A break from the road

CAMPGROUND: (Not…..). We are staying with my aunt and uncle in Grand Prairie, Alberta

LOCATION: Grande Prairie is about 300 miles NW of Edmonton

WEATHER: Cool and rainy most of the day. High 50

We awoke to 40-degree temp and rain. Yuck. Our electricity went off, so we decided just to quickly pack up and leave the campground.

Yesterday, when we made the final turn off the main highway to go north, we saw a sign saying “no gas for 100 miles”. I was driving and saw that our gauge said we had 100 miles left in the tank. Could we make it? By this time, there was no place to turn around on the highway. Not only was I worried about running out of gas, but also was concerned that the highway had no shoulders – just a steep drop-off. We couldn’t do anything but continue. Meawhile, the highway seemed to be all uphill. The gauge quickly dropped to read that we only had 70 miles left in the tank. Finallly, there was a turn-out and we returned to the town to buy gas.

This morning, we were certainly glad that we had indeed bought the gas. It was obvious we wouldn’t have made it today….in the cold and rain – to the next town – Grande Cache.

Grande Cache is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by pine forests. We stopped at their Visitor Center for a break. It was named after this type of “cache” that the settlers used to store their food, safely away from bears.

The drive was beautiful, except for the ugly commercial lumber businesses.

There were signs every mile or so warning of caribou crossing the highway. All we saw, though, were the signs.

Today’s rain just added to the already full rivers, brimming with snow melt. At one point, the rain had almost washed the road out.

We arrived at my aunt and uncle’s house in the afternoon. It is so good to see them again. We will be here for a week or so, resting up, doing some RV chores, and preparing for our next leg of the trip. We have been on the road this trip for about 6 weeks. We will continue traveling until mid-October or so.

DINNER: My aunt made a delicious spinach salad with shrimp, bacon, boiled eggs, and mushrooms. We also had salmon shish-ka-bobs with rice. Yum!

Elk Encounter!

CAMPGROUND: Gregg’s Lake. Another Alberta provincial park. Lots of trees. Spacious, gravel site. We have electricity only, although there are sites with water and sewer, too. Flush toilets. Shower building separate – very nice. $29/night. Some sites are on lake; ours is not. 4 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Albert Sweitzer Provincial Park, about 2 hours northeast of Jasper, Alberta
WEATHER: Cool and overcast most of the day. High 50. Some light rain.

We got an early start at Bow Valley. At the dump station, we met a Quebecois young woman traveling alone and a European couple in a rental van…..there are a lot of these rentals on the road. We discovered a possibly serious problem with the water tank. We may have to return to Airstream factory at the end of this trip. We can travel ok as it is.

On to the Icefield Parkway. Quickly the scenery turned dramatic. High snow-topped mountains.

The craggy mountain sides had waterfalls springing from them. The streams were roaring with snowmelt.

Several times, traffic came to a halt. People just stopped their cars in the middle of the highway to look at wildlife. This one was to watch a bear cub in the ditch.

Another common sight was the poor bikers struggling up the steep mountain highway. They always look so miserable!

We did not stop at the Columbia Icefield (glacier) this time. We have been before. It has become a very crowded, popular tourist stop…..Note the full parking lot.

We are so glad that we visited many of these places before they were so popular. Lake Louise is just gorgeous, but when we passed it today, there was a sign saying that there was no parking available. Cars were parking about 5 miles away to do a park and ride.

Lunch was a picnic at one of the roadside stops.

When we drove through Jasper, these elk decided to cross right in front of us at a stoplight. Wow!

This is a Canadian holiday weekend. School ended on June 26, so lots of families are traveling. July 1 is Canada Day, Independence Day. So, this is one of the busiest camping weekends in Canada. When we passed by a Walmart at 3:00, there were already 20 RVs parked there for the night. We weren’t sure if we could find a campsite, but we did. We got one of the only sites available at this park.

After we settled in, we walked to the lake, about an hour-long hike. Since it wasn’t raining, we built a campfire and chatted with our neighbors, camping here from Edmonton.

DINNER: Almost the last of the leftovers! Hooray! I diced up some of Tony’s leftover pork and added it to sauteed onions and a mushroom gravy that I have traveled with since Texas! Side was a lot of steamed vegetables. I will defrost the freezer, clean out the refrigerator, and start fresh this coming week while visiting Leo and Martha.

Wet hikes and warm breweries

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Bow Valley
LOCATION: Bow Valley Provincial Park, an hour east of Calgary, Alberta
WEATHER: Light rain most of the day. High 60

It rained all night long. The rain dripping on the Airstream is such a comforting sound. We stayed warm and dry inside. So cozy.

