Friday, May 30, 2008
Today I finally saw my own personal bear. He was a two-three year old black bear, a herbivore, munching by the roadside on the Icefields parkway. He was definitely not interested in us. We shared him only with a four guys in an RV. (see video in the photo album)
The Icefields Parkway is one of those most magnificent of places. We drove it today with the same wonder as two years ago. We did not stop at every lake, waterfall, and glacier as we did then, but tried to stop at places that were new to us. For that reason, if you want to see more of the Parkway, check out our photos from 2006.
The Mistaya Canyon was one of those new places. Daisy and I took the hike about 30 minutes after we left camp this morning. The hike was advertised as 10 minutes, .5 kilometers. Of course it was straight downhill and then back up. Daisy was no help going down, but coming back up, I let her pull as much as she wanted. I thought I did a little better with the lung power today than yesterday. I am planning to buy a bear bell for her so I will be less concerned on walks.
The canyon has been carved over millenia, and looking down at the current river carving away is about 50 yards deep. Just breathtaking.
We continued on to the famous bear stop and then the Columbia Icefield. The Icefield center is quite wonderful, and they have plans to change their exhibits in the next year or two. Looking at the shrinking footprint of the icefield and the shrinking glacier is a mind expanding experience. And the gift shop had my bear bell. Great stop.
Columbia Icefields facts:
+The ice cap is 200 km square, 250 m thick in come places
+The average snowfall on the icefield is seven metres
+Ice in the Athabasca Glacier takes 150 years to flow from the icefield to the glacier's toe
+Between 1870 and today, the glacier has loss more than 2/3 of its volume and more than half its surface area.
Our next time out was at Athabasca Falls, a repeat visit but so incredible. Roar! While there, Daisy was ambassador again, and I have a photo to prove her good will. This time it was a family from Edmundton with a little girl, and then a couple expecting their first child in 5 weeks who just moved to Saskatchewan.
We proceeded west out of the park, and stopped at Mt Robson Provincial Park for Daisy in a field of flowers photos. We met a couple returning from Alaska to Ohio. They bought an airstream just for this trip. When they get back they are going to sell it.
They loved Haines. Since they went so early, many things were closed, but they did get to drive Denali in their own car since the tours had not started yet.
Tonight we are at Irvins RV Park in Valemount BC. The lady with the British accent said she would put us in Number 18, right next to the pet walk area, because if she was a dog, she felt she would be happiest there. She is definitely correct. The pet area is a meadow, and little trails for walking have been mowed throughout. Just lovely.
We are within two days of the Alaska Hiway now.....jitters!
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
It's easy to make excuses, like, I have been off the bike for a month and then I got sick for a week. Oh, and don't forget, I gave blood 3 weeks ago. But the truth of the matter is I am a flatlander and a shallow breather. An aerobic bike workout for me is at sea level, 45 minutes at 10 mph, and hills are the ramp from the lower path on Braes Bayou back up to the street. I am not ready for elevation = 4500 feet and gentle hills = 6% grade.....OUCH!
After leaving Fort McCloud we stopped at the Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump Interpretive Center, and I knew I was in trouble making the five minute walk up to the cliffs where the Blackfoot and Blood Indians drove the buffalo to slaughter. (Photo above) I was winded by five minutes of walking. By the way, the Buffalo Jump is named for the young brave who got his head smashed in watching the buffalo fall over the cliff. I suppose buffalo with head smashed in was more routine.
We stopped in Canmore, Alberta, just outside Banff, thinking we would ride the little trails through the town and along the river. We stopped in a bike shop, and the eager young man working the cash register said we really must go on to Lake Minnewanka and make the loop around the lake. Nice and easy, very scenic, get to ride on the top of the dam, very little traffic, nice road. A perfect bike ride on a beautiful sunny 65 degree day.
