Squished into a Pontiac, we set off on our road trip on a hot hot August afternoon. We were a tight little unit. Ailsa the pilot and Caitlyn up front. Grizzly my hairy companion, a large dog mixture of rottweiler – German Shepherd and I crammed side by side in the back. Along with all our belongings and supplies jammed behind in what little space was left in the car. It was quite a picture. Pictures of a young boy’s pockets packed to the brim, overflowing at the seams, after raiding the cookie jar came to mind.
I had never been on a road trip before and after all the talk, we were finally leaving. My main concern was keeping Grizzly cooled down so he wouldn’t overheat in the baking heat. Armed with a water pistol and a tiny bowl of water, I attacked the job and tended to his needs.
Coming from a small country, you tend to overlook the size of places on a map. Everything seemed so close together as we roughly mapped out our trip during the days running up to our departure. I slowly started to realise how large our project was going to be. Canada was one big beast of a country.
Our first stop was at the Sasquat falls in a quaint provincial park called Wells Grave. On our way in, we met the park ranger. She was a lovely weathered lady who offered us free wood logs for our camp fire later that night. To our amazement, Caitlyn whipped out her video camera and started her first interview of her docu-mocumentary. The park ranger was reluctant at first to answer any questions that Caitlyn put to her. But with abit of encouragement, she came out of her shell. Caitlyn had joked at how much she wanted to make a documentary and now she was in her element.
We spent the short walk to the waterfalls cursing the fact that we hadn’t brought bug spray. They were everywhere. Despite the nuisance of been attacked by the buggers, our attention shifted towards the explosive rush of the falls. The scene was captivating. Here in front of us, the Sasquat falls ripped ferociously through a short canyon to plummit deep down in the basin below. The noise of the falls working their magic was mesmerizing.
We set up camp in the pyramid campgrounds for the first nite. Caitlyn shot more footage for her documentary of me putting up the tent in a YouTube styled how to do it video. Thankfully our tent was very straightforward to put up because we were getting bitten alive by mozzys. With a bit of difficulty we eventually got a fire going. The girls gently roasted wieners over the fire for dinner. I had a go at it and burnt them. A few cold beers were had, I watched the stars, and I got a bit carried away. I had never seen stars shine so bright. we all fell asleep happily in our tent.
The Second Day
Our second day started sourcing water. The water supply in the campground came via an old pump with a big arm leaver. You really had to crank up the lever a few times before the water spurted out. With Grizzly’s water jar filled, we headed towards Helmcken Falls.
Apparently there is over a 100 waterfalls in the Wells Grey area. This fall was even more impressive than the one we saw the night before. The falls had carved a concave basin in the mountain. After taking some pictures, we set off for Dawson falls. Dawson falls is a wide waterfall that reminds you of the Niagara falls. In the afternoon we drove to Jaspar. The drive was breathtaking. Evergreens surrounded us on either sided of the highway as we weaved along and the endless snow-capped peaks provided the backdrop to the scene that unveiled. I was feeling dizzy with happiness.
We arrived in Jasper national park shortly after 9am and paid our entrance. Snap happy tourists stopped in their cars to catch photos of the wildlife that dotted the side of the road. We arrived at the Whistlers campground at dusk. While checking in, the Park Ranger warned us that a grizzly bear had been spotted wandering through the campsite earlier that day. His advice was to be on guard and leave no food outside our tent. On hearing this Caitlyn was in a little frenzy thinking of a visit in the middle of the nite from an unwanted guest. Putting up the tent, a little doe stood 20 yards from us nibbling on fresh grass. I felt a rush of freedom, surrounded by nature.
Camping is alot of fun. When you get over the struggle at times of putting up a tent in bad light, finding a large enough stone to work as a blunt instrument, and then finally getting the pegs to stand up in stony ground without hitting your thumbs, the process can all be fun. Some people like their comforts, but i like to work for it, you feel after abit of sweat and expletives, you deserve it.
After the tent was set up, we drove off in search of hotsprings in a place called Pocahontas. The drive was pretty scary. Driving in the dark and all we could see were big elks flanking either side of the road. Ailsa was starting to get tired. She had been driving continuosly for the last eight hours and it was starting to take a toll. Articulated Trucks were vereing out into the middle of the road. I was pretty scared i have to admit. After driving for over an hour at this stage, we realised we were not going to find those blasted hotsprings and we turned back. The campground was pitch black and it took a while to find our spot.
