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Published: April 14th 2009
JOHNNY’S JOURNEYS : YELLOWSTONE AND GLACIER NATIONAL PARKS
AND THE CANADIAN ROCKIES 2002
JULY 29, 2002 (Monday)
4:00 a.m. and still dark. But there are three eager beavers here this morning. We are
flying to Montana. Oh the excitement! Bethany will be taking her first airplane ride. The
airport shuttle picks us up around 4:30 and we are whisked away to start our Western
adventure. Check-in goes smoothly and we fly out on schedule.
We land in Memphis, TN, a hub airport with Northwest Airlines. There is a short lay-
over and we stretch our legs. Soon are boarding another plane and this time, we will be
flying into St. Paul, MN. This is a new state for me, the Land of 10,00 Lakes. I have now
been to 36 states! There is time for a snack lunch, mainly hamburgers. We visit a few
souvenir stands, then walk over to the waiting area. Lots of people getting ready to board
for Great Falls, MT. Janet and I noticed a middle aged man, with torn blue-jeans,
rolling around on the carpet with his young son. Guess it was some quality time, father
and son, but it looked a little out of place in an airport.
We are now on our third plane of the day. I snap a picture of the winding Mississippi
River. Ten minutes into our flight, a small five year old boy, sitting behind me, starts to
pull my hair. As I turn quickly around in my seat, I see that it’s the little boy who had
been playing with his father. The dad apologized, said he was sorry. I said “you look like
Aaron Tippin.” “Pleased to meet you” as he shook my hand. I told him that I listened to
him on the radio just yesterday. Wow, how many times have I seen him on Country
Music Television? This was an unexpected treat. We talked, off and on for hundreds of
Aaron’s wife is from Great Falls. Her parents will be looking after the grandchildren
for awhile. Aaron will be performing at the Montana State Fair, in Great Falls in a few
days. As we were leaving the plane, I was able to get his autograph.
Joe Newsom was awaiting us and we all got a bear hug from him. I think we will do
some reminiscing on this trip. Joe and I have known each other since 1968, in our junior
high school days. He was my Delta Tau Delta fraternity “big brother” at Auburn and my
student manager on the bookfield in Ohio and Indiana. Joe was the one who introduced
me to the Southwestern Company. Bethany likes him because he talks like Donald Duck.
On this trip, we have arranged to use an Alamo rental car. And we are soon on our
way to the Super 8 Motel. As we finish checking in, Janet asks if I have the envelope. “I
thought you had the envelope.” Oh no! Our large envelope with 3 passports, hotel and
motel reservations and confirmation numbers, and all our travel itinerary information was
left on the plane. By the time we returned to the airport, our Northwest jet was on the
way back to Minneapolis-St. Paul. All we could do was file forms at the desk, and hope
that our stuff would return on tomorrow’s flight, before we leave for Yellowstone.
Sometimes, the unexpected occurs. We‘ll just make the best of it. Let’s go see Great
Falls! There is a very impressive sculpture of Lewis and Clark that we visited. Located at
Overlook Park, it features Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, York (who was Clark’s
slave) and the dog Seaman. This looks out over the confluence of the Sun River and
On June 13, 1805, Lewis and Clark’s “Corp of Discovery” reached the five waterfalls
on the Missouri River. With a drop of over 400 feet, the keelboat had to be portaged (the
carrying of goods over an obstacle). It took one month to transport the canoes across 18
miles of land. Makeshift wagons with wheels had to be created. The ground was rocky,
uneven and hard. There were prickly pear cacti everywhere. Plus, they endured violent
storms, sweltering summer heat, grizzly bears and rattlesnakes. What a tremendous hard-
ship. They had to build new boats, to replace the one they left behind……They love their
Lewis and Clark heritage here in Great Falls.
There is a wide sidewalk along the edge of the Missouri River. We go strolling for a
little distance. Bethany tosses bread to several Canadian geese and even sea gulls. They
had been looking for food in the grass.
Not far away is Giant Springs State Park. The highlight is the crystal clear water which
bubbles up from below. We see several fishes. And we are standing on the edge of the
Roe River. This is the worlds shortest river, at 201 feet. Did I mention how clear the
water is? Easy to spot speckled trout. Mere pictures just don’t seem to do this place
It is suppertime and we are hungry. Afterwards, Joe gave several tiny beanie baby
animals to Bethany. She is thrilled.
JULY 30, 2002 (Tuesday)
Today we shall visit the Charles M. Russell Museum. It is fantastic. C.M. Russell was
born in St. Louis in 1864 and moved to Montana at age 16. He was a historian, cowboy,
true “westerner”, philosopher, outdoorsman, advocate of the Northern Plains Indians,
environmentalist, conservationist, and artist. He worked as a cowboy and wrangler for 11
years. After observing cowboys at work during the day, he had time in the quiet evenings
to sketch and document all the activities and excitement of the cow camp.
The Russell Museum contains five galleries dedicated to his life and art. There are
about 2000 works of art, artifacts and personal objects by Russell, in the permanent
collection. These present the art and soul of the old west. There are early paintings,
books, personal papers, illustrated letters and his sculptures.
