Day Eight – September 17, 2012

Well, got up early this morning, got ready, and headed out to the Columbia Icefield. After a long drive to get there I got out of the car, got my boots on and assorted hiking gear together. I hiked up the hill and it was roped off. Apparently, you have to pay for a guided hike to actually walk on the glacier so it was a bit of a letdown, especially after driving so far and burning all that high-dollar gas. I went back to the camper but did stop along the way to take some more pics and sightsee.

Columbia Icefield - Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
Columbia Icefield – Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

The closer I got to the trailer I thought about it and decided to leave and get back into the States. That park is so big you have to drive a good distance to get anyplace, and at about $5.25/gallon it gets expensive on a budget pretty fast.

I drove through Kootenay National Park in British Columbia. It was beautiful as well, but a lot of Pine Beetle damage has been happening there and I even saw a forest fire burning. It was a nice drive this way, and I went through a few small towns scattered several miles apart.

Pine Beetle killed trees - Kootenay National Park - British Columbia, Canada
Pine Beetle killed trees – Kootenay National Park – British Columbia, Canada

I drove about six hours and got to a KOA in Spokane, WA after getting across the border with no problems (it is still a pain in the ass just like flying). It is becoming very frustrating to stay in the KOAs, however. They charge regular rates (about $40/night), yet the pool is closed and the wifi doesn’t work for shit. I am seriously considering canceling my KOA Rewards Kard and staying in other campgrounds for less money. They have laundry facilities, and I need to take care of that as well as, I was hoping, take care of some business on the internet (which is not going well due to the “connection”). When I got to the KOA in Spokane there were two guys and their dog outside the office from Alaska moving here in an older Toyota pickup and they paid $1.99.litre in the Yukon; that is about $8 a gallon!!

Tired after not sleeping good the last few nights so off to bed… I am in Washington at last!

Day Seven – September 16, 2012

Got up early today, but slow getting around. Got away from the camper a bit later than I wanted to – I wanted to beat the crowds and thought it was my own damn fault. Got to Lake Louise (the actual lake and not the town) and was pleasantly surprised there was hardly anyone there for the first few minutes I was there. Had some cold but good quiet time at the lake and got a few pictures. I got out of there and headed for Moraine Lake.

Flowering shrub in Banff
Ground cover in Banff
Ground cover in Banff
Lake Louise – Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Moraine Lake was not horribly crowded for the first few minutes either, but just like the first spot it did not take take long. What a beautiful place that was, too. Got some pictures as I hiked around the lake. It was a beautiful turquoise color that became brighter and more vivid the farther I hiked around the lake. By the time I left there it was a circus, especially with all the tour buses, and there were a lot of them.

Moraine Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Moraine Lake – Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

I then stopped to get gas. It was ridiculous – $139.9/litre. That fill up was 9.77 gallons for $51.74 CDN. The exchange rate right now is pretty much straight across, and possibly even to US $ benefit I was told.

I then took out for a short drive over to Yoho National Park in British Columbia. It is on the backside of Banff, so much of the same type of dramatic mountain scenery. The river over there was a slightly milky turquoise color. I believe that is from glacial sediment run-off.

On the way over there I saw this historc site so pulled over to check it out. It is a “spiral tunnel” for the railroad. This brilliant engineer actually carved a pair of spiral tunnels in the mountain to get the elevation needed for the train to get over to pass. Pure genius. I wished that I could have seen how the train does this.

Just so happens that after I left the tunnels on the way through the park and turned around, a train was making its way to the tunnels. I raced up the mountain in my mighty Ford, V-8 raring to go. I made with several minutes to spare and got to see it. The train goes into the lower tunnel, circles inside the mountain, and comes out above the lower tunnel. Then, making cool even cooler, the train then circled over below us, so the train engineer can actually look to the side and see the train going into and coming out of the tunnel. Way cool.

Spiral Tunnels - Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada
Spiral Tunnels – Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

After that I headed back toward camp, but went past to explore a bit more before returning for supper. I got to see more lakes and two glaciers and take another short hike.

Glacier in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Glacier in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Returning to camp I got some food and sent for a spin on my bike. I ended up chatting with a guy and his wife who were from Edmonton. They were extremely nice. He was curious about American politics and I was curious about government healthcare so we had a very good and interesting chat about those things and some other subjects for about an hour and a half. We had several laughs and parted ways with a handshake. Good talking to you, Dan and Grace… eh?

Tomorrow is my last full day here. This place is just so damn big… from Lake Louise to the top of Jasper is 230km – 142 miles. Add to the size of this place the price of things is so damn high it costs a lot to drive and explore, so back to the States on Tuesday. Plus, when I get back stateside I need to set up the website for this blog so I can get things posted for those of you who are interested.

Until then, I will be exploring the icefields tomorrow. I will have to come back at some point to see some more.

