Growing up in Africa, all our our holidays were in the form of a road trip. My Dad would hook our trailer up to the car and off we went. We traveled all over Zimbabwe, we went to Beira in Mocambique quite frequently
and once a year we would visit my many aunts, uncles and cousins in Johannesburg, South Africa or holiday at the South African South Coast.
These trips are part of my fondest childhood memories, so when a trip to Hubby’s home town, Fort Vermilion, Alberta, came up, I jumped at the chance.
Where? I hear you say. Fort Vermilion is not exactly a tourist destination, but it is Hubby’s home town and where some of his family still live.
It was to be a family reunion of sorts – a memorial for hubby’s parents who both passed away earlier this year – 3 months apart. His other Aunts, Uncles and cousins were making a similar road trip from Swift Current, SK, Kelowna, BC and Kamloops, BC.
Fort Vermilion is approximately 1,653 kms from Vancouver. We wanted to make our overnight stop in Whitecourt by supper time (around 6:30 – 7:00 pm), so we decided to leave at around 7 am on Saturday morning, and to make that happen, we packed everything the night before.
To save some money, and quite possibly our waistlines, we made some food to take with us
And, believe it or not, we were in the car and on our way by about 7 am the next day!
It was a perfect summer’s day. Clear blue skies and not too hot. Soon we were out of the suburbs and passing the farms in Chilliwack
And then farmland gave way to the Coast Mountains and we started climbing.
When we got to Hope, we fueled up and made ourselves some egg salad sandwiches – my favourite!
Next stop, Kamloops at about 11-ish
Bypassing Merritt along the way
And a much needed bathroom break after all the coffee I had consumed!
On the road again, the river kept me occupied for a while. So peaceful and pretty.
Just before Clearwater, the water changed to a blue/green colour – an indication of glacier water
and then we were passing through Clearwater. The first thing I saw was this beautiful, picturesque barn
Just outside Blue River we came across this truck, and we were pretty sure that he didn’t park here on purpose!
That’s going to take a bit of explaining.
Halfway to our first overnight stop! A little bit down the road, we decided to stop for lunch. Hubby pulled into a very picturesque rest stop on the Thompson River
Rested and fed, we set off again, although I would have like to have set up camp here and stayed for a week!
Just under 2 hours to Jasper National Park
Hello Rocky Mountains! The Rocky Mountains stretch more than 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from the northernmost part of British Columbia in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the Southwestern United States. Yikes!
Before long, we came to Mount Robson National Park
where we encountered a couple of Elk just standing on the side of the road. I couldn’t get my camera to work fast enough, and so the result is this blurred photo. Hubby reckoned that we would probably see quite a few more along the way, but, as Murphy’s Law would have it, we never did 🙁
A little further down the road, this mountain loomed up in the distance. It was quite eerie-looking – like a ghost mountain
We passed the coveted Via Rail – this luxury passenger train runs throughout Canada and would be the perfect holiday, in my opinion. A couple of times, my family and I took the train from Harare to Johannesburg and I have very fond memories of those trips. I think everyone should go on at least one train journey.
Before long, we were at the BC/Alberta border
and entering beautiful Jasper National Park
The scenery here is breathtaking. We bypassed Jasper Village in favour of visiting it on the way back.
Hubby said there are usually quite a few mountain goats in this area in the next photo, but, alas, none today (a bit like the Elk).
There are many lovely places to stay in Jasper National Park to fit every budget. These cabins are just of one of the choices
Just over an hour to go!
Mountains and lakes turn into farmland
And, right on time – we’re in Whitecourt! A drink, dinner and bed
Up early again the next morning and on the road after coffee and a quick breakfast.
The scenery along this stretch was swampland
And Beaver dams
A deer or two
And the ever-present evidence that we were in oil country
The road was looooong
We bypassed Swan Hills. The name Swan Hills was first given to the area by the First Nations, who believed that giant swans nested on the estuary of the Assiniboine river. During the summer prairie thunderstorms, it was said the thundering wing beats of these great birds filled the air as they fled for shelter.
And pushed on to Slave Lake where we stopped for a cold drink at Tim Hortons. When we got to the window to pay, we were told that the car in front of us had paid for our drinks! Cool huh! We paid it forward and paid for the car behind us.
The town and the lake were named after the First Nations people who lived there. The people are Athabaskan. The name “Slave”, which is more usually spelt “Slavey”, was the word the Cree used for them. It’s actually an English translation of the Cree “awahka-n” which, apparently, means “captive” or “slave”, because the Cree often caught and enslaved Slavey people.
Four more hours to our destination!
We stop in Red Earth for a last bathroom break between there and Fort Vermilion. If you need the washroom after that, the side of the road is your only option! 🙂
And here it is! Fort Vermilion!
We spent the rest of the afternoon meeting the family and with hubby getting re-acquainted. I felt instantly welcome and we talked as if we’d known each other much longer.
That night we all gathered at hubby’s youngest Uncle’s house for a corn boil. Beautiful Chilliwack corn (quite famous around here). We spent a few happy hours eating the delicious corn and drinking wine before falling into bed.
The next day, hubby gave me the grand tour of his home town. This would have taken all of 30 minutes, but he slowed down and/or stopped so I could take photos, so it took a little longer. 🙂
The first stop was the farm where he grew up. Paved roads turned into dirt roads as we left town
We couldn’t go in as someone else was living there, but hubby told me that he and his mom had planted the trees that screen the house – how big they are now.
And then onto the school that he went to.
The mosaic that he helped to make was still there on the wall – 30 or so years later
The Community Centre
and Heritage Houses.
And the Old Bay House along the Peace River. Built over a two year period, 1906-1908, the “Old Bay House” is the only Hudson’s Bay Company factor’s house on its original site in Alberta. To read more about the history of this house, click here
Across the road, was the mighty Peace River
We sat on these beautifully carved benches and watched the water for a while
Outside of the Memorial, the next couple of days were filled with family gatherings, usually around food, wine and beer. I felt very blessed to have met and become a part of this family.
The days flew by, it seemed, and soon it was time to go. We stopped in for some Mennonite sausage in Blumenort on the way out (delicious!). It turns out that the owner of the farm and sausage factory was a distant cousin! They chatted for a few minutes about it.
We encountered quite a few logging trucks on the way back
That night we pulled into Valemount (pronounced Valemont)
Hubby wanted to stay in a motel to avoid having to lug some of his parents’ things inside. He found one that he’d stayed at many years ago, but it turned out to be a bit of a hole of the wall, if you know what I mean. It was where all the men who work on the oil rigs stay and they don’t call them “rig pigs” for nothing. As luck would have it, the room next door to us seemed to be the place for them all to gather for a few beers. As a result we had to keep our window closed to muffle the loud drunken talking and laughing. It was a very hot night, but when we went to turn on the air conditioning, we found that it didn’t work! I must admit that I had a bit of a melt down at that point because our earlier supper had turned out to be horrible and the sandwich that I had bought for lunch, even worse. 🙂
Thankfully, our breakfast the next morning was a lot better and I started feeling human again after a cool shower and coffee.
We decided to stop in the picturesque Jasper Village on the way home and hubby drove around the block a few times so I could take some photos.
Driving into BC, the beautiful clear blue skies of Alberta turned into smoked-filled ones from the many wild fires burning all over the Province. By the time we got into Chilliwack, visibility was very bad
But we made it home, tired, but safe and sound, that evening. Glad to be home, but grateful for the experience.