Day 23 mile 0 Alaska Highway

– Our neighbors on one side are from Edmonton. He is a hot air balloonist who won the Canadian balloon competition (no official name comes to mind). They recommended a bug screen for the front of the truck as June bugs here are larger than quarters and make quite a mess. 

– Our neighbors on the other side showed up with a very nice 39 ft 5th wheel. They are from Grande Prairie and come to this little park for camping. Last night they drove their pickup home and returned with their Cadillac SUV.  There are perks to staying close to home. They recommend we get rock guards so The Whale doesn’t get beaten to death with loose stones. 

– first outing today is to the GMC dealer for screens and guards. We were able to find just the right rock guard at a company called Cap It. Brett plans to install it later today. They didn’t have the screen that we need though so that will be another project for another time. 

– I have nothing against the campground but it was pretty much camping at the mall in a pit with some trees. The part of Grande Prairie we were in was just one huge mall after huge mall. Two miles further on and we are back in farmland. 

– i seem to have left my animal silhouette identification card at home but I think I just saw a field full of elk. 

– Beaverlodge, AB features a 15 foot high beaver perched on a 19 foot log. I’m happy that I saw it because I’ll be missing the “World’s Largest Ball of String” on this trip. The beaver is a nice substitute. 

– welcome to British Columbia, The Best Place On Earth and another time zone. Dawson Creek does not follow daylight savings so is on Pacific time for the summer. 

– oil rigs looking like giant candles with gasses burning off the top

– we have arrived at Dawson Creek, mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. I am so disappointed to discover that it is nothing like I imagined. It is about the size of Presque Isle, busy with traffic and the weather is again very hot. There is some sort of historic district which I hope will provide a nice experience because we are staying here for 2 nights and I really want a good memory of this place. 

– our campground host is a taciturn fellow who used as little energy as possible getting us to our site. We did actually try for another campground situated well out of town but they are full. The caravans to Alaska tend to take all the spots as they are passing through. 

– it is still very hot today so we fired up the air conditioner. Then the circuit breaker at the power pole started to trip. Since we were already set up we hoped this was not a fault in the pole because it’s a pain to move. After a bit of detective work we decided that starting the microwave and accidentally having the water heater on probably contributed to the problem. We reduced the load and I’ve been happily air conditioned all day. 

– lunch definitely helped to change my mood. 

– the campground is adjacent to the Walter Wright Pioneer Village. This seemed like something we should visit. The South Peace Historical Society built the attraction from a collection of original buildings, donated artifacts and vintage vehicles. With boardwalks and a gravel Main Street it represents a street in pioneer days (1912-1945). Thank goodness for earnest historical societies. Their hard work has helped educate so many. 

– our campground host also controls access to the village. He warmed up to us a bit after we left a donation and told him how much we enjoyed it. Later in the afternoon he came by our site to see how everything was and was quite chatty. He stayed for a while to watch Brett work on installing the new rock guards (and had rock horror stories to tell). He even said he’d reboot his wifi to see if that helped us get a connection. It did not. 

– we are going to stay here one more day because there are more sights we want to see. We did plan our next destination (Fort Nelson) and called ahead for a campsite since Wednesday is the Dominion Day holiday here in Canada. The lady we talked to sounded like a hoot. When we said we’d like to stay for a night she said “you might as well; everybody else is”. 

 

– so to everybody else I say “Get ready because here we come”

Day 22 Get Thee To Grande Prairie

To Grande Prairie, AB 

– I feel well rid of Glowing Embers RV Park. The drive out of the park was complicated with all the vehicles parked along the roadway. Part of the access highway is gone due to construction so GPS goes all sad. But we are clear and rolling. 

– just saw our first sign pointing to Alaska Highway!  Troubling isn’t it that we are 22 days into the trip and just getting to the start of the road?

To Grande Prairie, AB 

– I would like to report that the drivers in Alberta actually follow the speed limit. And it’s pretty exciting to be driving 110. 

To Grande Prairie, AB 

– the Rochfort Bridge trestle is the second longest wooden railway trestle I the world (2514 ft). It’s like this giant tinker toy construction. Pretty amazing and big. 

– the roads are getting bumpier. There is a marker system. A little post with 1 red diamond on it = here’s your bump. 2 diamonds = here’s your really big bump, slow down. 3 diamonds = yikes. Brett thinks I misheard this when a fellow traveler told us. It might be red flags. But I did see a 1 red diamond on a post at a bump so that much is certain. Stay tuned. 

