Thursday, May 25, 2006
On the road early as always. Dogs fed, two cups of coffee. Stopped at a historical marker along the way to Glacier and had breakfast. Only one campground in Glacier was opened; St. Mary’s. Tomorrow another opens. This is very early in the season. Going to the Sun Road won’t be plowed and opened for another few weeks. Saw a black bear today. Got lots of good pictures. Went down to Saint Mary Lake. It’s a beautiful shade of green and as cold as ice. Even Gopher wasn’t interested in swimming. Glacier is pretty but not dramatically different than the Rocky Mountain National Park. Of the two, we would probably chose the RMNP.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Not a very nice day today. Cold & rainy. A cold front is moving through. Stopped by the visitor center about 8am. Bought an Audubon bird identification book. Inquired if the customs station between Glacier & Waterton was opened. It opened in mid-May. Walked around for a while between the rain drops then headed for Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada. It was only a 45 minute drive. Went through customs with no problems. Carol had made a photo ID for each dog. Took a picture of the dog then copied it onto the Vets certificate of vaccination. The customs officer thought that was just a great idea. It provided the required positive identification of each dog coming into Canada. On the way to our campground, we stopped by the very famous Prince of Wales Hotel. The campground we stayed in is called the Waterton Townsite Campground. It’s right next to the very cute downtown area. Easy walk to shops, restaurants, etc. This is the first time this trip we have not been in the woods somewhere. A pleasant change after three weeks. This is Carol’s type of camping. J The campground and town of Waterton are located right on Upper Waterton Lake. An incredibly beautiful lake framed on three sides by huge mountains. The view from the campground is the very best so far. Took lots of walks. Gopher tiptoed into the water. It’s just a few degrees above freezing. Carol & I walked to the Cameron Creek Waterfall then downtown and ordered a pizza to go. Gopher was with us so we couldn’t eat inside. This was our first meal “out” since we left home. We really like this area. Canadian National Parks don’t have the dog restrictions found in American National Parks. Tomorrow Gopher & I are going hiking. Deer are walking through the campground all the time. There are signs warning they will aggressively defend a fawn so keep your distance.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Started raining late last night. Never did stop. Finally I put on my raincoat and took Gopher for a walk. No hiking today as planned. It’s 40* and raining. On the walk, I found a laundry in town. We drove to the laundry and did five loads of wash. Clothes, bedding, blankets, etc. That was today’s major event. About 3 pm, we got tired of sitting & reading so dressed for the weather and walked to town. Carol bought some warm clothes. Tomorrow we head further north towards Banff & Jasper. It’s supposed to stay cold and maybe rainy for the next few days. This is the first full rain day we have had so far. This is a great place. There are several trailheads in the campground plus you can take a shuttle boat that will drop you off at different trailheads around the lake. If we’re ever in this part of the country again, we’ll be back.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Still raining with no end in sight. It snowed a few hundred feet higher. The mountains are covered with new snow. Very pretty. We decided to move on to Banff since it was supposed to rain all day. On the way we saw some huge windmills. Three blades, very, very tall. It rained on & off for the drive. Stopped in Calgary at The Real Canadian Superstore. A Wal-Mart type store but a quality more like Target. Ran into a very unusual cart system. You had to go into the parking lot and “rent” a cart for one Loonie (A Canadian silver dollar). Carol saw a man about to put his cart away and thought she would save him the trip and offered to take his cart. NO WAY!! That cart cost him a Loonie and he needed to properly return the cart to get his money back. He was kind enough to show Carol the system. Each cart had a chain lock that attached to a special place. You inserted a Loonie in a box to unlock the cart. When you properly returned the cart you got your money back. That man was NOT going to give Carol a cart worth one dollar. Another weird thing about the store. When you checked out, the cashier asked how many of those cheap plastic bags you wanted. We didn’t know why she was asking but she handed us the three bags we asked for and charged us 4 cents each. Can you imagine that!!!. A store charging for plastic shopping bags. In Canmore, we stopped at a Safeway for a few things we forgot. No deposit required to use a cart and free plastic bags. Carol bought lunchmeat. The lady asked her how much did she want? It was sold by the gram. There are deposits charged on canned things like Coke and a “levy/recycle” fee of 2 cents on the carton my Soy Milk came in. Plus, almost all purchases in Canada are subject to a “GST” which is a national sales tax, of 7%. All the extras add up fast. When we checked out, the cashier also let us use a courtesy Safeway discount card. Saved $2.25. Bought gas in Canmore. $1.055 per liter (that’s $4.80/gallon). Finally arrived in Banff about 5pm. Long drive but worth it. The next few days are “off road” days. The weather is supposed to start clearing tomorrow. Let’s hope. The Canadian national parks are very expensive compared to US national parks. At Glacier admission was free because of our Golden Age Passport. In Canada it cost us $18/day. At Glacier the cost of a nights camping was $15, we pay $7.50 with our Golden Age Passport, but there was no electrical service. In Canada the cost is $33/night with full hookups. So, Canada national parks cost us $51/day versus $7.50 in the US. Plus gas is in the $5/gallon range and food is more expensive. Not an economical vacation place. Right now the US dollar is only 10 cents more valuable than the Canadian dollar. Not nearly enough to offset the high costs of everything else. Oh well, it’s a beautiful place and were having fun in spite of the rain. That’s what counts.