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)

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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“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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Elk Valley, British Columbia

OH! You know what I forgot!? I forgot the Burmis Tree!!  About 10 kms eastBurmis Tree of Frank Slide is this old dead tree, that looks like a giant Bonsai tree!  When I first saw it, I didn’t know it was famous, but I still pulled over on the side of the road to take a picture. (It is said to be the most photographed tree in Canada, and perhaps the world!)

The Burmis Tree is estimated to be between 300-700 years old, and died in (or around) 1978.

It fell over in the wind (it is SUPER windy in the Crowsnest Pass) in 1998, but it is such an iconic site there, the locals propped it back up.  Then, apparently some stupid loser vandals cut off a branch – SERIOUSLY? what is WRONG with people!!? – in 2004.  However, once again, it was put back together.

It’s a beautiful tree, even dead!

About…20 minutes West of the Crowsnest Pass (see blog February 3, 2013), over the GREAT Continental Divide (see blog February 6, 2013) and down the other side, is Elk Valley.  Technically, Elk Valley is made up of Elkford, Elko, Fernie, Hosmer, Morrissey, and Sparwood.  I can’t actually figure out where Morrissey is, so I’m not sure it actually exists anymore.

However, on our road trip to Hungry Horse, we drove through the other three of the other four towns, (all but Elkford).

The first town after the Continental Divide  is Sparwood.  (From there, you can either go west-norTerex Titan th to Elkford, or south, to Fernie.)

Sparwood, British Columbia, is a coal mining town, and is right on the highway.  You’ll recognize it because it’s the home to one of the World’s Largest Truck – the 1974 Terex 33-19 Titan.  You can’t miss it!!  It’s 350 tonnes, and 66 feet (2o meters) long. It’s almost 25 feet (7.57 meters) wide, and about 22Sparwood truck 1/2 feet (6.88 meters) high with the box down.

Apparently, two Greyhound buses and 2 pickup trucks can fit in the box, at the same time!  (In this picture of the full truck, you can just barely see me – I’m sitting in the wheel, and Peter’s standing beside me…and in the close-up picture, you can see Peter and a friend standing underneath the truck.)

Apparently, the Titan was the only 33-19 Titan ever made, and was made in 1973, specifically to be used for  coal mining in Sparwood.  Technically, it was supposed to be just the first one, but because of the economy, the industry had to use smaller vehicles instead.Coal Mining residue

As you drive through the area, you can see evidence of the coal mining – the mountains have been carved and mined, and are starting to grow grass again. That’s just from the road. You’d have to drive back towards the Mines to see more.

AND, you can actually take tours of the Mines, too.

http://www.trucktrend.com/features/consumer/163_0704_worlds_largest_truck_liebherr/viewall.html#ixzz2K4LC3gKX
http://sparwood.ca/visitors/history

Between Sparwood and Fernie, is Hosmer. Hosmer was established as a train station for CP Railway, in 1906.   But, what I always think about when I’m in the area, is Hosmer Mountain.

From the front (from FeHosmer Mountainrnie), Hosmer Mountain looks just like a St. Bernhard dog.  (Similar to Turtle Mountain, the older parts of the mountain are at the top and the younger parts are at the bottom…I have to research that more, I think…)

In the evening, on sunny days, though, the “Ghost Rider” legend appears – it’s a shadow on the face of the mountain that looks like the shadow of a horse and rider, with someone on foot beside them, going up the hill.

http://www.ourfernie.com/the_ghostrider_0 explains that it’s “an angry Indian Chief and his jilted daughter pursuing William Fernie… that William Fernie was courting an Indian Princess to learn the source of her sacred black stone necklace…that after learning the secret location of the Morrissey Coal Seams” Fernie  dumped the Princess.  (There’s more about curses and luck, but I don’t really want to get into that.)

I heard the story slightly differently – tragic, and similar, but without the curses and luck… just a sad daughter and her daddy who loves her and comes to bring her home.  (I’m sure the official site is the legend, but I really like my version.)

Anyway, check out the shadow! You will see it!

15 minutes south is Fernie.Fernie's Alpine Resort

Fernie’s claim-to-fame is, of course, Fernie Alpine Resort.

