The majority of the morning was comprised of long, straight highway through farming fields. We paralleled seemingly endless train tracks, passing small towns with large silos and dozens of pick-up trucks haphazardly parked in gigantic dirt lots. The “towns” could be seen from miles away as we approached, then seemed to pass in the blink of an eye before the road opened up widely again and we repeated the long approach to another arrangement of silos in the distance; it was like driving on Groundhog’s Day, though Bill Murray didn’t join us. Shortly after noon we drove into Lloydminster, a city with the unique geographical honor of straddling the Saskatchewan/Alberta provincial border. We took a quick photo at the wood-carved “Welcome to Alberta” sign on the side of the road and carried on towards our next major city, Edmunton. It’d take us another two and a half hours to get there, during which Dani drove and I took a much-needed nap. She woke me up as we got to the outskirts of Edmunton, knowing that I had wanted to find a carwash before we hit Jasper. I took some time with the dash-mounted iPad to find a touchless one along our route, and changed the navigation to bring us there. After 1,925 miles since the last carwash, I felt the Jeep needed to look “pretty” as we rolled into the Canadian Rockies. With a half-dozen sponsors with products on the Grand Cherokee and living in the social-media age, it was important to me that photographs taken of it in the majestic mountains have that rugged look, but also appear like something of a promotion for Jeep and the companies that have so graciously worked with me throughout the months of owning it. We filled the gas tank and ran it through the deluxe carwash then turned our attention completely to the road ahead, passing under a highway sign denoting Jasper, our distance from our ultimate destination diminishing by the mile.
In the early evening we pulled off the Trans-Canada Highway onto a small dirt road alongside a field, parking on a grassy section and setting up our cooking table and stove. We cooked dinner in the sunlight and sat in our camping chairs, watching the highway traffic fly by a hundred or so feet away. We cleaned the dishes and packed up camp, Dani picking a flower from the roadside as she hopped in the Jeep. A mere half hour later we began seeing the silhouettes of the Canadian Rockies standing tall over the road we traversed. Soon enough we were seeing young Elk standing on the side of the road, a dozen cars parked haphazardly in the brake-down lanes as people flooded the road taking photographs. I slowed down to be cautious, paused briefly to snap a photo out the window, and moved on towards the park’s east entrance. Greeted by a friendly Park Ranger, I showed him our Canadian Parks pass, something I got for free from the National Parks Service in celebration of their 150th anniversary. He pointed out how to get to our campground, wished us a good stay, and moved us along. We drove through the small but bustling town of Jasper, turning south on Canada Highway 93 and pulling off to Whistler’s Campground in search of site 25-J.
It took about twenty minutes to get to the back side of the campground and find our exact spot. We hopped out to figured out where the tent would best go, then backed the Jeep into place and emptied the Pelican storage cases to start building camp. By the time we had our teeth brushed and were ready for bed it was after 23h00, though the sky left me assuming otherwise. It was 45 minutes before midnight and the glow from the sky above was bright enough to have read a book inside the tent. It was interesting for me to realize that this was the furthest north I had ever been on our continent. We had no defined plans for the next day, instead wanting to figure it out as we went; it was easy to fall asleep quickly, grateful for having completed without incident our 2,400 mile drive to the world-famous Jasper National Park. I was excited for what adventure the following days would bring.