Good Days & Bad Days: The Backcountry Wardens of Jasper National Park

Good Days & Bad Days: The Backcountry Wardens of Jasper National Park


An average day? Well an average day is, first thing, get up And um… find your horses Maybe… make a cup of coffee, start a fire and grab a cup of coffee on your way out the door And bring your horses back and then, get your horses packed up and hit the trail Um… Our work is, you know, endless I think.we’re looking at Anywhere from wildlife monitoring objectives, to… Bridges that may be washed out, we’re doing Routine maintenance Minor re-routes for areas that are washed out we’re… Clearing trail. Every day that I do travel the trails I carry a chainsaw. We keep a pretty good handle on the cabins that we have. What kind of supplies are needed, and whether there’s any major issues. Painting issues, flooring issues So that we can get it done so the places are there for another 75, 80 years. Ah, well a good day, and you never know if it’s going to be a good day or a bad day… But a good day would be: the bugs are dying down, your horses are happy, We’re working as a team and every body is getting along. The colours are changing and and everything is going just right. That would be a good day Some times you’re out there and you’re questioning the decisions that have brought you to that place and you’re wondering if you must be crazy Because you can have some really bad days, when your horses are gone, and you’re wet and cold and you still have many hours to go to get some place But, yeah, sometimes in the evenings it can be pretty fantastic, you know. You kind of have the place to yourself and you feel pretty lucky… for sure. It means a lot to me, I guess. It means that you’re working with a team of people that all look out for eachother and help eachother. When I started in the back country a lot that I was learning was passed down for nearly 100 years I guess yeah, it is a family. There is a long legacy to the warden’s service. Yeah, it’s pretty humbling actually, you can read through some of the old log books, and it’s pretty entertaining to read some of the old stories, and the days that people have had… you can really relate to late days, or missing horses, or accidents, you know you really feel like you’re part of something So it’s pretty great. It’s pretty fulfilling to work in the backcountry. For me it’s getting those projects done, and that hard work again, at the end of the day you really feel like you’ve accomplished something My name’s Al McKeeman. I’ve been a warden for about 19 years here, now, I guess. My name is Patti Walker, I’m a backcountry specialist here in Jasper National Park, and I’ve been working in the backcountry, on the north boundary in fact, for 10 years. (TEXT) Shot on location over 13 days and 231km with backcountry specialist Patti Walker on Jasper National Park’s North Boundary Trail.

12 thoughts on “Good Days & Bad Days: The Backcountry Wardens of Jasper National Park

  1. The water shown at 2:05 is the Smoky River as it narrows into a slot canyon below the Smoky River bridge. Not actually a waterfall but more of a rapid.

  2. To those of you hoping for a backcountry warden position: don't get your hopes up. These types of positions were virtually eliminated in the organization with the cuts of 2012. 

  3. I'm trying to figure out where Parks Canada is going with this video.  First of all, the handful of people in Jasper Park that have these jobs (including the people in this video clip) aren't "backcountry wardens", they work for Resource Conservation.  You would think that Parks Canada would know this seeing as they produced the video.  The Park Wardens are the law enforcement branch (the ones that carry sidearms and wear the tan stetsons.  Parks Canada, at one point in time, made that distinction very clear.  Secondly, what is the point of showcasing this lifestyle when just a few short years ago they did away with many of these positions and are cutting more in the near future?  Is it to document it before they completely wipe it out?  To get people interested in applying for jobs that don't exist?  Would love a response from Parks Canada to help me make sense of this one…   

  4. Nice video, but the reality is that Parks Canada's strategy regarding the back-country of Jasper is to slowly decommission all the trails. The only trails that get some attention these days are the Skyline, the Brazeau Loop and the Tomquin.

    I really don't like what's happening in the Western Parks these days. I think the problem started when some bureaucrat thought they could make more money by charging a higher admission fee. With higher fees the paying public demanded more services and more liability protection. It's a vicious circle. Now we have paved paths, chain link fences around waterfalls and fancy toilets with running water and lighting at all the popular spots along the highway. All this has to be maintained, which means more increased costs. To make things worse the 2017 pass is "free", and we all know that nothing's free. The parks don't need any more advertising or attention. We should have offered free access to less popular attractions instead, to spread the tourism. We're slowly destroying the popular areas. I'm just glad I got to see the popular sites before it's too late.

    My strategy is to push past the crowd and reach further into the park. I'd be so happy if they just closed all the road and everyone had to walk in. The one good news in all of this is that we can still hike the decommissioned trails, and that suits me just fine. I only wish they allowed volunteer groups to do some maintenance, the way the Great Divide Association does jointly with Alberta Forestry. The reason we can't use volunteers, which is the same reason the jobs in this video got eliminated, is because of federal employee unions. Job protection is more important that protecting the parks.

    It's a fine line. The parks are there to protect the land, the animals, and the plants, but also to be enjoyed. I think we just need a little more focus on protection for the next decade, before it's too late.

    I'm just glad I hiked all the trail in Jasper in the early 90s.

  5. Read Sid Marty's, "Men for the Mountains"…! That's a must read. I'd heard that the Warden service was pulled out of the back country and operated from a particular location/townsite.

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