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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Two Quick Montana Stops


We made two quick Montana stops before entering Canada (our goal was sometime before Memorial Day). And we had two major things to take care of – a follow-up visit to a veterinarian for Angel, and another visit to the car shop for the Subaru. Plus a visit to Costco to pick up a refill on a prescription for Angel.

The town of Helena has a Costco, a Subaru dealer and a veterinarian who was equipped to run the type of blood tests Angel needs, and was not too expensive – not so easy to find.

So we drove to Helena, where we stayed at the Lincoln Road RV Park. Check out my review of the campground here.

cartoon_veterinarian_diagnosing_a_fat_little_dog_0521-1008-0712-4632_SMUAngel in fact was the first order of business. We took her to the Apex Animal Hospital. Whenever we take Angel to a veterinarian in a new state, they require an “office visit” – a check-up, before they can run any kind of lab tests even though we have a referral from California. We have tried avoiding this but have ultimately given in.

1029I have also learned to call around in advance to get pricing on the visits and the lab tests – they have huge ranges! I also find out whether they have an in-house lab and are able to have results quickly. One day I will write a post on our veterinarian experiences – we have been to six veterinarians in five states since November.montana002

We explained the entire complicated story of Angel’s issues to a very sharp Veterinary Technician. Then we spoke to Dr. Matthew Evans, who had a great rapport with Angel – he used to have an Alaskan malamute. I have to say I was very impressed with the Apex Animal Hospital – they were not the most specialized nor the largest there but were the only ones who quickly understood the tests Angel needed, had somewhat reasonable rates and spent quality time with us.montana001 (1)

And a quick update on Angel – she is doing great! Her calcium level is up a little into a strong normal range, her energy is back to the way it was before the surgery, her appetite is good – we are thrilled!

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More Yellowstone Wildlife


“For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”

mammoth004On our move day at Yellowstone National Park, we drove through seven miles of construction, which turned to mud due to recent rains. This was one of the reasons we chose to relocate, to avoid driving through construction zones more than once. And we wanted to be closer to the Lamar Valley in order to see more Yellowstone wildlife.mammoth002

We stayed at the Mammoth Campground, near the North entrance to the park, which is the original entrance to the park. Read my review of the campground here.mammoth007

mammoth006mammoth008Just after we got settled in and as I was finishing a walk with Angel, it began to hail. So far, we had rain, wind, cold, a bit of snow, and now hail. Ah, Spring!

In the morning, there was a herd of elk cows running through the campground. Mammoth Hot Springs is home to many elk, and they hang out around the town and nearby areas.

We had seen more wildlife than ever, but some of the best was yet to come. Our campground was a great jumping off point to visit the Tower-Roosevelt area and the Lamar Valley, both east of us.mammoth093mammoth025 Continue reading

Yellowstone in Spring

Yellowstone Madison032Yellowstone Madison002Last Fall, when we last visited Yellowstone National Park, we met some wolf advocates who visit the park every year. They told us that wildlife was much more active and visible and that many animals had babies in Yellowstone in spring. That is when we decided to return to the park this spring.Yellowstone Madison036

Yellowstone Madison053And so we arrived in the park in early May, entering through the West entrance in the town of West Yellowstone. Yellowstone National Park is massive, so we split our time into two different areas. For the first half of our visit, we stayed at the Madison Campground. Read my review of the campground here.Yellowstone Madison003

Yellowstone Madison014On our way into the park, we saw our first baby animals. Baby bison! They are born between April and May so these were about a month old. They are just adorable when they are babies, rusty red colored. They will begin developing their hump and changing to a dark brown color during their first winter.Yellowstone Madison005 Continue reading

Inside the Volcano – Yellowstone National Park

yellowstone  001This was our second trip to Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is the national park I always wanted to visit when I was a kid. Old Faithful and other geysers.  Hot springs.  Fumaroles.  Bears. Buffalo. Wolves. Elk. Lakes. Canyons. Rivers. Mountains.yellowstone  002

yellowstone  141 (1)yellowstone  033Yellowstone has its critics. Yes, there is horrible traffic and mobs of people in the park during peak season. Yes, there are people who drive through the park and don’t get out of their cars. But this is the first national park.  THE Yellowstone.  All American and unique.

