Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday 31 August 2008: Lake Louise, AB

There was a frosting of perhaps one inch of snow overnight, and was very cold (33 F.) when we first awoke this morning. Then by mid-morning the snow had all melted.
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Due to the low cloud cover we decided to remain at Lake Louise today rather than driving into British Columbia to see some of the parks there along Highway 1 as we had planned originally. Our room at Chateau Lake Louise is tiny but well-appointed and comfortable.
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I will post pics from today soon.

Saturday 30 August 2008: Banff, AB to Lake Louise, AB via rental car (approx. 50 miles)


Moraine Lake near Lake Louise

View near Moraine Lake

Canada Highway 1 between Banff and Lake Louise

Canada Highway 1 between Banff and Lake Louise

Animal crossing on Canada Highway 1

Closeup of same animal crossing

Animal crossing under construction on Canada Highway 1
















Post Hotel Lake Louise (above and below)

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (below)

















Our room at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (2 pics above)

View of Lake Louise from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Part of the huge lobby at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Entrance of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Entrance of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Ted at Lake Louise


Today we drove our rental car from Banff (population 8,721) in western Alberta to nearby Lake Louise, AB (population 1,041). Our route took us over both freeway and secondary roads in Banff National Park.
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En route we visited Moraine Lake (www.canadianrockies.net/banff/moraine.html) and beautiful Lake Louise (www.discoverlakelouise.com/).
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For more information on Banff National Park, visit www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/index_E.asp.
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We stayed at world-famous Chateau Lake Louise (www.fairmont.com/LakeLouise and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chateau_Lake_Louise). We enjoyed a fabulous gourmet lunch after a site inspection at the Post Hotel Lake Louise, which is a Virtuoso property.
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The total mileage driven today by Barbara was approx. 50 miles.
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I will post additional pics from today soon.

Friday 29 August 2008: Round trip from Banff, AB to Radium Hot Springs, BC via rental car (approx. 185 miles)

Today we drove our rental car from Banff (population 8,721) in western Alberta round trip to Radium Hot Springs in eastern British Columbia. Our route took us over both freeway and secondary roads.
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En route we visited Banff National Park in AB and Kootenay National Park in BC. Both parks are beautiful.
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For more information on Banff National Park, visit www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/index_E.asp
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For more information on Kootenay National Park, visit www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/bc/kootenay/index_E.asp.
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We stayed a second night at the Banff Springs Hotel.
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The total mileage driven today by Barbara was approx. 185 miles.
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I will post pics from today soon.

Thursday 28 August 2008: Kalispell, MT to Banff, AB via rental car (416 miles)

Today we drove our rental car from Kalispell (population 14,223) in northwestern Montana to Banff (population 8,721) in western Alberta. Our route took us over both freeway and secondary roads.
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En route we visited Glacier National Park in Montana as well as Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta.
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We drove Going-to-the-Sun Road across Glacier National Park from west to east in about 2 1/2 hours. We were slowed by road works along the way. Although the weather wasn't so great, the rugged mountains and lakes of Glacier were still nothing if not spectacular. Completed in 1932, Going-to-the-Sun Road, designated both a national historic monument and a national civil engineering monument, crosses the Continental Divide at the 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass. It was extremely cold when we got out of our car and walked to the Logan Pass visitor center.
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For more information on Glacier National Park, visit www.nps.gov/glac/, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glacier_National_Park_(U.S.), www.glacier.national-park.com/, and www.glacierparkinc.com/.
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Waterton Lakes is striking because the mountains seem to jut right out of the prairie. Upper Waterton Lake with a depth of 492 feet, is the deepest lake in the Rockies.
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For more information on Waterton Lakes National Park, visit www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/Waterton/index_e.asp and findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20070204/ai_n17199708.

We stayed at the spiffy Banff Springs Hotel. Dinner was at Chili's in Banff.
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The total mileage driven today was 416 miles. Barbara was tired this morning so I drove through most of Glacier National Park, the transit of which required over 2 1/2 hours with several stops. But Barbara drove for the rest of the day.
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I will post pics from today soon.

Wednesday 27 August 2008: Bozeman, MT to Kalispell, MT via rental car (516 miles)

Today we drove our rental car from Bozeman (population 32,414) in southwestern Montana to Kalispell (population 14,223) in northwestern Montana. Our route took us over both freeway and secondary roads as we traveled via Helena and Great Falls. We also skirted the southern border of Glacier National Park before arriving in Kalispell in the evening.

