Richard's North American Odyssey 2003

11 March 2003 - Calgary AB to Vancouver, BC (km 5,131)

This was quite a day.  I had originally planned to travel through Roger's pass, however when I arrived in Calgary the Weather Network was reporting that there had been an avalanche between Golden and Revelstoke so the road was closed.  My alternate route was through Crowsnest Pass;  this increased the distance from 956 km to 1,237 km.  On top of the increase in distance the road was also a lot older and slower.  I was therefor quite pleased when I woke up in the morning to find out that the Trans Canada Hwy through Roger's Pass had been reopened.  Even with this, I decided that I should buy a set of tire chains, just to be on the safe side.  Since the Canadian Tire store near the hotel didn't open until 8 am I had to delay my start until then, and there was also a delay because they were already changing to the spring displays so all the chains were in storage in the basement.  Finally at about 9 o'clock I managed to get on the highway.

Once I got out of Calgary it started to snow both reducing visibility and making the roads quite slick.  By the time I reached Banff visibility was down to about a 400 meters.  I stopped and talked to the woman who was selling park passes, and she informed me that there had been another avalanche near Revelstoke and that this time two tractor trailers had been caught in it.  The roomer was that the road was going to be closed for at least two days.  This meant I was back to the secondary plan of going through Crowsnest Pass.  When I asked the woman how far it was to the turn off to Hwy 93 (which would take me south to Hwy 3, the Crowsnest Hwy) she looked at me like I was the slow kid in the special ed class and said, "Are you sure you want to go that way?  You know it's an old highway don't you?"  I told her I figured a slow road was better than know road, and as I pulled away I just saw her shaking her head as she slid closed the window to her booth.
Well since you are reading this, you obviously can deduce that I made it through this leg of the journey in one piece, but it was not without its tribulations.

This picture is of a plateau lake just inside of Banff National Park.  The visibility had cleared up a little when I took the shot so you can actually see the trees on the other side of the plateau and almost see the base of the mountains in the distance.

Fortunately, once I got onto Hwy 93 and started to head south the weather cleared up considerably.  Much of the road was still covered with either ice, packed snow, or slush (depending on the altitude) but at least I was able to see a little further a head.  Of course in some areas of the highway this was really academic since there are quite a few blind hills or so many turns that even with unlimited visibility you can only see about 50 meters of road in front of you anyway.
Kootenay Mountains
This is a view of the Kootenay Mountain, over the Kootenay valley.  This is the source of the water for all that Kootenay beer, if you believe the marketing anyway.  I took this as a series of four shots and then used some new software that came with my camera to join them together into a single image.  Except for the change in sky colour in the third photo (I still don't know why that happened) it looks quite good; especially considering how little effort it took to join them.

James B. Harkin served as the first Commissioner of National Parks in Canada from 1911 to 1936.  During this time new country was "opened up" through settlement and resource exploitation, particularly in the West.  Developments soon bordered on the Kootenay valley.  But a different concept of land use arrived here as well; the ethic of wilderness preservation.  During Harkin's term of office, he established 12 national parks, among them Kootenay National Park.  The high peak (which is right behind the leafless deciduous tree at the centre of the photo) was named after Harkin (often referred to as the Father of National Parks in Canada) in recognition of his achievements.
What follows are a few shots of the roads and the mountains that I passed through.  On a clear day many of these vistas would have been spectacular, but such was not to be for me.

You can see here that the roads are still a little slushy even though the precipitation has stopped.

The slant on this section of the road is not caused by a tilt in the camera.  This was one of many downward sloping outside terns.  The one good thing about driving these roads was that I got a much better feel for exactly what my car, and tires, can handle.
This is one rest spot with a very scenic view.  The weather was starting to close in again and you can see that the roads have a nice wet layer of slush on them.  Little did I know that soon enough I would be looking forward to slushy roads, since they provide better traction than packed snow and ice.
The distortions in this picture come from the heavy rain that was falling on the windshield.  The road leads through these two rock out crops as it turns a 90 degree corner just past the sign on the right hand side of the picture.  This is the entrance to Fairmount Hot Springs.  If I had not been so far behind schedule I would have stopped for a quick soak, but with the road conditions as they were, and my late start, I wanted to keep pushing ahead.

This entrance actually reminds me quite a bit of the entrance to Saint John's harbour in Newfoundland.  There too you don't see the entrance to the harbour until you are about ten degrees on either side of the passage.
Descending into better weather, the roads clear up and a peaceful alpine valley and lake open up.
On the valley floor (between Forte Steele and Cranbrook) there are many farms and here you can see the cattle grassing.  Just at the base of the mountain you can see the lake that runs the length of the valley.  At this time of year, the entire lake was frozen over.  While relatively sunny and warm compared to the mountains that surround it it was still a chilly 0 C.

This was the last picture I had time to take.  After this I turned onto the Crowsnest Highway and started to (generally) travel west again.  The highway was very winding.  It also had long stretches (three to four km) where there were eight to eleven percent grades.  Going up these grades was a challenge both for my engine and for my tires.  There were two summits where I crawled up the last kilometre or two with tires barley getting a grip on the packed snow and ice.  I probably should have stopped and put my chains on, but I figured that the time used to put them on, and then latter to take them off would be far more than just taking my time saying over and over "I think I can, I think I can."

Once the sun set the roads became even more treacherous, and to make matters worse there was heavy fog in many of the areas.  A constant stream of precipitation was falling.  Rain, wet snow, or snow depending on the altitude.  The posted speed limit on most of the highway was 80 kph, but it was rare that I got above 60.  In total it took me 17 hours to travel the 1,237 km, and I arrived in Vancouver just before 2 am.  Uncle Peter let me in and fed me the dinner Aunt Bev had prepared so many hours before.  I was grateful for the warm meal, but even more grateful for the comfortable bed.

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