Finding Jasper.... what you have been missing along the way.

Our trip begins in Prince George, BC heading along highway 16 East.

Unlike other spring break holidays, this year I found myself not sure what to do with my little family of 3. In years past we would travel from our home In Prince George, BC to Calgary, Alberta to visit family, but this year the family members were busy elsewhere. I knew I wanted to get the kids out of the house to see some new things and keep them away from their screens as much as possible. The question was where? How could I find something exciting without travelling to one of the bigger centres like Calgary, Vancouver or Edmonton? It seemed like an impossible task, and then it came to me, let’s go to Jasper! Mountains, wildlife, waterfalls, pristine lakes, hiking, and even some shopping could be done. It seemed like the perfect solution and I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it sooner. I would soon learn that the real fun was to be had in simply finding Jasper.

 

A lone Grouse poses on a forest service road in Northern BC

Our goal, to explore and discover along the way.

Road trips always have a bittersweet taste to them as a photographer because along the way there are always things we see that NEED to be photographed, but often time does not allow us to stop at all those places. Packed and ready to roll onto the highway we headed out armed with cameras in hand. In no rush to arrive at any particular time, I decided that this would be the trip of stops, no rushing, no need to hurry and drive, a literal stop and smell the flowers type trip. Usually, there is always a sense of urgency to get to “the destination” no matter the distance, but this time I chose to do it differently. 

Our first stop was a quick turn onto a simple forestry road only because of the inevitable call from the back seat  …”Dad I have to go to the washroom!” Around the corner of the road, we hopped out and watched a grouse cross directly in front of us with apparently the same attitude we had of not being in a hurry to go anywhere. We watched quietly taking photos as he went on his way. As we got back in the truck we marvelled at how beautiful the morning mist was as it climbed up the forested walls of fir trees lining the road.

 

Misty tree lines along Highway 16 East on the journey from Prince George, BC to Jasper, Alberta

Discovering secret waterfalls .

Back in the truck, it wasn’t long before we pulled up to one of my favourite little spots just before the entrance to the Viking Ridge Hiking Trail. The roadside is lined by thick looming cedar trees and willows creating what appears to be an impenetrable wall against the forest. We discovered that with some persistence and will to push through the thick willows, the forest opens its arms and invites you in. Once past the barrier of willows, our eyes are met with a wide open space of moss-covered wonder. Our feet cross the soft carpet of the forest floor and the sun filters through the high branches of the cedar giants creating a glow around the entire scene. The kids squeal in excitement “ it’s like a fairy world Dad!! ” and I agree as we delve deeper. Less than a minute walk and we are met by a three metre high waterfall feeding a crystal clear creek winding through the mossy forest floor. We stop to sit and take it all in. Not another soul is in sight as the kids and I marvel at our surroundings.

 

A secret waterfall near the Chun T’oh Whudujut (Ancient Forest Provincial Park)

Hard pressed to leave but wanting to see what’s next we jump back into the journey. It isn’t far along the road that we find the Ancient forest, another amazing place so close to Prince George yet so different from our accustomed scenery. A number of hikes are available to us among the giant cedars, creeks and waterfalls which seem to lay in wait around every other corner. The feeling of being “elsewhere” is unmistakable as the trees tower over the walking paths and our surroundings slowly convince us we are on a coastal hike somewhere far from northern BC. Hours upon hours could easily be spent at the Provincial Park but with views of snow-capped mountains in the horizon, we decide to move on, eager to see what is next.

Our choices for adventure seem endless.

Morkill Falls comes to mind as we pass the turnoff to go through Crescent Spur and onto the Morkill Forest Service Road, but I realize there is simply too much to do in a single trip. I choose to take the adventure of Morkill Falls on another journey not far into our future. We drive through to Mcbride where we are witness to herds of deer and elk grazing in farmers’ fields. The mountains surround the valley and every view seems like a painting of an epic landscape. 

It isn’t long before we are at Tete Jaune Cache. Our favourite camping spot isn’t open but there is still plenty worth stopping for. We pull off the highway and park at the old one lane bridge built in 1953 that crosses the Fraser River. At this point in Fraser River, the proximity to glacial feeds and a rocky river bed keep the waters of the river a beautiful aqua tint and crystal clear. We venture down some walking paths exploring the sights as we go. The kids find trees to climb, rocks to throw, and we all take pictures of our incredible surroundings.

 

Piling back in the vehicle we drive just a few minutes up the highway and then stop again to hike into the beautiful Rearguard Falls. A five-minute walk into the forest and we are at the falls. There is still a bit of snow and ice, so we have the entire place to ourselves. Our voices are nearly drowned out by the rush of the crystal clear aqua water falling over the rocks. In August you can witness Mother Nature’s work at its finest as the spawning salmon return up the Fraser to their birthplace to spawn. The sight of 15 to 40 pound salmon launching themselves up and over a rocky waterfall that is approximately five metres high is truly a sight that one must see in person.

 

Rearguard Falls just off Highway 16 East on the way to Jasper

The Journey really is more than the destination.

Even though we are all having the time of our lives, it’s getting late in the day and my preference is to arrive at our hotel before it’s completely dark. We reluctantly leave Rearguard Falls behind us, but to my delight, everyone is still smiling, joking with each other and laughing. As we pull back onto the highway for the last leg of our journey I eavesdrop on my kids as they talk giddily about all that they have seen and done in one day. Their conversation makes me reflect on how much I have enjoyed my day as well without the pressure of “getting there” looming over me. Even more enjoyable was the opportunity to watch my kids immerse themselves in the outdoors and come to appreciate all that our little world of Northern BC has to offer. As I look in my rearview at the journey behind us, I realize that the best part of our trip wasn’t going to require getting to Jasper but was actually the experience in simply finding Jasper.