08-14-2014 The Long Way Home from Kaslo Part 1

Current Location: at home in Rocky Point

There are many options when planning the route home, but there was no option that didn’t include visiting the little town of Nelson on the west arm of Kootenay Lake.  I remember Nelson as a small logging community, but even back in the 70’s and 80’s there was some cute stuff there.  By the time my friend Maryruth and I saw it, the cultural creative boom was already happening.

Nelson and homeward (4 of 70) Our last day in British Columbia started with rain, and it only got heavier as we traveled south.  Big thunderheads loomed above us as we packed up the rig and the first big drops fell just as we drove out of the campground.

There is a dump station associated with the campground in Kaslo.  It costs $5 Canadian if you are a registered camper, $8. if not, but it is only open for a couple of hours in the morning and in the evening.  We wanted to leave early morning, but the 9am opening of the dump lock gave us the luxury of a leisurely breakfast.  We decided to go get in line about 8:45, just in time to be ahead of a big fifth wheel that thought they were going to dump immediately.  Sorry, I told them, the manager doesn’t get up till nine.  She has a big sign on her door that is a pretty good indication that she doesn’t want to be bothered until exactly 9AM.  Who can blame her.  Being a campground host must be awful sometimes, everyone always wants something.

Nelson and homeward (5 of 70)Sure enough, just at 9, she showed up looking a bit sleep rumpled and unlocked the cover.  We were ready with hoses out and ready to go so it only took us a few minutes to dump.  We have that teamwork down pat.  We also have the hookup the car thing down pat as well, and I laughed to see a couple of people in the campground taking time out from morning coffee to watch us hook up the Tracker in a few quick clicks.  Moments like that I get all cocky and like to show off.  Men especially get a kick out of watching us do things efficiently.  I have to be careful to not get too cocky because I could just as easily do something stupid or the hitch would stick or the pins would drop in a manhole or something.

Still, we were on the road by 9:10 after a particularly good dump.  You know the ones.  The tank sensors are all the way green, the flashlight down the toilet reflects on the shiny bottom, and all is good.  I can’t figure out why they all aren’t like that.

leaving kaslo capture The road to Nelson followed our route to Balfour and continued along the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, where we saw gorgeous sandy beaches along the beautiful wide river/lake and homes to match.  The closer we got to Nelson, the more waterside mansions began to appear.  Hmmm, I could live here, I thought.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  A bit later, as I perused the Real Estate magazines in Nelson, I saw that those houses were in the vicinity of a couple million bucks.  Gentrification is everywhere.  What happened to the sleepy logging town in the wilds of BC??

We did love Nelson, and did our usual initial search for the Visitor Center.  Right in front of the building, across the street, was curb parking for the MoHo and Tracker.  No parking meters, and a driveway behind us so that if someone parked in front of us we could still exit gracefully.  A quick stop inside yielded a pretty young thing who knew ALL the best places to eat a great breakfast and told me we could park for a few hours free if we wanted to.

With the cool rain falling, Abby was quite content to remain inside resting.  This is a new phenomena.  At 12, it seems her separation anxiety has subsided enough that sometimes, not always, she will wait in the MoHo without barking and going into a general state of panic.  Lucky for us.  Hard rain means that even with dog friendly patios for dining, we might not want to sit outside in the rain with the dog.

Nelson and homeward (1 of 70)Climbing the stairs in the lovely little town built on the side of a cliff, we found the main drag and the string of shops and restaurants that are the mainstay of Nelson.  Full Circle Cafe at 11AM still had a long line of folks waiting, but it was the best and we wanted to try it so we put our name on the list and waited.  What a great place.  More of that signature British Columbia organic stuff with tofu scrambles, and 6 kinds of free range eggs benedict selections.  I think they specialized in hollandaise because it came on everything, even the tofu!

Nelson and homeward (12 of 70) Yum.  I had an omelet with perfect caramelized onions, goat cheese, and French ham, topped with hollandaise.  Insanely good.  Mo had what was called the Redneck Burger, free range beef, but that is where the redneck adjective stopped working.  I never saw spinach and sprouts on a redneck anything!  Her salad was one of the best I have tried.  Yum again.

Nelson and homeward (10 of 70) We wanted to get back on the road, with no idea of where we might spend the night, but knew it would be somewhere back in the US.  I navigated toward the border, but my BC map in the big Atlas didn’t have enough detail, and with my phone turned off I also didn’t have Google to help out.  The GPS is worthless if you don’t have an address, and we didn’t really know exactly where we were headed anyway. 

