Monday, July 14, 2014

Canadian Rockies and Montana

First a couple notes about Canada for those who haven’t traveled there.  Chuck called it “international lite” because it isn’t very different than being in the US except for a few things.  First: the metric system, speed signs in kilometers.  Also gas prices in liters and Canadian money, making it hard to know what the actual cost is.  But we think gas came out to about $5.50 TO $6 a gallon.  Everything in Canada is more expensive by about 25 to 30%.  Even at the Dollar Tree everything cost $1.25. They don’t have pennies, everything is rounded to the nearest nickel.  Dollar and two dollar coins are called loonies and toonies, there are no paper dollar bills.  Also, all packaging is in English and French even though western Canada doesn’t seem to have many French speakers.  But it does have lots of beautiful scenery. 
When we left Calgary, we headed into the Canadian Rockies which are a couple hours west.  At our first stop, the town of Canmore, we ran into some friends that live a couple blocks from us who recommended a good restaurant.  Later in the week we went there, and Chuck had a bison burger, I had an elk burger, both excellent.  We stayed in a condo just outside of Banff National Park.  The mountains there are indescribably spectacular!  We bought a pass for four activities that we did over the next couple days.  The first day we drove up the Icefields Parkway that goes along the continental divide and into Jasper National Park.  At one point they built the Glacier Skywalk that just opened in May, and is a glass floored observation platform that arches out high above the river.  We also took the Ice Explorer, which is like a bus on steroids, with huge tires to drive out onto the glacier.  There were lots of mountain goats along the way to the glacier.  We were able to walk around a bit and even get some fresh glacial water to drink.  On the drive back we stopped to photograph a large grey wolf that was standing on the side of the road.  He eyed us suspiciously but did not move until after I got his picture.  We also stopped at Lake Louise and saw the beautiful hotel there.  The lake was still mostly frozen over from the very cold winter they had, so we didn’t get to see its turquoise color that it is famous for. 
The next day we went on a lake cruise on Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in the Canadian Rockies.  After that we went on the Banff Gondola.  The views from the top were spectacular.  We also walked around the town of Banff, a very cute touristy place. 
We concluded our time in Canada by driving west into British Columbia and through the western side of the Rockies.  We stayed a couple days in a cabin in the woods outside of Whitefish, Montana.  The deer outside the cabin were beautiful, the mosquitoes not so much fun.  We went to Glacier National Park where we drove the Road to the Sun.  It was only open half way up the mountains because of snow, it opens all the way sometime in July.  We took a short hike through the wood there.  Leaving Whitefish we drove along Flathead Lake which is about 30 miles long, the largest freshwater lake in the western US.  Then we joined the I-90 at Missoula and made a stop in Deer Lodge.  There we visited a nice car museum and the old territorial prison.  We spent the night in Butte, then finished the drive home.  
along Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park

Canadian Rockies at Banff National Park

Glacier Explorer

us on the Athabasca Glacier

Mountain goat

Athabasca Glacier

who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?

Saskatchewan River

Lake Minnewanka

Longhorn sheep by lake

view from Banff tram

hiking in Glacier National Park, Montana

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Montana, heading north to Alberta, Canada

