Alaska 2014 Friday Blog 1 – Omak, WA to Jasper, AB

Texas to Alberta

We’re still trying to figure out where this trip actually started. When you’re on the road full-time, there really is no start or stop point. You could say that it started in Panther Junction, Big Bend National Park, TX, and took a detour to Guerrero Negro in Baja California, Mexico and Santa Fe, NM, which would make the trip 6100 miles so far. However, we stopped for a while in Portland, OR, and Elma, WA, to visit family and Coeur d’Alene, ID for a Monaco rally. So, we’ve decided this trip actually started in Omak, WA, our next stop after Coeur d’Alene.

Omak, WA to Jasper, AB

Omak, WA to Jasper, AB

Omak is a confused, but nice little town at the southern end of the Okanagan Valley; focused on the timber industry and is a fruit grower’s paradise. We stayed in a municipal campground situated right next to the rodeo arena. Don’t try to camp here during the second weekend in August when the rodeo is in full swing.

This is a good starting point because it’s a short distance to the Canadian border where there can be a potentially long wait. Fortunately, our wait was short and went like this:

Border guard (BG): Please shut off your engine.
R: Yes sir (shuts it off).
BG: Where are you headed?
R: We’re spending the next month in Canada on our way to Alaska.
BG: Where specifically?
R: (Wracking his brain) Well, Penticton tonight, then Revelstoke and Lake Louise. Wow, you’re really making me think…
BG: Are you planning on staying any length of time up north, like immigrating?
R: No sir (No WAY!).
BG: Are you planning on selling your car?
R: No sir (Are you kidding?)
BG: How much tobacco and alcohol do you have on board?
R: No tobacco, but here’s our list of alcohol (just couldn’t drink all of it last night!)
BG: Hmmm, that’s not much… Have a nice trip.

On to Penticton: It’s pronounced Pen – tic – ton. For some reason, folks from the US seem to butcher the name in some odd way. It’s easy, really. Penticton is a fruit and wine hub and a summer tourist spot. There’s lots of shopping making it a nice place to get some last minute stuff for the trip north (and to stock up on the alcohol we had to dispose of before crossing the border….).

It’s also nice to have a friend who can show us around. We met Sue Wright at a photography workshop back in 2005 and have maintained a long-distance friendship ever since. Sue took us to the best burger joint in town (fantastic), on a beautiful walk, to a unique winery that makes wine from fruit other than grapes, and to the best brunch spot around. Thanks Sue for a great stay!

On to Revelstoke: We camped at their municipal campground on a small lake and had our first experience with “the stare”. It’s a stare with incredulous expressions. We’re sure they are wondering what those Americans were thinking. They’ve just arrived from Europe and are traveling in their cozy 20 foot Class C motorhomes experiencing the wilds of Canada. What do they find? The Dip, our 40 foot house on wheels. It’s looking like things are pretty tame around here…

On to Lake Louise: The terrain changed dramatically as we moved north, leaving the Okanagan Valley and climbing into the mountains. We eventually intersected with Trans-Canada Highway 1 and motored on to Lake Louise Township.

At this point, the anticipation is just about killing us. We’ve been on the road (from Omak) for five whole days and are wondering when we’ll get there. There being the real Canadian wilds. Some of our thirst for the wilds is satisfied with an elk sighting near Field, BC and a little more satisfaction when we see our first bear and caribou warning signs. At this point R is thinking about cooking bacon on the barbeque just to increase the wilderness experience. Unfortunately, things are tame at the Lake Louise Campground and we endure some more of “the stare.”

A visit to Lake Louise is not complete without walking along the lake and having a libation at the Chateau. Warning, try to stay ahead of the tour bus hoards…

On to Jasper: If you’ve never driven the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper, you have missed one of the most spectacular arm chair experiences in the world. Towering mountains, placid lakes, rushing rivers colored by turquoise glacier melt, and hundreds of glaciers are within sight from the seat of your car or tour bus. You never have to get out. While this sounds a little sarcastic, it really isn’t meant to be. Visitors can easily choose just how much isolation they want. A short walk on one of the many trails puts you right in the wilderness.

So, this is it for now. We’re spending two nights in Jasper before we head toward Dawson Creek, BC to intersect with Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway, formerly known as the AlCan. Stay tuned as we’ll try to post a blog every Friday, and maybe a few in between.

PS: Tim Hortons is becoming our Starbucks! At least for their free WiFi!!

Click here to see our photos of this leg of the trip.

About rkcaton

We like to travel and even spent nine years roaming around North America in a 40 foot motorhome. We're now back in a home in Washington state roaming by car, air, and boat.
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