When the rain mostly stopped, we took a hike around the park. We hiked for about 2 hours, first following the Bow River. The path is the kind I like – spongy pine needles and not too steep.

We saw and heard loons on the river.

Then, we took another trail around Many Springs. It is a unique wetland with lots of unusual and beautiful flowers. The water stays at a constant temperature, so there are lots of animals here, too, especially in the winter.

Alberta wild roses cover the forest floor.

After lunch in the Airstream, it started raining harder. So – we headed to Canmore to check out the town and the breweries (several in the downtown). Canmore is a real tourist town – feels like a ski resort. Lots of condos for the skiiers and cute shops line the streets. We stopped first in a brewpub. The atmosphere was not too cool – lots of young families, but the wifi was quite strong. Then, we found a small brewery with just a tasting room. Good vibes there.

Back at the campground, we made a campfire, but couldn’t keep it going due to the rain. So, we moved into the heated Airstream.

DINNER: Not too exciting….leftover lasagne and leftover bean salad. I kicked the lasagne up a notch by adding some of my fresh basil and oregano. They are doing very well – they love the rain and the long summer days. One more night on the road, and then we will be at my aunt and uncle’s house – I hope to do some cooking there.

Sad Farewell to our Nova Scotia Friends. Onward we go!

CAMPGROUND: Bow Valley Campground. Provincial park – so lots of trees with big gravel sites. Water and electricity at site. Picnic table and firepit. Pit toilets nearby with central flush toilets in shower room. Showers are $2. (Bah!) $36/night seems a bit high. Very popular park. 4 stars out of 5.
LOCATION: Bow Valley Provincial Park about an hour west of Calgary, Alberta
WEATHER: Mostly sunny during the day. Evening rain

We sadly said goodbye to our friends Tony and Jenny, with whom we have been traveling for the past 3 weeks across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. They are heading west toward Vancouver Island. It has been great traveling with them again. This is about our 16th time getting together on the road – in various camping areas around North America, and even once in Belgium!

We got an early start as we weren’t sure how long our route today would take. We went north beyond Lethbridge. As we were leaving a gas station in one small town, a caravan of Airstreams (from Texas!) went by. We were amazed, as we haven’t seen many Airstreams since we left the Airstream rally in Ohio.

We waved excitedly as we passed the 4 Airstreams – oops – too excitedly, as we missed our turn. We ended up in another town, totally lost. We pulled into a church parking lot to try to figure out where we were. Our GPS was no help, as it wanted us to take the highway route through Calgary to our destination, and we wanted to take the scenic road through the mountains. A kind man stopped and gave us directions, but really quizzed us about whether we wanted to take that route. It goes up to 7200 feet, the highest paved road in Alberta. We were a little apprehensive, but we said we would do it.

Immediately, the scenery turned gorgeous – huge spruce trees with the Rocky Mountain snowy peaks in the distance. We stopped for a picnic along this river, roaring with snow melt.

The road is only open in the summer- due to snow and for wildlife management.

We saw a deer, a long-horned sheep, and lots of Rocky Mountain sheep….

There were signs warning of elk and moose crossing, but we didn’t see any. It was just beautiful. When we got to the top, there was still snow along the highway.

We arrived at the campground about 3:00, got settled in, and prepped for dinner with my cousin and her husband. They live in Calgary, and drove out to the campground to see us. It was great seeing them again.

We sat around the campfire for a bit, then headed inside to eat as it started to rain.

DINNER: Deli sandwiches with sides of potato salad, and leftover Mexican bean salad.

Hiking in the Hoo-doos

CAMPGROUND: 4th night at Writing-on-Stone
LOCATION: Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in south central Alberta
WEATHER: In a word…..PERFECT! Sunny. High about 70

Today’s plan was to hike the Hoodoo Interpretive Trail here in the park. What a perfect day for hiking – sunny, but not too hot.

There were 12 stops on this self-guided hike. The trail went through many hoodoos, the formations formed from eroded sandstone.

We followed the Milk River where the Blackfoot Indians set up camp many years ago.

We saw some beautiful birds and cacti.

There were signs warning about snakes. We didn’t see any, but did see some skin left from molting.

The 3-hour hike ended at a beautiful overlook of the valley.

In the afternoon, we took advantage of the sunshine, drying things out and cleaning up the trailer and car.

Dinner was at Tony and Jenny’s Rpod Trailer. We are certainly going to miss these roadie friends!

