M-A's Musings and Travels

A place where I can ponder and remember wonderful trips, camping excursions and hiking adventures.

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Location:Whitefish, Montana

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Day Fifteen - May 30, 2005 - NW Territories

As we left Kootenay National Park, we saw our last wild life, two black bears, along the road. Unfortunately, not close enough for great camera shots.

We had breakfast at the Huckleberry Restaurant in Invermere where we had sampled and fallen in love with the local cottage fries during an earlier trip. We were not disappointed this time either. We also stopped at the huge grocery store in Invermere and loaded up on garlic coil sausage (Canada has great sausages) only to loose it at the border. We had forgotten the embargo on Canadian beef.

Green British ColumbiaAll the spring rain had kept southeast British Columbia and the Tobacco Valley around Eureka in Montana lusciously green.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Day Fourteen - May 29, 2005 - NW Territories

Sunwapta PassAnother gorgeous day greeted us for Day Fourteen, our last full day out.

Sunwapta CanyonAnd we knew the scenery which awaited us was the most majestic yet as we were headed out on the Icefields Parkway through Jasper National Park, over the Sunwapta Pass by the Columbia Icefield, and through Banff National Park, where we turned west through Kootenay National Park.

Athabasca PassAs we started out, we saw seven elk in Jasper. All the rivers were very milky with glacier silt. There so many gorgeous views, too many to show in one blog. We found ourselves stopping every few kilometers to views which were more fantastic than the ones we just experienced. The road through Jasper National Park was much better designed than the portion through Banff as it had many more turn-outs. Many of the turn-outs in Banff NP were not signed and we often were not able to stop in time with the traffic behind us to enjoy the views.

Tangle Falls
Weeping WallWe passed two beautiful waterfalls: Tangle Falls, and further south, the Weeping Wall.

Mountain SheepWe also encountered a totally unperturbed mountain sheep looking at us from the roadside.

Bow Lake
Bow GlacierDuring earlier trips down the Icefields Parkway, we had experienced more winter-like weather as soon as we crossed the Bow Pass, and we were greeted by the same winter-early spring terrain this time. Bow Lake was partially frozen.

Crowfoot GlacierHenry Lake
Majestic Crowfoot Glacier was towering on the west before we arrived at the partially frozen Henry Lake.

McCleod MeadowsFinally, here we are relaxing at the McLeod Meadows campground in Kootenay National Park. In previous years when we have passed by, this campground was closed so we were delighted to find it open this time. It is nestled among the mountains by the Kootenay River. As the river was quite high and swift, we chose one of the inner loops, away from the dangers to the dogs.

Day Thirteen - May 28, 2005 - NW Territories

Northeast of JasperDay Thirteen led us into the most gorgeous scenery in the world-the mountains of Jasper, Banff, and Kootenay National Parks.

Athabasca RiverFrom the Pierre Grey Lakes, we followed the high mountain road 40 toward Interstate 16 which leads into Jasper. Once we caught “Interstate" 16, we followed along side a very milky looking Athabasca River. Unfortunately, the road leading into the park contained very few turn-outs where we could take pictures of the majestic scenery.

Snaring River CampsiteOnce inside Jasper National Park, we found a very scenic campsite along the river at Snaring River Campground. We had stayed at this campground several times before as it is one of the few open this early in the year. Most campgrounds don’t open until the middle or end of June.

SnaringRiverThe weather was a very warm 80 degrees when we arrived in the early afternoon and still 72 outside at 10 pm. The wildlife count for the day was one coyote and six bighorn sheep.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Day Twelve - May 27, 2005 - NW Territories

Pierre Grey's LakesOur weather continued to be gorgeous - 74 degrees and only a few mosquitoes at Pierre Grey's Lakes Campground, situated south of Grande Cache in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.

North of Grande CacheDay Twelve took us through wonderfully green and lush Waipito River valley to Grande Prairie, a city of some 40,000 people. We saw typical rush hour traffic for the first time during our trip, and a Sears store, a Wal*Mart and shopping malls! Eeh gads! Civilization....

South of Grande Prairie we traveled through Smokey River valley to Grande Cache which is located against a fantastic view of the Canadian Rockies.

Park MapThe Pierre Grey Lakes Campground is one of four campgrounds in the William A. Switzer Provincial Park system with lots of canoeing, boating, fishing and hiking opportunities - looks like a great area to visit again. We noted there was a 12 km/hr speed limit on the lake.

