Day 5 really started with a peaceful “what should we do now?” state of mind. We were not required back home, we had already done the TransCanada Highway westbound, and thought, well…… – should we dawdle a little and take a different route home? We waited in Kamloops for a few hours, in case our tree planting daughter found the internet and contacted us – and then decided it was time to head out.
Forgive me for posting this SO MUCH later, we have been back home for quite a while and busy with lots of things, and it takes a little time to put labels to pictures after time passes. It’s a lesson learned for me!
We took a good hike around Kamloops before we got in the car for the day. Maybe we should have walked more on our trip – we meant to! – The places along the way are so beautiful and photogenic, but we still felt like staying socially isolated – and staying enclosed in our car was safer than trekking around with other tourists.
It was a quite hilly walk up and down the hotel strip area of Kamloops, and we could see the rounded hills in the background. The hills were rolling and dry in appearance with silver sage and grasslands.
We wondered with all of the bare looking hills and the new construction of hotels cut into the hills whether there were any landslide issues here. A quick look online tells us YES! There were also very high water levels during our visit and some local flood warnings. On the other hand, I wanted to thank the businesses in the area for planting so many sidewalk roses – as they were all blooming wildly.
We headed north in our daughter’s general direction, but we were not holding our breath (spoiler alert – she contacted us when we were leaving Saskatchewan). We headed northbound on B.C. Highway 5 towards Jasper Alberta. This was to be a 4.5 hour drive – about 440 Km. From there, we thought we would see how far we wanted to drive – but we thought Rocky Mountain House, to the 3.5 hours or 330km east of Jasper might fit the bill. It sounded adventurous to us anyway.
The gardener in me always enjoys seeing plant life. I have a lot of perennial blooming sage and salvia at home, so seeing silver sage everywhere was very interesting.
As we headed north we passed through the small towns of Barriere, Little Fort, Clearwater, Blue River and Valemont. It was a quiet ride, increasingly rugged and less travelled – but there were still places to stop for gas, food and accomodation along the way in these towns. We were travelling along the Thompson River and into the mountains. The towns host tourists and outdoor activities, and active forestry. We passed Wells Gray Provincial Park, known for it’s waterfalls, extinct volcanoes, mineral springs and glaciers.
After Valemont we got on Highway 16 – the Yellowhead Highway eastbound and we start to see more moutains as we get closer to Mount Robson Provincial Park. Mount Robson is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at 3959 feet, and the third highest in British Columbia after Mount Fairweather (Alaska – B.C. border) and Mount Waddington in the Coast Mountains. I did not know that there were so many mountain ranges in Canada – by the way. I also didn’t know that the highest mountains are in the Yukon. Maybe we’ll have to go there in the future.
It was quite misty and rainy as we drove towards Jasper, and the mountains were obscured by the mist.
We saw several deer along the way as we sped along.
We entered Mount Robson Provincial Park, before the Alberta border.
As we entered Alberta we changed times zones again – but we didn’t notice! We were too busy looking at the scenery as usual.
We arrived in Jasper National Park. At the gate, we were once again told that we don’t need to buy the park pass if we are just passing through on the highway. This is confusing to us – were they just being nice due to the pandemic? Later we passed another gate, and were told we had to buy a park pass. We were very confused, but OK?……..
Jasper is the largest national park in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains – north of and connected to Banff National Park. We hadn’t seen a lot of wildlife yet on this part of our trek. Standing patiently by the gate waiting for us to take pictures was a lovely elk.
She did not care at all that we were parked next to her, while she ate the daisies peacefully.
We did not travel into the resort town of Jasper, which was open for business – but only just! We travelled southeast on Highway 93 – The Icefields Parkway towards the Saskatchewan River Crossing travelling beside the North Saskatchewan River.
We travelled past the Columbia Icefields. The park was just opening up at this point and it looked like these was a lot of new construction of parking and pulloffs for viewing this popular tourist destination.
At Saskatchewan River Crossing, we took a left on the David Thompson Highway (11) and headed towards Rocky Mountain House.
Heading out of the park on the David Thompson Highway, we began to see more thick groves of evergreens on either side of the road. We are still in the mountains, but heading east.
Even though we had just left Jasper and Banff National Parks, we were still in just as beautiful an area. We passed out of National Parks and straight into rugged provincial parks along the Thompson Highway. We were amazed at this whole area of Aberta that was just as rugged and beautiful as Banff/Jasper, but less well known, and less well travelled. We passed Thompson Creek Provincial Recreation area, as the Saskatchewan River meandered along beside us.
There were people camping in small tents along the riverside. We hoped they didn’t mind the rain too much.
After that we passed the Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve and the Kootenay Provincial Recreation area along a lake-like stretch of the Saskatchewan River. The Kootenay Ecological Reserve is more of a grassland area. “The Kootenay Plains were visited by David Thompson in the early 1800’s. The area has long been important to Aboriginal people; several sundance lodges are located on the plains……. Although there hasn’t been a systematic survey in the Ecological Reserve, 65 bird species may occur. Species known or presumed to nest in the area include mallard, common goldeneye, American kestrel, spotted sandpiper, great horned owl, mountain chickadee, boreal chickadee, American robin, Swainson’s thrush, mountain bluebird, yellow-rumped warbler, western meadowlark, pine siskin, vesper sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow and white-winged crossbill…….A walking trail to Siffleur Falls crosses the reserve.….Vegetation includes dry grassland and aspen, lodgepole pine and white spruce forests. Grasslands are dominated by June grass, pasture sage, prairie groundsel and blue flax. Limber pine occurs on exposed ridges and river banks. There is Douglas fir on west-facing slopes above the North Saskatchewan River. More than 60 bird species, 14 mammal species and 2 amphibian species have been recorded. Kootenay Plains also provides important winter range for elk and mule deer.”
As we drove through Clearwater County towards Rocky Mountain House, we were tired and ready to settle down for the evening, and we noticed some horses standing in the road. We worried that they were on the lam, but then realized that they were wild horses! Another first for us, and a great way to end the day. Like the elk, we had seen in Jasper, they didn’t seem to be worried about us at all.
We pulled into a Best Western in Rocky Mountain House – as always we asked for a first floor room and kept distant from everyone. We bought the best curry ever from a local chinese food restaurant and took it back to the hotel. Despite the rainy weather, we had had a great day and seen another side of British Columbia and Alberta.