Once upon a time, I lived in Fernie, and all I can really remember now is: they have the best snow bowl, for powder, and the Griz Inn (to which you can ski or board coming down the Mountain) had the best Long Island Ice Tea.  (That being said… the first time I had the Long Island Ice Tea, I thought it was actually ice tea…I didn’t know there was alcohol in it (http://www.drinksmixer.com/drinkrq17701.html) …now that I know better, I have to give the trophy for the Best-Ever Long The BowlIsland Ice Tea to our friend, Calvin.)

At the time, my roommate was an expert (and completely fanatical) skier. She would spend all summer preparing her core for winter. She was a Double Black Diamond girl. I was more of a … Blue Square…girl.   Ronda thought her day was successful if she was in the air more than on the snow, and I thought it was a successful day if I made it all the way to the bottom of the hill without falling. http://www.wispresort.com/wisp/info/w.beginners-trail-symbols.aspx

(Incidentally, I met Peter in Fernie, while he was on a ski trip 🙂 )

Leaving Fernie, you get to go through a tunnel – it’s a short tunnel, but I do love it. It means that you have 3o approximate minutes before you get to the US/Canada border.  Watch for the Mountain Sheep just on the other side of the Tunnel!
Mountain GoatsMountain Goat babies
Saturday – Eureka, Montana!

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The Continental Divide?

Driving from Fargo towards Minneapolis MN, somewhere by Fergus MN, there’s a sign that says “Continental Divide” (technically would be in the range of my blog of October 9, 2012)…

What is a “Continental Divide”, you ask?  The dictionary definition is: “The dividing line for a continent that determines into which ocean precipitation will eventually flow.”  Basically, to which ocean will all rivers and streams run.

IF you are from the Rockies, you know where the Continental Divide is, and it’s not in Minnesota…

 The first time I crossed the Continental Divide (and noticed) was years ago, going through the Crowsnest Pass (for more on the Crowsnest, see blog February 3, 2013), between B.C. and Alberta. Having lived my whole life on the west side, where the watershed runs to the Pacific Ocean, I was stunned to see the water running the other direction – it looked like it was running uphill!!

 Now that I’ve lived about the same amount of time on the east side of the Continental Divide, the water looks like it’s running uphill when I cross over to the west side…could be time to move… 

But that’s the Rocky Mountains…what’s in Minnesota?

So, I looked it up – and probably most of you (or, at least some of you) know this, but if I knew it, I’ve forgotten. The Continental Divide in the Rockies is The GREAT Divide (of course it is) which separates the watershed between the Pacific and the Atlantic (including the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.)  The Great Divide runs from all the way from northern Alaska to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, following the mountain ranges of The Rocky Mountain Range AND the Andes!!!

However, in North America, there are SIX Continental Divides. The one we crossed over in Minnesota is called the Laurentian, Northern Divide, or Hudson Bay Divide. It separates the watershed between the Arctic Ocean through the Hudson Bay and the Atlantic Ocean…


Incidentally, this is the same Divide that makes the South Saskatchewan River (see Blog date Sept 26, 2012) run north…which makes sense, now that I think of it…

One more point about this particular Divide – it meets the Great Divide at Triple Divide Peak in Glacier Park, MT. How did I not know this !!???  (It runs from Triple Divide Peak to the Labrador Peninsula at the Hudson Strait.)

(The other 4 North American Divides are

  • the Arctic ~ which meets the Great Divide at Snow Dome (which is a mountain in the Columbia Icefield (future blog), onNorth America Continental Divides Alberta/British Columbia border) to the Oikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, at the Hudson Strait.  The watershed runs north to the Arctic Ocean and south to the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean.
  • the St. Lawrence ~ which runs from just north of Hibbing, Minnesota to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, at the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The watersheds (I think – I’ve been having some trouble pinpointing this one) are the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico…
  • the Eastern ~ runs from the north of Pennsylvania, to the southern tip of Florida, and follows the Appalachian Mountain Range from Pennsylvania to Georgia. The watershed runs either into the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
  • the Great Basin ~ is the western continental divide. this one is actually a semi-round (not round at all, but the start and the end are the same place, so I don’t know how to describe it – …see map, attached, as per wikipedia). Apparently, the watershed is the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico…and waters that “lose themselves in the Basin”. (The Great Salt Lake is one of the places in which the waters lose themselves, with the Basin.)

Rocky Mountains

Every continent except for Antarctica has a continental divide.

Huh.  I learned more than I expected this time. How about that!

