Subj: 108. Where are we?
Date: Sunday, September 1, 2002
We left Dawson Creek this morning and started on more of our adventure. We are now in a part of Canada that we've not visited in before. Although we are camped in the trees, and it is an area where there are bears, we are not in the mountains. In fact, from our current location we can't even see any mountains. We are in the Peace River country. The city is nicknamed "the swan city" after its large population of trumpeter swans. The city began as a Hudson Bay trading post in 1881. The name of this town is based on Father Emile Grouard's exclamation when, coming over a hill into this area he exclaimed "La Grande Prairie!" The scenery includes beautiful rolling hills covered with farms, trees, rivers, and lakes.
One of the significant things we did in Dawson Creek was going to the visitor center where we obtained information about this part of our journey. We had a good idea of several places we wanted to visit but with the help of the staff at the visitor center, we were able to complete some of our plans. So we are now starting another adventure.
While we were at the visitor center we asked if the Northern Lights were visible this time of year. We were told absolutely, in fact one of the people in the visitor center said she had seen them the night before about 2:00 AM. Guess what we did about 2:00 AM this morning. We set our alarm clocks, got up, got dressed, and went outside to see if the Northern Lights were visible. Yes, about 2:00 AM we could see them. They weren't the spectacular show that you often see in photographs but they were a pale green, moving around, and really pretty. Now, at least we can say we've seen them.
Where are we? We are in Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada. If you look at a map of Canada and find Grand Prairie, you might be able to figure out what route we are going to take back to the lower 48. Why not try to predict our route and see if you are right.
Subj: 109. Where are we?
Date: Wednesday, September 4, 2002
We aren't sure when we will be able to send this E-mail. There is telephone service and cell phone service in the area but this RV park doesn't have a hook up for modems.
We left Grand Prairie late this morning, we had to fill up with both propane and gasoline. Then we headed south on the Bighorn highway. We drove just over two hundred miles today and there were only two towns. The first was just over half way, and the second is where we are now. In between there were lots of gentle hills, lots of deer, lots of rain, and a little bit of sunshine. We can't say much about this town because there isn't too much to say. It appears that there are two major reasons for this town to exist. First, the industry - a pulp mill, 3 coal mining operations, and a sawmill. It is also a major service stop on the Yellowhead Highway, a major east-west route in Canada.
Grand Prairie is an interesting town. It's probably very similar to some of the prairie towns in the lower 48. Specifically maybe like some of the towns in Oklahoma, the Dakotas, Nebraska, and eastern Colorado. Although there are some rolling hills, it is mostly flat agricultural land with wheat and hay being the major product. It's proximity to the mountains and forest make it a lumber town as well. It's a relatively small town, less than 50,000 people, but it has both a Walmart and a Costco. Larry had to renew our Costco membership so this year he paid the fee in Canadian dollars instead of US dollars.
The Campground at Grand Prairie was actually about 5 miles south of the town, but it was very nice. It was in a wooded area with spacious sites, full hookups, cable TV, and modem access. It was really pretty.
We're tired of the rain. It was supposed to clear up today but didn't. At least not until late afternoon. Now it is supposed to clear up tomorrow with lots of sunshine and a warming trend. We hope that's correct. Tomorrow we are planning on heading a little to the West to see some spectacular scenery.
The drive today was pretty, in spite of the rain. Like we said, most of it was rolling hills with forests on both sides of the road. There were no real bad hills but we discovered that we went from about 2000 feet elevation at Grand Prairie to over 4000 feet in elevation. We saw lots of deer feeding on the side of the road.
Now, where are we? We are in the little town of Hinton, Alberta, Canada.
Subj: 110. Where are we?
Date: Thursday, September 5, 2002
Again, we have no idea when we will be able to send this E-Mail. But please read them in order, they will make more sense.
We left Hinton this morning and only drove about 50 miles. We are now in a town that has the same name as a Canadian National Park, in fact, the town is inside the National Park. We are in the Rocky Mountains. This National Park is the largest and most northerly of the six mountain parks in Canada. We are dry camping in one of the National Park Campgrounds and tomorrow we hope to have a site that has full hook-ups.
