Moose in Jenny Lake

You ready ski cat?  Hit it Jackson! We’ve loaded up the truck, camper and Mattie, attached the tow  jeep and we are off to see Glacier National Park and Canadian Rockies in British Columbia, Canada.

First stop on this summer tour is an old favorite, Yellowstone National Park on the border of Wyoming and Montana. We took one of the short drives and enjoyed some of the bubbling geysers, a great waterfall and found some moose at Jenny Lake.   This is a truly special park with so many different things to see, I understand why people come here year after year   

The shortest distance between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks is the  highway that passes through Virginia City, Montana.  In 1863 gold was discovered in Adlers Gulch and Virginia City sprung up practically over night.  This old mining camp has been frozen in time and preserved as an open air museum.  Living history actors made us feel like we had stepped back in time.  We enjoyed this visit, and it was fun to watch the old train pull into town from its  run over to Nevada City.  We would have ridden the train but didn’t want to leave Mattie in the camper that long.      

Just outside the West entrance to Yellowstone is Hebgen Lake.   Further on up the road is Earthquake Lake. We’ve seen this on the map but this is our first stop in the area.  Earthquake Lake is fairly recent, in 1959 there was a 7.3 earthquake just outside Yellowstone Park that resulted in a slide that blocked the Madison River, forming Earthquake Lake.  There is a museum dedicated to this disaster where twenty-eight people lost their lives.  

We found a great little park for the camper and got settled for a couple of days.  Monty has renewed his interest in fly fishing and Montana is known to have some good trout streams.  He has his waders, and a  couple of fly rods in hand and he is off to find dinner.  Monty bought a fly rod when stopped at Cabelas in Kansas, a few years ago.  But he also has a rod that he made while he was a student in dental school in California.  It is a really cool rod and he is planning to try them both.

Monty Catching Dinner

We scouted out some likely trout streams and Monty found a place to do his casting thing but the stream was a pretty swift. He decided the whole deal was somewhat treacherous;  maybe he needed to find a ‘beginner’ stream.  After lunch he set off to find the perfect stream.  Mattie and I decided to stay home and get the skillet ready for  pan fried trout.  Sure enough a couple of hours later he showed up with two of the best looking trout ever.  Mattie loved trout.  

Next stop is Glacier National Park in Montana. This is our first experience here and it is an absolutely beautiful place.  We entered Glacier from the East through the small Native American community of  Brown.  Not the most scenic area but the Park more than made up for it.  There are several campgrounds in the   park, all were close to full, and we were lucky to find a spot. 

First stop is always the visitor center to pick up a map and get our bearings.  The center is large and filled with information on hiking, boating, and tours available in the park.  One ongoing theme is the danger of bears in the area.  In fact there are rules in place about hiking that require at least six people on a hike and absolutely no dogs on the trails.  Dogs look a lot like dinner to a bear and you certainly don’t want to be hiking and have fido be dinner or for him to go out and find a bear and come running back to you with a grizzly on his tail.    

There are signs posted that advise park  visitors to wear little bells on their clothes so they make noise when hiking. The bell noise allows bears to hear them coming from a distance and not be startled by a hiker accidentally sneaking up on them. This might cause a bear to charge.  Visitors should also carry pepper spray just in case a bear is encountered. Spraying the pepper into the air will irritate the bear’s sensitive nose and it will run away.  It is also a good idea to keep an eye out for fresh bear scat so you have an idea if bears are in the area. People should be able  to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear scat. Black bear droppings are smaller and often contain berries, leaves, and possibly bits of fur. Grizzly bear droppings tend to contain small bells and smell of pepper. OK, this is an old joke but it really is posted on the bulletin board and makes me laugh.

First View of St. Mary’s Lake

We went to the ranger talk the first night and the campers were milling around keeping a look out because a bear had wondered through the campground just before the talk started.  This is a neat place but we will stay alert!   

Along with hiking for the hardy, the main attraction of this park is the magnificent scenery, mountain peaks lined with glaciers and the crystal clear streams rushing to fill the lakes in the area.  The Road To The Sun is the only road through the park and it is not suitable for campers or motor homes.  The road is narrow and there are many overhanging rocks.  The jeep is perfect transportation for this trip.  For visitors not wanting to drive the mountain road the park has the perfect tour vehicles.  These 1936-38 tour buses, with canvas roll back tops, have been returned to service with updated engines, brakes, etc.  

Logan Pass, is about the midway point between the East and West entrances to the park and is the main stopping point on the Road ToThe Sun. The visitor center here is small and parking is congested, in fact, we had to continue  circling the parking lot until someone left.  The steep rugged mountains don’t leave a lot of room to build a parking lot.  Actually that’s a good thing, no sense paving paradise!  

The attraction to this Pass is the chance to walk on a boardwalk above timberline and hopefully spot  some wildlife.  We were really fortunate to spy big horn sheep, mountain goats, a pica and a hoary marmot.  Most of the boardwalk was still covered in snow and slippery so we didn’t walk very far.  Tennis shoes and shorts don’t mix very well with snow, but really it is July and 105 degrees in Tucson.  

