23 Trip Highlights

Trip Start May 04, 2009
Trip End Oct 15, 2009

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Where I stayed
Mom's condo

Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Friday, October 9, 2009

Big Bird’s summer travel letter was “R” for:
  - Ravens (nary a crow),
  - Roses (wild ones even north of Alberta),
  - Rivers (mostly raging and soothing to camp near) and
  - Rocks (all shapes and colours).

Riding Mountain, the first visited National Park (NP), was memorable for the number of bears encountered, including a mother with triplets, plus the cold weather; our solar shower became a block of ice and snow covered the tent. On the plus side, the Whirlpool Lake picnic shelter with cook stove and free firewood was a nice warm place to catch up on my reading. Also, the small songbirds, like the Redstart and Barn Swallows, were nice to have flitting around the stream and picnic shelter.

Prince Albert NP had great kayaking, camping and tons of beautiful birds; especially the nesting Loon, numerous White Pelicans and espying my first Western Tanager. The kayak-camping trip to Grey Owl’s cabin (and holding his autographed paddle) was one of the whole trip’s highlights.

From Saskatchewan, it was still quite a drive, on many gravel roads, to reach Wood Buffalo NP. Even though we were well below the Arctic Circle, it is neat having midnight sun. Seeing stampeding Bison, a Great Grey Owl and a Wolf were also sights to remember, along with kayaking on the silt laden Peace River.

The Ingraham Trail, northeast of Yellowknife, was definitely the most memorable area on this trip and I hope to return there sometime soon. The kayak-camping trip from Reid Lake to TomB Lake (a place that I obviously named) via a small stream over beaver dams and up rapids was awesome; plus it included finding a caribou jaw (now have a complete set of Moose, Elk and Deer). The water in the NorthWest Territories (NWT) is so clear that even the government confirms that it can be drunk directly from any river or lake. Due to the wayward return trip, I have now driven on every road in NWT, proudly own a “Yellowknife River” sign (obtained legally) and also got to see a Lynx near the Nahanni Butte.

The road to Jasper NP was an adventure unto itself and gave us many nights of free camping and hiking in the Willmore Wilderness plus snuggled up to the Muskeg River. Rock Lake was also a great kayak trek, allowing us to paddle through the Willmore Wilderness into Jasper NP.

Nearly all our camping in Jasper NP was along the milky coloured Athabasca River. Surviving the storm at Big Bend in a little tent was incredible; seeing the dented van after returning from five days hiking was also quite a shock. Also got to see an endangered species -- the Western Toad. Camped near the Columbia Icefield where it snowed both nights (generates its own weather) before getting the van’s windshield replaced. Although the hiking in Banff NP was very scenic, the park seemed too “posh” when compared to the ruggedness of Jasper NP (obviously my preference).

Waterton NP, where the “Prairies meet the Mountains” was a small gem -- the hiking, especially along the Akamina Ridge overlooking Wall Lake was awesome. Too bad that the wind was always blowing which stopped Erik the kayak from being launched. Watching Elk rutting with their bugling was also pretty neat.

Finally, crossing US Glacier NP via Going-to-the-Sun-Road was really impressive (assuming one likes heights). In all, from June to October we camped in fifty different campsites -- all I need now is a replacement tent.


Lessons Learned
- Watch where you park while hiking - trees do fall.
  - Random (user maintained, wilderness) camping is cheap and has many great campsites near rivers.
  - US National Forest are the best alternative for dog owners.
  - Keep windows closed and fan (or air-conditioner) on while driving on gravel roads.
  - Eureka almost dead but Xmas is coming (see new tent specifications).
  - Birch bark is handy to have in your backpack for starting fires (especially where the birch is non-existent - lots of western and northern Canada).
  - Bug jackets are mandatory (especially for Black flies) else paddle to small islands for escape.


Visited National Parks by Size
Wood Buffalo 44,807 km2 (17,300 mi˛)
  Jasper 10,878 km˛ (4200 mi˛)
  Banff 6,641 km˛ (2,564 mi˛)
  US Glacier 4,101 km˛ (1,584 mi˛ )
  Prince Albert 3,875 km˛ (1496 mi˛ )
  Riding Mountain 2,973 km˛ (1145 mi˛)
  Waterton 505 km˛ (195 mi˛)

New Tent Specifications -- Please email me brands and/or update list:

  - 3+ people (I like room to stretch)
  - Free standing
  - Full fly
  - Footprint
  - Good air circulation
  - Kneel in tent without touching roof
  - High quality

Highly Desirable
  - No rain in tent on entry
  - Good vestibule(s)
  - Strong and relatively light

Nice to Have
  - Side views on nice nights
  - Tent clips to poles (versus threading through)
  - Fly erected before tent (rare to find)
  - 4-season (3-season still acceptable)
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