Friday, September 30, 2011

Driving On to Sioux City……with a side trip through the Badlands

 On Wed. Sept 21st, we planned to leave Glacier NP and start driving towards Sioux City to visit with our son, Brian, so, we were up and about early, and so was Becky. We said our 'goodbyes', hoping that the roads we traveled would bring us back together before too long.

Sept 21, 22, 23rd – These days were spent mostly driving. We had about 1,200 miles to go to get to Sioux City, and we wanted to be there by the weekend. Most of the drive was just back- tracking from a month earlier (after the South Dakota Reunion), so…not much interest in stopping to sight-see……with a couple of exceptions…..

Sept 22 - Passing back through Belle Fourche, South Dakota, we stopped to take note of the monument noting the geographic center of the United States.  Who knew……?
And on our way through South Dakota, we detoured through Badlands National park.
We enjoyed the drive through, and stopped at most of the over looks…..
These Badlands formations consist of layers upon layers of ancient volcanic ash and sediment, hardened into rock.
They had distinct colored bands of yellow, pink and white…….
Giving the whole area a pastel water colored appearance…..
You could almost imagine yourself in some strange ‘moon –scape’ ……
Life in the Badlands seemed scarce……few birds or insects or other creatures.
But, just when you might think that the Badlands were barren and hostile……
These long horned sheep appeared…….They were blissfully walking down the road…..stopping to graze ….seemingly unbothered by our car……
Then, they turned their backs on us and bid us adieu……

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Glacier, NP -Logan pass

Sept. 20th – Tuesday was a beautiful as the weather forecast had predicted! Cool, crisp and beautiful blue skies! There had been a light dusting of snow up in the mountains…..which looked so ‘perfect’. We decided to drive the “Going to the Sun” road up to Logan Pass to take advantage of the beautiful clear skies with the wonder views which we knew would await us on top of the mountains…….


We hiked a short ways up the Hidden Lakes Trail….


mostly just to enjoy the beautiful alpine meadows along the way…


Then, we decided to hike out a little ways on the Highland Trail……


There was a frost along the rail in the shaded areas which seemed to capture our attention……especially as we tried out the Macro capabilities of our cameras.

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The Highline Trail, was getting ready to close for the season, as was Logan pass. Much to my dismay, I found that they had taken down the cables that I had held onto, on the narrow ledge part of the trail, the last time I had hiked this hike! But….I took a deep breath and kept my eyes focused on the trail under my feet….and walked……Holding onto Fred’s hand now and then for security.  The view was worth it! You feel as though you are on top of the world…….


After having gotten by the worst of the narrow ledge section…….we noticed these workmen up ahead. It seemed that a portion of the trail had been covered by a rockslide, and these trail maintenance workers were digging it out and/or fashioning a new section of trail. We probably could have gotten around it, but decided that it just was a bit too narrow for comfort…..for MY comfort, anyway!     : )


We headed back  - yes, back through the narrow part, but I did better the second time. Becky has posted more pictures of this hike……

After a nice lunch in the sunshine, we drove around to Many Glacier. We, marveled at the  beautiful blue glacial waters of Many Glacier Lake…..


And enjoyed some huckleberry ice cream while people watching  a bit. And….as we were sitting in our truck at a trailhead, contemplating a short hike…..a BLACK BEAR happened to stroll right across the trail in front of us! We were all a bit too startled for pictures………

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Glacier National Park–and a visit with a good friend

Sunday, Sept 18th – We got an early start and headed on to Glacier NP, arriving by early afternoon. It had been a blustery drive and the wind was really whipping when we pulled in to the KOA at St Mary on the east side of Glacier. We set up camp, then headed to the visitor’s center to check out some hiking options and a weather report. It was forecast to rain that evening and the next day, but it was supposed to be beautiful on Tuesday. This is the real advantage of staying in one place for a few days….you can wait out any bad weather. 

We had been in touch with our friend, Becky, who was headed to the west coast from Montana and had decided to pass through Glacier on her way. We were both looking forward to a chance to visit and catch up with each other. Becky arrived by early evening, and we settled into a visit, comparing notes on our new cameras, and catching up on our adventures.

Monday, we awoke to a steady drizzle…but, being somewhat optimistic, we headed out in the car to try a short hike. However, when we got to the trailhead, it was pouring! OK, maybe not exactly pouring….but raining much harder than we really wanted to walk in. After touring the visitor’s center and sitting through a film, we went back to our camper and enjoyed staying warm and dry and cozy.

By mid afternoon, we looked out and saw clearing skies! So, we loaded back up to head back to the trailhead…..thinking how good it would feel to get outdoors a bit.

The hike was a short and fairly easy 3 miles round trip to a St Mary Falls and on to Virginia Falls…

The afternoon air was crisp and clean….the river we were hiking along was beautiful…….


Our spirits were high…..and we all seemed ‘giddy’ as we pulled out our cameras and ‘played’….



