Friday, June 26, 2009

*END* of Yellowstone Trip, June 2009

Cathie had a horrible night's sleep. Transport trucks ran by for most of the night, up and down the highway hill beside us. They got us going early though, away at 7:30. 17C. 

It was a good easy drive the rest of the way home, roads are good. A lot of Hwy 69  between Sudbury and Parry Sound still isn't 4-lane, but construction is very active on new sections. We had a good stop at one of the Trading Posts on hwy 69.

We met lots of weekend traffic, but heading the opposite way so no problem for us. We got home about 2pm, to our field which is usually a lawn:



Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thunder Bay to near Thessalon ON

We took it easy this morning, having decided to make 2 easier traveling days to finish up the trip. Away at 7:15 EST, 17C. We took time to have an egg on toast before we left this morning.

It's an easy drive mostly. The TCH to Thunder Bay and across to Wawa is rough at times, with lots of hills, and views only once in a while. There are quite a number of passing lanes on the hills though, and we passed our share. We both really hope to not come this way again. Go through the US instead, even if it means bringing home less BC wine!


We had a really good stop at Wawa. First we stopped at the tourist info place right at the entrance to the town. Washrooms, dog walk, Internet access (which we didn't use). Found out that the apparent shortcut from Wawa to Sudbury has quite a stretch of gravel in the middle. Maybe it will be an express route someday, as it's almost 100km shorter to Sudbury rather than via Sault Ste Marie.


Then we had a nice lunch in town, at a non-chain restaurant. Cath had one of their daily specials, bbq beef on a bun with fries. Gord had their house burger, and half of Cath's fries. Good fresh-cut fries.


Hwy 17 from Wawa to the Soo is much nicer than the earlier western section. Good surface, more downhill than up when going south, nice views. No gas for quite a ways south of Wawa, but we remembered this from last time, and made sure to fill up in Wawa. 


The Soo has a pseudo-bypass for hwy 17 as you get into the north end of town. Once you get out past the old Boundary Rd at the east end though, you get shunted over to a brand-new 4-lane road that takes you out past the reserve, past Echo Bay etc, quite a few miles before rejoining the old route. The TCH changes confused the heck out of the Garmin, Jill was convinced we were off trekking through fields several times.

We camped at a crummy place right on the hwy,  east of Thessalon. There was a town-run park right in Thessalon that would have been much better, but we needed a dump station and didn't see one there (self-service). We had a nice visit with the 2 other couples that were camped where we ended up  though.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Moosomin SK to Thunder Bay ON

We're in go-home mode for sure. We left at 6:15 CT, quietly again since we didn't unhook for the night. 12C and sunny, up to 28C later on. We simply drove steadily across the TCH, stopping for the night at Happy Land cg, about 17 km north/west of Thunder Bay about 8:15 ET.  Just a 13 hour day, since the time change cost us an hour today.

Nice cg, $26 with no services, but were able to get WiFi at our site. The woman at the office didn't think we'd be able to, from the unserviced area. Good showers, no extra charge.

Note that there are NO services on the newer bypass roads, such as 17A around Kenora. You have to go in the old roads for gas etc.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Drumheller to Moosomin SK

We left at 6am, as quietly as we could. 12C. It got up to 24C, sunny and windy. Luckily the wind was mostly a tailwind. We've had tailwinds so often this trip! Usually we get headwinds both ways.

We saw 2 young moose trying to cross the Trans-Canada, just east of Regina I think. Hopefully they changed their minds.

These were real moose, not silhouettes.

Everybody gave this guy plenty of room when passing him:

For old times sake, we stopped at Fieldstone cg near Moosomin SK, about 5:30 pm. We had camped here 35 years ago, when it was still a govt-run Trans Canada cg. $18 now for an unserviced site, I complained to the lady about the price increase, from the $2 it cost us last time. Showers were 10 cents then though, and still only 25 cents now.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Buffalo Trails to Drumheller AB

9C and rain at 9am. How lucky we've been to get such nice days for touring recently, then have rain on a driving day as we head north and east up to Drumheller. 

We stopped for lunch at a Tim's in Strathmore, and arrived at Kokopelli cg, about 6km east of Drumheller, about 1:30. It had crept up to 17C and but still overcast. We signed up for 2 nights unserviced, $46 total. Cg showers were extra, $1 for 5 minutes. Nice showers though.


We expected to just roam around a bit today, visit the museum tomorrow, and head out on Wednesday. However we were here earlier than expected, and the museum was open to 9pm, so we decided it might be a good time to tour it, since a lot of the kids and families were leaving. 


The museum is quite a place, and would be fascinating if you're really into the old dino bones and info. We're only mildly interested though and remembered our earlier visit quite well, so it only took us a bit over an hour for all the tour we wanted. Then we drove out to Horse Thief Canyon, a revisit of our trip 35 (!) years ago. Like the museum and unlike the town, the Canyon looked much as we remembered.


