My Park Story - Inspiration: Greg Robitaille & Banff National Park

What inspires you to get out in your public lands? Is it the promise of seeing wildlife or just spending time with your loved ones? The National Park Week theme of the day is Inspiration. Our next story is from co-founder and president of Xplorer Maps, Greg Robitaille. He tells the tale of seeing wildlife in two wildly different landscapes and how that inspires him to get out and see more of it!


A Wildlife “Safari": Canadian Style! Banff/Kootenay-Yoho and Jasper National Parks

As we set out for our week-long adventure to xplore a few of Canada’s most iconic national parks, little did I know that I would experience the 2nd greatest week of wildlife viewing in my life.  

It was Victoria Weekend. Canada's May “2-4” Holiday. The “official” beginning of summer. The moment resonated deep within my soul conjuring up decades of memories growing up back home in Ontario. The iconic wildlife of the area must also have known it was the opening weekend of summer as they all came out to party! Can you say “Noah’s Arc?”

  • Half a dozen Grizzly Bears (3 of which we watched more than an hour only 30 yards away digging under the scree for early season nutrients)
  • A handful of Mountain Goats
  • A few dozen Bighorn Sheep
  • Multiple herds of Rocky Mountain Elk 
  • Black Bear with 3 Cubs
  • Mule and White-tailed deer too numerous to count
  • 3 Bull Moose feeding together in the wetlands
  • 1 Coyote, 1 Red Fox, 1 Beaver, 2 River Otters and literally dozens and dozens of Bald and Golden Eagles and other Raptors

And what, you ask, could possibly have topped this Canadian Rockies wildlife extravaganza? Well……..a 2-week Kenyan Safari with my wife in the Masai Mara National Reserve where we saw more than 30 different species of mammals during our trip (not ONE of which we had ever seen before) and an unbelievable number of new (to us!) beautifully colored birds. In fact, in one memorable scene, we watched from 50 yards away as 17 different species gathered together at one watering hole, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings. Needless to say, the wildlife experienced on these two trips was unbelievable and unforgettable, and for many, that’s the huge draw in visiting national parks. 

Yet, in retrospect, what I find most poignant is that despite the stark differences (hemispheres; people; culture; landscapes; climate; flora; fauna; etc.), it is the similarities between these two special places that stand out the most: Absolute pride and awareness for the preservation and protection of their public lands; access for all to the extent humanly possible; appreciation and respect demonstrated by every visitor we connected with; extensive education and interpretive signage; and simply an overall sense of awe at how fortunate we all are to be able to share these experiences with friends and family.  

So here’s to everyone this week for getting outside, wherever you are in this world. Enjoy celebrating your favorite national park, and thanks for being great stewards of our public lands. From our team to all of you……Happy Xploring!