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018 Summer Reservations, Radium Expansion, Formation of the Rockies, and Canadian Towns worth Visiting

In this episode, I’ll be looking at just how fast campsite reservations are filling up this summer in the mountain national parks. We’ll also talk about some huge investments going into Radium Hot Springs this year. Also, have you ever noticed how a bit of snow really makes the layers in the mountains stand out? Finally, we’ll look at a list of small towns that you gotta check out according to Country Living Magazine.

Story 1 – Summer Camping Reservations Filling Up Fast

In Episode 17, I suggested that anybody thinking of camping in the mountain national parks this summer make a point of booking their sites as soon as the summer reservation system opened on January 11. As it turned out, the reservations went far quicker than anyone had anticipated.  According to a story on the CBC website, some 9,300 reservations were made in the first 4 hours after the site opened up. This is a whopping 55% increase over 2016.

Outside of the mountain parks, Alberta’s provincial park reservation system opens Feb 21 and it will likely also be a frenzy of activity. Think of it like you’re booking concert tickets. Divide and conquer. Get multiple people trying to grab your booking on different computers and you can up your chances of grabbing key sites before the dreaded ‘no availability’ message. It’s a race these days and if the provincial sites in Alberta and British Columbia reflect the trend set on the national level then it will be a race to the booking page.

Story 2 – 5.7 Million Investment in Radium Hotsprings

For those of us that like to bask in the hot springs for which the Canadian Rockies are famous, this story brings news of some long needed renovations to the Radium hot springs in Kootenay National Park. The hot pools, like many older facilities under the care of Parks Canada, have been showing their age in the past few years. Radium Hot Springs was the first major building project in the western parks following the end of World War II.

It’s an important heritage building so the renovations will focus on both protecting the building and improving the facilities for the future. While disturbances to guests will be minimized, it will be necessary to implement some temporary closures. The work began in 2016 and is scheduled to continue throughout 2017.

There renos have several primary goals. One is to create a themed diner and replace all of the associated electrical and mechanical systems, along with changing the floor plan. This first phase is scheduled to finish sometime this month.

However due to the age of the facility, other mechanical and electrical systems within the complex will also have to be replaced and upgraded. This will include improvements to the geothermal heating system and the water system. They’ll also be replacing all the water lines and the filtration system for the pool

The pedestrian bridge and walkway are also being repaired and upgraded, including improvements the lighting and adding additional landscaping.

Story 3 – Layers in the Rock

Have you ever noticed the way a good covering of snow helps to bring out the layers in the surrounding peaks. In summer, the mountains tend to look like one large rock, however, when the snows come, the individual layers suddenly stand out starkly against the sky.

Looking up at mountains like Rundle we are struck by the steeply angled layers, and we often forget that these rocks were once submerged deeply underwater. I often find myself amazed by the discovery of a fossils like brachiopods, a small clam-like animal, at elevations exceeding 3,000 metres or 10,000 feet–especially when I realize they’ve been dead for hundreds of millions of years.

Story 4 –  Small Town Canada

On January 11, Country Living Magazine out of the U.S. published a story titled “40 Canadian Towns you haven’t heard of but should visit ASAP”. The article was motivated by Canada’s celebration of its 150th birthday this year. The magazine takes a very brief look at 40 towns that are worth getting to know, not just because it’s our birthday, but, well just because they’re awesome. As a long-time small town dweller I was curious to see some of the places they might recommend.

I was pleasantly surprised to see their number one spot – Jasper, Alberta. The article commended Jasper as having some of the best aerial views  in the Rockies. Jasper is not only the focal point of Jasper National Park, but it is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. Situated along the banks of the Athabasca River, Jasper is the most southern community along the Arctic Ocean Watershed. The Athabasca River will eventually join the great Mackenzie River system in the Arctic.

Second on the list, and dear to my heart, is Canmore, the town I’ve called home for the past 30 years. It describes it as a wildlife corridor where bears, cougars, wolves, and elk roam freely. Canmore is a former coal mining town that has become known as the gateway to Alberta’s Banff National Park as well as Kananaskis Country, Alberta’s best kept secret. Over the years, it has grown to dwarf Banff townsite as it sits outside the mountain national parks and has historically had less restrictions on development.

While it has been feeling the squeeze of development over the past few years, Canmore truly is one of the gems on the Canadian Landscape.

Cochrane, ranked third on the list. While hardly a small town, was selected for its western Canadian cowboy culture. Nearby, Glenbow Ranch and Big Hill Springs Provincial Parks are two nearby attractions.

After Cochrane, the list takes a trip west towards Bowen Island, Prince Rupert, Tofino, and Oliver, British Columbia. It then veers eastward before returning to Banff, Alberta in the number 18 spot. Banff needs no introduction. It was the site of Canada’s first national park and the past and current headquarters for exploring the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

I hope that many Americans, who are the target of this U.S. publication, will read the article and take the time to visit these Canadian gems. Just remember, this is going to be a busy year and you’ll want to plan your visit. Canada is a vast landscape with a myriad of amazing destinations. If you want to check out the complete list, check out http://bit.ly/2j941Bt

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