Dozens of other artists are also on display. Plus, there are galleries for changing
exhibitions. All total, there are close to 12,000 items in the museum. Wow.
Downstairs at the museum, there is a children’s room. There are furs, an Indian teepee,
old leather saddle, a “play” old west store, bison hooves, stagecoaches and an art center.
Bethany had a blast.
Our next order of business was to return to the airport. We went to the Northwestern
airlines desk. No envelope or package of passports for us. What a disappointment. Now is
the time to prepare for NOT receiving our envelope with itinerary, reservations, confirma-
tion numbers, passports, etc. How could this inconvenience have happened?
Lunchtime and we found a wonderful little restaurant. We had the kindest waitress.
Just a very nice, pleasant person. We shall write a complimentary letter to her manager
when we get back to Alabama. A great lunch and we’re almost ready to go.
Janet and I decided that we should call her sister, Susan. She drove to our house in
Mobile and found Bethany’s birth certificate. Susan will mail it to us, care of the Super 8
Motel. We might need that when we try to return to the U.S.A. from Canada next week.
Our family leaves Great Falls in a rental car and heads south towards the capital city of
Helena. We are in the Rocky Mountains and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The miles zip on
by. As the sun begins to set, we stop at the edge of the Yellowstone River. My daughter
and I have to stick our feet in the water. May I mention how cold the water is?
We have now arrived at Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the
world. It was established in 1872. Our home for three nights is the Canyon Lodge cabins.
There is a detour and lots more miles to travel. And it is getting late. What is that we see
ahead in the road? Two wolves! Bethany was sound asleep and missed them. Finally, we
settle into our cabin. We are so excited about our upcoming adventure. (Happy birthday,
JULY 31, 2002 (Wednesday)
What a beautiful place we will be staying in. After a wonderful breakfast, we went to
the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. It is 308 feet high and thunders through the
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The Lower Falls is the largest volume major waterfall
in the Rocky Mountains. There are over 40 falls in the park and this is probably the 2nd
most photographed sight (behind Old Faithful geyser). You can hike to several points to
get a better view of these falls.
There are so many hiking trails to choose. We pass an old tree where bears have been
clawing. Soon, we pass by a huge glacial boulder. Located near Inspiration Point, this
boulder is the size of a house. Geologically, the Yellowstone area was once covered with
glacial ice up to 4000 feet thick. The last glaciers retreated almost 13,000 years ago and
left hundreds of rocks and boulders.
From our car, we saw a few large male elk, grazing in the meadows. They have a shrill
bugling sound. Time to get out, carefully, and take a few photographs. Now this is the
reason we came out west. And they have huge antlers, this time of year.
Around the next bend, dozens of cars had pulled off to the side of the road. People
were snapping away on their cameras. There was a herd of maybe 20 buffalo near the
roadside. What took our breath away was the sight down in the valley. A few of us
tourists estimated about 300 buffalo. MAGNIFICENT!
For someone who likes to take pictures of signs, this was the place to come: Dragon’s
Mouth Spring, Mud Volcano, Mt. Washburn Trail…Life Above Treeline. Underground,
thermal activity was slowly deteriorating part of a parking lot. The scenery changes with
Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces is one of the most amazing landscapes at the park.
Several key ingredients are necessary to make these terraces what they are: heat, water,
limestone and a rock fracture system through which the hot water can reach the surface.
Travertine is deposited as white rock. However, the microorganisms and living bacteria
create stunning shades of pink, orange, yellow, brown and green. Since the underground
springs are continuously changing, water is forced to flow in different directions. The
constant changes in slow, trickling water and mineral deposits form “living sculptures”.
There is about one mile of boardwalk, with stairways, at this section of Yellowstone.
We spent a couple of hours exploring both the Upper and Lower Terraces. I liked the
names of these formations, too. The Lower Terraces have: Liberty Cap, Opal Terrace,
Pallette Spring, Minerva Terrace, Cleopatra Terrace, Jupiter Terrace, Main Terrace,
Canary Spring, and Overlook. I loved these small cascading formations.
The Upper Terraces have: Prospect Terrace, New Highland Terrace, Orange Spring
Mound, Bath Lake, White Elephant Black Terrace, and Angel Terrace. Did I mention
earlier about “amazing” landscapes? And we saw our first snake, below the boardwalk.
As we continued driving in the northwestern section of the park, we pulled over at
Nymph Lake. There was a sign about Moose Bogs. And we saw a young female moose
grazing on some green grass in the lake. We saw plenty of mule deer as we approached
Steamboat Geyser. On distant mountaintops, there were patches of snow. Steamboat is
the world’s tallest active geyser. It erupts infrequently, sometimes going years between
eruptions. But when it does go off, it can spew water more than 300 feet into the air!
We are now in the Norris Geyser Basin. This is the largest and most changeable ther-
mal area in Yellowstone. What an incredible 2 and ¼ mile walk. There are two distinct
areas: Back Basin and Porcelain Basin. The hottest of the geothermal features are steam
vents, called fumaroles. There is Black Growler Steam Vent. It is the second largest
geyser here, and can shoot water 125 feet into the air, but at an angle. There is Congress
Pool, which is usually pale blue in color. But at times, it becomes muddy and boils vio-
lently. Sometimes the temperatures approach 200 degrees F.