1936 Touring Car

We continued down the Road to the West entrance, this area is much nicer than the East entrance.  The lodge is located there and it is beautiful, we took turns waiting outside with Mattie while we peeked in the lobby to take a look around.  We loved this park and will be back. 

We are heading up to Canada to see several of the sights we have on our ‘must see’ list.  We left Glacier Park and crossed into Canada and headed up to Calgary.  We are too early  for the big Calgary Stampede, but that might have been too much of a good thing anyway.  We loved the huge fields of yellow flowers every where we looked.  It was so beautiful.  

We are on our way to check out the town of Banff.  According to reports this is a charming resort town that must be seen.  We found a nice Provincial Park (like our state  parks) and they assigned us a spot and asked if we were going to have a fire.  Apparently the park is divided into designated fire and no fire areas.  We decide to pass on the fire this time, there is an additional charge for using the fire pit although they do supply the wood.  This is a big forest but there is no wood gathering permitted.  Later we realized the fires are to keep the very large mosquitos away.  We were thinking of using a chair and a whip to keep those monsters at bay.  

The park is set up on cul-de-sacs, we were pleased to see we were the only ones on our cul-de-sac.  We took a little break and walked around a bit then headed over to see Banff and maybe grab something to eat.  Much to our dismay Banff was under construction, I mean literally the whole main street was dug up for water main construction and the sidewalks were all fenced in with big chain link fences.  We couldn’t find a parking spot let alone figure out how we were going to navigate the fences and one-person-width sidewalk.  We were frustrated and decided we’d just have to see Banff another time.  Oh well, all was not lost we want to go over  to Lake Louise, it shouldn’t be too far and we can get some dinner there.  Wait a minute, do we actually have a map? It was farther than we thought and it was impossible not to stop at all the view areas along the way.  By the time we got to the little community of Lake Louise we were ready to chew on the interior of the jeep.  It’s not like we passed up restaurants on the way, there was nothing but wide open country, incredible scenery, but no food.  

Lake Louise, Canada

The Lake Louise community is very small but charming and not under construction, but they really didn’t have much in the way of dining  either.  We finally settled on an indoor restaurant with pizza, a far cry from the little outdoor cafe we hoped for in Banff.  Anyway my only suggestion is to skip pizza in Canada.  It was the strangest pizza ever, hardly any sauce and the cheese was about a half inch thick and rubbery.  

Did I mention Lake Louise is beautiful and the hotel on the lake is picture perfect.  Apparently most people stay here and eat at the hotel. (probably not pizza). The lake is in a bowl surrounded on three sides by  huge mountain peaks.  The setting is simply spectacular.   On a nearby road we discovered another awesome sight, Lake Moraine.  We were thrilled with this discovery, more of a back country lake with small cabins and canoes for rent.  We loved it there.

It was still light outside but we were getting tired, we were surprised to check the time and discover it was after ten o’clock.  We made our way back to our park and find our cul-de-sac full.  Apparently the park plan is to assign sites to fill each cul-de-sac before they start filling another one.  It was now almost midnight  and still light, the little boy in the trailer next to us was looking out his window directly into ours.  This is strange.  Oh well, we had to pull the shades anyway, can’t sleep with the light on!   

Lake Moraine, Canada

We continue our trip the next morning and actually drive past Lake Louise again on the way to Jasper Park.  The scenery hasn’t change from yesterday, still spectacular.  At some of the pull outs there were information devices that look a lot like parking meters.  We loved this  unique invention.  The machine provided information about the scenery and points of interest.  Simply select the language you desire and then  turn the crank.  Your choices were, English, French, German or Japanese.  If no one was around we’d select Japanese and turn the crank really fast.  We’re goof balls!    

We’d read about Athabasca Falls located just inside Jasper National  Park.  While admiring the  scenery we missed the sign and drove by the turn.  At that point we are usually wondering if it is worth trying to turn around.  Luckily we did turn around and we were so glad.  These falls are nothing short of spectacular.  They only drop eighty feet but the force of the water is unbelievable.  We took lots of pictures but there is no way to capture the thrill of standing on the boardwalk  next to these falls.  This was one of life’s highlights and a place we’ll remember for a lifetime.  

Athabasca Falls, Canada

We hated to leave the falls but there was a glacier waiting for us up the road and we were looking forward to that stop.   The Icefields Parkway that we were traveling on through the Canadian Rockies passes by the largest ice field in North America.   The Athabasca glacier has a visitor center with loads of information about climate change and the receding glacier.  Visitors from all over the world were there, we didn’t hear much English spoken but lot of other languages.  According to all the story boards and displays we are responsible for the receding glaciers and if it wasn’t for us polluting the environment by traveling on the Icefields Parkway to see this glacier everything  would be fine.  I’m not going to get into a big discussion here, but if  we are the problem, what’s the deal with all the fumes spewing from the diesel busses that line up one after another to take paying customers up to look at the glacier up close and personal.  We found the whole thing a bit ironic.

