A Travellerspoint blog

Westward Trip- Banff National Park, Alberta 3

sunny 24 °C

Today we decided to drive the scenic Bow Valley Parkway. It is a road that parallels the TransCanada but has no fences and the slow speed limit of 60. There are many hikes off of this road, Johnston’s Canyon being the most popular. This is the view of Castle Mountain from the Parkway.
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When we drove by Johnston’s Canyon there were no parking spots in the lot or at least 20 car lengths down the road so we went right on by. Instead we stopped at Silverton Falls trail just a little further ahead. This was a short, but rugged trail that followed a creek and ended at a waterfall. It also had a panoramic view of the mountains at the top. Well worth the 60 metre climb!
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After our hike we continued up the road and turned around at the picnic area just before Lake Louise. With no one around and a rushing creek, we dipped our toes in the glacial water. Me on purpose, Bud by accident!

Turning around, we drove back and poked our head into a few other trails but they were all too long for us today. One even reached 25 KMs one way!

We came across some wildlife in two places on the way back. Both big, majestic, male elk with huge antlers. One was sitting back in the trees, relaxing by the water, the other was right by the welcome sign grazing on the grass. neither seemed to care we, and several other people, were there.
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As I was writing this blog at 10:30pm, we got a thunder and lightening storm here. Here are some pictures of Tunnel Mountain.
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All in all it was a wonderful day in Banff National Park!

Posted by blgracey 21:58 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Westward Trip- Banff National Park, Alberta 2

semi-overcast 18 °C

Moraine Lake is simply the most beautiful place on earth. Today, Bud and I drove up to the Lake Louise area and the long, mountainous road up to the lake. The trees were a bit bigger but, other than that, it was as I had remembered it. If you are in the area and only have time to see one lake, make it Moraine. The deep blue water turned out really well in my photos today and the sun even peaked out a few times.
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After a glimpse of Moraine, Bud and I set out on a 3km hike to Consolation Lake. Because of bears in the area, by order of law we had hike in a tight group of at least 4 people and so on the way in we hiked with a family from Israel, and on the way out we hiked with a couple from Connecticut. A neat chance to meet people from everywhere.
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The hike in was almost completely uphill. A very dense forest where there seemed to be no birds calling, no animals scuffling and, thankfully, no insects buzzing. About half way through there was a rushing stream with several rapids. At the end of the hike we were rewarded with a lake that has a boulder rock slide at the entrance to the stream. We scrambled through the rocks and took some pictures with the massive boulders. We heard rocks slides coming from up top of the mountains and watched the ground squirrels trying their best to con all the hikers out of their snacks.
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After we hiked back out, and took a few more pictures of Lake Moraine, we tried to find a decent place for dinner but ended up driving back to Banff for dinner instead.

Along Highway 1 we noticed several new initiatives for keeping people and animals safe. A new fencing system spans the entire length of the highway and they have designed many overpasses, like this one, for animals to cross safely.
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Its 9:30pm and the sky is mostly clear, perhaps we'll be able to see some stars tonight!

Posted by blgracey 20:28 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Westward Trip- Banff National Park, Alberta

semi-overcast 18 °C

Today we said good bye to Waterton National Park and hit the road for Banff. We took Highway 22 north and what beautiful country we found along the way. The highway cuts through cattle ranches and grazing fields that last as far as the eye can see. While there are very few services along the way, as long as you are prepared for that you will be rewarded with a very nice drive.
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About half way along our journey, we came into a powerful storm. We saw the storm coming for a good 20 minutes because of the big sky in Alberta.
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Strong rain and a lot of hail came down upon us for only a few minutes but a few minutes can pack a lot of destruction. Our truck and trailer were fine but crops would have had damage I'm sure. Here is a picture of the hail on the ground after it was all over.
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The drive into Banff is probably one of the most amazing in the world. The shear power of those mountains as they rise up in front of you is awe inspiring.
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We are settled into our campsite at Tunnel Mountain II for the week. Here is our campsite at C30.
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Posted by blgracey 21:02 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Westward Trip- Waterton Lakes National Park 2

semi-overcast 18 °C

Waterton Lakes National Park is where the prairie meets the mountains. In the last 2 days we've hiked 5 trails, some easy strolls and some uphill climbs. We've seen bison, bears, deer and all manner of other little creatures including some interesting birds like a magpie. It also is known for its windy conditions.