The drive today was beautiful. It surprised us that there were no hills to speak of. The road starts from Hinton and goes through a valley with tall mountains on both sides. It's obvious that this is a typical glacier carved valley because it is certainly U-shaped. We haven't explored much so far but, from what we've seen, this place is really magnificient. You'll have to wait until we explore more for the descriptions of this place.
Where are we? We are in Jasper, Alberta, Canada, inside Jasper National Park. It is really beautiful.
In Jasper National Park
Subj: 111. Where are we?
Date: Monday, September 9, 2002
We moved today and we are now in Canada's first National Park, it's also North America's second National Park. It was established in 1885 around the curative thermal springs on Sulpher Mountain. Like Jasper and Jasper National Park, the name of the town we're in has the same name as the National Park. We are still nestled in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Wow, Jasper was beautiful. It's in a glacier formed valley with many tall mountains in the background. Jasper itself is a very well kept little town and was very busy with people on holidays. We ran into lots of people speaking French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. There were probably other languages spoken but those were the ones we could identify.
Our first side trip in Jasper was to Athabasca Falls, a beautiful waterfalls that was similar to Fossil Falls near Ridgecrest except, there was lots of water. We claim it's similar because some of the rocks had similar bowl type formations as you see at fossil falls.
After returning from the falls and having a simple but delicious dinner, we drove around the campground to see if there was any wildlife. This was a huge Parks Canada Campground with over 700 campsites and none of the campsites have close neighbors. After driving through some of the camping areas, we noticed a bus load of people were taking pictures and pointing in one certain area. It took us about 10 minutes to find the roads to where they were but when we got there, we got out of the truck and walked over. There were two cow elk and two calves eating the grass in a field. After taking a few pictures, we noticed another group of people about 100 feet away. We walked over there and all of a sudden we see huge antlers. Getting closer it was a bull elk just lying in the grass chewing his cud. Larry managed to get some great pictures. That elk was certainly proud of his rack. He looked rather regal.
That was only one of a number of elk we've seen. Yes, we seen several bull elk including one that walked right by our motorhome when we were in the campground. We've also seen a lot a cow elk as well as calves. We've also seen other wildlife including mountain goats.
Another day we drove up Maligne (ma-leen) Canyon to Maligne Lake. On the way out of the campground we drove past about 5 elk, including another bull elk. On the way up the canyon we passed a group of mountain sheep on the side of the road. We drove past Medicine Lake, a lake that fills up in the spring, and dries up in the summer and fall. It's filled by the Maligne River but there is no obvious outlet. That would typically mean that it would be a dead lake filled with salt. That's not the case. The water is green and is fresh. It turns out that the lake bed is on a series of fractures in the bed rock and the water seeps out to the valley below. Maligne Lake is a beautiful lake surrounded by high mountain peaks, most of which had snow on them.
Another drive was to Miette Hot Springs. It was also a beautiful drive but we were somewhat disappointed in the Hot Springs. They were over developed for our tastes. There were basically two concrete swimming pools that were filled by the springs. Frankly, we liked Liard Hot Springs much better.
We also drove down to the Columbia Ice Fields and the Athabasca Glacier. Again the drive was beautiful but we did something special. We took a tour of the Glacier. From the Icefield Center we took a bus to a staging point for a SNOCOACH tour. The SNOCOACH is a special six wheel drive bus that actually drives out onto the Glacier. The tour takes you out to the "turn around" area where it stops and lets you out to actually walk on the Glacier. We did just that. It was quite an experience.
The drive today was really something. Wonderful views no matter where you look. There were beautiful valleys, rugged mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes, and even some wild animals to photograph, including a black bear and real mountain goats (they are quite large and have long white coats of hair). These two Canadian National Parks are really something special.
Where are we? We are in the town of Banff in Banff National Park. For the first time since May we are able to get a satellite signal for television. But that's only an early morning or late evening activity. There's just too much to see to waste time watching television.
