Badlands and Beyond, Part 12 – Yoho Nat’l Park, Canada

When camping in a van, the weather determines one’s motivation early in the morning. If I hadn’t had to answer the call of mother nature, I would’ve stayed in bed ’til noon! Unlike home, where all you have to do is walk downstairs to use the facilities… we had to get dressed, put on a raincoat and walk a bit to the restrooms. Yes, rain does put a slight damper on the “rise and shine” attitude, and catching a few more zzz’s while listening to the pitter patter on the rooftop is a nice way to spend the morning.

After taking our time getting around, due to the damp weather, we drove from Johnston Canyon Campground over to Yoho National Park in British Columbia. Aptly named by the First Nations, “Yoho”, was the word used by the Cree people to express amazement and awe! This area of the Canadian Rockies has some beautiful destinations; one of which is the spectacular, Takakkaw or Tak Falls, where one of my all-time favorite movies, “Last of the Dogmen“, was filmed in 1995. If you haven’t seen this movie and enjoy a good, modern-day cowboy flick, I highly recommend seeing it! The scene where the Native Americans and our lead actors, Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey, lead their ponies behind Tak Falls is breathtaking!!

The panoramic scene when driving into Yoho Valley is so impressive! While traveling the road you will pass a few notable viewpoints — the Upper Spiral Tunnel Lookout offers an excellent vantage point to watch a train tunnel into the depths of Cathedral Mountain, with the immense backdrop of Mount Stephen and its glacier dangling over 1km above the valley floor. Before arriving at Tak Falls, don’t miss the turnout for the Meeting of the Waters, where the raging Kicking Horse River is joined by the Yoho River, full of glacial silt giving it a frothing, milky color. Phil and I had an exhilaratingly fun time jumping from rock to rock as we got as close as we dared to the raging, whitewater rapids.

The road that leads to Tak Falls is extremely steep with several hairpin curves where long RVs and trailers are not permitted. We witnessed a driver of a rather long RV who had ignored this warning and had a very difficult time making the sharpest curve, which held everyone up around him. His wife had the embarrassing task of getting out of the RV in front of a line of vehicles and directing him around the critical curve.

Parking is shared by tourists who are there for a few short minutes or backpackers who may spend many nights in the Canadian back country. From the parking area, a walkway leads to a bridge crossing a river, where the incredible falls come into view. The sound of the cascading water reverberates in your ears and you can literally feel the awesome power of these Falls! Foot trails lead you closer to the falling water where large boulders serve as photographic vantage points. The spray from the falls can be felt many feet away, and it’s wise to take a camera lens cloth along.

After spending time reflecting on the power and beauty of these glorious Falls, taking many pictures and videos, we drove over to Emerald Lake, which is just a 10 minute drive from the adorable Canadian town of Field. We had just enough time to rent a canoe for an hour before they closed. The color of this lake is true to its name! We glided over the sparkling green water, taking in the views of the surrounding snow-covered peaks and marveling at what an awesome world God created!!

There was enough light left in the day to take a walk around the lake, so we set off on foot to explore this gorgeous, wilderness area. The loop was about five miles long, but we added another mile or so by wandering off along the river that took us up and across several more branches of rivers. The weather took a turn, clouding up and spitting cold rain on us, so we stopped our meandering, turned around and headed back down the lake trail. The far side of the lake was densely wooded with no lodging or signs of people, and we were very aware of a possible bear encounter. The lakes in this part of Canada are much different than the lakes we are used to in Michigan. This is true WILDERNESS!

On the way back to Johnston Campground, we stopped at the Natural Rock Bridge on the Kicking Horse River and were astonished at the beautiful arches, fissures and falls along this forceful path of water. There are SO many wonderful views of nature, in all of her grand splendor, along the Canadian Rockies!! We knew that we had only scratched the surface of exploring this wondrous area and decided that we had to come back and explore more…

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