Completion of the Alcan Highway, a stop in Jasper and then the Icefields Parkwayall in a day!
Lake Louise, Alberta
Thursday, 8 September 2011 Walmart, Fort St John BC - Lake Louise, Alberta
Woke up early this morning and found that some of the other Walmart visitors had already left, so we repacked and went to grab some fuel to top Clancy up and finish the Alcan. So it was that at 6 in the morning we were on the road to Dawson Creek. The drive was not exceptional and we were heading toward the sunrise, soon enough we were in Dawson Creek and at the end of our journey along the Canada-Alaska Hwy (Alcan).
So with the obligatory photo ops completed, and a McDonalds coffee on board we headed out of Dawson Creek. We had decided that the drive to Big White would include a side trip through Jasper and the Icefields Parkway as we had driven them in Spring and it would be interesting to see it in Autumn. The deciding factor so to speak was that the journey was almost the same distance and the scenery was likely to be better.
Having left Dawson Creek we headed into Alberta on our way to Grand Prairie and then we would take the Bighorn Hwy through Grand Cache to Jasper. The route took us through Beaverlodge with its oversized Beaver and then on to Grand Prairie where we gave Clancy another drink. We left the city, deciding that lunch on the way would be a good idea, we did not want to eat in a city just yet. The road to Grand Cache had a lot of trucks travelling along it but the views were scenic, though not exciting. We found a pulloff to a campground beside the Muskeg River. Lunch was had in a nice surround although there were a few more flies than we had been used too.
Fully sated we headed off toward Grand Cache. We arrived at Grand Cache which is mainly a power station attached to a coal mine and a nice village on the hill away from the pollution. We did not even stop for coffee but headed on toward Jasper. Now given the road followed forests and river I had expected to see some wildlife, this was not the case. The scenery compared to what we had been seeing in the last month while expansive left you feeling a little flat. So all in all this section of the drive ended up being a little tedious and to relieve the boredom we had to contend with road works.
At the end of the Hwy we turned toward Jasper, as we approached there was the National Parks payment requirement, we just waved our pass and proceeded into the National Park. There was a definite pick-up in the viewing with mountains, lakes and colours. Then we had animals on the road and in the brush, so with traffic stopping to look we had a leisurely drive into Jasper.
The town was much as we remembered it from our previous visit. Got a parking spot right near the visitor centre and went in to see what were our options for walks, accommodation etc. The centre was very busy but told us about those campgrounds that were still open, not many. Then of those that still had space even less.
We picked a campground and then walked the town to workout what we would have for dinner. Shoeleh got her icecream that she had been waiting for since Dawson City and I got an espresso coffee. After walking around town we were trying to decide between a number of restaurants and what to do for the next few hours before they opened. In the end we decided to blow the town and drive down the Icefields Parkway now and not wait for the morning.
We headed back to the car, stopped off at the supermarket for some drinks then grabbed fuel and some chips from KFC and we were on our way. So this is how we make decisions, but we just thought that it was a little silly to spend another day on this side of the Icefield when if we drove it this afternoon we could be home in Big White the next night.
So out of Jasper we headed. We decided to revisit some of the places we had on our spring trip with Manny years before. So into the parkway we went, deciding that none of the walks would get our feet this trip. We drove onto Athabasca Falls. Now when we stopped here years ago it was spring and there was ice everywhere. This time it was Autumn I think the falls were working just as hard as before only this time it was hot and they were providing a refreshing spray.
We took a whole lot of photos trying to remember where we had been and what we had seen at the time of our previous visit. We also went to sections that were open this time and not blocked by ice and snow. So after seeing all that we wanted it was back into the car and on our way.
Next point of interest was to be the Icefield Centre, we stopped at a few vantage points along the way and also noted all the closed campgrounds! Soon enough we were in the carpark of the centre. Now the Glacier did look a lot further away although it could have been that this time there was no snow and the people had driven right up to the glacier or just poor memory.
The centre itself had not seemed to change at all. So we took some of the photos we took previously and then it was back to Clancy and on the road. We did toss up the idea of going out to the glacier, but decided that in the ended it was only "another bloody glacier" and so bid our farewell and on we went.
Now there is Wilcox Creek a namesake spot where we had taken a photo previously, we found it on the computer and tried to replicate the photo for our journal. Having completed this task we continued on. Not far up the road we exit Jasper National Park and enter Bannf National Park.
The time was now heading for dusk and we could see the beautiful mountain peaks that were being lit by the setting sun. This evening there was almost a full moon. So we continued on our drive looking for the perfect framing of the moon against the mountains. We drove past another turnoff to Saskatchewan that one day I will get too, and stopped for more photos. After taking what must have been hundreds of photos we continued on.
Interestingly we noticed all these people parked in the turnout areas and at the entrance to locked campgrounds, they did not seem too worried about the idea of someone coming to move them on in the middle of the night. W continued on with the sun now almost completely set.
Finally we got to the end of the parkway where it joins the Trans Canada Hwy, we could have driven on in the dark towards BC or stopped at Lake Louise campground for the night. In the end we decided a campground and a good bit of rest would do us both some good. So we headed away from BC and towards Lake Louise, here I missed the turnoff to the campground.
Luckily we were able to find a spot to turn back and make it into the Lake Louise Campground http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/visit/visit9a-9.aspx, the rangers had gone to sleep for the night, so we picked one of the nominated spots and pulled in to go to sleep for the night. We reorganised the car fairly quickly and I was asleep in no time at all.
Animals Spotted: Stone Sheep, elk, eagles, ducks and the ever present ravens