The central part of the park is a 30 by 45 mile caldera (basin) formed after three huge volcanic eruptions during the past 2.1 million years (the most recent was 640,000 years ago). The heat powering those eruptions still powers the park’s more than 10,000 thermal features, evidence that the volcano is still active.  But scientists do not foresee another eruption for thousands of years.   We hope.

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Glacier (less) National Park

glacier  115glacier  001After visiting Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, we of course had to visit the U.S. side of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. And perhaps using the title Glacier (less) National Park is too harsh, but it reflects some astonishing facts we learned about the park.glacier  003

In 1850, there were 150 glaciers on the mountains in Glacier National Park, today only 25 of those remain. But even more concerning is this: it’s estimated that the remaining glaciers will be gone sometime between 2020 and 2030.glacier  002glacier  005

Those are chilling facts (pun intended). So to those that would like to see some of the glaciers, I say – visit the park sooner rather than later. As for what impact the disappearance of all glaciers will have on this ecosystem, I don’t know but I do know that researchers are trying to answer that question.

One thing that’s been decided is that the name will remain. These mountains were formed by glaciers, so the name Glacier National Park will always be appropriate.glacier  077

glacier  078And it is yet another absolutely stunning place. Towering mountains, wildlife, lakes, waterfalls… We are huge fans of the national parks (U.S. and Canada), and the ones we’ve visited recently are some of the most magnificent. I feel like I’ve been living in a postcard.

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Crossing the border from Canada back to the U.S.

Mountie_TrooperI get stressed out before driving across the border to or from the U.S. in the RV.  Not because we have anything to hide, but because of some horror stories I’ve heard about people who presumably also had nothing to hide. So before driving across the Canada/ U.S. border, I always prepare thoroughly. This time I gathered passports, paperwork for the car and RV, Angel’s rabies certificate, and a list of open and unopened liquor.uscanadaborder

In the past we’ve crossed with zero produce nor raw meat, but we had a few vegetables left and decided to bring them and declare them. Our sense from various sources of information was that no fruit is allowed whatsoever, but some vegetables might be ok.

I’d also read that dog food wasn’t allowed in or out of the U.S./Canada border. So when we bought some dog food in Canada, I asked the proprietor of the pet food store about that. He said that the important thing was to keep the package to show what the ingredients are and where the food was made. But he didn’t know which specific foods were not allowed.glacier  001

We crossed the border at a pretty quiet area, Chief Mountain, which is between Watertown National Park and Glacier National Park. The customs officer did in fact ask about produce, raw meats and dog food. We showed him our produce, and he confiscated all of it except for onions, garlic and cilantro. For some reason he even took our rosemary. So maybe he was going to make a fabulous dish with rosemary that night 🙂

Hector handed him the dog food bag. And the officer told us that the two ingredients currently not allowed are goat and lamb. Apparently because those were responsible for an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease years ago. Good to know.

He never asked about liquor nor about the rabies certificate. And he of course asked about guns, which require proper documentation.

So a couple of tips from this border crossing are:

It’s best to avoid taking ANY produce or raw meats across

If you must take dog food across the border, keep all bags or containers

Always be honest when answering questions because if you declare something that’s not allowed they will confiscate it or you might be refused entry, but if you don’t declare something not allowed, you may get fined or worse

And the resource with the most comprehensive information I’ve found to this point is – This website includes a separate page for every port of entry between Canada and the U.S. And for each port of entry it contains information about border wait times, days when high traffic is anticipated, closures (for example, the Chief Mountain border crossing closes in Winter), telephone numbers and more.

us can flagBeing better informed relieves some of the stress.   And I have to say that every customs officer we’ve encountered these last two years has been extremely courteous. But check with me next summer when we’ll cross the border into and out of the U.S a couple of more times.

~ Brenda