Still Havin' Fun
In Banff National Park
Subj: 112. Where are we?
Date: Friday, September 13, 2002
We left Banff this morning and headed east, but not too far. We are now in a city known for a rodeo in July and also where the 1988 Winter Olympic Games were held. We can see the ski jump from our RV parked in the campground. This area of Canada is part of the Great Plains. It's a cattle growing region and is part of Canadian cowboy country.
As it turns out, we had to leave Banff today because last night we discovered we had no hot water, our water heater wasn't working. So we checked the list of Winnebago Service Centers and found two in this town. One of them was on a street that was on our map. We called them last night, they called us this morning, and we drove right to the dealer. In a short time they had the water heater working (it was a simple part) and we were on our way again. We can honestly say that the Canadians we've met have been really great.
Everything we've heard about Banff says it's a beautiful place. That's an understatement. It was wonderful. We stayed in a Canadian National Park Campground with full hookups. It is designed differently than any other campground we've been in. It was a series of parallel streets with campsites parallel to the streets about 100 feet apart. So you are camped parallel to the street about 15 feet off the street. It seemed to work quite well.
In Banff we started, as always, in the visitor center. Again, everyone was most helpful. Then we just walked around in the main part of town for a while, taking in all the tourists, the buildings, and the mountains in the background. It was really pretty.
Our first full day at Banff, we drove the 35 miles back to Lake Louise. Wow, Lake Louise is really pretty. The Lake Louise Chalet is both big and gorgeous. It overlooks a well kept garden and grass area then there is the Lake. Just imagine a beautiful glacier fed lake (an emerald green color) with high peaks and a hanging glacier in the background. Wow, what a setting. Not far from Lake Louise is another lake called Lake Moraine. Lake Moraine is just as pretty, maybe even prettier because it is not as well developed and it is surrounded by ten rugged mountain peaks. This was a beautiful sight.
We also spent some time exploring Banff and the lakes and other places. On Wednesday (9/11) we stopped by the Canada House where the Canadian National Parks have their administrative offices. They were holding a memorial service for the people who lost their lives a year ago. It was really an interesting sight to see a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman (Mountie) in full dress uniform, standing next to an American Flag. Of course there was another Mountie on the other side standing next to the Canadian Flag. We missed most of the service but it was kind of neat.
The gardens and waterfalls surrounding the grounds at the Canadian Park Service Building are totally awesome and breathtaking.
We also visited Banff Springs Resort. This is the building that seems to appear on all the advertisements for Banff. First, it's huge. Second, it's rather fancy. Once again the flowers and gardens around the resort are difficult to describe. Then we drove by the Banff Springs Golf Course but decided not to play a round at $180 per person. We then went to the Banff Cave and Basin. This is where Banff was born. Some young miners found some warm surface water. They followed it to its source and found a hot mineral spring in a cave. After a while, this was turned into a tourist attraction.
The Canadian Railroad also played a critical part in the creation of Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise, and the National Parks. When British Columbia became part of Canada, Canada promised to extend a rail line from Eastern Canada into British Columbia. They did so. The railroad discovered the beautiful scenery in the Canadian Rockies and decided they could make more money by exploiting wealthy tourists. The saying was, "We can't bring the scenery to the tourists so we will bring the tourists to the scenery." It was the railroads that built most of the luxury hotels and chalets. That's just the short version of how this area developed, but it's factual and the scenery is wonderful.
As kind of a highlight to our trip to Jasper, Banff, and Lake Louise, we actually took time to eat dinner out one night, something we don't do on a regular basis. We saw a restaurant in Banff called Grizzly House. It specialized in fondue. We both like fondue and haven't had it for a while so we decided why not. Wow, that was really good. The dinner started with soup or salad, then had an appetizer of cheese fondu. For the main course Larry had beef and scallops while Adrienne had beef and chicken. Finally we ended the meal with fruit and a chocolate fondue. Coupled with wine, it was really great. That was a very enjoyable two plus hour dinner.
We have seen two coyotes and many big horn mountain sheep.
Now, where are we? We are in the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Subj: 113. Where are we?
