Jasper National Park – Nature Up Close and Personal

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.

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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

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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.


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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.


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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?


Fall Comes to Canada

They talk about the colors in New England and they’re right – I’ve seen them and they are spectacular with red, yellow and gold. But a late September drive through the Yukon and British Columbia has its own beauty, lots of it! While it lacks much red, the golds and yellows are offset by the beautiful dark green of black spruce and accented by fluffy yellow larch – a deciduous conifer. P1050170~3And then there is the sheer magnitude – miles and miles of color. Add in the decided lack of other people, top it off with the wildlife which are more evident as they move to lower elevations with the cooler weather, and it’s not to be missed trip.

Wednesday’s drive began in Watson Lake, British Columbia – a popular stop on the Al-Can Highway. We had made the wise decision not to camp, a decision confirmed when we stepped out of the Big Horn Lodge to find ice on the truck. We headed south and it wasn’t long before we spotted sign (aka critter poop) along the roadside and soon we came upon a black bear though he moved off into the brush quickly.  Next up, we spotted a Wood Bison bull.  The British Columbia Wood Bison is endangered but we saw many throughout the day – singles, groups, adults,and youngsters. My favorite was a group with young ones lying flat out like tired teenagers. Further down the road we saw and heard two large Vs of migrating Sandhill Cranes – a sure sign of fall


A stop at Liard Hot Springs is required on this drive. Its a mostly natural sulphur spring,  accessed by a wood boardwalk through the bogs and forest. The park has built changing rooms and is working on a small day lodge to be finished this year. There are also upper pools but they were closed due to a problem bear. Because of the warmth, there is an amazing amount of plants not normally found here so even if you don’t take a dip, its worth the walk                                      .

image[1]After our Liard stretch, our next stop was Muncho Lake – a wonderful geologic area with alluvial plains and fans created by summer runoffs washing down the steep bare mountains. Muncho has areas of emerald to jade green, caused by the copper oxide in the rock and we pulled off on the shore for lunch overlooking the lake.

Continuing our drive after lunch, we saw two separate caribou, both of which were fairly unconcerned with us. In fact, one seemed quite interested for a bit, walking towards us and stopping to stare.image_2[1]

A bit further along, we slowed for Stone sheep ewes along the road. We also saw porcupines, swans swimming in the distance & mallards paddling in roadside ponds.

image_3[1]All in all, it was a wonderful wildlife day accompanied by awesome scenery!

Its almost here!

Finally! We’ve been talking about this for a year or two, ever since we plotted out our retirement dates. Housesitter cued up, truck packed and ferry tickets purchased.  We’re ready for part one of “Our Most Excellent Adventure” otherwise known as ….”The Big Retirement Road Trip”!

Our very loose plan – really more of a collection of options – ferry from Juneau to Skagway, then head south on the Al-Can through British Columbia and the Yukon and on into Eastern Washington and Oregon.  From there we’ll just keep meandering, eventually visiting friends and family in Arizona and California before looping our way back north. Our only deadline involves a concert, football game, house sitting and holidays with family back in the Pacific Northwest in late November.

Sound like fun? Come along for the ride…