OK!  Sunday,  on to Fernie, British Columbia.

http://www.uwec.edu/andersrn/Triple_Divide_Pts.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental_divide

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Frank Slide, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

One of the greatest things about Alberta, is that there is an official long weekend almost every month!   Some Long Weekends areHungry Horse Dam more popular than others – like the May Long Weekend…and the August Long Weekend… and the February Long … ok – really, we love them all!!

BUT, the good thing about the August Long Weekend is that it’s always hot and sunny! (At least where WE go – I’m just saying that part for all my friends who spent last August Long in the rain…sorry).

We decided to go camping in Hungry Horse, Montana, with some long-time friends.

The BEST route from Calgary to Hungry Horse is through the Crowsnest Pass and Fernie, BC.  However, for some reason, Google Maps goes a different way… OUR trip (through the Crowsnest took about 4 1/2-5 hours.. our friends followed Google, and their trip took them NINE HOURS!! (They went over the Going to the Sun Highway…Google THAT!
http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/goingtothesunroad.htm and http://visitmt.com/listing/categories_NET/MoreInfo.aspx?idrrecordid=9646)

Anyway – we went the right way – through the Crowsnest Pass.

The most obvious point of interest going through the Crowsnest is Frank Slide. Even if you don’t know WHAT it is when you are going through, you still definitely know that Something important happened there.

http://www.history.alberta.ca/frankslide tells us what happened:

“On April 29, 1903, at 4:10 a.m., 82 million tonnes (30 million cubic metres) of limestone crashed from the summit of Turtle Train going through CrowsnestMountain and buried a portion of the sleeping community of Frank in the valley below.”

Sadly and tragically, an estimated 90 people (of the 600 inhabitants) were killed.  It’s an estimate, because most bodies could not be recovered.  (The rocks are between 50-150 deep/15-45 meters deep).

The area that broke off was approximately 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) wide, 425 meters (1,400 feet) high, and 150 meters (500 feet) deep – approximately 82 million metric tonnes (9o million tons) of rock.  The article says that, to put that into perspective, this means that if you took the fallen rocks and put built a wall 1 meter wide & 6 meters high, it would reach from Victoria, BC to Frank SlideHalifax, Nova Scotia (from sea-to-shining-sea), which, according to Google Maps (and we’ve already discussed its choice of routes) is approximately 6,145 kms/3,818 miles.

Roar from the slide could be heard as far away as Cochrane AB (200 km/120 miles away).  People closer to Frank (or on the other side of town) reported that the sound of the slide lasted about 100 seconds, and based on how far the rocks extend, the article says that “scientists estimate that the rocks were moving at speeds up to 120 km/hr (70 mi/hr)”!!

When you see it, and consider how it’s even possible (the deadliest landslide inPeople on rocks - size comparison Canadian history) for that many rocks to travel that far, or to even fall to begin with.

Well, there was a LOT going on with that mountain (which, as I mentioned, is called Turtle Mountain).

Apparently, it’s called Turtle Mountain because, before the Slide, it was shaped LIKE a turtle, and not because it’s moving slowly. (By the way, there’s another mountain nearby that is also shaped like a turtle, and I’ll probably include that picture…but it’s not THIS Turtle Mountain.)

But, speaking of moving slowly… the Alberta Geological Survey has started monitoring the Mountain’s structure and (in)stability, in order to provide the residents living below of any future “catastrophic avalanches” as well as to ” understand the mechanics of slowly moving rock masses.”

I guess, looking back, it’s obvious that the Mountain, in 1903, was completely unstable.  Many MANY things contributed to the Disaster, among which are (in summary):

  • “The previously horizontal layers of sedimentary rock had been folded during the mountain building process until almost vertical” – you’ve seen it when in the mountains, right? the layers of rocks – I’m going to include a few pictures of mountains near Jasper (Alberta) that have been folded, too, but, only to about a 45 degree angle.
    Jasper area 3Jasper area Jasper area
  • The Turtle Mountain Thrust Fault runs through the mountain. THROUGH!  (A “thrust fault line” is a type of break in the earth’s crust, in which (by my understanding) lower rock layers are pushed up and over higher rock layers…which often means that older rock layers are then layered above younger rock layers…)
  • There’s no way for me to explain this one, except by exact quote from the http://www.history.alberta.ca/frankslide website: “The erosion by water and ice of sandstone and shale layers on the lower half of the mountain beneath the older layers of limestone on the upper half of the mountain created a significant overhang. Large surface cracks along the summit of the mountain allowed water to enter deep within Turtle Mountain . Water continued to eat away at the limestone and the freezing and thawing action of water and ice worked to widen the cracks, creating even more instability.” (I’m sorry – all of my attempts to summarize, were just the same exact words in different orders…if this doesn’t make sense – email me, and I’ll try to explain.)
  • and finally, on top of ALL of the above – vertical sedimentary rock, a fault line, erosion… they decided, in 1900, that it’d be the perfect location to mine coal.

