Banff and Jasper on a Canadian Holiday!

Yep, it was a mistake not to look at the Canadian holiday schedule. The beautiful weather and long weekend were open invitations to everyone for miles around to join us visiting Jasper and Banff National Parks.

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Nothing to do but just get in line and admire the scenery. Jasper is the park to the north but the road winds down into Banff and then off across the mountains to Kootenay, which is actually back in British Columbia.

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Jasper is made up of jagged rocky peaks each with giant mounds of snow still stacked high. The numerous glaciers glistened around every corner creating a spectacular view. I, of course, took a gazillion pictures…though I expect most will look very similar. At one point we actually were able to climb up to a glacier, our second. Entering Jasper, we found ourselves up in high alpine country again. I just love the meadows filled with babbling brooks that wind their way across the valleys lined with blueberry bushes. Our driving was filled with such vast contrasts in scenery, and wildlife!

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In Banff, the mountains were more treed and with fewer glaciers but still incredible. We found the famous Lake Louise and the castle-like chateau that graced the water’s edge. I am continue to be in love with the turquoise green color of these glacial lakes.

On our way into Banff, for the second time this trip, our gps lead us astray and we ended up at the top of a mountain instead of at the resort. Thought about tossing it out the window but didn’t want to be picked up for littering. When we get home I will be researching a better gps. Maybe one with a Yoda voice too…

Lake Louise

Lake Louise

All the campgrounds in Banff and Jasper were full, as we feared. So we had been talking about our options, like: should we sleep in the truck, drive until we found something, skip sleep???

It was obvious there were no options to stay in the area so we opted to start down through the Kootenay Park. It’s kind of on the back side of the other parks and, just our luck, we found a camp site with space. We fell asleep listening to the roar of the river as it tumbled down the mountainside. north to alaska 305

In the morning: Radium Hot Springs and maybe back to the States.

kootenay

Milepost Zero of the Al-Can

Oh, before I begin: Mr. Haney was on Green Acres. A popular 60’s show, which of course, I am far too young to remember.

A cute young caribou just nibbling alongside the road.

A cute young caribou just nibbling alongside the road.

Today we drove through some of the loneliest country yet. Yeah, I know I thought we’d already seen lonely. This stretch of the drive did have logging roads leading off every so often but that was about it. No scenic vistas. No picnic tables. No rest stops. Yes, that’s what I said. The picture below was the only restroom we saw until almost in Dawson Creek itself. Yes, it is a real outhouse. Funny, we thought we were driving into civilization.100_1559

So we made it to milepost zero of the Alaska-Canada Highway. We took our pictures and then talked to the friendly tourist office workers who reminded us we were heading into the National Parks of Jasper and Banff on Canada Day. They did a few checks and discovered, what they feared, that there were no campsites available and few rooms due to the holiday.

We made it!

We made it!

Note to self: Check foreign country holidays before leaving on vacation…

Our decision was made for us. We needed to get closer to Jasper because an early arrival might make it easier to see both parks and who knew where we’d end up. It was possible we’d end up sleeping in the truck. Rats and double rats.

The good thing was we found a nice RV center in Grand Prairie a few more hours down the road and were able to wash clothes.

I will make you a rhubarb cobbler if you know the secret of why this picture is important to me!

I will make you a rhubarb cobbler if you know the secret of why this picture is important to me!

Tomorrow we visit Alberta’s National Parks.

grand prarie

Back to Whitehorse and Watson Lake

So we set the Mario Andretti speed record for packing up this morning. Breakfast could wait until we found an area less inhabited with mosquitoes and once again we were off. –Rebecca tells me not everyone will recognize the name Andretti. I’m betting you will.

Kluane Lake, the second time around, is still very beautiful. I think it’s about 70 miles long. You could fish to your heart’s content there.

We made our way back to the busy Walmart in Whitehorse, again noting all the RV’s using the parking lot for their camp. I suppose it is a mutually beneficial relationship. Too bad they won’t let us tent there. Or let us roll out our sleeping bags in the display tent inside.

Anyway, today we are going to win the battle of the mosquitoes. We bought the Thermacell. Everyone we have talked to swears by this pricey little gizmo. I’ll let you know if it works.

Matthew in front of a fossilized bison. It's much easier to imagine the back hump after seeing those vertebrae.

Matthew in front of a fossilized bison. It’s much easier to imagine the back hump after seeing those vertebrae.

After our restocking at the store we visited the Beringia Museum. This museum specializes in the time when there was a land bridge between continents and the world was much cooler. The growing glaciers took away enough water mass so that from Japan to Southeast Alaska the ocean levels were low enough that these areas were grassy plains. This was the time of the wooly mammoth, the Yukon horse and the sabre tooth tiger. We got to see fossilized bones from all these animals and of course Matthew was happy to see them but sad to remember that they are all dead (he’s a compassionate one.)

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Friends of my folks and part time Quartzsite residents Larry and Moira at their home in Whitehorse. Friendly and generous they opened their home to us. Next time we’ll take them up on it.

My folks have friends who live in Whitehorse and winter in Quartzsite so we took a few minutes to visit them. Imagine a home on a forested hill with a front deck view of the mighty Yukon. Yep, that’s their house. We had a good visit with Larry and Moira and discovered a key fact, one that explains everything else. That is this province has only 33,000 residents. (No, I didn’t leave off a zero.) 23,000 of them live in the Whitehorse area. Now we understand why there are no McDonald’s in the Yukon Territory outside of Whitehorse.

We also learned that while there are many citizens receiving government assistance, businesses within the Province, like Walmart, actually recruit workers from other countries as they cannot find residents willing to work on the lower scale. It gives me pause to wonder how similar this is in our own country as our food stamp participant and Medicaid numbers continue to break records.

But no politics today.

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Lunch on the bank of the Yukon River. Looked like a good fishing spot.

Remember this time we are going back on the actual AlCan highway and that we joined the AlCan from the Stewart-Cassiar Highway just outside Watson Lake. We headed back on the road finally reaching Watson Lake and the famous sign posts.  This is a very popular stop on the road. The signs history began when a homesick GI, working on the AlCan, nailed up a couple of arrowed signs with distances to home and loved ones. The tradition grew and people began to post their car license plates and it grew from there. Today there are over 70,000 signs posted by people from all across the world. It’s a fun stop on the route but I was a bit disappointed that most of the old signs are gone. What we saw was mostly dated from the 90’s and 2000’s. north to alaska 112

There are no tent areas close so we stayed in one of the lodges here. A cute place with pink flowered bedspreads and vintage blue bathroom fixtures. You would like it.