The milky color of the mineral deposits help inspire the naming of Porcelain Basin.
There is Blue Geyser, which has been almost dormant since 1997. I liked the names:
Whirligig Geyser and Little Whirligig. The water swirls in its crater when erupting. Acid
water is released at many areas of Norris. Surprisingly, some green algae thrive in this
environment. There is the Whale’s Mouth hot spring and Crackling Lake.
Emerald Spring is a 27-foot deep pool. Below the water level, the pool is lined with
yellow sulfur deposits. The reflected blue light, along with the yellow sulfur, combine to
give this pool a magnificent emerald green color. There is Cistern Spring and the Echinus
Geyser. Echinus is the largest acid-water geyser known. It has the ph of vinegar (3.4).
Acid geysers are extremely rare, with the majority of the planet’s total being found here at
Norris Geyser Basin. Green Dragon Spring reeks of sulfur. Porkchop Geyser is a contin-
uous spouter. At one point, Minute Geyser thrilled visitors every 60 seconds. But its
eruptions now are irregular.
For supper this evening, we shall go to the Old Faithful Inn. I have been wanting to
come back here for about 16 years. The Inn was built in 1904 from local lodge-pole pines.
There is a massive 4-sided rhyolite fireplace, standing 85 feet high. Impressive! This is
the largest log hotel in the world. The lobby features a 65 foot high ceiling. There are a
couple of overhanging balconies, which give wonderful views. And you can walk out
onto the terrace, pull up a rocking chair, and wait for Old Faithful Geyser to erupt again.
It should take about 75 minutes.
AUGUST 1, 2002 (Thursday)
Today we start our adventure with a visit to the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River.
We got very close. And my little “mountain goat” got a chance to do some rock climbing.
This is truly beautiful.
We make a few stops to see Sulphur Caldron and Mud Volcano. I think you have a
good idea what sulphur smells like. Stinky. Then there was Dragon Mouth Spray.
We park the car and walk down to LeHardy Rapids. This is the place where salmon
make the annual run upstream to spawn. Bethany and I take off our shoes and go wading
in the cold waters. And someone has to pick up a few collectible rocks. As we walk back
toward the car, we see dozens of molted locust shells, and a pronghorn sheep in the
We went back to our room to freshen up. This is our last night and we have made
reservations for a Cowboy Campfire Cookout. Just another lovely drive as we head up
to the Roosevelt Corral. Thought for a little while that we might not make it there by 5.
After that time, it is first-come, first-served. We arrived a few minutes before 5 p.m. and
join about 100 other guests. The first group leaves on horseback. The rest of us have a
chance to pet the horses and take pictures around the wagons.
The one hour ride goes through sagebrush flats. Children join the drivers of these
wagons on the first row. Ambling along the trail, we are entertained by tales of the early
visitors in this part of the state. Bighorn sheep are spotted in the distance.
The steaks are sizzling as we arrive. Dinner is served buffet style. There are plenty of
baked beans, potato salad, corn, cole slaw, corn muffins, watermelon, apple crisp and
beverages. Sitting at picnic tables, everyone seemed so friendly. How many times did we
hear, “where are you from?” After dessert, we walked towards the campfires, where the
smell of coffee filled the air. Cowboy Bob played his guitar and sang songs from the days
of the Old West. We all got a cup and thought how much Grandma and Boppa would
have enjoyed this.
The dinner is finished. Most of us are stuffed and its time to head back to the corrals.
I think I have been inspired to write a poem about this wonderful experience. It seems
like we were part of a Charles Russell print, appreciating the cowboys of long ago.
AUGUST 2, 2002 (Friday)
Our final day in America’s first National Park, we’ll start with a visit to the West
Thumb of Yellowstone Lake. This is the largest lake in the park. It is 20 miles long by
14 miles wide and covers 136 square miles. The average depth is 140 feet, with the
deepest spot reaching 390 feet. Yellowstone Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake
above 7000 feet in the U.S.A.
The bottom of Yellowstone Lake is hydrothermally active. There are vents, spires,
domes, craters, and rhyolitic lava flows. There is also evidence of glacial, tectonic and
sedimentation processes. Scientists describe Yellowstone as a Super-Volcano. The vol-
canic depression in the ground, or caldera, covers the entire park. The whole park is one
gigantic reservoir of magma. If past history is any indication, that area is overdue for a
Some say Yellowstone has a bulging magma chamber. And a few roads and walking
trails have now been closed to the public, with ground temperatures reaching 200 derees.
An explosion would be 2500 times as strong as Mt. Saint Helens, WA which erupted in
1980. We’ll keep an eye on developments.
We shall tour the Old Faithful Geyser visitor center. Old Faithful is the most famous
of the 182 geysers at Yellowstone Park. Hundreds of tourists come by every hour to wit-
ness this spectacular display of nature. There are artisans inside, with their crafts. Very
interesting to see and pick up a few souvenirs. The potter crafting clay into bowls, cups,
and mugs got Bethany’s attention. Sixteen years earlier, I had bought a leather picture,
featuring a buffalo that had been “burned” onto it.