Date: Monday, September 16, 2002
We left Calgary this morning and headed south. Like most of our driving days, we didn't drive very far, only about 110 miles. We are in Alberta's oldest town. It dates back to 1874 with the arrival of the North West Mounted Police on the prairies. It was incorporated as a town in 1882. Despite the age of the town, it only has about 3000 residents. It also is the closest town to the historical site of "Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump," a place that was used continuously for more than 5,500 years by the aboriginal peoples on the plains.
Calgary was an interesting town. It's fairly large with a population of close to 1,000,000 people. Although it has good roads, there aren't enough limited access roads for the population, therefore traffic seems to be a problem.
Our time in Calgary was spent stocking up for more traveling. However, we did take the opportunity to visit the Calgary Olympic Park. This park is where the ski jumping and the bobsled, luge and skeleton events were held during the 1988 Winter Olympics. We have to admit Calgary has done a great job with their Olympic facilities. The park is used for ski jumping year around. When there is no snow (like now) the ski jump is covered in plastic. We noticed that during the 30 days of this September, ski jumping events were scheduled for about 24 of those days! There is also a small ski area in the park which is used for mountain biking during the summer and skiing during the winter. The ski runs are all beginner or low intermediate but it's a good place to learn to ski.
The bobsled run is still in use. In fact, in November there will be a Women's World Cup Bobsled event here. It was really good to see that the venues for the 1988 Winter Olympics are still in use and add to the community. Oh yes, since success in the Bobsled, Luge, and Skeleton events is dependent on the way the athletes perform at the start of their run, there is an Ice House with two very short runs (only 100 feet or so) for perfecting the start. For local amateur teams the fee is $20.00 per hour. For national teams (except for the Canadian National Team) the fee is $200.00 per hour, that includes the USA team!
Although Calgary was nice, for a city, we're glad to be out of the city again.
The drive today was easy, after we got out of Calgary, it was a four lane divided highway all the way. Like the old US Highways, the highway went through the middle of several small towns. The scenery was rolling hills with farms and ranches. It's also obvious that Fall is near. Although all the trees have not started to change color, we did notice spots of yellow in places. Sometimes the yellow was a single tree displaying its fall colors in full glory surrounded by other trees that were still green. Several times there were small stands of trees that were proclaiming the beginning of Fall.
That brings us to the answer to our question - Where are we? We are in the historic town of Fort Macleod in the province of Alberta and still in Canada.
but close to the good old USA
Subj: 114. Where are we?
Date: Wednesday, September 18, 2002
After two nights in Macleod we continued on our way this morning. Again we didn't drive very far, less than 100 miles. We are now in an International Peace Park. Originally, the Peace Park commemorated the peace and good will existing along the world's longest undefended border. Today, cooperation is reflected in wildlife and vegetation management, search and rescue programs, and joint interpretive programs, brochures, and exhibits. This really is two different parks, one in Canada, the other in the US. We are on the East side of the Park where the mountains meet the prairie. In a few days, after we enter into the US, we will be in the US National Park that is part of the Peace Park. Based on what we did today, we should have some interesting stories for our next Where are we.
Macleod was interesting. It's really nice to be in these places after the tourist season has passed. Shortly after we arrived in Macleod we went to the North-West Mounted Police Museum. We learned a lot about the Mounties. First, they were created in the 1873 to bring order to the Canadian frontier. Canada didn't want a repeat of the lawlessness of America's old west. After marching 800 miles in 1874, the North-West Mounted Police established their first fort, Fort Macleod. Their first mission was to bring law and order to Fort Whoop Up. Fort Whoop Up was a trading post set up by Americans. Unfortunately, they traded guns, liquor, and tobacco to the indians in exchange for furs. This was not legal in Canada. When the mounties got to Fort Whoop Up, it was deserted. Learning more about the Mounties was both fun and interesting.
We also went to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. That was impressive. There were many Buffalo Jumps in the west. These are places where the Indians could stampede buffalo over a cliff. This would of course kill the buffalo and give the Indians food, clothing, and other staples for the coming winter. It's interesting that the Indians used every bit of the buffalo. There was meat, the skins for clothing, but the other parts of the buffalo was also used for various things including the bone marrow.
