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)

Geocaching!!!

I canNOT imagine why I haven’t started geocaching  before now.   It seems like the PERFECT blend – Biggest Ball of String roadside attractions andCutest Ball of String Geocaching sites! How many have I missed already???

What is Geocaching?  Well, according to the geocaching site, it’s: “a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”

Basically, it’s a world-wide (185 countries, at least) scavenger hunt! but, instead of taking something from a location, you leave something there!  Someone, at some point (it can be you!) has set up a secret hiding place, with a geocache locator, and the treasure hunter has to find it! (There’s GPS coordinates, for the treasure map.)  Once you find the treasure, you can sign the log-in sheet (so carry a pencil with you), log your location (on the geocache site), add a treasure to the “treasure chest” (if that’s an option at the location), and put everything back exactly as you found it, so the next person can try to find it!

In my research, it seems that hiding places can be anywhere – on a chair in a tree, buried in a hollowed out fence post, basic containers set under a bush, in a fairy house… (see here for “19 Ridiculously Creative Geocache Containers“.)

There are 2 geocache sites hereThere are some very important rules, especially about leaving things:

~ This is to be an environmentally friendly game, so people are encouraged not only to NOT leave litter, etc., but to pick up any that they encounter.
~ Treasures left in a geocache container must be family-friendly, no food, and no weaponry (it’s too bad that these things have to be stated, but completely necessary, I suppose)
~ You can trade a treasure for a treasure, but you have to trade equal or increased value – (no taking an ancient artifact and replacing with a leaf you just picked from the nearby tree.)

I wish I had’ve started this sooner! I actually accidentally found one while snorkelling in Hawaii.  Well, by “I”, I mean one of the kids with us – it was a Waiopaeheavy-duty plastic tube, crammed into a lava rock in the tide pool.  Inside was a few pretty rocks, shells, a doll and a note.   We added a small trinket-y thing we had handy, resealed the tube and hid it, but we didn’t realize that it was an international game and we didn’t follow-up on it…

The other day, my friend and I were trying to make a plan for a day when her daughters had time off school, and she mentioned “geocache” and I’ve been a fanatic since! (We still haven’t had a chance to try it – but we hope to go next week! Come on, mild weather!)

I have to figure out what “treasure” we want to leave behind – I’ve already made up a username I really like, and I’ve set up an account.   Any ideas on the treasures? I feel like it’d be good to have a variety of things (toys, bandaids (not my idea, but a good suggestion), trinkets, stickers, stamps), but maybe also something representing our journey… (I think a tiny “big ball of string” might look like lint, so I’m going to choose something else…)

I feel “renewed” in writing about our Big Ball of String roadtrips, and plan to (hope to) be able to incorporate geocaching “adventures” to come!

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Big Island’s June27 Lava Flow and Hurricane Iselle

Hi!  It’s been a long time since I wrote!

When I was writing my Biggest Ball of String “adventures” more regularly, I was just finishing up my segment on the Big Island of Hawaii – all I had left was the Village of Kailua-Kona.  (I’ll come back to that.)Summertime

And, although I’ve thought of my blog often, and the unfinished Hawaii segment, and all the places we’ve been that I didn’t discuss, I was side tracked with “real-life” things.  Last time I wrote, I talked about one of the “real life” things, which was a Cottage we purchased on Lake Michigan! THAT has taken up so much of my time! and I love it! I am inspired to do thing for it – it’s like I have tunnel vision! Everything has to do with that one particular event/thing!

Because The Cottage is part of my new adventure, I’ve started a new blog for it.  It’s going to be very specific to that one place – the cottage, the area, the renovations & updates, local business – chocolaterias, wineries, pie & pastry shops, breweries, places to rent boats, etc.   Really, I hope there are people who “browse” and find it,  or maybe it’ll be people who come visit the Cottage and want to know what updates we’ve done, or maybe it will be random people… but, I also just want to remind myself of the journey, and this is a good way!  Come check it out!

Last time I wrote a blog about travel, and before we bought the Cottage, I was writing about Hawaii…

A lot is happening right now on the Big Island – including the relentless approaching lava toward the little village of Pahoa!

