August 9 2018
Destination: Jasper National Park
Woke up to the delightful sound of full-blown construction, complemented by screaming children. Christine and I did some camp chores and drove closer to a little boardwalk trail. It was really nice and no one else was on the trail. I love boardwalk trails, especially over the water, because they give you access to something you may not normally be able to see, and because you can just focus on your surroundings instead of trying to figure out where your feet will land. I wouldn’t want to ONLY hike like that, because I love the roots and rocks and the attention needed on a tricky trail, but there’s a place for them.
We got on the road afterward and drove on to Edmonton. We stopped at a busy Tim Horton’s just outside the city. I wanted to use the wifi to uploads some photos and keep everyone posted on what we’d been up to. It took forever to upload and actually crashed a couple times. We ended up posting three albums on the facebook page we’d created for people to follow us – I think those were the last albums we managed to get up on the site. I sent a few emails off to companies to inquire about possibly sponsoring us – figured it would be cool to get free gear or some cash or something.
Then we drove to MEC in Edmonton because my ultralight summer sleeping bag just wasn’t cutting it and I knew I’d be getting even colder in the mountains and as the season went on. I opted for a -9 degrees bag and felt a lot better about the decision. I don’t handle cold well and if I am too cold to sleep, well I just don’t sleep. And with driving like 4-9 hours a day, that’s not a good mix.
A lot of Alberta was flat for a long time. I don’t know what I expected – maybe that crossing into Alberta meant that I’d immediately come face-to-face with mountains. That was very much not the case. We drove for hours that day without getting a hint that we were in the mountain province. But at last, I could see them on the horizon, a faint jutting in the distance. It was beginning to get smoky once we’d been in Alberta for a while, which made me nervous. The fires had been raging all summer and I knew we’d be confronting that in time. Driving into a fire went against all my animal instincts and I wondered if it were the type of situation that I’d look back on and wonder why on earth I didn’t listen to my lizard brain and bolt. The sheer size of the mountains, though, even from that distance, had me in awe. I couldn’t wait to get closer.
I watched them get larger as the kilometres pass. It’s so exciting to drive into Jasper National Park. The foothills are beautiful in and of themselves, but you sometimes catch peeks of peaks and you know there’s so much more. We saw plenty of animals on our drive in, probably more than we’d seen in the rest of our travels. First we saw big-horned sheep, and we did the thing you’re definitely not supposed to do on the park highway—pulled over to the side of road, got out of the car, and got up close and personal to take photos. But they were so cool, and you know, everyone was doing it! Ugh. I felt awful because the last thing we would want would be for the animals to go into the road because they’re so used to cars. We didn’t really know the rules of the park yet and definitely assumed that it would be okay to stop. Christine got some great photos and we drove on – for about ten minutes until we saw a mule deer. And then we saw a whole herd behind it! So we had to photograph those. And then we drove, until we saw a caribou! You get the picture. We got the picture, too!
All the campsites we’d hoped for were full. We were headed to overflow again! But this was nothing like the 10-space grassy lot of Riding Mountain. Jasper overflow camping was huge and sprawling, with over 300 spots. We drive around looking for a space that was semi-private but still had views of the mountains enveloping us. We found a little space tucked in the trees, close to a walkway to a beautiful river, and we still had an amazing view. The only issue was the train went right by us. We didn’t hear it when we first got there, but it arrived soon enough.
We set up camp and relaxed for a bit. We kept seeing people walk past our area into the woods, so we decided to follow them. The trail led to a stunning waterway, Snare River, just as the sky was turning pink amongst the mountains.
We picked up rocks and explored the area, taking photos. I spent some time with the river. I continued to have moments of utter disbelief that I was doing this trip at all. I found it hard to accept, with all the travelling and all the movement, that I was seeing Canada, kilometre by kilometre. I felt so grateful, so content, and so excited about what still remained ahead. I could have ended the trip there and it would have been a brilliant adventure. But it was far from over!
After heading back to camp, we cooked beans for dinner to have with feta. We were in bear country now, so I know we needed to be super careful. Of course that’s the night we burned beans into the bottom of my cooking pot and couldn’t clean it properly! We sat in our camp chairs outside and watched the stars rise. It seemed to take forever to get dark. There were so many people camping but they each had their own spaces. It was like a little village. As we sat there, we saw a meteorite! It was the beginning of the Perseides. I felt so far from everyone in the world except my sister, and so close to her and to myself. It was a beautiful day.
We stayed outside until it began to get a little chilly. Each day when we settled in, we would plan for the next day, checking the map and the itinerary. So far we were pretty well on track. We planned another day in Jasper so we could see as much of it as possible. This time we would try to get into an actual campsite, but if we ended up in overflow again, I wouldn’t regret it.