There were many buffalo jumps in the West. Why did this one have the name "Head Smashed-In." About 150 years ago, according to legend, a young brave wanted to witness the plunge of coutless buffalo as his people drove them to their deaths over the sandstone cliffs. Standing under the shelter of a ledge like a man behind a waterfall, he watched the great beasts fall past him. The hunt was unusually good that day, as the bodies mounted, he became trapped between the animals and the cliffs. When his people came to do the butchering, they found him with his skull crushed by the weight of the buffals carcasses. Thus they named the place "Head Smashed-In." To us it sounds like teenagers haven't changed in at least 150 years.
Now, where are we? We are in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta Canada. The International Peace Park consists of Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada and Glacier National Park in Montana USA. We should have several stories to tell about our visit here. We already have a couple but they will have to wait until our next email.
Still Havin' Fun
Subj: 115. Where are we?
Date: Friday, September 20, 2002
First we'll give you a big hint. We left Canada. We are now in Big Sky Country, that's what this state is sometimes called. We are on the East Side of a United States National Park which is part of the International Peace Park. Remember, we were at the Canadian National Park which was part of this same International Peace Park.
We enjoyed Waterton Village although the weather could not make up its mind. We arrived in beautiful sunny weather, the next day was sunny at first and very windy, then it became cloudy. Last night it rained and this morning it was cold but clear. Although our water hose did not freeze, there was ice on the slide out awnings. How's that for weather changes in less than 48 hours!
When we arrived in the campground, we were greeted by about a half dozen deer in our campsite. Shortly after our arrival, we stopped by the visitor center and learned that lots of people were driving one of the park roads to see wildlife. We decided to take that drive. It was only about 10 miles up to the end of the road and 10 miles back. But, we saw all sorts of bears! Some of them were way up in the hills and a few of them were quite close to the road. We saw both Black Bears and Grizzly Bears. We even saw sow bears (those are the mother bears) with cubs. It was really an amazing drive.
Yesterday, we took the other drive in the park. Sorry, but no wildlife this time but lots of beautiful scenery. Waterton National Park (that's Canadian) may be small but it does have wonderful mountain scenery. We then took the same drive we made the day before. This time we only saw one bear. It just goes to prove that seeing wildlife has a lot to do with pure luck.
It's beginning to get more difficult to find campgrounds now. At least ones that are open. Today we discovered why. Driving from Canada into the US, we drove over some shaded areas that had a dusting of snow on the ground. It wasn't much but at 4000 feet in altitude and this far north, it does happen. Of course things are closing because there are fewer people taking advantage of the area. However, it's still a great time to see things with few people around.
Now, where are we? We are in St. Mary, Montana. Montana is also referred to as "Big Sky Country." We are on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains right outside of Glacier National Park and it's still beautiful.
Back in the Lower Forty-eight
Subj: 116. Where are we?
Date: Saturday, September 21, 2002
We left St. Mary this morning and circled around Glacier National Park. We are still in Montana but on the other side of the Park.
Yesterday, right after we set up camp, we drove the "Going to the Sun Road." This road goes between the East and West gates of Glacier National Park. It's also designated as one of the world's most spectacular highways. Bisecting the heart of Glacier National Park, this 50-mile-long road follows the shores of the parks' two largest lakes and hugs the cliffs below the Continental Divide as it traverses Logan Pass. Read those last two sentences carefully. We wouldn't call it a highway. Vehicles over 21 feet long (our motorhome is 35 feet) and over 8-feet wide including mirrors are prohibited for much of the road, and for good reason. That's why we drove our little pick up. The views are indeed spectacular, you do hug cliffs, but the road is narrow and curvey. However, it is certainly worth the trip. Pictures of the road are unbelievable and the road was designated as an engineering marvel, which it is. The 50 miles of the road can be driven in about 1 1/2 hours but most people take at least 3. That should give you an idea of what the scenery is like. It was truely a marvelous drive.
