Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

“Yukon Ho!” Roadtrip, Total Animal Sightings

Banff Main StreetBack to the “Yukon Ho!” Adventure…

Here’s the thing: Before we actually made it home, we also went into Banff, had lunch, went to the Candy Store, ate fudge…etc.. and I planned to write about Banff and Canmore now… but I don’t feel like it. Right now, when I think of Banff and Canmore, I can only think “flood” and “mudslide” and so I’m going to save that segment for another time.  We go there all the time, anyway, so it’s not like this is my only time to talk about that VERY BEAUTIFUL area.

And, so ends the great Yukon Adventure.

As I’ve mentioned throughout this particular trip off and on – we saw TONS of animals! TONS!!

I didn’t show any pictures because I decided to wait till the conclusion.  There’s not a lot to say about them, but here there are, “without further ado” :

Black Bear, the Ursus Americanus, native to North America (we saw 10).
Black Bear 2 Black Bear 1 SONY DSC SONY DSC

Moose, the Alces alces (apparently, the Alces alces in Europe is an Elk, but in North America, a Moose)…we saw 4, including the baby moose.Moose
Moose family

Elk, the Cervus canadensis… THIS is an Elk. (We only saw 1.  This one doesn’t have antlers, but if you want to see a picture with antlers, either Google, or check out my Jasper blog…it’s a dark picture but may be the biggest elk I’ve ever seen…)
Elk 1 Elk 2
Found another elk picture from another Jasper trip:
Elk

Deer, the Mule (Odocoileus hemionus) and the White tail (Odocoileus virginianus).  We saw 8, but I can’t remember how many of each…
Deer 1 Deer 2Coyote

Coyote (pronounced “Kai-o-tee”), the Canis latrans, is also called an American Jackal (I didn’t know this!). We saw 3.

Caribou, the Rangifer tarandus… is also called a Reindeer… I didn’t know this either… We saw 7.
Caribou
Buffalo, the Bison bison…we saw 14 adults and 1 baby.
Buffalo 1 Buffalo 2 SONY DSC SONY DSC Buffalo and baby SONY DSC
Mountain Goat, the Oreamnos americanus.  We saw 4.
Goats 1 SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

Dall Sheep, the Ovis dalli (or maybe they are Bighorn Sheep, the Ovis canadensis?).. Technically, the Dall Sheep are northern, and the Bighorn Sheep are southern, but “southern” includes parts of middle British Columbia…  Anyway, we saw 4.
Sheep 1 Sheep 2 Sheep 3 SONY DSC
Golden Eagle, the Aquila chrysaetos.  We saw a bunch of birds – ravens, hawks and tons of the little ones, too, but I’m just Eagleincluding the Eagle.   We only saw one.  In fact, in my whole life, I’ve never seen a Golden Eagle. This is my first one.  And, actually … until a few minutes ago, I thought I had taken a picture of a Bald Eagle, the Haliaeetus leucocephalus.  Huh.

We also saw 2 Grizzly Bears, the Ursus arctos horribilis.. It seems a bit harsh, don’t you think, to call them “horribilis”?… My pictures of them are terrible (horrible 😀 ), since I didn’t want to roll down the window to take the pictures, and I just got blur and smudge.  But, if you haven’t seen an actual Grizzly or a picture of one before, I have a blog about them ~ Montana Grizzly Encounters.

The horizon, and beyond

Well! That’s it! so concludes this particular road trip.  We were safely home in Calgary, and Richard & Shannan and crew continued on to Michigan.

You may recall that before I started writing about the Yukon to Calgary Roadtrip, I was writing about a tour around the Big Island of Hawaii, but had a complication with my Hawaii photos.  Complication resolved.

Next blog: CALGARY STAMPEDE!! (And THEN, back to Hawaii…probably…)

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Calgary Comes Together

I just want to announce: We survived!YYC Food Trucks

There’s a lot to deal with after The Flood, and Calgarians are responding in overwhelming ways!

For example: early Monday morning, the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) announced that they needed volunteers to meet at McMahon Stadium to hand out information packets to displaced people who would (eventually) be returning home.  They expected around 600.

Thanks to social media sites, around 3,000 people had arrived by 10am, all ready with boots and gloves, to start the Clean-up.

