Monday, August 9, 2010

Leaving Alaska - Hinton through Jasper and Banff to Lethbridge, Alberta

We left the Gregg Lake Campground this morning (Monday, August 9th) and began the 440 mile drive to Lethbridge. This would include a beautiful stretch through Jasper National Park and Banff National Park.

We made our first stop almost immediately, in Hinton to visit the Beaver Boardwalk. We had a heck of a time finding this boardwalk!  We got a map from the visitor's center but still could not figure out where to park. We circled through a residential area three times before returning to the Visitor Center to talk to someone.

As it turned out, the parking for the Beaver Boardwalk is in an apartment complex, where there are a handful of spaces dedicated for Boardwalk visitors.  So we crammed the Trek into 3 or 4 spaces, set the chock, and walked down to the boardwalk,

The Beaver Boardwalk is a wooden pathway about a mile long that winds through wetlands and past a living, fully functioning beaver pond complete with lodge. It was a very pleasant walk, and the dogs enjoyed all the smells and sounds. 

We even saw a beaver, or was it a muskrat? ... take and look and let me know.

After visiting the boardwalk, we got back on the road and headed south towards Jasper National Park. Several friends and family had told us in the past how beautiful these areas are, and they weren't exaggerating!

We paid the obligatory $20 to drive on the Jasper Parkway and it was well worth it! Although it was an overcast day, the scenery was still breathtaking. The photos we took are OK, but it's hard to do these areas justice with just a little camera. 

We also drove through the Columbia Ice Fields, but did not stop to take a bus tour through the area.
Perhaps we should have, but we still had many miles to go and did not want to run out of daylight.

We would love to come back to this area some day and spend more time sightseeing and enjoying the beauty.

Lynda had read about a series of 20+ animal crossing bridges that span the highway between Jasper and Banff.  We were both so impressed that Alberta's provincial government is willing to spend the money on such things, to protect the area wildlife.

Sure enough, we spotted these bridges as we drove along towards Banff. They are "landscaped" with trees, rocks, and other foliage to blend in with the natural surroundings, and allow animals safe passage above the highway.  The animal bridges also help protect humans by reducing the number of animal-car encounters on the roadway.

An hour or two south of Calgary, we decided to stop and enjoy an early dinner - I had a craving for steak! This part of Alberta is very agricultural, with expansive crop fields and cattle ranches and we ended up stopping in a small town called Nanton.

Nanton has an attractive downtown area but it is not, by any means, a bustling town with numerous restaurants.  We ended up eating at Rumors Bar & Restaurant, a local hangout.  After parking the Trek out back in a field, we went inside and immediately made our way to their outside patio area to avoid eating in the dark and smoky bar area.The food was simple but tasty: steak and fries with a cold beer.  We were there less than five minutes when a local ranch hand came to check us out.  After making some cowboy poses, he came over and sat down.  I don't think Nanton gets a lot of strangers stopping in. Anyway, he was nice enough and regaled us with stories of people he knows that married American women who then had endless problems getting back  into the US.  Although this did not make much sense to me, I just smiled and nodded.  He also told us about ranching and being a professional hockey player, giving us a 45-minute glimpse into an world very different from ours.  We enjoyed talking with him... this is what traveling around is all about!

We left Nanton and continued south, arriving in Lethbridge around 7:30 PM.  This is a a medium sized town that lays just a few miles north of the Canada-US border. We're boon docking at Wal-Mart tonight, sleeping in the glow of parking lot lights - ahhh!

Here is a really funny song on YouTube by the talented Pat Pepin about boon docking at Wal-Mart. If you haven't already seen it, take a moment to watch... its great!

Tomorrow we're off to Montana to visit Glacier National Park. After two months of travel through Canada and Alaska, we will once again be back in the Lower 48.  Stay tuned!

Click here to view some photos from today's drive.

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