Nelson and homeward (11 of 70)Somehow we ended up going through Salmo instead of Trail and to the beautifully quiet border crossing at Metaline Falls. We didn’t stop at Salmo, but in passing I caught glimpses of some rather amazing stone murals that are the pride of this small town.  Hard rain and the upcoming border nixed any ideas of exploring.

sawrockmural_1 Getting back into the US was a bit more complicated than we have ever experienced, and the main culprit was dog food!  We knew about the requirements, so Mo was prepared with food in the original bags, but they saw the doggie treat bag and had to check that as well to be sure the treats were made in the USA.  They also asked to come in the rig and would we please restrain the dog.  Then they asked for the keys to the baby car where the big sack of dog food was stored. 

After searching the car and part of the rig, they then wanted an additional photo that matched our passports.  While looking at our passports and drivers’ license, they asked what we did before we retired, where we were going, where we had been, and the names of our firstborn children.  Oh not that last part actually.  They were kind and we had nothing to hide so it was more entertaining than anything, but different than we are used to.  After 20 minutes or so we rolled back into the good ole USA.

Nelson and homeward (13 of 70) Metaline Falls is a tiny town on the gorgeous Pend Oreille River, the downriver part of the same river we traveled on our trip north previously.  I had never been on this route and it was gorgeous.  Even in the rain we stopped to hike up to the lovely falls at the Sweet Creek Falls Wayside on the route of the North Pend Oreille Scenic Byway.  For those not familiar with the northwest, the pronunciation is Pond er Ray.  Just thought I would mention that.  As Spokane is Spo Can, not Spo Kane…and Oregon is Or E Gun not Or E Gone…and Nevada…ooops.  guess I got carried away.  I have been writing these posts for a couple of days now and am getting a bit rummy.

Nelson and homeward (21 of 70) We turned west toward Kettle Falls through the town of Colville.  It was originally the plan to enter the states through Northport and possibly find a place to camp somewhere along the Columbia River.  Instead, far south of good camping spots on the river, we continued west on Highway 20 toward Sherman Pass.  Stopping in Kettle Falls to top off our fuel, (did I mention we didn’t have to add fuel to the MoHo in Canada?) we wanted to be sure we were ready for boondocking and using the generator.  Sometimes it is easy to think, oh we have more than a quarter tank, we can fuel up tomorrow.  Not so smart when you want to run the generator.  It doesn’t take much fuel, but it doesn’t like a tank below a quarter full and will not run when it drops below that point.

Nelson and homeward (27 of 70) We started up Sherman Pass with a couple of campgrounds in mind, but looking more closely I could see that the more distant one was at 5200 feet and only allowed rigs less than 24 feet long.  We could fudge that sometimes, at 26 feet, but why bother when the closer campground had a 30 foot length limit. 

Turned out to be a fabulous choice.  Except for one other rig on the opposite side of the campground, we were the only ones there.  We got a perfectly level site with a campfire ring and no campfire restrictions, and best of all a nice big stash of ready cut firewood for Mo to split.  Mo loves a good campfire and with fire restrictions being all over the place it was nice to enjoy a big fire and some marshmallows.  The campsite fee was a hefty $3.00 with our senior pass.

Nelson and homeward (23 of 70) There were bear warnings at the campground kiosk, so we kept Abby close, but most of the huckleberries were gone so I didn’t worry too much.  Would have been nice to see a bear from the safety of the rig.  The signs indicated that in addition to black bear, there were also grizzly in the area.  What I didn’t know at the time is that there are also some viable, active wolf packs in that part of the country as well. 

Nelson and homeward (26 of 70) After our yellow lighted nights at the Kaslo Campground, the thick darkness and quiet of the Canyon Creek FS campground on Sherman Pass was incredible.  The sounds of the rain and a huge thunderstorm only added to the coziness of the MoHo, and actually being cool enough for a blanket was pretty nice, too.

I thought I could fit the entire trip home into one post, but it seems that isn’t to be the case.  We did some cool new stuff on the rest of the route that I don’t want to skimp on. Guess I’ll have to go change the title for this one.

Next:  The Long Way Home Part 2


08-13-2014 Four Days in Kaslo

Current Location: Home in Rocky Point Oregon

I spent a lot of time reviewing the few options for RV parks in the vicinity of Kaslo before we made our reservation.  I know that reviews are not always accurate, but if there are bad reviews, I try to check for the date and then see if the good reviews are a response to the bad ones.  Sometimes it is fairly clear that the park owners or managers have tried to offset the negativity.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (41 of 71) In this case, I decided to ignore the few bad remarks about the Municipal Park and pay attention the bad remarks about some of the other places.  Turns out I made a good choice.  I wanted hookups, and what I didn’t learn from the reviews is that anything more than 15 amp power is rarely available.  The Kaslo Municipal Campground had just three sites with 30 amp power, so I was extremely glad that I had made a reservation.