Jasper National Park is another lovely park; there is a wonderful rushing creek at the bottom of a deep gorge, the pathway along the top  provides a great view but it is all but impassable because it is so slippery.  It was weird, the pathway looked like normal rock but was slick as glass.  Clinging on to the guard rail we walked about a half a block but it was just too treacherous. The thought of slipping under the rail and falling several hundred feet into the gorge just didn’t have much appeal. We didn’t spend much time  here because crawling down the path just didn’t seem cool!

Next stop was Robson Mountain National Park to spend the night.  This was a lovely park with a terraced sort of camping.  Luckily we were able to  squeeze into a spot when we unhooked the jeep and slid it in next to us in the camp site.  Robson mountain was magnificent and the park logo was stunning.  We liked it here and stayed a couple of days.  We  met some people here that actually live just down the road.  This is not unusual in Canada.  Often times we’ve met people that just live down the road a piece but come to the campground for the weekend. Kind of strange to us, I mean does the scenery change that much from fifteen miles away.  I don’t know but it is interesting.  They seemed really happy camping in the forest. As I mentioned  the camping was terraced and just below us was a van and in the next site was a truck camper.  In the morning we were having  breakfast when I looked out and saw grandma naked as a jay bird taking a bath next to the van.  I mean she wasn’t hiding behind a towel just standing there with her husband holding the soap, and pouring water for her.  We’re not opposed to naked but it seemed sort of strange since her kids and grandkids were in the truck camper next to her.  But she got cleaned up and gramps held the towel and when they were ready for breakfast the kids and grandkids piled out of the truck and they put out a breakfast that we envied.   

Mattie and Monty Chillin’

We stopped at a small town and picked up a few groceries and their machine didn’t accept our credit card, that seemed strange, but we just paid cash and moved on.  The next day we passed Revelstoke a spectacular mansion that is a tourist destination.  We would have liked to get some pictures of  it but the highway was a nightmare.  Everyone was driving very fast on this two lane winding road and there was nowhere to pull off for pictures.  Take my word for it the place is gorgeous.  We found a campground down the road, and believe me we were glad to get off that highway.  We relaxed a bit and then headed out in the jeep to see the sights.  We found a guy taking pictures of a bald eagle high up in a tree and after wandering around for a bit we spotted a moose in, of all places, Moose Lake.  Gosh we love this stuff.  There were hot springs near this campground and we joined  several people sitting in the pools.  They were complaining about the slow drivers on the highway and we just kept our mouths shut! It was fun listening to the conversation and they were happy to have us join them so it made a nice evening.  

We were off to Kamloops, isn’t that a funny name?  We were back on that same highway of crazy fast drivers and trying not to get run over when a terrific thunder storm comes out of nowhere.  We have a destination in mind but we weren’t going to get there.  We stop at the next town to find a hiding spot in an RV park.  We attempted to get fuel for the truck before we parked but the station was closed due to a power outage and the roof of the station is waving in the wind like a flag.  We decide to just hunker down for the night and

Robson Provincial Park

move on in the morning. 

The people at the park were very friendly and it was a nice place.  Once again we find the people camped across  from us are here from… just down the road. We think this is so strange, but what do we know.  In the morning the storm has passed and we were on the road to Kamloops.  We stop at the gas station and fuel up only to find it won’t take our credit card.  Luckily we had enough money to pay cash and immediately call Discover card.  Apparently we neglected to tell them we were traveling to Canada and they assumed our card was compromised.  This is a lesson learned.  Don’t leave home without it BUT remember to tell them where you are going!  We added that to the list of things to take care of before we hit the road.  

There was a heatwave this summer and almost everyplace was having unusually warm weather.  Montana was toasty and now Canada is pretty warm.  We intended to see a lake off the beaten path here in British Columbia but when we talked to the little gal in the visitor center we changed our minds.  The lake was about twenty miles down a dirt road and although the lake was billed to be picturesque, the mosquitoes were healthy and canoeing was the extent of the activities.  My experience in a canoe was a one time event, see  Paddle Damn It Paddle.

It was time to head back to the States.  We drove through Whitefish, Montana but there was no room at the state park so headed for Kalispell.  Nothing special here but we want to return to Whitefish some time.  

We stopped in Bannack, Montana, to walk thru the old ghost town.  This is a state park so it has been preserved and we enjoyed seeing the old buildings and imagining the stories they could tell.  Gold was discovered here in 1862 and the town sprung up shortly after someone hollered “Gold”. 

We are now on the far west side of Yellowstone and we stayed outside the park for a day and then head for home by way of Cedar Breaks National Park in Utah.  Cedar Breaks is a nice park but the bark beetles have all but destroyed the forest there.  It was mostly dead or dying pine trees, a shame really, it will not recover in our lifetime.  The drought in the West has weakened the trees and made them vulnerable to the beetles.  We have seen a lot of forest lost to these tiny bugs.  

Mountain Goat – Glacier


Cute Little Fella Glacier

Japanese anyone?


Virginia City

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