June 27 Lava Flow 1Kilauea’s newest lava flow is named for the date the lava began erupting from it’s new vent, June 27.   I don’t know much about it but the pictures on-line seem crazy and amazing!!   The National Park’s website says that, as of September 15, “The actual length of the flow, measured along the lava tube axis (so that bends in the flow are considered) is 17.7 km (11.0 miles).”

I did wonder (since the lava is advancing kind of slowly, I mean, compared to movies like Dante’s Peak) if there were plans to divert the lava… when I asked, the answer was basically “no”.  I had my own guesses as to the reason, but Huffingpost had this to say:

“But diversion methods can be risky, according to officials. Not only could they make the problem worse, there are also considerable cultural sensitivities at June 27 Lava Flowplay.”

Diverting the lava flow — whether by obstructing it, rerouting it or attempting to alter the terrain in its path — is seen as blasphemous to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes who is believed to live in the Halemaumau crater of Kilauea Volcano.

“This is a very sacred place,” Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator Darryl Oliveira said in response to one Puna resident’s question about diversion, per footage of the community meeting posted online Sept. 3 by Big Island Video News. “It is important to recognize and respect the culture that was and is still here.”

Oliveira also explained that any kind of diversion could worsen the situation and unintentionally send the lava flow toward another community.”

Culture and uncertainty were my guesses.

Maybe something amazing will happen, and there will be a rift that doesn’t affect anyone, and the lava will just drop straight back into the earth and take an underground route to the ocean!

Methusaleh 1 So, speaking of Hawaii, and that side of the Island – did I mention that we have land there…?  The reason I bring it up now is because on that acreage was “Methuselah”.  Methuselah was an O’hia tree , estimated to be around 970 years old (hence, the namesake), and right beside the top of our driveway.

When we first put in our driveway, we took special care of the larger trees and made the road go around them.  Especially Methuselah.

O’hia trees grow up to be about 20–25 meters (66–82 feet), but Methuselah was probably around 50 feet tall, and had been broken in half by either wind or lightning at some point. Two people could not reach around his trunk.  There was an entire ecosystem growing in and on his trunk! He was covered in roots from other trees.  In his leaves near the top, you could see flowers and leaves from orchids living and growing in his bark.   He was magnificent.

This year, during Hurricane Iselle, he blew down.  Even now, writing it, it makes my eyes water.  I love that tree.Methusaleh 2

The people who told us that he’d fallen (and currently is blocking complete access to our driveway) know that I love the tree, and everyone has wonderful ideas: Maybe we can make it into a beam in our house. Maybe we can make it into a bench. Maybe we can lift it with a crane to the edge of the property, and let the branches grow into new trees (this happens in Hawaii…)

It’s hard to find someone with a crane who also appreciates how much I love that tree… also, when O’hias die, they turn to such hard wood, it’s almost like petrified and then …so… I need to decide soon…

Hurricane Iselle (a tropical storm?) did a lot of damage to the Island –  trees and power lines were down everywhere, and tens of thousands were without power for weeks, some communities were without running water, and some people were isolated because of giant trees down blocking the roads.  There are really great stories, though, about communities coming together to help others – which, despite these two major catastrophes, is a really nice part of the story!  It’s worth the Google.

I was going to talk about Kona this time, but I think I’ll save it for next time…which will be sooner than later! (It’s mostly written anyway – just need to add pictures!

Stay tuned!

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LakeShore Haven, our cottage on Lake Michigan

You may or may not have noticed, but I haven’t written a blog lately…

www.vrbo.com/511943

Last time I wrote, though, we were on a boomerang trip to Michigan (visiting Richard and Shannan, and family – they come up in my blogs from time to time) where we stayed for a month.  (More about that trip later.)

One night, during our visit, we were all sitting up having some inspirational drinks (wine for the girls, scotch for the boys) and having one of those inspirational conversations that people often have at 2:30 in the morning, and it went something like:

Summertime“Hey! You know what we should do? We should all by a house together and rent it out!”

“YEAH! LET’S DO IT!!”

and then, it didn’t come up again – I completely forgot, until on the way home.