There’s so many examples of that.  So many reception centers have had to put notices on line that they can no longer take donations, because the generosity of the people has outweighed storage space.  (Not including, of course, monetary donations, which are always needed…and easily stored…)

UP 97.7There are specific websites, too, that are very specific with their “needs” lists, so you don’t have to use your imagination.

There’s also sites for WHERE to go to volunteer:
http://www.yychelps.ca/
http://volunteercalgary.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/calgary-flood-donation-drop-off-points-and-wish-lists/
Calgary Flood Cleanup 2013

(There was a pamphlet that outlined important information for volunteers…it included what to expect, what to wear, and how to protect against grime and contaminants…I can’t find it now, but if you are going to volunteer – you should find it!! Or if someone reading this finds it, please add it in the comments! Thanks!)

AND, there’s also websites set up for the reuniting of pets with their families.
Calgary Flood Lost/Found Pets & FosteringAlberta Flood Concernt
Horizon Veterinary Group and Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (These sites aren’t specific about the flood, but include separated pets)

Using these sites, I had the very exciting privilege, yesterday, to help a puppy reunite with his family.  I was browsing Calgary Flood Lost/Found Pets & Fostering on Facebook and, in passing, I saw a message from Horizon Veterinary Group about a Found pet that was the same breed and seemed to have the same expressions, etc., so I called the owner and next thing I know, he’s on his other line with the Veterinary Clinic that had the puppy, and was going to go pick him up!

CTV news photoIt’s not all Clean-up.  There are still power outages (as of noon on July 25th, there were still 18,500 people without power), and there are many who can’t go home yet.

We are kept informed by news media sites that are kept up-to-date, so we aren’t overwhelmed by not knowing.
The City of Calgary
http://www.calgarycitynews.com/ and CTV News
660NewsCalgary Zoo
http://www.emergencyalert.alberta.ca/
http://alberta.ca/Recoveryinformation.cfm

And, the Zoo still has no power, many areas of the Zoo are still considered dangerous, AND they are having the added pressure of trying to move the animals back to their homes, without additional stress to the animals.  Their current news release says they have enough manual help (for now), but financinal donations can be made at http://www.calgaryzoo.com/.  (Apparently, the giraffes are highly sensitive and stressed out, and are having a hard time adjusting 😦 The Zoo people say that they seem to be recovering now, though, thankfully.)

Ald John Mar's photoIn the meantime, volunteers are showing up all over the city – people are bringing food and coffee and water to the sites.  If they can’t stay to do the work, they are dropping off supplies.

Awwww – and I just found a new bunch of websites that are people offering free services – like pumping out basements (Action Auger and Boreal Vac & Pressure Services, and maybe others, in case I miss someone) and repairing computers (Clever Concierge), to name a few – to Flood Victims.

There are tons of fundraisers going on – I can’t even list everything. Lots of concerts, restaurants, etc.

Sigh. These things are all making me teary…CS Hell or High Water 2013

The Calgary Stampede is coming up, and many wondered if the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth would go on (since just recently the Stampede Grounds were completely under water) and Mayor Nenshi has confirmed that “Yes, the Show must go on.”  And, I’m not sure who added the “Come Hell or High Water” comment after that, but you can get that on a t-shirt now, with proceeds going to Flood Victims and Clean-up.

And did you notice the picture of the poster at the beginning of my blog? THAT is TODAY!!!!

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Calgary’s State of Emergency

I THOUGHT I was going to write about Banff today – discussing our “Yukon Ho” trip. We were coming down the IcefieldsUsed to be Inglewood Golf Course Parkway, till it met the Trans-Canada Highway, where we would go East, towards Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore, and finally, Calgary.

However, instead, I want to talk about the Trans-Canada today.   Actually, starting the day before yesterday, when it closed down, due to flooding and mudslides.

Southern Alberta is under a State of Emergency.

My city, Calgary, is under water, and it is TERRIBLE! TERRIBLE.

The Police are strongly suggesting people stay home, the downtown core has been evacuated, as well as homes along the Bow River, which runs through Calgary.  Around 100,000 people have been evacuated.  Businesses courtesy of Kris from Twitter - going to High Riverdowntown are unreachable, so people can’t go in to work.

The army has been brought in.  And (I’m proud to say) not because of violence and looting, but to rescue stranded people, and to help with clean-up (when that time comes.) Of course, they are, I’m sure, here to help maintain peace, but people are getting along pretty well.  (Except the fights I’ve read about on Facebook – about the purchase of drinking water.)