We pulled into the parking area for Cascade Pond at the beginning of Lake Minnewanka Loop and met a woman who looked like Margaret Shelton. She said, "yeah, it's great, about 10 K,just one big hill, but make the loop clockwise and you get to go down it instead of up." Later we realized she had Margaret Shelton stamina too. I was whupped by climbing the hill back up to the road from the parking lot, but I rested a bit, then turned on to the highway. It looked flat, but when I slowed to 5 mph and gasped for air, I knew I was in deep trouble. I might have gone as far as 1 K, but I think less. I turned tail and headed for the flatter trail around Cascade Pond. Two loops and a few doodles and I was off the bike. 30 minutes at 4500 feet was quite enough. I told myself that Daisy needed a walk anyway.
By the time Daisy and I returned from our pond loop walk, Carl was hanging up his bike too. Never trust anyone who works in a bike shop to rate your rides, especially if they are under 30. We drove the loop after we stored the bikes. The big hill was 10% grade and there were people biking up it. My oh My. And it was definitely no little 10 K ride.
We comforted ourselves in the Banff Hot Springs. How tough can it be, really? Sitting in a pool of spring water 39 degrees Centigrade (you can do the math, but mighty warm) on a cool evening looking at the Rockies capped with snow.
By this time, it was after 8 pm, so we picked up a Pizza and headed to Tunnel Mountain campsite. On the way, a family of 7 deer stopped traffic at the corner of Caribou and Otter. The park employee at the camp gate said we got the last place on the scenic ridge. I took a few pictures of alpen glow on the peaks before a family of deer walked through camp. At that point, Daisy had to come in. No barking in camp, you know.
I am so mellow. I keep thinking how grateful I am. Two weeks have passed, and more of this beautiful scenery is still ahead of me. I get to keep on going.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Daisy has been taking all the time at my computer lately. Seems she has much to say about her adventures. She did not mention the two well-behaved Aussies who stay glued to Mr. Hugh Johnson's pickup at Johnsons of St. Mary. They ride everywhere with him as Mr. Hugh works on the maintenance end of the business. One of them, according to a clipping in the local paper, was off fishing with Mr. Hugh, when the weather turned bad and Mr. Hugh told the dog to go home, meaning back to camp. Instead, the Aussie traveled 50 miles back to St. Mary. What a dog!
Before we left St Mary, population 30, no post office, we had the daily maintenance issues of the RV. This time it was a leaking water hose. Carl fixed it with duct tape, and later today we got a new hose at an RV place. Seems like he is going to be very busy this trip. What would we do without his handyman skills?
We left St. Mary and traveled about 10 miles into Glacier, to the point where the sign said if you are over 21 feet, turn around immediately. This was at Sun Point on the Going to the Sun Road. Daisy and I took a walk down to lake's edge, and you can see a couple of my artsy photos from the walk. I was going to go the other direction to a waterfall except for the bear warning sign. I got to thinking how a bear might think I was walking his lunch on a leash.
As we traveled north along the edge of Glacier, we passed through hills of charred trees. Last summer St. Mary was evacuated for a fire.
We chose to take the more remote Hiway 17 through Waterton and cross the border there. I have been obsessing about how much food I was going to have to throw away crossing the border. But the entire process took about 1 minute. Alcohol, tobacco, firearms questions, and that was it. We offered up Daisy's health certificate, since she had positioned herself right between us and was pretty obviously going with us, but the customs official was not even interested.
Waterton Lakes and Glacier share the magnificent area at the base of the Canadian Rockies as an International Peace Park. Waterton has a very wide open valley between two mountain ranges, and the valley in one area is filled with my favorite green moguls, pictured above. This time we got to drive through them in a buffalo range within the park. No buffalo, but incredible scenery driving the moguls. It felt like I was a 1 foot tall person driving on a golf course.
We stopped for the night in Fort MacLeod at Daisy May's RV Park. We just had to, didn't we? It advertised a hot tub, but the repair man was working on it when we arrived. By nightfall, however, it was up to temperature, so we had a very relaxing dip.
Daisy and I walked next to a very swollen Old Man River, which is normally a little trickle but is currently about 100 yards across. It has been raining excessively here and floods are rampant. And the winds have been quite remarkable. Small children and pets have been reportedly blown away to OZ. Today, however, was just gorgeous, so maybe the bad weather is over.
