Monday, May 23, 2016

Day 21, May 21-22, 2016 May-Long Weekend Jasper National Park – Grande Cache, Alberta (Smoky River Region)

Birthday Pie...68th birthday
“The Aboriginal people gave the Smoky River its name because lightning would sometimes start the exposed coal seams on the banks on fire, so they would smoke.” Grand Cache Historical Society Brochure

On the road to Grande Cache

Alberta Hwy 40, like so much of Canada, was a wilderness dream to travel.  We observed our first caribou just south of Grande Cache, a thrill to say the least, and deer abounded.  A well paved two lane road, Hwy 40 coursed through deep valleys, over steep mountains, and as we drove the view from our windows presented an ever-changing mural of nature’s bounty.  Encountering snow, we took our time, enjoyed the scenery and marveled at how fortunate we were to be able to have the time and resources to travel on such a fantastic journey.  Arriving in Grande Cache, we just did not want to glide through such a beautiful setting without exploring this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Caribou along side the road...late migration
Grande Cache displays wilderness at its best.  Picturesque, it rubs elbows with the Willmore Wilderness Park and is teaming with wildlife.  Stopping at the Tourism & Interpretative Centre, we met Jim Merrithew, Supervisor of Tourism & Culture, who dropped all that he was doing to advise us on the best “must see” trails, waterfalls, and points of interest.  He was a wealth of information on the archeological, geological, and anthropological history of the area.  Traveling at “paved-road speeds,” Grande Cache might seem just a wide spot in the road but one could spend a month here and never see all that the area has to offer.  This is one of those “treasures laying between destinations where adventure is to be found.”  If Alaska is beyond your reach, the next best alternative, in our opinion, would be to visit Banff National Park and Grande Cache.

Taking in the scenery and hiking along the Smoky and Sulfur Rivers became our objective while in Grande Cache and we were not disappointed.  Admitting that the abundance of bear warning postings took their toll on our intrepidness, for the most part we forged ahead.  This said, we saw no bear scat nor signs on our walks…to say that we were pleased would be an understatement.  Hiking to the confluence of the Smoky and Sulfur Rivers, we were able to stand on platforms overlooking this gorgeous spot.  
"What!!  Grizzlies climb trees?"
While there we met a Canadian couple from the area.  They spoke of how their father ran a trap line in the Willmore Wilderness upriver from where we were standing but he was pondering that it might be time to pack it in…he is 82!!  I love these people.  They know no limits and live life to the fullest!

Spending my 68th birthday in Grande Cache among people who have a vivacity for life, love where they live and feel no compulsion to pattern their lives as dictated by society’s norms was a fine gift indeed.  Sharing this with Andrea made it all the better.

Smoky River

Snow on the way to Grande Cache

Trail to Muskeg Falls

Sign on trail to Muskeg Falls
Confluence of the Smoky and Sulfur Rivers near Grande Cache

Sulfur River

Andrea,,"Are you sure there are no bear here?"


  1. Sounds like a very scenic trip, Happy belated birthday you old timer. Tom Weigand

  2. Happy birthday! sounds like you should hire a realtor in grand cache.

  3. Hello Steve and Andrea. Thank you for your kind words about Grande Cache. It is, indeed, a wonderful place to visit, to live and work in. We are blessed by amazing views of the mountains which are beautiful at any time of the year. I hope you will have an opportunity to return and to spend that month in paradise. - Jim Merrithew, Grande Cache Tourism Centre.