Friday, September 10, 2010

Road Trip to Yellowknife, Day 8: Peace River to Lac La Biche, AB

Text and images (c) Robert Barry Francos, 2010
Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

We woke up to a light rain, and we packed up our stuff between the drops, fortunately not getting wet, even with us making breakfast. We sat on plastic bags because the picnic table benches were wet.

We left the Queen Elizabeth Provincial Park at Lac Cardinal, located outside the town of Grimshaw (AB). A quick check on the closed Pioneer Village along the road, we drove through the gateway pictured below. We stopped there for photos. Just outside park by the metal gate was some cars parked in a ditch with protests about the government bringing in nuclear power.

Heading back up Highway 35 and back east on Hwy 2, we went once again entered Peace River. We stopped into the Tim Horton's for some coffee and a muffin, and across the street was this liquor store / gas station. So much for promoting not drivin' and drinkin'. For those in the States, note that the station is Esso, rather than Exxon.
After our morning refueling, we headed east over the bridge, and onward on Route 2 through the river valley. Moxy Früvous's "River Valley" was playing in my head.
Not only was there a railroad bridge next to the roadway, there was another, possibly older one, off in the distance, passing over the Peace River. Highway 2 can be seen to the left, where we would be in minutes.
Along the road, we passed through a town called Nampa (AB). Here we found a combination Country Inn and liquor store, for those who want to crash and drink. Note that they both share the same door.
It must be doing well, as it has survived when the other hotel in town was up for sale.
Along the way, the river valley gave way to farmland, including bright yellow fields of canola.
The clouds built up and were dramatic and temperamental. Rainstorms could occasionally be seen in the distance, and we passed through a few here and there.
The No. 2 highway rode along the south end of Lesser Slave Lake, and after passing some small towns, such as Faust and Kinuso, we headed to the town of Slave Lake. At the airport, we saw these yellow planes on the tarmac. These are used to dump water on forest fires, and were most likely being used to help out in the many fires that were plaguing large parts of British Columbia.
We came to the town of Slave Lake, and stopped at the exact same gas station / A&W burger joint we had on the way to Yellowknife. We had made a complete circle through northern Alberta, going one way up (route 88) and coming back another (Highways 35 and 2).
I'm guessing this RV park is under repair?

Being in the area, we decided to check out the Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park. A wooden stairway led us down to the windy beach. It was pretty quiet with a few visitors coming through while we were there, but no one stayed long. The picnic tables told of warmer days and happy campers, but this day was desolate and windblown. It was a lovely spot.

We motored along Highway 2 (joined with Highway 55 after a bit), and arrived in Athabasca in mid-afternoon. This was where we had spent the first night out on this road trip. It was near dark when we had gotten there last time, so now we had time to check out more of the town. We crossed over the bridge on route 813, and found our way to the Athabasca Centennial Park, which was behind the huge letters placed on a cliff directly on the other side of the Athabasca River from the town. We had a great overview from there.

On the way back to the main road and our way east, we stopped just before the steel bridge to take some photos. There were lots of flowers around, and some racist and scary graffiti.

The bridge had a narrow wooden bed, and no walkway for pedestrians, but we still went to the middle to take some shots of the river. John and I were conscious of the occasional traffic, and stayed as much to the side as we could.

On our way out of town we saw the beautiful Ukrainian Orthodox Church Of St. Peter and St. Paul, There is a large Ukranian population in Athabasca.
Highway 2 split from 55 just out of town, so we stayed on the latter, which headed due east. We had come up Hwy 2 at the beginning of the journey, so we took 55 as an alternative route. Along the way, just east of Atmore, this cloud caught my eye. It looked just like North America, right down to Mexico on the bottom. See it?
We stopped in the town of Lac La Biche (AB). We asked some locals where would be a good place to camp. A couple of teenage girls giggled but hadn't a clue. Eventually someone suggested the Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park, which was on a beautiful - albeit windy - peninsula.
The sun was golden as we cooked up our soup and cut up the veggies for dinner. The light during the golden hour was bright on the tops of the trees, making them glow.

The place felt a bit open, but it ended up being just fine and surprisingly quiet. It would be our last night on the road, so we savored it.
As the day ended, we figured out we had come 568 kilometers / 353 miles, which means we have traveled 3928 K / 2441 M in total. Our last full day of travel had ended, and we knew the next night would be be in our own beds. John estimated we'd be home late evening. That was good, because I wasn't sure about how much more John could stand of my snoring...

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