Mawlers’ Big Adventure ’04:
Prince George to Jasper

Wednesday, 18 August 2004

By the Numbers
  • Distance Driven Today: about 402 km
  • Gas Purchased Today: 94.79 litres (making up for yesterday)
  • Total Cracks in Windshield: we don't drive east in the morning, so windshield is less sparkly
Wild Woolies
  • LBB: 1 (little brown bird)

So, having gotten to Prince George at 2 am, we of course set about watching the Olympics. (Of course.) So, we literally ran to the office to check out of the hotel at 11:00. Another Mawler early start.

We had decided that while we’re in civilization – they have a Wal-mart and a Costco! – we will get some of our film developed. We don’t like carrying exposed film through airport security, and airport security doesn’t really like hand-checking our film. So, we take our 35 rolls of film or so (What?? You’ve never seen people take pictures before?) to Costco and ask them how long they would take to develop the film. They look at us as though we have grown horns and a tail, and are carrying a shiny new pitchfork. We ultimately settle for 15 rolls developed here, and we leave the film and head out for lunch.

Treat gone bad
In addition to the newly developed pictures, we each decide to have a treat, so I get a sundae and Stuart gets an ice cream cone. You know; sometimes bigger is not necessarily better. Maybe we should have thought of that before getting treats at Costco.

We go next door to the Boston Pizza (I’m telling you… civilization), and I’m a little saddened by the fact that most of our wilderness on this trip is past. We are heading down into the populous regions again. We have cell service here, so we check our voice mail and call our Moms.

When we pick up our film, we (of course) have to sit and look through the prints before we can go, so suffice it to say, we get a late start again.

On the way out of town, we see some beautiful, albeit dry, farms with lovely rolled hay bails. We stopped to take a few pictures and got a couple of pretty good ones. We get back on the road, and we drive east.

We have decided to stop at Mt. Robson on the way to Jasper, today’s end goal. It sounds pretty neat in the books, and we haven’t been there before, despite having been to Jasper twice. The terrain turns massive and rocky again, as we near the very northern section of the Canadian Rockies.

When we get to the visitor center at Mt. Robson, it turns out to be right by a beautiful view of the 12,972 foot peak itself. Mt. Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. We walk back into the field behind the visitor’s center to get a picture, and we notice a little brown bird, probably a sparrow or something, in the grass. We don’t pay a lot of mind to him, thinking he’ll probably fly away any moment. We take some shots and then sit down in the grass.

As soon as we sit down, the little bird rushes us. It is the weirdest thing. He half flies and half runs toward us, flapping furiously. For a moment, we think we must be near a nest, but a look around yields nothing, and as soon as he’s there, he backs off to a safe distance of about 10 feet.

We continue to sit in the grass, and the longer we stay, the closer the little bird gets. I get up to walk away for a moment, and as I take a few steps, the little bird rushes me. I look around for a nest, again, but I find that what I’ve done is actually scare up dinner. The field, it turns out, is full of grasshoppers, and when we walk through, the grasshoppers are stirred to fly, which makes them visible to the little bird. By following close behind us when we walk, the bird is getting a free lunch.

I test my theory, and sure enough, the bird follows wherever I walk, eating grasshopper after grasshopper. I am stunned that his poor little stomach could hold all those huge grasshoppers.

Eventually, I go back and sit down with Stuart, and the little bird inches closer. Finally, he just hops right up on my leg and stares at me. We’ve been snapping pictures of this little guy, and I figure when I moved to take his picture, surely he’d fly away, but he just poses.

We stay for a while and scare up bugs for the bird, interspersed with lovely bonding moments where he sits on our legs while we’re sitting on the ground. But, after a while, we need to get moving, because (as usual) the sun is going down. We bid a fond adieu to our fine feathered friend and head back to the highway.

Is there deeper meaning?
Something about a wild bird sitting on your leg seems somehow to have a deep cosmic relevance. It speaks of a deep and resonant communication across species and the unity of all life on this small planet.

Kind of brings you back to reality when the little bird poops on your leg, eh?

Our final destination for the day is Jasper. Unfortunately, the smoke has been getting thicker and thicker, again, as we get nearer. Finally, when the smoke is really dense, we see a sign indicating that this is a controlled burn. We’re bummed. After all the fires we’d seen this summer, we’ve tried to be very positive, knowing that forest fires are just part of the natural cycle of things, especially up here where people don’t start the fires usually. But, it’s very frustrating to have spent this long getting here to find that you can’t see the sky through the smoke on purpose. I hope it at least reduces the chance of raging fires in the future.

But, like in Eagle Plains, the smoke has a nice side effect on the sunset, and we pull off the road to take some pictures of the bright red sun reflecting off of a lake. No sooner are we heading back to the Jeep when some guy in another SUV pulls over and starts cursing at us.

At first, we don’t know what he’s talking about, but between the profanities, he manages to communicate that he claims to be patrolling the road to keep people from stopping because of the fires. This strikes me as comical, given that we stopped to take pictures of a fire in Alaska that was 20 feet from the road, and this fire is way up in the hills where it’s not even visible.

But, rather than be dragged off to jail in Canada, we go ahead and get a move on.

When we arrive at the park, we are struck once again by the price of admission. We pay CDN$28 for two nights. That’s not to camp – fees for that are separate. That’s a "vehicle permit" for the privilege of having your vehicle inside the park. We pay our fees, grumble to ourselves, and make our way into Jasper townsite, looking for a place to get dinner.

For some reason, all of the iced tea in Canada on this trip has been mix. Sad, but true. But, we find in the restaurant in Jasper that they have brewed iced tea. Must be the American demand. But, refills are not free. Anyone who knows me knows that I can put away some iced tea with dinner, and because of my complete inability to find iced tea for the last 3 weeks, I order refill after refill, ultimately paying quite a bit just for my "drinks" with dinner. Doesn’t that usually mean something different?

Fat and happy from dinner, we need to find a place to stay and are hoping to camp tonight. We really like the idea of camping in Jasper. Having been here several times, it would be nice to camp this once, so we investigate camping options. Seems that, as you go south, Parks Canada gets more restrictive with where you can camp.

We check the campsites and, though the one with 300+ tent sites is full, the one with 700+ tent sites has availability. No kidding, the campsites are that big. And that full.

We pause, though because the registration for the campsite looks a whole lot like a drive-thru hotel. At least they post the prices because the campgrounds are CDN$22 for the privilege of driving a few stakes into the ground. The cost associated with our Simmons Lake campsite was much better. I know, the price is in Canadian, but still!

So we decide to ask at one of the hotels and guess what? We have arrived during "Rendezvous Jasper". Technically, they call it the Jasper Rodeo, but you get the idea: no place to stay.

Well, there are places to stay. The nice ladies at the hotel desk give us the name and number of an older lady renting out rooms in her house. This is probably strictly verboten, but what the heck?

Even though it is 11:30 at night we give the number a call and end up staying at strange, but nice lady’s house. It was cheap at just CDN$65. The room is very nice, and much more reasonably priced than anywhere else in Rodeoville. We’re pretty sure that, in fact, we are staying at underground, unlicensed accommodations. But, we won’t tell if you won’t.

see it on a map

The previous installment:
Stewart to Prince George

The next installment:
Jasper to Lake Louise

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All materials © 2004 Lea Ann Mawler & Stuart Mawler