To the Arctic Circle and Back in 2015

What a year!  We travelled to the Arctic Circle and back in 2015.

cartoon529-2Be warned, this is a looooong post.  But we hope you enjoy a quick tour back through this most wonderful year with some of Hector’s favorite images.

Island Girl traveled a total of 12,345 miles.

We stayed in 88 campsites (29 of them were overnights and 61 were dry camping).

Visited 10 States, 2 Canadian Provinces and 1 Canadian Territory. And 6 veterinarians in 5 states and 1 Canadian Territory.

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Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway

alcanday2034Today we crossed the border into British Columbia and arrived at Dawson Creek, the location of mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. From there, it will be about 1,200 more miles to the border of Alaska but we have reached a milestone that we have been looking forward to for some time.

alcanday2041But before all of that, Hector spent part of the morning vacuuming glass and rocks from the car and making a temporary cover for our now non-existent sunroof. Fortunately, it is a small sunroof. Delivery of a replacement part will take about a week, so we plan to schedule the repair in Anchorage, just over a month from now.

alcanday2036alcanday2037And we are thankful for Grande Prairie, where we found supplies to deal with our broken sunroof. This booming city’s economy is based on canola, cereal grains, fescue, honey, livestock, forestry, and oil and gas. There is a Walmart, a Costco, a Home Deport, several large grocery stores, several car dealerships, a mall and who knows what else. So it is a good spot for provisioning and/or taking care of other business.

After Hector installed our “new sunroof”, we had a short drive to the town of Beaverlodge, a regional center for grain transportation, seed cleaning and seed production. Wheat, barley and oats are the main crops in the area.alcanday2039 Continue reading

A Long Drive Towards the Alaska Highway

alcan001We left Cochrane and our friends all too soon. But we have a long drive towards the Alaska Highway and are focused on making good time.

alcan023As we continue northward, I thought I would write a bit about our choice of route to Alaska.

There are two main highways across Canada towards Alaska – the Alaska Highway and the Cassiar Highway from the West. The Cassiar ultimately meets up with the Alaska Highway.

alcan004There are four main roads leading to those highways. Both the Eastern Access Route through the Alberta plains and the Eastern Mountain Route through the Rocky Mountains in Alberta lead to the Alaska Highway. The Western Access Route through Vancouver to Whistler leads to the Cassiar Highway. And the Central Route through central British Columbia can lead to either the Alaska or the Cassiar Highway. Of course, there are many approaches that you can take from the States and Canada leading to these routes.

Finally, the Marine Highway from British Columbia through the Inside Passage in Alaska is a great alternative. Ferry service provides access to several towns that are only accessible by sea or plane and stops in several towns on mainland Alaska.

Why did we choose the Eastern Access Route through the Alberta plains?

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Our first Canada Stop

calgary002calgary003We crossed the border into Canada at Piegan / Cardston, having driven from Glacier National Park in Montana (Piegan is on the Montana side in the Blackfoot Nation, Cardston is on the Alberta side). Our first Canada stop was Cochrane, located on the Northwest of Calgary, where we were planning to meet friends.

In preparation, we ate all of our produce, made sure dog food was in original bags, got our Canadian insurance cards (our regular insurance covers Canada but they provide special cards), got our passports and Angel’s rabies certificate out and took inventory of food and liquor in case of questions.calgary004

calgary005calgary006calgary007It was a fairly uneventful crossing. The officer asked these questions:

Was there anything we had with us that we intended to leave in Canada?

Where were we going?

How long did we plan to stay?

Did we have guns, or defensive weapons such as mace or pepper spray?

Did we have liquor on board – how much?

Had we been to Canada before?

We explained that we live in the motorhome and told him we had one and a half cases of wine plus open liquor bottles but were not charged duties. This is the third year we cross the border with liquor – the first we were charged duties – but even paying duties  was cheaper than buying liquor in Canada. The other years we were not charged any duties on our liquor although we were well over the small allowance.calgary001

I am going to include a few statistics on each post during our journey to Alaska, if there are any other ideas or items of particular interest, let us know.

Road Name: Highway 2 and secondary roads for our last thirty miles across Calgary

Road Type: Smooth two-lane for the first 50 miles (border to Fort McLeod), changing to four-lane divided highway all the way to Calgary.

Total Miles travelled today: 183 from Canadian border: 183

Driving Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

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An International Peace Park

waterton  016

waterton  001It’s fitting that our last stop in Canada, where we’ve met so many kind people, was at Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Waterton Lakes National Park was established in 1895 and Glacier National Park was established in 1910. The parks shared the International Boundary between Canada and the United States and in 1932 the two governments linked them as an International Peace Park, the world’s first.

waterton  024The peace park is a symbol of peace and goodwill between the United States and Canada.  And both parks were designated as Biosphere Reserves in the 1970s and as a World Heritage Site in 1995.waterton  019

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O’ the Lakes and the Flowers

Banff  129Banff  090The lakes around Banff National Park are irresistible. So one of our first destinations while in the Banff area was the famous Lake Louise.Banff  130

The lake is about an hour drive from Banff and many people visit both in the same trip.   But Lake Louise and the area around the lake is also a destination in and of itself.Banff  093

Banff  092Banff  091We set out late in the afternoon to see Lake Louise and another well-known lake, Moraine Lake. Our purpose was to scope out the possibility of kayaking the lakes, which are both located in absolutely stunning settings.

Lake Louise was jam packed with people although as it got a bit later the crowds thinned a bit. But it’s a beautiful jewel of a lake.

And we found out that we’d have to walk our kayaks down a short trail and put in by the walkway. Not ideal.   Probably an intentional way to avoid competition with their rental canoe outfit, where they charge $55 per hour (!!!).

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The Glacial Rivers and Lakes of Jasper


Jasper NP  165Some of the most spectacular places in Jasper National Park are its glacial rivers and its brilliant hued glacial lakes. And we’re always drawn to water.

Jasper NP  149Jasper NP  150The amazing colors of the lakes are caused by reflections from sediment that originates in rocks under glaciers called rock flour. These colors were like nothing we’d ever seen before.

Maligne Lake is the largest lake in the park and the second largest glacial-fed lake in the world.  We considered kayaking there, but the lake is 14 miles long so we figured we’d see a lot more of it on a boat tour, which we purchased as a package with the Jasper Sky Tram.

The weather was a bit cloudy as we started out on the road to the lake. But the road is known for its beauty and for its abundance of wildlife.

Jasper NP  152Jasper NP  151Jasper NP  172Along the way, we checked out Medicine Lake, which is flooded in the summer and disappears in the winter. There is no visible channel for the lake to drain through, it drains from the bottom through sinkholes, then follows an underground cave network and surfaces in Maligne Canyon (more on the canyon later). Early Indians believed spirits were responsible for the lake’s disappearance, thus its name.Jasper NP  178

Bighorn sheep are commonly spotted in this area, and further along the way a couple of females with babies were wandering in the middle of the road. The adults apparently have no fear of humans (or have been fed by humans) and walked right up to various cars’ windows to peer inside.

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