August 7, 2015
On Our Way to Canada and Back
We had two overnights stops while heading north in Montana, one in Billings and the other in Great Falls. In Billings we stayed at Billings RV Park, an older park but nice for an overnight stop and we had full hookups. In Great Falls we stayed at the Great Falls KOA, again with full hookups. This was our first experience with a KOA campground and let’s just says it is not our style but we are sure it would be great if you had a bunch of kids in tow. It was very popular and 2/3s of the people in it were from Canada.
Uncontrolled Wild Fires and an Emergency Air Raid Siren at 3 a.m.
We were a little nervous about our next stop at Hungry Horse, Montana because we were planning to visit Glacier National Park and sections of the park were being evacuated due to fires. We made “just in case” alternate plans but the park assured us the fires were all in the eastern section of the park and we were staying in the western section so we should be fine.
We stayed at Mountain Meadow RV Campground, which wasn’t in a meadow but was on the side of a mountain. The drive to our spot was very steep, but the pad was close to level. Our camping site was very private and we had electric and water hookups. Our only bad experience here was when we were startled at 3 a.m. when they sounded an emergency air raid siren twice. We called the police department to find out what was going on and they said that was how they called the volunteer fire department when they needed them for a fire or an accident. The next day we asked the office about it and they laughed and said it happens all the time.
While at Hungry Horse we visited the Hungry Horse Dam, White Fish and Columbia Falls, found many hikes, and discovered a rustic looking Bikers Resort that at times caters to women to teach them mountain biking skills and has yoga sessions. (Sounds like fun – I want to come back on a girl’s trip.) We also visited the Elkhorn Restaurant, which Yelp promised had the best burgers in town. We ate the bison and elk burgers and were not disappointed.
8-foot diameter, 4.5 ton steel ball used to clear timber when building the Hungry Horse Dam – Can you believe it? They rolled a steel ball down the hill to clear the trees.
Our Travel Tip # 1
Make sure you know the name of the county you are staying in so that when you receive weather, flood, or fire alerts you know if it is for you or the next county.
Driving the Jeep on a Road with Thousand Foot Drop Offs
The highlight of our Glacier National Park visit was the Going-to-the-Sun road, one of the world’s most spectacular highways. This road cuts through the heart of Glacier, and is normally a 50–mile-long road following the shores of the park’s two largest lakes and hugs the cliffs below the Continental Divide as it crosses Logan Pass. Unfortunately we could only take the road from the west entrance of the park to Logan Pass because forest fires had closed the rest of the road to everyone but fire fighters.
The Going-to-the-Sun road is not for the faint of heart or those who are nervous driving narrow roads that twist and turn and is bordered with steep rock walls on the driver’s side and thousand foot drop-offs, without guardrails, on the passenger’s side. Therefore, half way was far enough and for some reason Don did all the driving. I wonder if it was because I have no depth perception since I lost vision in my right eye?
A Painless Border Crossing
It has been a while since our last “On the Road” because we crossed over into British Columbia, Canada and have had very limited cell service and only sporadic Wi-Fi. As most of you know, Don and I changed our domicile to Texas and the Customs Agent noticed that Texas was our home state and kept asking us questions, such as, “Do you have any guns on you?”…“Do you normally carry guns on your person?” Interesting that he felt that because we were from Texas we would have guns. I wonder what he would have thought if he had known we spent most of our lives in Louisiana since most of the world now thinks people from Louisiana are all like “Duck Dynasty” or “Swamp People.” We must have answered his questions to his satisfaction and not looked too suspicious because he waved us on and wished us bon voyage.
Banff and Banff National Park
On the way to Banff we passed through the Kootenay National Park and bought our park pass, which is good for all the National Parks in Canada. This was very convenient since we planned to spend most of our time in the parks and had heard that at times the lines to purchase a pass can be long. We drove down the scenic Banff-Windermere highway to Radium Hot Springs (I think I prefer a Jacuzzi – not as crowded) and on through Sinclair Canyon. This was a beautiful introduction to Canada and we drove on to Alberta and entered Banff National Park midway between the town of Banff and Lake Louise.
Banff is world famous for mountains, wildlife, pristine lakes, glacier fed streams (that are like moving “slushies”), endless hikes, and hot springs. The town is inside the National Park so if you haven’t already purchased a park pass you have to stop and purchase one but we were able to bypass the lines since we already had one. Don had previously visited the area when he had come to Canada on business and was eager to show me the places he had visited.
The town of Banff looks like a gorgeous upscale mountain ski town and very RV friendly. There are over 1500 campsites within a 20-minute drive of downtown. This is a good thing since every other vehicle seemed to be an RV and more than half of those were rentals.
We stayed at Tunnel Mountain II because it was close to town and we had electrical hookups. If you don’t need any hookups you can plan to stay at Tunnel Mountain I and if you need full hookups stay at the Trailer Court. When you go be sure to drive the Glacier Parkway and Ice Fields Parkway, which are both beautiful drives and have a lot of opportunities to view wildlife.
