Travelling the Great Alaska Highway was really uneventful. The road ranges from good to excellent most of the way across the Yukon and British Columbia.
We have been to several stops with museums on the construction of this road, during WWII, and the current condition we experienced is a testament to Canadian Resolve in fighting the elements.
We stopped for a couple nights at a campgound in Dawson Creek, BC.
Almost 7,000 miles into our trip, This is “Mile 0” on the Alaska Highway.
The Campground was also actually a part of the Dawson Creek RV Park at Pioneer Village. Like Fairbanks, Dawson Creek had established a park where the Historical Society could collect artifacts of the the City’s History.
Cabins, Farm Implements, Oil Machinery, a General Store, the original Newspaper office, etc. Quite an interesting place to spend a few hours.
From there, we drove onwards into Alberta, towards Jasper National Park. This is a multi-day trip for RV WHERE YET, so we had a chance to enjoy the changing scenery and a stop in a nice municipal campground in Grande Cache, Alberta. One thing we noticed very clearly: we began to see Cattle and other large-scale agriculture. Alberta is all about CATTLE (well, after Oil and Gas, anyway). We really haven’t seen much of that all summer in Alaska (which is reflected in the food prices there!).
We also noticed that Oil and Gas are KING in Alberta. Even in the “Old” days, this was a significant factor in Alberta Life. One of the Pioneer Cabins in the Dawson Creek Pioneer Village (I know, this is BC, but ALMOST Alberta!) was actually heated by a DIRECT, RAW NATURAL GAS WELL!!! I know when you buy country property, you would be seeking a Well, but usually that refers to WATER… Of course, the Cabin’s owner was at one point severely burned by a overpressure flare…
Sounds like the USA does NOT have a corner on the market of contentious politics!
Apparently, this Oil And Gas mecca in Western Canada has Alberta at odds with at least British Columbia, if not most of Canada. They want a pipeline, through BC to the coast. And, of course, BC wants nothing to do with this. There are all sorts of lawsuits and demonstrations going on. All I could think was that a cogent energy policy is VERY complicated. No one wants a pipeline, railroad cars, tanker trucks or Frakking (or, God forbid, NUCLEAR POWER or a wind farm) anywhere near them, but EVERYONE wants to put fuel in their car (or RV) and use their espresso machine. No one wants to discuss this; preferring instead to yell and demonstrate and sue.
Anyway, all the Oil and Gas in Alberta results in lots of jobs, and VERY CHEAP DIESEL. FOR SURE cheap by Alaska and Canada Standards – we purchased fuel at $0.97/l which is $3.67 per gallon. But, that is CAD$, so it works out to under US$3.00/gallon!!! That is a good price anywhere, these days! Whatever the larger issues are, we were very glad to avail ourselves more than once of cheap Alberta Diesel!
When we arrived “in” Jasper National Park, it was to a campground just outside the gates. Because of our desire NOT to plan too carefully, it was clear that camping inside the park would not be possible. Most of the campgrounds inside cannot accommodate RVs longer than about 27’. The main one that could have, a campground called “Whistler” was actually fully closed in 2019 for improvements. There remained VERY FEW spaces adequate for us, and a crowded holiday week to deal with. So, I made a reservation at a place just outside – the LAST spot available, actually.
The campground was fine, if definitely not excellent. It was very close to the park, and right next door to an excellent Brewery/Restaurant. As it turned out, this amenity more than made up for any other deficiencies, such as no WiFi, unlevel sites, etc.
We stayed at the Jasper Campground for two nites, to give us a full day for park activities. It was still early afternoon after checking in, so we drove the Jeep into the park itself, heading for the Miette Hot Springs. This natural geothermal amenity seemed close on the map, but was 30 minutes down a winding road which at one point had nearly slid into the ravine.
AT several points along the road we saw Mountain Sheep, which, completely oblivious to cars and people, walk across the road.
Which isn’t too bad because sometimes they just stand in the middle of the road. For as long as they want.
The Hot Springs themselves are managed by Parks Canada, complete with lockers, rental swimsuits and towels and a restaurant. So not rustic or particularily calming. Also not as “Hot” as the springs in Chena, near Fairbanks. But still very pleasant for a soak; with the life guards making sure the kids were calm and not splashy and wearing swim diapers (Thank goodness for Parks Canada Diligence on THAT!). They even had an adjacent pool with Glacially-cold water – and I followed protocol by dunking in that pool then back to the Hot (Warm) one. ONLY ONCE. That is NUTS!
We started the next day early, going to brekkie at a little place next to the Parks Canada visitor center in Downtown Jasper. On the way, some HUGE Elk attracted attention mere feet from the road.
After brekkie, a Ranger gave us some hiking recommendations – he seemed inclined towards Alpine hiking vs. forest hiking. He said, “The forest trails are very nice but all you see are trees.” (Oh, “and zees one” – he was French-Canadien — “had lots of zee bear encounteurs”…making Liz less than enthusiastic).
Instead, he thot we should ascend to a point above the tree line where we could appreciate a vista (“though zee bears were there, too”)! Of course, he was 20 something, and wiry-fit, which does not really represent OUR capabilities. Still, we ARE pretty fit for our age and very willing AND we have bear spray…
Ultimately, we did select one of the more rigourous, mostly-alpine hikes from his list. The Ranger estimated this would take – looking us up and down and evaluating our age and fitness – 4-6 hours. Altogether this was 9 miles and about 1,500 ft elevation change — but BEGINNING at 5,500’. He said there was a MAGNIFICENT (there’s that word again, but it sounds so much more…MAGNIFICENT…with a French Accent) panorama from the top.
We are not fully acclimated to the altitude, so we KNEW this would be challenging, but the route had a couple of options we could use to “bail out” without fanfare or embarrassment if we were too ambitious in our thinking.
Despite the fact that Parks Canada had, due apparently to budget cuts, not furnished Oxygen to the surroundings in sufficient quantities, we were only Sucking wind a bit. But we began to encounter sleet-showers along the way, which started to make the hike something less than enjoyable. Ultimately, we decided to stop short of the summit at a point where we could loop back after a granola bar and water break. A pretty good vista, too, but this shaved the last 500’ of elevation change and about 1.5 miles off the trip. We still felt PLENTY challenged.
And, on the way back to the campground, we stopped again at that now unexpectedly AWESOME amenity – Miette Hot Springs — for a good soak. And then the Brewery, right next to the campground, for several pints of anti-dehydration tonic and some Elk-Chorizo Poutine!!
All in all, Jasper National Park was an exquisite stop on our summer-trending-towards-fall’s journey! Onwards and downwards and upwards, towards Banff!