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The Final Leg - Contd.
09/09 - 15/10

     Arriving in Fort St John a couple of days later, an oil industry boom town where there is a huge shortage of staff for everything, we found a local truck mechanic and he gave us permission to do a bit of work in his yard free of charge. What a legend, James then also took the sump off the bottom of the engine as this was now leaking quite badly. 3 hours later we had a change of oil and a re-sealed sump, fingers crossed this holds.

     We did a 12km backtrack to undertake a scenic loop past Chetwynd and down to Tumbler Ridge, a highly recommended tourist spot in the forests, once again Kerry had seen photo's of Kinusea Falls, a dramatic cascade over 60m high. Full days drive on a dreary, drizzly Wednesday we passed Tumblers Ridge town late afternoon and made the 40km dirt road tour into the forests of Monkmen Provincial Park.

     There was only one other vehicle in the whole campsite and we had a VERY peaceful sleep to the sound of…..more rain throughout the whole night. Early the following morning, we rose early….ish and walked the trails around Kinuseo Falls including a rugged scramble down to the base of the falls. We also visited Jade Lake a couple of km's up the road and as there was not a breath of wind, we had a very picturesque mirror lake setting for another round of photographs. Wow, this country is just so full of photographic opportunities, we are just THANKFUL for digital cameras.

     The final stop on the loop, back at the official start of the Alaska Highway , we arrived in Dawson Creek and located an RV Park with unlimited shower time, a TV and a lounge room with WIFI access. Kerry then phoned New Zealand and caught up with all her family there for her eldest sisters 40th Birthday which sounded like a huge party, we also spent time researching our Visa options for working the winter in Canada. Looked straight forward but would involve our prospective employer doing some paperwork first with the Canadian Government.

     From Dawson Creek we continued south east to Grand Prairie, dropping briefly out of the Rockies and hitting the rolling hills and plains of the Canadian Prairies. Turning due south we went back into the Rockies as we continued towards Grande Cache. We located a beautiful camp spot on the banks of a freezing cold, deep blue river just outside the town. James had a few cheeky casts with his rod and managed to land a decent sized Bull Trout. Unfortunately, it is illegal to keep them so it was released unharmed. A grand gesture on our part as it would have made a very tasty meal. That evening we once again had an early display of the Northern Lights but not as bright as we had previously seen.

     Continuing through the mountains and along side numerous rivers and streams, we finally hit the highway just above Jasper National Park in Alberta where we visited the tourist information centre of the small town of Hinton. Here we gleaned vast quantities of paperwork and brochures for the famous Canadian Rocky resorts of Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise.

     After scouting out the provincial campsite and deeming the $18 not worth it, we located a more scenic wild spot about 3 km further down a rough track dirt road. We entered the park early the following morning to take advantage of our $18 a day park entrance fee. After driving up to the Jasper hot springs where we had intended to do a 6 hour hike up a mountain, we agreed the weather was too threatening to be caught on a mountainside in the freezing cold.

     We drove out towards Maligne Lake where we stopped en route and did the 4 hour round trek up and down Magnificent Canyon, where a river has eroded a steep canyon into the rock creating numerous rapids, waterfalls and whirl pools on the way. The amazing aspect is the river has remained relatively narrow instead choosing to head down creating this very deep gouge in the landscape. We rounded off the evening by continuing the 30km up the road to Maligne lake set high in the Rockies and providing a sweeping calendar worthy photo opportunity down the lake into the towering mountains. We returned to a quite spot near a small river we had spotted earlier and did a cheeky wild camp which was forbidden in the Park. However in our defence, at this time of year, already, all of the cheap camp sites were closed and most picnic spots but no change in entry price.

     Up early we spent the day visiting the small town of Jasper, and then on into the Edith Cavell area. At the end of the road up high into the mountains we were confronted with a large Glacier hanging on a precipice right above a small glacial pond with rather large icebergs floating all around. We were speechless and quickly hurried on down the 2 km walk to the lake edge. We jumped around like kids for almost an hour in complete awe of these huge chunks of brilliant white ice floating in the near freezing water.

     Our map showed a 16km dirt road out to the remote Moab lake which we headed out to in search of a wild camp spot. Arriving very late afternoon, we spotted a wild lynx in the car park which is extremely rare and then made our 1km walk down a track to Moab Lake. Once again another mirror perfect wild setting, we were blessed with our first Canadian sighting of a Mr Moose whom came down to the rivers edge, grunted around for a while before retiring back into the trees.

     There were also a few tin row boats locked up on the lake edge, James found one loose and decided it would be a good idea to go for a quite sunset row out onto the lake. On getting into the boat, Kerry's hesitation whilst one foot in the boat and one out, she stood on a very slippery piece of wood and did an about face, upside down half into the water. James leapt to the rescue and promptly did the same. It would have probably been very amusing if the water was near freezing. We completed our paddle round the lake regardless.

     The following day we had amazing blue skies and sunshine, a climate lacking recently. On our drive down the Iceway Parkway towards Columbia Icefields we were speechless as every corner we drove round we were confronted with some of the most spectacular "typical" Canadian views we have come across on the whole trip. As usual the photos do not do the real thing justice. Towering rugged Rocky Mountains, all snow capped, a winding valley road lined with a plethora of coloured trees in the throws of autumn colours. We are truly blessed with nature's beauty.

     We stopped in at the Columbia Icefields visitor centre opposite the actual fields……along with 50,000 other tourists in a smorgasbord of transport options. We thought it was the end of the season but wow we were surprised. After a quick walk up to the glacier and the optional walk of about 50m onto the ice we both agreed we had seen better spots.

     We spent the night wild camped beside a river and were pleasantly surprised to be lulled to sleep to the eerie sound of howling wolves. Kerry was certainly spooked. Instead of taking the Icefields parkway straight down into Lake Louise and Banff, we had opted to head a little east out the parks to Nordegg and then take a forest road through the remote eastern slopes of the Rockies down into Calgary. We spent the next 3 days doing the 350 mile drive through some very remote and rugged countryside where we only came across the sporadic hunter. A pleasant change to the tourist packed, rules and regulations of the National Park. We camped beside small streams where James tried his luck at catching some trout. We enjoyed our Tuna Pasta's!!

     We arrived late on a Friday evening into Calgary and settled into the very expensive Calgary West RV Resort right next to the Olympic Venue of the 1988 winter Olympics. After grabbing a quick bite to eat we watched a little Friday night high school interschools American Football. Different!

     The following day we drove into down town Calgary where we parked and spent the whole day walking the down town and city centre of Calgary. A beautiful CBD with numerous restaurants and bars, high rise glass covered corporate buildings, beautiful manicured parks beside the river. After a long day's walk we treated ourselves to an Indian Curry meal which was to die for. This is one thing we definitely miss about England!

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~ Cockburn Copyright 2006 ~