As usual, a lot has happened since the last time I sat down to write. I guess I’ll have to write fast then! Because now we just arrived to McCall with Mark & Anne (it feels like home to us) and the truck projects have started but at least we get a breather to celebrate Jon’s birthday! We’re actually celebrating double birthdays at an unofficial Overland Expo at Mark & Anne’s house- both Jon & Cathy’s birthdays. This should be fun.
Working our way back south, we really loved the time we spent in the little towns of Stewart, BC & Hyder AK. We walked the estuary path, got cake and sat out on Main Street imagining what it would be like to live there. The citizens of Hyder send their kids to school in Canada, get their power and phone from Canada, use Canadian currency, but both towns use the US post office on the Alaska side and only US currency is taken there. It feels like Hyder should just be part of Canada.
We visited the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation site in Hyder which is a famous place to view bears eating salmon if you haven’t gone to Katmai! But it was the tail end of the season and most of the salmon were already dead or near to it so there was only one grizzly there. We didn’t even get a good picture. He spent most of his time at the waterside eating berries. A ranger told me that the salmon are really mushy at that point with very little fat left and the bears are picky eaters in general so aren’t interested. What they really wanted all along was the eggs and now all the eggs are underwater in the pebbles of rock being guarded by the dying parents. What a saga. We are forever changed by seeing the bears at Katmai; nothing else compares.
A big highlight was seeing the Salmon Glacier. Out a really bumpy road NW of Hyder, the glacier viewpoint is knock your socks off and you can camp right there at the edge of a cliff. In pictures, this glacier is the most beautiful although it isn’t really accessible to walk on as far as I know. We met up with a few people including Jesse, Olga and their daughter Zoe there at the viewpoint and had a campfire enjoying the spectacular scenery. We would meet them many times more over the coming days. The next morning, on a tip from them, we hiked up into the icefields above the viewpoint and followed the edge looking for ice caves. We came upon a gem of one and since it was so huge and thick and it was cold enough and early enough, we headed into the theatre sized room of blue ice. What a great experience to see something so beautiful that had been on our list of wanna do’s.
The whole area was a place that should have been a park, but was actually an active mining area further down the road. We wanted to stay and explore for a few more days but even though we are on our own schedule, we still make plans and have a schedule so we had to keep moving.
We started to move businesslike toward the Canadian Rockies because we were excited to meet up with Mark & Anne so that we could explore the Rockies together. Also Ivan, who we’d parted with a couple of weeks before. Along the way, we passed throught the town of Smithers. Do you know what the townspeople call themselves? Smithereens! Haha. We stopped for a day at Burns Lake because there were great bike paths there. Like, the town is all about biking. Right from a scenic campground, you can bike up a mountain and then blast down it. We wish we’d learned how to downhill mountain bike earlier in life before we got afraid that we’d kill ourselves because we love it! It’s just that we don’t have the skills to barrel down the diamond tracks, heck we can barely do the blue squares. But its so much fun trying and we loved those paths. What a great workout. We liked the name of one of the paths- Huff n Puff!
Just about the time we were fixing to arrive in Jasper some fires started and the town all but shut down because of the smoke. The trails were still open and the visitor center welcomed the travelers coming through but you couldn’t stay in the park so it meant we only had the day to explore a portion of it before driving out again. We hiked the Maligne Canyon which was lower than most of the smoke and then kept driving down the Columbia Icefield Parkway to meet up with Ivan the following day at the Columbia Glacier. It’s too bad there was so much smoke because that area is famously beautiful. It was fun to catch up over a hike and dinner. Then the following day, Mark & Anne arrived with Cricket. Here’s a blob of photos covering some of the things we did and saw.
The smoke had actually improved a lot overnight but Jasper still wasn’t open so we went for a hike and then returned to the same lot to make onward plans toward Banff.
The nights were cold at elevation and we were wishing for indian summer but we bundled up and spent a lot of time outside anyway.
For years I’ve been excited for Banff and the Rockies. There is some spectacular scenery there with crazy blue lakes and towering gray rock mountains. But, I think we were all a bit blown away by how understandably busy it was, especially after a summer in Alaska. Also, you can’t camp anywhere other than in campgrounds which has its own feel and you worry about whether you’ll have a spot with all that business. We did the tourist highlights, walked the town of Banff, got Indian food, biked up to colorful lakes, walked to waterfalls and enjoyed ourselves but after a few days, we all felt ready for something quieter so we moved on to YOHO national park. We did a great long dayhike there on the Icefield trail which got us up to the scenery we were craving without the gobs of people bombing our photos. We really enjoy hiking with Cricket and we don’t have to worry about her being able to cover all the miles because she’s right there with us ready for more. At our sunny campspot with stunning mountains overhead and near constant train horns echoing, we had long happy hours and BBQ dinners together.
Now that Covid restrictions have lessened, European shipping has been busy transporting overland travelers to Canada and these past few weeks we have converged with many new overland trucks, some of whom we “knew” from forums and facebook posts. We met two trucks (and two couples) in particular, Sandro & Linda on Whaley and Marina & Rico on Itchy Wheels in the vicinity of YOHO. It’s great to finally meet up in person. Over the days, we camped beside both of them and got to know them a little bit, hoping we meet up again in the coming months. Since we have the same model of trucks, it’s really helpful to look at and talk with each other to get ideas and ask those questions about the idiosynchasies of maintaining a truck like this.
We moved on down to the town of Golden where they have the Northern Lights Wolf Center. It is a small sanctuary mainly for retired wolves that were used in show business (but there was one orphaned wild wolf there as well) and it functions as an educational center to help the public understand the importance of wolves in our environment. There were 6 or 7 to view through a fence and they gave an interesting presentation about them. Did you know wolves don’t bark? They move in tight packs where everyone pitches in even to the point where any wolf will regurgitate food for a hungry pup if the pup licks their muzzle. Just as we were getting ready to leave, a chorus of howling began that had us all cracking up. The small orphan wolf had her own melodic way of howling that complimented all the other singers. We videoed it and I’ll try to include a clip here if I can. It’s more for the sound than the viewing!
We drove out a bumpy, dusty road to check out Whiteswan Provincial park since we’d spent all of our time on pavement. This park had a red star in my Moon Guide touted to be remote and wild and it had a hot spring. Ha! It wasn’t. We ended up just staying the night, taking a trail run the next morning and then heading back out to something better.
I think that better place was the mountain town of Fernie. Surrounded by impressive mountains and a whole bunch of biking trails, it also had a cute main street. We took a nice ride there with Ivan that went up, up to a mountain lake to have lunch and then blasted down surprised at all the up we did.
Then we parted ways again with Ivan and headed down to Kalispell Montana to visit Mark & Anne’s friend Robert. We love his place along the Flathead River and the long velvet lawn that also functions as his airstrip. He took us out on the river in his pontoon boat, we built dinners together around smoked meat and we sat out on the patio and lawn as if it was a summer day, because the weather was great and it did feel a bit like summer!
Then we worked our way to McCall with Mark & Anne to their house where we now sit not really feeling like doing projects, but knowing we have to. Jon is building us a new camper entry door, I have a lot of cleaning and touch up painting to do from all the rock chips and mud residue from Alaska. We’ll also be doing a brake job. Our brakes are tired and worn and need replacing. Jon has been ripping his hair out trying to get the parts shipped. It really is a joke trying to get anything mailed these days. Hopefully the projects will go smoothly and the endless shipping woes will subside so that we can get the parts needed to get the project done. We have tickets to visit our parents in late November (finally!) out of Phoenix so now we have a goal to get there in time!
Well, that’s all for now.