Commentary – Exploring Canada’s parks

Katrina Owens
I recently ventured out of Slave Lake and went down south to Jasper – all I can say is wow, what an experience! It was really eye-opening to see what Alberta has to offer for tourism…half the time I kept forgetting I was in Canada.

The town itself was quaint and picturesque, but the sights really stole the show, so to speak. All of the buildings in the downtown core worked in harmony with one another; it’s a place one would want to spend their time, especially in the warmer months.

One thing I noticed right away was the air, as it wasn’t foul and didn’t smell of gasoline and then I realized there weren’t any drive-thru restaurants. While doing some more exploring I started to spot signs that prohibit idling vehicles…because they care about their air they breathe!

I was flabbergasted to say the least, but in a good way. It just goes to show that caring about your natural surroundings is a positive thing to do.

I made the trek down to Jasper for its annual Pride festival with a friend of mine. I was excited because I’ve never been to the Rockies but I also have never participated in a Pride festival since moving to Alberta.

It was so endearing to see the town showing their support and hanging LGBTQ (lesbian gay bisexual transgender and queer) flags throughout. It was a reminder of how great the country we live in is.

One thing that really caught me off guard was the wildlife – ‘urban elk’ – as I came to find out are quite friendly and fearless.

Aside from the views, furry friends and great food, I got thinking wouldn’t it be nice if Slave Lake hosted an event such as this one? Surely people in northern Alberta would like to attend it. Alas, like most things, it’s an only idea until people put an action plan in place.

One of the best parts of my unexpected adventure was that the usual fee into the park was waived. This is because the feds are allowing free entry into any national park in 2017 for Canada’s 150th birthday.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to do some domestic exploring now is a good time to do so. I’m so glad I decided to take the plunge and go because up until the trip I was still in the mindset that I’d have to leave Canada to see something such as the Rockies. Little did I know I was only about five hours away from them! That just goes to show you what breaking out of your shell can do.

There are five national parks in Alberta, which are Banff, Jasper, Waterton Lakes, Elk Island and Wood Buffalo.

The nearest national park to Slave Lake is Elk Island and is around a three hour drive, Wood Buffalo comes in at four hours away, Jasper is five hours, Banff around six, and Waterton Lakes the furthest at just under eight hours.

One of my newest goals is to visit all of these parks in celebration of our country’s 150th birthday. After all it’s free, so why not?

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