It's a long way from Victoria to Red Deer. 1198.2 kilometres (744.5 miles). I thought you might be interested in the sights along the way - it's such a pretty drive. We'll be touring in one direction, east to west, but the photos are taken both from our trip out and our trip back, so if you know the road, the angles will be mixed up. Lighting differs as well. So pack your bags, include some drinks and snacks, and we'll be off!
We like to get a bit of a head start, so we cross over to the mainland on the ferry the night before and stay at my parents' place in Chilliwack.
Early the next morning, we quietly sneak out of the house and begin the drive. Dawn just begins to break over the mountains. We have snacks and drinks in the car. It will take us 11 or 12 hours, with a few breaks.
We begin in the Fraser Valley, a fertile delta plain where my roots began. My siblings and parents, although they moved away for many years, are all back in the Valley. Steep mountains shelter the valley, and it is to those mountains that we steer.
We pass Mount Cheam, seen here from the east (and in the evening). Each time we pass it, I marvel that I once stood on the very top - I'd like to do that hike again some day.
Very soon we are in the mountains, taking the #5 Highway up over the Coquihalla Pass. These peaks are part of the Coast Mountain Range. Beautiful glaciers can still be seen, shining in the summer light.
There's plenty of traffic on the highway: big trucks, tourists with their 5th-wheel trailers, motor homes, camper vans, and regular family cars. Some of them really slow down on the long, steep climbs. We climb from sea level to 1244 metres (4081 feet) in a little over an hour.
The Coquihalla Highway is relatively new - just 30 years old. For part of the route, it follows old cattle trails and later oil and gas pipelines, installed in the 1950s. My father worked on those pipelines. The scenery is stunning as the road weaves through the mountains, along and across the Coquihalla and then the Coldwater Rivers.
After a couple of hours we come to the Interior Plateau. This is arid country, where cattle ranches flourish and thousands of lakes lie cool and blue in the landscape.
Down into the small town of Merritt, where country music flourishes, and up again before descending into the town of Kamloops, situated at the confluence of the North and South Thompson Rivers. I spent my childhood here and swam in that cold, fast river.
We like to stop in Kamloops at the Starbucks on the eastern edge of town. We walk around the shopping center parking lot (it's only 8 am so the stores are still closed), sipping a cup of tea and munching on a breakfast sandwich. It's good to stretch our legs.
Back into the car again and we wind our way into the Shushwap and Okanagan Highlands. Shushwap Lake is a mecca for holiday-ers. Ski boats and houseboats dot the lake. It's enormous and there's plenty of room for all.
Now we face the Columbia Mountain Ranges, of which there are four - the Caribou, the Cascades, the Monashee, and Selkirk Mountains. When I drive these roads, I marvel at the tenacity of the explorers who found the passes through wave after wave of mountains to forge transportation routes that are still used today. We go over the Rogers Pass (1330 m) and the Kicking Horse Pass (1627 m).
We stop in Golden for lunch - a picnic, so we can get out and walk around again. Here we've descended a little and are in the Rocky Mountain Trench separating the Columbia Mountains from the Rocky Mountains.
A few wild summer flowers are blooming, but most have gone to seed.
A curious squirrel crosses the path ahead of us several times before dashing down beside the river to hide in the rocks.
Cold, cold glacier-fed water, milky from the glacial sediment.
The railway was built long before the highway and is a unifying symbol across the country.
On our way home, we stopped, not in Golden, but at the Kicking Horse River rest area. Three rafts passed by as we watched. I hope to go river rafting one day. Have you ever done it?
The road at the bottom right of the photo is the old highway. We walked along it for about a kilometre or two. The bridge above is the new highway, and if you look carefully, you'll see the scale indicated by the tiny bumps of vehicles going over it. Called the Park Bridge, it was completed in 2007 and rises 90 metres above the river. The bridge, and its long approaches, replace the most dangerous part of the old highway, which averaged 140 accidents per year.
Up into the Rocky Mountains we climb. We're about halfway there now. We pass through snow sheds and see warning signs to not stop in certain sections for fear of avalanches (in the winter). We see gun emplacements where experts shoot down the threatened avalanches. It's a hot day and there's no snow nearby so we don't concern ourselves with that.
A yellow helicopter hovers over a construction sight high on the mountain. Tim took this photo while I drove. We later saw it loading up again on a landing near the highway, preparing to make another drop.
Now we come to the Rocky Mountains, home to Banff National Park - Canada's first national park. Next year is the centennial of the park's opening, and as a celebration, all national park fees will be waived.
We see a bear and some deer along the road. As we drive out of the mountains, they become less treed and more rocky.
This is Castle Mountain, aptly named, don't you think?
A storm brewed above us, but except for a few splats, it passed us by. Or perhaps we passed it.
Wildlife overpasses allow the animals living here to safely cross the highways, which are otherwise fenced for their protection.
Just a few more hours on the level prairies where the landscape stretches as far as the eye can see and the sky looks immense.
We arrive in time for a late supper with Tim's sister - we meet at a restaurant since she wasn't expecting us until later. It feels good to crawl into bed that night, although my mind still felt it was driving.
And in less than a week, we'll do the reverse!
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for Tim's mother. She is doing very well and has moved from the hospital into a transition home. She will soon be returning to her own apartment complex.