We wandered over to the visitor's center after a little while to plan our trip in Jasper National Park. The town is enclosed within the park, and the park is only one of five in this region of the Canadian Rockies, the others being Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, and Waterton Lakes. Unfortunately, we found the fees to be prohibitively expensive to undertake a backpacking trip. It's $10 per person per night to camp in the backcountry (you are required to stay at the campsites), and there is an $11 processing fee in addition to the park fee, which is $20 per night. A five-day backpacking trip for us would have cost over $200 in permits! We have been spoiled by the Alaskan wilderness, where you can go anywhere and do anything for free. There's no development in many of the Alaskan parks (and those of northern Canada), not even any roads or trails, but we weren't there for roads or trails. Of course, no one would stop us if we were to hike and camp off trail here in Jasper, but we don't want to break rules, and we want even less to stress already stressed animal and plant habitat in this very developed "wilderness." It's unfortunate that, to prevent the utter trampling of the wilderness, people are forced to exist within the confines of trails and campsites. Still, we know why the trails are there. We saw the consequences of a lack of trail system in the Donoho Basin in Wrangell-St. Elias in Alaska; out of the 25,000 visitors to that park every year, almost half visit that area. As a result, unofficial trails are easily found, and evidence of human traffic is evident in many places. Not the "wilderness" we had been looking for there, either. Perhaps a trail system in that region of Wrangell may be a logical next step, in order to concentrate impact. The benefit of trails is also to provide access to many areas that people would not otherwise visit, and I love that so many people spend their time soaking up the benefits of nature. Compared to cities, where most people spend their time, any nature is wilderness, trail system and development or not. So I wouldn't think many people care about the development in this area, and it's certainly necessary for a park as popular as this one. But it's disappointing when that's the only option, and when it's a ridiculously expensive option to boot.
Fortunately, Andie and Michel are going to send their annual park pass ahead (they would have left it with us but were told, incorrectly, that cyclists did not have to pay), so we will not have to pay the parks fee. And we chose to do many of the day hikes along the Icefields Parkway rather than pay the exorbitant backpacking fees, which turned out to be the right choice because Tamara's pack broke tonight!
The Icefields Parkway is a 144-mile stretch of scenic highway between Jasper and Lake Louise, in Banff National Park. It's world-renowned as one of the most beautiful drives anywhere, so being on bikes will give us more time to relish all of the views. We could do the mileage in about two days, but we're choosing to do it in five so we'll have time to soak up the mountains and do a good number of the short hikes along the way, at least one per day.
After planning out the next few days, we went to the grocery store and picked up food. The afternoon was spent running a few errands: Tam got new bike shorts and a new cassette on her bike, and we got some dry bags for our sleeping bags and to line our handlebar bags. Then back to the room and the hot tub, but only after eating at the pub. The waiter kept telling us that the nachos were really big, that we didn't need another entree, and he was clearly surprised that we, two slim, unassuming eaters, finished them easily with our veggie burger. Honestly, we could have eaten a few more. We also spent a good amount of time talking with a nice couple on their honeymoon from England. Stace and Gemma had started their trip in Argentina, actually, and were interested to hear about ours, too.
Today has been marvelous... I did not get on my bike once, and we had time to really rest and enjoy the town. A huge thank you to Michel and Andie for making this possible!