We parked next to a lady from Ottowa who is moving here and waiting for her house to be ready. She has a one year old pug named Molly, and Molly was crazy about Daisy. Daisy, however, snubbed her. Just too much jumping around in her face, I guess.
Aside from the one escape, Daisy has been a real traveler. In the evenings, we put her out on a long line and she is content to gaze at the world for hours and greet passersby. As long as there are no squirrels, cats, buffalos or elk, she behaves like a real lady.
From here we head north to Calgary and Banff, then on to Lake Louise and Jaspar. We were here two summers ago, so I have my hot springs list ready in my head. I plan to revisit the Banff Hot Springs in the next day or so, and I am hoping for the bike ride we did not take in 2006. Once inside the park, the RV parks will not have WiFi, so it may be a while before I blog again. I will, however, take lots of pictures. In case you can't wait, I have linked to the website for our 2006 photos. That was before I was Ansel Adams.......
Sunday, May 25, 2008
White Sulphur Springs was our home for the night, in the middle of a wide valley, in the Conestoga RV Park. Daisy loved sitting outside greeting our Albertan neighbors, and at dusk a herd of deer passed in the nearby pasture. I have been feeling like a lonesome cowboy all day, and the remoteness of our camp enforced it.
Early next morning, I requested a latte stop at the local expresso/garden shop. I was greeted by a large yellow lab rolling seed potatoes on the floor. What a friendly lad....and good coffee too.
We moved on slowly into the Little Belt Mountains, having been warned by the potato dog's master that there would be snow on Kings Hill Pass. The snow was a light layer of powder over melted rivlets. We followed Belt Creek, swollen from snow melt, for miles, until the road broke away to avoid a chasm of 1000 foot cliffs. We rejoined the stream at an overlook for Sluice Boxes State Park, then descended into Great Falls.
After a hardware store stopover for RV mechanical supplies, we took a tour of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at the falls. There were five falls here before dams somewhat obscured them. The expedition knew they were really on the Missouri River because Indians had told them there would be falls. That was the good news. What a trek they had to go around them 18 miles overland with all their supplies and boats. The portage delayed them over a month on their quest to reach the Pacific.
The City of Great Falls has a 30 mile hike and bike path along the river and the falls, with 12 miles paved. We are hoping for the rain to let up so we can bike it.
We settled in at Dick's RV park, a two night stay with the Indi 500 Race on the docket for Sunday. Carl's favorites in the race all had mishaps, but then, we didn't bet any money either.
Carl replaced the door hinge, the drawer runners, the running light and a few things that had nothing to do with the guardrail incident. He's still got the tailpipe bracket to do, but we need the rain to stop.
Daisy really wants the rain to stop. She had a run in the dog yard during a brief respite. Felt so good! Same effect as me doing Yoga on the RV floor this morning.
Tomorrow we leave for St. Mary's just outside Glacier. Read about the RV Park run by the Johnson's at www.johnsonsofstmary.com and you will see why we are looking forward to the visit.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
The alarm went off at 2:30 and I rolled down from my overcab bunk, wondering exactly why..... but then I remembered, it was off to see wildlife. I was ready by 3:30, but I reserved drinking coffee until I was sure we were going through with the adventure. We had agreed that if Steve found out the roads were closed, he should not drive to the RV park. He would be here by 3:45 or he was not coming.
At 4 am, I put the coffee to the side and crawled back into bed.
I had two mornings that day. We got dressed again and Linda and Steve came to pick us up at 11:00. They said they had sack lunches and we were going north. The desk at the hotel said the road was closed, but the guide had said fooey, it was not! We missed incredible wildlife. We drove up to Mammoth and then to the Lamar Valley. We alternated snow and rain the whole day, depending on our elevation. But we never saw wolves or bears or moose. We did see the less elusive bison, coyote and elk.
