There are basically three routes to Edmonton from Dawson Creek. The old northern-route (Route 2), the new central-route (Route 43) built in 1955, or the scenic southern-route (Route 40). We decided on “The Scenic Route to Alaska” (or in our case, from Alaska) as it would take us back into the mountains and also take us down near Jasper NP. When we were in Jasper in May, it was raining with low hanging clouds, so we missed a lot of the mountains. The weather forecast was “sunny and warm” for the next 5 days, so we headed down Route 40.
Route 40 is a wide two-lane road through poplar, pine, and spruce forests. We quickly left agriculture behind. There are many dirt roads leading off to logging sites. There are a number of OSB plants (oriented strand board manufactures – plywood). There are also dirt roads which lead a short way off to oil and gas rigs. At one point miles of 8-inch pipe were lying on the side of the road carrying water from a river to a drilling site. It had inline pumps about every ¼ mile to move the water up the incline. From the road you see little of this (except the pipeline) unless you really look as there had been a shield of trees left at roadside. What you do see is a lot of trucks on the road, carrying logs and propane. It wasn’t bad, but it was more heavy traffic than we had expected.
Also unexpected were incredible, intense thunder showers. At one point we pulled over because the hail was so heavy – the size of large Bing cherries. There was so much in the road that there were tire ruts in it, and a strange fog arose from the road as the 80-degree air hit the cold ice. Eerie actually.
However, as we neared Jasper the weather improved to sun and blue sky with white clouds. We enjoyed driving toward the center of the park, taking lots of pictures. One sight that was amazing was people wading in the very shallow river that parallels Route 16 as you approach the Jasper town site. It was rather unreal – people wading in the milky water (glacial flour), the rocky mountains in the sun behind them, and a nursery herd of mom and baby sheep drinking and grazing on the shore next to all the people.
Unfortunately our trip into Jasper soon came to an end. There was what appeared to be a 5-6 mile traffic stoppage. We never found out if it was construction or an accident, for we decided to turn around and camp for the night at a place 12 miles back up Route 40 we had seen on our a way down – the Blue Lake Retreat Center. The campgrounds at Jasper were full for the night – as one might expect in late July. If you are coming to Jasper at this time of the year, have reservations.
We hope that tomorrow will bring the kind of weather we had read on the forecast in Dawson Creek. The plan will be to drive around some more in the park (perhaps take a hike), then head out to Edmonton and points east.