Day Eleven - May 26, 2005 - NW Territories

Day Eleven turned out to be the nicest day yet in terms of weather. We had clear and sunny skies as we left Bridge Campground in northern Alberta. When we reached High Level, the large grocery store, Extra Foods, was not open yet so we had to wait around a bit before continuing down south.

We passed through the same country we had seen on the way north, however, when we reached Grimshaw, southwest of the town of Peace River, we were in virgin territory. We saw lots of deer and Canadian geese with babies along with a fox and two coyotes.

Dunvegan Provincial Park CampgroundWe camped at Dunvegan Provincial Park along the Peace River deep down in a very green valley - definitely mosquito country. The campground was very luscious and green and full of wonderfully sweet smelling dogwood trees.

Dunvegan BridgeDunvegan Provincial Park was located at the old Dunvegan Ferry site (long since replaced by a modern bridge).

Dunvegan Mission
Mission MapSome of the buildings dating back to the time of the old trading post located by the ferry were still at the site along with a map depicting how the buildings were constructed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Day Ten - May 25, 2005 - NW Territories

We left the cold, windy, and pre-spring weather in the Northwest Territories and returned to a much warmer Alberta-and lots of green trees and bushes. We also saw lots of bunnies, two porcupines, and a coyote along the roadside.

Bridge CampgroundOur campsite for Day Ten was a very rustic one along the Peace River, 42 miles east of the town of High Level. Here the afternoon was warm enough to spend sitting outside the camper and enjoy our first campfire in “balmy” 57 degrees. Ah, the wonderful smell of campfire smoke!

Fort VermillionThe campsite was a bit out of our way, but we got the opportunity to see historic Fort Vermillion, a small community along the Peace River within sight of the distant Caribou Mountains. Here we found lots of old, very picturesque buildings.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Day Nine - May 24, 2004 - NW Territories

Upside-down Sign
Our second morning in Yellowknife still greeted us with a very chilly wind. Since the weather proved to be so unwelcoming, we had decided to cut our visit short and head back south-hopefully, to warmer weather. However, we had to wait for the Coop and post office to open at 9 am so we used the time to fill up with gas and water. While filling our water tanks, we discovered this upside-down sign on the wall next to us.

Remembering all the delightful reindeer meat I had eaten while growing up in Sweden, we thought it’d be great to head back to the States with caribou steaks. We were told by the people at the Coop that probably the only place that would have caribou meat was the Fancy Meats store. Unfortunately, they didn’t have steaks but only some extremely expensive caribou sausage which we settled for.

On the way back toward North Arm where we cross the Great Slave Lake on a bridge and where Highway 3 turns south again, we decided to take the side trip in to the aboriginal community of Rae. We were horrified at the trashy conditional of the town with garbage strewn everywhere. Such a shame!

LadyEvelyn Terr. ParkLady Evelyn Terr. ParkContinuing south through the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, we saw lots of bison, one porcupine and one bear.

We stopped for the afternoon at the same Lady Evelyn Falls Territorial Park, which had been full of campers on the way up. This time, there was not a single camper in sight. And-just as on the way up-noone came to ask for any campground fees. At 6 pm, the temperature at the campground was 50 degrees Fahrenheit-what a difference from Yellowknife!

Day Eight - May 23, 2005 - NW Territories

On Day 8, we woke up to strong winds and a very cold 29 degree temperature. There was hardly a hint of any buds on the trees and bushes around Yellowknife.

City of YellowknifeThis day was strictly going to be devoted to sightseeing in the city of Yellowknife (pop. 18,000) and the surrounding area. As in Alaska, there were very few roads in the outlying areas; instead, there were lakes and rocky knolls everywhere. We were again struck by how an entire city could be built on these pink rocks-especially the Old Town portion, which juts out in to the mostly frozen Great Slave Lake. It is truly a city of contrasts with modern high-rise towers overlooking the rustic heritage buildings of Old Town.

View from Pilots' MemorialIn Old Town, we stopped by the Pilots’ Memorial, situated on top of a knoll, overlooking the bay, and after much cris-crossing, we found the famed and very picturesque Ragged Ass Road, hidden among some one-way streets. We also passed another famous Yellowknife land mark, the Wild Cat Café, however, it was not yet open. We stopped and perused the Gallery of the Midnight Sun and saw lots of interesting arts, crafts and novelties. Finally, we checked out all the local grocery stores, including a Wal*Mart (albeit, not a super center). The Coop was by far the best.
Ragged Ass Road
Wild Cat Cafe
We had intended to drive to the end of the 70 km long Ingraham Trail, which is only partially paved-the reason we ended up not driving the entire stretch. This “trail” winds through Precambrian landscape with scenic vistas of lakes, forest, ancient rock , and a variety of recreation opportunities. From the end of the trail, the Winter Access road begins, enabling the supplies to be brought up to the diamond mines in the Northwest Territories back-country. The diamond industry promises endless riches to this part of the otherwise forgotten world.