– heading northwest in Highway 43 and noticing more forested land along with signs alerting us to logging truck activity

– Whitecourt, AB is singularly unlovely along the highway. And it looks like there’s a huge paper mill too. Two paper mills. Probably explains the logging trucks. 

– we crossed the Athabasca River. This is the first wide and mighty one I’ve seen. Water was fast moving, muddy and roiling. 

– At a rest area, Brett talked to a truck driver to find out what he was hauling. It was the heart of an oil rig and what controls it. The driver picked it up in Houston and is delivering it to an oil field somewhere in Alaska. He is ready to be shed of it. 

– it’s hot here but dry. Stand in The Whale’s shade and the temperature drops 10 degrees. 

– it does look strange to see an oil rig peeking up out of the forest. 

– moose country. We are being regularly warned but no sightings yet. Update, there was one dead moose along the side if the road. 

– Grande Prairie is a city of about 55,000. GPS couldn’t lock on to the address so we called for particulars. Good thing. You turn into a college parking lot and then a quick left to the campground. It is a tiny park just off busy Hwy 43 and is operated by the Rotary Club.  The sites are small and we had to do some fidgeting to fit in but we are parked. 

– it was time to buy some more groceries. This being the first time for that in Canada we suffered sticker shock. I know there’s an exchange rate in our favor but things are still steep. And then there was the awkward moment at the deli counter when I had no idea how to translate grams into pounds. The nice deli lady got us straightened out at 450 grams is about a pound. 

– this is the first time I’ve had to put money in to get a shopping cart. Well we were supposed to put in a quarter but couldn’t figure it out. As we were standing there looking all pathetic a fellow customer took pity on us and gave us her cart. 

– new rule. Get set up, unhook truck, go find diesel. This we did. First place closed, second place declined credit card. Did I mention it’s 32C today? What fun to sit in a hot truck trying to get things sorted out. So it seems the shady, declined things may have been pre-authorizations from the closed station fueling attempts (we hope). They cleared the card and we tried again. It was declined at the pump again but accepted inside. We will see if any funny business transpires tomorrow. I’d hate to have to cancel it as it’s the one that doesn’t charge extra for foreign transactions. And I also learned that you need to call the collect number on the back of the card if you are in Canada since it is a foreign country. This after being on hold at the 800 number for 5 minutes remembering the AT&T $1 a minute charge. 

– we are settled down now with drinkies and adjusted attitudes. More mirth will follow. Of this I am sure. 

Day 21 Fort Edmonton Park

Fort Edmonton 

Day dawned bright at our RV Park sort of parking lot.  You’d think after needing to be reminded to go to bed at 10:30pm because it was still light out that I might have slept longer.  But I awoke to see the sunrise and to get on with my day.  I’d promised Brett bacon and eggs for breakfast and hadn’t gotten around to it yet so this morning seemed like the time.  Okay, it was a bit unconventional.  I’d hard boiled all the eggs earlier in the week (these are great for sandwiches) so he got bacon with cold hard boiled eggs and toast cooked in my evil toaster (which usually causes the smoke alarm to go off but did not this time).  He did not complain.

We wanted to do some sightseeing today and chose to visit Fort Edmonton Park.  This is on the Saskatchewan River just outside of the city.  The park is a recreation of four different phases of Edmonton’s past:  1846 Fort, 1885 Street, 1905 Street and 1920 Street. They have a working steam train and electric street car that you can ride.  At $20.90C each for admission, it was moderately priced and provided a great 4 hours of enjoyment for us.  We got to the park about 15 minutes before opening and were able to find a parking spot in the shade.  This being important because the temp was 32C when we left (that is almost 90F).  There was a little line but it was efficiently and politely managed.  People really are very polite here.  Old joke:  Q-how do you get 50 Canadians out of a swimming pool?  A-you say everybody out of the pool please.