 Kaslo Municipal Campground When we arrived, there were a couple of other rigs in line, and as I walked up to the crowd of people, the manager said, “Excuse me, but I need to attend to Sue here before I check you in because she has a reservation”.  She knew who I was from our rig!  Pretty nice.  Then she gave me a choice.  We could take the nice shady site on the hill, not very level, and with 15 amp power, or we could take the crowded sunny (hot) site with a sliver of lake view next to the park and 15 amp power until the next day when we would get the 30 amp post.

I was all for the shade, but Mo opted for the 30 amp.  Either way, our first night was going to be a hot one.  Once again, we put the fridge on gas only and didn’t even bother trying to turn on the air.  The fan had to be enough and with the temps a hot and somewhat humid (for the west) 90 degrees F we waited for a breeze.

Kaslo Municipal Campground Nice thing about our site, however is that it backed up to the park, with just a few hundred yards to a spot where we could launch the kayaks.  With fairly strong winds on the lake, we didn’t unload them the first night, deciding to wait for better weather the next morning.  Instead we had supper before taking a lovely stroll along the lake and up toward the sweet little town of Kaslo.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (66 of 71) It still had the charm that I remembered, but just a bit more so, with many eateries, little shops, and the beautiful Kaslo Hotel right above the shoreline and the marina. Even with the smoky skies, the surrounding mountains were magnificent. 

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (47 of 71) My favorite moment, however, was spying these two ladies in their rigs visiting along the park in front of their lovely retirement home.  If it weren’t for winter, this might be a really nice place to spend your last days.

Kootenay Lake kayak (4 of 27)Kootenay Lake kayak (3 of 27) The next day we launched the kayaks, in spite of the strong breezes and managed a few miles south of town along the shore, and then back north and into Kaslo Bay.  The water was deep and clear, but the beaches near the campground are made up of large rocks, making for some gingerly walking to get the boats in and out of the water.

north of Kaslo (26 of 46) On another day we decided to explore the road north toward Duncan Lake, and took the long dirt road to the towns of Argenta and Johnsons Landing.  We read about these two historic places in the Kaslo travel guide and Mo loves old small historic towns, so 30 miles or so round trip on a dirt road seemed worth it.  To our surprise, Johnson’s Landing is completely locked up and private, and we didn’t drive as far as the world famous trailhead at the entrance to Fry Canyon.   There are a LOT of day hikes and longer hikes in the Kaslo area.

Someday, when Abby doesn’t need to be pampered with short walks, we may come back and hike the canyon, but on this day we knew long hikes were not on the agenda.  Abby is doing well, but long hikes are out of the question.

Kootenay Lake north of KasloOn a bit more sober note, I took several photos of what looked to me like a glacial outburst type of landform, adjacent to the lake near Johnson’s Landing.  Nowhere did I find information about this until today, researching links for this blog, when I found the story of the devastating Johnson’s Landing Landslide of 2012. (link here)  It is somewhat disturbing to me that I could blithely drive around this area, that I could talk to people in Kaslo about being there and going there, and not one local person mentioned this tragedy.  Just for perspective, here is another ( link ) to what we read about Argenta and Johnson’s Landing from the BC tourism website.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?

north of Kaslo (45 of 46) We did finally find something to look at in the community of Argenta, where the travel guide said “there are many self sufficient types located here.” I imagined hunters and fishermen, but instead we found huge organic gardens and lovely tanned men in colorful sarongs and young women with beautiful hair driving older SUV’s.  Not many mind you, but enough to realize that this area was an enclave to hippies in the best sense of what that word can mean.