I said to Peter: “I wonder if they thought we were serious about that? Or if they thought it was just one of those fun-to-talk-about-at-the-time conversations?”

Not too long after that, we got a text: “Look what we found!”

Maybe just the cutest cottage EVER!

It’s 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom cottage walking distance (maybe 3-5 minutes) to Lake Michigan.  We can see The Lake from the living room window.

beachIt’s right beside a nice park with a playground, and 630 feet of white sand beach!

Richard’s family already has a cottage here and he’s been coming for 30+ years to visit the area.  So, we know all the ins-and-outs of the place – where’s the best restaurant, where’s the nearest golfing, where can you find a local chocolateria, and don’t forget the wineries!!   (Also, Michigan has recently voted a #1 place to come for beer connoisseur with all of their local Craft beers!)

Basically, there’s something for everyone in Michigan, and especially at our cottage! 😀

Let me tell you all about it! (This has been all-encompassing for me, which is one reason I haven’t been around in blog-world.)rag quilts

As soon as we decided to purchase it, I decided I had to make a quilt. Having never had made quilts before, I decided the best thing for a LakeShore cottage was a “rag quilt”.  I could go on and on about rag-quilts, but then my Upstairsblog would be about quilting.  Suffice it to say: I bought a sewing machine and made my first quilt, and now it’s in Michigan, in the main bedroom.

As mentioned, the Cottage has 2 bedrooms. One is on the main level with a super comfy queen size bed, and the second is kind of like a loft bedroom with 4 (also comfortable) twin size beds.

The most picturesque thing about The Cottage is that it has an enclosed front porch solarium area with summer screen windows – I cannot wait to have a nap out there in the summer.   That is, if the hammock (which will hang between two of the oak trees) is occupied!

Right now, the Cottage is a one bathroom place, but we have big plans for that second bathroom, and there’s talk about an outdoor shower, too.

The area is mostly known for summer activities (wine tours, bicycling, hiking, walking around the cute little character towns – Saugatuck, South Haven & Douglas (we are about 5 minutes from Saugatuck, 3 from Douglas, and 10-ish from South Haven) but we all agree that it is gorgeous in the winter and people should be invited to come – maybe cross country skiing, snow shoeing, snow fort building… possibilities are endless!!  (To this end, we’ve added a gas fireplace – well, like a wood stove fireplace.)

We have a currently undeveloped basement (home of a future bathroom), but it does have a laundry utility room down there, and we are working on converting the rest into a social place for kids.  (One portion for a TV, DVD player, books, etc – a movie area – and the rest for a playground for smaller children.  So far (because we just have arrived Thursday night and are leaving Monday), we have added those rubber prime colored square puzzle flooring pieces, and it seems to be a hit with Shannan & Richard’s 4-year-old son, so yay!!

We’ve installed cable, Wi-Fi, and free long distance phone calls.

Let me see… what else!!? Well, I’m sure I’ll have more to say the more I get to know the place and the more the updates continue, but for now:

JUST COME VISIT!!

http://www.facebook.com/lakeshorehaven1
www.vrbo.com/511943

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A Slingshot Trip

Taking a break from my blog about Hawaii, the Big Island, Kona conclusion – onlyMichigan because I’ve run out of time for now, and because I’m going to be without wi-fi for … who-knows-how-long – I am diverting temporarily to our upcoming trip.

We are “sling-shotting” to Michigan to visit friends (Richard, Shannan, Evan & Jack), and, for the most part, travelling a road we’ve already gone AND I’ve already talked about in my blog at some point.

Which is good, because we don’t have time to stop anywhere, so I won’t be pouty that I can’t stop to see the Roadside Attractions.

AirstreamThe plan is – get to Michigan as quickly as possible, by the most direct route, according to Google Maps. (The most direct route is approximately 3,000 kms/close to 1900 miles.)

The “adventure” part of it is that I’ve decided that, rather than hotel-ing, we are going to bring the Airstream, so that we have our own “home away from home” while visiting Richard and Shannan. Since it’s off-season, most campgrounds are already closed, so we plan to stay at Rest Areas, parking lots of places like Wal-mart, and truck stops.