Fort Edmonton 

First up was the steam train ride.  We are train lovers and would probably choose to visit anything we could find that featured a train, especially if we could ride on the train.  This took us to the 1846 Fort.  There are interpreters dressed in costume in many of the buildings and they were very well informed.  Since I am not really up on my Canadian history (that is a real shame I must say), I learned quite a bit.  Fort Edmonton was never a military installation.  It was built to handle the very lucrative fur trading business.  The fort traded with the local trappers and then took York boats to Hudson Bay where they sold their goods.  Many of the workers at the fort came as indentured servants (lots from the Orkney Islands).  They were paid only after completing the terms of the contract (many did not last the 5 years) and, since they lived on credit for that time, received the balance of the sum after their expenses were deducted.  The men had to be bachelors for the first 5 year term but were allowed to marry if they stayed on.  Brett enjoyed swapping tales with the blacksmith too.  Side note:  the Canadians did not treat their Indians any better than we did.  They were rounded into reservations, treaties were not honored and children were sent to schools to have the Indian beaten out of them.  One lady told us that her grandmother (a Cree) denied her heritage her whole life.  She told people that she was Ukrainian.

Fort Edmonton 

Next we walked on over to 1885 Street.  It was getting awfully hot so it was a pleasure to find benches in the shade and water fountains.  The various trades were represented here.  The newspaper/print shop was particularly interesting.  Edmonton got the news of the day telegraphed from Winnipeg and this was then typeset and printed.  A winter subscription was $2.  The harness shop smelled nicely of leather, the milliner had beautiful hats and the church had a plow inside (we never found out why).  There was a small shop selling drinks, sandwiches and pie.  Brett: is that strawberry rhubarb pie? Clerk: Yes! Brett:  I’ll have the apple.  We shared a slice of pie.

Fort Edmonton 

1905 Street included a visit to the Rutherford House (he being the first prime minister of Alberta).  One of the interpreters was  a woman who said she was visiting the Rutherfords for the summer hoping to find a husband (men outnumbered women 3 to 1 at that time).  She invited Brett to sit with him and have some lemonade.  He did this willingly and we continued to converse with her about life in 1905 Edmonton.  The other interpeterwas and English maid who(having an English maid was a status symbol) had taken her job in hopes of finding a husband as well.  Men were in short supply in England due to the Boer War.  She was wisely looking for a man who already owned a house.  Housing was in short supply and many lived in tents (which must have been terrible in the winter). We wished them well and told them we would mention their names is we came upon any eligible bachelors.

Fort Edmonton 

At this juncture it was indeed very warm.  We opted to hop on the electric street car to circle the park.  We engaged the driver (Doug, a former Edmonton air traffic controller) in conversation and he invited us to come with him to the streetcar barn after his shift ended in 15 minutes.  We readily agreed and were treated to a great tour of cars being lovingly restored.  We met Hans from Switzerland who was there working on a sweeper car restoration.  And I met an engaging 95 year old gentleman who drove trucks for 70 years, loved streetcars and knew why Yellowknife was so named.  In case you want to know, it is because this was a diamond and gold mining town and there was lots of dynamite.  So as not to cause any sparks at all, the only kind of knife that could be carried was one made of copper (a yellow metal).  So there you go.  We thanked our new friend profusely and felt that we’d had a special visit there because of his kindness.

The restored streetcars also had original advertising posters in them.  My cookie man found a Uneeda Biscuit and an Oysterettes ad.

I got another postcard for the boys which I will probably mail from Alaska unless I happen upon a Canadian post office to buy stamps.

We did not see everything on offer.  It was just too hot.  But what we saw and experienced was (for us and our interest in the history of a place) wonderful.  Two workers told us they wish the place was managed better – it is not well advertised and they keep short hours.  I will definitely tell people about it.  If you ever find yourself in Edmonton, visit the park.  Do not however stay at Glowing Embers RV Park (which does not have so much as one fire pit so I do not understand the name).

We opted to do the great diesel scavenger hunt while we had The Whale parked.  Good thing.  Times like these I miss my data plan because Gas Buddy would have been right there for me.  But we drove around a bit and finally asked a nice lady at an RV store where we might find fuel.  She got us all sorted out and we had A&W Root Beer floats just to kind of top off the day.  And, in case you wondered (because Brett did), the A&W mascot (a bear) does not have a name.  He is simply referred to as the A&W bear.  But the young ladies where we stopped said that they called him Al and that we could too.

So from Al and all the bunch in Alberta and from us “we are doing well”.  Tomorrow we head further north and west because we’ve still got half a continent to cover and I would like to actually get to Alaska.  We hope to be at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway within 3 days.  