Today, while researching this post, I found this rather fascinating story about Argenta that wasn’t in the Kaslo Visitor Guide.  Seems as though a group of California Quakers established the community, building the Argenta Friends School where they taught homesteading skills and welcomed draft dodgers.  The school was closed but the nature of the community has remained intact.  Peace loving, simple living Quakers and peace loving, simple living hippies have a lot in common.

north of Kaslo (18 of 46)We drove north toward the Duncan Dam, found the beautiful overlook and gorgeous lake, and then traveled north even further to the tiny hamlet of Howser. 

north of Kaslo (28 of 46) There is a lovely Provincial campground at the end of the road, and we were really sorry we hadn’t put the kayaks back on the car after our day on the water at the bigger and windier Kootenay Lake.north of Kaslo (35 of 46) I took photos of campsites where the MoHo could fit, with only a couple of miles of dirt road to navigate.  I am sure we will return to this place.  Both of us loved Duncan Lake more than Kootenay Lake: it was far more remote and protected with the glassy water kind of kayaking and bird life that we love.

north of Kaslo (12 of 46) We also checked out the two Provincial campgrounds right on Kootenay Lake just a few miles north of Kaslo.  Both Davis Creek and Lost Ledge campgrounds are on the water with beautiful views.  No hookups and no reservations, but there were spaces available on the day we visited, so we do hope to someday return and camp.  We decided a few days of boondocking would be interspersed with a day or two at the Municipal Campground where we could charge up and dump before going back to the north.

north of Kaslo (27 of 46)A nice advantage of returning to Kaslo was the delightful outdoor eatery, boasting gluten free sourdough bread, and non GMO foods.  Healthy alternative lifestyles are the norm in this part of British Columbia and it was so refreshing.  Of course, I had a Rueben hot dog, not very healthy or gluten free, but oh so yummy!  They had home made ice cream there as well, but we never managed a return visit.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (54 of 71)Our last day turned out to be cooler and rainy, and we just took some time to relax, go for town walks, and in the afternoon Mo drove me 12 miles or so back south along Highway 31 to Ainsworth Hot Springs, high on my list of todo’s in this area.  Mo didn’t want to leave Abby for an extended time, so while I went to the springs, she explored the lakeshore toward Balfour and found a gorgeous beach with beautiful water and sand where Abby played and swam.  Mo said she even swam all on her own just for fun without Mo having to throw something to encourage her.

(I took no camera or phone to the springs, so these photos are from the internet)

ainsworth_hot_springs_bc_02 I spent two glorious hours, for the paltry sum of $11.00 Canadian, soaking in the hot odor free mineral waters that have made Ainsworth famous.  The springs are no longer in their natural state, but the water is wonderful, and in the big pool the exchange rate is about 6 times per day.  I was glad it wasn’t a weekend, but the place was quite crowded with kids and people, mostly Canadians, but I heard many different languages being spoken.  French, of course, but also Russian and I heard a woman with a beautiful accent from South Africa.

img_ainsworth_pool It was fun being there alone, and I didn’t engage much, but listened to the Canadians talking about their country and their towns.  Especially interesting were the conversations about Calgary becoming way too big with crime coming into the neighborhoods and Lethbridge being a gorgeous place to live with a wonderful university.  I do love my country, I wouldn’t choose any other, but I did find myself unwilling to give away my US accent.  I felt like a true foreigner in a foreign land.  Don’t let the similarities fool you, Canada is NOT the USA.

ainsworth_caves2The best part about Ainsworth Hot Springs are the caves.  They are shaped like a big horseshoe, and the water is about waist deep and the temps were 104F on the day I visited.  You enter the cave, and then walk through into the dark hot steamy interior.  Part way in a very hot waterfall provides a great neck massage if you can stand it and by the time you reach the other end of the horseshoe you are ready for some cool air!  The cave ends in another hot pool, and adjacent to that is the ice plunge pool.  On this hot day, the ice plunge was a balmy 49 degrees F, but after the heat and steam it was still enough of a shock to get your blood tingling.  The ice pool also has a waterfall that is a bit harder to stand under than the hot one.

Ainsworth-Hot-Springs-Cave-2-by-Marcin-Chady After a few rounds through the cave and the ice plunge, I would go back to the main pool and eavesdrop on all sorts of nearby conversations.  When Mo returned two hours later to pick me up I was limp as a dishrag.  Once again, don’t pay attention to the negative reviews.  Ainsworth is a treasure to enjoy for exactly what it is.  Not fancy, not natural, but a special place.

north of Kaslo (31 of 46) There is so much to see in the area, great art galleries and some small museums in Kaslo, including the beautiful sternwheeler the Moyie, but on this trip even three full days and half another didn’t give us enough time to enjoy all of it.  The S.S. Moyie is the world’s oldest intact passenger sternwheeler and has been lovingly restored in the last few years.  It represents a great era of the history of Kootenay Lake and Kaslo.  I loved hearing the loud steam horn blow in the afternoons.