The first night we had to put in the beds and transform the table into the bed because the noise from the tent ends flapping was so loud! The people beside us had their tent collapse in the night. The second night the winds were stronger and so we turtled in our hybrid for the night.

Our second day, we decided to drive through the Bison enclosure. Such beautiful animals!
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The second hike we did was into Lower Bertha Falls, which totalled over 6kms. (See the last blog entry for the fist hike) The uphill trial ended at a beautiful water fall that fell over sloping rocks. It was a well travelled trial and we came across many people, some with tiny dogs like a chihuahua! What are they thinking!
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We then had a late lunch and decided to take a drive through the park toward the USA border. The sky was threatening and it rained for a few minutes but it was still a nice evening.

Our third day in Waterton began with a drive up the Akamina Parkway which follows a creek all the way up. At the end of the road was a hike around Cameron Lake which is a subalpine lake. There were many cautions around about grizzly bears frequenting the area and so we were careful. There were many people on the trail but not so many that we had to wait to pass. The wildflowers here were different because they were subalpine flowers.
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After that busy hike we wanted one with fewer people around so we chose the Crandell Lake hike. There was a bear warning for that trial so I guess that's why fewer people were on it. The trail was fairly steep but not too long, only 3 KMs for the round trip. At the end of the trial was a quiet little lake where a few people were fishing but it seemed so untouched. No bears to be found - on that trial. As we descended back down the parkway and were almost at town, suddenly a large black bear came right in front of the truck and jumped over the guard rail to get to some berries on the other side. All that hiking and we just needed to drive around!
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After dinner, we divided to head back up the the Red Rock Canyon. We had wanted to do the Blakiston Falls hike but when we got there yesterday, there were so many people we couldn't find a place to park! This evening, the only people were right at the parking lot so we went ahead. No one was on the trail at all! The falls were really striking. We went up ahead a bit further and found a place we could get right to the water. Do you like the inukshuk we made? I happened to get a soaker putting it up so I had to slosh my way back out to the truck with one wet foot.
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On the way back to the campsite, we stopped to see this bear on the side of the road. Don't worry he is only a cardboard cutout.
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Today was our last day in Waterton Lakes. We hiked around 13kms of trails and drive the entire park.
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It's too bad there was so much haze around from the wildfire in northern Alberta or the views would have been clearer. A wonderful park, nonetheless.

Posted by blgracey 22:49 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Westward Trip - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

semi-overcast 23 °C

Today we had a wonderful drive into Waterton Lakes National Park. Highway 5 south was easy going, no ruts, no wind, no traffic, only rolling hills and scenic outlooks.
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We registered at our campsite in Waterton Springs Campground just outside of the Park gates and then set into town to check out the shops. Some cute little gift shops were in town and we bought a few souvenirs. We found a patio to have a snack and a drink at the Lakeside Chophouse.
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There is an historic resort hotel in the Park (the Prince of Wales Hotel) and they had some incredible views of the townsite of Waterton and this is the Alberta Wild Rose growing in the park.
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There are many, many hiking and driving routes through Waterton Lakes National Park. We drove up the Red Rock Parkway where we promptly met this little black bear. I think he would have put his paws right in our window to see what food we had if we didn't pull ahead!
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Red Rock Canyon is at the top of the parkway. You can see by the pictures where it gets its name. We hiked around part of the canyon and then descended into it to get a closer look. Beautiful rock formations and colours make this a worthwhile trip but watch out, the water is cold!
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As we came back down the parkway, it was getting darker and I captured this sunset picture of the valley.
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By the time we got back to the campsite, the winds had picked up and decided that a campfire tonight was not going to be worth the risk. More hiking tomorrow and some scenic driving too.

