Adventures in Campground Automotive

Sunrise on the Athabasca River

In all my years and many kilometres of enjoying road trips by car, I have been fortunate not to experience a catastrophic vehicle failure which would require the intervention of tow trucks, licensed technicians and a fat wallet to get me back on the road again.  On this particular long weekend my plan was to take an extra day giving me four full days to shoot sunrise images in Jasper National Park with the afternoons left for conditioning and strenuous day hikes with a heavy pack in preparation for my backcountry Yukon adventure in Tombstone park this fall.  As things unfolded, I was unable to take the extra day and scrambled to get to the mountains in the evening.  As “luck” would have it, just as I rolled up to the registration booth at Whistler Campground, along came an unfamiliar “pop” to which my brain registered as an odd  engine sound.  I turned off the ignition just as the surrounding area was becoming engulfed in a thick, sweet smelling dense fog along with the sinister hiss of what usually means a cooling system malfunction.  I looked up at the park attendant, smiled and said:  “ That doesn’t look good!”

It was in fact a cooling system failure. Our first efforts began with containing the spill to prevent contamination of the nearby vegetation that provides sustenance to the abundant wildlife.  With the help of two park staff this potential problem was relatively easily remedied. A tow truck had been summoned and in my mind I pictured dollar bills…many dollar bills with wings flying away into the great blue mountainous sky of Jasper.  In the end we cancelled the tow truck and with the help of a park representative and about a half dozen volunteers to whom I owe a big thanks too, we pushed my vehicle about 500 meters to a safe area that would not effect the environment should any coolant continue to leak.

[pullquote align=”full” color=”” class=”” cite=”” link=””]” I pictured dollar bills…many dollar bills with wings flying away into the great blue mountainous sky of Jasper. “[/pullquote]

Coolant tank

Diagnosing the extent of the failure was the next hurdle. Thankfully, I always carry a small toolbox with me on road trips of which it’s contents would now be tested with hopes that I had all the right tools to at least attempt some kind of repair. A compromised coolant reservoir tank in my vehicle would be discovered where essentially it had ruptured relieving the engine of a full compliment of coolant.  Hmmm…an easy fix I thought.  “IF ONLY I HAD A COOLANT TANK!!”

It was now about 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night and I began to explore ideas of how to get a coolant tank from Edmonton 380km away where I was.  My first call was to my dad.  It went something like this:   “Hey, how’s it going…good good!  Sooooo…..  What are you doing tomorrow?”  There’s nothing like the un-conditional help by family and man oh man do I oh my dad big time on this one!  All the arrangements were made on the following Saturday morning and by 2:00p.m. that afternoon I had a new coolant tank and fresh coolant in my hands.  With a few hiccups, the vehicle was up and running by 5:00p.m.

So a big thanks to the following people:  The staff and visitors at Whistler Campground who with smiles and not a second thought, lent a hand at cleaning up and getting my vehicle to a safe place.  To George, Edwin and David for guiding me mechanically along the way so I didn’t break anything else.   Sorry for waking you up Dave…but it was 10:00 a.m. and time to get up anyway right!??     To my mom who travelled the near 800km round trip to “keep an eye on dad” during the drive.   And finally a huge thanks to my dad who is always there to bail me out!  Thanks Dad!!!

Not a successful photographic or hiking weekend  however, I did manage to make the image on the Athabasca River displayed at the beginning of this post.  The water levels were beginning to rise and 2 weeks later, this little spot a few hundred meters upstream from the Athabasca falls would be engulfed in the full fast flowing silt waters of the Athabasca River.  Photography is about timing.  I would have loved to have a glorious sunrise filled with amazing colour and texture.  It is a simple image, but one with so much meaning and memory to me.  I hope you enjoy it.

Until next time…


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