Miles: 330 to Jasper; 180 to Banff
Wildlife: Deer; elk
We got our oil changed in Dawson Creek, and air in the tires.
Back left tire was really low.
The topography of this part of Canada is interesting. There are long stretches of level driving, then a sudden descent into a valley with some of the longest, steepest stretches of road we’ve encountered.
The town of Grande Cache was one giant coal mine. The other energy sector, petrol, was well-represented throughout the region with new sites cutting off from the highway at frequent intervals. The town of Grande Prairie (population nearly 70,000), in the midst of former farm country, was sprawling with brand new commercial development, of the strip-shopping-mall variety.
As we neared Jasper, it quit raining, and we got a fair look at the cloud-obscured scenery. After we made camp in Whistler Campground, we biked into town.
Jasper is pure mountain tourist attraction. The shops on the main street look brand new. I’d say it rivals Leavenworth, Washington, with better views but less kitsch. We had a good IPA at the Jasper Brewing Company, complemented by outstanding duck confit sliders.
The next day we went on a nice hike above Pyramid Lake, then visited Maligne Canyon, where the river has cut a 50-foot-deep gash in the rocks that is, at places, less than ten feet across.
Monday morning we got packed for the drive to Banff, checked the tire pressure, and headed for the local air pump. We found one tire service center, and after a false start decided to let the man take a look at the tire.
He found screw in the tire, and made necessary repairs.
So we hit the road for Banff, via the Icefield Highway. It’s a beautiful drive, with dramatic, sheer stone mountains reaching above 3000 meter, waterfalls, and glaciers. At least, what we could see was nice, though mostly obscured by clouds, fog, and some falling snow.
Along the way we stopped for a couple of waterfalls where the Athabasca River squeezed through narrow passages, sending the water roaring out the bottom side.
The main feature of the road is the massive Columbia Icefield, which is mostly hidden behind the mountains, but makes an impressive appearance in the form of the Athabasca Glacier, which nearly touches the highway – although not nearly so nearly as it did when the road was built. Like all good glaciers, it is in retreat.