Our time here is over, as we soak in the incredible beauty of the place. As we exit the
park, we soon enter West Yellowstone, Montana. That Dairy Queen looks like it has the
ice cream we need, as we talk about the first part of our trip. On a nearby utility pole, was
a poster of a missing person. Have you seen Elizabeth Smart? How many times had we seen her videos on television? I pray that somehow she is located. Looking at our
map, I see how close we are to Idaho. If I can take the correct road, we should be able to
drive through another new state. Well, it seemed like a good idea, but I missed our turn.
I have enjoyed taking short little stretch breaks at historical markers. We came across
The Bozeman Trail marker.it was opened in 1864 as a shortcut between the Overland
Road and the newly opened Montana gold fields. There was another quick stop at the
Gates of the Mountains park near Helena.
We have seen some wonderful scenery these past few days. Back into Great Falls, we
drive to the airport. No passports for the Cobb family. We were concerned that might
happen. I guess Northwestern Airlines just tossed my envelope into the trash, as they
cleaned the plane last Monday. So much for being helpful. We check into a hotel and
talk about our big day we have planned for tomorrow.
AUGUST 3, 2002 (Saturday)
After an early breakfast, we head over to the Super 8 Motel. The letter from home has
arrived and we now have Bethany’s birth certificate. Time to drive on up Highway 89. I
wanted to stop in Choteau. At the Old Trail Museum we learned a little about dinosaurs
that roamed the area millions of years ago.
A little farther up the road, we stopped in Bynum. Just had to visit the Timescale Ad-
ventures Research Center. It offers hands-on dinosaur programs. From one day up to two
weeks, you can join paleontologists, staff and other volunteers. Reservations are highly
recommended, and we could not fit it into our schedule. We’ll just have to come back
another time to dig for dinosaur bones.
Have I mentioned that I like to take pictures of signs and historic markers? I got a
picture of one about Blackfeet Indians and Buffalo. Next was a simple sign, Rocky
Mountains. Another sign told about Captain Meriwether Lewis. The last sign gave notice
that we were now on the land of the Blackfeet Indians.
In the town of Browning, we stopped at a souvenir shop. Bought a few knick knacks
and a beautifully colored blanket. Authentically Indian made, of couse, it will keep us
warm for many winters to come.
Finally, we enter Glacier National Park, on the eastern side at St. Mary. We soon
check into our room # 6 at the Rising Sun Motor Inn. Built in 1940, it sits adjacent to
spectacular St. Mary Lake. We are in awe of the soaring mountain peaks, and snow caps.
This inn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. This is located
along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. What a marvelous view!
After bringing in the luggage and getting settled in, we did a little driving. There was a
bright red sign I took a photo of: Bear Country…All Wildlife Is Dangerous…Do Not
Approach Or Feed. Nearby were small plants with white flowers. Had not seen this kind
before. Learned that is was bear grass.
What do you do when it is 37 degrees outside? You gotta stop at a snow bank and
have your picture taken. With a windchill in the low 20’s, this southern boy was glad to
get back in the car. This is our first trip to Glacier and we just enjoyed the beauty of the
place. Got to see two mule deer, glaciers, waterfalls, rivers, streams and lakes. Awesome!
AUGUST 4, 2002 (Sunday)
We have a fun day planned when finished with breakfast. We have reservations for 3
on a boat ride on St. Mary Lake followed by a 2-mile hike. There is a very informative
guide for us on the 1-hour boat ride. We see Sexton Glacier and Wild Goose Island. The
deepest part of the lake is 300 feet. As we get closer to land and prepare to dock, our
guide has her binocculars on a golden colored black bear. We shall be walking on that
trail in about 5 minutes.
There is such a variety of plant life. We see huckleberries, sarvis berries, Indian paint-
brush, fir trees, spruce, etc. We learn that fir trees are friendly (soft) and spruce trees are
sticky. I just love hiking through a thick forest. The wildflowers are beautiful as we pass
by cascading creeks. We learn a lot from our Park Ranger, Lucy Walter.
Our group is on a two mile round trip to St. Mary waterfalls. The rugged cliffs in the
distance add to the grandeur. We take our obligatory pictures, then start the hike back to
our wooden boat. I guess I would say we were fortunate that we did not cross paths with
the bear. Such spectacular mountain vistas as our boat passes over the silent lake.
Such a picturesque boat ride on lovely St. Mary Lake. Soon we are back at our room
to relax for a little while, before we go to lunch. I like the name of our restaurant, Two
Dog Flats Grill. We are seated at a table next to very large glass windows. As we finish
our meal, Bethany orders one of the largest brownie sundaes, dripping with chocolate
syrup, that I believe I have ever seen.
This afternoon we drive to the northeast corner of Glacier Park. Many Glacier Hotel
area is stunning. Completed in 1914 on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake, it rests at the
base of Mt. Grinnell. It is a five story brown wooden Swiss themed hotel and is listed on
the National Register of Historic Places.
There are a few walking trails nearby. This is why we brought the can of “bear spray”.
