Recently I’ve been completely fascinated with Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station (ISS). Not only does one have to be in the highest percentile of intelligence, but they also have to be in perfect fitness and health and demonstrate extraordinary psychological capacity to make decisions especially when consequences count. One of the things about working on the ISS that blows my mind is that it takes about three days to get there, travelling in a space not much bigger then a crew cab on a truck! This got me thinking, why not take a road trip through the Canadian Rocky Mountains and test my capacity for space travel.
The trip was to drive from Calgary, Alberta to Prince George, BC to pick up my kid sister from university and move her back home. The trip had a total driving time of 9.5 hours (785km) and was completed in two days, taking only one pitstop in Jasper, the halfway point. We followed the Trans-Canada Highway through Lake Louise, up through Jasper and just kept going North West until we finally hit Prince George (which seems to pop out of the middle of nowhere in the midst of untamed wilderness). Let me just say, sitting for 4.5 hours at a time makes me want to reconsider going to the ISS. However, these road trip necessities kept us tame and just slightly insane.
Road Trip Necessities
1. Water – Juice and pop tastes great, but the sugar will mess with your system and caffeine will just make you want to use the bathroom more!
2. iTrip – Or another device to connect your music to the car stereo. This is especially useful when driving through mountain ranges where radio signals don’t make it very far. To mix it up a little, download some interesting podcasts or audio books beforehand. Some of my favourite podcasts are from CBC Radio, This Is That and Vinyl Cafe.
3. Road Snacks – Big meals or meals from fast food places will leave you feeling crappy and with the itis (sleepy condition usually felt after consuming a large meal). Having small healthy snacks along the way will satisfy your appetite without bogging you down.
4. Map – GPS/3G doesn’t always work, actually it mostly doesn’t work when you’re out in the boonies so bring a good old fashioned map just in case. It’s wise to have your route pre-planned to avoid this scenario in the first place.
5. Co-Pilot – Unless you have trucker genes, most people don’t like sitting by themselves for days at a time. Without a co-pilot you’ll end up finding a deflated volleyball and naming it Wilson. Not to mention co-pilots make navigating, eating and music handling a lot easier and safer.
Packed with these essentials we hit the road! For the most part, the scenery along the way was breathtaking. I can understand how emotional and perhaps overwhelming it would be for a person seeing these mountains for the first time. Driving through the Columbia Icefields, through Mt. Robson provincial park (Mt. Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954ft) and through the Columbia mountain range near Prince George reminded me of the magnitude of these mountains and how blessed I am to live so close to them.
Places Worth Stopping Beyond Lake Louise
1. Columbia Icefield, Glacier National Park – Even if you have seen glaciers, these are magnificent! Combined with the high altitude setting, it’s worth a stop to take in your surroundings, it feels like you’re on another planet! If you want something more involved, check out the tours by Glacier Adventures.
2. Jasper – A cute little mountain town filled with lots of bakeries and cafes to pick up a lunch and enjoy it at a mountain picnic spot. Chances of seeing wildlife like caribou and elk are pretty high!
3. Mt. Robson Provincial Park – Outstanding views of the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies
4. Ancient Forest – 114km before Prince George, along Highway 16 (1hr outside of McBride), is a short 2km hiking trail through an ancient forest, filled with cedar trees that are upwards of a 1,000 years old!
The road trip was a success! We moved my sister back home, got re-acquainted with Canada’s majestic giants and survived sitting for long unstimulated periods of time (still hope for a trip to the ISS yet!). For those looking for something new this summer without travelling too far from home, check out this stretch of highway through the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Your eyes will be too busy taking in the surroundings to realize how long you’ve been driving.