Now, where are we? We are in the small community of Coram, Montana just a few miles from the West entrance to Glacier National Park.
We left Glacier National Park this morning and left The Treasure State (Montana) and headed south then west. We are now in the Gem State. If you look at a map, we are in the state that is just west of Montana. French speaking traders named the city we're in.
We took several drives through Glacier National Park including one 3-hour drive through the woods on a gravel road. We didn't see any animals to speak of. We did drive up to a town called Polebridge. There wasn't much there but the local mercantile was very interesting.
The drive today was very interesting. We drove south on a US Highway to Missoula. From there we took an Interstate Highway. This was not your normal, boring, interstate driving. Sure, it's a four lane divided highway but the scenery is awesome. There are lots of hills and curves so it doesn't meet the specifications of the Interstate system but that's what makes it an interesting drive.
Where is this town named by French speaking traders? It's Coeur D'Alene Idaho and it's beautiful.
Subj: 118. Where are we?
Date: Tuesday, September 24, 2002
We left beautiful Coeur D'Alene Idaho this morning and continued west. We are now in an agricultural area in The Evergreen State. This valley was once a neutral area in which the mutually hostile Wenatchee, Nez Perce, and Yakama Indians hunted and fished together is peace. This town was also a serious contender to become the state capital.
The drive today wasn't boring but Interstate 90 was more like an Interstate highway west of Coeur D'Alene than it is east of Coeur D'Alene. There were lots of hills, the biggest of which was where the highway drops down to cross the Columbia River then immediately goes back up 1500 feet to a pass. It was interesting.
Coeur D'Alene is a beautiful relatively small town. Although we had to take care of some mundane things, like laundry, we were able to drive around town and take some scenic drives part way around the lake. The area is simply beautiful.
We also had the opportunity to see some friends who live near the city of Coeur D'Alene. They live in a log "cabin" on the lake. No, it's more like a beautiful house than what you might think of as a log cabin. When they built the house they we so impressed with the quality they became distributors for the manufacturer. We had a great time seeing them and enjoying an excellent dinner with them.
Now, where are we? We are in Ellensburg Washington. Ellensburg is right on I-90 about 100 miles east of Seattle.
Back in The Evergreen State.
We only spent one night in Ellensburg and yesterday we headed west again. The only thing remarkable about the town we're in is that there is an Escapees RV Park in the town. This may be a bedroom community for another town just a few miles north. But it's difficult to think of a town with a population of 7000 people as having a bedroom community. However, that town is one of the oldest towns in Washington. Its location is very strategic since it is located at the entrance to Puget Sound. It was a port of entry and an active trade city in the late 19th century. Because of the Victorian architecture, complete with turrets, towns, and Carpenter Gothic trim, the city is designated a national historic landmark. We are also near another National Park that extends from glacier-clad mountains to the ocean shore. There are coniferous rain forests, glaciers, lakes, and streams in the park. We plan on being here for several days so we can explore this beautiful country and, hopefully, visit some friends in the area.
We didn't do much in Ellensburg but we did take a drive down the Yakima Canyon to the Yakima Valley. We believe that both these places were named for the Yakama Indians but have not been able to determine why the places are spelled "Yakima" and the name of the Indians is spelled "Yakama." Whatever the spelling, it was a pretty drive along the Yakima River.
Yesterday we continued west on I-90 through some great country, the Cascade Mountains. After circling around Seattle and Tacoma, we got on I-5 to Olympia, the capital of Washington. From there we took US 101 north to our current location. Parts of I-90 and all of US 101 were beautiful drives. The leaves are really beginning to change and we saw lots of small trees that were displaying beautiful deep red leaves.
Now, where are we? We are in the Evergreen Coho RV Resort, and Escapee Co-op Park. The park is in the town of Chimacum Washington. The Victorian town we described is Port Townsend which is only about 10 miles away. The National Park is the Olympic National Park. We are on Washington's Olympic Peninsula and it is really beautiful.
on Washington's Olympic Peninsula