Whistler, BC (Oct 09/20) – After C&O departed for home, N&J toured through the small town of Hudson’s Hope and spotting an outdoor deck serving a Mexican style brunch they couldn’t resist stopping. After a delicious meal a drive up to BC Hydro’s ‘W.A.C. Bennett’ hydro-electric power dam was in order. Although the dam tours are not open (due to covid), the effort was worthwhile. The immense size of the dam’s structure & Williston Lake (251km long; 155km wide) behind is overwhelming…25% of British Columbia’s electrical requirements are generated at this site.
Construction of the new Site C dam is well underway in the area, the amount of activity of the dam builders is all around you. Although there is much ‘hand wringing’ on whether this project is necessary, the investment does have its environmental drawbacks, but the economic boost for workers & the long term advantages of ‘clean’ electrical production seems to balance the ‘pros & cons’.
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Hudson’s Hope is quite the attraction; beautiful, quaint township, restaurants & lots of recreational facilities. Small signs erected promoting the opening of a new farmer’s market “The Rustic Pantry”, N&J became their first customers. This small specialty shop off the beaten track, but worth the drive, offering all sorts of local crafts, produce & organic meats, Hobbes was again stocked up for the next chapter.
N&J did not travel too far, before coming across a beautiful river encased in large weathered rock formations hugging the shoreline, just below the BC Hydro Peace dam. Further along was Dinosaur Lake; obtaining its name from all of the dinosaur tracks and fossils found before the area was flooded when the dam was put in place. As the day was already winding down, another municipal campsite along the lake would make home for the night.
With sunny days potentially disappearing right around the corner, and today’s sun slipping lower, N decides to take advantage of what could be one of her last swims for the season. The water cold but inviting in an unusual way. .. the cold snaps the body’s flow of chemicals into overdrive with seeming precision attacking and flushing the body’s systems. Clearing the mind and body, the breathing subsiding, the pain transforming into a virtuous peacefulness ….the day complete.
The journey south takes the road east of the Rocky Mountains, more foothill/prairie-like terrain. Lots of natural gas wells to be seen along the route, with apparent construction everywhere. Near Dawson Creek, BC the land starts to flatten out as you drive towards Grande Prairie, AB.
Looking for a camp spot is different in Alberta, lots of ‘rough camping’ available between Grande Prairie & Grande Cache, AB. Not the ‘polished’ type of facilities that are the norm elsewhere, these pullouts are fully equipped with …NOTHING!!!
The first place N&J stopped was filled with hunters, big trucks & their monster RV units, all appearing to have settled in for the season. The odd appearance of the van attracted one of the ‘residents’ of the camp who excitedly sped over on his ATV to give a big howdy and smile through slurred speech and missing teeth insisting that J hop on the back as he had something he just had to show J. Out of ear shot N could read J’s body language and rushed Jesse back to the van to see what the unfamiliar voice was trying to say. With a lot of profanity and racist remarks it was learned that apparently a moose was hanging nearby (after being hunted) & was attracting bears. Not wanting to be around this it was decided to move along.
An Alberta Provincial Campground was found just a little further down the highway but was 4km off the main road and was closed for the season (gates blocking access to just the campground). Going down this straight tree lined dirt road was somewhat unnerving as their was no turnaround in site. Up ahead 2 jeeps were driving towards the van and upon approach all vehicles stopped and a discussion ensued about whether camping was allowed even though it was closed… the family of 5 in 2 jeeps decided that if N&J were going to give it a go, they would also try their luck. N&J finding space near the picnic site along the lake were quite pleased and camp was setup, dinner prepared & a ‘Hobbes’ hot water shower before bedtime….N&J thought all was so peaceful …NOPE!!!
Already in a quiet slumber…. around 12 midnight, the silence was pierced by the lights and noise from a loud vehicle nearby lighting up the dark wilderness, an oversized 4×4 burst into the picnic area stopping in front of the sliding door of Hobbes in a T-bone like position, shining its high-beams directly into the van … with engine revving and lights blinding for approximately 10 minutes (seemed like hours)…. N&J frozen. Panic and fear raging through their bodies, their minds scattered with decisions to be made…. then suddenly, the 4×4 screeches its tires & narrowly missing Hobbes drives off. In the ensuing period N&J could hear the intruding truck roaring around other parts of the park. Completely panicked and not knowing where the other family had set up camp, N&J threw everything on the floor of the van, put the roof down, falling all over everything J managed to get the key in the ignition and got the hell out!! Driving for an hour or so, getting away from what is apparently ‘Alberta’s Ozark’…something very disconcerting being around people with guns, booze & missing teeth. 🙁
Thankfully another pull-out in a grassy field near a river was found closer to Grande Cache around 1:30am …all was quiet. 🙂
The next day, after driving into Hinton, AB for a fuel & food stop, the camp stop was in Jasper National Park (JNP) at Snaring Campground east of Jasper by 10-15km, very warm unusual ‘summer like’ conditions, no bugs!!! Situated along a meandering Snaring River, now in all of its autumn glory. The trees a warm yellow-gold, leaves gently falling to the ground, the skies a vivid blue brought a peaceful overnight stay…
Next day a walkabout in the town of Jasper was pleasant, pushing Jesse in his go-kart. Quaint town with nice shops, stopped at the local fishing shop so N could pickup some fly fishing tips …BEWARE Little Fishies!!!
Met up again with the family of 5 + dog from Ontario traveling across Canada in 2 Jeeps decked out to the nines. Excited to see one another after sharing the ‘Harrowing Night’s’ experience and happy to share that everyone made it out ok. Learning the family has been traveling for the past 5+ years with the ability to work on the road & see the world, inspiring & very grounding …checkout their YouTube page: EpicFamilyRoadtrip.
Camped at Wapiti Campground (JNP) just outside of Jasper townsite along the glacier fed Athabasca River (just north of the town). This is the main camp, open all year (winter too!!!), hot showers, electrical hookups available…nice. A stroll along the river was pleasant, N always on the lookout for ever elusive fish, none spotted. Of course N considered a plunge into the river, but its green/blue water (aka rock flour), indicative of fresh melted glacier water (and what looked like ice cubes) brought forward saner thoughts …at least in J’s mind.
After almost 4 weeks on the road, J was looking a bit rough around the edges (OK everywhere!!!). So N decided a haircut & trim was in order …the beard withstanding.
With a drastic change in mountain weather to winter-like conditions and finding out that J’s sister was admitted to the hospital in Langley, N&J decided to head home earlier than planned. Heading back to Whistler, west on Hwy 16, south at Hwy 5 towards Kamloops, a short detour through the Bridge Lake region (towards 100 Mile House), campgrounds now closed for the winter made the decision easier to just keep going.
As the daylight was fast abating a ‘boondock’ campsite was found on Hwy 99 just west of Hat Creek Ranch at Hwy 97. Located up on a bluff just 100 metres up from the main road on a forest road, the views of the valley were grand. Quiet & peaceful.
Before venturing back to Whistler, a stop at Horstings Farm (7km north of Cache Creek on Hwy 97) is always a must-do. The produce & baked goods are delicious, stocking up the larder and freezer for the impending winter season…
Next day the return trip to home along the Duffy Lake Road was easy. Newly fallen snow on the mountaintops made for a scenic journey …back safe in Whistler. 🙂