So far, we are allowed to continue drinking our water, but the Water Treatment Plant has been submerged, and we are supposed to use our water cautiously (because of silt, I’ve read).  When there was a hint of massive flooding, we went out and bought 20 gallons of drinking water, so we don’t really have a panic.  We also are supplementing our water with wine and beer…Used to be Inglewood Golf Course

Four districts in Calgary (as of Friday) had no power (I read 30,000 people)- their transformers are under water… and we don’t know how that will affect us.  We are fine now.  Our internet is ebbing and flowing, but it could be coincidental.

We, personally, live about 500 feet above the flooding River (if you can call it a “river” now – it’s more like a GIANT grayish-brown lake, flowing at 1500 feet per second, with white caps and debris), so we don’t have to worry about the direct impact.
Golf Course, courtesy of Leora

But, we’ve had friends who’ve had to evacuate their homes (middle of the night rescues Thursday night) after the police went door to door, strongly suggesting that they leave.  (“Strongly suggesting” in that they weren’t arresting people, but just stuck around until the resident left or someone came to pick them up….at least that’s what happened to one of our friends…)

The Calgary ZoMeanwhile in Alberta, Calgary Zooo is an island in the Bow River, and is now completely under water.  The animals were all safely evacuated. Rumor has it that the Wild Cats are in jail…
Kool 101.5 The Cats from the Zoo are in Jail

By Friday night, the rain was stopping, and everyone was “hunkering down” for the night.  The police were out on mountainhttp://neilzellerphotography.zenfolio.com/ bikes, patrolling downtown, people in shelters were finding their spots, and those who got to stay in our own houses (maybe with guests) were saying our prayers for the safety of others… (and also, updating Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with pictures from the day, or “borrowed” from friends and media.)

I woke up Saturday morning early, and the sky was blue and the sun wasSunshine on a cloudy day shining – it was glorious!  The day before seemed too surreal – the sun was so happy, it seemed like the flood and darkness might have just been a nightmare.  Technically, I knew that wasn’t true, and I felt a little…selfish…that I could look into my backyard and not know that just “right over there” over the hill, in my own neighborhood, was terrible, terrible flooding.

The reports say that one of the rivers (The Elbow) had stabilized and was no long rising…not receding, but at least not rising.  And, the other river, the larger one (The Bow) was also not rising or receding, but we should expect surges throughout the day, depending up what was happening up-stream.

Today (Saturday), the pictures on social media are hopeful (sunshine does that) – people being rescued, pets being rescued, boats with fireman going up and down the streets, hopes of some neighborhoods being able to return home … Plans are being made for restoration, although it’s way too soon to start….
Virgin Morning ShowUP! RadioAMP Radio 2

And, then… it started to rain again…  Such as sinking feeling…  I couldn’t even look…

Leah Hennel, Calgary HeraldMeanwhile, I’ve been talking about Calgary, because this is where I live… but upstream, Banff and Canmore  have also suffered so much destruction, including water and mudslides wiping out the Trans-Canada Highway.

The www.emergencyalert.alberta.ca website has a listed of so many other towns and communities that are being affected, and who are on “critical” and “high” alert.

The site tells that “The Bow River Basin has received 250 millimeters of precipitation since Wednesday morning and the river levels are rising in response to heavy precipitation. There is a large amount of water travelling across land. This is leading to localized flooding.  The areas around the Bow river and its tributaries have reached dangerous flooding levels. ”  (250 millimeters is just about 10 inches…This report was Friday, around noon, Mountain Standard Time.)

So, I’ve checked out the Bow River Basin – it starts around Lake Louise, and eventually meets the Old Man River, right beforeBow River Basin http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/maps/water.html Medicine Hat (which is about to be flooded – they’ve already started evacuating), where it becomes the South Saskatchewan River (which we visited in a previous blog), which will eventually run into the Arctic Ocean…

What I’ve learned is that the terrible (“terrible” is my word for everything about this flood – I want to be more imaginative, but my brain is tired from all the terribleness) flooding in High River isn’t caused from the same flooding that Calgary’s flooding is.  While ours is coming from the Bow River Basin, the HPhoto Credit to Nadiaigh River flooding is caused by the OldMan River Basin flooding… and the flooding at Bragg Creek is caused by flooding of Elbow River (we visited Elbow Falls in a previous blog)… Elbow River joins Bow River IN Calgary… 😦 Two flooding rivers meeting right in the middle of the city..   And all three rivers will come together right before Medicine Hat ….