All in the tent, Grizzly played guard dog laying inside the door, bear bangers at hand, we nervously tried to slip off asleep. Stuck inside a tent, I realised how vulnerable we were, if some animal decided to paw the outside of the tent or visit us in the middle of the night. So no escape plan. I had a quick sniff of my body odor, I was relatively safe. My cultivated scent would scare off most animals. I put my earplugs in and placed my faith in God knowing that at least I wouldn’t be able to hear a pending attack. I passed out pretty quickly and never heard a noise outside our tent that nite.
The Third Day
We took off early at 8 o clock and went downtown to Jaspar.Jaspar is a lovely quaint town nestled in between the Rockies.Touristy but not too commercial, it reminds you of some small town in the Swiss Hills. We met Jaspar the Bear, official town mascot and tickled his belly and gave him a big hug.
The next few hours driving were a joy. Beauty was everywhere, smiling back at us from every angle as we look out through the window. I was awestruck. Never had I seen anything like it before. The Rockies stood out like majestic kings peering down from their thrones. They stretched across the landscape, standing bold and beautiful. I had heard so much talk about the infamous Rockies, from Coors Trailers to tourist Videos, they almost seemed like the backbone of this large nation.
Next stop was Columbia ice fields which were just off the main Trans-Canada highway. The glacier lay nestled in between two snow-covered peaks. Apparently you could stand on the glacier. The site was jammed with tour buses. As we ambled up a rocky path and followed the mass, we saw signs marking where the glacier had once stood. In the space of 20 years, the glacier had receded 50 meters. It’s demise had left an emaciated lunar rockscape behind. Impressive though but nevertheless sad how much nature is affected by climate change! When we reached the top of the path, the glacier stood before us. A white brown slab stretched back up to the peaks. A memorial commemorated the untimely death of a poor young boy who had slipped into a crevasse and died of hypothermia. This gave me an unsettling nauseous feeling. After Grizzly had a few photos taken off him posing in front of the attraction, Caitlyn interviewed some Québécois’ about their travel experiences and their experiences if any of going on a road trip.
Following our visit to the icefields, we drove to Lake Louise. Lake Louise was strikingly beautiful. Originally a glacier, it now lay before us as a translucent turquoise Lake, never had I seen such natural beauty. Although, I tried to catch her charm with my camera, nothing came close to capturing the colors . I wanted to jump in, splash around and play with her so much but everyone was watching and more to the point she was Baltic cold. So I just dabbed my toes in.
Next, we passed through Banff quickly. For all the talk, I wasn’t too impressed by the place, it seemed too perfect like it had been modelled on disneyworld or something close. A tourist town, full of posh shops, coffee franchises and not a whole lot of charisma it seemed. We drove down the main street and that was enough for us and we swiftly got out of there.
The pressure was on, we were expected in Calgary at Fr O’Brien’s house at 6 . Ailsa put her foot down and we made good headway down the highway. Due to the danger of wildlife crossing the highway, locals designed overhanging bridges or crossways which allow animals to cross safely above the highway rather than jaywalking across it.
We arrived in Calgary and stayed with Caitlyn’s Dad. It was good to stay with Caitlyn’s Dad, i had only met him once before and we picked up the conversation from where we left off before. In the evening, we went to an Irish pub in downtown Calgary and met with some of Caitlyn’s classmates from Royal Roads and listened to really bad Karaoke.
In the morning Caitlyn and I strolled down to the river and sunbathed along the dirty embankments of an urban park. We were itching to jump in for a dip in the river as it was roasting and humid. But the water looked murky and all we saw were Swans playing with her young flappers. The architecture in downtown Calgary is pretty impressive. Oil is big business in Calgary, often refered to as the Texas of Canada. The skyline is dotted with large oil corporations. We visited Caitlyn’s Dad’s office, Sheikh O’Brien and he just happens to have his office high up in an oil corporation. He has got a lovely view of the city from his office and we took a few snapshots of the surrounding skyscape view out his window.
- Glad to hit terra firma!! – Vancouver, Canada (travelpod.com)