Kootenay Lake kayak (27 of 27)It was with a bit of melancholy that we left on Thursday morning.  But there was something very special waiting for me back in  Klamath Falls on the coming weekend and I wasn’t about to miss it.  We knew our time wouldn’t be long enough but it was OK.  We saw enough to know that this is a place we will return without question.  It is under 1,000 miles from home and best of all, it isn’t at all crowded!  After being in the Canadian National Parks of Banff and Jasper when it felt like a crazy zoo, it was so refreshing to enjoy the beautiful Canadian Rockies in such peace.  

Drive to Duncan Lake If you are interested in ALL the photos, they are here in my SmugMug trip gallery:

Next: the Long Way Home


Day 39 August 13 Back in the USA Cranbrook BC to Bonners Ferry Idaho

morning at WalMartWe woke to beautiful sunny skies in our filled WalMart parking lot.  Out behind the rig a dad was tossing a baseball to his two kids and they were yelling at each other like it was mid-afternoon in a park rather than 7am in a parking lot.  It was nice to have shopping a few steps away, and a cheap RV dump just down the street at the Husky station. We even had fast WiFi right in the parking lot from the McDonalds located WalMart.

We sent and received emails from our friends in Bonners Ferry, confirming an afternoon arrival when Georgette would be back from Spokane.  Since there was time to spare, we decided it would be great to backtrack ten miles for the 10:00 AM opening of the Fort Steele Heritage Town.

Fort Steele such a beautiful locationThe site contains restored buildings from the original town, as well as re-constructed buildings that would have been typical to the area during the period between 1890 and 1905, complete with costumed actors discussing the daily (1895) news as they walk the streets. It turned out to be a great experience and a truly lovely little town.  I found myself often slipping back to a time when the streets were quiet except for the clip clop of horses pulling wagons. There was a working blacksmith, and a wonderful bakery where I bought heavy loaves of great sourdough bread for us and for our Bonners Ferry friends.

the Kootenay River from the water tower at Fort SteeleThe glacial lake terrace nestled at the base of the Kootenay Mountains above the Kootenay River is soft and lush.  I can see how it would have been a perfect place for a settlement of any kind. The buildings have been restored and furnished with loving care and the setting is beautiful.  We ambled along the streets for more than two hours, finishing our wanderings with a cone of home made fabulous ice cream for Mo and I had a root beer float.  It was hot, and I do love root beer floats, especially when made with vintage root beer.

but everyone loves AbbyNina and Paul (the folks over at one of my favorite blogs “Wheelin’It” would appreciate the dog friendly atmosphere, with Abby welcomed into the site and bowls of doggie water conveniently placed around for the hot day. It was a great deal for only 5 bucks per person, with a two day pass including all the wagon rides and the vaudeville show available for only $20 per person.

wagon rides are part of the $20. two day admission fee.  We just paid 5 bucks each no extras.By noon it was about time to amble down the road a few miles to the US border and once again cross into our home country.  We were ready with all our papers and passports, having become old hands at this border crossing thing after so many times coming and going on this trip. At the crossing, we stayed well back of the big white line and the stop sign while a few cars ahead of us seemed to be crossing without incident.  When it was our turn, we could see at least a dozen cameras aimed at all the strategic points of our rig recording every possible angle.  We also know about the scanners that can see the hidden lines in US paper money and let the guards know exactly how much money you are carrying if it is in bigger bills.

The questions were simple, and our border crossing guard was an amiable guy.  He didn’t even ask how long we had been away, what dates we left the USA, when we left Alaska, etc, all questions that we had memorized with careful checks of the calendar.  He simply looked at us and asked Mo what the license number of the rig was.  Now come on!  How many of us know our license numbers by heart!  Luckily I could answer quickly because I am the one that usually goes inside when we register for campgrounds and after this trip I had it down! He waved away my offering of the animal papers with a friendly smile, and said “Welcome home”.  That was just so easy.

all the logs hand finished interiorit is dog heaven at Georgette's houseIn just 30 more miles we were driving up the narrow dirt road to Georgette and Chet’s beautiful spacious log home overlooking the Kootenay Valley at Bonners Ferry.  We visited last year on our way out for our trip to the northeast, and now this year on our way back home from Alaska. 

Georgette trains Australian Cattle Dogs for herding and is now working on herding ducks, in addition to sheep and cows. Her dog is a great champion, and he thought Abby was just the cutest thing around. We found out that the racoon tail that looks like it was grafted on an Australian Cattle Dog is a sign of their pedigree, and the “lesser” blue heelers (which Abby has a bit of in her genes) have docked tails.

