On the Road Again: Our Trek Across Canada Begins!

30 Aug

After 23 years in California, we’re moving back to Canada—crossing the country in a truck camper. This is the 2nd post in a series.

We’re finally on the road after our two-week quarantine in Vancouver.  We’ve given ourselves almost two weeks to get to our new home in Ontario—almost 5000 kilometers/3000 miles. The Google says it’s 50 hours of driving but we’re a lot slower with the camper, and of course there are stops. (The shortest route is actually through the United Sates!)

Canada is a huge country. We’re getting just a glimpse, a tiny taste of a huge pie. In a way, we’re getting to know our country again, seeing some of it for the first time.

Leaving Vancouver, instead of going straight east we drove Northeast as far as Jasper so we could see the Icefields Parkway, often described as one of the world’s most beautiful drives. The photos you’ll see in books show sparkling Rocky Mountains under blue skies, but we had a gray, rainy day; the mountains were shrouded in clouds, and the atmosphere misty and wet. It was no less beautiful, but different. We spent the whole day; you could easily spend a few days or a week or a lifetime and still not see it all.

Jasper is a typical ski town, full of outdoor stores, restaurants, souvenir shops, etc., as well as the Canadian requirement: a train station. But the National Park is an amazing opportunity to see what the land looked like before development. The Icefields Parkway connects Jasper and Banff National Parks.

A layer of clouds separates a rocky mountain top in the background from evergreen trees in the foreground.
Misty mountains
A large elk turns its head to look at the camera, with a mouthful of vegetation. Other elk graze behind it, with a background of forest.
Elk snacking by the roadside
A wide angle landscape shows turbulent water rushing through carved, layered rocks with moss and evergreens perched on top.
The 23-meter Athabasca Falls are a massive, roaring phenomenon, the rushing water carving its way through layers of rock. I was so taken by the rocks and greenery though that somehow I didn’t get a good picture of the top of the falls!
A wide, slightly turquoise river winds through an evergreen forest with cloud-covered mountains in the distance. The top is framed by evergreen branches.
Even without a blue sky, the glacial water is turquoise.
A wide river with sandbars covered in greenery and small evergreens winds through an evergreen forest. Cloud covered mountains in the background.
A tall, multilayered waterfall flows down a rocky hillside covered in evergreen trees. A man stands on the rocks halfway up dwarfed by the falls.
Just another waterfall by the side of the road. For scale, notice the man in a black hoodie about halfway up.
A view through the windshield of a wet road with evergreens on the sides and cloud covered mountains in the distance.
The rainy road
Ice flows between rocky hillsides. The sky is white with clouds and the buildings and cars in the parking lot below are tiny in comparison.
I am rarely moved to tears by a landscape, but my first view of the Athabasca Glacier was one of those times. The Icefields Parkway takes you through the Columbia Icefield, the remaining bits of the huge ice mass that once covered the mountains of Western Canada; the Athabasca Glacier is the largest of the remaining glaciers. Notice the parking lot in the foreground, for scale. The hike to get closer (not right to the ice, but close) was cold and blustery (and had me huffing and puffing, slightly out of shape and at high altitude) but so worthwhile!
Another view of the glacier, this time with a sign in the foreground showing where the glacier was in 2006.
Signs indicate how far it has receded: about 1.5 km (a mile) in the last 125 years, and the rate is increasing as the climate warms.
The glacier is now in the far left of the image; a green landscape is in the foreground with the mountains and glacier in the background.
Another view of the Athabasca Glacier
A turquoise lake reflects rocky mountains and a cloudy sky. Grass and an evergreen tree in the foreground.
The sky briefly cleared over Bow Lake.
A glacier sits atop a rocky mountain with a lake and evergreen forest in the foreground.
The Crowfoot Glacier overlooks Bow Lake. The glacier’s runoff feeds into the Bow River, which flows through Calgary.

At the end of the drive, we skipped Banff and Lake Louise; we had been to both before, and we just don’t have time to see everything. We had a campsite booked in Canmore. I knew nothing about the town other than “Mike from Canmore” on the Royal Canadian Air Farce shows, and I still know almost nothing other than that it has some great restaurants—according to my high school friend Stuart. Too tired to try his recommendation for takeout/delivery, we ate reheated chili in the camper and hit the sack.

We made a short stop in Calgary at the Crescent Heights lookout for a socially distanced visit with the aforementioned friend. It’s a city built with gas and oil money, although the economy has diversified somewhat since its major growth in the 1980s.

A view city of Calgary from an overlook, with trees and suburbs in the foreground; a river runs between them.
You can just see the Bow River curving around the city, far right. Remember the Crowfoot Glacier (above)?

Then we headed North. I’d read something about badlands, and dinosaurs, and hoodoos with ice cream. Stay tuned…

10 thoughts on “On the Road Again: Our Trek Across Canada Begins!

  1. Linda – these are beautiful shots! Rick and I had a trip booked this year to Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff (we would have been there last week) – your photos are making the missed trip better! Happy Travels!

  2. Absolutely stunning! So glad you can take the time to get to know your country again. Love the photos. Keep them coming.

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