Day Six – September 15, 2012

This morning I leave Waterton and get to see a beautiful sunrise bid me adieu on the next leg of my adventure. It was a cool night last night, but it was warmer than I had thought it might be. Banff may be a rude awakening…

Sunrise in Waterton – Alberta, Canada
Prince of Wales Hotel at sunrise – Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Alberta, Canada

Holy shit! Fifty dollars for less than half a tank of gas?!?! There were several more like that throughout the day, but I am now sitting in a campground in Banff National Park so it has paid back with dividends aplenty. Another scratch off of my bucket list. I have always wanted to see this place and it is not disappointing at all.

What an absolutely beautiful park, and the drive here was nothing less than spectacular as well. Beautiful, endless praries followed by rugged, jagged peaks. This really makes the Rockies and the Tetons look like the Appalachians. I have seen many mountains, and the only other thing I have seen like this is Alaska. In fact, most of the drive today reminded me quite a lot of the drive from Anchorage to Denali.

Banff National Park – Alberta, Canada

I stopped along the way to get fuel (and I heard banjo music at every fill up) in a town called Longview. Back up the road they had a billboard about “World’s Best Beef Jerky”. The gauntlet had been thrown down with that comment. I had to stop and see for myself. They had homemade Slim Jim pepperoni sticks that were incredible. And yes… the jerky is the best I have ever eaten. Too bad they do not ship anyplace outside of Alberta, Canada. They cannot ship it to even Ontario. A damn shame I say.

A couple of miles of hats on posts… why?
Rural Alberta Canada
The drive to Banff – Rural Alberta Canada

I am so glad to finally not be driving the next few days. I have been on a mission once I finally decided to come up here, driving several hours each day for the past five days just to get to a decision-making point about coming up here or Northern Cali. I am going to stay put and explore around the park for the next three days.

I was thinking today just how fortunate I am to get this opportunity. Not many get to experience some of the things I have, and it just keeps getting better. I have finally been able to relax after the last several months of going through the wringer. All the BS (except for the final papers on the house in CO) is over. It really feels good to be getting de-stressed and enjoying life.

I have also discovered why they call this campground “Mosquito Creek”…it has both.

Day Five – September 14, 2012

Sitting here by the lake in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada pondering the day as I am writing this. Been an interesting day.

Started out having to look at a small problem with the camper. Ended up easily solved, so I got everything together and headed to the RV parts store to get a couple of supplies I needed before I left the U.S. of A. and headed into Canada.

First stop was Glacier National Park, where I was told upon entering that I could not take the camper through the park due to road construction. Oh well… Seen it before anyhoo, but still I wanted to go that way and see it again as I cut through the park.

It ended up being a good thing because the route I took was one of the best highways I have ever driven. Very scenic and winding through the trees with lakes and jagged peaks all about.

Welcome to Canada, Eh?

Getting into Canada I had a bit of a delay after the nice young man at the entry asked me some questions and acted strange – they decided that I needed to pull over and come inside. Another guy asked me more questions and then the determined that my car needed searched. At least there was no snapping of the glove if you know what I mean.

The search was over; the second guy was really a nice guy. He sent me on my way. Nothing was there to find or be concerned about. Or, should I say, “aboot”.

That brings me to where I ended up and where I write this from. The incredible views, the crashing of the waves on the rocky shoreline…this is really a sepctacular place. It is also what I get to look forward to seeing and hearing every day at work at my new job. Got to see the lodge on East Glacier and the Prince of Wales hotel here in Waterton. These old National Park lodges were built sparing no expense or luxury at the time. They are incredible to see. I sure wish I could afford to stay in one. Someday…

Prince of Wales Hotel – Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Alberta, Canada

My plan is to get to Banff and Jasper National Parks in the next day or maybe two. I am not sure how long it will take timewise, but it is not going to be cheap. I thought that I would treat myself to dinner out for the first time in a week so I scouted the menus around town. Je-ZUS! A $27 pizza?!?! Pasta for $34?!?! Really?!?! WTF?!?! The cheapest place (and I use the term very loosely) I could find cost me $27 for a “Southwestern” salad (well, I guess I AM in SW Canada…), a beer, and a piece of pie. It was a treat for myself and got to dine outside on the sidewalk overlooking the lake and mountains so it was a bonus. On the way here I saw gas for $1.22 a liter Canadian. Oh well, you only get one ticket on this ride so go big or go home.

I am really enjoying this trip and this new chapter…many new places I am seeing, and a few being re-visited. it has been a lot of fun so far, and more is yet to be had.

Day Four – September 13, 2012

Another travel day today after getting a late start, but I made it to the KOA outside the gate of Glacier National Park. Cooked up some eggs and ham, and then it took a little time to take a shower in the closet in the camper they call a wet bath. It is basically just that… a closet with a toilet and a shower in it. Afterwards I had to wrap up the assorted cables and hoses for the camper. I think I am getting the hang of this.

