Smoke, smoke, everywhere

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August 15th 2017
Published: August 16th 2017
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I was really looking forward to this drive from Kalispell to Calgary, today. We drove this route a few years ago, from east to west, and it had killer views. So I had high expectations that the west to east drive would be equally as impressive. And they would have been, if it wasn’t for the fires. We left our hotel at 7:35 and 54 degrees and headed east on Canada Highway 1 only to find the beautiful scenery hidden behind a curtain of thick smoke. I am posting examples of what it should have looked like as well as photos of what it actually looked like today. (I stole them from my files, of the last trip through here.)

The first part of the drive passes between a wonderful, very long lake on the left, and hills and mountains on the right, and through places like Salmon Arms and Three Valley Gap. The forests are thick on the mountain side and the trees grow very tall up here in the northwest. There was a mixture of hard and soft woods, spruce, fir, pine, birch, and others. And through them, on the sides of mountains, poked rock faces of orange, where the stone had been blasted away to make room for the road to pass through. The road continued on through valleys and along rivers the color of creamy power blue, like glacier ice. And it twisted and turned as it hugged the mountain sides going up, then down and then up, again. Some of these mountains were towering over us, extending up to massive heights into the sky, with stony peaks above the tree line and sometimes, above the clouds.

We drove through Canada’s Glacier National Park where there was notice on the road signs of fires in the area. And the air was dense with smoke, totally obliterating the gorgeous vistas that live behind it. We saw a helicopter carrying water in a hanging bucket, so we knew we were not far from the heat of it all.

At noon, we stopped at Kicking Horse Rest Area, where we had lunch, then took a walk down by the river, where rapids filled the air with a swooshing sound. Buses were just arriving to pick up white water rafters at the end of their float down the white-capped waterway. We saw railroad tracks on the river bank across the way, then we heard it…a train was coming and we stood and watched it for a while. Beamer was all ears and stood still with us as it slowly passed by.

We drove into Banff National Park, familiar territory, since we spent a few days there several years ago. From the highway, we were able to identify, by the configuration of the mountains, the exact area that is home to Lake Louise. And if it had not been so late, and had we not been losing an hour today, we would have gone in for another look. It is such a beautiful sight, with it’s glassy surface reflecting the image of the glacier behind. But time was an issue, so we continued on. We drove past the hotel that we stayed in and saw the mountains that composed the view we had from our massive picture window. Some day we will return. This place is awesome.

Although we were not on a river byway today, at times it felt like we were, for there was often a river following us along, although it was not the same river throughout the day. The riverbeds are dry. And with the wild fires, they sure need rain up here.

We entered Calgary late in the day and the GPS took us around the city rather than through the downtown area. It would have been clogged with traffic at 5 PM. This city seems to be new and very deliberately planned. As we crested a hill and the city came into sight, it was obvious that it sprawls for miles around, and all we could see was houses…thousands of them. As we got closer, we saw that they were all in neighborhoods/developments where the houses were mostly alike in style and color and densely situated. I think one can reach out the side window and shake hands with a neighbor reaching out the side window of his house. The first areas we saw had small houses but as we moved around the city, the neighborhoods changed to more affluent ones with larger houses, though still very close together and very much alike.

We reached our hotel after 5 PM and settled in for the night. After planning for the next few days, we had dinner and I sat down to work on my blog. Tomorrow, we will drive to Great Falls Montana.

Additional photos below
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