Next time we go we want to stay at the Waterfowl Lake Campground (no hookups) that is also in the Banff National Park but further out on the Glacier Parkway. We drove through this beautiful little campground and want to come back and play in the lake with kayaks or SUPs.
We Dipped our Toes in Lake Louise
One of the items on my bucket list was to visit Lake Louise and it was beautiful. I’ve seen pictures of it for years and I just had to go and dip my toes in Lake Louise. (Yes, it was gorgeous blue-green, slushy water and freezing cold.) However, we had to battle the hordes of jam-packed tourists to get to the lake and I don’t think I would want to do it again unless we went back in winter and stayed at the Fairmont Hotel. During the winter they build ice sculptures on the lake and I hear it is not as crowded.
Funny sign we kept seeing on our hikes. Don’t you want to hike on these trails?
A Western Barn Dance & RV Park
Next we went to the Great Canadian Barn Dance & RV Campground in Hill Springs, Alberta, Canada. GCBD was established 29 years ago, because the Kunkel family saw a need since no one was having big multi-generation dances anymore. Traditional western barn dances were being held but they began to serve liquor so the old folks quit going and the kids couldn’t get in, so the Great Canadian Barn Dance was born.
Every Saturday night (and some week nights) the whole family opens the over 100 year old barn and serve a buffet (roast beast) feast and then takes to the stage as a family band to play music from all genres. The Saturday night while we were there four generations of guests could be seen dancing together and having a good time.
GCBD is a small, quiet place to camp with electric (30 amp only) and water hookups on a lake and we would recommend it to anyone who needs to slow the pace down and re-charge his or her batteries.
Baby Bear, Where is your Mama?
While at GCBD we visited Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. This is the Canadian side of Glacier National Park in Montana and is even more beautiful and teaming with wildlife, hiking, and camping opportunities. Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was created as a symbol of peace and good will between Canada and the United Sates.
We saw more wildlife at Waterton than we did at Glacier National Park in Montana. Some of this wildlife included a baby bear walking down the road, several deer, a mountain sheep, a herd of bison, and discovered that when you are walking a trail you can smell a bear before you see them. There were signs everywhere that berries were in season and that the bears were out in force. There were also signs saying that areas were closed due to increased bear activity. However as long as you follow the safety guidelines we would recommend everyone visit this area because we know you will have a great time.
Bison, from a distance
An Overnight Stop
We spent the night in Cranbrook, British Columbia at the Mount Baker RV Park. We had full hookups and were able to keep our tow vehicle connected while we walked to downtown and the grocery store. We would recommend it for an overnight stay, as it was a good place to get ready to cross the border back into the U.S.A.
Our Travel Tip #2
While traveling to Canada we used our credit card for all purchases, so they would do the exchange rate, which was dropping in our favor daily. It wasn’t a problem because just about everyone took credit cards. The only problem was they don’t accept American credit cards at the gas pump and you have to go inside to use them. The only time we wished we had exchanged some U.S. dollars for Canadian loonies was to use in the coin operated clothes washers/dryers.
Another Painless Crossing
We’ve heard horror stories from other RVers about crossing the border back into the United States. We were encouraged to read the Customs website about what we could and could not bring back into the states. Well, let’s just say we ate well (cleaning out all fresh fruits and veggies) just prior to coming back in the U.S., cleaned the RV, and prepared the best we could. We were very confident as we pulled up to the Customs Agent. As luck would have it he was from Texas and wanted to talk about our “home” state. We quickly added to the conversation that we were recent transplants from Louisiana and he waved us on. This turned out to be another painless crossing … no search, no bright lights in the eyes, no drilling questions … just a request for us to have a nice day.
Four Miles from Canada
Our next stop was four miles down the road from the border, outside of Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho at Idyll Acres RV Park. This park is on a lake, in the sticks, has full hookups, only about 10 spots, is about 30 miles outside Bonner’s Ferry, manicured grounds, and is run by a couple who are in their nineties. We don’t have AT&T service or Verizon service, no TV and no Wi-Fi and it depends on how you look at it, if that’s in its favor or a problem. However, we can make a trip to Bonner’s Ferry to pick up cell service. There’s a lot to do in the area and I’m sure Don will pick up the story from here so stay tuned for your next “On the Road.”
- We will go to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho next for about a week (maybe longer), thanks to a suggestion from my friend Sue Gambrell. There we are planning to take a cruise of Lake Coeur d’Alene and explore the area.
- I’m sure it will not surprise anyone that Don wants to add a solar system to the roof of our RV and a new lithium battery bank. This will allow us to go Boondocking, so in early September we plan to be in Hood River, Oregon to get this done.
- Our other big plan is to be in Baton Rouge by Christmas … everything else we will plan as we go.
Till we meet again!
Norma & Don
Two Happy Campers