Banff N.P. to Helena, MT 8/25 - 9/2/2019


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North America » United States » Montana
September 2nd 2019
Published: September 2nd 2019
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THE BASICS

We have had gorgeous weather for many days. Sunny, warm, beautiful puffy clouds. That's great, but might also affect the huge numbers of tourists at our last two parks, along with the holiday weekend. On our first day camped in Banff, we drove partway up the Icefields Parkway and did not go all the way to Jasper. The glaciers have retreated much more from our last visit seven years ago. We had stopped for coffee on the way up, and whom should we encounter but Dick Houghton, who used to own Durham and Newmarket hardware stores, and his wife Lainie.

Day 2, we drove the Bow Parkway, the old road which parallels the highway, from Banff to Lake Louise. Beautiful. But we gave up on getting into Lake Louise; it was full by early morning.

After Banff, we drove toward Calgary and through enormous construction south to Okotoks, a rich-looking bedroom community. The next day we drove a fairly short distance to Fort MacLeod, where our highlight was a farmers market in town that evening. It was very busy and pleasant, with lots of hula hoops available to occupy the kids.

And then back to the USA and Glacier! Two problems that day. We could not find the Corolla keys and searched everywhere. I finally found them in a garbage bag we fortunately had not thrown into a dumpster yet. Then we missed a turn and drove many extra miles west and then southeastward. We were too tired to take advantage of the "laudromt" at our campground...

Next day, we set out on the Highway to the Sun and took a nice hike at Point Sun, above the emerald green lakes. And the next day, we left early to drive to Many Glacier Hotel. We walked the 2.6 mile trail around the lake, a big accomplishment for me as I am still recovering.

This morning we set off to Helena. I soon saw a big dead bear on the shoulder of the road. Sad. Then we realized we hadn't listened to travel suggestions, because we met with 19 miles of extensive construction over hills and along curves. (We should have gone a bit north and taken a different road east.) The rest of the drive was lovely. We saw many, many cows but the only crop seemed to be hay. And I saw an antelope!

We plan to be at West Yellowstone on Wednesday. We hope that fires are all under control...

THE FLUFF

Banff National Park is more spectacular than I even remembered. After the fire damage of Waterton Park, it was wonderful to see so much green on the mountains. And the many lakes have bright emerald green water, thanks to the glacier melt. The mountains are tall and steep, and it is all just so picturesque. I was very interested to read about the differences between the Front and Main Ranges of the Rockies, on a sign posted where the ranges were close enough to compare.

We had been to Lake Louise many years ago, so missing it was not such a problem, especially since I had learned that all the lakes and rivers are that beautiful green, not just that lake. We satisfied ourselves with a late afternoon beer in the town of Banff, watching all the folks go by. The campground had a huge pile of free firewood, which we took advantage of in the evenings.

The Bow Parkway was such a pleasant leisurely ride. There are shuttle buses all over the area and many tent campgrounds along the parkway accessible by bus, so we saw many healthy young folks with backpacks and hiking boots. We discovered a lovely restaurant for lunch, and we sat in the sun savoring flatbread pizza.

The next two days on the road were fine. The mislaid keys experience was really traumatic, but the relief was almost magical. Beautiful scenery, although I think there must not be any junkyards around this part of the continent, because many homes have many vehicles parked in their yards, and I don't believe many of them run.

And then there we were in East Glacier! I think most people go to West Glacier, but I became fond of the East side years ago. I had not yet mustered the courage to go to the top of the Road to the Sun, but we started up it. And we learned that the road was jampacked, that there was no chance of parking at the top. So I was saved from that frightening drive, and didn't feel so bad for John because he had been there years ago. We enjoyed our short hike, in that amazingly perfect weather we have been blessed with.

Many Glaciers Hotel was a particularly warm memory for me. But I did not remember the road to the hotel. It is many miles long and sections were very, very rough with potholes that were quite deep. I wonder if the roads are left that way to keep tourists away - if so, it is a failing enterprise. As we left in early afternoon, there was quite a long line of cars waiting to be allowed into the park. I love the huge old hotels in the national parks, and we enjoyed our midmorning coffee on the deck overlooking the lake. Then we walked around the lake. It was a very easy trail, mostly flat and wide, in some parts even paved. But I was very happily surprised that I could handle that distance.

Three Australian guys pulled in next to us at the campground; they were in a camper van which looked much too small for them all. They had been hiking for several days. They sorted all their clothes and equipment and then hurried to the showers; we gave them our unused shower tokens.

There were reports that the aurora borealis might be visible in Glacier on Saturday night, and maybe even Sunday. But alas, no such luck.

Today's drive down through Montana was beautiful (as long as we ignore the construction nightmare). We were on rolling prairies, then the hills got taller and green. To the west, we could glance over at the Rockies whenever we wanted to. And there is really nothing like these huge skies.

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3rd September 2019

enjoying your blog
I'm grateful that you allow some of us to vicariously travel along with you by following your blog. I've never been to the Canadian Rockies but have seen stunning photos and heard testimony as to the beauty and grandeur of those grand national parks. I did get out to Glacier in 2011. I participated in a mountain bike trip from Whitefish to Lincoln that roughly followed the Continental Divide along back roads. It was suggested that we bring 'bear spray' in case of encounters with Grizzlies. I decided to take my chances and, besides, the locals joked that grizzlies just regard the spray as 'salsa'. Our trip ended near Lincoln that has the dubious distinction of being the 'home town' of the unibomber, Ted Kaczyski. He lived in a remote cabin in the hills near the town. I gather our mountain bike route had gone close by the site of the cabin but there was nothing left to see. The FBI had been concerned that it could become a sort of shrine for like-minded psychopaths and had it completely removed. Apparently, for a period it was on display at a now closed museum in DC dedicated to news gathering called the Newseum. Although our tour did not include Glacier I had wanted to see it and had made arrangements to go there on my own after the tour. I had made a reservation in East Glacier to spend the night and had planned to ride over the Going to the Sun Road to get there. Incredibly, the road had only opened a few days before I got there on July 17 of that year. It turns out they restrict bicycle on the western half of the road during peak traffic periods, so I put my bike on the front of a bus and rode to the top. Once at the top it was clear from some of the cleared snow that there were places where it still would have been over my head. They don't restrict bikes on the eastern end of the road so I was able to coast down to East Glacier and spend the night. I did ride to the top the next morning but once again took a bus down the western half. There was enough road work taking place on the western half that year that I was glad I was not trying to negotiate through those obstacles with vehicles like your motor home bearing down on me. I was interested to read a couple of entries ago that you visited a Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It wouldn't have been noteworthy to me except for something I learned a couple of weeks ago when Estelle and I were visiting Ottawa and we went to the Canadian Museum of History. Not surprisingly, there had been a significant amount of mixed marriage largely between European trappers/hunters and Native American women with the resulting mixed ethnic population labeled the Metis. During the 19th century there were land rights conflicts between the Metis as well as Native Americans and the westward moving European settlers in what would become Manitoba. Some of this led to armed confrontations and latter cultural subjugation as well as reluctance to join in the confederation that eventually became the united provinces of Canada. I was curious if that had something to do with the establishment of a museum dedicated to human rights in a place like Winnipeg. I depart for my own travels next week on 9/11 to spend three weeks in the Southwest. Happy Trails - Dennis

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