The town is much more developed than 35 years ago (surprise!). Except for the Tyrel museum, the area actually seems a bit tacky, with the papier-mache dinos, little shops flogging “genuine fossils”, etc. Everything is more expensive than Jasper, except the camping.
On the way back to the cg we stopped for some groceries. We also got a whole bbq chicken. Seemed like a good deal, $8 included a 6-pack of lovely doughy buns. The rest of the stuff seemed expensive though. I think we're both feeling the "go-home" urge.


Back at the cg we asked for and got a refund for tomorrow night, as we both want to head out. On the way back to the cg, we had our windshield badly cracked by a rock thrown up by a passing dump truck. The chip was too bad for patching, so we drove the rest of the way home with the crack spreading across the windshield. Luckily no real visibility problems, as we didn't want to spend  a day getting it replaced out here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day at Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump

Way back at an Alberta visitor center, we paid $2 for an official Alberta highway map, which included a coupon for buy 1, get 1 free admission to provincial attractions. This saved us $9 at HSIBJ.

We got there right when they opened about 10am, and spent about 4 hrs there, touring the center and watching the native dancers and singers. Some amazing “regalia”, which is what they want people to call their outfits. They're not costumes, since that's what clowns wear. Their regalia are decorated with thousands of beads.




The building itself is 5 or 6 stories depending on how you count, set into a hillside, with the higher  floors terraced back in to the hill. Very little of this large building shows from the outside, it really blends in with the surroundings.



We had bison stew at the cafe for lunch, and fried bread from a native food display. Good hikes around the grounds, with views across to the mountains at Waterton. We could also see our cg. 17C and windy at 2:30.

A video clip of some dancing:


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day trip to Waterton National Park

On this sunny 18C morning we set off to Waterton National Park about 9am. We went to Ft McLeod and south from there. Lots of prairie fields, and windmill farms. This area has the most consistent wind in Canada apparently, and there are hundreds of wind power generators in the general area. 


A new housing development, only one (estate) house yet
Waterton is still as beautiful as we remembered from 15 years ago. Our annual pass got us in for “free”. Heidi got a good swim in an upper lake. 
Prince of Wales hotel, on the way into Waterton
A doe feeds her new baby, right in town

We enjoyed our picnic in the car, in a town parking area overlooking Waterton Lake. It was quite cool and breezy. Then we took a drive back in to Cameron Lake. 
Cameron Lake

We had gone back here 15 years ago, but didn't remember much of it except the view of the lake itself. They say the meadow at the far end is a popular spot for bears to graze.


On the way out of Waterton we stopped in at the Bison paddock. You can drive in and amongst bison in this large paddock:


We got gas at Pincher Creek on the way back, then went off the highway for a back road back to the cg

At the cg the wind had died down, so we were able to enjoy the nice 23C day. A llama and a few Red Angus cattle in the large field next to the cg were fun to watch.


A range cow on guard when I got too close to her new calf (that brown lump in the foreground):

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cochrane to Buffalo Jump AB

16C at 9am, sunny and breezy. Beautiful drive today, scenic outlooks to mountains foothills. Good road surface. Hwy 22 isn't well marked sometimes though, and it would be easy to miss a turn somewhere. We stopped in Black Diamond at a bakery, for cheesy buns and apple turnovers, all delicious.

 
The Best Jerky Around shop in Longview does have the best jerky we've had, really good. I got 4 packages, and wanted to buy more. In a nearby shop we also bought a limited edition print by Bernie Brown. Nicely matted and framed. Besides this trip, the picture is something special for our 40th anniversary year. The shop owner did a good job of convincing us that Longview would be a great place to live. The area southwest of Calgary along #22 is very appealing!


We had seen a listing for a Buffalo Plains RV park we liked.
We really liked it, and stayed 3 nights. It's only a 5 minute drive from HSIBJ, which we plan to visit on the weekend.


It's near Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (HSIBJ), where there are some special events on Sunday as part of a national Aboriginal Day celebration. The cg is 12 km outside Ft McLeod.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jasper to Cochrane AB

Off at 7:50 am, 7C, heading east. No breakfast yet, neither of us are hungry. We saw a couple of coyotes this morning, mountain goat, an elk herd with several calves.

We went east on #16 to hwy 22, then headed south. #22 is publicized as the Cowboy Trail, and runs down pretty well to Waterton Park. While not too exciting in the more northern parts, it got very scenic further south, rolling green hills with mountains views in back.



Overnight camping near Cochrane AB. We're trying to avoid the marathon drives unless we need to do them, and it feels like a better-paced trip than we've done many times in the past. Good Sam park saved us $3 or so.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mt Edith Cavell hike

It rained overnight but stopped by morning. Only 4C though. We had oatmeal for breakfast, and packed a lunch.

