Days 20 and 21 – Jasper National Park, Icefields Parkway ,Banff National Park and home

Leaving the campsite about 8am it is the final push to Jasper National Park. Stopping behind a long line of cars just minutes from the entry to the park it was discovered that a road closure was in effect from 9am till 11am. Wait it should only be 8:30am, no there was a time change yesterday that proved the undoing of this plan.

IT’S ACTUALLY 9:30

Oh well guess it’s time to climb out of the car and get some stretching done for the morning.

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Finally right at 11am the line of cars starts to move and entering the park it is time to stop at the visitors center located in the town of Jasper.

Jasper National Park is Canada’s largest National Park with 4,200 sq. miles (11,000 sq. km) that lies just north and adjacent to Banff National Park. This beautiful Park consisting of glaciers, ice fields, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls and mountains was established in 1907 as a forest park and was provided full National Park status in 1930. Part of the Canadian Rocky’s National Park along with neighbor Banff and 2 other Parks it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

The resort town of Jasper is the headquarters for Jasper National Park with it’s Visitors Center. This year round resort is with complete facilities for it’s guests, a quaint walkable downtown featuring restaurants, hotels and shopping with nearby Marmot Basin Ski Resort. The town was quite crowded with other visitors this Friday so finding a parking spot proved a little challenging. Finally getting parked it was a medium length walk to the Visitors Center to get aquatinted with the park. Moving around inside was a little claustrophobic so the goal was quickly accomplished and then it is off  into the park.

Icefields Parkway

Rated as one of the top drives in the world, Canadian Highway 93, the Ice Fields Parkway, is a 144-mile  (232km) stretch of road winding its way through 2 National Parks with a beautiful landscape rich in history traversing subalpine forests and the Columbia Icefield.

Going south on the Icefields Parkway we come to Athabasca Falls. Flowing from the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, the Athabasca River is the largest river system in Jasper and the 75 foot (23 m) Athabasca Falls. Although not very tall, it’s power comes from the flow of the river and the narrow canyon it traverses making for a spectacular view.

In the park is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains of North America, the Columbia Icefield. It’s 125 sq. mile (325 sq. km) area is in both Banff National park and the adjoining Jasper National Park.

Just past the Athabasca Glacier on the Columbia Icefields is a small campsite for tents only. Pulling in there 2 spots available, so here is home for the night. 

After getting camp set up it was a short walk along the Parkway to the trail head for a 1.1 mile (1.8 k) moderately strenuous hike to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. A fabulous walk to the base of the glacier and you can hike right onto it. If you do not feel like walking you can take a bus from the lodge to the glacier where you get onto a Tundra Bus for a drive out onto the glacier.

The next morning it was an early rise and quick breakfast to head south and hopefully get to a few places before the crowds start to gather.

Banff National Park, Alberta Canada

Established in 1885 this is Canada’s oldest national park. Located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park encompasses 2,564 sq miles (6,641 sq km) of forested, alpine terrain consisting of hot springs, glaciers, ice fields, rivers and waterfalls in a subarctic ecosystem.

Bridal Veil Falls

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Weeping Wall showcases the melt-off from the snowfields emerging form fissures in the cliff face emerging as a series of waterfalls.

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Getting to Lake Louise it was a quick off ramp to see Moraine Lake. Well it was quite overrun with vehicles and people trying to get to the lake for the morning sunrise. It takes 45 minutes to get to the large parking lot which is overrun with cars. If the parking lot is this full the trail to the lake must be just as crowded. Turning around and getting back to the parkway it was discussed and with the final day of the trip being Sunday at Glacier NP along the popular Going to the Sun Highway it was decided to head out of the Banff early and head home as it was only a 10 hour drive. Glacier National Park is relatively close and can be left for another adventure.

Leaving the Icefields Parkway at Castle Junction it was time to head west along Highway 93 to the town of Radium Hot Springs where the highway turns south for the USA Border Crossing. Stopping in Cranbrook I pick up a quick lunch and then it’s off to the border.

It was a 45 minute wait at the border as it was quite crowded. Finally through It’s south on State 95 to Interstate 90, Highway 395 and finally onto Interstate 84 west to the coast and home.