Day 20 Just Do The Miles

To Acheson, AB 

3884 miles in

  • Today we will venture further north to the Edmonton area. During this time I will gain more practice using The Milepost as a navigation  aid. This inch thick book is a mile by mile guide for the Alaska travel routes that notes what is at every “exit” (fuel,lodging, points of interest). We have been traveling on Highway 2. A sample entry: CB 376.8 stoplight at 19th Ave; big box stores to east. I discovered that this is not a numbered “exit”. It is a road that intersects with the highway at 376.8 miles from the Canadian  Border. Nearer Calgary the exits do have the big green numbered exit signs I am accustomed to. It just makes for a livelier day spent working out which place has the diesel and how far are we from it.
  • I know that it stays light later in the summer. The further north you go, the later it stays lighter. My brain just thinks this happens up in frozen tundra land. My brain needs a tune up. Here near Calgary the sun set at 10pm last night. Kids were out playing, campfires going and folks eating dinner at the picnic tables. We need to set an alarm to tell us when to go to bed.
  • It is curious to find so many campgrounds that are basically within a city or suburb. These are well tended and quite busy. As there are many provincial parks, I expected these would be where much of the recreating happened. Staying at these little urban campgrounds is comparable to camping in Deering Oaks in Portland. Imagine a few campfires and kids running joyfully amok. That is the vibe.
  • Our neighbors were packing up to leave this morning and we were watching. The principle form of entertainment while at an RV park is watching amateurs park their big rigs, admiring the equipment and offering advice. Brett noted that these folks had so much electrical cord that they could have plugged it in at home. They also had 2 very handsome bulldogs.
  • the signs here say “please” as in “please avoid use of engine brake”. At home it would say “no engine brake”.
  • just witnessed 3 rescue vehicles at a small lake dealing with a capsized boat.
  • note to self: do not take city exits when looking for diesel, especially when it involves turning into a mall area, especially when the largish road is cordoned off for a festival, especially when you then need to turn in the tiny Tim Horton parking lot. Your driver will manage because he is awesome. He will not hit a car or pedestrian but he will be disturbed by driving over 2 high curbs. He will then ask for a margarita which he cannot have.
  • now there seem to be more numbered exits and I found one announcing diesel. My still perspiring driver parked the rig and walked to see how best to approach the pumps. Diesel does not necessarily mean truck friendly.
  • sign: peanut butter and bread are soul mates. Jelly was just a fling
  • terrain switching to rolling hills and a few trees with grass/hay fields
  • pay attention here. When the sign says turnout it means right now. The rest area was nice. Restrooms at the front then winding driveway with lots of pull out parking.
  • To Acheson, AB 
  • there is a lot of traffic on highway 2 today. Perhaps it is getaway day in Calgary and Edmonton.
  • We passed through the city of Leduc which is named for the Leduc Oil Field. This was a 300 billion barrel strike. Oil is a very important part of the Alberta economy. 
  • I thought we were out of tornado country but I was wrong. Edmonton suffered a devastating tornado in 1987. This was a kilometer wide F4 that stayed on the ground for an hour. It killed 27 people. 
  • We are at Glowing Embers RV Park in Acheson, AB just west of Edmonton. The place has 324 sites and moves a lot of Alaska caravans through (a lot of people are afraid to go to Alaska on their own). A very crowded park, the place has little to recommend it other than it has water and electric and is not a WalMart parking lot. But it is close to the city and we want to do some sightseeing.
  • To Acheson, AB 
  • it was a day that will not go down in the journal; lots of traffic, not so special accommodation and very slow wifi 😝 . But we shall see what tomorrow brings.

 

Day 19 Close Encounters of the Canadian Kind

Shelby, MT to Oktokis, AB 

 Our campground last night was directly behind The Best Western and we were allowed to go in for their breakfast buffet. So we spent the $6 each and had eggs, hash browns, polish sausage, biscuits, fruit, juice and coffee. That should hold Brett longer than the Captain Crunch has. 

– I suppose it is good business for a hotel to accommodate RV guests, but hard to make a pretty park just this side of the interstate. We had a dandy view of the back of the building. 

– the grass in the median along the highway here is mowed and baled. I wonder who gets the hay. 

– I hadn’t thought of oil being up in Montana but of course it is. There are many wells around and just saw a rig digging another. These all within view of a huge wind farm. 

– Sweetgrass, MT. That’s a nice name. Maybe it was grassland when named but now highly irrigated and dotted with oil wells. Irrigation pools evaporate and leave  a layer of salt. 

