24th of May and it is the second day of a great roadtrip with the family. We have travelled roughly 600 km and yet we are still in British Columbia, a province that is larger than France. So there is really much to venture in the province, which includes one of the largest provincial parks. A provincial park differ from a national park in Canada in that it is run and managed by individual provinces while national parks are managed by the federal government out of Ottawa. There is also no entrance fee whatsoever to visit Wells Gray Provincial Park. The main attraction in the park was 137 metre Helmcken Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in Canada. Before heading for the falls, we headed out to the small town of Clearwater for breakfast options but as it was a Sunday, very few eateries and bakeries are open, until we passed The Old Cariboo Restaurant which served good value breakfast sets, filling all our stomachs.
From the town of Clearwater, it was around a 30 km drive into Wells Gray Park to see Helmcken Falls, which meant a driving journey of 1 hour return! But it was well worth it to see the magnificent waterfall bringing the huge gale of force with it down the cliff…
Without wasting too much time as we had some more distance to cover till our next destination, we headed towards the town of Valemount for lunch. The drive from Clearwater to Valemount can be considered like an appetizer to the main course which is the Canadian Rockies. The town of Valemount is also aptly named as a combination of Valley and Mountains. It was a relatively good sized town with amenities like supermarkets, eateries, petrol kiosks and visitor center which makes it a good stopover point for food, petrol and getting more information on sights to see in the area.
About 30 minutes drive from Valemount lies the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson. The mountain has the same name as the famous shopping street in Vancouver, obviously named after the same person. At 3954 m, Mt Robson has an impressive peak and a good visitor centre from where visitors can admire the mountains from. The clear great weather means it was possible to capture the peak in its full glory with snow capping the mountains. It is also helpful to know that the mountain has a whole provincial park named after it.
Mount Robson Provincial Park could be said to be one of the starting entry points into the Canadian Rockies National Park, which is composed of 4 separate parks namely Jasper, Banff, Yoho and Kootenay and are located in between the border of British Columbia and Alberta. This was also the focal point of our roadtrip as these national parks combined is considered Canada’s top tourist attractions as well as being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Leaving Mt Robson we proceeded to the town of Jasper, which is the center of the largest national park in Canada – Jasper National Park. Even before we entered the town, we can see why people are awed by the scenery in the Canadian Rockies! I personally have never seen much more majestic peaks myself…
Upon entering the town of Jasper, we drove past the town center before setting the navigation system to search for the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge where we are spending 2 nights at. The lodge isn’t located within the town itself, but along the shores of Lake Beauvert, a very beautiful lake about 10 minutes drive from the town centre. And the great news was that upon reaching the main reception area, we were treated to complimentary refreshing lemonade! It reminds me of the trips to Bali where we also got great refreshments upon checking in. Why can’t all hotels do this small gesture for guests? It makes for a great first impression you know… The service gets better as when I proceeded to the check-in counter, I was glad to find out that my room key and number has been prepared beforehand! So it was a breezy 5 minutes check in, and they didn’t even ask for any credit cards since I had booked the hotel online and provided a credit card for the booking. In addition, as a Fairmont President’s Club Member, I get free daily newspaper, shoeshine and high speed broadband internet in the room! To get to the room though, we needed to drive out as we were staying in rooms within individual small chalets which dot the lakeside. I was booked into a Lakeview Suite which had ample accomodations for 6, more than adequate for our party of 5 then! The room had double beds and an additional pull-out sofa bed in the living room. One feature which Dad and Bro liked was the real working fireplace and even though it was summer, the weather was still cool enough at late evening that wood was provided for us to burn in the fireplace! The only downside to this hotel? The beds seemed old and was too soft for my liking….
The end of the day was wrapped up with dinner at the Jasper Townsite, at Andy’s Bistro, one of the restaurants heavily recommended by most travel guides. If you like Swiss food with cheese and good wines, come and head to this place. I ordered some veal emince zurich style with spaetzli while Dad and Bro had steaks and Mum and Sis ordered seafood dishes (Cornflake crusted Salmon and Shrimp, Scallops & Mahi Mahi). I personally find mine too creamy and have come to regret being too adventurous. An average meal somewhat as it still fills the stomach. Service in the restaurant was pretty good though and as well to be expected in a western restaurant.