Day 4: Kamloops –> Jasper
The next morning we began the long drive to Jasper. The white-capped mountains appeared, as well as evidence of a large forest fire east of Kamloops, and lots of logging. We kept our eyes peeled for animals. On the way to Kamloops I had only seen deer, but on the way to Jasper we saw both deer and black bears. You know, just hanging out on the side of the road, looking for your junk food.
We also stopped at Mt. Robson, the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies. It’s so lovely it looks like a fake backdrop that somebody at Olan Mills pulled down from a chain on the wall.
Shortly afterward we arrived in Jasper. Jasper is a huge national park with a tiny city in the middle of it. It’s also where Dan was born, and where he lived again briefly in middle school. The city of Jasper itself is just about the size of Oregon Hill. Dan’s mom said that when she went into labor with Dan, she rode on the back of Dan’s dad’s motorcycle to the hospital. As suspected, Dan was brought into the world in a state of general badassery. Except that the hospital is only half a block from the house where they lived. Haha.
One of the first things we saw was a big, beautiful elk nomming some grass on the side of the road. Within Jasper you can tell there’s a photo op when you see several cars pulled over onto the side of the road. When we pulled up and started taking photos, the elk actually walked in our direction, passing by us within a few feet. Not worried in the least. This is an animal that’s used to living in a national park. And clearly he’s never seen Bambi.
First stop in Jasper: Athabasca Falls. Waterfalls are pretty. Especially ones that cut deep canyons, after flowing over the rocks for a bajillion years.
After that we visited what Dan’s parents call “the valley of the crooked trees,” this random place in the woods where tons of trees have grown up with a huge kink in them. Very strange.
Next we settled into the house we were staying in, which belongs to another aunt and uncle of Dan’s. They were out of town, though, because they were off picking up a new totem pole for the city of Jasper. I kid you not. Anyway their house had plenty of room, and it’s a shame we didn’t get to meet them after we stayed at their place and all.
That night we had dinner at the home of Kathy and Hugh, another aunt / uncle set. They travel to all kinds of exotic places and had tons of adventure stories to tell us, and they had homemade wine brewing in their bathroom, and they had mushroom rolls — my new favorite appetizer. There were laughter, drinks, and talking until late in the evening.
Day 5: In Jasper
In the morning Dan and I got up early and rode the Jasper Tramway, which is kind of like those old sky rides that take you to different sections of amusement parks, except that this one just takes you up to an elevation of 7472 feet. From there, we could see everything…the snow on the mountains up close, Mt. Robson in the distance, hazy peaks all around, the little city in the valley below, and the shiny rivers and lakes. A killer view, to say the least. We also spotted a marmot, which is like a squirrel huge enough to scare the living daylights out of you. But he was just coming out of his little burrow to find some breakfast on the snowy mountaintop.
After picking up the rest of the family, we went to Maligne Canyon for some more sightseeing. More waterfalls, more wonderful views. I was getting spoiled.
Then Dan’s parents went to hang out with a bunch of their old-school Jasper friends, who were playing music at the Whistle Stop. At dinnertime we met back up with them, and with Kathy and Hugh, and we all went to Jasper Pizza Place. The pizza was alright, but I really enjoyed the poutine there. We ended the evening by watching Mrs. Doubtfire, which was on TV at the house where we were staying. I had actually never seen it before, and I thought it was pretty funny.
Day 6: Jasper –> Kamloops
Early in the morning Dan and I got up and drove about 45 minutes out of the city to some hot springs. On the way there we saw a female moose, but we passed by her so quickly and she was so far away from the road that I didn’t get a picture.
Pulling into the parking lot, we wondered what was up with the van in front of us, which was not moving. Turns out there was a black bear standing in the parking lot in front of the van, motionless on the road. A few seconds later, a little cub came running out of the bushes behind her, which is what she must have been waiting for. Then, another little cub came running out. They ran after her and then scampered up some trees on the other side of the road. She waited patiently for them to quit playing, and then they walked leisurely up into the woods. It was fascinating to see them up close, and to see how closely the mama bear tended her little ones. I wanted to cuddle the babies, but was told it’s frowned upon.
The whole area around Miette Hot Springs is so still and so beautiful. After parking, we walked down a path for a while to see the source of the hot springs. We also got to see the ruins of the original resort area, which was really cool. Then we walked back and got into the hot springs, which look just like a public swimming pool. Since it was a cool morning, hanging out in the warm water and breathing in the fresh mountain air was perfect. So relaxing and comforting.
On the way back into Jasper, we saw some mountain sheep hanging out in the middle of the road. They love the salt that accumulates there, so they just walk around licking the street. People drive slowly around them or wait patiently.
Back in town, we ate some more poutine, and then packed up and drove back to Kamloops.
In Kamloops, Dan and I worked on finalizing the details of the rest of our road trip, and I booked hotel rooms and ferries. Then Alex (who was feeding our cats) called, and told us that all of our vehicles got towed for street cleaning. Classic Richmond FAIL. Rarely, rarely do they ever clean the streets in Oregon Hill, and yet you KNOW they just had to clean them the one week we were on vacation. Fantastic. We had a big headache paying the fees and arranging to have Alex pick the vehicles up, which probably took her all day. We started calling this the “Brendan vacation” because when he was taking us to the airport, he said “How much you want to bet they end up cleaning the streets just because you’re going out of town?” But at least we can say that was the worst thing that happened to us on vacation.
For dinner we had pierogies and smokies (smoked hot dogs, a Canadian favorite). Afterward we watched Sherlock Holmes, which I loved. I’ve never read the books, but I’m still acutely aware that this must be butchery of the character of Mr. Holmes, but being totally ignorant, I ate it up. It was clever, dark, and apparently I love Robert Downey Jr. Also, that is one of my favorite periods in fashion (hello, bustles), and the movie had lots to do with the occult. So, right down my alley.
Day 7: In Kamloops
I took a break from taking pictures on this day, because I was just over it for a little bit, and because they don’t allow photography in the local casino. BORRRRRING. I mean what else, really, is the point of a casino?
We had a leisurely morning that involved fried eggs, getting Dan’s parents all set up on Skype (exciting!), and saying goodbye to Jack. In the early afternoon we down to Lake City Casino, one of Dan’s parents’ favorite haunts. I was really disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to photograph the multicolored hilarity that is the world of slot machines, but I spent the gambling money that I was so generously given anyway. VLTs (Video Lottery Terminals) are all the rage there. Guys, I cannot get into it. I just don’t get it. It’s not even really playing a game at all…it’s punching a button over and over again, and having your success depend on randomness. I’d rather at least play a game where I can save a princess or kill Dracula or something.
Dan and I took a walk through downtown Kamloops while his parents finished up at the casino. There were some cute shops and some interesting-looking restaurants. The shopping / dining district is very small though; just a few blocks. But it was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed our short walk. After meeting back up with the parents, we went to the grocery store and to the video store, and back “home.”
For dinner, Dan’s mom made his favorite dish from childhood, ginger chicken. Holy mackerel, does she use a lot of ginger. It is positively smothered in ginger. I helped out in the kitchen and got the recipe down pat, and then devoured a ton of it. I can’t wait to make my own veggie version at home for us.
After dinner we watched Couples Retreat. A few parts were funny, but in general it was the usual Vince Vaughn garbage, centering around the sad little goal of not ending up at Applebee’s alone. How about just not ending up there at all? WHO’S WITH ME?