At Mammoth, we stopped to pick up our UPS package of RV parts, and found out that the desk had refused the package minutes before. We had watched the UPS driver leave the Mammoth area with our package. This began the adventure of Carl chasing down our parts back to Bozeman and throughout the park.
That evening we had fancy company for dinner. Linda and Steve came for steaks on the grill. It was so cold that it took extra long to cook them, but we succeeded. I was acutely aware that a bear might want them while I was grilling, and I had decided if he asked, I would say yes, of course, help yourself. For desert we had the hotel's "I'm sorry" gift to Steve and Linda for turning our package away. The gift bag included a bottle of nice Pinot Noir and several versions of Huckleberry candies. Tasted like grape chocolate.....
We bid Linda and Steve goodbye for several months, and I realized as I said goodbye I would not be seeing anyone I know, except Carl, for a long time.
The next morning the sun came out brilliantly. We drove to Old Faithful Lodge, where cell service was good, and Carl began to talk to Bozeman UPS Central and drivers across the park. I took the Upper Geyser walk, a three mile round trip through geyser fairyland. Yellowstone is the most amazing place on the entire earth, I am convinced. Geological features, geysers, mountains, canyons, meadows, wildlife, lakes, rivers....it has it all, unspoiled but accessible.
By the end of my walk, Carl and UPS had come up with a plan. We would meet the driver at the Madison Ranger station. Finally, we were united with our package of parts, and off to the north entrance. We left the park through the Yellowstone River Valley, where lush meadows rose up into the base of the northern Rockies. This river corridor acts a migratory funnel for elk, deer, pronghorn, bighorn, and bison between winter and summer feeding grounds. The hills crimp down into Yankee Jim Canyon and then expand again into Paradise Valley. Above the river rise black cliffs. As we wound north to White Sulphur Springs, we passed many ranges including the Gallatin, the Absaroka, the Bridger Range, the Crazy Mountains, the Castle Mountains, the Big Belt Mountains. Always the valley widened then narrowed always the scenery the same but changing, breathtaking and big.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
In my opinion, the Bighorns deserve a lot more credit than they get. I suppose the Rockies are bigger, and the Tetons more dramatic, but the Cloud Peak Skyway on route 16 from Buffalo to Greybull was spectacular. In late May, there was still plenty of snow in the higher elevations and Powder River Pass. Route 14 is supposedly more winding and scenic, but either way, you can't lose. Daisy got her first snow (she blogged about this, of course) and so did we.
After crossing the Bighorns, we headed north to Greybull, thinking our lunch stop would be the air museum there. By the time we reached Greybull, winds were gusting to 40 mph. Walking across the parking lot at the rest area outside the museum, Daisy was almost blown away. We could not visualize walking about the airfield in that bluster.
Once again, we found ourselves driving West with crosswinds pushing Teregram all the way into Cody, where we stopped for a quick walk through of Sierra Trading Post's Outlet Store. How can an outlet store have an outlet store? Since I started ordering from them online, they have tracked my savings. Do you know I have saved over $4,000?
After Cody, the skies darkened, and by the time we entered Yellowstone, it was snowing hard. We took it really slow up Sylvan Pass. Our day grew longer and longer, and we reached Fishing Bridge RV Park near Lake Yellowstone only 15 minutes before we were to be picked up for dinner by our friends. One RV driver told Carl he had let air out of the tires to get more traction crossing the pass.
As we neared the RV park, we saw many cars stopped and guys with big lenses photographing a mama bear and her cubs in the meadow. Linda and Steve picked us up and treated us to dinner at the lovely Lake Yellowstone Hotel dining room. The lake was still frozen and the view out the big lake-front windows with the snowflakes coming down was just exquisite.
We turned in rather early, because we were going on a photographic expedition with a wildlife guide in the morning. Because of the weather, Steve and Linda would be picking us up at 3:30 am so we could meet the guide at Mammoth at 5. I felt a bit apprehensive as I set the alarm for 2:30 am. What on earth am I thinking?
Today we left Rapid City for Buffalo Wyoming. For the first half, the Black Hills were stunning. We took the detour to Devils Tower National Monument, and heard Richard Dryfuss' three toned music calling from the spaceship....
