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Canada Diary Part 10 – Johnston Canyon and the Abominable Blanket

Canada Diary Part 10 – Johnston Canyon and the Abominable Blanket

An epic camp pack-up today. During the last three days at Wabasso in Jasper, we managed to spread ourselves and our belongings all over the place, which made repacking somewhat onerous. Adding to the difficulty, our camping gear and tents were wet from the rain, and rather than wringing it into dripping bags and having our car smelling like wet dog, we tried to dry it all out in the morning sun before repacking. During this process, we lifted a damp car mat to find a missing toy figurine and were delighted to discover an entire extra boot of space in the car beneath the seats – an absolute blessing as we could not figure out how we had managed to fit all the stuff in the first place. Like trying to fit the blow up mattress back in its box, and the sleeping bags into their pouches. We just made it by the 11am camp checkout time, filled to the brim and fitted into our seats with the precision of a giant, tightly fitting jigsaw puzzle.

Icefield Parkway 1

Back on the Icefields Parkway

Bow Lake

Stunning scenery en-route

Picnic Icefield parkway

Picnic lunch along the way

Our second time driving the spectacular Icefields Parkway – this way from Jasper to Banff – was equally breath-taking, although we felt we were at risk of becoming a bit numb to the gobsmacking beauty around us, having been visually spoilt for so many consecutive days.  We stopped at a couple of viewpoints before ploughing into a blizzard-like storm as we reached the magnificent Athabasca Glacier on the gigantic Columbia Icefield. We could see the dark and ominous ferociousness of the storm from miles away and flip, it was cold! We bundled up as best we could and fought our way through thousands of other tourists into Brewsters’ centre, which runs the glacier and skywalk tours.

In front of Athabasca Glacier

In front of Athabasca Glacier

One pity about travelling to Canada at this time of year is that half the world seems to have the same idea and all the tourist spots are horrendously overcrowded. We managed to avoid the crowds in Jasper, as there are so many secluded wilderness areas and we ventured off the beaten track, rather than touring all the more popular destinations.


Now, we were in the thick of it, and we opted out of the eye-wateringly expensive glacier tour, figuring that it was a waste considering the foul weather. We did the Skywalk, a glass bridge perched 230m above a canyon and overlooking snow-capped mountains. We had to fight for our inch of space, but it was awesome and so worth it! It was a bit embarrassing on the bus there and back though. I got the impression that we emitted a collective, 3-days-no-shower camping odour – unnoticeable to us but judging by the twitching noses and subtle shifting away from us was clearly noticeable to others.

On top of the Skywalk

On top of the Skywalk

What's that on your shoulder?

What’s that on your shoulder?

We were delighted as we arrived in Johnston Canyon Campground located just outside the picturesque town of Banff. Our campsite was gorgeous – tucked under tall trees at the edge of the park – but even more impressive were the ablutions. This was The Ritz compared to the last two places. Pristinely clean and featuring two hot showers each, with no need for quarters either. I waited for the moms with kids to wrap up their shower hour, and then high-tailed it there, with every toiletry product I had brought with… Aaah, the sheer bliss of cleanliness. Shower, dear friend, I missed your warm and sweet-smelling embrace more than I could ever have imagined.

Our new camp site

Our new camp site

As we sat chatting around the fire, radiating freshness, I truly was a happy camper!


Did I mention that its absolutely freezing here in the Rockies? I have begun to realise that there must be a problem with our discount value sleeping bags. Despite wearing all my clothely goods (and some of Ralph’s too) each night, I still freeze my butt off and can’t sleep properly.


We fixed the rain problem with the tarp.

We fixed the b.o. problem with the shower.

Today it was time to fix the heat problem.


But first, we decided to explore our surroundings a bit and we hiked up the creek to Johnston Canyon. Despite being infested with tourists, the walk on bridges hanging off the cliffside next to the gushing river up the canyon was magnificent, culminating in a scramble through a natural rock cave to a fingers-breadth from the waterfall. Unbelievable!

Johnston Creek Johnston creek 2 Johnston Canyon 1 Johnston Canyon 2 Johnston Canyon 3

We also enjoyed some up-close-and-personal time with a very friendly Groundsquirrel. Too cute! Unfortunately we miscalculated on the food front and ended up in an aggressively hangry (hungry & angry) mob. When we got back to camp we had no choice but to chop up all the supplies we had and pile everything into a bowl. My-oh-my what a strangely delicious salad!

A cute friendly Ground Squirrel

A cute Golden-mantled Groundsquirrel

Next stop, the quaint town of Banff to stock up, visit the launderette and most importantly to secure a warm blanket. We split into two groups for the sake of speed (we didn’t want to be wasting fishing time shopping!) and got everything done in blitz fast time. My crowning moment was when I secured a fleece-lined red tartan soft-as-silk but warm-as-toast blanket from a shop aptly named “The Abominable Hiker”. I have realised by now that I am an abominable camper, so it seemed like a good sign.


The only problem was that we split so enthusiastically that we did not make plans on where to meet up. No problem – just give each other a call right? Wrong. Ralph had the only mobile in working order. I could only SMS on international roaming and did not have his Canadian number. So our speedy shopping and washing came to a sorry, slow and stressful end when Ralph and Jacob waited for us in one spot, and we for them in another location for over an hour.


On a positive note, my abominable blanket was the bomb and I had a sublimely warm and toasty night. Getting better at camping, each and every day!

Happy Camper Meter

Happy Camper Meter


Yours in travel




Did you miss any previous diary entries? Click below to catch up:

Canada Diary Part 9 – Enjoying Jasper

Canada Diary Part 8 – Settling in to Camping


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