Banff and Jasper
From the end of the Alaska Highway, we continued our journey east through another stretch of wild country. Seas of yellow farmland whizzed by as we motored down a deserted highway toward Jasper National Park. The park entrance is a place where travelers like us normally hand over their inheritance in exchange for entry — but thanks to friends Mark and Sue Bryer, who purchased a park pass on a similar journey from Alaska last month, we were able to flash a borrowed piece of colored plastic and roll freely into this outstanding part of the world.
Jasper and Banff are abutting National Parks in Alberta, Canada — covering a combined 6,700 square miles of rugged mountain terrain. After b-lining down the Alaska Highway, we decided to slow our roll and spend a few days enjoying an area that comes highly recommended by pretty much everyone.
That night in Jasper we hit a few restaurants and bars, notable only for their high prices. With every hotel and B&B in town booked, we wound up at Whistlers campground for another night in the tent.
Signs everywhere warned us that mating elk can be dangerous. This guy let us escape with our lives.
The following morning, we merged onto the Icefields Parkway — a road advertised in brochures as the most beautiful drive on earth. Even with sky-high expectations, the scenery blew us away. I won’t beat you over the head with my Thesaurus. Just go see it for yourself some day.
Lake Louise yielded some pretty nice shots as well.
Later in Banff we treated ourselves to a room at Hidden Ridge Resort. Seven straight nights of camping was enough! And ahhh, the forgotten pleasures of home. Tempted as we were to lounge around and get our moneys worth, Banff was waiting. We rented bikes from the front desk and coasted down the hill into town.
I’d describe Banff as an upscale international mountain town, perhaps a Jackson Hole during the olympics, crawling with tourists and surrounded by pristine wilderness. Under a clear autumn sky we pedaled to as many TripAdvisor hotspots as we could — Bow Falls, the Fairmont, Cascade Gardens, Tunnel Mountain — before surrendering to the siren song of gift shops and $8.50 pints on Banff Avenue.
All said, Canada did us right, providing the freedom of travel with the scenic pow to make our experience memorable. Parts of the country felt like Alaska, which helped us to hold onto a state of mind we’d grown to love this summer. But dammit Canada, you cost us a fortune and deprived us of contact from the outside world. Entering Montana on Tuesday brought a welcome sense of comfort, a feeling punctuated by the words of the customs agent, welcome home.