids a ride back from Maligne Lake to Jasper, and that's it. No more taxi service. I've been lucky. The last two kids were great guests, also, because they were local and one worked as an ecotour guide on the Athabasca. They clued me in on all of the local gossip.
Jasper was a delight after Banff and Lake Louise. It's more like a town, and a whole lot less congested. After I dropped the kids off downtown, I immediately took off for Whistler campground. Since it was still early, I was hoping to get a site with electric. I should've known better. I did get a spot, though, and the campground is convenient; it's only about a mile and a half into town, so I could drop the car off and take off on the bike. They have one shower house for hundreds and hundreds of campers. It's closed, too, from midnight to eight am. I'm not even going to try to get in there.