Our early summer trip took us to Montana and Canada for two weeks.  We decided to do this as a car trip and didn’t take the truck/trailer since we were going up into the Canadian Rockies.  We started with a long day’s drive to Helena, MT.  We spent a day there to see the state capital, history museum and old governor’s mansion.  From there we headed further north, stopping at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Great Falls, Montana.  This museum is located along the Missouri River where they had to portage around the falls. It’s a very nice center to learn more about their expedition.  From there we headed across the border into Canada.
Our first stop in Canada was in the small village of Stirling, Alberta.  Stirling is one of only three communities designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.  We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast in a repurposed old barn.  My reason for going to this small farming town of 1,100 people is that it is part of my family heritage.  My great-grandfather, William T. Ogden, was sent there in 1899 to help settle the area when they were building irrigation systems patterned after the ones the pioneers had built in the Salt Lake valley.  My grandfather, Sterling Ogden, was the first baby born there, so Sterling has been a family name used several times over the succeeding generations.  William T. built a large southern styled home there that the current owner was gracious enough to show us around.  Unfortunately, the current owners liked the style of the home to make it into a haunted house at Halloween, and it is not very well maintained now.  None of the Ogden family still lives in the town. 
Twenty miles further north is Lethbridge, where we toured Fort Whoop-Up.  This fort was not one for protection, but a trading post where the first nations peoples (that’s what they call native Americans in Canada) traded goods for whiskey and other things.  Because of the lawlessness of the area, the North-West Mounted Police were formed in 1874.  We toured their fort, Fort Macleod, on our way to Calgary.  Also on the way to Calgary we stopped at a World Heritage Site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.  This was a really interesting history lesson about how the First Nations people hunted the buffalo that sustained their lives before the Europeans brought guns and horses.  They had several methods to get the buffalo to stampede right off the edge of a cliff, killing hundreds so they would have fur, meat, bone and other parts they used. 
Calgary is a beautiful big city of over a million people.  We spent a couple days there to see some of the sights.  The first day we went to their Olympic Park.  We rode on a luge ride they have that was lots of fun.  Then we went to their military museums.  It was interesting to see the various wars from a Canadian perspective.  We were even shown around the Air Force exhibits by a World War II vet that had flown in bombing raids over Germany as a 17 year old airman.  The next day we went to the Heritage Park Historical Village.  There is a nice car museum with an especially good collection of vintage gas pumps.  The village is a recreates life in Alberta about 100 years ago.  Next week I’ll write about the rest of our trip. 
Traders post at Fort Whoop-Up (Lethbridge)

My great-grandfather, W. T. Ogden's home in Stirling, Alberta

Country Barn B & B

Ft. MacLeod, original home of the Canadian Mounties

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Chuck on the Skyline Luge

WWII Enigma machine at military museums, Calgary

Gasoline Alley Auto Museum, Calgary Heritage Park

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fall-Winter-Spring travels

We’re off on a summer vacation, but before I post about that I thought I should catch up on our travels since returning home last June.  In October we took a trip to Moab, Utah.  Moab is a beautiful red rock area with two national parks to see.  First we went to Arches National Park and hiked to many of the stunning arches there.  Then we went to Dead Horse State Park, which has fabulous canyons carved by the Colorado River and Green River.  This is the location used for the filming of the final scene in “Thelma and Louise”, (not the Grand Canyon).  We also visited Canyonlands National Park, which has similar terrain.
In January, Chuck felt he needed to escape the winter weather, so we went for a week in Hawaii (Oahu).  We visited Pearl Harbor and the Mighty Missouri where the Japanese surrendered at the end of World War II.  We also took in the Polynesian Cultural Center, which has a new luau in the Samoan village as well as a new evening show.  It rained a bit on us that day, until we decided to buy the rain ponchos.  As soon as we put them on, it stopped.  We also enjoyed Sea Life Park and some Waikiki sunshine, floating in the warm Pacific waters there.  On our way home we had a fun evening with Matt and Briannah at the Anaheim Pirate Adventure Show, and a nice visit with our friends the Gallaghers.
In spring we took short trips to Denver and to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  In Denver we visited the home of the unsinkable Molly Brown as well as the Wings Over the Rockies Air Museum.  In Jackson Hole we enjoyed an excellent Wildlife Art Museum right across from the National Elk Refuge.  Although it was spring in SLC, there was still plenty of snow at the Grand Teton National Park in late April. 
When we get back home so I have my camera upload cord I’ll write about our current travels.  We are on a two week trip, so we’ll  be home in mid-June.
Arches National Park

More Arches

Colorado River from Dead Horse State Park

Canyonlands National Park

Lexi needs no break from the snow

Arizona Memorial from the Mighty Mo

Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach

at Sea Life Park

Molly Brown's home in Denver

National Elk Preserve in Jackson Hole

random roadside moose