Arriving home at about 10pm I take a quick shower to hose off the few days of grim due to no showers and fall into bed. Unpacking will be for tomorrow, sleep comes quickly as I am home in my bed after 21 days on the road.

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Day 6 – Campbell Highway, Klondike Highway and onto the Dempster.

After an easy breakfast we left camp about 8:30 to continue along Canada Highway 4, The Campbell Highway following old fur trade routes. This 362-mile (5983 km) paved but mostly gravel road will lead to Highway 2, the Klondike Highway,  for the adventure to the far reaches of the Northwest Territories and the Arctic Ocean along the Dempster Highway.

The highway is named after the first white man to explore the Yukon area, John Campbell, this all season road leads from Watson Lake to just north of Carmacks on Klondike Highway (2). This rougher road is shorter in distance than continuing along to the junction of the Alaskan Highway and the Klondike Highway but it is much slower. Services are few and far between along this highway.

Stopping at several overlooks of the Yukon River we noticed several small dots moving along the river. Canoeists were floating and paddling with the current, their boats loaded down with camping gear. Now that looks like a great adventure to make (another bucket list item).

We are now in a landmass named Beringia stretching from eastern Siberia, through Alaska, and to the Yukon. This area was not covered in glaciers at the time of the Ice Age but was an area of dry, dusty, treeless Steppe where you could see Bison, wild ponies, Wooly Mammoths among other animals. During the ice age the water level dropped 425 feet (130 m) creating Beringia, the land bridge between Russia and North America.

Making it to the the Klondike Highway I stopped at a scenic overlook and made lunch. What a delightful place to eat.

It was decided early that this day would be another drive day to make it to the Dempster Highway quickly as a storm was moving into the area. Wanting good weather in Tuktoyaktuk we pressed on making it to the start of the Dempster at about 4:30 in the afternoon. Filling with gas at the intersection we continued about 70 miles to stop and camp at the end of a emergency airstrip. Pulling far off the end of the runway and completely off the marked airstrip we set up camp at 7:00.

Day 3 – To Dawson Creek

It was a short drive to Dawson Creek, B.C. from the campsite.

Along this section of Highway 97 is the Town of Chetwynd with its chainsaw carving project that began as part of the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Alaska (Alcan) highway. Located along the main roadway and at the Visitor Center these carved chainsaw statues are something to admire and are exquisite as you pass through.

Chetwynd_from Google

The Alaskan Highway formally starts in Dawson Creek, BC at Mile Marker 0. The 1,422-mile (2,288.5 km) long formal Alaskan Highway ends in Delta Junction, AK while the unofficial end is in Fairbanks, AK, 1,523 miles (2,451 km) from Dawson Creek, BC.

Alaska-Highway-Map

Dawson Creek was incorporated as a city in 1958 and is a principal railhead of the British Columbia Railway and the intersection of 4 major highways in the area. Make sure to get your photo at Milepost 0 Cairn, visit the Pioneer Village, Dawson Creek Art Gallery and the Alaska Highway House to name a few of the sites in town. And if you have time visit the Northern Alberta Railways Park.

We saw the Mile Zero Cairn / Sign Post for a photo op, the Surveyor Statue, visited the Alaska Highway House Museum, walked the couple of blocks to see the Official Zero-mile Post a few blocks away and had a nice lunch at Hug a Mug’s Coffee House and Eatery.

It is sad the original, official mile post mark was a part of countless pranks and kidnappings with this new one replacing it in the 1980’s.

ACX-ACP90184 - © - Ron Erwin

Driving 20 minutes north of town, the stop for the night was at the Kiskatinaw Provincial Park. This campsite is located right next to the curved, wooden Historic Kiskatinaw Bridge. Kiskatinaw means “cutback” in Cree. Constructed in 1942-43 by the US Public Roads Administration it replaced an original 3 span timber trestle. With a 9 degree curve to accommodate the Steep grade change and the need to notch a cliff at the east end. It was one of 133 permanent bridges built to replace the temporary bridges built by the U.S Army. At about 122m (400 foot) long it was the first curved bridge to be constructed in Canada and one of the last in North America to remain.

 

 

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA

I had just an evening and a few hours the next morning to explore the Alabama Hills. I got in after dark and it was very windy and cold Halloween night so I didn’t want to spend too much time outside. I shall return with more time to explore the Movie Road and Movie Flats to find the locations of the arches and television / movie shooting locations. The Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine will provide a history and has information and self-guided tours of the area.