So, the situation is: The Mountain is still vertical, there is still erosion, AND there is still a town beneath it, in which people live…

We’ve been in the area, camping (possible topic of a future blog, because it’s a beautiful site – a few miles to the West), at night, Camping nearbywhen everything is really still… and there isn’t even wind to disrupt the silence… somewhere, at some time, a giant rock will roll down the nearby mountain, and I can tell you first-hand – IT CREEPS ME OUT!!!!!

Turtle Mountain continues to move, “they” say, by a few millimeters a year, toward the northeast, toward the valley below.

This time, though, there’s technology… and precedence.  There are over 80 sensors on Turtle Mountain now.  Scientists .. “estimate” that there probably won’t be another landslide like that one… any time soon… the mountain is moving “too slow” – “Turtle-like”…

Still… THE MOUNTAIN IS MOVING!! LISTEN!!!  “Hopefully”, say they, “there’s no earthquake”…

I have driven through Frank Slide probably… (without exaggeration)…maybe 250 times… and every time, I feel compelled to take pictures (and yet, I am finding very few in my collection – must label better).  I always want to stop. (We rarely do stop since we are usually on our way to somewhere else, but sometimes!)

Clearly not August Long WeekendYou just can’t believe the size of some of the rocks!  With the size and distance, it’s impossible to know just how small you are and how big they are, until you are standing right beside them.  (One of these pictures – the one in snow (obviously not August Long Weekend – there’s me perpetuating the idea that Canada is always covered in snow)- is me and a friend beside one that really didn’t look that big from the road…and, thinking it was smaller, it seemed alot closer to the road…) You should absolutely get out of your car, once in awhile, and experience this site.  (I’m sure it goes without saying, but you have to remember that it’s a solemn place, to be respected, like a cemetery… )

There’s also an Interpretation Center (to which, I’m embarrassed to say, I have not yet been.)  The same website gives an overview of the Interpretation Center, too, as well as additional facts and features of the Disaster of Frank Slide.

Wednesday – Fernie, British Columbia.

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Ice Magic Festival, Lake Louise, Alberta

Well, in the end, we didn’t go to the Ice Sculpture show.. I’ve been a couple of times beforChateau Lake Louisee, though, and I loved it! AND, this year, my friend, Jessica went, and she said I could use her pictures!!

Jessica and her family went up in the early afternoon, to Lake Louise, to the Ice Show, and then after that, met a bunch of our friends to go sledding at a ski-hill, on their way back to Calgary. We couldn’t go…too bad for us.

The Ice Sculpting show ended Sunday, January 27th.  The ACTUAL carving competition was from the 18th to the 20th.

Sound of an Angel24 sculpting teams from around the world compete for 34 hours, at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta, using With 300 lbs (136 kg) blocks of ice!

The theme this year was “Carve a Song”… awwww! Now I really wished I had’ve gone!

The results for the International Ice Carving Competition (as per the
http://www.banfflakelouise.com/Area-Events/Festivals/Winter/SnowDays/Ice-Magic-Festival website) are:

Run through the jungle

1st Place: Team Chris & Victor – Run through the Jungle
2nd Place: Team GB – I’m Your Puppet
3rd Place: Team Scott & Ross – Sound of an Angel
People’s Choice: Team Chris & Victor – Run through the Jungle
Carver’s Choice: Team Sakha Ice Art 2 – Song of White Cranes
Fairmont’s Choice: Team Dream Team – Melody of the Wind

There’s some really good before and after pictures on the Banff National Park Facebook page – they shared Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise’s pictures:
At the dawn of lifeEwe make me feel like dancing

Last time we went, we went from Lake Louise, into Banff, to the Hot Springs.
But, this time, Jessica (and entourage) went sledding at Mount Norquay after.

