All summer Janet and I had been planning a big week long camping trip to Waterton National Park for early September as neither Janet nor I have ever been, despite the fact that we keep hearing such glowing reviews. Unfortunately, the night before we left, the Kenow wild fire began to threaten the park and the entire area was put on a voluntary evacuation alert. So, late the night before we were supposed to leave we had to figure out a new destination, and with most of BC on fire, and bits of Alberta, this was no small feat. Because we had a whole week we wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t right on our door step, but at the same time we didn’t want to drive too far with 4 month old twins. We eventually landed on Jasper National Park.
The next morning we loaded the babies into the cab of the truck, the dogs into the bed, hooked up the tent trailer and hit the road, and what a road it was! The Icefield Parkway between Banff and Jasper is simply spectacular. I can’t think of another highway I’ve been on with so many incredible mountain views. At times you literally drive along alpine meadows as you pass by glacier after glacier. Unfortunately the entire area was inundated with smoke from one of the many fires in BC so visibility was extremely limited, at times we couldn’t even see the mountains immediately beside us, none-the-less, it was a drive to remember. Luckily for us, the babies handled the 5.5 hour drive really well (which hopefully bodes well for our upcoming 10 hour drive to the Okanagan).
We spent the first day settling in to our campsite at Wapiti campground and hanging out at Pyramid Lake near the Jasper town site. Janet did some paddling with Luna and enjoyed the smokey views while I hung out on the beach with the twins.
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Unfortunately, because of a bit of a miscommunication, and a misunderstanding about how the campsites at Wapiti campground are booked we ended up having to move from one campsite to another on our second full day! This was further complicated by the fact that rain was forecast for the entire day and we didn’t want all of our stuff, ourselves and our babies to get wet so when Janet woke up early and saw that the campers in our new campground had left early, and the rain had not yet started, we sprung into action and took down our camp, took down the tent trailer, moved over 3 sites, and set it all back up again in about 2 hours, with two babies in tow all before the rain started. Pretty impressive if I do say so myself!
The change in weather cleared out the smoke, but also brought with it cooler temperatures and a lot of rain. This was further complicated by the fact that all of us were sick with a pretty nasty respiratory virus. This was the babies first bad cold and we had to work hard to keep them warm and dry. With day time highs of 12C and lows of 2C for a few days in a row, a fire ban, and lots of rain, this was a lot of work. To make matters worse we were faced with one problem after another with the tent trailer. First our batteries failed, then we blew a fuse, then a lead on the thermostat broke and with no wire strippers and no soldering gun, we were pretty much out of luck on that front. We cuddled Eileen and Ewan all night every night in an effort to keep them warm which Ewan enjoyed, but Eileen prefers to sleep in a starfish position and would often bitterly complain about being cuddled with a shrill cry. There was one night when Ewan’s breathing was so laboured we seriously considered taking him to the local emergency room, and/or cutting the trip short.
Despite all these challenges we toughed it out and managed to enjoy ourselves. We were really impressed by the shear number of children friendly hikes, lakes and wildlife in our immediate vicinity. The park is huge and we saw only a tiny portion of it, but that small portion was packed with interest.
We hiked Malign Canyon which was particularly stunning although we did end up getting completely soaked (but managed to keep the babies mostly dry under our rain coats) from the considerable rainfall.
In 5 days we saw 9 lakes not including a handful that we drove by on the highway and Janet paddled on 3 of them, and we weren’t even on a mission to find lakes.
We saw deer, a black bear, lots of interesting birds, loons, trout, and tons of elk including this brute that we saw right off the highway, I think he might be the largest I’ve ever seen in person.
While the drive home was not smokey as the drive up had been, it was shrouded in cloud which at times provided no more visibility than the smoke. We did manage to take in a few impressive views on the drive home despite the clouds and rain though.