I guess it really doesn’t matter, now, who/which “caused it.”

All that matters is:AMP radio - Banding together
~ that people and animals are safe and/or being rescued
~ that we realize the rescue teams are heros ~ some have even lost their own homes, but instead of wallowing in self-pity, they are out there, rescuing
~ that people continue to kind and patient towards eachother
~ the people don’t despair
~ that people don’t take advantage of the suffering of others

And, even though my brain keeps wanting to sing: “And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard ~ It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall“…  I keep insisting that, instead, it sings: “THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW“…

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Athabasca Falls and Columbia Icefields

The next road we took was Icefields Parkway, which parallels the Continental Divide.    It goes from Jasper to the turn-off Athabasca Falls 1towards Banff (Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway).

Just about 30 kms (10 miles) south of Jasper, is Athabasca Falls.

It is such a majestic waterfall, you’d think it was higher – but it’s “only” 23 meters (75 feet)… actually, that’s pretty high! I mean, maybe not if you are comparing it to Niagara Falls (which is 51 meters/167 feet), or Kerepakupai Merú  (Angel Falls) in Bolívar, Venezuela (which is 979 meters/3,212 feet, and considered the tallest in the world!)
Athabasca FallsAthabasca's carving

The Athabasca River runs through a riverbed of quartzite and limestone, which has finally eroded and carved out gorges and potholes, creating this beautiful scenery!

It is very accessible, has a parking lot, boardwalks, and restroom facilities – not really “roughing it”, which works out well for most people.  And for those who want more of a challenge ~ well, it’s still worth the stop on your way to wherever it is you are going!Athabasca boardwalk

And, Athabasca Falls’ headwater is the Columbia Glacier, which is part of the Columbia Icefields, about 70 kms further south.

Athabasca Falls 2

Conveniently located right on the side of the Icefields Parkway, is the Columbia Icefields Discovery Center and the Athabasca Glacier.

You can walk TO the Athabasca Glacier from the convenient parking lot, but you are not allowed to walk ON it, since it’sAthabasca Glacier steadily receding.   Apparently, it recedes at a rate of about 5 meters (16 feet) per year.  If you hurry, you can still visit this one, though – it’s still 6 kms long and 1 km wide…. when you walk towards it, however, there are signs and markers along the way of how far the Glacier extended at which year… it enforces how important it is to obey the “don’t walk on this” rule.

The ExplorersYou CAN take a guided bus ride on to it, by way of a “Massive Brewster Ice Explorer” (a great big bus specifically for driving up the glacier), for which you can sign up at the Visitor’s Center.  They operate from mid-April to mid-October.

The Icefield extends from Mount Columbia (3747 meters/12,294 feet tall) on the west side to Mount Athabasca (3491 meters/11,452 feet) on the east side. It covers approximately 215 square kms (although I’ve seen a couple of reports that say 325 square kms?), and can be up to 360 meters deep… Interestingly, up to 7 meters of snow falls during the winter each year, which is more than can melt during the summer, so it continues to add mass.SONY DSC
Glaciers

There are 8 major glaciers, including the Athabasca (of course), the Dome and the Stutfield (both also can be seen from the Icefields Parkway), and the Castleguard, Columbia, and Saskatchewan.

Columbia Icefield areaThe Icefield caps the Continental Divide and the water splits into three at Snow Dome (3,456 meters/3,456 m (11,339 ft) tall), and pours into the Arctic, the North Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.  In fact, the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River are here, as well as the Columbia Basin.

Next stop: Banff National Park.

http://www.icefieldsparkway.ca/journey.html
http://www.explorerockies.com/columbia-icefield/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Icefield

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Jasper National Park, Alberta

Jasper was our first stop back in Alberta, and we decided to stay for a day.Tekarra Cabin

Normally, in the past when we visited Jasper, we’ve stayed at the Jasper Park Lodge, but that didn’t make as much sense, travelling with 4 adults, 3 dogs and 2 children.  So, we drove around town until we found Tekarra Lodge, where we could have our own individual cabins.