The highlight of tonight was eating at the Bozeman Trail Steakhouse in Buffalo, Wyoming. Buffalo burgers. Absolutely the best. The young man serving us was every mother's son, blond, eager, 18 years old and a junior in high school. After high school he is joining the army, but he plans to be an officer so he can go to college. He's thinking 15 to 20 years.
I asked about beer on tap and he named three or four. I could not resist the name Moose Drool. "How does it taste?" I asked. He shrugged. "I don't know". It was really fine. Nice and dark and rich, but not too rich to overpower the buffalo burger.
The restaurant has a collection of army wagons, used for transportation of the troops for almost a century.
We spoke to our friends in Yellowstone. They saw bear....we will be there tonight and out of touch with the world for two days. Today we look forward to crossing the Bighorn Mountains, and we left at 7 am in order to see moose outside of Buffalo. That's what the manager of the RV park said....but alas, no moose appeared.
Monday, May 19, 2008
We made our way from Valentine, leaving the Wacky West RV park with its put put golf next door to the Jewel II Movie theatre. We were gaining elevation and scenery as we wended north, and took a detour through the Badlands. My photos are definitely low quality on a bright hazy day at noon. But the park is spectacular, so I will post them anyway, and I intend to find a link to some good photos for your pleasure.
We joined our friends the Babbitts in Rapid City and have been enjoying their hospitality for two days. Somehow due to dinner time political discussions, the RV ended up with an Obama Sticker on the driver's window.
Daisy has lots to say about her visit there, so check her blog.
Today Steve took us to Hill City where we lunched at the Alpine Inn (highly recommended) and the Crazy Horse Monument. Steve is a fine arts professor and a photographer, so I have asked if I can link to his website. Enjoy!
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Photo of the Sand Hills of Nebraska
Today was such a blustery day I thought I must still be in Kansas. Driving the RV through the Sand Hills felt much like a boat, and I kept turning the wheel to the right about 30 degrees to compensate for the crossing headwinds. Teregram swayed and rocked in the wind. Then we turned north directly into the headwind for an hour before stopping for the night in Valentine Kansas. There's a hike and bike trail, the Cowboy Trail, right on our nose, so Carl will be out tomorrow morning if the wind subsides even a little bit. He can go 18 miles on this section. The trail will eventually cross the entire state of Nebraska.
Driving through Kansas and Nebraska were similar. Very windy, winding and hilly. I do prefer the Kansas Flint Hills to the Sand Hills.
Yesterday Daisy blogged about our adventures in Kansas, but she probably did not mention that the scenery was exquisite, with limestone outcroppings on flint hills covered with tall prairie grass. Both states, Kansas and Nebraska, are wide open. It is easy to imagine being in a Calistoga Wagon, Day 55 of my cross country journey, plodding behind the oxen. Looks to me like there is still a whole lot of land out here.
Tomorrow we enter a scenic section of northwest Nebraska as we head into the Black Hills of South Dakota.
By the way, I noticed in my web albums that I can post the location of the photos, so a little trail map to follow me is starting to develop.
Morning after postscript: according to the weather last night, the gusts were 35-45 mph. Wow! This morning, all is calm and Carl is off on the bike while Daisy and I wake up watching the purple martins buzzing about their house and singing. Ahhhhh....
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
We visited the Memorial to the 168 victims of the 1995 Federal Office Building bombing in Oklahoma city. It is built on the site of the building. 168 chairs on the lawn represent the victims, placed in rows to represent the floor on which they died. The bottom two floors included 19 children fatalities.
It is a solemn and well done National Memorial. We did not allow time to visit the museum, but my cousin Katie from Oklahoma says you will be moved to tears if you do.
We met Katie and her family for dinner in Stillwater, home of Oklahoma State, and then spent a very comfy night with her in Cushing. Peonies are blooming everywhere in her yard and in vases throughout the house. Don't think I am in Texas anymore.
Use the Link on the right for Teregram Photo albums for more photos.