Our first direction change – rather than drive to Prince George which is familiar, we are headed out of Dawson Creek for Jasper.
Highway 40 takes us through Beaverlodge, a small town which is home to a very large beaver statue,the agricultural Grande Prairie, on to the surprisingly large retail area of Grande Cache, and up through the mountains home to logging and oil and gas fields. There is literally nothing up in the mountains but a two lane road with many muddy roads leading off to the fields until we drop down in a pretty river valley and were surprised to find to find a coal mine power plant next to the river. While it was disturbing to find this industrial use of a beautiful valley, there was some beauty as well – the exposed hillsides stripped of their vegetation show the striations of coal and rock, nature’s curvy art.
We head on to Jasper, where a $20 gives us an overnight in the park. It is awe inspiring in its beauty – and this coming from a lifelong Alaskan used to wildlife, mountains and glaciers. We spot some Bighorn Sheep on the road and catch some pictures as they scramble up the cliff and stop to watch us
Next up, we spot a female elk alongside the road, again seemingly unconcerned with our presence.
The weather is clearing and we consider camping but it is only allowed in campgrounds which are closed…every single one…closed! So on to Jasper. We drive through the small town and just outside, we spot elk and this time there is a beautiful bull. And true to form, he ignores us as we snap some pictures.
In town we find a scarcity of rooms but we manage to get into the Marmot Inn and then walk into town, poking in the shops and peruseing the restaurant menus until we settle on Fiddle River Seafoods where we enjoy a wonderful Nk-Mip (InkMeep) merlot bottled by a local native group near Osoyoos and some very fine food.
In the morning, we decide on the drive to Maligne Canyon and are so glad we did. The water has carved an incredibly deep channel in the rock and roars through the narrow walls, scouring them smooth and leaving behind potholes full of round river rocks.
Then on to Athabasca Falls where the thundering river pours over a narrow cliff and down through another scoured canyon, beautiful and yet ominous with warnings of people swept away every year when they venture over the barricades too close to the river.
There is a certain outdoorsy, touristy, trendy vibe in Jasper similar to our hometown and we are comfortable here. We check into staying another night but find that they are almost sold out and what few rooms there are have doubled in price so we decide to drive down the Icefield Parkway and see if there is something available in Lake Louise or Banff. What’s a few more miles?