“Hills?” I hear you ask. “But you’re in oh-so-flat-Edmonton…” Yes indeed. Off to Jasper in the Rockies, a three-hour drive away. Olwen the younger and her husband Jason’s treat. The trip started in a drive-through place. Jason needed a ‘lurge double double’. Translation: pint of coffee with two serves of cream and two serves of sugar. But it’s not real coffee like in Melbourne (we have established an international reputation for being coffee snobs: YES! Life is too short to drink bad coffee, so I skipped that option). Fried sugar thingos served in paper bags accompanied the coffee (I skipped those too, having had a proper breakfast).
The road was long and straight, with very wide, separate carriageways (the total width of the two-way upgrades on the Hume are as broad as their one-way). Most of the vehicles are big pick-up trucks, and they really move. The road trains are big too. They really move as well.
A major rail freight line wended its way along side much of the road. They haul freight (mostly lumber or oil) big time here – two locomotives and 145 freight wagons was the norm; saw one with four locomotives – two at each end and lost count of the number of wagons – my eyes went blurry trying to count them at 120km an hour.
The Rockies are spectacular. We went to a place just outside Jasper called Maligne Falls, a 4km round walk from the car park. The Rockies are sedimentary, and this area in particular is riddled with underground channels and caves through which an incredible volume of water flows. Add the sound of rushing water way down below the footbridges, add an extraordinarily sculpted water course, add aboral forest and you have a scene from a Disney movie – but without cutsie bluebirds. The colours of the surrounding forest were limited to the blue-grey of fir, or the bare speckled grey of ash. Mosses and lichens held the most colour. Because we were a couple of weeks after Fall, we had missed the brilliant reds and oranges of the beginning of the season.
Once you walked deeper into the forest, and away from the river, the quieter it became. Utterly silent. Even my “cooee!” was muffled. At one point, we espied a squirrel (Jason is enamoured of the little critters). It was about three meters away from us, chomping on a nut. We could hear every nibble because there were no other sounds. Utterly unlike the Australian bush where you hear trees creaking, the rustle of leaves in even the smallest of breezes, the raucous cries of an assortment of native birds, the crash of an occasional branch, and the whirr of some passing bug.
Bonuses: saw a couple of magnificent male elk by the roadside, along with a number of does. No moose.