It was the most stunning single day of driving I’ve ever done, and by now I’ve done some stunning drives.
I left Whistler at 10am that morning, hoping to make it 500 miles to the east to Jasper National Park by nightfall. It was a trip from the Coast Mountain Range to the Canadian Rockies, with untamed prairies in between. The few towns along the way were small, like Lillooet. It was little more than a couple of restaurants and a café where I stopped for a turkey sandwich and a ginger ale.
The high road to Kamloops winds through mountains and lakes from the beginning. The sound of rushing water from the river racing alongside is pleasant company.
By Lillooet, the landscape becomes drier, the Coastal Range having blocked moisture and rainfall from reaching this area. Here the lakes aren’t as common, the stunning blue at the foot of a pine-covered mountain missing. But the highway winds along a steep canyon cut by a river, mountains on both sides. But they’re bare and dusty, brown rock exposed in many places.
I stopped along the road to take a picture somewhere around here, and behind me a guy stood by the mountain shoveling dirt into his pickup truck. As I worked on framing the river disappearing in the distance, I heard behind me, “What do your plates say?”
“New Jersey!” I yelled back. He couldn’t hear me so I walked a bit closer and yelled again. He still couldn’t hear so he walked closer. We ended up chatting for a few minutes. He’d lived here all his life, he said, and told me it was only going to get even more beautiful a few miles down. I told him about my trip, how I’d left from Texas in April and driven up the west coast and now was here in the middle of British Columbia as he laughed. I told him how spectacular his province was so far and he seemed to appreciate it.
I walked back towards my car and put my camera away. In the rearview mirror I caught my new friend crossing the street to look at the canyon he hadn’t stopped to take in for a long time. He stood and stared at it like I had a few minutes earlier, shook his head and went back to his shovel and truck.
I drove on and on. It was around 9pm when I finally took the turn towards Jasper, where the road bent back into the Rockies that had by now formed towards my right. It led me through a valley, bold forms of rock, most snowcapped, on both sides now.
I turned around a corner and there it stood, a massive mountain, the tallest in the Canadian Rockies. Its uppermost quarter was lost in a cloud, leaving it even more breathtaking. I pulled over and stared for a while, trucks and cars blowing by me. By now the sun was mostly gone but light remained, and I was just a few miles from Jasper National Park.
View pictures from BC.