It was fun to hike slowly……excited about photographing what we saw….


but also excited about just ‘trying out’ different shooting techniques…..You can check out Becky’s wonderful pictures of this hike on her blog about Glacier NP .


We worked to capture the freshness of a raindrop…..


And the rushing of the water……’stopping’ the water by shooting with a fast speed….


Or slowing the shutter speed to ‘blur’ the waterfall……


Fred tried out the recording feature on the camera……

Such a fun afternoon shared with a friend!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Revisiting the Alaskan Hwy–Ft Nelson to Ft St John to Dawson Creek

Sept 15,16, 17th -Continuing our drive south – We joined up with a section of the Alaskan Hwy that we had driven heading north last year. We had remembered the stretch between Dawson Creek and Ft. Nelson as being rather ‘plain'’ – nothing special. Looking at it with new eyes….older, perhaps more experienced and less ‘idealized’…..we appreciated the road and the beauty that it held. The Fall colors were beautiful…..we were about 3 weeks later in the season this year. And it did not bother us to see farms and fields, rather than the ‘wild and remote Alaskan Hwy’ that we had imagined the year before.

We spent Thurs Sept 15th in Ft St John, and treated ourselves to a nice dinner in a local Pub. Friday’s drive took us through Dawson Creek and on down Hwy 40 – which was supposed to be rather scenic, and it was…and on to Grand Cache for the night.

The feeling of familiarity really hit home when we drove through Dawson Creek – the beginning of the Alaskan Hwy. We ‘knew’ this place….we knew where the visitor's center was, and the bathroom at the visitor's center. IMG_1753

We knew where the milepost monument was….we didn’t have to consult a map to find it.


We began to see Dawson Creek, not as a somewhat confused first time tourist, but, we would like to think, as one of the local people might. A town…with  conveniences and local stores, and services that one might find anywhere….This feeling of familiarity gave us a great sense of satisfaction……

We did not stop to sightsee….we had done that before,….and we had a destination in mind…..

Saturday, Sept17th was rainy and drizzling all day…..we traveled another familiar road, the Ice Fields parkway from Jasper to Banff. This is a spectacular drive….especially when the sky clears and you can see the mountains. We drove in and out of cloud and rain……


Even taking a little time for a hike when the weather had cleared….


But, we knew that we did not have time for much sightseeing, if we were to ‘get on down the road’…..and we had pulled off at each and every overlook last year when we drove through.

We spent Sat. Sept 17th night at Canmore, Alberta, just south of Banff.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Driving the Gravel Roads -Ft Simpson to Ft Nelson

Tues, Sept 13th – We continued our ‘adventure’ on the gravel road……heading to Ft Simpson where we spent Tues night. Ft Simpson was not much of a town….about 1200 people…..but it listed several ‘sights’ to see…….
In 1987,  Pope John Paul II visited this small community. He addressed the people from this Tee Pee structure, and they dedicated the rock memorial, representing the spiritual significance of the four directions, to him.
Ft Simpson lies at the confluence of the Liard River and the Mackenzie River, a place of great cultural and spiritual significance to the native peoples.
We just thought that this caution sign was rather ‘unique’.
Wednesday, Sept 14th – We headed on down the road to Ft. Liard, then to Ft.Nelson. It was on this stretch of road that we saw the bison……lots of them! On both sides of the road……
The herd consisted of a number of cows and calves………
Along with several very large bulls…….
This guy just looked so funny rolling over in the dust………
But it is a good way to control the flies…which seemed like they would drive the poor bison crazy!
We also caught sight of this black bear…..I got a shot of him just as he was heading into the trees.
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Driving the gravel roads was not bad……EXCEPT for the dust! Or mud…..when the road was a bit wet. It covered our camper……and the truck with multiple layers of grime.
Front, back and sides, and tail lights…..You couldn’t see out the windows of the camper, until we scrapped a bit of the mud off!  Fortunately, the campground at Ft. Nelson had a pressure hose to wash off your RV.
Unfortunately, the outside wasn’t the only thing that got dirty…..The inside of the camper looked like it had survived (barely) a dust storm. There was a layer of dirt over everything in the camper…….counters, walls, floors, sofa cushions, bed……everything!  We spent the evening cleaning up and dusting off every surface, and running sheets and towels through the laundry.  At least we were somewhere where we could wash up!    
Also, it seems that while driving on the gravel road, a rock had ‘jumped up’ and hit the drain valve on our fresh water tank on the camper, knocking it off. Our fresh water tank was empty, and would not hold water without a fix. Fortunately, that night, and the next several nights we could stay in campgrounds that had a fresh water hook-up. And Fred – ever resourceful - picked up a tube of caulk at a hardware store in Ft. Nelson, and sealed off the drain valve leak. We let it dry all the next day, but when we tested it….it didn’t leak! A temporary fix, but good enough to get us home.