Monday, August 16: Jasper National Park spans 4,335 square miles and a fearless bighorn sheep and two elk welcome us as we enter. We ride the Jasper Tramway 7,472 feet above sea level to the top of Whistler Mountain. It’s scary and yet thrilling to watch earthly things shrink beneath us as we glide through the sky in a little vehicle attached to a cable. At the top we look down at ribbons of roads, miniature buildings and vehicles, and other mountains all clouded in smoke from forest fires in British Columbia. (So Canada has “Smokey Mountains” too.)
In the evening, we go to an outdoor amphitheatre in the campground to hear a presentation on the ecology and geology of Jasper Park and also how the animals survive the winter. Seven elk apparently want to learn because they graze here during the presentation.
Tuesday, August 17: A miscellaneous observation: At home, instructions, signs, etc. are written in two languages: English and Spanish. In Canada everything is in English and French.
The town of Jasper (population 4,700), nestled amid the mountain setting of the park, is well-manicured and decorated everywhere with colorful flowers. Twenty miles southeast of Jasper is Medicine Lake, drained by one of the largest underground river systems in North America. An eagle nest overlooks the lake. Fourteen miles further is Malign Lake, the second largest glacier-fed lake in the world, surrounded by mountains of sheer limestone walls that plunge 165 feet. By the parking lot is a mule deer that patiently poses while I snap her picture.
Tonight’s presentation at the campground amphitheater is “Poaching in the Park.” The seven elk who attended last night are absent. The topic is probably too uncomfortable for them!
Wednesday, August 18: We are ready to leave but the RV refuses to start. After checking all the obvious reasons we call a mechanic. With longish wild hair, he resembles a Neanderthal. But then, angels don’t always look like angels. He finds that the fuel pump is bad and orders a new one which won’t be here until tomorrow.
Out on a drive (in the car) we are privileged to see nine big horn sheep. And then six more. Further down a lone one stands statue-like in the center of the highway as if it is a traffic cop. When traffic stops in both directions, the rest of the herd – 12 of them – cross over. I would not believe this if my eyes did not witness it. Later there is another herd of sheep and two elk, but the best is a momma moose and her calf.
Thursday, August 19: How time drags when we’re waiting. Mr. Fix-it would be here “about nine.” Of course extra time is an opportunity to reflect on and be thankful for our many blessings. Finally at 4:30 the work begins. Two guys, two trucks, various problems and three hours later the RV engine is purring like a kitten. Thank heaven for mechanics, even wild-haired ones! (He did a good job).
Friday, August 20: The air is heavily laden with smoke from the British Columbia forest fires. It obscures the sun, hides the mountains, fades the trees and fills our sinuses. We’re singing the song “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” With the camper healed, I’m glad to be able to head south where we are told the air is better.
Highway 93 south of Jasper to Lake Louise, the Ice-Fields Parkway, is one of the most scenic in North America. Numerous glaciers line both sides of the road, dwarfing all the previous ones that we have seen. We drive around Lake Louise Village and see many elegant chateaus.
There is another “bear jam,” one vehicle stops after seeing a bear, then everyone else stops too. This is a frequent occurrence.
Saturday, August 21: The temperature is a chilly forty-one degrees when we get up, and the taller mountains here are a barrier to the smoke. The emerald hues and glacial backdrop of Lake Louise can surely be described as beauty beyond belief. The glacier-fed lake is 1 1/2 miles long, a half-mile wide, 295 feet deep and 39 degrees at its warmest. Cameras get a workout here, and during our visit three weddings take place.
Eight miles south of Lake Louise is Moraine Lake, half the size of the former, but equally beautiful. This is in the valley of the Ten Peaks which provides the ten saw-toothed ridges that rise from the lake shore. At both lakes hiking is peaceful and relaxing.
In the evening we go back to Lake Louise, sit on a bench, enjoy the beauty and watch tourists film the scenery. It starts to rain and we see the mountain tops and glaciers cloud over with new falling snow.
Sunday, August 22: The city of Banff (population 8,400) in the national park, is a resort town with mostly shops, restaurants and lodges. The buildings are scenic right along with the surrounding mountains. After visiting this place we head east on Trans-Canada Highway 1 and watch the terrain flatten out. The Canadian Rocky Mountains will be missed.
Monday, August 23: On two occasions flying stones have chipped the windshield in our camper. One of the chips is spreading out, so in Calgary we go to a glass repair shop. They can’t work on RVs and we try the next one. (Our cell phone provider doesn’t have contracts in Canada so we don’t call ahead). The second place is successful. Calgary has a population of 1,200,000. Co-piloting in such a huge metropolis is not my favorite thing and I’m glad to have it behind us.
East of Calgary is oil pumper, and hay and cattle country. The oil is pumped into underground pipes to collection sites. We see a herd of about 30 antelopes watching the traffic go by. Home tonight is Swift Current in Saskatchewan.
Tuesday, August 24: Today is a driving day on Trans Canada Highway 1, with a strong tail wind helping us along. This is prairie land, flat and treeless, with large fields of wheat, barley, flax and canola. Because of the shorter growing season, corn and soybeans cannot be raised. There are also farm-raised elk. Side roads are gravel at best, otherwise just dirt. We spend the night at Portage LaPrairie, Manitoba.
Wednesday, August 25: Home beckons and we proceed on Highway 1, which becomes Highway 17 when we cross into Ontario. The terrain changes dramatically to rocky and non-tillable, with many lakes. Dryden, Ontario, is where we stay overnight.
Thursday, August 26: The weather is warm and sunny as we stop at a delightful picnic area at Lodge Lake for lunch.
After eating, Dick gets his spinning rod out and tries his luck at catching a Northern Pike, or whatever, for our supper. The fish don’t cooperate but it doesn’t diminish his fun.
(Canada’s longest suspension footbridge.)
We drive through Thunder Bay and then along Lake Superior. Along the highway close to Dorion, we see signs advertising Canada’s longest suspension footbridge. So we turn onto the designated road – a red-dirt washboard one for about five miles with no sign of civilization, and I start to wonder if we’ve lost some more brain cells again. But then we do arrive, and after paying the fee and given a map, we hike to the edge of the shorter (300 foot) suspension bridge over the deep sheer cliffs of Eagle Canyon. Two Burmese girls (19 and 24 years old) had started walking across but the swaying bridge scared them into retreating. They ask if they can accompany us, and on the bridge our fearful companions become the targets of our playful teasing about the safety of the bridge. Then we hike to the 600 foot bridge with our giggly girls and continue joking as we cross. A hike at the bottom of the canyon completes this unexpected fun adventure.
Friday, August 27: We stop for lunch at Marathon, Ontario, where bears are a nuisance. The bears that are trapped in town are marked and then taken elsewhere. If they are trapped a second time, they’re destroyed. Three of the seven captured yesterday won’t be returning. (Two strikes and you’re out!)
We cross the border at 8 p.m. at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. So, for the first in 11 weeks our feet are touching the ground in the contiguous United States. Welcome back to us!
Saturday, August 28: At 6 p.m. we turn in our driveway. We have driven 10, 655 miles (plus 90 hours on three ferry rides) and have seen the wonderment and diversity of God’s fascinating creations. And throughout Alaska we have witnessed the phenomenon of the midnight sun. But I’m still always glad to come back to plain ol’ flat Churubusco.