Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Worst National Park Experience-Ever

Kayaking Moraine Lake

Kayaking Moraine Lake

¬©Bert Gildart: Three hours after departing in kayaks from the foot of Moraine Lake, one of the world’s most celebrated of all Rocky Mountain glacial waters, we were back, not because we wanted to be but because the incessant noise of a helicopter had driven us back. And now, as we pulled ashore, hordes of tourists who had just disembarked from one of the dozens of buses now spewing exhaust came scampering toward us.

“Stand here (smiles)! We want to take your picture with your kayaks.” Moving on, yet another person gestured, unable to make themselves heard above the din of noise being created by the helicopter. They wanted us to pose with our kayaks, a way for them, I guess, of living vicariously.

Things had changed since I first visited Moraine Lake almost 30 years ago, but the immensity of change was not something we could instantly grasp. That wouldn’t come until after we reflected yet further and until after we took more drastic measures.


There are no other lakes in the world like Moraine Lake, and to give you a better perspective on the company it keeps, just over the hill from us was Lake Louise. But on this Thursday in September, Moraine is the lake we wanted to kayak and we believed that if we arose early, we’d have relative quiet.

Surrounded by beauty

Surrounded by beauty

So far we were right, and as we toted our gear from the relatively new parking lot, past the relatively new chalet, at 7:45, we were about the only ones up and about. Certainly, no one else was about to launch a canoe or a kayak into these turquoise colored waters at this hour-or when the thermometer in our truck registered just a few degrees above freezing.

Nevertheless, Moraine was inviting and we were prepared in our colorful kayak garb designed to insulate against the cold. As we prepared to launch our kayaks, we marveled at the reflections. We marveled at the several glaciers that still hung in the tall peaks overhead. Appropriately, Moraine Lake formed an area referred to as the Valley of Ten Peaks. So beautiful, in fact, is this lake that the Bank of Canada depicted Moraine Lake on the back on its $20 bill.

We were also struck by the quiet of the setting, believing the Canadians had done well to create a national park of this area. Certainly, this setting served to help its citizens rejuvenate their spirits, presumably one of the missions of Canadian National Parks. At least that’s what they say.


Moraine Lake is not a huge lake, and perhaps not surprising, we had decided to make this a photographic outing, using our kayaks. Allowing the cameras to set the pace we easily reached the head of the mile-long lake in less than an hour. Here, several streams gushed into the lake providing a constant source of water, and above, from this vantage, we could see Fay Glacier. Knowing the beauty of the area, we had prepared for a tiny adventure, bringing along a backpack stove to boil water for a “spot of tea.”

Mission accomplished, we were just starting to sip when the quiet of the morning was shattered with the thunder of a helicopter. “It’ll pass,” shouted Janie above the roar that so completed funneled down the lake you could believe you were adjacent to the helipad. “It’ll pass.”


But half an hour later, the noise had not passed, and we were growing angry. Another half hour and we were ready to pack up and leave, but to do so we had to paddle even closer to the source of our irritation. As we did we could see that the helicopter was transporting materials a distance of several hundred yards from near the parking lot to a site on top of a rockpile that was, in fact, called the Rockpile Interpretative Trail.

Silence was shattered

Silence was shattered

Pulling onto the shore we had departed just hours ago the scene was now much different. Now there were people, standing literally shoulder to shoulder. Pushing ashore several stepped back and then stepped toward us now with a alacrity. “Ah, we want your picture,” they shouted. “Please stand here.”

“Your kayaks?” hollered another.”

Then several offered to help. “Thank you,” we shouted, “but we can do.”

Never could we have imagined… And now began the job of transporting our kayaks back to the parking lot, but with the added challenge of threading through hordes of people-and leaving one of the kayaks unattended. And all this while backdropped by the incessant roar of the helicopter!


To accomplish our tasks, first we removed everything (paddles too!) from both kayaks. Then, I made the hundred-yard-long jaunt, weaving between people who had just been discharged from no fewer than 15 huge buses, carrying our equipment. This as I’ve said was on a Thursday in mid September, so here, the merchants have certainly gotten their way.

Quickly I loaded our gear into the back of the truck. Then, I returned to where Janie was standing with our two kayaks. Leaving one behind, we carted the other back to our truck-coughing very, very loudly hoping those blocking our way would step back. Returning yet again for the second kayak, we had to work our way between a small group visually examining the remaining kayak.

“Current Design,” I shouted. “They make good sea kayaks.”

“Ah, sea kayaks. Current Design.” These were foreign people, friendly, but determined to get answers.

Fay Glacier and Turquoise waters

Fay Glacier and Turquoise waters

Again, we repeated our carry, coughing when the helicopter wasn’t accelerating but shouting out as necessary to please clear the way. It was a madhouse, compounded by the continuous din of noise.


From there we drove straight to the visitor center, where Janie and I asked if there was any official way to register a complaint. The hordes of people hadn’t bothered us so much as we’d been able to kayak away from them, but it was the helicopter, and to the official I explained that I did not believe the four hours of helicopter (and the full day yesterday, I later learned) noise was compatible with park philosophy. Thinking about the way such matters were conducted in Glacier National Park I asked why a trail crew of young men could not have transported the items the several hundred yards.

“Yes,” replied the uniformed park attendant. “You can register a complaint, but you’ll probably get the same response I’m providing. And, yes, a trail crew could have accomplished the task but in a much grater span of time.

“We need to have the trail completed for the thousands, and not for just a few individuals.”

Such flaunting of original park intent seems to be the wave of the future, and, sadly, it does not seem to be confined to just Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. Tragic things are also happening in America’s national parks, and all that in just a few short decades.

Departing, we took an official complaint form and do plan to fill it out, simply because it will make us feel a little better…



*Searching for Whales…



One Response to “Worst National Park Experience-Ever”

  1. Kimmy Says:

    Bert I am so sorry you had such a disheartening experience like this. Such beauty and raw nature drowned out by machines and noisy tourists… UGH! 15 buses worth is far beyond what should be allowed there at one time.
    I too would have made a complaint! Some people just don’t understand how lucky they are to be able to see such beauty.

    (((hugs))) to you and Janie my friend. I look forward to hearing more of your trip!