We drove up to the Mt Edith Cavell hike. The drive up is quite nice, a twisty road with some good views

Looked like these folks boondocked here last night, in a pulloff about halfway up

We (and Heidi) hiked up the Glacier Loop trail, it goes to the base of the glacier at the foot of Mt Edith. It's only a 1.6 km loop, but climbs 80 meters from the parking lot to the glacier. 


 


Doesn't Heidi look excited

Looked like reforestation was being done


A really nice hike, this drive and hike was the high point of our Jasper visit. The brochure said to get there before 10am as parking is limited. Sure enough, by the time we were leaving about 11am the lot was almost full. This on an early-season, cloudy rainy (by then) morning.

Then we drove on around #93A (the old park highway) to Athabasca Falls, where we got out for a hike. Heidi had to stay in the car this time, Park rules. Pouring rain at times. Pretty busy, but the parking was nowhere near full. It's easy to get to from the main road, if you go the reverse direction to what we did. Nice close views of the falls, very full right now with all the spring water

With the rain, we couldn't find a place for lunch, so went back to the camper and had lunch there. Then about 2:30 we decided to go have showers – it was far enough to the central services that we had to drive for them from our site. Only to find that the shower buildings, right beside each other, are both closed for cleaning from 2-3:30! How hard would it be to close and clean one at a time?

So we went in to Jasper town instead. Went to the local library for Internet this time ($2.50 for 1 hour). Blog and email. Filled up with gas again, got some tomato soup and juice.

Back at the camper the rain had stopped, and it turned into another nice evening for sitting outside. Cool enough later on to turn on the furnace though, before bed time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day trips around Jasper

Sunny and 12C at 8am. Eggs and toast cooked outside on the Coleman, then we headed the 48 km to the Miette Hot Springs. We saw an elk and sheep along the way. Heidi had a (cold) swim.


Fox crossing the road

We got to the Hot Springs before they opened at 10:30. They open at 9:30 in the “summer”. I guess the lineup waiting for the 10:30 opening doesn't count as busy. $6 each, plus $1 for coin-operated lockers in the change rooms. There are 2 hot pools, one at 104F, one at 101F. Also 2 coolers ones, at 19C and 12C (not sure why the change in temperature units). We went in the hotter one for about ½ hr, then moved to the 101F one for another ½ hr. Very nice! Different than the ones in New Mexico, ie shared large pool instead of private rooms, but very nice anyway.


Then we had a nice drive back to Jasper, had burgers at an Internet hot spot cafe, and Cath had another browse at the quilt shoppe. 


The rest of the day we were just lazy at the campsite, one of the nicest sites we've had this trip (number 62K).

After supper we drove to Pyramid Lake and took a short hike out to an island in the lake. 


Heidi was able to come with us on some hikes in Jasper Park, anywhere dogs weren't specifically excluded because of wildlife concerns mostly. Then we drove around to another road on the other side of Jasper, and got a real nice view of the Fairmont Jasper Lodge. 

Back at the camper we poured ourselves a drink and sat around outside until 10. Still mild, and very few bugs.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lake Louise to Jasper AB

We left Lake Louise about 8am, 11C, cool and wet. It had rained almost all night, lots of puddles around. The interior roads are well graveled though. It was a nice stay, good to hike and bike around the cg.

We drove up the scenic road from Lake Louise to Jasper, the Icefields Parkway. A park pass is required for all vehicles on this road. It would have cost us $9.60 per day, each! At $20/day it doesn't take long to make a big dent in an annual pass, so we got the annual Family pass for $136 after all. It's good at almost (!) all of the Canadian National parks. 




This Icefields Parkway drive is a really nice drive, world-famous even. I have to say that we both enjoyed our recent Yellowstone experience more, although that's likely unpatriotic to say. Yellowstone is so different from anything we've seen before.


We stopped for a hike at the Athabasca Glacier. It continues to shrink at an increasing rate, so it's more of a hike than it was, not too many years ago. 




On the drive up to Jasper we saw a number of mountain sheep, 2 black bears, a grizzly, and a mountain goat. Lots of trees and mountain views.

There's a black bear way over there
Two sheep crossed in front of us. See the second head on the right? He made it too.

Apparently they REALLY wanted some of that green grass on the other side



We arrived near Jasper (town) to camp at the Whistlers cg. It's a huge cg, almost 800 sites. Good thing it's big, as it's the only cg open and was pretty busy! Unserviced site again, 3 nights @ $27.50. Very nice sites, large, wooded, quiet.
 
There are only 2 central shower buildings for the whole huge park, right beside each other near the office area.

We had a good browse around Jasper and got some groceries and gas. Jasper gas was a pleasant surprise, being lower than the BC prices (BC, like Quebec, has a provincial surcharge on gas). Higher than the usual prices we've seen in Alberta, but still – not the gouging I expected. The groceries were somewhat reasonable too.  Cath enjoyed the local quilt shop, and stayed up reading outside without a light (!) until almost 10pm.