– We are approaching the border and about to find out what it’s like to cross with a big 5th wheel. 

Shelby, MT to Oktokis, AB 

– Well it was easy. We were the only vehicle there. They looked at our passports, asked a few questions and said “welcome up”.  And poof. Suddenly we are in Coutts, AB. We called ahead and found a campsite about 200 miles on. 

– Dear AT&T, $30 a month extra for a global plan and calls still cost a dollar a minute?  Phffffft. At least you threw in free, unlimited texting. 

– first stop was the tiny farm town of Milk River thence to the CIBC to exchange some currency (1.19 Canadian for each US dollar) and our first stop for diesel (1.069 per liter, ouch). We were astounded to be able to drive into town and just park The Whale on the street in front of the bank. The info center assured us that we could. That is a hidden advantage of a small farm town in Alberta -wide streets with no traffic. 

– if I ever knew, I forgot that they don’t have pennies in Canada. I do love the loonies ($1 coin) and toonies ($2 coin). 

– this is a working, farming community. There are 2 new farm equipment dealers within a quarter mile of us. 

– sign: live horse racing – because dead horses are so boring?

– how many days before I can convert kph to dog years?  I wish the US had converted to metric. It’s 26 degrees and I don’t need a coat. 

– we made our way to Okotoks Lions Club Campground in Okotoks, AB (near Calgary). Owned by the city but operated by the Lions, it is a tidy, clean friendly park by a river in the suburbs. The Lions are friendly here. 

– when we booked the campsite they told us if we wanted to stay extra days we could not. There is a lacrosse tournament in town this weekend. The campground is crawling with young, very fit lacrosse players. 

– I don’t quite understand how Alberta works yet but all the people have been so friendly and we’ve managed to find fuel and a campsite and Canadian money. The information centers are excellent; providing actual information and free wifi ( again AT&T phfffft). 

– most of my be a great navigator tools were lost to me at the border when I lost my cell and data coverage. Now I will have to get us lost the old fashioned way (with a paper map and my best guess). GPS still works but the truck’s system is still boneheaded in my opinion. I miss iExit the most; it was great at finding next fueling stop. 

– the scenery so far is flat to rolling farmland with grasses and winter wheat. There are see forever views with some mountain ranges lurking to the west (probably near Banff and Jasper). Brett is just as happy to have the mountains at glancing distance rather than under our wheels. He’s awfully nice to take me to them though. 

Shelby, MT to Oktokis, AB 

– There is wifi to be had here but only for an hour a day. So I will get all my wifi’ing stuff together and plot my approach. 

– On our evening walk around the campground we met a couple who have 6 dogs with them.  These dogs compete in something called “plyball” or maybe “flyball”.  They run a course with jumps and release a ball at the end, catch it and return to the start.  A team of 4 dogs competes against another team of 4 dogs and the team with the best combined time wins.  There’s no money in it, but people and dogs seem to love it.  Then before we could get back home, we met another couple who are from Alberta and just sold their house to full time.  We compared notes and swapped stories for quite some time.  A lovely evening. 

– progress continues to progress as we move steadily west and northwards. 

Shelby, MT to Oktokis, AB 

The wifi access here is metered and I only get a pesky 700mb over the course of an hour.  I won’t be including any photos until I get a better connection. 

Day 18 Lazy Laundry Day

We are plan less at the moment but heading east towards Shelby and an eventual border crossing 

– spotted our first coyote. He looked big and healthy (probably from all the sheep in the area)

– witnessed a parking lot incident at East Glacier, MT Cenex fuel station. Two big 5th wheels seemed to have set up camp. The station owner was loudly explaining that they were trespassing and needed to move along. As we were leaving, the owner was posting a no trespassing sign. 

– also at East Glacier, MT I was present for the arrival of the Amtrak from Seattle to points east.  I have a dream of taking this train from Boston to Seattle.  But I won’t be able to sleep for fear of missing the scenery.

Amtrak awaits 

– we conferred and decided to continue to head for Shelby, MT today. We will do laundry, use their wifi and try a border crossing in the morning. 

– passed Camp Disappointment. It is here that Lewis admitted the Missouri did not cross the 50th parallel and was disappointed. 

– the local tribe are the Blackfeet and the (Canadian) Blood. This tribe in Glacier mightily resisted but has recently built a casino which is infusing cash. 

