Sunday, March 05, 2017

An epic winter roadtrip story: Vancouver to Jasper to Canmore.

It's been three weeks since our first Canadian roadtrip and our journey from Vancouver. Even crazier still, it's been almost 3 exact months since we left Australia. The day-to-day looks and feels and smells so different, but better yet, it feels like home. Everything about it sits right with us.

As you may have read from my earlier blog posts, we got hit with some wild winter weather in Vancouver, with some serious and unexpected snowmageddon hitting British Columbia & Alberta the week before we moved to Canmore. What was meant to be a simple, scenic roadtrip to the Rockies turned into a pretty eventful journey.

It started the Thursday night before we were meant to leave. Our plan was to leave Vancouver around Friday lunchtime, having packed our pickup (that's a ute, for my Australian friends) with a queen-sized mattress, two boxes of household items from Costco, our luggage and ourselves for our roadtrip eastward, heading first to Jasper, and then south to Canmore. Well, the weather had different plans—close to midnight, we found out that all highways out of metro Vancouver closed due to icy conditions/extreme avalanche risks.

We opted to stay the Friday in Vancouver to be safe, giving the roads and the weather an extra day to settle down and leaving early on Saturday morning instead. We left at about 6:30am on Saturday, but it was slow going, with at least 3 stops over the course of an hour-and-a-half to fix our tarp, not to mention congestion and driving carefully over very icy roads.

A few hours into our journey we stopped to take photos near the town of Pemberton, setting us back 40 minutes. Not half an hour after we got going, we stopped again—this time to help a car in front of us that slid off the road and crashed into a snow bank. Together with 5 Polish boys, their shovels and a Canadian man who also pulled over, we managed to get the car free from the snow, but it set us back another 45 minutes.

In the end, we didn't get to Jasper until midnight, a whole 17 hours from the time we left Vancouver (a journey that should have only taken 10). We were driving in pitch black highways for the last 7 of those 17 hours—the only light being our headlights and the full moon reflecting all the white in the mountains. It was beautiful and ominous, exactly how nature is supposed to make you feel, but it kept us on edge—we wanted to make it home safely. My cousin and I talked the whole time to keep each other awake. Exhausted, we checked into our hotel room and slept for a meagre 2 hours before getting up at 4:30am to hit the road again for our sunrise photoshoots down the scenic highway named the Icefields Parkway.

Yet again, the roads had other plans—upon entering the highway we discovered a 30km section of it was closed. A 4:30am phone call to my uncle revealed the highway had closed while we were driving the night before, due to avalanche control. There was simply no way we were going to be able to go to our photo destinations, let alone to Canmore without a detour that would take more than twice as long (and cost us hundreds of dollars in gas). So we stayed in Jasper an extra day, making the most of our stay and our early wake-up call by taking sunrise photos at Patricia Lake and exploring Maligne Canyon. We were running on 4 hours sleep over 48 hours, cheap Tim Hortons coffee and pure willpower. We slept 12 hours straight that night, only waking up an hour before our checkout time. The Icefields Parkway was still closed, but determined to get to Canmore, we found a detour through the small town of Rocky Mountain House. 8.5 hours of driving through the not-so-scenic prairies later, we made it to our house. Later that night we found out the Icefields Parkway had reopened an hour after we left Jasper—we could have stopped at all our photo locations and still made it to Canmore at the same time. Well, c'est la vie.

So that is the long and hectic story of how we got to Canmore, our new home for the next few months. We absolutely couldn't have done it without my cousin, who did all the driving so that we wouldn't be stressed with driving a huge pickup on the opposite side of the road let alone on ice for the first time. Now that we're here, getting settled and setting up our new life, I can't wait to explore and show you more from our town and the beautiful Canadian Rockies.

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