Posted by blgracey 21:24 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Westward Trip - Bow Island, Alberta

sunny 28 °C

Today we had a great visit with my cousin Christine, her husband, Frank and her children Ginger and Griffin. Frank had trucks coming in for his grain and then we were treated to a crop tour of his property. We learned about pivots and a bit about the business behind the farm. It was amazing to see how much Ginger (who is 6) knows about the equipment and what to look for. It’s obvious her Daddy is her hero! Here are some pictures from our tour and Bud and Frank (and Ginger) inspecting a pump which feeds water to the pivots.

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It was a great evening catching up with my cousin. So many miles divide us, that we only get to visit every 6-7 years. Thank goodness for Facebook!

Posted by blgracey 10:26 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Westward Trip - Moose Jaw, Sask

sunny 28 °C

Onward west today. We packed up around 8:00am and were on the road by 8:30. We have found the heat finally and when we stopped for lunch in Whitewood Sask, it was 28 degrees. The TransCanada highway is in need of some major upgrades as we had to fight the ruts in the road for some of the way.

We stopped at 4:30pm just past Moose Jaw at the Besant Campground. What a wonderfully little prairie oasis to come across! As we ate our dinner, we were listening to the prairie dogs scamper through the underbrush. We can barely hear the highway yet we are only 1 km off of it. It has a nice little pond, running stream and old beautiful trees. So quiet we can hear the yellow finches floating by.

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The clouds have moved in, which is a shame because with such an open sky, the sunset and stars would have been nice to see. Off to visit with my cousin Christine and her family tomorrow.

Posted by blgracey 18:24 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Westward Trip- Riding Mountain National Park 2

sunny 25 °C

Our last few blogs have begun rather easily for me. Simply a recount of the day with a few pictures. Today, it's not as easy for me to recount as there were just so many adventures! I will begin at the beginning and try not to leave any important details out.

Riding Mountain National Park has everything to offer every type of traveler and we pretty much sampled them all. We began quietly enough with a walk on the pier at Clear Lake. Today being a bit warmer than yesterday, the walk was a relaxing stroll. Bud and I then took in the quaint shops in Wasagaming, buy an few souvenirs and having a snack at a cafe with free wifi.

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Our plan was then to pack a lunch and head out for a drive or hike depending on what we found. We headed up into the park and turned off the highway to a gravel road marked with hiking, picnicking and a campground sign. There was also a bison enclosure enroute. We were beginning to wonder when the road would come to any of those listed things when we came to the bison enclosure. The bison were 30 feet away from the road. Like in Yellowstone National Park, they looked at us and continued doing their thing. Cool!

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We continued on and saw the signs for the trails. They were long trails but we figured we'd just do a portion and come back. Signs out by the trail head, read that there was an alert for bison on the trail routes and to proceed with caution. OK, we thought, we can be cautious. Bud and I headed down the trail which was cut into the forest and winding. Bud was a bit in front of me and I heard him yell all of a sudden,"there's a bison running on the road toward us. RUN!" We turned and ran back down the path not sure what we would do if it continued to chase. They can run up to 50 miles /hour! Luckily he did not keep coming but we saw him on the trail back tracking to his open field ahead and we took this picture.

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That route was definitely out of the question, so we headed down a second trail. We saw no wildlife on the trail, but we did pick up some hitch-hikers which I'll get to in a moment.

Back in our truck 45 minutes later, we headed back to the road the same way we came. On the side of the road right around the corner was another bison (who was considerably larger) who was running along side our truck. Cool! And then he began to chase the truck. Although we felt considerably safer, it still was a rather sobering encounter with nature. He chased us for at least a kilometre. Apparently he didn't like visitors on HIS trail. Eventually the bison stopped and walked back into a field and off the road.