Georgette is a great cook and an even greater talker and we always have a wonderful time when we get together over wine and good food.  They have a nice level site for the MoHo with water and electric, and enough power that the AC ran just fine to keep Jeremy nice and cool during the exceptionally warm evening. It’s always nice to spend time with good friends and we laughed long into the dark night before going back to the MoHo to greet a very lonely and vocal cat. 

Capture 85 milesMiles traveled today: 85

A few photos from this day are linked here

Photos of the Fort Steele Heritage Town are linked here



Day 38 August 12 Jasper NP to Cranbrook, BC

dawn on the Athabasca Riverhighest point on the Icefield ParkwayBy the time morning came and I had a good night’s sleep, I was in a much better mood, and knowing that I still had a camera that worked helped my mood as well.  We didn’t have much of a plan for the day except to continue south along the Columbia Icefield Parkway, to see at least part of Banff, maybe visit Lake Louise, and then find a place to camp for the night.

We left the campground quite early, hoping to have plenty of time to amble along and see whatever caught our fancy.  In fact, it was so early that I had trouble taking photos with much of the landscape still shadowed by the incredibly high and steep Rocky Mountains all around me. As we climbed to the summit of the parkway, I was excited about seeing another glacier and the famous Columbia Icefield.

Jasper NP Day 38 (18)Jasper is certainly beautiful, and the Rockies have their own personality, all that limestone makes shapes that are very different from the volcanic and wild metamorphic mountains that we have traveled through in Alaska.  We arrived at the glacier early enough to miss the most of the tourists.

Jasper NP Day 38 (28)I had somehow expected lots of ice along the Icefields Parkway, I have no idea why, but I pictured it all snowy and icy and that we would be driving very close to the icefields and the glaciers.  It isn’t that way at all.  The glacier itself is just a small piece of its former glory, like so many others, it has receded dramatically in the last half century.  We walked around a bit, but weren’t inspired to do much hiking through all the rubble to the tiny bit of dirty blue ice that was visible to us from the trailhead.

Columbia Glacier on the Icefield ParkwayAgain, there were the markers showing the extent of the ice in  years past, and the incredibly fast rate of recent recession.  The visitor center at the summit of the parkway is reputed to be beautiful and interesting, but the parking lot was already getting full and we just weren’t up to another battle to see more stories about the Columbia Icefield. 

Do I sound jaded?  I don’t mean to.  It was truly a beautiful drive, Jasper NP Day 38 (56)but we were so very spoiled by the beauty and especially the isolation in Alaska that it was hard to get into visiting here.  I hope we go back sometime, and take the time to enjoy the special beauty of the Canadian Rockies and the beautiful national parks, and especially some of the surrounding areas.  Sometime when I am not filled with images of solitude and isolation and roads that stretch for miles without another vehicle in sight.

Jasper NP Day 38 (68)As we continued south, the traffic started picking up and it was hard to pull over into any of the turnouts for pictures because they were already full of cars and people.  There were some incredible lakes along the way, with reflections that were breathtaking, and the photos I got show a bit of blur to the trees because I had to get them while we were moving, out the window.  Still, when I look back at these photos, I am amazed at the color and shapes.

Jasper NP Day 38 (75)The road south to Banff is excellent, with interesting bridges constructed across the highway to allow the animals to cross safely. Literature suggests that these barriers and bridges are actually working, although I couldn’t help wondering what would happen to an animal who happened to find its way inside the big fences along the highway. How would they get back out?

crazy parking situation to get to Moraine LakeWe decided early on that driving east into the actual town of Banff wasn’t something we wanted to do.  Camping there is tight and expensive, we had no reservations, and after all this was a Friday night.  Instead I just wanted to see Lake Louise, maybe hike around a bit, maybe even go for a kayak.  Silly me.  Once we arrived in the town of Lake Louise, the crush of traffic and tourism really became fully apparent.

I once heard that Moraine Lake was even more beautiful and a bit more isolated, so we decided to go there first.  Parking the big rig in the visitor center parking lot was easy enough and we unhooked and loaded up into the baby car with the dog.  It was under 20 miles of narrow winding road to the parking lot for the lake and another 1/2 mile to walk from the long line of cars already parked along the road outside the lot.  Hmmm.

Hike around Moraine Lake-7Hike around Moraine Lake-3In spite of the crowds, though, the short hike around the lake was well worth the effort.  Moraine Lake is a lovely turquoise gem set into the rugged mountains.  The lodge was lovely, small and inviting, with wonderful cabins overlooking the lake with huge picture windows and fireplaces.  It might be fun to be there in the morning and evening after all the people thinned out.  Abby loved swimming as well, even though the water was cold from the glacier that feeds the lake.

