Getting Lost on the Trans-Canada Highway
My family often took summer road trips along the Trans-Canada Highway. These trips never became routine, in part because no one was very good at reading maps and so we would often end up lost on side roads. On these side roads we try to figure out which direction we were facing, play a few rounds of cards while deciding, and sometimes point randomly to figure out how to get back to the highway.
The Trans-Canada Highway is one of the world’s longest highway systems. It starts in Victoria, British Columbia and connects via a ferry to Vancouver. For several hundred miles, vacationers travel alongside container trucks and the occasional tractor. It goes up through the Rocky Mountains, then down into Alberta, through flatlands, and eventually into Newfoundland.
Driving through the Rocky Mountains along the Trans-Canada highway is one of my favorite parts of this road trip. In the mountains, moose often wander across the narrow roads. Bighorn sheep live on the rocky hillsides and mostly look like they will topple over, either from the size of their horns or because they are jumping across piles of rocks.
This stretch of the Rocky Mountains also includes glaciers and glacial lakes, which are such a startling blue color that I once suspected that Canada used food dye to color its lakes. Canada’s many glaciers have shrunk with global warming, but there are a few parks in the Rocky Mountains that allow visitors to walk on the glaciers. Athabasca Glacier is in one of these parks. Visitors can walk on the leading edge of the ice, which is a tiny part of the nearly 4 mile long glacier. The edge of the glacier sits between two mountain ridges, and the wind between them is strong enough to push a person back down the glacier.
Even in the Rockies, where people are scarce, we eventually encountered small towns like Banff and Jasper. These towns sit in valleys within the mountain range and being in one feels somewhat like being in bowl because they are surrounded by mountains. They are a sign that civilization is close and the Trans-Canada Highway will soon be filled with shipping trucks speeding toward Calgary. For the next few miles, though, the Rocky Mountain roads and national parks are still slow and special places.SHARE THIS