Time for a Reality Check
Updated: Jan 16, 2020
Written Friday, August 16th:
This morning we’re parked in a beautiful, Yoho National Park campsite, the nicest site we’ve had since arriving in Canada, listening to the rainfall, anticipating lousy weather all day and maybe for several days. So, it’s time for a reality check. I’ve heard others accurately explain that RV life is no different than everyday life, with all the associated highs and lows. You still experience the full gamut of emotions, from exhilaration, joy, awe, serenity, to disappointment, anxiety, fatigue, and even home-sickness. I think it’s all about managing expectations and controlling the emotional roller coaster ride. Some days we’re better at that than others. Today was to be our first day exploring the Yoho – Lake Louise area. Instead, I think it’s going to be the day to reflect on our week in Jasper National Park (and work on a video). Remember, we always say, “make the best of every day”!
Ten days ago we crossed into Canada. We spent the night beforehand in a Kootenai National Forest campground near Eureka, Montana, a small town just a few miles from the Canadian border. It was an interesting night and was completely different from our expectations. First, the weather around Flathead Lake, our previous location, was very pleasant, mild temperatures during the day, cool at night. Consequently, we weren’t concerned about the campsite not having electricity. It was north, on the Canadian border, no worries, right? Wrong! It was as hot as Nebraska! The area is fairly remote, in a national forest, so we expected it to be quiet and somewhat secluded, right? Wrong! There was a little lake nearby, evidently a very popular lake for boating and tubing. We were sitting outside in our camp chairs under the canopy, praying for a breeze, on nicely paved, double-wide campsite when the boat parade began. For about two hours, trucks passed by pulling boats of all sizes, including pontoon boats, loaded with kids and their lake toys, after what appeared to be a full day of fun on the water. It was then we understood the extra wide paving on the campsites. Some sites ended up with multiple vehicles, boats, tents, and, of course, at least one RV. We’d never seen anything like it. This was definitely the local hangout and the place to be, not the sleepy remote forest destination we expected. Thankfully, by midnight the temperature dropped about 30 degrees and we got some sleep.
The next morning was filled with anxious anticipation because it was our first border crossing in an RV. We heard from friends and acquaintances everything from “no problem” to stories about being randomly pulled over for a complete search through every corner and crevice of the RV, requiring significant time and distress. Based on Internet information, we knew not to have any produce or fresh meats on board. With that in mind we had been “eating down” the refrigerator but still had to throw out a few items before our departure. After getting our passports and vehicle registration handy, checking the refrigerator multiple times, taking all the equipment off the windshield (we didn’t want the border guard to think he was being filmed or that the tire pressure monitor was a radar detector) we were ready for the worst. However, good preparation paid off! We pulled up, handed over our passports and vehicle registration, answered about five questions (Where are you going? How long are you staying? On vacation? Any firearms, tobacco, or alcohol? Been to Canada before?), with simple yes or no responses, in a courteous, respectful manner, and we were on our way! Whew! Now we could relax and enjoy the Canadian portion of our trip.
After one night, near Canmore, just outside Banff National Park, we began the drive up the parkway to our northernmost destination, Jasper. It was a beautifully clear day and the nearly five-hour drive, with stops, was spectacular. It was one postcard perfect view after another. We were high as kites after a fabulous day, only to arrive at the campground and experience the roller coaster downturn. Part of our disappointment, I know, had to do with the devastation they are experiencing due to the mountain pine beetle. Vast numbers of dead pine trees cover the mountainsides in the northern portion of the park and are throughout the campgrounds, both standing and fallen. In fact, due to all the tall, dead trees they warn you to take cover in the case of high winds. We were surprised they allowed campfires. We didn’t even consider having one, but they were plentiful nonetheless. It was a comedown after the beauty we had just experienced. There was a lot to see in the Jasper area, however, and we were out and about as much as possible, back at the campground each evening to have a simple dinner, play some cards, and get some sleep.
We hit all the major sights around Jasper and they did not disappoint, even though the weather didn’t entirely cooperate. The Columbia Icefield Adventure including the Athabasca Glacier tour and the view from the Skywalk was certainly a highlight. We also thoroughly enjoyed the hike at Mount Edith Cavell. It rewards you with a stunning view of a turquoise blue lake filled with icebergs from the overhanging glacier just above it. Then there are the waterfalls, all of them raging with huge volumes of clear, green water: Athabasca, Sunwapta, and Overlander, to name the ones we searched out. All of them are short distance walks on good paths and extremely rewarding. Lakes abound as well, beautiful foregrounds to massive mountains. We drove to Maligne Lake and Medicine Lake, both lovely and peaceful. Lastly, we drove to Mt. Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget the town of Jasper. We give it kudos for having an abundance of parking for cars and RVs alike. We enjoyed several of the restaurants, especially Wicked Cup for breakfast and Jasper Pizza for guess what, pizza! Oops, almost forgot the busiest little place in town, Bear’s Paw Bakery. Try the white, hot chocolate and Larry’s favorite – sticky cinnamon buns! So, marginal weather, and less than appealing campgrounds did not deter us from having a grand time and making wonderful memories exploring Jasper, Jasper National Park, and the Icefields Parkway. The first leg of our Jasper to Jackson adventure was a success! (FYI - The video won't be available until we get back in the States and can upload it.)