The Great American Road Trip II - 12 - Grin and Bear It
We left the hotel around 10:30 and, after gassing up, headed out on the Yellowhead Highway to Kamloops, BC.
Within thirty minutes we'd had a bear sighting - a momma grizzly and her cub. We pulled off the road and watched them for ten minutes, but the mother did nothing but eat and the cub did nothing but sleep and occasionally poke his head up above the grass to look at us. This sighting made the count eight bear in three days.
Soon after we exited Jasper National Park. Within two minutes we were at the British Columbia border, set our clocks back another hour to Pacific time, and read about the origin of the name "Yellowhead" - originally a name for a mountain pass that was adopted by the highway. Instead of it being an Indian name, it was in fact named after a blonde fur trader. (The more you know.)
Soon after the border crossing we saw some sort of animal - either a wolf or coyote. In any event, it was quite big and trotted alongside the road the opposite way. Just a few minutes after this sighting, we saw - you guessed it - bear #9! He was a grizzly meandering up a hill into the woods beyond.
Nine bear in three days - not bad.
The park's exit features the same kind of scenery as the park's entrance, with majestic Alp-like snowcapped jagged peaks poking out behind the hilly, quasi-Appalachian large hills we were skirting. We passed by a number of large lakes including Yellowhead Lake, where we could see the reflection of an exceptionally large mountain. The clouds that have dogged us recently did not do so to the same extent today as they have in days past, and thus did not obscure the view too much. It did, however, intermittently rain.
After bear, wolf/coyote, deer, and elk sightings, we thought we were bound to see at least one moose before we got out of their habitat due to their apparent abundance. Unfortunately the moose population has been dropping rapidly in recent years due to an increase in predators and a deadly liver disease that has ravaged their numbers. We passed by long, thin, beautiful Moose Lake, but it did not live up to its name as we did not see a single moose.
We stopped at the Mount Robson visitor's center to stretch our legs and get some information on Kamloops and Vancouver. Mount Robson is the highest point in both the Canadian Rockies and in all of Canada, and is within the borders of a provincial park bearing its name. Unfortunately, Robson's height made its peak impossible to see because it jutted into the cloud cover. While there I learned that I am the height of a small one-year-old moose.
The sun came out as we left the provincial park and the temperature rose to 10 (50F). We then continued on the Yellowhead Highway southbound to Kamloops.
(Side note: People here drive like absolute lunatics. Tiny cars would fly past a convoy of two or three double-long trucks on a blind hill or curve - and this was on a two-lane highway. Passing lanes were few and far between, but these sections were the only times that the truckers and campers would actually go fast. One time we saw one guy pass on a hill when we were about to get to a passing lane within five seconds. We pulled off the road every now and then just so we wouldn't have to witness a head-on collision.)
We crisscrossed the Thompson River amid sporadic sprinkles, nutty drivers, and a continually rising temperature. I dozed off somewhere in here and missed a half-hour or so of the action.
We pulled off the road a little after 2:00 to let a few nuts pass us and to stretch our legs. My dad spotted what appeared to be a set of hairballs on the ground and within short order voiced his hypothesis that they were from a bear. We walked around for a bit more before hopping back in the car.
The scenery changed rapidly as we approached Kamloops. The alpine mountains were no longer there and the forested hills had become more lumpy. We saw the remains of a forest fire which had "jumped over" the river and ignited trees on the other side.
A little after 3:00 we entered the Kamloops city limits. The city limits in all of British Columbia seem large, encompassing what would otherwise be separately incorporated suburbs. I suppose that their lack of organized county system makes the need for government at the city level more important. It took us almost a full half-hour to get from the Kamloops outskirts to our hotel.
After getting settled into the hotel and scoping out the laundry situation, our stomaches began to collectively rumble. (Considering that my breakfast consisted of two bites from a scone that my mom had smuggled into the room and my lunch had consisted of a few potato chips that we'd all sporadically munched on throughout the day to stave off the impending hunger, I had a right to be very hungry.) We heard about a place just across the street whose chef had recently competed on a Canadian competitive cooking show.
We went over to eat and I had Pad Thai for the first time in my life. (It was quite good.) We were the first ones to show up for supper and had fun with our waitress. She recommended places to go in Vancouver and enjoyed the Yoder tradition. After dessert of tempura banana, we wiped out the slanted-shaped bowl it came in, placed a clean napkin inside, and placed Yoder on that. It was, for all intents and purposes, Yoder's throne. We turned this decoration into a full-blown spectacle with salt and pepper shakers, slightly used chopsticks, and cream containers.
It's a little after 7:30 here in the middle of British Columbia, and I have a theory that my body has always been on Pacific Time. I actually feel sleepy around a sane bedtime, which is totally abnormal for me even if I'm sick as a dog.
Tomorrow: south to Vancouver. The Canadian portion of the trip is nearly complete.