En route we visited Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument which conserves 375,000 acres of land along the Missouri River in central Montana. The national monument interpretive center in Fort Benton, MT, opened in 2006, is wonderful.

For more information on Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, visit www.blm.gov/mt/st/en/fo/lewistown_field_office/UM.html, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Missouri_River_Breaks_National_Monument, and www.publiclands.org/explore/site.php?id=2778&PHPSESSID=23cfeb7c9.
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We stayed in a Super 8 Motel in Kalispell and enjoyed a second terrific dinner at Famous Dave's, a national chain where we had first dined in Bozeman on 26 August.
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The total mileage driven today by Barbara was 516 miles.
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I will post pics from today soon.

Monday 25 August 2008: Havre, MT to Glendive, MT via rental car (461 miles)

Today we drove our rental car mostly on secondary roads from Havre (population 9,451) in north central Montana to Glendive (population 4,806) in eastern Montana.
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En route we visited the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. As we drove through the national park in the early evening we saw not only prairie dogs, bison and (what we assume was) a wild horse, but also lots and lots of deer!
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We stayed at a Comfort Inn and had a late and not-so-good dinner at a local restaurant next door.
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The total mileage driven today by Barbara was 461 miles.
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I will post pics from today soon.

Sunday 24 August 2008: Red Deer, AB to Havre, MT via rental car (426 miles)

Today we drove our rental car from Red Deer via Calgary, AB and Medicine Hat, AB (where we lunched at Joey's Only Seafood, a Canadian chain restaurant, which was lousy) to Havre, MT (population 9,451) in north central Montana.
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En route we drove about 26 miles round trip on a gravel road over to the Alberta/Saskatchewan provincial border. Barbara had been at the Regina, SK Airport once but I had never been in Saskatchewan at all until today!
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We stayed at a Super 8 Motel in Havre and had a late and not-so-good dinner at a local lounge.
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The total mileage driven today by Barbara was 426 miles.
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I will post pics from today soon.

Saturday 23 August 2008: Edmonton, AB to Red Deer, AB via rental car (153 miles)

Today Barbara and I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at our Holiday Inn Express. Then we drove our black Pontiac G5 Avis rental car to the Royal Alberta Museum which has a wonderful collection of minerals from all over the world and a number of lovely wildlife dioramas. From the museum we continued over to "West Ed," which is how locals refer to the West Edmonton Mall, one of the largest malls in the world.
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After touring West Ed we drove east of Edmonton to Elk Island National Park where we purchased an annual pass to all of Canada's national parks for CAD 136. In the park we saw bison. From there we returned to Edmonton and then headed south to Red Deer, AB for another overnight at a Holiday Inn Express.
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The total mileage driven today by Barbara was 153 miles.
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I will post pics from today soon.

Friday 22 August 2008: Fort Nelson, BC to Edmonton, AB via SUV and Greyhound bus

When I arrived at the Greyhound bus station in Fort Nelson, BC at 2:30 AM today I was very surprised to be told that there would be no southbound bus!
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The northbound Fort Nelson-to-Whitehorse bus had broken down on Thursday afternoon. The Fort Nelson-Dawson Creek, BC bus was put on that route, which left no bus available for the southbound route. Luckily, I was considered a transit passenger; so I was given first priority to board the GMC Yukon SUV which Greyhound had chartered to transport five of the nine waiting passengers (and Adrian, the jovial African American southbound Greyhound bus driver) south to Dawson Creek. Four unlucky passengers were left behind in Fort Nelson.
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Our GMC Yukon departed from Fort Nelson, BC on time at 3:00 AM; and, after two stops, we arrived at Dawson Creek, mile zero on the Alaska Highway which runs all the way up to Fairbanks, Alaska, at about 9:30 AM. However, the bus to which I was to have transferred at Dawson Creek had also broken down. So Adrian, the Grande Prairie-based Greyhound bus driver who had accompanied us all the way from Fort Nelson, asked our female SUV driver to continue on to Grande Prairie, AB where he lived. In Grande Prairie I waited for about 90 minutes for a Greyhound bus which had been sent up from Edmonton especially to bring me and a couple of dozen other passengers from Grande Prairie down to Edmonton, AB.
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Incredibly, I managed to arrive in Edmonton at 8:10 PM, only about 15 minutes late, after a 16-hour journey from Fort Nelson, BC by SUV and bus. Barbara, who had flown into Edmonton that day from Las Vegas via San Francisco, surprised me by meeting me at the bus station. We spent the night at a nearby Holiday Inn Express in Edmonton (but we didn't do any brain surgery the next morning!).
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The total mileage driven today by Barbara on her Pontiac G5 Avis rental car was 78 miles.
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I will post pics from today soon.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday 21 August 2008: Round trip from Fort Nelson, BC to the BC/Northwest Territories border via rental car























