We shall hike around Josephine Lake. Soon, I feel like we are in the proverbial “middle
of nowhere”. This region is classified as sub-alpine forest and we notice that beavers
must live in this area. There are several young trees that have been chewed near ground
level and fallen over. A little breeze blows across the lake and I’m glad we have on our
wind-breakers. Lush vegetation, tall trees and rocky mountains, what a view! It was about
3 miles round trip and certainly a hi-lite for us.
As we drive back toward our room, there are dozens of cars that have pulled off the
road. It sure reminded me of buffalo at Yellowstone Park. What would cause such a
commotion? There are two huge grizzly bears! At a safe distance (?) people are taking
pictures and using their camcorders. And the bears? They are just minding their own
business, munching on bushes at the edge of a large green meadow.
We stop at a scenic overlook and pick up a Junior Park Ranger activity sheet. This
looks like fun. We learn that inside Glacier National Park, which was designated in 1910,
there are 1583 square miles, 32 glaciers, 175 mountains, 745 miles of marked hiking
trails, 1004 camping sites, numerous waterfalls and 762 lakes. Now, isn’t learning fun?
As we slowly drive eastward, we stop many times and read clues for Jr. Park Ranger
activities. At one of our stops, I read about a Triple Divide Peak. More than just a Conti-
nental Divide, rain and snow-melt travel to three major river systems. Eventually this
water will enter the Pacific Ocean, Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
We enjoy an earlier than normal supper before retiring for the night. It has been a full
day and we are excited about our adventures tomorrow.
AUGUST 5, 2002 (Monday)
Bethany has now completed her Junior Park Ranger requirements. We travel to the
Ranger Station so she can give her pledge and receive a badge! The motto for junior
park rangers is: “Explore, Learn, Protect“. I took a few pictures of my 7-year old as she
is sworn in. That little smile showed me she was so proud of herself.
We will be travelling the entire 50-mile route of the Going-To-The-Sun Road. It was
completed in 1932 and passes through every type of terrain in the park. There are cedar
forests, wildflower meadows, large glacial lakes and alpine tundra. In 1983, this road was
included in the National Register of Historic Places. G.T.T.S. Road splits the park into
northern and southern halves. It crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass at a height
of 6680 feet. Glacier National Park hosts 264 species of birds and 60 mammal species.
We make a quick stop at Sunrift Gorge waterfalls. It is a deep, straight vertical gorge.
A beautiful hike and then we are at Baring Falls. It is gorgeous. As we drive westward,
a sign catches my attention: DANGER… Unstable Snow Bridge…Keep Away…
Well, of course, we stop to take a picture of the snow bridge.
Russell’s Trails End is the restaurant we stop at for lunch. I enjoy these rustic settings.
And there is a carved totem pole out front. Then we’re on our way to Lake McDonald.
Gazillions of stones at the waters edge and the water is crystally clear. Bethany says this
is her favorite lake at Glacier Park.
Going-To-The-Sun Road is closed in October and reopens in April. At times, there are
80 foot snow drifts. I can only imagine! We only saw a few of the 32 glaciers here at the
National Park. Some scientists predict that they will all be gone within 18 years. I’m not
so sure about that. This is an incredibly beautiful National Park. I think a poem will help me remember the majesty of this place. And I called it :
A trip to Glacier National Park Reveals a landscape of ice and snow.
Has northern Montana really changed Since 10,000 yeas ago?
Less than 50 glistening glaciers remain. Hike in the remote wilderness with care.
Dip your bare feet in an ice-blue lake. Might see mountain goats or grizzly bear.
Historic lodges at the water’s edge, Alpine meadows, snow banks and water falls.
Pull out the map & chart your hiking trails. Do you think you can visit them all?
On top of the world at Logan’s Pass, Straddling the windy Continental Divide.
Skim the blue waters of St. Mary Lake. Take a Going-to-the-Sun red jammer ride.
Crystal clear waters flow through the park Sunlight fights to reach the forest floor.
One visit to this World Heritage site, Can’t wait to return to see more!
(published in “The Road That Never Ends” by the International Library of Poetry 2003)
We have reservations for the night in Whitefish, MT. And why are we staying at the
Holiday Inn Express? It has a 90-foot waterslide!!!! Wow, what a fun time. Bethany and I
spent about two hours in the pool and on the twisting slide. What a blast! There were two
loops to the slide before we plunged into the blue water.
Then we stepped out to the deck and had our choice of two hot-tubs. Just sitting in the
whirling hot waters, relaxing and admiring the snow capped mountains in the distance.
Did I mention how relaxing this was?
After supper, I fill the gas tank and wash a few clothes at the nearby laundry. We shall
try for an early departure tomorrow.
AUGUST 6, 2002 (Tuesday)
After breakfast, we just have to get back into the swimming pool. Bethany and I just
love that 90-foot waterslide. If you have a child, this pool is for you. Fun!
After leaving Whitefish, we drove through the Tobacco Plains of northern MT.
Centuries ago, Indians planted tobacco here for religious uses. We stop in the town of
Eureka. It is the last stop before the border. I liked the wooden sign in a small park: EUREKA, MONTANA Welcomes You. Next to it is a 5-foot tall wood carved bear, atop
a stump. Cute. Time for lunch and the buffalo burger gets my attention.