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To return, we had to go through the enclosure again and the bison were now right up against the road we had to go through. They let us pass with no problems. We did, however, figure we would stop on the way back at the bison exhibit since we felt so in tune with them now. The exhibit was a number of reading panels but that didn't end up being the cool part. We looked up and saw many bird nests in the ceiling joists, many of them with baby birds in them. The birds had orange breasts and long split tail feathers. They were barn swallows and they were silent and swooped beautifully into feed the babies.

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As we silently watched, Bud suddenly motioned to me to come over to the lookout over the bison range. We didn't see any bison, but what we saw was a black bear!

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He had strolled over to root around for bugs in the bushes. He didn't see us for a long time and we were in the exhibit shelter above him so we were safe enough to stand and watch. Eventually, he looked up, saw us and walked away.

Riding Mountain National Park is, indeed full of wildlife experiences but unlike other parks where we have seen wildlife (like Yellowstone) we were very aware that we were invading their territory not the other way around.

When we got back to the trailer, a nap was in order. If you think I've forgotten to tell you about our hitch hikers - this is where they come in. Waking up from our nap, Bud noticed an insect on his leg. Well, we are camping so, so what. But then I saw another one and realized they were ticks. They are kind of like the leeches of the forest world and attach to animals like a parasite would. We then began a search-and found 2 more! The trailer, our clothes, and our gear was then turned upside down hunting for any others but it seemed clean.

We finished up the day with a treat! A full Italian dinner from the restaurant in town and then we watched Jersey Boys inherited park theatre.

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I told you Riding Mountain National Park had something for everyone.

Posted by blgracey 15:28 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Westward Trip-Riding Mountain National Park

sunny 22 °C

We were in a fight today and I'm pretty sure we won. A fight with the wind. As a result of the strong head wind, the truck drank more than its share of gas. It was gloomy and raining on and off all day.

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Ah, back on Canadian soil! We were met with fields of yellow and lots of water. Manitoba is experiencing flooding around many of its rivers and some secondary roads are washed out. This shouldn't effect our travels however.

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We stopped for a break, groceries and a late lunch in Winnipeg around 2:00. Portage La Prairie seemed to have the most water, with the river touching the underside of one bridge we went over.

We headed north on Highway 16 where we lost most of the heavy truck traffic, the winds shifted and the sun even came out! Things were looking up.

We stopped in Riding Mountain National Park to camp for the next two nights. At the check-in we were told the bears are very 'active' this year so away go all the goodies and the garbage.

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Night # 3 and we are finally having a fire (even though it's still pretty chilly)

Posted by blgracey 10:58 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Westward Trip - Bemidji, Minnesota

overcast 17 °C

While Flowing Well Campground was a nice place to stop for the night, being beside a river, and raining all night, is apparently the best place to be if you’re a mosquito too! In the morning we were ‘run out of town’ by the pesky beasts, literally.

Today we enjoyed a relaxing drive down Highway 2, through National Forests and State Parks. The traffic was very light which made for an easy drive at our own pace, although it was quite windy.

We left at 8:15am and drove to Bemidji in Minnesota. Here is a picture of us with Babe the Blue Ox and Paul Bunyan. They look the same as I remembered them from 35 years ago.

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At 6:00pm we surrendered and had dinner at the local Pizza Hut in Bemidji, where the service was fantastic! One last drive to the KOA up the road and we are in for the night.

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Posted by blgracey 18:50 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Westward trip - Hiawatha National Forest

Michigan U.P., Flowing Well Campground

overcast 23 °C

We are on our way on our western adventure! Packed and ready to go, we set off early Saturday morning, saying goodbye to our 2 sleepy sons who are in charge of holding down the fort while we are gone. Three weeks is just the right time to be missed and see our beautiful country.

The American border presented no problems and they asked us the usual questions and sent us on our way.