Bullocks BistroAs a treat in the evening (after returning to the Fred Henne Territorial Park to bake scones in the afternoon), we sampled the local fish at Bullock’s Bistro. Dale had Pike & Chips and I had Char & Chips, accompanied by a delightfully “naughty” garlicky/Roquefort salad. The Bistro was a very small “hole-in-the-wall” restaurant with one cook and one waitress who hailed from Dresden. We had to wait for our meal as the waitress “forgot” us, but it was well worth the wait. We can highly recommend this restaurant to visitors.

We returned to the campsite amidst snow flurries & 37 degrees temperature to watch a movie with Sophia Loren in the evening.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Day Seven - May 22, 2005 - NW Territories

The temperature this far north was considerably lower the next day in spite of a fairly warm afternoon the prior day. The further west and north we drove, the fewer buds we saw on the trees. It was clear that spring had not yet arrived.

Mackenzie RiverIn order to proceed to Yellowknife on the northern shores of Greater Slave Lake, we had to cross the Mackenzie River. It had never occurred to us that we would be taking a ferry let alone that the river might not yet be ice free. This “adventure” turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. We learned that the ferry was indeed running, but the river was not ice free. Instead, there were huge ice chunks floating everywhere on the ferry looked more like one of the Swedish icebreakers I was used to seeing. It was quite exciting to stand on the deck of the ferry and imagine falling in-you wouldn’t last long in the icy waters!

We had planned to get gas in Fort Providence but this was Sunday and Fort Providence was anything but a thriving metropolis. Not a store was open in this native community, located a few kilometers off the main Highway 3! Luckily for us, there was a store where we could fill up with both gas and water back on the highway and we were able to continue our trip north.

BisonOnce we crossed the Mackenzie River, we were in the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary and
we kept a sharp eye out for the huge animals. We were soon rewarded with a couple here and there, and quite further north, a herd which included some calves. We also saw another bear, a fox, a couple of porcupines and a bald eagle.

Rocky LandscapeOnce we crossed the North Arm of the Great Slave Lake on a huge bridge and turned east, the scenery changed drastically into a very rocky landscape. As we learned, these pink rocks are some of the oldest rock formations on earth. Here, the natives had erected very flimsy shacks with no seeming vehicular access. They certainly did not look warm enough to serve as winter abodes. Many areas reminded us of the extremely unkept native American reservations in the US.

Tent CampsiteWe reached a very cold and windy Yellowknife in the afternoon and paid for two nights’ stay at the Fred Henne Territorial Park, which is totally built in among the rocks on which the town of Yellowknife is also built.

Day Six - May 21, 2005 - NW Territories

We woke up to overcast skies but our camp spot had “stood its ground” during the night’s drizzle and the camper was on solid ground.

NW Territories borderWe reached the 60th parallel, the border between Alberta and the Northwest Territories, at 7.40 am and were happy to encounter a heated, clean, and modern restroom at the Visitors’ Center that was open even though the sign said it wouldn’t open until 8.30 am.

Bear in Tree
Our first excitement in the new territory was to find a black bear high up in the birch tree on the side of the road about 1.5 km north of the border. We stopped and took lots of pictures, but alas, he doesn’t look much more than a black blur in most of them. Shortly, another black bear crossed the road ahead of us, but he didn’t stick around for any pictures.

Alexandra Falls
Louise Falls
The road number changed to Highway 1 once we crossed into the Northwest Territories. This road is also known as the Waterfalls Highway, so named for the many gorgeous waterfalls located on Hay River which runs parallel to the highway. We stopped at majestic Alexandra and Louise Falls which were viewable after short walks from the interpretive areas.

Great Slave Lake
We followed Highway 1 to the town of Enterprise-little more than a few buildings at the junction of Highways 1 and 2. From here, we continued north to the town of Hay River, where we also caught our first glimpse of the Great Slave Lake. Imagine our surprise when we found the lake mostly frozen with high snow banks on the shore!

Hay River School
Hay River is one of the larger communities in the territory and even sports a high rise visible as far away as from the Slave River Lowlands Overview on Highway 1, way down to the south and west. The town was also home to the city hall as well as an unusual looking school building.

