2017-07-23 Banff to Jasper, West side of Canadian Rockies BC

We had dinner in Banff, which is kind of a crowded hoity toity town with a lot of designer outdoor gear and clothing stores and expensive trendy bars and restaurants. It might be a fun place to explore, but not at this particular time of year – just too crowded for our liking. Jennifer was told by several friends that Lake Louise was a place not to be missed, but the locals advised against it, saying it would be overcrowded, and that we should try Morraine Lake instead. Sure enough, the little town of Lake Louise was a madhouse, there was no parking available at the lake, and we had to take a “shuttle” (school bus) up from town just to view the Lake. Though it was beautiful and remarkable, the mass of tourists (6 deep in places) standing along the shoreline in front of the regal hotel kind of destroyed the moment.

I guess my tolerance and patience for huge amounts of tourists diminishes the further I am in the “wilderness”.  The volunteers traffic patrol wouldn’t even let cars drive the road to Moraine Lake, so that was out.

The road through the “icefields” between Banff and Jasper is a different story though. Some of the most awesome scenery seen on the trip! It seemed to us there was lake after lake as spectacular as Lake Louise – but without the close and convenient proximity to Banff.

The icefields themselves were a bit of a sad disappointment to me.  What used to be “icefields” are now vast stretches of gravely bottomlands that can’t seem to decide whether they are a field, a creek, a river, a glacier, or a gravel wash.

We walked up a long trail to actually get to a glacier that was in sight of the road.. on the way up there were concrete pylons every few hundred feet marking where the glacier USED to reach in 1918, 1935, 1950, 1983, etc all the way up to today (the trail was more than a mile long). The glaciers have receded, disappeared and shrunk, to something like 5 or 10% of what they were a hundred years ago. One can’t help to wonder where the water resources will come from when this constant steady supply finally stops altogether.

The lakes (and there are many) below the Glaciers and snow covered peaks were fabulous.

Jasper would be the furthest North we would voyage on this trip. A cool little tourist town, and we managed to pick up our share of tourist tokens; t-shirts, and stickers for the Van.

Had a great dinner on the rooftop of Earls Kitchen and Bar.

On the way back down South, we stopped and walked a couple of the trails that looked interesting from the day before. I think it’s pretty safe to say, ANY trail in this area would be worth the hike. We stayed at “Honeymoon Campground” South of Jasper. While there, we met a man from Germany who just finished a 4 day back country hike in the Canadian Rockies with his new wife.. There trip ended there at “Honeymoon Campground”.

Not wanting to follow the same road all the way back South to the states, we veered out of the Park West a bit, and came down through the Kootenay National Forest. It was every bit as beautiful, and is a place we would both like to explore further someday.

Aly went for a dip (about a 2 second long one) in the glacial waters, and decided this is where Gatorade came up with the name “Glacial Freeze”..

We made our way back into the United States and got to Whitefish Montana, where we took a laundry break at a place that had a laundromat, a bowling alley, a casino, and a bar and restaurant all under one roof… Ingenious!
That most excellent technique and form produced a strike…

We had loved the Hungry Horse area so much, we overnighted there again, hoping to do some horse back riding in the morning at Glacier. No such luck; all booked.

But we did get to cut through the park and experience the place in the morning.

Thought we’d take a “scenic route” through Eastern Montana.. That was not such a good idea…

Lots of this through Montana to South Dakota… But we made it close to South Dakota by the end of the day, and found a great little State Park on a lake getting closer to the Black Hills.

2017-07-18 Yellowstone

Waking up with a view of the Tetons, we headed off to Yellowstone.Not far into the park, you can immediately start seeing some of the odd pools and hot springs. Of course, everyone has to endure the crowds to witness old faithful spewing out her steam every hour or so.. a little ice cream after Old faithful (Steve’s fault).And a quick tour of the immense, though crowded lodge.

Yellowstone is the final resting place of thousands, 10’s of thousands, no probably 100’s of thousands of tourist hats. Its hot and sunny – people walk out on the elvated boardwalks to get a view of the springs where the wind comes in gusts and removes your sun hat in the blink of an eye. You are instructed not to leave the boardwalks, and indeed, many places are life threateningly dangerous… So there the hats lie. We wondered whether employees come along to pick them up, or they just wait until the wind blows them out to a safe place…

We exited the Park at West Yellowstone and found some National Forest camping on a beautiful lake. The only problem was the water was infested with a dangerous algae bloom, and the air was infested with mosquitos.. We stayed in our Travato all evening with the screen doors shut. In the morning, they all had mysteriously vanished… We continue on our yellowstone tour, saw a Buffalo taking a dust bath, and took a few short hikes.

On the way out the North Gate, we stopped to see the Grand Prismatic. Jennifer remembered it having much more water in her visit a decade ago, and sure enough, we later read the water was very low at this time. It turns out the hot springs under yellowstone are actually moving under the surface of the earth and heading North east. Some day, yellowstone will be dry..

This Elk was calmly chewing his cud in the shade in front of the Mammoth Springs Hotel in downtown, with thousands of cars full of tourists slowly rolling by in the traffic bottleneck.

Exiting at the North Gate of yellowstone:
A few miles North of yellowstone we found more cheap National Forest Camping at the Tom Miner Campground, several miles down a dirt road and past a popular grizzly bear sighting spot.


2017-07-16 Meet up with Steve, Wyoming, Idaho, Lake Atherton

At this point we were making arrangements, and successfully managed to meet up with a Travato friend in Evanston Wyoming after bypassing Salt Lake City. We did some Laundry and had lunch there.

And then carried on to Atherton Lake Campground, up yet another rough dirt road, just adjacent to the Tetons in the Bridger Teton National Forest.

The next morning we hiked around Jenny Lake in the Tetons, and up to a waterfall and inspiration Point.

The critters ’round here seem to be much more used to people than they are in the Ozarks…

We took a boat ride back across, and continued the hike around the lake back to the Vans. On the way back a little storm started brewing. We were walking in the rain, and just about the time Jennifer said “Well, at least it isn’t hailing”… You guessed it, it started hailing.

I think Steve said we logged over 9 miles, so we rewarded ourselves with dinner and Ice cream in Jackson Hole. (the ice cream was Steve’s fault).

That night we found another “semi” private free camp site (recommended by yet another Travato friend), with a great view of the Tetons.