Kootenay National Park and Jasper National Park, Part 1
We spent about 10 days in the Canadian Rockies with the intent of visiting all 6 of the national parks there – which we did. Beyond that however, my/our plans and expectations of what we would see and do did not end up matching what actually occurred. I had had grand plans of hiking to the snow-covered peaks, on trails with thousands of feet in elevation gain that led through the alpine high country, but all of these trails were closed to dogs (and some of them to people) due to grizzly activity. It hadn’t occurred to me in planning this trip that bears would be at the highest elevations during the hottest part of the summer but yeah, duh. Also, there were also active wolf warnings in Banff due to recent attacks which in combination with the bear activity, meant that we kept Abbs a bit closer to us than normal. Thankfully we encountered zero bears on any trails in Canada and for that I am truly grateful.
Anyway, these alterations in plans led to a fairly random selection of destinations while in the parks which, in all honesty, ended up being quite relaxing and laid back, and really quite perfect. As I’m sure anyone who has ever taken a vacation knows, sometimes you’re so excited to cram things in that you can forget to enjoy it; being taken out of the present moment while you’re looking ahead to what’s next will eventually run you down. But, instead of day after day of planned hikes and sights we let our itinerary be dictated mostly by where we had camping reservations with input from some things in the park brochures that looked cool. Consequently, we would do a lot of driving and stopping to walk around at places that looked nice.
For example, our first full day we began by driving up the Bow Valley Parkway and ended up stopping at the nearly empty Johnson Creek trailhead (as opposed to the wildly popular Johnson Canyon TH) which led to the spectacular Inkpots: spring-fed pools of glacial blue water. Continuing adventures that afternoon led us to some amazing views of the Canadian Pacific charging through the Bow River Valley near Castle Mountain. The one thing I did have planned – a glimpse of the world famous Lake Louise – turned out to be the least enjoyable activity of the day since it involved standing next to approximately 500 other people. Our other excursion in the southern half of Banff National Park was after our hike in the adjacent Kootenay National Park after which we randomly decided to drive up to one of the ski areas above the town of Banff. Norquay Mountain did provide some nice views over the populated valley floor below, but what was really neat were the bighorn sheep grazing alongside the road. Bonus points to the cafe being open in the ski area which allowed us to sit on the deck outside with an (albeit mediocre) beer and relax.
Our explorations in Kootenay consisted mainly of walking the trail that crisscrosses Marble Canyon, a limestone gorge through which the icy blue waters of Tokumm Creek flow. We also opted to hike the connector trail downstream following the Vermillion River to the paint pots (ochre beds) which was fairly unscenic since it cut through a burned area but which occasionally offered beautiful views of the rushing watercourse we were paralleling.