Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 49 - 7 weeks and 15000 Kilometres later

When we awoke in Lake Superior PP, it was beautiful but we have been fooled too often. We were only 568 k away from home and with a good wind from the back, and a ride on the Chicheemaun, we could be home tonight. Too nice a thought to let go.

So final thoughts as we travelled?

We loved this trip, barring the weather travails (we figured out that more than half our days were either spent in the cold, the rain, the strong winds or fog).

It brought us closer together as a couple and while ostensibly this was a 40th anniversary trek, it really was a chance to see if we still liked the whole camping adventure - and each other - and we do.

The best times - of course the amazing sights we saw - Badlands, Yellowstone, Oregon, Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Park. But perhaps more surprisingly was the joy of  re-connecting with family and beginning the search for past generations and their stories. We had countless talks about who had done what, where and how we can find out more now we are home.

I hope this journal may provide insights for our grandchildren and great-grand children should they ever decide to ask questions about us ("why did Grandma and Grandpa S. go away for so long that year?").

Regrets? We didn't get to see Olympic National Park in Washington state - so that will still be on our bucket list.

There were good points in going early in the season - we saw baby animals, and wonderful wildflowers - and the crowds were few.

But the weather was a challenge ( as I've said about a thousand times) and we'd probably go further south next time if we go in late May and June.

This is what was waiting for us at home

We hope you've enjoyed this blog - it's been great for us to record the journey, and as you can see, it's always good to go home, too.

Day 48 - Superior's North Shore - it's out there somewhere!

The sun was out - it really was . We started in great spirits and were looking forward to seeing one of our most favorite drives - the north shore of Lake Superior. This is what we thought we'd see  -

And for the first couple of hours, that's exactly what happened.

We stopped into Rainbow Falls PP and loved the lakeside campsites. The Lake Superior Hiking Trail runs right along the shore here

and the Falls themselves are beautiful.

But gradually, the fog started to creep back in - and not on little cats' feet ( or whatever that literary reference is).

We spent most of the trip in the peasoup fog - crap!

However once we arrived in Lake Superior PP, we had one last crazy dream that it was all going to be OK. Yes, the sites were close to the highway, but they were also close to the lake- and it was Lake Superior park after all - one we had wanted to camp in for a long time.

and then

We closed up the tent, and went to bed in the fog - and heard the transports ALL night long.

I think we're done, folks!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 47 - TBay and the Judys

Great day - great weather (after the fog burned off). Pat spent the day with the ladies, travelling around Sibley Provincial Park and the small hamlet of Silver Islet.
Great food and atmosphere at the "Store"

 We even saw a fawn

and viewed J&J's new retirement venue. (hah!)

Then back to Karen's Kountry Kitchen in Sibley Provincial Park for homemade goodies and a piece of awesome lemon mousse pie with white chocolate swirls - amazing!

Paul unfortunately spent the day back at the KOA in recovery from allergies acquired the evening before from "Janey" and the "Dutchess" - the real homeowners of the family.

After a swim and a quick dinner, we hit the hay. Tomorrow begins our last week on the road. Southampton - we're coming for you.

Day 46 - and did it ever rain!

The flies were right - it poured and OK we're officially sick of water falling on our heads and our beds.

The drive to TBay was long and tedious and wet - and basically the worst drive of the trip to date! Especially when charged $1.50 a liter for gas in WBF Ontario - aka Upsala Ontario.

So no cute pics of animals, or beautiful scenary to share - however that day ended well with our first day with the Judys in their new apartment - Thanks Ladies  - you really did make our day!

Day 45 - "Cruising down the river"

Rushing River is on Dogtooth lake so the little boat we finally rented was at Dogtooth resort. It ended up being a two hour tour but lots of fun to check out the little lake.

 and the cottages and campsites along the way.

We also put-putted into the park itself and saw the campsites on the water that had so intrigued us 27 years ago with the kids. I think this was the one we had then!

For lunch we headed to Sioux Narrows, another small park on the Lake of the Woods. We met a cyclist on his way between Toronto and Vancouver. He is an engineer from Scotland and decided to chuck it all and start this adventure. He was wanting info on the best way over the mountains in BC. but whatever way he chooses, it will still be hard slogging.

