Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies are absolutely stunning: The drive from Jasper down to Banff passes through mountains, glaciers, colorful rocks and lakes, meadows exploding with wildflowers, and wildlife.  

Lake Louise

Icefields Parkway

Bow Lake

This flower grows like a weed,
especially in areas recently
cleared by fire.
What could it be called?

Not just rocks -- marmots!

Moraine Lake

Taken from inside the car!

Wheelchair placard --
yet notice the raised entry
and loose gravel
Still, despite the glorious scenery, perhaps my most prominent memory was that of the search for an accessible restroom – pardon me, Canadians – washroom.  Actually, in the national parks, most of the washrooms are outhouses.  Based on my travels, outhouses in lower BC are very accessible; Alberta not so much.  And even those outhouses displaying accessible signs were often only teasing.

In the parks, most outhouses sat on 3-6 inch high concrete pads, but had no ramps to get up.  Many were surrounded by loose gravel, which devoured most wheelchairs.  Sometimes there was even a step up from the concrete pad to the outhouse itself.  Many of the outhouses were too small to fit a wheelchair anyway.  And seldom was an outhouse fitted with any grab bars.  Finding a truly accessible outhouse was a rare occurrence, and I often planned my day around outhouse possibilities.

Hikers at Edith Cavell Glacier
(Planning ahead would have been good)
Due to latitude and altitude, the parks are reliably snow-free only for a short period each year, so in July and August the roads are crawling with hundreds of buses and thousands of tourists every day, while the campgrounds are teeming with lucky campers who reserved ahead and the hopeful masses who had not (guess which we were).  Getting away from the people and also getting into a campsite meant, by necessity, creativity, flexibility, and luck.  For example, with the help of my wheelchair as a cart, we enjoyed three nights at walk-in campsites – keep in mind that our camping gear is NOT walk-in suitable (4-person car-camping tent, two-person cot that’s as heavy as a tank, privacy tent with commode, and other large and heavy car-camping gear).  One night the only site available was one designated wheelchair site (perhaps only in Canada would people have respected that designation and left it free).  And there was one night with absolutely nothing available, so we joined many other campers in a campground parking lot.  

Turning obstacles into adventures:
"Walk-in" camping with a wheelchair
and wheelchair -sized camping equipment
(that's our tent)!
Crowds and outhouses aside, we spent a wonderful week in the Canadian Rockies, with many happy memories.  The scenery is indeed stupendous, and there are in fact a good deal of accessible sights and activities.  We started in Jasper National Park and then drove down the Icefields Parkway to Banff.  We ended with a visit to Lake Louise and a stay in Yoho National Park, before a too long day of driving back to Seattle through the acrid smoke of the British Columbian forest fires.  As usual, I wasn’t able to compile my notes until much later, making all statements subject to a suspect memory!  Details to follow.