DINNER: Tony prepared tasty chicken tacos. The margaritas were a bonus!

A Fun Day at the US Border…..NOT!

CAMPGROUND: 3rd night at Writing-on-Stone Campground. See previous reviews
LOCATION: Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in south central Alberta
WEATHER: Partly sunny. Some rain. High 68

Today was our day to go on our own paths. Jenny used to live in Lethbridge, and had made arrangements to meet up with an old friend. Tony had some business things to take care of there, too. Lethbridge is about an hour away.

We took our time getting ready for the day. I took a shower. This campground charges for showers (bah-humbug). This is the sign in the shower room….

The Canadian dollar is a coin with a loon on it, so Canadians have nicknamed it a loonie. The two-dollar coin then became a toonie. Cute!

We are only about 20 miles from the US border here, so we decided to cross over to try to get T-Mobile cell service for a call George needed to make. We crossed over easily, and sat in a gas station parking lot in a tiny town in the rain to try to make the call. George was on the line for more than an hour getting SO frustrated. It was a miserable experience. We did buy some cheap US gas, then crossed back into Canada. Our quick in-and-out must have raised a red flag, as they pulled us over and told us that they would have to do a vehicle search. They said they were busy and we would have to wait (while about 10 agents stood at their desks twiddling their thumbs). So, we waited and waited in the immigration office. Bureaucracy at its finest. Finally, they let us go.

We headed to Lethbridge to check it out. First up was a brewpub for lunch, even though by now it was 2:15. It was a great brewpub, with a nice atmosphere and good food. We drove around the town, following a scenic drive.

Lethbridge is famous for its large coulee – a very steep and deep dry river bed.

Then, back to the campground. As we approached, we could see a dark thundercloud right over us. Thankfully, it blew over and we were able to cook and eat outdoors.

DINNER: George made superb hamburgers by placing strips of bacon on each side of a big square of hamburger. He grilled each side, then cut the square into 4 slices. We served it with lots of condiments, plus onions braised in beer, raw red onion slices, and tomato slices. Side was a Mexican-flavored bean salad.

Writing on Stone- Learning about Rock Art

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Writing-on-Stone Campground
LOCATION: In Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in south central Alberta
WEATHER: Variable. Some sun. Mostly clouds. Late PM rain. High 70

Being Sunday, almost all of the campers left (poor souls who have to go to work and school on Monday). It is nice to have the place practically to ourselves. We watched all the RVers leave.

Jenny and I took a hike up through the hoodoos to the Visitor Center while the boys rested. The hoodoos were created due to erosion of the sandstone. They are very interesting. We learned that they got their name because the First Nation people (Indians) believed that they were spirits. Many resemble faces. When the European settlers arrived and asked what they were, the Indians responded by saying they are people. The Europeans misunderstood, thought they meant voodoo, and the name morphed into hoodoo. Factoid for the day!

We got a bit of rain, then it cleared enough for us to decide to take the afternoon park ranger-led tour of the protected archeological part of the park. The ranger took us by bus to a gated area and then provided a two-hour talk on different rock art – both petroglyphs (carved designs) and pictographs (pictures painted on the rocks). This park has the highest concentration of rock art of any place in North America.

We were warned to watch for rattlesnakes. One lady left the tour as she was so afraid. We saw some beautiful prickly pear cactus in bloom.

As the tour was ending, a big thunderstorm started building up.

We rushed back, getting drenched on our way. Tony and Jenny came over to our trailer for drinks as we waited for the rain to end. I made my famous margaritas, and we had some chips and salsa. (Mexican flavors even though it was not Mexico weather!)

The rain finally stopped enough for Tony to cook outside, and we were able to eat under the awning.

DINNER: Tony cooked marinated pork steaks. Sides were mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. Really good. As we are winding up our time together, we are plannng our last meals together. We each have one turn left.

After dinner, we studied the Alberta map together and made plans for our adventures after Writing-on-Stone. They are heading west to Vancouver Island; we will head north to Calgary area, and then to spend some time with my aunt and uncle way up north in Grande Prairie, Alberta.

More Canadian Badlands

CAMPGROUND: Writing-on-Stone Campground. Consistent with most provincial/state parks – nice and woodsy, mostly level sites, room between sites, firepit, picnic tables, electricity. No water at sights. $29/night. 4 stars out of 5.
LOCATION: Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in south central Alberta, about 50 miles southeast of Lethbridge.
WEATHER: Nasty in the AM as we were leaving Cypress Hills. Some sun later. High winds. High 68

It rained all night again at Cypress Hills. George had used an old blanket yesterday while working under the trailer. So, it was soaked and dirty. I gathered up all his wet things and took them to the laundry room at the campground to try to dry them a bit for today’s trip.