In 1904, Mount Norquay was named after John Norquay (a former premier of Manitoba),  who climbed the mountain in 1888.kids' sledding party 1

It was also the first ski resort in the Canadian Rockies, opening its first run in 1926. The first rope-tow was built in 1941, and you could use it for the cost of 25 cents for four rides!! (I’m sure the lift tickets change in price annually, but I’m pretty certain that it’s worth more than 25 cents!!)  (The “Big Arm” chairlift was opened in 1948 and is now the second oldest chairlift in North America.)

Amanda's slopesNowadays, you can also going tubing – at “Tube Town.”  You get an innertube (remember when we used to go tubing? I don’t even know where you can find a innertube nowadays – I mean, other than at Tube Town – but we had SO MUCH FUN! )

Remember when you’d hit that pot hole or unexpected jump and fly through the air, and it wasn’t (too) scary because you “knew” that you’d (probably) land on the innertube when you hit/landed?

Some of my best memories were “sledding” down my parents’ driveway.  It would get so icy that Dad forbid that, but to make up for it, built another hill that crossed OVER the driveway, and ended in the meadow. It was REALLY steep and at the spot it crossed over, the level-ness of the driveway created a launching pad, so you could actually miss the entire lower part of the sledding hill and land in the meadow…

When I first came to visit Peter, he and his friendkids' sledding partys were tubing down … I guess it was a jeep trail.. it sort of looked like our driveway, but with a cliff on one side.  The plan was for everyone to line up on the cliff-side and prevent the tube and rider from going over the edge when we rounded the corner..  It’s hard to believe we were (technically) adults!

We had one of those tractor tires that was so tall, we had to be lifted on to it, and there were 2 or 3 of us loaded on.. How the human-barricade didn’t work, is hard to imagine! We went right off the cliff, through spindling little birch trees – and the next thing I knew, I was waking up with people throwing snow on my face…

Still one of the greatest memories ever!My sister, sledding

Tube Town doesn’t rely on human fences, and doesn’t have random pot holes.  ALSO, you don’t have to lug your tube back up the hill by yourself! There’s a magic-carpet ride back up to the top! Luxury tubing!

Based on the stories I heard from just about every little kid I know, and all the parents “mentioning” how sore they are, it sounds like the whole event was a huge success!  One little boy told me (all out of breath from excitement) something like: “First – I bounced this way, and then Jaxon said “AAAAAAAA”, because we were sharing! and then we slid that way! and then we spun around! and then”…

NEXT TIME, I’m going FOR SURE!!!

Till Sunday, then.

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Drumheller (Alberta), “The Dinosaur Capital of the World”

    The first time I went to Drumheller (Google map) , I was accompanied by some  friends of friends from Australia.


We visited the Hoo Doos (which, by the way, are  very close to the road – we somehow drove by them and out into the wilderness  for about a ½ hour before we gave up and turned around…well, actually, the  road completely ran out…when we got back to the main road, we realized the Hoo  Doos were right there AND there’s a parking lot… )

The funniest thing about that trip,  though, was that the Australians had never seen gophers before and were much  more intrigued by them! And chased them around, calling “Come hee-ah little  goofah”.

I actually wondered about this “goofah” issue, so I Googled, and it turns out that they are, indeed, actually endemic to North America! Who knew! (For those of you who don’t like them, I said “endemic” not “pandemic”.)

Stop for a little walk across the 117 meter (384 feet) long Rosedale  Suspension Bridge, on the way to the Hoo Doos (or on the way back..)

It was originally built in 1931 to give miners access to the mines on the otherside (before 1931, they were going across the river in slings!) The bridge was apparently rebuilt it 1958 and the side fences were added on, for tourists….

Plan to spend some time in Drumheller  town – you can make a scavenger hunt out of dinosaur  sightings and cute little boutiques and galleries, restaurants and sidewalk cafes are scattered here and there.

Visiting the Royal  Tyrrell Museum is a must – good for kids and adults! And, depending on the time of year  and the age of your child, they can go on dinosaur hikes and look for bones, like a real excavation! 

Many would claim I’ve saved the best for last by now bring up the apparently amazing (and  crazy) golf course – The Dinosaur Trail Golf & Country Club. It’s one of  Peter’s favorites, for scenery and difficulty. You golf up and down the plateaus – and if your ball goes over the edge, it’s lost. (I haven’t golfed it because,  well, I’m terrible. Actually, that’s not true – I’m good for a beginner, who has  a short attention span…)

It’s totally worth the trip. I’ve never had  anyone ever say, “I wish we hadn’t spent a day in Drumheller”. See you Wednesday – on to  Saskatchewan! (By the way – I’ve heard this name butchered on TV a bzillion  times – it isn’t “Saska-CHEW-an” – it’s “Sas-KATCH-ewan”.)

