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National Park News - University of Manitoba students visit the park
Thursday, April 6, 2017 - 00:00This week’s National Park News was written by Natalia Wycislak, who was part of a group of university students from the University of Manitoba who recently visited the Mountain Parks. As part of the trip they did some important volunteer work in Jasper National Park. Parks Canada thanks Natalia and the entire University of Manitoba group for their help.
Our trip began in a freezing University of Manitoba parking lot at 5:30 in the morning. Those of us who had never visited the Canadian Rockies in the winter could not even begin to imagine the adventures the group would have over the next week.
After a long day of travel, we began our Parks Canada journey the next day with a morning hike up Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park. Reaching the summit gave us not only a gorgeous view, but also our first bonding experience. During our time in Banff, we also received interpretive tours of Cave and Basin and the Natural History Museum in town. These sites, rich in Canadian history, gave us an understanding of how the Parks began, and how far they have come! On the next day of our adventure, before going on to explore Lake Louise, we stopped in Yoho National Park to learn about the wildlife crossings that have made Parks Canada a world leader in the safe passage of wildlife over (and under) major highways.
The next stop on our winter escapade was Jasper National Park. One of the best things about Jasper is the journey there: we had a blast taking pictures at roadside stops and viewpoints! We stopped to take a short hike to Peyto Lake, and walked through the most beautiful snow-covered forest where a feisty spruce grouse crossed our path. We also had the chance to stop and see the grandeur of the Columbia Icefield glacier!
When we finally arrived in Jasper that evening, we got our first look at the townsite and visited the Bear’s Paw Bakery and The Other Paw Café. A few of us even spotted a couple of elk on the train tracks, and we thought about how amazing it was that Jasper can be a thriving town and yet still be so wild. After doing some exploring we drove to our new hostel-away-from-home: HI Athabasca Falls. This was truly a home to us during our stay in Jasper. We loved to hang out in the cozy main lodge and the big spacious cabins… It was awesome to be able to stay somewhere surrounded by nature and starry skies! Going on night hikes to Athabasca Falls became one of our favorite activities while staying there. Due to extremely low levels of light pollution, the night sky is incredibly clear, and we saw more stars than we could have imagined.
The next day, we had the opportunity to volunteer to help clear trails for the Jasper Trail Alliance. Our awesome Parks Canada volunteer coordinator, Kevin Gedling, led us out onto the ungroomed trails and taught us the ropes of clearing sightlines, discarding cut branches, and making sure we don’t damage any endangered trees. It’s amazing how much work a group can do in just a couple of hours! Although we were doing an important job, we had so many good laughs while all working together, and knowing that we were helping out the community of Jasper made it even better. After volunteering, some of us went to explore the sights of Jasper, while others decided to take on winter and go skiing and snowboarding in Marmot Basin. We had the most fantastic day, but unfortunately our time in Jasper was up, and the next morning we packed up for the scenic drive back to Banff.
We stopped at Johnston Canyon for one final hike together and ended up having a dance party in the parking lot. This was both hilarious and heartwarming, showing how far we had all come with the friends we had made during the trip. Our final night was spent in Canmore, and then we were off, back to our prairie home.
This adventure ended the same way it began: in a freezing University of Manitoba parking lot. What started out as a road trip with strangers turned into a lifetime of memories of mountain-top laughs and pre-hike dance sessions. There was something about the Parks that brought us together. I’m not sure if it was all the picturesque group photo-ops, one of our group members being harassed by a tiny spruce grouse, or the kindness and knowledge of the Parks Canada staff and tour guides, but this was a trip that we will have a hard time forgetting. Thank you Parks Canada!
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