Monday June 30, 2008
We woke up to a much cooler Jasper Park Lodge. It was the kind of morning that really makes you feel like you are on vacation. We packed up our things, and instead of paying through the nose for a scenic breakfast, we headed into the Jasper township to enjoy breakfast at Smitty’s, a Canadian coffee shop. On the way to the township, we encountered another rubbernecking traffic jam as people stopped on the side of the road to look at a herd of elk in the middle of the Northern Saskatchewan River. Its hysterical that people stop on a major highway to take pictures, but we were just as guilty. Just for Mom, I recorded a bit of their sounds. Arriving at Smitty’s, we had to wait a bit to get in, but the food was actually very good. It took a bit longer than expected to get through breakfast, but we finally were on our way to the Jasper Tramway.
When we arrived at the tramway, we discovered a 30-minute queue just to buy tickets. On top of that there was an additional 15-minute wait for the Tramway. We thought about it for a bit, but ultimately decided not to do the tramway. Unlike the Columbia Icefields, this was not a wholly unique experience, and we were all itching to get on the road so we can get into Edmonton at a reasonable time. So with regret, we ditched the tramway and headed downhill to Edmonton.
People had said that the road down slope was pretty boring, and they were right. We had been spoiled by the majestic Rockies. Most of the scenery to the end of Jasper National Park was still scenic and we managed to see some mountain goats for another rubberneck stop. I actually liked the countryside we passed through at the edge of the park – lots of lakes as well as rolling hills.
Once we left the national park, it was pretty normal grassy farmlands and prairie country. We made a stop in Hinton to visit the Alberta Welcome Center where we met a few nice people who told us the ins and outs of what to do in Edmonton. The rest of the drive was just a long journey through some nice scenery. We veered off onto the Alberta 16A highway and headed to our Marriott hotel at the River Cree Resort. Mom selected this one because it was close to the West Edmonton Mall as well as she got a better deal with her Marriott Rewards. As a bonus it is on a Native American Reservation and therefore has an adjacent casino.
We got our room and relaxed a bit and then headed downstairs to enjoy the Prime Rib Buffet. It was then time to head into Edmonton proper to visit the largest mall in the world – the West Edmonton Mall. From the outside, it looks very 1970s mall, but on the inside it was indeed huge. On the overall scale of malls, it is indeed huge with an Ice Hockey Rink, Amusement Park, Water Park, and several themed dining areas. On the downside it is not as well kept up as say South Coast Plaza or the Mall of America. Gary picked up a flash drive so I could give them a copy of my photos, and I really wanted to get a Chocolate Shake, but I was still full from dinner.
Leaving the mall, we took the scenic tour of downtown. Edmonton seems to be a nice town, and reminds me a lot of Grand Forks, North Dakota, just a bit larger. We then headed back to our hotel to call it a night. We have to be up early to get to Calgary in time to catch our flight back to the US. It’s going to be a long day, but it is all worth it. Before turning in, we decided to try our luck at the Casino. Sadly we did not pay for the trip with any winnings, so after a brief trip to the business center to check some emails, we turned in for the night.