Jasper National Park

Canadian Rockies

Jasper, AB, Canada

August 22-29, 2000

Occasionally while traveling you find a place in nature that is almost beyond description. The Jasper National Park area is one of those places. We had debated for sometime as to whether we should go to Banff or Jasper, but most of the people we met said that Banff had become very much a tourist trap and that Jasper had remained more natural. Armed with this knowledge, off we went to Jasper. Going up the east side of the Canadian Rockies is an experience. Although they are not particularly high, some do go up over 6000 feet. Their craggy, sharp peaks above the tree line make a formidable impression. As we approached the Park the first thing we saw was a family of mountain goats out for a noonday stroll. Only in their case the noonday stroll was up an almost vertical rock face. It was interesting to watch the male walk his own way, but the baby followed Mama step for step. Guess he was old enough to learn that if he didn't he was going to fall down the hill. Gee, wouldn't it be nice if we could convince our human kids of that? Of course, I'm sure just like the humans when the kid gets old enough to decide he knows it all, then he'll go his own way too.
A little further down the road we encountered the Park booth. Just as in the US, to enter a National Park in Canada you must have a pass. You can buy a day pass for $10 a day (just to drive through), or a yearly pass for $70 a year ($53 for seniors). Since we intended to be in Canada for a while we decided the yearly pass was the best deal. After we left the toll booth we entered the town of Jasper. It seemed kind of strange to have a town smack dab in the middle
of a National Park but quickly learned the reason behind the existence of the town. The town was originally settled by a few adventurers who named it Fitzhugh. In 1911 the first locomotive steamed into Fitzhugh, and life in the town, which was renamed Jasper in 1913, changed forever. Within a few years, Jasper would evolve from a town of tarpaper and canvas shacks into a permanent community. The town today is a thriving tourist Mecca attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists a year. I don't think we visited another area in Canada (or anywhere else for that matter) that had as many rental RVs as I saw in Jasper. Along with every RV of every description you can imagine were tourists who spoke every language you can think of. There are several campgrounds in the area, but unfortunately they are all run by the Canadian government. What that means is, if you don't like something you can't go to the competition. I found out from prior checking that you couldn't make reservations at either of the campgrounds that have hookups ahead of time, it's on a first come first served basis. So, after a trip of some distance we arrived at Whistlers Campground, one of two with electric, around 5 in the evening only to be informed that there were no campsites left, not even dry camping sites for a rig our size. We were directed to Wapiti Campground just down the road for a dry site for the night and then to come back in the morning and join the rest of the people, sitting on a u shaped bench in front of the check in stand, waiting for campers to check out. Not being set up for dry camping, we did some fast arranging of water and lanterns and settled in for an early night. The next morning, bright and early at 7:00 we were up and away in the truck, having dropped the trailer in our temporary home. The 2 hour wait was actually fun as the second person to arrive was from Barcelona Spain and talked about life in Europe which kept us entertained. While Bob enjoyed his self-appointed role as "line entertainer" I dashed off to town and returned with the famous McDonald Breakfast. If I had thought ahead of time, I probably could have bought extras and sold them to the other people waiting in line. Sure, the park probably would have wanted a percentage. By the time it was our turn to register there must have been a dozen or so people on the bench waiting their turn. While registering, we got our second surprise, To help control pollution, full service sites were not permitted fires. We could have electric only with a fire ring or full service with no fire, but not both. Now the electric site was of course cheaper than the full service, but to our surprise, there is a $4 fire permit needed for each night you are going to build a campfire. Now that was a new one on us. The permit did come with privileges at the local wood pile, still a most interesting arrangement. We took an electric only with fire permit for one day and moved into the back end of the campground. The sites are wide apart and positioned in an Aspen stand. It came with its own resident Elk cow and her calf, that wandered around the campsite eating the prevailing grasses in the somewhat manicured area.

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