Alabama-Hills-Movie-Location-Map

Map of several of the Alabama Hills movie sites

These hills, arches and rock formations on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada are in the shadow of Mount Whitney just west of the California town of Lone Pine. Located right off the road to Whitney Portal, the starting point for climbing the 11th highest peak in the United States and the tallest in California, this BLM land is open for exploring, hiking, astronomy, camping and exploring. The formations are part of the same geological formation although geographically separate from the Sierra Nevada Mountains just adjacent to the east

Mines in the area were named after the Confederate Civil War ship the CSS Alabama by sympathetic confederate miners of the time and then it became the name of the entire area. When the Alabama was finally sunk by the USS Kearsarge in 1864 the mining district, a mountain pass and peak and a town were named Kearsarge by sympathetic union miners.

Used by television and movie productions for filming, especially Westerns. Since the 1920’s this rugged environment has been shown in approximately 150 movies and a dozen television shows. A few of the early television shows have been Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, The Gene Audrey Show, The Lone Ranger, and Bonanza. While Gunga Din, The Walking Hills, Yellow Sky, Springfield Rifle, The Violent Men, Bad Day at Black Rock and How the West was Won are some of the Movie Classics. Current Films have included Gladiator, Django Unchained, Iron Man, Man of Steel, Firefly and Tremors.

Nighttime is just as impressive as the landscape during the day as the Alabama Hills is a Bortle Class 2 “average dark sky” site. On a clear moonless night many star formations and the Milky Way appear brightly in the night sky.

My visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park on a trip south to visit family.

Lassen_Volcanic_National_Park_map

I left Vancouver for southern California and my first overnight stop was Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. As the name implies it’s major features are volcanic in origin. Being the southern most volcano of the Cascade Range the prominent features of the park are the largest plug volcano in the world, Lassen Peak and it’s sulfur – thermal hot springs.

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Originally two separate National Monuments dedicated in 1907 by Theodore Roosevelt, Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak National Monuments were declared Lassen Volcanic National Park in 1916.

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I arrived late in the afternoon after an 8 1/2 hour drive and set up camp at Manzanita Lake Campground located in the northern section of the park. Then I proceeded to walk the loop trail around Manzanita Lake, ate dinner and enjoyed a nice campfire before retiring to my tent to read and fall asleep.

 

Accessible by five vehicle entrances the majority of visitors enter either from the north or south along State Route 89, named the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway or Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway, off State route 44 in the north and 89 from the south. Three unpaved roads enter the park but do not connect with the main road through the park, Highway 89.

The north-south 29-mile (46.6k) road, Highway 89, was constructed between 1925 and 1931. The road summit is the highest in the Cascades topping at 8,512 feet (2,594 m). This road is closed in the winter months due to snow, which can reach 40 feet (12.2m) deep.

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Early morning along the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway

 

I got up early, had a quick breakfast and packed up to head south along Route 89 to visit the sites of the park. It was very interesting stopping at the many informative signs along the road to read the history of the park.

 

The last minor to major eruption started in 1914 and lasted until 1921 creating a new crater on Lassen Peak. Releasing ash and lava it fortunately did not kill anyone. This eruption covered many miles of forestlands with landslides and the new growth forest today stands many feet above the old forest floor. These landslides also created Manzanita Lake as it damned Manzanita Creek.

The first blast was on May 19, 1915 and was said to be a night to remember with it’s steam explosion and subsequent mudflows. Had it not been for Elmer Sorahan many people might have died but he ran 3 miles (4.8k) to warn others after escaping the explosion.

 

Three days later on May 22, 1915 another explosion on Lassen Peak threw ash, pumice, rock and gas into the air that was more devastating to the area than the first. The pressure in the mountain built up like a lid on a boiling pot of water and finally blew. You can now explore this area on a ½ mile (0.8k) loop trail or take the strenuous 2,000 foot (609.6m) 5 mile (8k) round trip hike to the top of 10,457 foot (3,187m) Lassen Peak. Many other hiking opportunities exist in the park along with backpacking, auto-touring, bird watching, camping skiing, skiing, snow play, and snowshoeing.

