driving through Jasper National Park
There’s nothing quite like heading out from Vancouver on the Trans-Canada Highway with the whole country laid out before you, that long road full of possibility and adventure. Driving through BC is glorious – I never get tired of inspecting old farm houses and crumbling barns, dusty roads trodden down by hooves of cattle and the boots of cowboys. You’re likely to get every type of weather heading up through the Coquihalla, and when you emerge you’re on the heels of the Rocky Mountains. This is the where Canada begins to feel like another world, where the rolling hills of forested country give way to the razor-sharp peaks of the Rockies and elusive wildlife can be spotted from the roadside.
black bear in Jasper National Park
Once you pass through Banff, the landscape soon changes and the romance of transcontinental travel quickly dissolves when you reach the expansive nothingness that is Alberta. I imagine this is the point where, for those who are making an ambitious cross-country drive, a hint of “what was I thinking?” begins to set in. The low-rolling hills project in every direction, gradually flattening out as you proceed East and punctuated only by cattle farms and urban sprawl. The reality of human population seems so much more apparent in land-locked areas. Seaside cities always offer the escape of the ocean, I suppose there’s something comforting about that for me. I
elk in Jasper National Park
There is only one major thing to appreciate while in Alberta (this time of year), and that is the abundance of country music. Even sports bars played country on a Friday night, I was over the moon – you would never find that here in Vancouver. (Sorry, Bourbon, you don’t count.)
Harley Davidson wanted ad in Avola’s Log Inn Pub
When you’re about ready to boomerang home, try a different route on the way back. The change of scenery is nice when you’re doing such a long haul, even if it costs you a bit of extra travel time. We headed through Jasper National Park for the drive home, which was stunning – between the mountains and emerald-green lakes we saw elk, deer, a bear, and lots of birds. The Yellowhead Highway is a bit more run-down but it takes you past the tiny town of Avola, which has the best little Log Inn Pub in the province! It’s a renowned stopover for motorcyclists so you’re bound to run into some interesting folks if you stop here for a snack and a beer. You’ll see the sign with a motorcycle frame on top of it from the highway, you shouldn’t miss it.
wall of notes in Avola’s Log Inn Pub
Barriere, still recovering from a huge forest fire which devastated the surrounding area in 2003, has a nice little antique shop right off the highway that we were glad to browse through briefly. A bit on the expensive side, but you’re getting legit and rare items. I was really interested in this strange map contraption ($1250) – the sign explained that it was a fire finder, once used in fire lookout towers.
When you hit Little Fort, you can head home through Kamloops or prolong your route once again and head NW up through Cariboo Country. Just driving through this area fills up my heart, there’s something about that Cariboo air… If you do decide to head that way, stop at the antiques market in Clinton, there’s always gems to be found there.
Last pieces of road trip advice?
- Skip the roadside diners (I’m looking at you, Smitty’s) and hit up the truck stop restaurants for your quick, basic, greasy breakfasts instead.
- Salty nuts are great for keeping you alert, but keep some water handy. I highly recommend salted pumpkin seeds, they’re very high in iron and taste delicious!
- Don’t store your chocolate bars on the dashboard.
- Don’t attempt to learn how to play the banjo while riding in the passenger seat; driver may try to smack you after a couple out-of-tune hours.
- Follow your instinct and give yourself permission to stop along the way and enjoy this beautiful place we live in!