Finally we checked out the “rushing river” itself - and reminded ourselves of the fun we had here on our 13 anniversary, August 14, 1984, when last we were here!

The flies are biting again so I guess we’re in for more weather.

Day 44 - Kenora - and Lake of the Woods

We drove into Kenora today to catch up on laundry and groceries and were pleasantly surprised. I’m sure we’ve been here before in summer (I know I was here in 1963 visiting a friend from school) but I guess it never impressed us much.

It seems to have grown nicely and as today was absolutely gorgeous weather, the lake sparkled and the town looked grand.

Back to Rushing River, and the rain caught us with us again - our nemesis. Just as we were about to take a spin on the river in a rented boat, black clouds and thunder started up. We ended up in the trailer reading as storm after storm rolled by. It cleared enough for a swim before dinner  and actually warmed up enough for another fire before bed.

We'll do the lake in the morning.

Day 43 - “In the Summer of ‘69”

The night of luxury at the Canalta hotel in Moosimin (and the free breakfast) had given us such a good start to the day that we decided to run across Manitoba to Ontario and make up a day that could be spent in a great park - but first we had to re-visit some of Paul’s youth.

In 1969, as part of his 3-year ROUTP (Regular Officer’s University Training Plan) program that was paying for university and other things, Paul was sent to CFB Shilo, Manitoba.  As we were travelling just north of it for today’s trip across the prairies, we decided to zip down and take a look.

Paul’s comment was, “Doesn’t look much different - Let’s get the hell out of here!”

We saw a lot of evidence of the spring floods, especially near access points to the Assinaboine and while the river in Souris crested today, Wawanesa, just south of Shilo looked to be in danger if more rain comes.

As we got closer to Winnipeg, we saw water still in the fields - and it is clear that this has been a crazy year for these folks especially farmers, who have not been able to plant much.

Lunch was a quick in-car picnic in a ‘petite village’ about 30 k east of Winnipeg. Ste Anne is very pretty and very French with a Quebec-like cathedral built 10 years before Riel’s struggle against Engliah Canada. Sometimes, we forget about the Manitoba francophones, but in this little corner, everything, including street signs are bilingual - French first.

We arrived in Rushing River Provincial Park around 5:00 pm with the time change and found again, 27 years later that we still love this park. The campsite is great, the weather is dare I say- hot, and the services are more than acceptable.  The last time through here we had 4 little kids with us - and we can almost pinpoint the sites we had that time - and re-live the fun.

So maybe a fire tonight?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day 42 - Howlin' Wolf and Baba

Still hot and sunny today - can't quite believe it.

Travelling across Saskatchewan's prairies takes a strong person. It's not the sameness that gets to you - that can happen in northern Ontario really easily.

For us, it was finding then losing CBC about every 15 minutes. Not sure why the nation's radio station has such difficulty transmitting in such open spaces - there were sure no mountains to get in the way of the signal.

What we did hear was an independent station out of Alberta - CKUA - which for a short time became our favourite station.

Not only does it come in loud and clear from the Alberta border right up till Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan, but it plays the best music and the guy we want to tell you about in Baba, who hosts the Mid-morning Mojo show from 9:00 - 11:00.

This fellow plays an eclectic mix of rock, blues, folk with mostly independent producers although he also plays great music from the past. He played a song from the Howlin' Wolf London sessions with Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts that blew us out of the water.

We're treating ourselves tonight after 8 days in the trailer. We found a brand new conference style hotel in the middle of nowhere (actually in Moosimin, Saskatchewan - see? nowhere) which caters to the oil riggers and potash miners nearby. Great hotel, great facilities.

Will be sleeping sound tonight but will have to leave the star-gazing till tomorrow evening when we return to one of our favourite parks in Ontario - Rushing River Provincial Park. Feels like home to me.

Day 41 - July 4 - Back to Canada

Just before sunrise, we spent a few minutes enjoying the northern lights from our Glacier KOA campsite. Then that morning we returned to Canada.

What a difference a day makes - yesterday soaring mountains - today prairie , prairie, prairie.