Left last night’s KOA at Bozeman, drove a little more on the interstate, then took off north on some US and state highways. A nice drive through the middle of absolutely nowhere in Montana. It was actually quite beautiful in its own way. There’s a lot of smoke in the air from the fires that are burning in the West, and it made it very hazy in some parts. I could even smell it in some places as I zoomed down the highway.

I was up here many years back in the early 90s, but thought I might as well see it again since it was kind of on the way… especially since I am heading into Canada on my way to Washington. It is a nice place; different than Colorado, with the mountains being “blockier” since they are glacial in nature. To me, they are not as spectacular as the Rockies, but are special in their own right.

Pretty cool up here tonight. I may be having to give up on the shorts before long, but I ain’t going to put them away without a fight. I have been wearing shorts nearly all of the last 5 months. I did have to put pants on a time or two, but it has been shorts most of the time. Going to be a hard habit to break I can tell already.

Day Three – September 12, 2012

Today was a travel day… headed west. Got up early and got the trailer ready and hit the road about 7:30. A brisk, cool North Dakota morning it is. Heard a helicopter flying around and it was about treetop level right across the road from my campsite above the river. Found out later it was a fire helo so not sure what was going on but that place is definitely a tinderbox. Saw a herd of buffalo grazing as I was leaving. They have the run of the park and are everywhere.

Breakfast time!

A pretty uneventful drive into and across Montana to Bozeman, where I currently am “camping” in a KOA and am writing this from (first time the Mac has been fired up in a week). Not much going on today but high gas prices along the way.

Once I got here and settled in I discovered that there is a hot mineral spring rec center right next door to the KOA. I must be living right. Yes I did indulge after a bit of dinner, and yes… it was quite awesome, thank you very much. Indoor and outdoor pools, blazing hot sauna and a cold pool to slam your pores shut afterwards, a warm soaking pool, and a hot soaking pool. Quite a nice place and a pleasant surprise.

Now, I just have to figure out what is next for a destination.

Day Two – September 11, 2012

Glad there was a heater in the camper. Got a bit cool last night. A quick thunderstorm rolled through, adding a fireworks display before falling asleep.

Woke up today and stepped outside the camper to find a herd of buffalo wandering through the campground. Last time I had buffalo wandering around where I was sleeping was… Well, we won’t talk about that.

I guess he just scratched his neck since he could not reach around to scratch his… never mind.

I was going to take a stroll across a field over to the Little Missouri River here by the campground. I went along the edge of the campsite across from mine and found a buffalo skull on the way. Had to leave it since it is illegal to take things from a National Park. That was once in a lifetime probably. I went over and watched them grazing as they watchd me back.

The herd between me and the Little Missouri River

After a quick pastry breakfast, it was off to explore. Not much here in the town of Medora. A guy I was talking to said a friend of his was paying $800/mo. for rent…until oil came to call. same house now rents for $2700. Yikes!

Took off on a drive, and ended up doing three hikes and got a few miles under my boots. Felt good to strap them on again! Ate lunch in a meadow along a buffalo path in Painted Canyon. After I ate lunch I did something I usually do not do, but I just had to do. I got out my earbuds, plugged them into the iPhone, and listened to “Echoes” by Pink Floyd as I sat there looking at this beautiful place. It has been a great day, and I got some exercise along with some nature! On the way driving the loop around the park I saw a band of wild horses. They looked rather laid back and not so wild… I may need to go back and show them how it’s done for real.

Such a serene, stark, yet beautiful place
One of the wild horses

I return to camp and see buffalo are still by the river so I go over and watch them from a safe distance behind a large, fallen cottonwood tree. The people a few sites down from mine and next to me are setting up camp. Whilst looking for firewood, the lady stumbles across the aforementioned buffalo skull. She brings it back and he hides it behind the tent. Well, that just ain’t right so took a bike ride around the campground and I got a ranger on them. Not sure what the ranger did, but what is IN the National Park STAYS in the National Park.

So now, at 5:00 P.M. as I am sitting outside at the picnic table putting more of the day into words, three lowly wild turkeys wander through my campsite. I watch them, then I resume typing and thinking of Thanksgiving dinner. Fully attentive to what I am doing I fail to see the herd of buffalo inching my way. When I finally see them they are crossing the road near my campsite. I keep an eye on them then I have to hurry to the “safety” of the camper as they walk right behind my picnic table. They run off grunting and snorting and doing a drive-by grazing.

Let’s see, got the dressing, the cranberries, the taters and gravy…
This is the table I was writing this at just moments before.

Not sure what tomorrow will bring quite yet…

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