Tekarra Cabin interiorOurs was the tiniest, coziest little cabin you have ever seen.  It was so small, we could stoke the wood fireplace, without actually getting out from under the blankets.  (Richard and Shannan’s cabin had a sitting area, so I guess there are a variety of sizes available.)

It was a cute place, and comes with a restaurant, a laundromat, and a GORGEOUS view of the Athabasca River. (We had a picnic on the cliffs…and by “picnic”, I mean “wine”.)
Athabasca RiverWine picnic
As I mentioned, previously, we stayed at the Jasper Park Lodge, which is an entire self-contained little village.  We LOVE it there!

LacOne day, we realized I’d never been to Jasper before, so we started trying to plan.  We needed, of course, a place that accepted dogs in the rooms, but I was having a hard time finding any place, so I emailed a friend of mine that worked at Jasper Park Lodge – not to stay there, but for suggestions on WHERE to stay.

He set us up with a VERY nice suite, right on Lac Beauvert.  It was the middle of a freeeeeezing cold winter, and we took advantage of room service, the restaurant nearby (we didn’t take advantage of the go-cart ride over to it, but that would’ve been fun too), and the firewood that they delivered each day, right to our front step.

It was great! If I couldGiant elk live there, winter wouldn’t be so bad!!!

My favorite memory of that particular trip was when Daisy & Coco (our miniature dachshunds) discovered there was a MASSIVE elk right outside our door, and their barking frenzy turned into them tip-toeing back into the room, completely silent, and then staring out the window for an hour… completely quiet.

It reminds me of a Far Side comic…No Barking FrenzyThe Far Side, Gary Larson

We’ve also stayed at the Jasper Park Lodge in the summer, and went golfing there, rated in the Top 5 Golf Courses in Canada (it has been #1, but I see that it can fluctuate very slightly…)

I’m a “beginner” golfer, and play my own game.  I tee-off, do a couple of drives down the fairway (how many often depends up my own stress level, the people Geese on the CourseI’m with, and the people coming up behind us), a chip (out of either the sand or the tall grass) and then a putt.  Then, I count maximum score.  This helps me not get overly frustrated, and I get to practice using a lot of my clubs.  I like it this way. (“Beginner” is in “quotes”, by the way, because I could be better if I went more…I’m working on this… I enjoy it – its just timing.)

…I guess Geese while I’m Golfing is Par for the Course… AAAAAAAAHAHAAHAHHAHAHAH… hee hee… sorry.

ANYway…. Jasper Town/Village is a cute little town with one or two streets of restaurants and shops.  It’s not an over-done, too touristy town at all – in fact, it’s tricky to even find souvenirs.

They DO have some of my very favorite restaurants. For example, the Fiddle River Restaurant served my Alaskan King CrabAlaskan King Crab with the yummiest butter I’ve ever had.  So yummy, in fact, that I had to ask the chef what was in it, and he gave me a list of the ingredients! I have been eating King Crab as long as I can remember, and never had anything quite so delicious! (And, if you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that King Crab and Mexican Food are my two most common “food” topics.)   Based on my pictures, it looks like I had a pretty good crab meal at Karouzo’s, too, at some point…

It’s one of those places that you can just meander along, and pick your own favorites.

Jasper street

I feel that it might be time for me to plan a weekend there again…

Wednesday, we will be visiting Athabasca Falls.

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Prince George, Chetwynd & McBride (B.C.)

Last weekend, I had hoped to go to Spock Days, in Vulcan Alberta. But, I didn’t get to go… maybe next year.  This year, the Vulcan Aleguest stars were Robert Picardo, Ethan Phillips, and Rick Sternbach.

I did happen across Vulcan Beer, though, which honors Vulcan’s Centennial Year.  The Star Trek website  says: “How often, after a tough day, have you muttered the words, “Man, I wish I could have some Vulcan Ale right about now”?”  … I haven’t actually said that…but I am curious to try it.. I found it for sale at Zyn, in Inglewood.

So, back to our Yukon-Calgary roadtrip.

After leaving Dawson Creek, and no longer on the Alaska Highway, we came across Chetwynd.

Chetwynd is an interesting townWelcome to Chetwynd, that, it seems, is famous for its chainsaw art.