This will be Bethany’s first visit outside the country. Time for some pictures. There is
the “Leaving U.S.A., Report to Canadian Customs” sign. Next was the “Revenue Canada,
Customs” sign. And my favorite, “Super, Natural British Columbia Welcomes You”.
Our rode winds alongside the Kootenay River. Steamboats were common here from 1893
- 1898. This facilitated the mining boom in the area.
We made a few scenic stops to stretch our legs, take more pix, and soak in the view.
Near the town of Radium Hot Springs there is a Playland. There was miniature golf,
paddle boats, a carpet slide, picnic tables and other fun things. That was a treat for the
We enjoy Sinclair Canyon in Kootenay National Park. The Kootenay Parkway was the
first road to cross the Canadian Rockies. We now drive alongside the Simpson River.
Time to stop at the Continental Divide. This is the border between British Columbia and
Alberta. On the east side is Banff National Park. Such beautiful wilderness!
In the city of Banff, we shall stay four nights at the Norquay Timberline Inn. It is
located at the base of the Mount Norquay Ski Resort. The view from our balcony of the
Bow Valley was breathtaking. There is a very nice restaurant downstairs, the Big Horn
Steak House, featuring a wide variety of good things including Chilean sea bass.
AUGUST 7, 2002 (Wednesday)
After breakfast, we drove about two miles into the city of Banff. Bought gasoline and
sandwiches for a picnic lunch. We drove to Lake Louise. The parking lot was so crowded
that we could not find a single parking space. So, we went about 15 miles down to
Moraine Lake. Beautiful!!! The blue-green water is so pretty. Bethany was fond of the
cute little golden-mantled ground squirrels. We tried to feed them some bread. Climbed
a rock pile and took more pictures. Hiked over a mile, through a thick, green forest of fir
and spruce trees. Finally reached the end of the lake. That’s where the little waterfall
came in. So pretty. And we had to pick up some rocks along the way. Such a beautiful
reflection of the blue lake, with mountains AND glaciers in the background!
Bought some souvenirs, then drove back to Lake Louise. Many people were enjoying
a canoe ride. I tried to capture a glacier in the background of many of my pictures. It sure
was cold and windy. Janet was pleased to catch a few snowflakes on her glasses.
Our family went inside the luxury hotel, Fairmont Chateaux at Lake Louise. We
needed to buy some postcards. I thought of my trip to this hotel with Joe almost 16 years
ago, then hiking around the backside and encountering a moose. None to be seen today.
We won’t ever forget the majesty of this special place. Our time here is over and now
we’ll head toward Banff. Janet wants to eat at Bumper’s Restaurant. We’ll have steak and
baked potato tonight. There are large picture windows and we had an incredible view.
What a fun day at the two lakes!!!
AUGUST 8, 2002 (Thursday)
Today, our family drove through the Bow Valley. There were so many places to pull
off the road and see some awesome scenery. Incredibly beautiful! There was some snow
on the mountains, several glaciers, blue - green lakes, wild flowers. And I loved the log
cabin lodge at Num-Ti-Jah. It overlooks one of the most dramatic scenes in the Canadian
Rockies. Out of Bow Lake the mountains rise steep and rugged. The blue ice of Crowfoot
Glacier hangs suspended over the turquoise water. To the west, the craggy peaks of the
Great Divide tower over Bow Glacier. I snapped a few amazing pictures of the reflection
of the glacier on the mountain-top in the water.
We were snacking as we headed northward. Traffic slowed down to a crawl. There
was a parade of four mountain goats, taking their time, while crossing a bridge. Neat.
We have now arrived at the Columbia Icefields. Joe and I had travelled here also.
There are six glaciers that make up this ice-field area. At the visitors centre, we
booked a glacier ride.
The Sno-Coach ride took us down the steepest road in Canada. Our driver / tour
guide threw out a lot of interesting facts to us. After stopping, we all went out walking on
top of the Athabasca Glacier. It is 1200 feet thick !!! The recent snow had turned into ice.
Some of the tourists were more sure-footed than others. What a cold and crunchy thrill.
The guide explained about this being a “tri-continental divide”. The melted waters flow
into the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. The ice field covers 320+ square kilometers.
The continuous accumulation of snow feeds eight major glaciers to create a true
Our tour ended back at the visitors centre. There were photos that showed where the
glacier ended, showing a retreatment over a 100-year time period. Fascinating. Learned
more about glaciers and the Rockies, here.
It took just a few minutes to drive across the road, into the large parking lot. Janet will
stay warm and stay in the car while Bethany and I walk on the edge of the glacier one
last time. There are steep slopes to climb but we arrive. It is such a bright sun-shiny day.
We crossed a little foot bridge and my first step was in an icy “gloop” of mud. As we
played for just a little while and taking pictures, I had to think of my trip onto this spot
with Joe in 1986. It was fun to reminesce on how far I’d come.
It is time to return to Banff. As we got closer, I slowed to take a photo of the “animal
bridge”. The bridge above us is for the thousands of land animals to use. The wire fence
near the entrance of the auto “tunnel” is designed to keep animals off the highway. It has
really helped to prevent so much road-kill. Just a sad reality for travelling in this wilder-
Near Lake Louise, we stopped for a wonderful supper at The Crossing Resort Rest-
aurant. It is only open in the summer months and has a terrific buffet. The tall mountains
we see through the large picture windows are grandiose.