But some of it was quite lovely too.

We headed to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park in the south west part of Alberta and the south-east part of Saskatchewan. 'Biiiig park', many campgrounds and we were really pleased with our site - although at first it seemed that somehow it was snowing again - but it was only cottonwood tree fluff - everywhere.

In fact suddenly, it was summer - real summer with hot temperatures and sitting by the lake etc. etc.

And since this is the heart of dark sky country we could actually leave our trailer flaps down and gaze at the stars (No northern lights though!) - for the 1st time on the trip other than at Badlands - sigh.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 40 - Continental Divide

On at least 5 occasions on this trip we have come across the mythical and I guess actual point where the continent rears up and water to the east of the divide runs to the Atlantic and water to the west runs to the Pacific. Finally we stopped to take a photo.

Here in Glacier, there is also a mountain called Triple Divide where it is said that if you pour a cup of water on the peak, the water will run in three directions including north to Hudson’s Bay.

We travelled to two other sections of the park today on our own this time - to East Glacier - the first town in Glacier National Park , and the Two Medicines - a picnic, camping and trail area made beautiful ( as all campgrounds are here) with huge mountains rising immediately from the plains or from water - no foothills here.

We also paid homage to John Stevens, - the hero of many of Steve the red jammer guide’s stories - and the discoverer of the Marais Pass - which allowed the Great Northern railroad to go through the Rockies (south of Glacier) on route to the Pacific ocean especially to Portland and Seattle.

The great Lodges of the Glacier continued to inspire and amaze us - East G;acier was built in 1911, Many Glaciers lodge built two years later and Prince of Wales lodge in Waterton built in 1926.These structures are all in mint condition, with tree trunks rising the ceiling of 4 or 5 stories much like the Inn at Yellowstone.

In each one there is a grand piano - just waiting for guests to tickle the ivories. Bill are you reading this?

Returning to the rotten KOA, we found the wind had picked up incredibly and the trailer seemed at times about to tip over - we will be OK leaving this beautiful but fraught part of the country. Word to the wise - be aware of wind, cold, snow and wild animals if you travel here but also be prepared for some of the most awesome scenery in the world.

Day 39 - Red Jammer to Waterton Lakes

What an amazing day! We booked a trip to Waterton Lakes National Park - the other half of this International Peace Park and World Heritage Site - on a “red jammer” the red busses first given to the park in 1930’s and restored by Ford recently to match the terrain.

Steve - a retired teacher - was our guide and he was full of stories about the mountain men, railroaders who opened up this area after the natives were driven from this their ancestral and sacred lands.
Chief Mountain

is quite sacred to them and vision quests are conducted on top of the  mountain still today.

The Blackfeet nation is quite well off  and their people are crack cattle ranchers . As well, they have two or three of the best forest-fire fighting teams on the continent.

We lunched at Waterton Lakes in front of the Prince of Wales hotel  and again took a million pics of the glories of the rockies and the “backbone of the continent”.

And to top it off we saw a grizzley bear about 100 metres away as we were leaving one of the lodges -  Many Glaciers. Sohey want tome foolish folks were actually standing outside their cars to take pics. Apparently these guys can run 30 miles an hour when they want to - luckily this one didn't!

A little scary to know these guys are so close to civilization but the rangers work very hard to keep both species - human and animal -  safe.

The sun made us sleepy and a little burned but it was wonderful to feel like summer again.

Fireworks tonight around the KOA - prepping for tomorrow night perhaps?

Day 38 - Canada Day in the US

Some what crazy to be celebrating this day in the US but we decided to avoid going back to Canada until the border might be a bit quieter. Besides, it is really beautiful here!

Got caught up with some grocery shopping and saw the Plains Indian museum in Browning , Montana - the hub of Blackfeet Territory.

We had hoped to go on the road to the sun  today or tomorrow but the road is not cleared of snow yet! And when they do clear it, another avalanche buries it again - maybe we DON’T want to be on that road after all.

However most of the highways in the park are narrow, winding and close to the edge of the road - not sure how much scarier it might be! But still beautifull sites around every corner.