We’ve never done that before (rest-stops, truck-stops and parking lots.) Makes me nervous. And, a little excited. Normally, I have the route carefully planned, campgrounds or hotels booked well in advance. A book with confirmation numbers, addresses, and phone numbers.

This time, I have a “hope for the best” mentality and a website (www.allstays.com) which lists every truck stop (including which have showers, restaurants and lounges), rest stops (including whether they are East/West or North/South bound), and parking lot that allows overnight stays, for every interstate in the United States.

Here’s what we’ll be passing:

1) We will be going through Medicine Hat, Alberta, which is home of the World’s Largest TeePee. This I haven’t seen AND we will be stopping for pictures.

2) Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, home of the World’s Largest Moose, and a townWorld's Largest Moose which actually has a few things I do want to do that I missed last time (the Al Capone tour and the Underground Tunnel tours), but we don’t have time. I will eventually be back there for those tours.

3) Dog River/Rouleau, Saskatchewan, filming location of “Corner Gas”.

3) Weyburn, Saskatchewan, home of what could be the World’s Tallest Wheat. (Same link as #3, Dog River)

The World's Largest Buffalo4) Minot, North Dakota, whose motto is “Why-not Minot”….

5) Jamestown, North Dakota, home of the World’s Largest Buffalo AND albino buffalos. (Same link as #3, Dog River) I might try to stop there for a better picture of the Albino Buffalo, actually.. Which reminds me. I should bring the big camera….

6) Fargo, North Dakota, home of the Infamous Wood Chipper, and the Fargo Walk of Fame.

7) A Continental Divide, not THE Continental Divide.Alexandria's Runestone

8) Alexandria’s Runestone. (I did say if we were ever there again, expecting we never would be, I’d stop and see the real one in the museum, instead of the replica… but that won’t be this trip…)

Skimming passed Minneapolis and St. Paul (tons more I need to see there, too, but I didn’t even get that all done last time I was there, and I was there for … 2 days, not 3 minutes…or probably an hour? that it’ll take us to “skim passed”?

Once we get to Wisconsin, though, we will be on a part of the highway we haven’t been before.

Here’s what I’ll be missing (maybe):

1) In or around Eau Claire: Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum, a Ship-shaped CarPaul Bunyan Wash, and a Transmission Man.

2) At Mauston, the Kwik Trip sign is apparently a hanging semi-truck… Might be able to see that from the road if I’m looking!

3) Wisconsin Dells – now the home of the Russian MIR Space Station… hmmmm… maybe we can stop on the way back… Looks like there’s also an Upside-down Whitehouse, Storybook Gardens (more research required to see if this still exists), a Muffler Man that looks alot like Burt Reynolds, Paul Bunyan restaurants (might need to stop there), and the World’s Possible Largest Flamingo….

4) DeForest – home of Sissy the Cow and Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet. … Actually, now that I know there’s an all-things-cheese place, might need to stop there for sure. (I mean – at some point, we have to stop at a Cheese Tourist thing – it IS, after all, Wisconsin!)

5) A bunch of sites in Madison, including Otis Redding’s Plane Crash site…

6) An Apple Water Tower at Edgerton.

7) Janesville – Bessie the Cow (apparently in a Fruitopia commercial?) and a 2-story outhouse,

SPAM Museumm8) Beloit – A Giant Bulldog and a Giant Hormel Can…

Speaking of Hormel – last time we were here, we visited the SPAM Museum, (SPAM being a Hormel product). This time, I am in search of La Victoria Chunky Jalapeno Hot Sauce – apparently this is the best hot sauce on the planet – if anyone knows where to find it… Originally, we found it at a little store in Sandpoint, ID (future blog topic), but can’t find it again. I did email to MegaMex Foods (which is “a joint venture between…Hormel Foods and Herdez del Fuerte“) and they are searching. (It IS available on-line, if I can’t find it any other place.)

ENTER Illinois. Still on a “fresh road”.

Oh too bad. I’m out of time.  See you later!

Thank you to our wonderful friends for house-sitting for us, too! Mwah!

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Place of Refuge, Punalu’u Bakery, and Mark Twain

Between Punalu’u Beach and South Point, you will pass through Naʻālehu.  It’s a tiny little town of around 1000 peopleIs this Heiau? and one main street that runs through it.