The first of the chainsaw art was a scene with 3 bears, made in 1992, as part of the “Welcome to Chetwynd” sign.  Since then, the collection has grown, and the whole town has chainsaw sculptures on display.  (I didn’t know that we were supposed to be on the look-out for art, so I only caught the edge of the “Welcome” sign as we zoomed by.)

MooseCowboy

Main StreetThe Chetwynd Chainsaw Championship was just this past weekend! What good timing was that? They estimated that there would be 120 sculptures at the completion of the competition.

Next stop was Prince George. After being there, the song that comes to mind is “She ain’t pretty, she just looks that way.”

I think even people who live there and love it, have to admit that, despite the pretty scenery, it STINKS!!!

It was so terrible, that as we were driving down the main street coming into town, and I was taking pictures of the town, etc., I "THIS STINKS!"heard Shannan say (all muffled): “I hope I don’t offend the locals.”  She had her face completely buried in her shirt as she drove us through town.  (Another moment that caused me to laugh till I could hardly breathe.)

We had decided (in advance) to stop there for the night, and the boys (still driving behind us) wanted to go to a cheap(er) hotel, but we decided we wanted something nicer, so, since we were in the lead car, we just passed right by the hotel they wanted, and went to the one that we chose.  HOWEVER,  the air was so terrible, when Shannan got out to go book rooms, she started gagging and had to get back in the car!! (SO, we lost that battle, and ended up at Peter and Rich’s choice.)

That all being said: by the time we woke up the next morning, we had grown accustomed to the rankness, and so, I suppose that’s how people stay there.

I’m not making this up – Prince George has large pulp mills and an oil refinery there, and they STINK!

I suppose it’s unfair to say something that sounds so negative… but it was really part of our “adventure” and that’s what I know about it!  It shouldn’t stop you from going to visit… although, it might prevent us from going back…. ever…. maybe.

Ancient Forest this-a-wayWe didn’t stay in town for breakfast, but headed off to see what was out on the open highway (the TransCanada Highway).

Somewhere between Prince George and a little town called McBride, is the Ancient Forest.

Ancient ForestThe Ancient Forest is estimated to be between 1000-2000 years old, and further up the trail (which we didn’t follow) are trees that are up to 16 meters (52 feet) in circumference.   One tree (called “Big Tree”… really? that’s the best they could come up with??) is 5 meters McBride(16 feet) in diameter and was probably a sapling during the peak of the Roman Empire!!  Hmmmmm… this isn’t really that far from Calgary… I might actually go back there someday.

Not only that, it’s not that far from McBride, and a good friend of ours (Susanna) is from McBride, so maybe we can just follow her there at some point. (Susanna – if you are reading this… just so you know… that could be a plan.)

It’s a very small town (2006 Census is 660 only), which makes sense when Susanna told me that most of the amazing things to do there are all outdoors-y.  Going to the Fraser River, Rainbow Falls, Tier Mountain, etc.

There were chainsaw sculptures on display there, as well – not sure if they are artist from McBride, or just a nice place to set up their art, right there, on the TransCanada Highway.Chainsaw art
McBride Chainsaw art

Next stop: Jasper, Alberta.

Rocky Mountains

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Dawson Creek, Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway

It is 450 kms from Fort Nelson to Dawson Creek, the beginning of the Alaska Highway.Buckinghorse River Lodge

That 450 kms is jammed packed with … ummmm…. trees… mountains… and animals… and Buckinghorse River Lodge.

The Historical Buckinghorse River Lodge is at Milepost 175, and it seems that it’s “claim to fame” is that its half way between Fort Nelson and Fort St. John.  It is 30 miles north of Pink Mountain. Pink Mountain DOES sound interesting! From a distance, it looks pink because of all the fireweed blossoms! (So, I suppose, you have to be there in the late summer to see that.)

Toad RiverNot quite enroute, is Toad River.  (I should’ve brought it up on the last blog, but I wanted to talk about Loaded Joe’s from Dixie Lee’s instead! Toad River is actually 188 kms before Fort Nelson and 60 kms after Muncho Lake.)  The Toad River Lodge‘s claim-to-fame is it’s World Famous hat collection, consisting of over 7,000 hats nailed to the ceiling.  The Lodge has motel rooms, cabins, RV parking, laundry, and auto mechanic (really good idea, since you are way out there in the middle of nowhere!!) and a full service restaurant.
Alaska Highway SceneryAlaska Highway Scenery, too

Enroute, however, IS Fort St. John (Milepost 47), which happens to be British Columbia’s oldest non-native interior community, originally established in 1794, as a trading post.  The majority of settlers didn’t arrive, though, until the 1930’s, when people from the Prairie areas were trying to find new opportunities during The Dirty 30’s (Canada’s Great Depression.)

