Grand Prairie, Alberta

Two hundred and fifty miles for the day. Normally I’d say that is a short day but it felt long. Little of interest on the roads today, many stretches of moderately rough pavement and the last 30 or so miles wall to wall trucks from the Alberta oil and gas fields.

We started the day from Jasper at about 0730, a good early start for us. The temperature was a cool 35 degrees to start the day but the sun was shining and it was a beautiful start to the day. There is a gondola to the top of the mountain behind the national park. It closed at 8PM or we would have been tempted. The following two pictures give you a sense of why it would have been a fun ride with great views

The little bump on top of the mountain is the gondola terminus.
If you look closely you can see a small silver bubble about halfway up the slope of the mountain. Taken with the telephoto lense, that is a gondola on the way up.
We stopped in Hinton to fill up with fuel before the run up Alberta 40 to Grand Prairie.
This was much of what we saw for the run from Hinton to Grande Cache. Trees, trees and more trees. Short, spindly cedars. Huge plantations of them that seemed to have been part of a reforestation program.
Yup, trees as far as the eye can see in all directions.
As we closed in on Grande Cache we started to see caribou warning signs – no caribou because they normally migrate in the winter, but lots of warnings.
What you need to know about caribou.
Just beyond Grande Cache we noticed the hillsides were scarred and there appeared to be some sort of mining operation. Sure enough, to our surprise, we passed by a coal mining operation.
As we approached Grand Prairie we started to see these gas-off flames along the road and truck traffic began to pick up and we saw lots of side roads with heavy machinery and pipelines.
Apparently there is no pipeline to transport the gas and oil so trucks transport most of the oil.
Wall-to-wall trucks in all directions. And lots of dust and dirt from the side roads, which are all gravel.

I think this last section of industrial mining operations was part of what tired me out. It was disappointing to come into such an industrial area after the beauty of the run up the Icefield Parkway.

We are also beginning to appreciate what a long trip this really is. We have traveled over 4,000 miles ¬†and still have 1,500 miles just to get to Fairbanks, AK. We are averaging 285 miles a day which doesn’t sound like a lot but it adds up when you do it day after day for weeks. We have taken a couple of days off from travel to do laundry and rest but it is a pretty demanding schedule because our goal is to get to Alaska and then spend some days exploring at a slower pace. Tomorrow we are looking at a 400 mile run to Fort Nelson, mostly because there is almost nothing between Dawson Creek (mile 0 on the Alaska Highway) and Fort Nelson. We are also finding that sleep comes a bit harder when it is daylight until 2230-2300. I can’t imagine what we’ll do when we are in constant daylight in Alaska.

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