Oh Canada!

Trip Start May 28, 2007
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Trip End Sep 10, 2007


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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Friday, July 13, 2007

July 14

Today we are spending an unseasonably hot Canadian afternoon in the visitor center in Fort St. John, British Columbia. It seems we have been dragging record-breaking 100 degree weather with us everywhere we go. The normal high up here is in the 70's, and the same thing happened while we were in Glacier National Park in Montana...

Montana is where we ended up for the week of the 4th of July - from all the people we spoke to along the way, avoiding Yellowstone that week was a very smart move. Glacier NP was not very crowded, thankfully, but it was very beautiful. Naturally, we decided to ensure we would miss the crowds by going to one of the more remote campgrounds in the park - Bowman Lake - a 20+ mile drive along rough dirt roads that took about an hour each way in and out of the main park entrance. Glacier only has one paved road that leads right through the park - Going-to-the-Sun Road - and it's typically jam-packed with cars, so for our first day at the park we decided to take the new free shuttle service to see the park. Turns out the trip is about 3 hours each way on the shuttle, so we only went to the half-way point at Logan Pass, where we were greeted with lots of people and a shocking amount of snow on the ground!

When the Fourth finally rolled around, we decided to take it easy and stop at the little Northern Lights Saloon & Café, about halfway between the campground and the park, in Polebridge, MT. It' a little hippy-wanna-be joint that had live music and a shocking number of people for a place in the middle of nowhere. The music was pretty decent, but the whole vibe felt like being at someone else's family picnic, so we didn't stay for long. (Here's a link to a website that paints a pretty accurate image of the place that leaves out the surprisingly-not-very-welcoming attitude of the locals - http://www.livelifetravel.com/features/polebridge_montana.ht ml)

Over the next few days, we traveled all around Glacier NP. The park has several entrances that are several hours away from each other, and since there's only one road it took hours to go from one side to the other, not to mention the hour or so it took to get from our campground to the main road! We saw some mountain goats and lots of deer along the way, and one day at Many Glacier we saw a huge bull moose cooling off in the lake - he was too far away to photograph, but it's surprisingly the only moose we've seen so far. Glacier NP is black and grizzly bear country, but we didn't see any of those, either - and depending on where we finally do see one, that is both good and bad news - we've heard some scary stories from other travelers about bear encounters in campgrounds that I don't really want to experience for myself!

Figuring that Saturday would be crowded in the park, we decided instead to stop at a little store/tavern on the road into the campground - the signs out front advertised hot showers and laundry, something we hadn't had in about a week! We sopped in late in the morning only to find that the hot weather was wreaking havoc with the generator - the folks out here live "off-the-grid" - so we could take showers (for $7 each!), but the laundry wasn't going to happen. We decided that would do, and I sat down for a beer while Bob took the first turn in the shower. Those who know me can guess where this leads - we ended up spending the day at the bar and left around midnight after racking up an $80 bar tab! It was well worth it - one of the best days of the trip, sharing drinks and fun with the three guys who were working that day, as well as a couple of fellow travelers who came and went during the day. You can check this place out on the web, too - http://homeranchbottoms.com

The next day we left for Canada - we've decided that we're too close to Alaska to not go there, so that's our next big destination. We headed first for Banff National park in Alberta, and I was shocked and appalled (and still am) at how expensive everything is in Canada. To start, the exchange rate is just about even, so any illusions I had about saving money here were quickly dispelled. Gasoline is over $1.20 per liter (there are 4 liters in a gallon, so do the math). The National Park charges $9 per day, per person admission, plus $20 or more for camping, plus $8 for firewood. And gas inside the park (the only option, given the park's size) was $1.50 per liter! Needless to say we spent just two days in the park, but it is one of the most beautiful places ever - far more impressive than Glacier National Park (which has shockingly few glaciers, by the way). Sadly, we saw almost no wildlife, just some scraggly looking mountain goats and a few deer. Even sadder is that we had to leave so soon after arriving - if the costs had been reasonable we could have easily spent weeks in the several National Parks in the area...

After Banff we headed north toward the Alaska Highway and stopped for a few nights at one of Alberta's Provincial Parks in Grand Cache. We met a cool couple from Grand Prairie who camped next to us, and they invited us to stay with them if we head back through Alberta on the way back down to the U.S. This weekend we're staying in Charlie's Lake, British Columbia, at another Provincial Park - sadly the Prov. Parks here don't supply showers, so we're getting a little ripe in this heat. Hopefully in the next couple days we'll find the chance to clean up! The costs are adding up quick, though, so we're going to have to high-tail it to Alaska and hope things are at least a little more reasonable - at least the gas prices - $5.00+ a gallon is just too much for a road-trip on a budget!
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