The fog was really thick as we left Cypress Hills. I would like to return here another time to do more hiking and exploring. We were just unfortunate with the weather on this visit.

We had to go north, west, then south again to get to Writing-on-Stone, due to the roads. In Medicine Hat, we saw the “world’s largest teepee”.

We stopped to do some shopping. George stopped at Home Depot to buy the parts to finish up his repair job. Since it was not raining there, he went ahead and fixed the tank problem right in their parking lot.

I bought a basil plant at Home Depot, then added it to my oregano planter. Yeah!

We were pleased that we would have paved roads on this trip, per the road map. We have had too much shaking of the Airstream on these gravel roads. BUT – just when we were approaching the provincial park, there was a “Road Closed” sign. Yep, we had to take a 15-mile gravel road detour around the closure. When we arrived at the campground, we filled up the repaired water tank. Let’s just hope the repair job works, as we have no fresh water at our site.

This is a beautiful park. There are hoo-doos all around. We can’t wait to explore. This is Tony backing into his site with the hoo-doos in the background.

We were happy that it was warm enough to sit out and enjoy a campfire, with drinks and roasted peanuts.

DINNER: Our turn tonight. We had been wanting to eat fish, but George has not been successful catching any. So, we bought some frozen bass and trout fillets. We wrapped them in aluminum foil, added soy sauce, lime juice, and sesame oil, and cooked the packets over the fire. Sides were steamed rice and Asian stir-fry veg. As they say in Japan – oiishi!

This can’t be Summer Solstice!

CAMPGROUND: 3rd night at Elkwater Campground
LOCATION: Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park in SE Alberta
WEATHER: In a word…..miserable! Rain most of the day. High 50. 30s in AM

We have a little ritual when it is cold, as it is here today….One of us gets up around 6:00, turns on the heat, then we stay in bed until the trailer has warmed up..

As we were having morning coffee, a deer rambled through our campsite. It is so woodsy and pretty here.

We decided today would be a day to stay around the campsite and do repair work. Tony and Jenny worked on a pipe that had become loose.

George drilled in some rivets where they had come loose. All that shaking on gravel roads…

As the day progressed, the weather worsened. I decided to bundle up and walk to the Visitors’ Center. It is hard to believe that today is the beginning of summer!

George discovered that our fresh water tank drain valve had broken and would not hold water. It is located under the trailer and probably got hit by a rock or something when we traveled on poor gravel roads. He spent about 4 hours under the trailer, on his back, in the freezing rain. He looked and felt miserable. He was soaking wet, and hypothermia was setting in. When he finished, we rushed him to the hot shower. He recovered over dinner.

DINNER: Tony’s turn. He cooked on his grill under the awning in the cold rain, while we sat cozily around their dining room table inside their trailer. Tony made beef stroganoff over egg noodles. Broccoli on the side. Really delicious.

Home on the range – now with photos

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Rock Creek
LOCATION: Grasslands National Park, in SW Saskatchewan
WEATHER: Mostly sunny. High 70

We joined the camp rangers for “Cowboy Coffee”. A ranger made coffee over a campfire like the cowboys used to do. One of the rangers lives on a ranch nearby and told us some tales of her life on the range. Fun!

We took a hike and could see our campground far below.

Red Adirondack chairs are the symbol of Canada’s national parks. They had placed these two at the top.

In addition to the campsites and cabins, there are a few tipis available for renting.

In the afternoon, we took another hike. This national park, unlike most, doesn’t have strict rules. Since there aren’t many visitors, they don’t have laid-out trails. You can just walk anywhere in the grassland area. They do post warnings about the need for orienteering skills, as it is easy to get lost out in these badlands. On this hike, we traversed hills and ridges, and down and over ravines. We came across a huge animal skeleton. Most of it was still intact. We think it was an elk or deer.

Being Sunday, almost all of the other campers left. We now have the campground almost to ourselves. Many campers buy firewood (as there are no trees here), then leave the extra at their site. George scrounged up a lot from vacant sites. We will have a nice campfire tonight.

DINNER: My turn. It was Mexican night tonight. We started with chips, salsa and margariitas. The main course was grilled shrimp quesadillas. I added charred green peppers and onions. Side dish was a coleslaw made wiiiiiith cabbage, radishes, and a creamy chipotle dressing.

We watched the last episode of the “Monarch of the Glen” DVD that Tony and Jenny loaned us. We wish we had more to watch – was a great BBC series.