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Kelowna/Jasper/Banff/Glacier Trip

Day 5 of 17

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Tuesday, July 21st
Drive to Jasper National Park, Alberta

Today we had a long drive ahead of us, so we got up early and left the B&B at 9am. That morning I had read on AM 1150's Twitter feed that Highway 97C was now open (I even surprised our B&B host with that knowledge, since she had checked the night before and it had still been closed). This meant we could take this slightly faster route, which we did. We crossed the bridge and took 97C west, where there was almost no traffic. After about 2 hours, we were in Kamloops.

I'd used the GPS (Garmin nuvi 760) to look up bookstores and found a Chapters in Kamloops. We stopped there and I found the same Canadian Rockies hiking guide I had lost. I also found a nice alternate guide next to it. I bought both, but couldn't find any books on Waterton/Glacier National Park. That would have to wait. But for now, I was happy.

After the book store stop and some lunch, we left Kamloops around 12:50pm. I didn't stop much on the way to Jasper. I stopped in Avola for gas, but that was pretty much it. I wouldn't have even stopped there, since the mini-van still had half a tank, but I kept expecting to see a sign like "Last gas, 100 kilometers" so I didn't want to chance it. In fact I eventually did see a sign that said "last gas 90 km".

The drive to Kamloops had been open views of rolling mountains, with 2-3 lanes in each direction. After Kamloops, the highway drops to one lane in each direction. The road goes mostly north before doing a right turn toward Mt. Robson Provincial Park. The views of snow-capped Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the area, were great. But it was such a long drive that I didn't care to stop to take pictures. We just drove right through the park without stopping.

Soon after that, we crossed into Alberta (one hour time difference), and then we were at the entrance for Jasper National Park. Car passes for the national parks are pretty expensive, about $20 per day. Since we were staying so long (4 nights in Jasper and 4 nights in Banff), it was actually more economical for us to get an annual pass for $120 (Canadian).

We drove into the Jasper townsite to look for perishable groceries. The town was quite busy, the main streets bustling with activity. It was also quite warm, something that I had not expected because we were so far north.

We bought our groceries and ice, then headed south along Highway 3 for 4-5 kilometers to the Wapiti campground, where I had made reservations. One thing they do differently is that you can't reserve your own site. A specific site is assigned to you by the ranger. Another thing they do differently is that they require a permit to have a camp fire. We paid for one night of camp fire. On the bright side, they do provide unlimited fire wood. The fire permit is about the same price that the wood would cost. I think they probbly use this tactic to help deter people from bringing in their own, possibly infected, fire wood. As it turns out, we ended up getting in so late most nights that we didn't have a fire at all while we were at Jasper.

Sites at the campground were spacious, providing a picnic table and small fire pit. The sites are also spaced relatively far apart, and each site sits in the forest. Wapiti campground has over 300 sites, but it never felt crowded in the campground because it is so nicely spread out.

Another thing they do differently than what we're used to is that they don't provide bear boxes. Instead, they recommend keeping all food in the car. In fact, they recommend that you put everything in the car except your tent, even putting water bottles and picnic table covers into the car. They say you *may* leave out lawn furniture. This was all a real pain to have to deal with (constantly moving food into and out of the car). Eventually we managed to group things a bit to make it easier, but the first couple of days were painful in this regard.

One thing that was very noticeable was that the sun set later now. The sun set around 9:30pm, but there was still plenty of light even after 10pm. We were still adjusting to the time zone change, so we took advantage of the extra light and stayed up late.

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