Lady Evelyn Falls
From Hay River, we returned down to the Waterfalls Highway, heading west towards Lady Evelyn Falls Territorial Park, situated about 6 km from the main highway. The campground was absolutely full, with almost every spot of the day use area filled with overnighting campers as well. We joined the rest of them and eked out our own spot right in front of the restroom (which was closed during the night) where we were able to have the second shower of our trip. We waited until about 10 pm for someone to collect the camping fee and even asked if someone would be around. However, according to the native hosts, they “were to busy at the moment.” Well, their loss, we figured, since they still had not collected the fee by the time we left the next morning.

Day Five - May 20, 2005 - NW Territories

We were awakened early by some newly arrived campers who wanted to secure a campsite for the upcoming long Canadian Queen Victoria week end. Once they positioned their huge rigs, they left. We wondered how anyone could stand a whole weekend of those annoying, loud flying insects!

Once we left the Peace River area, we were driving north on Highway 35 toward the town of High Level, leaving most of the civilization behind. Along this route, we caught a glimpse of our first bear south of Keg River. He was calmly munching on the vegetation and not at all bothered by the traffic.

In High Level we found a huge Extra Foods grocery store and were able to replenish our supplies in grand style. This store had an interesting loss leader. Their fuel center gave a rebate of 4.5 cents per liter, which could only be exchanged in the grocery store. We later received 7.5 cents per liter at a similar facility in Grande Prairie.

Continuing north from High Level I found out the hard way that the road side was extremely muddy and soft. I sank down to my ankle in mud during a pit stop and had to sit with a muddy shoe until we could find some water to clean up.

Roadside CGEven though the map showed there were supposed to be a couple of camp sites along the road, we were unable to find them. Instead, we found a flat area, partially hidden by trees on the west side of the highway, some 11 miles south of the 60th Parallel. Here we were able to pull off to camp as the ground was quite hard. We had been concerned about recent rain and the weight of the truck/camper, but the ground seemed solid enough. Our only discomfort was the presence of large mosquitoes.

Day Four - May 19, 2005 - NW Territories

Another rainy night and we were beginning to wonder how Highway 88 in northern Alberta has fared during all the recent rain. We had intended to inquire in Swan Hills as we got closer to the road but as it supposedly is not paved, we feared we might have to change our route again.

We headed for the RCMP office in Swan Hills on Route 32, however even though it was after 8.30 am, the door was locked and it looked deserted. Instead, we inquired at a gas station and a local business if they knew anything about the road conditions, but even though Highway 88 was only some 100 km away, noone had been up the road.

We saw mainly woods, oil pumps, and pipelines along the side of the still very straight road north of Swan Hills. Some trees again remind us of the spindly and scraggly-looking evergreen tiga forests in Alaska. There was also murky, dark standing water everywhere. The ground seemed to be flooded everywhere. We also noticed that most rural houses had adjoining rectangular sewage lagoons, and figured the ground must not be suited for septic tanks. Perhaps that's why there was so much standing water!

Once we reached the east-west running Highway 2 by Kinuso on the south side of Lesser Slave Lake, we took a chance and headed east toward the community of Slave Lake where Highway 88 begins. We were not able to see the lake from the highway, however. Once at Slave Lake, we found an open RCMP station and were able to get some more reliable information. Unfortunately, our fears were confirmed-the road was not one to be relied upon. So, feeling we wanted to play it safe, we decided to go back the same way we came to Kinuso and on to the west up to Priest River instead. This meant that we would be coming back down south again following the same route, something we wanted to avoid. However, it could not be helped.

Before leaving, we toured the community of Slave Lake and found it to be quite a decent-sized town with several large stores located at the southeastern end of Lesser Slave Lake.

Peace RiverHighway 2 took us through High Prairie up north to the town of Peace River, located deep down in the very,very green and pretty Peace River valley. The river, however, was very brown and muddy. We learned from the locals that the river never runs clear.

Queen Elizabeth CG
Cardinal LakeWe camped at the Queen Elizabeth Provincial Park, a few miles west of the town. Here we heard an extremely loud humming noise again, and discovered that this time, we were surrounded by bugs rather than what we first thought were RV generators.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Day Three - May 18, 2005 - NW Territories

Rather than going back to the main Highway 22 the same way we came, Dale insisted on being adventurous and making a loop. I insisted the road wouldn't be paved the entire way but since we were not in any hurry, why not! Why not indeed! We did encounter some very rough, unpaved terrain and almost got lost, but after a few unpleasant turns, we were back on the main road towards Mountain House.