As we approach Banff, we pull into a scenic overview spot. There are 5 wooden signs
pointing to 5 mountain ranges. And these signs point in the correct direction. There is the
Sundance Range; Mt. Howard Douglas alt. 9440; Mt. Rundle alt. 9675; Cascade Mt.
alt. 9836, and Sulphur Mt. alt. 8040.
Back at our Norquay Timberline Inn, we sit out on our balcony. The beauty of the
valley helps us ease off to sleep.
AUGUST 9, 2002 (Friday)
The big plan for today is visiting the Snowy Owl Dog Kennels in Canmore. The
Snowy Owl website bills itself as “the premiere dog sled adventure company in the
Canadian Rockies!” Since it is summertime, our tour today is to visit with each and every
one of the 141 sled dogs!!! To feel like we’re preparing for an authentic sled-dog trip,
we slowly bake our bannock bread biscuits over an open flame. We shall need something
to eat on our adventure, won’t we?
Our guide today is Jereme, the 18 year old son of the two owners. This dog-sled tour
business was started in 1983. He tells us about the history of dog-sledding. As we go
from doghouse to doghouse, we learn that the huskies do not sleep in them. For whatever
reason, they like to sleep on top of their small houses. Each dog has a name that is painted
on their green wooden doghouses. As I said, we stopped to visit and pet EACH dog they
There is a large chart for their feeding schedule. These dogs are not just treated as a
valuable asset (which they are), but as family! And it seemed like each one had its own
personality. Did I mention that each one loves to be petted? Janet accidentally forgot one
dog that had been waiting patiently. As she walked slowly by, he jumped up upon her
back as if to ask, “are you forgetting someone?” The dog named Raja appeared in the tel-
evision series “Due South”, and was called Diefenbaker.
There are five distinct species of dogs here at the kennel: Inuit husky, Canadian Indian
husky, Siberian husky, Alaskan husky and Alaskan malamute. Jereme is very informative
as he explains about hair color, eyes, dominance (alpha male and female), endurance, re-
sponsiveness, a better leader, a better follower, size, pulling capacity, origins, etc…
It was a fascinating few hours there. One day, and I don’t know when, I’d really like to
join a sled-dog tour in the wintertime. Mush! Bethany was thrilled.
It was time to go back to Banff and change clothes. With over two hundred dog paws
jumping up on our shirts, it was time to freshen up. After a quick lunch, we drive north to
Lake Louise then head westward to Golden, British Columbia. Golden is at the junction of Highway 1 (the trans-Canada Highway) and Hwy. 95. Our adventure takes us to the
Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Center. The Black family started the wolf center in 1998,
with the adoption of Aspen. She is a wolf dog: 25% husky and 75% grey wolf. There are
now four wolves at the center. We are the only visitors at the moment and receive a
thorough tour of the almost one acre facility.
Tuk and Maya were added in July 1999. Tuk is a male grey wolf. His sister, Maya, is
from the same pack. The new wolf is Wiley. He is 100% grey wolf and was born about 10
weeks ago. He was only 9 days old when brought here and weighed 1 & ½ pounds. Maya
even dug a den for him.
The owner recalled that there had been a few newspaper stories about these wolves. A
local hunter offered him a large amount of frozen venison. Since it was over 5 years old
and frost-burned, he didn’t know if it was any good. So, he cooked a little and ate it.
Since he did not get sick, he thought it would be safe for his wolves.
Interpretive talks about the wolves and their role in a healthy ecosystem was very in-
formative. Plus, the owner made sure we got all the photos and camcorder shots we
wanted. And there was a souvenir shop on the premises. This has been entertaining
and Bethany has certainly enjoyed it .
Our next activity is to visit Yoho National Park. The word yoho is a Cree expression
for “awe and wonder”. And we will start at Natural Bridge. It’s an impressive limestone
rock formation that completely spans the flow of the Kicking Horse River. Powerful
rushing waters helped erode this landscape. Quite impressive to see the results of water
and time. Of course, Bethany wanted to walk down to the river and put her feet in. Fun.
Now we drive to Emerald Lake. Some have called it the “jewel” of Yoho National
Park and also, the Canadian Rockies. It’s incredible green color is created by glacial rock
flour. One of the most spectacular pictures you can take is the reflection of the Wapta
Mountain on Emerald Lake. The Emerald Lake Lodge is a fantastic destination. As I
repeat myself, the scenery is truly breathtaking.
The day is winding down and time for us to leave. We stop at the West Louise Lodge
for supper. Good food and a great view of the mountains, right across the street. This has
been our last full day in Canada and we shall sleep well tonight.
AUGUST 10, 2002 (Saturday)
Ths sun is shining over the Bow Valley as we roll out of bed. We check out of our
hotel and follow the long and winding road to the Norquay Ski Resort. Such a lovely
view. Maybe we shall return one day and ski these slopes. Hope so.