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Finally, a mostly sunny day. Partly cloudy but no rain. We hiked from the campground to the hoodoos. Hoodoos are natural stone pillars that result from erosion of soft rock. After that we walked into Banff. The campground book said it was 1.2 km. but that must have been to the City limits. It was much further than that. At any rate, it was a cool, sunny day just made for a walk. Took the city bus back to the campground since the way back was almost all uphill. It cost a tooney each. A tooney is two loonies. We inquired at the Visitors Center about internet access and was directed to the Banff Public Library. 30 minutes of use for a Loonie. A great deal. Asked the librarian about a good restaurant. She directed us to Coyote’s. We had a great lunch for $30 for both of us. Rachel Ray would have been proud of us; ask a local and keep on the $40/day budget. Banff is a very pretty town. Very pricey like resort towns tend to be, but fun to walk around. Ran into two Gators. Amazing this far from home. The couple camping next to us is from Holland. They are touring Canada for a month. There are perhaps 50 Korean teenagers here touring Canada in rented RV’s. Met a couple from Texas heading towards Alaska and a couple from near Sarasota doing the same. One of the beauties of RV travel is the diversity of the people you meet. From people in very modest pickups, like the folks we met in Beaver Creek, to people in ½ million dollar motorhomes.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Sunrise is very early around here. Don’t know exactly when but it’s in the 5am range. Makes it hard to sleep much past 6 am or so. Left for Lake Louise via the Bow Valley Parkway; a beautiful drive. Stopped at Johnson Canyon and walked to the falls. There are a series of falls. Access to the falls is via narrow catwalks attached to the face of the canyon wall. Gopher crossed the first two but refused to cross any more so I turned back. There was something about them she didn’t like. Perhaps the height, the narrowness, the smell?? At any rate, I turned around. If we ever get this way again, I’ll do the hike by myself. Arrived at Lake Louise about noon time. Very nice campground. The tent/pop-up camper section is fenced with a permanent electric fence. “The fence helps keep bears wild and alive, and people safer”. The brochure goes on to say “However, bears trying to skirt around the Townsite will continue to pass near the RV campground area”. They tell you to not walk around after dark. We drove up to Lake Louise. The lake is the most amazing shade of blue and surrounded by snow capped mountains. We were going to hike from one end of the lake to the other but a park ranger was on the trail advising people that a grizzly bear was also on the trail. So much for that hike. On the way back to the campground, we stopped at the town shopping center & information building. Bought a bag of cookies & pastries and a loaf of fresh bread. The campground is right on the Bow River. On the other side of the river is a stand of tall fir trees with the mountains behind them. A beautiful view. There is a great path that runs all along the river. No grizzly bears, no catwalks. Took a nice long walk.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Finally, a clear, sunny day. It was 37* this morning but not a cloud in the sky. First day like that in about a week. First thing we drove up to Moraine Lake so we could get a good parking place. Pretty much had the place to ourselves at 8:30am. We think Moraine Lake is even more beautiful than Lake Louise or Upper Waterton Lake. The water is turquoise and still about 2/3 covered with ice. Surrounded by huge mountains. We walked along the Rockpile Trail and the Lakeshore Trail. No grizzly bear closures, no narrow catwalks, no rain. An absolutely perfect hike. Probably took 50 pictures. The shore of the lake is rocks ranging from pebbles to small boulders ; the remains of the glacier that formed the lake. There is still snow on the ground and on the surrounding mountains. Gopher had a great time romping in the snow and swimming. She would walk on the thin ice until it broke then in she went. It made us cold just watching her. Balou & Bagera wanted nothing to do with the water or snow. Smart dogs. We stayed there until early afternoon then went into town for a late lunch and another visit to the Interpretative Center. Carol spent the rest of the afternoon downloading and sorting pictures. By this afternoon, it had warmed up to perhaps the 60’s. We’re enjoying it while we can. The forecast for the weekend is cloudy with a good chance of rain. Can’t find out the official time of sunrise/sunset but it was still light outside when we went to bed at 10:30 last night. Right now it’s 8pm and as bright as can be. Our neighbors, from Germany, just set out on a hike. At the campground in Banff, our neighbors were from Holland. In each Canadian campground we have been in, I’d guess 2/3 of the RV’s were rentals. Apparently that is a very popular way to “holiday” in Canada.