"Go that-a-way"We stayed over night at Fort St. John, and it was a typical town – I’m sure there’s tons to do there, but we were just passing through.

Passing through, on our way to Dawson Creek.  The actual Creek was named for the leader of a surveyor team (George M. Dawson) who came through in 1879.  By 1919, there were a few hotels and stores, and (thanks to the Railway coming through in 1931) around 500 people lived there by 1941.  However, the main influx of people came after the completion of the Alaska Highway, and as of the 2011 Census, the population was around 12,000.

You can visit the South Peace Historical Society Railway Station Museum at the original Northern Alberta Railway Station.Dawson Creek

Dawson’s Claim-to-Fame is, as mentioned, that it is the start of the Alaska Highway, the Mile 0… On the “Biggest Ball of String” theme, this is a big deal and totally worth stopping for a picture.

Mile 0Our animal sightings for the day include: Black bear, caribou, dall sheep, deer, elk and moose.

Next, we are on our way to Prince George, B.C.

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Fort Nelson, B.C. and Dixie Lee

Oh Goodness. I hope I can tell this right!

Dixie LeesSomewhere between Muncho Lake and Fort Nelson, far ahead, I saw a sign for “Dixie Lee’s Fried Chicken.”  Now, I don’t know how many of you have ever been to Dixie Lee’s, but they have (or used to have) THE BEST EVER “Loaded Joes”.  Loaded Joes (for those of you who have never had the privilege of tasting them) are specially seasoned potato chunks (like pan fries), smothered in layers of sour cream, grated Cheddar, bacon bits and chives.  I hadn’t had them in YEARS!! (Dixie Lee’s seems to have been primarily a British Columbia restaurant, and even in B.C., they are far & few between now.)

ANYway, despite the fact that we had just had breakfast, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity for Loaded Joes, so we pulled in to the little drive-in diner.

Excited, I went up to the counter and ordered my Loaded Joes.  The girl at the counter didn’t know what I was talking about. Never heard of them.

JUST when I was prepared to be disappointed, I heard a voice from the back say, “Wait! We can make them! We can make them!”

My hero came out from the back and a big discussion ensued between the hero and the counter staff, about what Loaded Joes are and how to make them.  You could tell that the guy had heard of them before, like a myth or a legend.  He talked about them with a hint of awe.

As Shannan and I stood there, he walked passed us and out the front door, got in his car and drove away!  The counter girl explained that he had gone to the nearest grocery store to buy the ingredients for the Loaded Loaded JoesJoes (they needed sour cream.)

ANYway – the accommodating staff was the highlight of the trip, so far! I couldn’t believe they went through so much trouble to get my Loaded Joes! They were slightly different than they were when they were on the menu (in looks) but the flavors were the same – AND THEY WERE DELICIOUS!  (Also, HUGE – they gave me a family pack size of them, which worked out conveniently, since I had to share with Shannan.)

They are really, really messy, so I fed Shannan as we drove off down the highway.

Eventually, we’d had enough and they were cold, the fries were soggy and cheese was icky… Believe me when I tell you that I had no other choice but to put the remaining goo on the dashboard.  (Remember, we were travelling with 3 little dogs in the car.)

I don’t really know how much time passed, but all of the sudden, Shannan andSasquatch Crossing Sign Replica I (who were in the lead car) saw a sign on the side of the road that said, “Sasquatch Crossing”!!! I was so unprepared, I didn’t have my camera ready and, without thinking it through, yelled, “STOP!”

Shannan, alert to my suggestions, SLAMMED on the brakes!

By the time the dust had settled, there were little wide-eyed dogs in the front seat, and cheese fries EVERYWHERE! There was even melted cheese IN the stereo speaker grill! and the boys in the car behind us were MAD!