In Banff, we will take the gondola ride. It only takes about 8 minutes to reach the
summit of Sulphur Mountain. We climb 2292 feet until we stopped. The Summit Up-
per Terminal sits at 7486 feet. Above the restaurant is an observation deck. You’ll get a
bird’s-eye view of six mountain ranges! We followed the Bow River as it meanders
through the city. What a glorious end to our visit of Banff. We learn that the town of
Banff was named for Banffshire, Scotland. That is the birthplace of two major financiers
of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
As we drive towards the east, we see a few huge elk grazing a couple of feet off the
highway. So majestic with their huge racks of antlers. It starts to rain on us as we enter
Canmore. We wonder how much it would cost to feed 141 sled dogs for a year.
Soon we are approaching Calgary. This was the host city for the 1988 Winter
Olympics. Joe and I had taken this route. There was a lot of activity at the skiing
area at that time. We buy a few snacks as I gas up the car. The rain has quit.
Near Fort MacLeod, we stop at the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. It is one of the
world’s oldest and best preserved documented buffalo jumps, and is proclaimed as a
United Nations World Heritage Site. There is a very informative interpretive center.
Essentially, the buffalo were funneled into a smaller trail / drive lane until they were
stampeding. The dramatic hunt came to an end when the buffalo plunged over the top of
There are four distinct components to this site: the gathering basin, the drive lanes, the
cliff kill site, and the processing area. The gathering basin is a natural gazing area with
plenty of water and mixed grass. It covers 40 square kilometers. Long lines of stone
cairns were built to help the hunters direct the buffalo to the cliff kill site. Thousands of
small piles of stones marked the driving lanes which extended about ten miles back into
the gathering basin. A few would scare the animals by waving robes and shouting. The
stampeding herd would plunge about 60 feet over the cliff to an untimely death. Evidence
shows that this site was in use as early as 3700 B.C. If a few of the animals survived the
fall, they would be clubbed to death or shot with bow and arrow. The buffalo were
skinned, butchered and processed just below the kill site. Its flesh was food, the hide was
used for clothing and tipi covers, its dung, fuel, and marrow extracted from the bones.
Horns were scraped and made into spoons and the tongues were given to medicine men to
ensure the success of a hunt. Gazing toward the eastern plains, we could imagine the
Blackfoot tribe at work, as recently as the 1850’s.
Our family stops in Lethbridge for supper. I recognize it as the place Joe and I had
eaten at, many moons ago. That was an interesting coincidence. We discuss crossing at
Coutts and hoping we would not have trouble at Customs. Without our passports, we did
not know how much difficulty we would encounter. Fortunately, it was not too bad.
Back in the U.S.A. and we decide to spend the night in Shelby, MT. We check into the
O’Haire Manor Motel, as it began to gently rain.
AUGUST 11, 2002 (Sunday)
We check out of our 1953 era motel and join dozens for a Sunday breakfast at a
restaurant on Main St. Time to fill the gas tank and leave this pleasant little town. As I
check my receipt, I am awe-struck by the date : 08/11/1902. Y2K has struck. This is not
100 years ago. I think I’ll keep this interesting souvenir.
The miles zip by and we are now back in Great Falls. We check into our Super-8
Motel. Joe soon joins us. Our next attraction today will be the Charles Russell home and
log cabin studio. It was built in 1900 at a cost of $800. His wife, Nancy, suggested a log
cabin studio, which was completed in 1903. This became Charlie’s sanctuary and work
area. It contained his Indian and cowboy collections. In all, there were about 1200 items
ranging from completed art works and works in progress, painting materials, personal be-
longings, plus horse equipment and props. What an inspiring place! I could just feel the
Charlie Russell died in October of 1926 (two weeks after Janet’s father was born). His
wife and son moved to California the next year. The Russell home and studio became a
Designated National Historic Landmark in 1966.
We drive to the river to visit the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive
Center. The 25,000 square foot building has so many displays and exhibits, I wish we
could have stayed all day. It also contains a theater and the obligatory souvenir store.
Outside, there are several hiking trails. We enjoyed the 1 and ¼ mile trail, which took
us down to the Missouri River. And we saw some wild huckleberries. There are signs
along the route to satisfy our curiosity. This has been very informative.
We eat supper at a restaurant and meet a few of Joe’s friends. He seems eager to show
off his Alabama buddies. Back at the Super-8, we pack our suitcases and hit the bed early.
AUGUST 12, 2002 (Monday)
After checking out, we mail some of our souvenirs back to Mobile. We purchased
many pounds of “memories” on this wonderful vacation, and our suitcases are stuffed.
Joe meets us for lunch at one of his favorite downtown locations. We say our good-byes
then drive to the airport. Turn in the rental car and await our 1:30 flight.
We are going to miss this Big Sky state, it seems so wide-open! Our Northwestern
plane takes us to St. Paul, MN. There is a delay leaving (inclement weather) on our
flight to Memphis. Unfortunately, we don’t make our connection to Mobile. The airline
gives us vouchers for a free nights stay in a local hotel. The restaurant is closed for the
evening and about 40 people try to get served food, via the bartender and one cook. Not
the kind of great service we usually experience.
AUGUST 13, 2002 (Tuesday)
A good breakfast and a shuttle ride to the airport. No delays and we are back in Mobile
before noon. All in all, this has been another fantastic vacation! Life is good!
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