Tomorrow we head further north to Jasper via the Columbia Icefields Parkway.
Thursday, June 1, 2006
Left about 8am. Cloudy & cool. The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper was just beautiful. There are pull-offs every few miles. Most afford an opportunity for a nice walk. Stopped at Bow Pass and hiked to the Bow Lake. Another of those beautiful turquoise glacial lakes. We stopped at the Icefield Centre . A wonderful display explaining about the Columbia Icefield and the glaciers. I took Gopher and we hiked to the edge of the Athabasca Glacier. There were ropes keeping you on a path to avoid the crevasses. Now and then someone leaves the safe path and falls into a crevasse. A sign said the last three rescue attempts have been unsuccessful. People die of hypothermia before they can be pulled from the crevasse. In spite of all the warning signs and the story of a little boy who died in 2001, you could still see foot prints in the snow where people had set out across the glacier. The Icefield Parkway passes within viewing distance of seven Icefields (large upland glaciers) and about 25 smaller glaciers. After stopping a few more times, we arrived at the Whistler’s Campground in Jasper about 3pm. Met some really nice people in the campground. A couple from Florida, Jim & Karen, and a man from Edmonton, AB. About 5pm, a coyote came prancing by just outside our campsite. It’s 9:30 pm right now and three elk are grazing in our campsite!! There are warnings to stay far away from them because they sometimes strike out with no provocation. We took pictures through an open window. Carol worked with our photos tonight creating a series of collages to add to the blog.
Friday, June 2, 2006
A beautiful, warm sunny morning. About 70*. First thing we drove to downtown Jasper to do some laundry, grocery shopping & check e-mail. Got lucky. The laundry had internet service. A Toonie for 15 minutes. Signed up for 30 minutes. There was a grocery store in the same block so we were able to care of everything with one stop. After that we went to Pyramid Lake. A beautiful, crystal clear lake with a sandy beach area. Had the whole place to ourselves. Gopher had a great time playing with an old soccer ball we found. Carol put on her bathing suit to play with the dog. Drove back into Jasper to walk around a bit. We ran into our friends from the campground, Jim & Karen, and had lunch together. The sunny day didn’t last too long. By 2pm it was cloudy & sprinkling once again. The weather forecast for the weekend is partly cloudy with a good chance of showers. This is such a beautiful area we decided to stay another day in spite of the weather. If we were ever in the neighborhood, we would come back to Jasper.
Saturday, June 3, 2006
Cool & cloudy. Some sun, some light showers. Went exploring today. Drove to Edith Lake and Annette Lake. Hiked around Annette Lake. Another clear, turquoise lake. Just beautiful. After that we drove to Lac Beauvert. Had lunch, went walking. Did a little grocery shopping in Jasper and got gas for tomorrow’s trip. $4.84/gallon. Canada is very, very expensive. The exchange rate today was $1.06 Canadian to one dollar US. Our friends, Jim & Karen, invited us over for a visit tonight. They said if we get to Wisconsin to give them a call. They would be at their summer lake house by mid-August. Right now they are on their way to Alaska. They meet the ferry in Prince Rupert, BC for transportation up to Alaska then drive back home from there.
Sunday, June 4, 2006
Clear & cool. 38*. Left about 8am. The original plan was to make two more stops in Canada before going to Washington. We decided to drive longer today and just stop once. Drove to Kamloops, BC then to the Lac Le Jeune Privincial Park. This is a nice park. Mostly it seems to attract fisherman. The drive was very long; too long. No more six hour drives on narrow mountain roads. Today is mostly a driving then rest day. Tomorrow it’s back to our three to four hour driving day limit.
Monday, June 05, 2006
I woke up at 5am. Sunrise is so early around here. Had my coffee & walked Gopher. Carol slept in until all of 6am. On the road by 7am. This part of Canada is totally different than the mountains. Rolling hills, farms, vineyards, cattle & such. Oliver, B.C. is the wine making capital of Canada. It was nice and warm. Shorts weather. As we went through US customs, they were confiscating all meat products purchased in Canada as well as eggs. They were searching RV’s, and looking in the refrigerator, freezer, closets, bathroom, etc. We surrendered a part of a sausage we had bought. Another couple lost a dozen eggs plus a large, unopened sausage. The Customs people are probably planning a breakfast buffer soon. Our hoard of canned dog food was Ok because it was American made. Had it been Canadian made, it would have been confiscated as well. We were planning on driving to the Grand Coulee Dam area. When we got to Omak, WA we did our Wal-Mart shopping. The first time since we entered Canada when we could get food at a reasonable price. On the way out of town, we noticed a small sign about a City RV park. Sure enough, the City of Omak, Washington has a municipal campground. Full hookups for $16/night. Plus, we have an excellent Verizon signal. Carol has been getting caught up with all her calls. Our Canadian visit was just wonderful but we are glad to be back in the States.