Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Walking into Banff Park, sort of

We tell people that if you walk out our front door, turn right, in 20 minutes you walk into Banff National Park -- but we've never done it. Monday afternoon was 26° and sunny, so we decided to give it a try.

We expected to see lots of deer and elk, and while we saw game trails o'plenty and flattened grasses from laying down areas, no animals. The path is very obvious and well used (we even found horseshoe tracks). Someone even built benches and bridges along the way.
The first bench
A close up 
A bridge 
The second bench, perched on a hillside 
One of the Elk Meadows. Banff Park starts on the ridge
The trail starts in forest, crosses a few dry creekbeds, passes through a stand of monster aspen trees that were in beautiful fall colours...
Big aspens 
Reds and golds
...then enters a series of pretty meadows.
Bench on the hill on the right
Then, after a 30 minute stroll, you arrive at the signs indicating the park boundary.
No firearms. No bikes. No hunting. 
Loosely translated: "Please stay out. Please." 
The boundary signs
Back in the olden days, they cut a line marking the park boundary. I had heard that they were letting it grow in; now I'm no so sure.
The cutline. Looking east
Being good boys and girls, we didn't go into the park on the obvious trail that continued, because it's an ecologically sensitive area set aside to protect the wildlife (and because they asked us not to). Rather, we followed the weaker trail along the park boundary cutline to the east, seeing the boundary signs along the way, some newer, some much older.
Been here a while, I think
We crossed even more meadows, some with piles of burned trees from the controlled burn done there a few years back.
More meadows
At this point, we picked up a pretty solid game trail and followed it about 200 m into the forest away from Banff Park and into Bow Valley Wildland Park, past trees full of Old Man's Beard...
Old Man's Beard, or technically, Usnea
...and found an elk/deer bow hunting tree platform (at least I hope it's for bow hunting, since hunting with firearms isn't allowed in this area).
Climb the tree. Wait and shoot. Stalking them is so boring.
Depressing, that. I mean, I understand that hunting is allowed in a wildland provincial park, like the one that surrounds my hamlet. But it's not allowed in Banff National Park, ~100 m from the blind on the game trail that comes in from the National Park and passes the blind. The animals don't know they're protected in the one park but not in the other. They do this on the border of Yellowstone National Park, too, hunting animals that leave the park. Especially depressing here in that you're asked not to come into the environmentally sensitive area that borders the hunting area in order to not disturb the wildlife. Yeah, don't disturb them, because it makes it harder to shoot them.

As I mentioned, we didn't see much in the way of wildlife (probably because someone shot them all), other than none too friendly Gray Jays.
Very pretty, but keep the distance.

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