After our hike, we returned to the car with the plan to take a similar hike at Lake Louise.  We drove past the lodge and tried to figure out just how many miles we would have to walk before we got past the parking lot.  The traffic was thick, and jammed to a halt trying to get into the filled lot that was farthest from the lake.  Maybe I will see Lake Louise on another trip, but this time we looked at each other, hooked a fast u, and drove back to the motor home and out of the town in short order.

In very little time, on that broad smooth fancy highway, we were traveling west on Highway 93 toward Kootenay National Park, another Canadian gem.  There were far fewer people on the road, and the vistas were lovely, but it was still too early in the day to think about stopping so we just continued on west toward British Columbia and Radium Hot Springs.

Jasper to Cranbrook Day 38 (14)the road opens out to the Columbia ValleyI have always wanted to visit Radium, and many of my friends from the Spokane area loved to go to Fairmont Hot Springs for skiing and winter sports.  Radium Hot Springs was a charming little town, but the crowds were again building and the traffic was getting heavy.  We stopped for a photo of the odor free pools, filled up with gas and continued south on 93, admiring the beautiful Columbia River Valley from high on the hill and laughing at the bighorn sheep wandering around through town.

Mo was getting a bit tired with all the driving, and we were both in the mood for a steak of some kind, so we thought that a stop in the Invermere Visitor Center would yield some good information.  Usually the visitor centers are wonderful places with great volunteers eager to share their joys with us.  That was not the case here.  The two women were incredibly snotty, acting as though we were unbelievably stupid to think there might be a place to stay on a Friday night, and that we were even more stupid to think we would find a steak in Invermere. Well, excuuuuussseee me!!

he is totally unconcernedI guess this strip through BC is fairly toney, with most of the RV parks converted to lease lots and resorts not particularly suited to travelers just passing through.  We found a tiny place on the map called Fort Steele, and I asked one of our non-friendly ladies if there might be something there, and she seemed to think we could park in the Pioneer Town parking lot.  Fine.  Another 80 miles or so was nothing, right?

the Columbia wetlands from Radium Hot SpringsThere were several provincial parks along the way, but we were just in the mood for boondocking and knew that probably on a hot summer Friday night there wouldn’t be any space for us there anyway so we continued south.  Finally at Fort Steele, we were surprised to find the lovely little pioneer town closing up for the evening with very LARGE signs saying No Overnight Parking.  Hmmm.  To my delight, however, one of the young women closing the place down said,”There is a WalMart in Cranbrook and you can park there.”

Cranbrook Day 3_5235Yaay!  Off we went down the road, ten more miles, to the sweetest WalMart I have seen in a long time.  We certainly weren’t the only ones with the same idea as the parking lot was filled almost bumper to bumper with motorhomes and fifth wheels, some folks even set up with chairs.  I told Mo the boondock etiquette suggests we don’t open our slide, but we decided to do it anyway.  Our rig is half the size of most even with the one slide extended!  We did not set up the bbq or put out the chairs at least.

There was an employee in the parking lot and I asked him where I could find a good steak and he sent us down the road to Mr Mikes where we had a great steak supper with a “cheap” bottle of red house wine that set us back $31.00.  Guess we should have asked the price when the waitress told us about the 5 bucks off special on the house red.  LOL  That dinner cost 100 bucks but it was a deal at any price after our long day, and our night at WalMart was free and just about perfect.  I slept like  baby.

Capture 288 milesMiles driven today: 288

The rest of the photos of Jasper are linked here

More photos of Moraine Lake are linked here

And some other photos from this day of travel are here

Day 12 July 17 The Top of the World

Dawson Day 12_1490One of the reasons we thought to leave Dawson today was to avoid the 20 rig caravan scheduled to cross the Yukon on the ferry tomorrow morning. It is a good idea to check with the Information Center about possible caravans leaving on the ferry so you can adjust accordingly. I couldn’t quite imagine driving this wild place in a line of RV’s.  At noon, when we drove down to the ferry, there was already a large line of cars, RV’s, and folks on foot crossing the river. Dawson Day 12_1495The only way west from Dawson is to cross the Yukon River on the last existing ferry along this route, both the Perry Ferry and the Stewart Ferry are now replaced by bridges.  The ferry is free, part of the Yukon highway system.  Sometimes you are lucky and there is no wait, sometimes you are a second kind of lucky and there is.  Our second kind of lucky turned out to be just an hour and a half of time to watch the ferry fight the incredibly strong current of the river loaded up with big Holland America busses and to visit with local folks here for the festival.