– a short day for us (only 111 miles). We arrived at the campground which is part of a Best Western hotel at about noon. This left us plenty of time to do our laundry, post some updates and study up on crossing the border requirements. 

– Brett had a long chat with some folks who RV full time. They had suggestions about Alaska travel and I’m sure many tales were swapped. If you know Brett, you know this to be true. 

– and we have stocked up on a package each of Twizzlers (cannot travel without them), BBQ chips, tuna and beef jerky

– I have taped a little conversion chart to the glove box in the truck.  Now at a glance I will know that The Whale is 3.66 meters tall and 10.97 meters long

I implement a little bit of a plan 

 – This day is done

Day 17 Glacier National Park

The day could be summed up as one with a long bus ride around a most beautiful place. I kept thinking “look where we are!”  The Going To The Sun Road through Logan Pass is a not to be missed experience. These mountains are breathtaking and this drive takes you right into and over them. Take the Red Bus Tour and save your nerves and your brakes. 

Glacier National Parkthe red bus 

– we are on bus 91 with jammer Cas spending the day touring Glacier. There are 33 on the road today so remember that number. These are 1930s vintage buses that have been transporting tourists all this time. 

– I tried to get into the visitor center at 7:58 to get my park passport stamped. There was a woman standing outside the door. Me (when door wouldn’t open): phooey. She: they don’t open until 8. That’s why I’m standing here (as though I might have thought she was waiting for her laundry to dry or some such)

– the Roberts fire of 2003 is so named because a man called Roberts was the first to report it. He named it for his father because he was talking to his father on the phone when he first saw it. 

– if Mother Nature started it then Mother Nature puts it out unless it threatens humans in which case the forest service will intervene

– Charles Russell (a famous Montana artist) designed the bullhead logo on the Montana license plates 

– salmon were introduced into Lake McDonald. If you catch one you can keep it. Most other species must be put back. 

– Lake McDonald Lodge was built in 1914. It still has all the historic charm of yesteryear. We also visited Many Glacier Lodge which is 1915 vintage and still looking very big, old and impressive. These places were intended as destinations for the very rich. Their remote, western setting was the big draw. It still is. 

Many Glacier Lodge 

– Montana has a rain forest. We are in it. Black cottonwood and cedar abound. 

– there was a very low snow pack this winter so the falls are only trickling according to our guide. But they looked quite impressive to me. 

– Bird Woman Falls shows up in a lot of my photos. It was the first impressive one we stopped to really inspect. 

Admiring Bird Woman Falls 

– I took over 200 photos today and am trying to pare this down. The whole place is so impressive that I just wanted to keep snapping away. 

– the lollipop shaped flowers are called bear grass

– to qualify as a glacier you must have ice at least 100 feet thick, cover at least 26 acres and be moving. The park has only 25 glaciers now. 

– there is a hiking trail starting at Logan Pass called The Highline Trail. Lowell, you must check this out. Our guide said that it is his favorite in the park, measuring 17 miles. Bring your bear spray when hiking out here. I walked the first few hundred feet of it!  Without bear spray. 

I’m on top of the world 

– we witnessed a yellow marmot dash into the road and seek shelter under the rear tire of a just moving vehicle. Frantic gestures got the driver to stop while the marmot figured out that he’d be safer cliff side than under the auto. Brett helped by telling the driver that the marmot was the last of its kind and that he mustn’t move. This was a patent just making it up comment. 

– a group of aspen is called a pod. They share the same root system. If you are in a forest with multiple pods you can tell which ones belong to the same roots by the black markings on the trunk. They will look the same. 

– lunch stop at Swift Current Motor Inn. We thought we would be eating at Many Glacier Lodge but our bus got routed to the inn. We sat with a lovely couple from Virginia. He’s a college physics professor and an author. She’s a microbiologist. They were interesting and fun. It was a pleasure. Lunch service was very slow. Mine was good (buffalo meatball sub). Brett did not care for the buffalo burger because they didn’t have any relish. 

– the number 1 cause of death at Glacier is drowning. We visited a beautiful waterfall, all boardwalks and fencing for our safety, with bigs signs pointing out the danger of death if you went beyond the fence. Well past the fence were a young couple and their little kid cavorting on the rocks next to the swiftest water we’d seen all day. I’d like to nominate stupidity as the number 1 cause. 

way past the safety rails 

– I saw 9 bighorn sheep on our ride. I didn’t actually know it though. Everybody at Logan Pass was pointing to the same spot. I zoomed to telephoto and snapped. I just checked the photo and, sure enough, 9 sheep. It looked like rocks to my naked eye so I just played along. Technically I did see them whilst on the Crown of the Continent. 