After spending some $90 (Canadian) for gas, we felt justified in asking for water from the gas station, but at the price of $5 for a fill-up, we felt we could wait. Sure different than in the States!

Straight RoadOur original route would have been way to the west of Mountain House on the trunk road, but with the change in plans we were back going north on Highway 22. From Mountain House on, the road seemed an endless straight ribbon going directly north with nothing but intermittent green pastures and coves of deciduous trees, mostly aspen, on each side. We made a pit stop for the dogs by the noise was due to some underground electrical wires but decided it had to be thousands of mating frogs! Boy were they loud!

We stopped for lunch at the Drayton Valley turnoff; then on to the McDonald's Golden Arches in Whitecourt where the dogs got a nice treat. At Whitecourt, population 8,300, we crossed the McCleod River just before it joins the Athabasca River (David Thompson' alternate route to the Continental Divide after Piegan Indians caused his party trouble on the North Saskatchewan).

North of Drayton Valley, we joined the main Interstate Highway 16 for a brief distance west until Highway 32, which took us north again up to Whitecourt, a town sufficiently large to have a Wal*Mart store.

Carsons PegasusBy now, the terrain had changed to more dense woods of fir trees, almost resembling the tigas of Alaska. After crossing both the Saskatchewan and the Athabasca Rivers, we stopped for the day at Carsons Pegasus Provincial Park at McLeod Lake, just north of Whitecourt, where we were treated to the first showers of our trip.

Day Two - May 17, 2005 - NW Territories

KananaskisTo our dismay, it rained the entire night, which made the forest trunk road a slippery disaster, especially with a camper. Instead, we were forced to change our intended route and leave the trunk road for the paved Highway 22, which took us further east and, unfortunately, out of the majestic mountainous scenery. We had intended to follow the Forest Trunk road the entire way along the eastern side of the Rockies all the way until it connected with Highway 40, south of Edson and east of Jasper.

Highway 22 took us through many smaller communities east of Calgary such as Sundre and Cochrane. Cochrane seemed to have grown into quite a modern suburb to Calgary since our last visit and here, we took advantage of the three grocery stores, including a Safeway. It’s always fun so much fun to look around in grocery stores in “foreign” countries!

Tay RiverWe had planned to stay at a little campground by Phyllis Lake, west of Sundre on the smaller road 584, but it was very a very uninviting windy and wet setting. Instead, we continued west to Tay Campground along the Tay River. Here, we found lots of budding trees and bushes along the river, which was rather swift, and Muffen made sure he got tied up by racing around much too close to the most torrent part of the river.

Day One - May 16, 2005 - NW Territories

Montana gave us a gray and rainy send-off as we began our trek north. However, the Canadian skies which greeted us as we crossed the border into British Columbia began to show patches of blue. We were waved on by the border patrol into Canada after many suspicious questions such as were we planning on returning to the US together? Did the man think Dale was on a “sell the wife” mission! Upon giving our destination as Yellowknife, the customs official wished us a good time in the Yukon! Not one very well versed in his own geography.

Crowstnest PassThe trip east on Highway 3 over Crowsnest Pass from Highway 93 coming from the US - Canada border is a very pretty one. It took us first through Elk River Valley to Fernie where we “loaded up” on beer and wine, and had lunch. Since there is a limit on what you can bring in to Canada, we hadn’t brought much in the way of libations. We always marvel at the high wine prices in Canada, about three times those in the US.

Big TruckNext, we stopped in Sparwood, the "coal valley country" to look at the huge truck on display along the highway and for some last minute groceries before we headed into the “wilds” of the Alberta mountains at Coleman. Here we caught Forest Trunk Road 940 in a northerly direction. This road is also called the Kananaskis Road, however, the portion through Kananaskis Country is closed to protect the elk during the spring season.

Coleman is situated directly east of Crowsnest Pass (the border between BC and Alberta) in a very pretty setting in the middle of the Rocky Mountains and with Crowsnest Mountain looming over the countryside.

We were warned that the road was not maintained and that we were “traveling at our own discretion,” a fact we already knew from earlier trips, but we should have taken the sign as an omen as we later learned.

Dutch CreekThe road climbed in altitude and soon we saw snow on the sides of the road and lots of deciduous trees without any buds. Spring was yet a week or two away at this altitude. We made our first stop at Dutch Creek Campground, one of the many rustic campgrounds along this forest road. We were able to sit outside in the afternoon, albeit in sweat shirts.