Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Road trip from Edmonton to Vancouver

A stretch of the road between Valemont and Kamloops

A road stop by Kicking Horse River in Jasper National Park

This summer we (Reuben, Nick, Amanda and I) drove the Yellowhead Highway from Edmonton to Vancouver. It's 509 miles (820km), and it takes us two days. Two very long days! Compared to driving in England, it is either extremely boring or easy and relaxing depending on your tolerance for  driving long distances without any change in the scenery. The road from Edmonton is completely straight until you hit Edson, 119 miles from Edmonton. It's here that the flat fields give way to bush (forests of short pine trees) and then just before the town the road bends to the left and then continues in a straight line to Jasper. About 50 miles east of Jasper, mountains rise up beside the road and we enter the National Park. Just beyond Jasper we have to make our first directional decision - continue straight to Prince George or turn left again to Kamloops. We turn left and descend down the mountain pass to the Valemont valley where we spend the night in a log lodge. We're the only guests and the rotund manager seems delighted to have our company. After showing us our rooms, he settles back down in front of the TV in the lounge, with a giant mug of pop and a huge bag of crisps. He rouses himself briefly to give us directions for a walk, saying, "Yeh we did have a grizzly siting yesterday but that was about 20 km south of here." With visions of a quick walking grizzly lurking around the lodge Nick, Amanda and I venture out in a bit of a drizzle. Nick immediately spots about 10 different varieties of mushrooms but we don't bother to add any to our dinner which we cook ourself (having earlier scrounged around Valemont's only supermarket for the least objectionable take out food)and eat in the dining room by a picture window overlooking the mountains - with a bottle of red wine, it all tastes very nice. 
The road from Valemont to Kamloops continues beside a river, alongside mountains and forests. It's pretty but it feels endless. The photo of the road is from this section of the highway. Kamloops is a major forestry hub of 70,000 people. A big town with lots of subdivisions but a run down centre. Reuben's daughter, Naomi and her family live here but they are on holiday so we won't see them until the trip back. We stop for coffee and then continue over the Coquihalla Hwy.  There are no services on this 182 km highway and only one exit at the town of Merrit, which despite its name is a supremely missable place. The highway climbs 1244 metres to the toll booth which offers one of the loneliest employment opportunities in the province. We pay our $10 and then begin the long downhill ride. I like this highway in the summer but it can be a scary place in the winter. On one winter trip, when it was snowing and icy, Reuben and I passed over 30 vehicles in the ditches on this downhill section. 
We make it to Hope, get gas (petrol), turn into the Fraser Valley and we can almost smell the sea. Not quite, still another 93 miles to go, through what was once rich agricultural land and is now packed with bedroom communities. The traffic builds up and the tensions and complaints from the back seat, which have also been building, now reach a crescendo. We get stuck in a traffic jam and we are all fed up but some of us manage to keep it to ourselves!!!
And then finally we shoot across the Second Narrows Bridge into North Vancouver and I feel like I'm home again.

Two weeks later we do the trip in reverse, this time spending the night with Naomi and her boys, Malcolm and Cameron (Trent is away cycling for the weekend). We eat great food at a harvest dinner, sitting around a campfire and have a lovely time. 

Malcolm is sitting on the far left and Cameron is the last boy on the right of the swing seat.

Naomi with friends

Reuben, Nick and Amanda waiting for the feast

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