• Day283

    Banff and Johnston Canyon, Canada

    July 27, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    A dash of rain and a whiff of smoke.

    Johnston Canyon was our home for night four. It was also our first night of rain. And by rain I mean a brief shower which forced us to relocate our evening drinks to the inside of the car. Luckily it was light and brief and we were able to dine outdoors shortly after. It would be the second spot of rain we see in our entire Canada trip. Such luck in the weather is unheard of and we're celebrating the timing coinciding with our nights under canvas. It really is the difference between enjoying camping and wishing it would end - I'm sure you all know where I'm coming from!

    Smoke, however, was the natural phenomenon that was causing the grief. I mentioned earlier that BC was on fire; Alberta is too! I've attached a photo of Mt Rundle (I think it might actually be the Rundle range), visibly obscured by smoke. That smoke chased us around the park and eventually caused parts of Banff to close (after we left, fortunately). Fire bans were strictly enforced although unlike Torres del Paine (remember how wet that was?) we were still allowed to use gas burners, which we cooked almost all of our meals on in some fairly idyllic locations. The convenience of car-camping was well and truly appreciated compared to living out of a bag!

    Our hiking continued in this area, as short and sweet as it was. We also tried for a dip in the Cascade Ponds whose name was extremely misleading but not as misleading as the temperature of the water which was far from swimmable despite it being the height of summer and largely surrounded by fire. Go figure.

    I'm going to use this otherwise short post to give credit to Parks Canada. They have done some outstanding work in managing Canada's National Parks and the thousands of tourists that pass through daily.

    They provide easy access to accurate and up-to-date information about the parks and have everything well sign posted. There are bins in every carpark and toilets at every trailhead as well as trail maps with times and distances. There's also information on trail conditions, animals in the area and forest fires if you happened to miss that elsewhere. They're also a really friendly bunch who love to hear your opinions of the trails and help you identify any wildlife or flora you may have spotted. The trails are immaculate, almost too well maintained and with markers and signposts at regular intervals. They also have placards with information about the geology, history, forests and wildlife just to keep your brain occupied while your legs do the walking. Their picnic areas are well mown, rubbish-free and - I'm not kidding - they even wipe down the picnic tables!! It's impossible to miss how good a job these guys have done and it's great to see how passionate they are about their work.

    And it's paid off. The wildlife in the park is abundant. Elk roam freely through paddocks. Bears roam through campsites (seriously). Coyotes dart across highways and squirrels dart around you at your picnic table. Marmots hop over rocks and the chirpy chipmunk pops out of its hole to see what's going on. The park is so well looked after that they've just heli-dropped a herd of bison back into it to expand their habitat. Perhaps the most astounding (and expensive) effort they've made is the wildlife crossings. The Trans-Canada highway has split an ecosystem in half, creating a giant moving metal wall; a hazard for wildlife and humans alike. Parks Canada's solution? Wildlife crossings. There are overpasses and underpasses for the animals to cross the highway, some 18 of them through Banff NP alone! The remainder of the highway is fenced off through the national park to prevent animals entering the danger-zone. Only in Canada would they get that one through parliament...
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