While the southern part of Michigan is fine and all, the Upper Peninsula is really beautiful. Getting there was a bit of an adventure in itself since there were high winds on the Macinac bridge so trailers had to go 20 miles an hour!

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When we turned on to Highway 2 the scenery got a whole lot more interesting. Beautiful sand dunes lined the coast of Lake Michigan. Lots of people were at the beaches but I couldn't help thinking it must be pretty cold in the Great Lakes this year.

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We drove through Hiawatha National Forest which spans much of the peninsula and didn't stop until 6:30pm. We stopped at Flowing Well Campground which only has 6 sites, none of which were taken! We picked our spot along the Sturgeon River and set up shop. There is no electricity or water hookups here but as an overnight spot it worked just fine. No firewood either (you could probably buy it at one of the bigger campgrounds) so no fire tonight.

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It's a quiet, pretty place and with our trailer, we have everything we need. After dinner it began to rain a bit so inside we stayed, nice and cozy, reading and enjoying the patter of raindrops.

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Posted by blgracey 18:43 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Port Burwell, Ontario

Dry camping

sunny 25 °C

With three weeks to go before our trip westward, Bud and I figured we'd better take a test drive to get out the kinks before we go. As most Provincial Parks were booked up this weekend, we reserved a site at Port Burwell Provincial Park on the north shore of Lake Erie. No electrical and no water this time out, but that made little difference to us. We arrived at 3:00 and were set up by 3:30 to site 138.

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Port Burwell P/P has fairly private spots, all of them well treed with fire pits. Our site is particularly secluded and we cannot see either of our neighbours. The partial sun was perfect for drying out the awning which hasn't seen the light of day since last year. We saw, or shall I say heard, many different song birds including many yellow finches and, of course, blue jays.

Before dinner we went for a walk around the campground and through the Ravine Creek Trail. The trail was well groomed with wood chips and board walks where necessary. The Mosquitos came out to play but weren't too bad with our bug juice on.

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Although the trilliums and spring flowers were only leaves now, other wild flowers were blooming including, phlox, buttercups and wild roses. Very pretty.

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We checked out some of the other sites and most were nicely level and semi-private but #203 is particularly nice backing onto the ravine and it was a deep lot. We may look into getting that one another time we are here.

Home tomorrow and then back to work on Monday, but our big trip is getting close now. We can hardly wait to hit the road!

Posted by blgracey 16:27 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Here we go...

The idea of recounting one's memories in a diary or a log is not a new one. My Uncle Dave has books and books -spanning 50 years- of diary entries of his experiences at his cottage, some of which I am in. It is a precious way of counting our experiences, sharing them with others, and in a strange way, validating them. This is our attempt at such a diary of sorts.

My Mom and Dad made me a traveller from day 1 and, although Bud was a late starter, we both crave the next adventure almost as soon as our RV hits the driveway at home. We are generally road warriors with stops to hike or canoe as our pictures will show and try not to hit the same places twice. If we show up in the same place more than once, you'll know its in our top 5 places on earth.

To get to know us better, here are some of our travel thoughts:

Goals:

  • To visit as many National/Provincial/State parks and Forests as possible
  • To see as much of Canada and The USA as we can
  • To do genealogy research in Europe

Favourite Natural Places:

  • Moraine Lake (Alberta, Banff National Park)
  • Algonquin Park (Ontario)
  • Dinosaur Provincial Park (Alberta)
  • Smokey Mountains National Park (Tennessee)
  • Cape Breton Island (Nova Scotia)

Favourite Citiies

  • Montreal, QC
  • Chicago, IL
  • Ottawa, ON
  • Quebec City, QC
  • Lexington, KY

Preferred Mode of Transportation: Our Jayco 17Z Hybrid Trailer

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Our plans this summer are to head west, mostly keeping to Canadian routes. In our blog we'll list good campgrounds, hiking trails and driving routes along with with memories we make.

Posted by blgracey 10:20 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

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