– with a 9 hour day on a bus, you hope to have well behaved traveling companions. We managed a group of North Carolina princesses who had lots of complaints to express and express rather loudly. It was too bumpy in the back, it was too cold with the roof open, it was too hot with the roof open, it was taking too long, etc. but we managed to live with them for the day and wish them well. 

it looks even nicer in person 

– come to Glacier National Park. Seriously, just come. It is so beautiful. 

Day 16 Wow Factor 10

We are beginning our exploration of Glacier National Park. 

we arrive at a national park 

– first stop was West Glacier where we visited the Welcome Canada building. The lady who works in there should definitely be a welcomer. She gave us tons of info for our Canada portion of the trip. And she got me some rodeo info. I really want to see a rodeo. 

– then in search of red bus tour information we headed next for Apgar Information center. Here we met a lovely volunteer who used to live in Fort Kent. He sent us to the Apgar Village Inn for bus tour stuff. 

Lake McDonald from Apgar Village 

– success. We have booked an 8 hour red bus tour for tomorrow. Our campground host told us this was the best way to tour the park. If you do it on your own, the driver will not see a thing as it is more white knuckle territory. 

– a visit to Montana House where we purchased a book about Wolverines, some music and a postcard for the boys which I swear I will mail before we get home. 

– we are having a picnic lunch on a bench beside Lake McDonald with snow capped mountains as our view. Best lunch view ever!

lunching with a view 

– while it is summer, I don’t believe we’ve hit high season here yet. There are parking spots in the village, elbow room and lots if vacant benches to choose from. 

– the primary sport in this spot is throwing stones into the lake. 

– we drove 9 miles along the lake to Lake McDonald Lodge. It is the lodge design that Disney based Wilderness Lodge on. Come see the real one. It’s lovely. 

– the restaurant fixed us 2 cups of coffee and we’ve sat in rocking chairs on the front porch enjoying our beverage and the scenery. 

a fine porch indeed 

– sitting beside us is a lady from Missouri who lives in Hungry Horse during the summer while she volunteers at the park. She works in the library and greenhouse. The park has some residence for workers but she has 2 cats so must fend for herself. 

– there are many outdoor adventures to be had here. The rafting looks interesting but we will hold off on that for now. 

– we got ourselves a souvenir. A beautiful, woolen Pendleton blanket with the red bus logo in the corner. It was quite expensive but I love it. 

– back to the campsite by 2:30pm. Brett is sitting outside reading more Terry Pratchett and I am playing with my pictures. I am making pizza for dinner courtesy of my electric skillet.  I have a love/hate relationship with The Whale’s oven. I love baking but can never remember how to light this one. So pan pizza it is.  

– Rocky Mountain high indeed

Day 15 Over Hill and Then Some

the route but via Choteau and Dupuyer 

– Happy Father’s Day again some more. I think I got it right this time. 

– I’ve learned that sunburn happens quickly at high altitude, that the air is dry (at least here in Montana on these days), that things dry faster; the dish cloth doesn’t get a chance to smell musty and the dinner I dropped on my shirt just kind of baked itself into a spot

– 82 degrees feels cooler up here and so does 54

– the sky is still light at 10pm

– the cattle grates across the freeway entrance ramps make a noise that still startles me when we drive over it

– I already miss our hippie fisher dude. He sounded like the turtle in Finding Nemo and he made me smile. 

– the amber waves of grain are green today

– the mountains at our Cascade campsite are the Big Belt Mountains

– in a pasture full of cows we noticed all the calves gathered around a large bull. In honor of Father’s Day maybe?

– we have ventured off the interstate for some serious Montana. There are a lot of pickup trucks here and mostly 250s or beefier. 

– I’ve got my wow on today. The approach to Glacier National Park is stunning

pretty sure this is where we are going 

– welcome to Blackfeet Nation

– there’s something you don’t see everyday. Two cows were outside the fence and on the highway disrupting traffic.  There was also the unfortunate bloody remains of a horse who stood his ground. 

– We stopped at a pullout for lunch and then noticed the broken bottles. If the tires aren’t flat in the morning, we didn’t run over them. 