TripAdvisor says “3 things to do in Naʻālehu.  And, without looking, this is my list of 3 things to do there:

1) The Punalu’u Bakery – I would drive all the way to the other side of the Island for Punalu’u Bread, BUT now you can just buy it in the local grocery store.  Still, it’s worth going to the actual bakery, which not only has the best bread EVER (along with samples) but just happens to be the southern most bakery in the United States.

Punaluu BakeryYou can buy purple (taro), pink (guava) or yellow/cream-colored (traditional) bread or swirled combinations.  You can buy mixes to make your own at home later.  (At the Maku’u Farmer’s Market, I had a Polish sausage on a Punalu’u Guava bun.)

It’s a bakery, so they also have cookies, and other desserts, but we really love the bread. (Oh, there’s also a quirky gift shop there, too.)

2) Shaka Restaurant – it’s Claim-to-Fame is that it’s the Southernmost Bar in the United States. But, Peter says it also hasShaka Restaurant the coldest beer he’s ever had! It’s a good place to eat – pub food – yummy fish-n-chips, macaroni and cheese – that kind of food.

3) Mark Twain‘s Tree – Mark Twain’s tree is actually in Waiohinu, a town 2 1/2 miles north of Naʻālehu.  He visited the town in 1866 and supposedly planted a Monkey Pod Tree. THAT tree blew down in 1957, but a shoot lives on and grew into what is now there, on the side of the road.

Mark Twain Monkey Pod TreeIf you follow the Hawaii Belt Road (Hwy 11) clockwise from Mark Twain’s Tree, 37.5 miles later, you will arrive at the Place of Refuge Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.

This was a place that “protected the kapu (sacred laws) breaker, and civilians during the time of war and the defeated warriors”, according to the description on the Place of Refuge website.  You would have to run for your life, literally, and if you made it to the Place of Refuge, you could gain asylum.

There are two main areas – the Pu’uhonua and the Royal Grounds.  The Royal Grounds housed the chiefly residences and ceremonial structures. The Pu’uhonua IS the actual Place of Refuge and was sacred (it is still considered sacred, so there are some very specific rules about how to behave while there.)

The Pu’uhonua included:

  • the ‘Āle‘ale‘a Heiau (a “heiau” is a Hawaiian temple – all that I’ve seen are stone platforms made from lava rock Hale o Keawe– they are easily recognized and still considered sacred, so you canNOT walk on them…I don’t know what ‘Āle‘ale‘a means…?)
  • the Hale o Keawe (this is reconstructed – the original was built around 1650 but has that was a long time ago! It originally held the bones of many chiefs, including Kamehameha I’s son) (*By the way, Hale o Keawe means: House of Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku. Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku was great-grandfather of King Kamehameha I, who was the first king of the Kingdom of Hawaii…)
  • and Konane (a game similar to checkers, and also chess..sometimes, the chiefs would use this game to settle disputes).Konane

Once upon a time, apparently, Queen Ka’ahumanu had to swim there after a fight with her husband (King Kamehameha I).   She got caught, but made up with the King, so… all’s well that ends well.

There were once many Places of Refuge, but now this is one of the few that has lasted… There is a fee to get it – $5 per vehicle for 7 days!

There’s aLOT to see and lots of history. Just go and get the guide from the National Park Service and see all you can see.

Whittington Park There is a view that can’t be missed!  Between Punalu’u Beach and Punalu’u Bakery in Naʻālehu (5.3 miles from Beach and 3 miles from the Bakery) is one of the most breathtaking views on the Island.  It’s of Whittington Beach Park (Honuapo).

Once upon a time, it was a thriving sugar cane town, but then a tsunami (in 1946) destroy the town and left behind just remnants of what used to be the shipping pier.  That’s exactly what it looks like.  It’s beautiful and deWhittington Park areasolate. It looks like a scene from a movie.

Pull over and take the picture – don’t forget!

Sunday – we continue on to see where Captain Cook met his demise.

http://pahoahi.tripod.com/kona/refuge.htm
http://gohawaii.about.com/od/bigisland/ss/puuhonua_4.htm

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“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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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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