Dawson Day 12_1512We initially planned to cross with the Tracker hooked up, but after seeing the big rigs and busses bumping on the exit across the river, we thought better of that plan and unhooked.  Mo had to then get the Tracker back to the end of the line of passenger cars and we hoped we would still cross at  the same time, but it didn’t look good.  I actually enjoyed the wait, watching and visiting, eating another piece of the giant cinnamon bun from Beaumont Lodge, and just enjoying the gorgeous sunlight and the view.

Mo made in the ferry after all, last car onWhen I finally loaded, first rig on the ferry, I was amazed to see Mo get waved on as the last rig because she was short enough to fill in the space.  Perfect. The river was especially high and muddy, with a powerful current now and then laced with huge logs and debris.  Must be a talented person who runs that boat! In no time, we were off the ferry and hooked up with the Protect-A-Tow in place ready to tackle the gravel road to Tok and the Alaska Highway.

I took a gazillion photos so am not going to bother to caption them allI had read about this road, seen photos from other blogs, heard varying reviews from writers that didn’t give me a clue of what was actually in store for us.  This, finally, was the wild north that I had come to see.  This road, rough as it is, was magnificent, utterly breathtaking, awe-inspiring magic. I began to feel the magic within the first few miles, as we climbed the long grade to the ridgetop run that most of the road follows along the spine of the mountains. 

The wild Yukon spread out before me to the east and north, and the deep valleys of the Yukon River and its tributaries to the south.

Dawson Day 12_1586

I wouldn’t have missed this part of our trip for anything. Every single penny of the trip is worth the wild and beautiful landscape we traveled today, on a road built only a few decades ago.  Long ago, in Idaho, I worked in a wild area of the St Joe National Forest, and traveled a ridge run similar to this one for many miles into the back country.  I loved that road, the 201, more than any other in my lifetime.  Dawson Day 12_1593This was the 201 on steroids, winding along the ridges, across open grassy slopes above timberline, with views into hundreds of miles of roadless wilderness only known to First Nations and old trappers. Hundreds of miles without a telephone pole, or a power transmission line, or a cell tower anywhere, or road the only ribbon of civilization crawling through to the distance. Not a clear cut in sight.  Nothing but the wild Yukon into the wild Alaska.

Dawson Day 12_1589I suppose the only mild disappointment was that we still saw no animals at all on the route.  Oops, we did see one more squirrel run across the road, but that was it.  Not a sheep or a bear or a caribou.  So many warnings, both on signs and in the Milepost, indicated that at least here, we would see animals.  Again, it was not to be. 

After two very short hours, we crossed into Alaska.  This northernmost border crossing was simple and quiet, with no one in front of us, even though we had seen a few rigs along the route.  We were asked no questions except how long we had been out of the United States and how many pets we had. After the officer checked our passports and pet papers we were on our way. The rain that we watched building in the west finally overtook us at the Dawson Day 12_1618border of Alaska and we drove on a bit, searching for a wide place along the road.  As promised, the road turned to wet, rough dirty gravel, and Mo was glad to find a nice long turnout where we parked for the night.

Dawson Day 12_1638Since the border behind us closed at 8, there was only a bit of traffic coming along behind us before everything was silent for the rest of the night.  I say “night” very loosely.  We gained an hour, so were worn out, fed and in bed by something silly like 6:30 with our books.  At midnight, when I woke, it was a bright twilight evening, with the almost full moon rising over the ridge behind us.  There is a small stream of water running down the mountain behind the rig, and I had hoped it might bring in some critters.  It’s now 3:30 am and I have been writing for some time and have yet to see any critters in the morning light.  It never got dark at all.

I turned the generator on to run a bit of heat in the 40*F outside temperatures and to keep the inverter on so I could charge up the computer.  I feel like a newborn with my days and nights mixed up, just wondering if in this bright morning light I should now try to get some sleep.  Mo keeps wanting to drive since she hates navigating, so at least she is back there snoozing away while I type and manage photos.  Today we continue toward Chicken and Tok and once again will be on the Alaska Highway. 

The Klondike/Top of the World loop certainly has it great moments and its downside.  Still, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. Here is a slide show of the journey.

Miles traveled today: about 125 between site15 at Dawson and 16 at our boondock site


Road condition: hard surface fine gravel with rough spots, steep grades up and down to the Alaska border. From the border to our boondock site, gravel that seems more like dirt, rutted and rough, but so far we haven’t had any mishaps inside or outside the MoHo and Tracker.  Kayaks still on tight and all windows still intact.

If you want to see the rest of the photos, they are linked here