This morning I drove a rental car about 215 miles round trip from Fort Nelson (which lies at mile 300 on the Alaska Highway) in northeastern British Columbia up the excellent Liard Highway to the border with the Northwest Territories (NWT) at the 60th parallel (60 degrees north latitude). Incidentally, the photo of me at the 60th parallel was taken by balancing my camera on my sweater on the hood of the car and using the camera's ten-second timer.
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Below is a link to a 55-second video clip I took at the border. As it begins, we are looking from the BC/NWT border along the paved highway back into BC. The camera then swings counter-clockwise approx. 250 degrees. You will notice that at this point the highway turns from good blacktop pavement into a good gravel road. There is an official welcome sign into the NWT another 1/4 mile along the highway. That white sign is just barely visible in the video clip. I wanted to film at this point where the road surface changes.
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My car was rented from National Car Rental at the Shell station in "downtown" Fort Nelson. The cheapest rate was CAD 70 per day plus taxes and CAD 0.40 per km with no free kms!
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Round trip driving time from Fort Nelson was about four hours, including many stops for photos along the way. The Liard Highway is signposted for 80 km/hour (49 mph) but no one I saw was driving that slow. On the Liard Highway itself I passed only nine vehicles while heading north and eighteen vehicles when returning south.


video

After returning to town I toured the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum. There I saw a 35-minute video about the construction of the Alaska Highway (then called the "Alcan Highway") by soldiers in only eight months during 1942-1943. That seems like an incredible feat!
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Before returning to my hotel I took photos of the nearby Thriftlodge which had burned down.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wednesday 20 August 2008: Whitehorse, YT to Fort Nelson, BC via Greyhound bus










































This morning I toured the MacBride Museum of Yukon History in Whitehorse. The museum contains a number of stuffed animals representative of the Yukon as well as a heavy dose of local Whitehorse history.
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At 2 PM I boarded a Greyhound bus for a 12 1/2-hour ride along the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to Fort Nelson in northeastern British Columbia. Being one of the last to board, I was lucky to get a very good seat in the second row. My seatmate was a student at a college in Whitehorse. We chatted for a bit and then both put on our ipods. That technology is perfect for long-distance bus travel! I believe that this may have been the first time I have ridden a Greyhound bus in more than 30 years.
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I could have flown from Whitehorse to Edmonton. However, I chose to take the bus via Fort Nelson because I was curious to see what the countryside looks like. As it turns out, the Alaska Highway is beautifully paved; and the scenery is lovely but not spectacular, based on what I saw during the daylight portion of my journey. This evening I spotted moose twice (one animal each time). We also saw about a dozen wood bison along the roadside in a single sighting. The photos I got of the wood bison through the bus window are blurry, so you'll have to use your imagination. Sorry!
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Because it gets dark so late at this latitude of about 60 degrees, I was able to see the countryside until after 10 PM. Dinner was a Subway foot-long tuna sandwich on honey oat bread (with no cheese, of course) which I ate at the recreation center (which also doubles as the Greyhound bus station) in Watson Lake, YT. This town is famous for its "forest" of over 50,000 signs. The first signs were erected by a homesick soldier during World War II. It is said that he nailed three signs onto a single post. The interesting thing is just how many Kilroys have brought their signs with them from Europe and elsewhere.
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Upon arrival in Fort Nelson, I looked unsuccessfully for the Thriftlodge where I had reserved a room for two nights (and one day). I had the address, and the location was only a block or so from the Greyhound bus station. But, after walking back and forth along the dark street in 37 F. weather for about half an hour, I concluded that the Thriftlodge must have burned down! So I booked into the Lakeview Inn (a Canadian chain of hotels) down the block and got to sleep about 4:30 AM.