– Brett hasn’t been able to take his eyes off the road long enough to see if his knuckles are still white. Mountainous!

– the truck used enormous gulps of fuel today. We spotted a gas station with diesel after we drove by but Brett executed a perfect 12 point turn to get us back. 

– it is not fun with The Whale and the Continental Divide every half mile (I may be exaggerating). We are looking over our maps and reevaluating our route into Alaska. 

– we are at Stanton Creek Lodge campground (bar, cafe, RV and cabins) which sits on US2 and the major east/west train tracks. It is a nice spot with several little log cabins, a few campsites and a new owner. He assures us that there are no problems with bears at this location. Well good, because I don’t want any bear problems. So there. 

our refuge in the forest 

– We are also in the first area with zero reception. I am taking notes and will post my blog when wifi finds me. 

– and I have new photo editing software which I didn’t understand and lost all of yesterday’s edits. 

 – we are like the three stooges trying to use our phone through the truck speakers using bluetooth. I had a lovely talk with Michelle while Brett was outside trying to hear her. We will practice. 

I think that for now we will practice a little relaxation and ready ourselves for an adventure at Glacier National Park tomorrow.

 

Day 14 Parts Is Parts

Morning has broken, like the first morning

Cascade, MTour not too busy corner of the world 

– I will probably need to catch up on my sleep at some point but no way can I snooze when there’s a sunrise to be seen, birds to be heard and fellow travelers. Maybe next time I will remember the camera. 

– On the drive through the mountains I was loaded for bear (metaphorically speaking). The Canon came out (great for zooming past that side view mirror and setting a fast shutter speed) but it’s big. The smartphone was also in constant use (small and connected to the world but lousy zoom results and no shutter speed control). I was quite a sight with my lap full of camera equipment. The goPro sees service every day too. I love doing time lapse as we drive along. Sadly, the battery died before the most spectacular part of the drive. But there will be something wonderful today I am certain. 

– The tribulation of the day is that the hitch will not unlatch using the handle, thereby rendering us permanently attached to the truck. As a workaround Brett has unhooked the entire hitch from the truck bed and driven forward. He and the Oregon fishing hippie dude are out figuring things. At least now we can drive to the oil change. 

Cascade, MTshould be in bed of truck, not on picnic table 

– we are following a stock trailer with horses in it. There’s a big bunch of hair sticking out the side. I hope he didn’t get his tail caught in the door. That would be an unpleasant ride. 

– waiting at the Great Falls GMC dealer for our oil change. This after discovering a great store called North 40 where we found a 28 cent part that should fix the hitch. That place has farm stuff, hunting stuff, automotive stuff and beef jerky too (which we had to buy). So we also got 2 5 gallon diesel fuel cans, a funnel and 5 more gallons of DEF in the event the wilds of Alaska don’t have them readily available. 

Cascade, MTa diversionary expedition 

– This turned out to be errand day rather than see the sights day. Boo, hiss.  Brett has a prescription that needs to be refilled.  CVS Caremark mail service is what we use so we found a CVS to see what could be done.  They people there were wonderful but another boo, hiss because the prescription has no refills on it.  Need to get in touch with the doctor come Monday and see if he can get that fixed up in advance of the next real CVS that we find.  In the meantime, Brett’s arteries are just going to have to take their chances.

– lunch out today at a place called Beef O’Brady’s. O’Brady burgers it is. The burgers were very fine and the french fries were crispy and wonderful.  Something light for dinner I think (artery situation being what it is).

– Ta Da!  My wonderful, fix it husband has made our fifth wheel hitch all right with the world again.  That 28 cent hardware did the trick.  And searching for it did mean that I got to set foot down at an RV dealer and get relatively close to the Winnebagos that keep catching my eye.

– there are a lot of casinos in a Great Falls.  Also there are a lot of cars which does not excite me.  And an Albertson’s super market.  We loaded up on a few more grocery items in preparation for 3 days at Glacier National Park.  

– We know that it is risky coming to someplace at high season without reservations.  This afternoon was spent scouring the campground listings and we found a spot in Essex, MT that has availability.  I’ve never been to Glacier and don’t know what to expect or even if it’s a good location.  But we can get into the truck and explore from there so it will all be wonderful.

– I now I shall finish my day by enjoying the beautiful Cascade, MT scenery.

– Things sometimes break but they can usually be repaired.  Keep on keeping on..

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