There are 5 hydrothermal areas to explore within the park. Sulphur Works, Bumpass Hell, Devils Kitchen, Boiling Springs Lake and Thermal Geyser. I am limiting myself to 2 for this trip.

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My first hydrothermal area would have been the hike out to Bumpass Hell Hydrothermal Area, a moderate 3 mile (4.8k) round trip hike. This is the largest hydrothermal area of the park with temperatures of up to 322 degrees F (161 degrees C). I had done this hike with my kids back in the early 1990’s although I found the trail closed this season for maintenance of the trail and boardwalk through the 2018 season.

My next stop was Sulphur Works, a formation of mudpots, steam vents and boiling springs located right off the main road. This hydrothermal area in near the center of a massive composite volcano that collapsed many thousands of years ago. Mount Tehama or Brokeoff Mountain was estimated to be 1,000 feet (304m) higher than Lassen Peak. Active 400,000 to 600,000 years ago it is estimated to be nearly 11 miles (17.7k) across and had towered to 11,500 feet (3,505k).

 

My final stop was the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at the south entry of the park to visit the small museum learning the history of the park, peoples and area and had a nice talk with the Rangers.

Now for the long 8 hour drive down the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains along State highway 395 to the BLM area of Alabama Hills outside of Lone Pine, CA.

Fort Stevens and Ecola State Parks, Oregon

After a restful nights sleep I make a small breakfast, pack up and head out for the short 1-hour drive across the Columbia River into Oregon for a visit to Fort Stevens State Park. Located in the far northwest tip of the state this park is bordered on 1 side by the mouth of the Columbia River and on  second side by the Graveyard of the Pacific This 4,300 acre (17.4 sq km) park has much to offer to its visitors; walk or drive along the beach, hike coastal and forested paths, bicycle along bike trails, camp, beachcomb, birdwatch, visit a shipwreck, explore an abandoned military installation used during the Civil War and World War II. Or just relax and enjoy the area.

Fort Stevens Park Map

My first stop was to see one of the shipwrecks along this stretch of the Graveyard of the Pacific. Along with approximately 2,000 other ships since 1792, the remains of the Peter Iredale now rests on the sandy beach. Only a portion of this 275 foot (83.8 m) long steel ship remains, grounded where she came to rest in 1906 from a navigation error in dense fog by its Captain due to the areas treacherous weather and storms. It has become an attraction since the day it grounded on the sandbar.

 

Next stop was Fort Stevens. First built in 1863-64 during the Civil War it was in use up until the end of World War II, it was part of a 3-fort system at the mouth of the Columbia River to defend this waterway and ports from attack by sea. The other 2 forts were located in the state of Washington; Fort Canby at Cape Disappointment and Fort Columbia a few miles up river from Fort Canby. (For my visit to Fort Canby and Cape Disappointment see LINK)

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Fort Stevens installation map

 

 

 

During World War II a Japanese submarine fired upon Fort Stevens in June of 1942, making this fort notable as being the only military base on the Continental United States to be fired upon by an enemy since the War of 1812. 17 rounds were fired at the fort with no real damage being done.

After a full morning of exploring the buildings and small Fort Stevens Visitors Center – Museum I enjoyed a late picnic lunch and continued my journey south on Highway 101 to visit Ecola State Park. This 9 mile (14.5 k) long stretch of beach lets you enjoy hiking, picnicking, tidepooling, surfing and scenic coastal vistas. Located just north of Cannon Beach, OR I leave Highway 101 and travel the13 miles (21 k) of twisty narrow roadway into the north area of the park to see Indian Beach Day Use Area. This secluded beach is a spot frequented by surfers, beachcombers, and tidepool explorers and is reached along a short path down the hillside to the beach. Extending north is a network of trails that will provide a 2 ½ mile (4 k) loop trail to the top of Bald Mountain or continue north to Tillamook Head trailhead which is part of the Oregon Coast Trail. The loop trail is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Tail, walked by Lewis Clark and a band of men from the Corps of Discovery to search for a beached whale in 1806. They were hoping to return to Fort Clatsop with whale blubber as they fought hunger from their time there. They sadly return empty handed.

Day 2 Ecola State Park Map

 

 

 

After this beautiful day of exploring I returned to my car and drove the 2 hours back to my home to plan the next trip in a few weeks, south to visit my family and friends at the home I just moved from.

Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

Named by Captain John Meares’ 1778 disappointing sailing to find the mouth of the Columbia River for trading. Being turned away by a severe storm, he named this place Cape Disappointment. While in complete contrast Lewis and Clark’ s Corps of Discovery cheered as they completed their journey with their first sight of the Pacific Ocean on a bluff on Cape Disappointment.

“Cape Disappointment Map 07-27-16”

Cape Disappointment State Park is far from being a disappointment. Steeped in Northwest history, it is a place to explore U.S. military and maritime installations, learn more of Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition and their effects on native tribes of the area. Camp, fish, hike old-growth forests, roam around freshwater lakes, saltwater marshes and ocean tidelands. Marvel at the breathtaking views from the highlands above the sea and wander the beaches that are enjoyed by kite-fliers, beachcombers, sandcastle builders and those who just love to walk. Hike to 2 lighthouses that guided the mariners to the mouth of the river and kept them from becoming victims of the Grave Yard of the Pacific.

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

I began my day at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and one of the Battery’s of Fort Canby that defended the entrance to the Columbia River from the mid 1900’s to the end of World War II. The Interpretive center is a museum providing a history lesson of The Corps of Discovery’s journey from settled America along the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Walk along the history path in its interactive exhibits that will entertain all ages. Sitting right above Battery Harvey Allen of Fort Canby to the inland side and overlooking the Pacific Ocean from its cliff side perch it is a wonderful place to start your visit to the park.

Off to the south from the ocean-viewing platform of the Interpretive Center you see Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Start the hike to the lighthouse in the Interpretive Center’s parking lot. You’ll walk through dense forest glimpsing ocean and river views as you make your way to the oldest operating lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest. Built in 1856 to warn the ships of the treacherous currents and obstacles of the river bar at the mouth of the river.

Continuing on driving I thought I made a very wrong turn as I saw a sign for Waikiki Beach. It is a short ¼ mile (0.4 k) walk to the beach. It was still overcast when I visited although I suspect it would be a nice place for a picnic lunch and to watch the waters and vessels of the Columbia River float past.

Continuing my exploration of the park I stopped a short time later at the trailhead to Battery 247 that is perch on a hill in a strategic location overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River. Very deteriorated and overgrown it is an interesting structure to wander through. Although being small I recommend bringing some type of flashlight or headlamp to go deeper into the underground ammunition building. This is also the area where Lewis and Clarks Corps of Discovery first laid eyes on the Pacific Ocean.

Following the road a little further leads me to the campground. I wish to see if I wanted to spend the night here. I found it to be a nice place right along the ocean and went back to the entry station to reserve a site for the night. I wanted a quiet spot to relax for the night so selected site #157. My site is not right along the beach, although a few are, but only 200 yards (183 m) away. In this group of 9 campsites there were only 2 other sites being occupied.

 

Having settled my accommodations for the night I drove up to North Head Lighthouse to walk the pathway to the base of the lighthouse. This second lighthouse was built as the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse left a section of coast unprotected from a mariner’s point of view. Built 190 feet (60 m) above sea level in 1898 this 65’ (19.8 m) tall lighthouse is still functioning and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. This is located on one of the windiest places along the west coast with recorded winds of up to 120 MPH (321.9 km/h).

Finished for the day I returned to set up camp and have a snack before I took a walk along the beach outside my temporary front door. The beach was an easy walk although exploring higher up the high tide line finds many logs that have been deposited along the beach during the severe storms coming in off the Pacific. Many small windbreak structures have been built by visitors add to the cozy feel of the beach.

Deciding to go back and grab my camera tripod, I return to the beach to watch the sun setting in the west. After a wonderful rest and watching a beautiful sunset I proceed back to my camp, fix a small dinner and climb into the tent early to do a little reading then to fall asleep listening to the waves crashing into the shore.

I will return here again to continue exploration of the trails in the area. The 1.5 mile (2.4 k) Coastal Forest Loop trail, Bell’s View Trail, the 1.5 mile (2.4 k) long North Head Trail and the south portion of the coastal Discovery Trail will be on the short list of walks.

I continue my journey in the morning crossing back into Oregon to visit Fort Stevens then head a little further south to see another fantastic beach.