We, of course, had collapsed into a fit of laughter, and managed to gasp out when interrogated, “We didn’t throw the fries away, because we wanted to share them with you”, to which the boys responded: “If we wanted fries, we would’ve asked for them.” (OK – they were really mad – pulling the trailer, they skidded here and there when they had to slam on their brakes, which made them unhappy.)

Back on the highway, and maybe 20 minutes later (us still in the lead car), IThe Loaded Joe's Incident look over at Shannan, and she’s talking to herself – all twitchy and mumbling and sneering… I catch her sentence right when she says, all sassy, “‘If we wanted fries, we’d ask for them’…. oh really… I’ll give YOU fries.”

She opens the sunroof and THROWS the fries OUT the sunroof at their car behind us!

OH MY GOODNESS! In my whole entire life, I’ve never laughed that hard! Seriously! My whole life!!

(Incidentally, we completely missed the picture of the “Sasquatch Crossing” sign… )

Sunday, we’re heading towards Dawson Creek, BC; the start of the Alaskan Highway, Mile 0.  (Although… this weekend is “Spock Days” in Vulcan, Alberta, and I’ve never gone before… so Sunday might actually be about Spock Days…)

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Rocky Mountain Lodge on Muncho Lake, B.C.

We drove straight from Watson Lake to Northern Rockies Lodge at Muncho Lake, in one 3-4 hour segment.That's "Mr. Buffalo", to you

I can’t remember any particular event, BUT we saw so many animals, it was like we were at the zoo! (Except, we were in the enclosure and they were running (walking, pacing, meandering) wild). We did a tally at the end of the trip (when we arrived at Calgary) of everything we saw that trip, but this particular leg of the trip, we saw 2 black bear, a bunch of buffalo (including one with her baby), an eagle, and a deer.

About 90 miles (Mile post Northern Rockies Lodge543) east-ish is Whirlpool Canyon. I’m not sure what’s there, but check it out and let me know!

I vaguely remember talking with Shannan about going to “the Hotsprings”, but I’d forgotten until just now, but at Mile Post 496 is the Liards River Hotsprings Provincial Park… Wonder why we didn’t go.   The website says: “Relaxation seeps into your body as you ease into the second largest hot spring in Canada…” This seems like a good place to stop!!   It’s open year round, and the water temperatures are 42° C to 52° C.

Unfortunately… we made this plan to join Rich and Shannan on their road trip because it seemed like a “once in a lifetime” trip, and it’s so far out there,Cabins in the middle of nowhere, I’m not sure I’ll be back there again… BUT, if you are ever driving the Alaska Highway, you really should stop!!

I had that same thought about the Northern Rockies Lodge, on Muncho Lake, Mile Post 462.   We loved it there! But, can’t figure out how we can get back, without driving….

There’s an RV park, a bunch of cabins, and a hotel/lodge.  (AND the hotel is pet-friendly, which is important, when travelling with puppies!)

The restaurant (which is fully licensed) serves the (second) BEST spaetzle EVER!! How often can you find a restaurant that serves spaetzle anyway?  (By the way – the link I included is a recipe from allrecipes.com, but I’m not Spaetzle and maybe Stroganoffnecessarily vouching for it.  I have not yet mastered spaetzle making – but the best I’ve ever had was made by our friend Henriette… who told me it was easy, but when I tried to make it myself, I had …goo…)

However, the Schildknecht family, who own and operate the Lodge, know their spaetzle, and schnitzel, and – I can’t remember what’s on my plate, and I can’t find it a menu on-line, but it looks like… stroganoff… what’s the German equivalent of  stroganoff? I am going to send my picture to them and ask.  (Interestingly, when I Google “German stroganoff“, the first page all includes “stroganoff and spaetzle”. I guess that’s what I had. It was yummy!)

Meanwhile, while we were having our lovely dinner, we could hear the puppies howling (actually howling) from the rooms down below…. kind of a mood-killer.  The hosts were merciful and hospitable, and instead of expelling us from the hotel, had stories of their own.  (Just toMuncho Lake be clear – it was not during the normal sleeping hours – just evening time… once sleep-time came along, and we were back in the room, the puppies were all docile.)

The Lodge is right on Muncho Lake, which is a crystal clear 12 km long lake, within the Muncho Lake Provincial Park. (“Muncho” means “Big Water” in the Kaska language.

Beautiful setting, comfortable rooms, delicious food, and gracious hosts – if only I could get back there!!!

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