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What? too late in the season to go camping!?

I really meant to start “The Big Ball of String” tour today, but we decided (semi-spontaneously) to try one more camping weekend before it got too cold…someplace local – within an hour’s drive or so.

Our first pick was Wyndham-Carseland Provincial Park.

It’s a pretty little park, right on the Bow River, and beside Carseland Dam and pelican nesting grounds.   It’s packed every long weekend and you have to get there Wednesday or Thursday to get a site. But, since this isn’t a long weekend, we thought it’d probably be easier.


All packed and ready to go, at the very last minute, we checked for campfire bans.  Not only was there a campfire ban for Wyndham-Carseland, but they also had a ban on portable propane firepits (even though these portable campfires are called “Ban Busters”.

Well, it’s the middle of September in Alberta, and, despite the fact that the forecast called for clear and sunny skies, that means that nights will be cold and we wanted a campfire, so at the last second, we were scrambling for a new location.

According to the website www.albertafirebans.com, the entire eastern side of Alberta was under fire ban, so the only option (for places to go within a 1 hour drive) was West, into the mountains…which means higher altitude, colder evenings.

On a random Google search (I love Google), I found six in the general area we wanted to go (now that there was a change of plans) – in the Bragg Creek area, and so contacted the Provincial Park service to confirm 1) if the campground was still open and 2) if there were fire bans.We found 3 that were open still, no fire bans (extreme high alert, but no ban) and narrowed it down by which had playgrounds. (Once again, our travel plans included children – we love it when this happens because it gives us a chance to do things like…bug collecting… and fort designing…)

We chose one by the river so Peter could go fishing and we were set to go!

Well – I have to tell you – I’ve lived in this area now for…well, a LONG time! and have never once been to Elbow Falls (which was just maybe 4 kms from our campsite). It’s ridiculous that I’ve never been there – I’ve even been to the parking lot before, and the little park nearby, for a picnic, and never “hiked” to the Falls.

“Hiked”.  It’s a paved walk (a very picturesque walk, but not at all complicated) with a series of stairs. Daisy & Coco (our mini dachshunds) have 3″ legs, and they managed it. (Well, we had to carry them and lift them from time to time, but rarely.)If you are in the area – GO!

In our campground, we put the trailers end to end on one site (so we would have the kids nearby when it was bedtime – the kids miraculously made their own bedtime around 8:30pm) and used the other site for parking and bocce ball.

Yummy food (Peter’s extra delicious baby back ribs), especially wonderful friends, brilliant late night visits (just like when we were teenagers)… almost no injuries or accidents… and, hopefully, another brand new tradition!!

One funny story I debated whether or not I should include, and I hope I can tell it well…One night, late (the other girls had recently gone to sleep and the boys were all sitting around the campfire), I decided to do a last minute check around the campsite – making sure there was nothing yummy laying around (bear country, high alert).

The site was pretty clear, but there were a few glasses on the table, and one had some liquid in it. I thought it was maybe juice and had a split second moment of wondering if I could just throw the juice on the fire (didn’t want to put the fire out or cause excess smoke) and then decided it’d be ok, since there was only a little bit in the cup….(When I was telling this story to a friend, she already knew how this story went, by this point).

One of the guys was standing over the fire, looking down at it. Fortunately, he’s about 6 feet tall, because when I tossed in the “juice”, a pillar of white yellow flame (the exact diameter of the fire pit) shot straight out of the pit, about 5 feet into the air, with a “HHHWHOOOOOSH”!

It narrowly missed singing his eyebrows! He was a good sport (fortunately, because I don’t know if my apology through my doubled-over-hysterical-laughter-causing-tears sounded sincere – I mean, I really was sincere! I was! but I was so shocked!!) (Also, it helped that there were no injuries… injury would’ve take out the humor aspect, for sure).

He said that 1) it was really interesting to see a fire ball from that angle, and 2) it smelled really good! (and that, it turns out, was because the “juice”, was cherry bourbon…)

(DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME)…(or anywhere, for that matter…)

OK. Wednesday. The actual Big Ball of String Tour. Probably.
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