Monday, May 8, was beautiful for an early start. Everything was hooked up the night before, so all we had to do was unplug and go. That’s nice sometimes, especially on a day we are pulling out at 6:15 AM! We retraced our track up SK-21 to CN-1. At Medicine Hat, we stopped at Tim Hortons for a bite. There we saw that groups of old men sitting around solving the world’s problems every morning are a multi-national thing. Back home, though, the breakfast spot of choice is typically Hardees. LOL.
We continued west on CN-1 all the way over to Gleichen, then headed south through the Siksika Nation, which dips down into a beautiful gulley to cross the Bow River. At Arrowwood, we turned west on AB-547, then took a quick jog north on AB-2, arriving at Riverbend Campground in Okotoks at about 12:30 PM. Our entire drive vacillated between flat or slightly rolling crop fields and open prairie, both of which seemed to go on forever. The animals were out in force, with pronghorn and magpies dominating the day. I also saw two coyotes along the roadway in the grassland, and MW saw a HUGE jackrabbit. There were plenty of cows and some goats, but I think we saw more large herds of horses than we ever have.
Setup was quick, but a little warm. Brutus said it was mid-50s, but both of us got a little overheated in the sunshine. Maybe we are developing some Canadian blood?! Then we were immediately back in Brutus and headed north to Calgary to meet Jeremy Rae at Jack Carter Chevrolet. (Will update soon.) Our rental car wasn’t available yet, so the courtesy van took us over to The Cheesecake Cafe, where we had early supper sharing lettuce wraps, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potato fries. It was all pretty delicious, but the wraps were da bomb!! MW said you could put their peanut sauce on a bumper and it would be delicious! Enterprise called earlier than expected, so we were able to head back to Okotoks with me at the wheel. Big storms were coming, and we were trying to make it back before the deluge. After turning off of CN-2, we noticed a field in the distance that looked totally white, something neither of us remembered from a few hours ago. As we were discussing it…maybe they limed it this afternoon, that’s a lot of field in a short time, etc….we topped the hill and were quite suddenly in serious slush on the road. There was white in the meadows, solid in some places, and on rooftops, too, and the temp had dropped into the low 40s. WTH…we were only gone for 3 hours! Honestly, we were both totally flummoxed. Can it really snow enough to whiten entire fields in a matter of a couple of hours on a warm day?!? Clearly, our powers of deduction were off. It wasn’t until we made it back to the campground and stepped out of the car that we realized that our perplexing snow was actually hail, and a LOT of it! Now we understand why they REALLY check the rental cars for hail damage here!! After a pretty long day, it was time for a little relaxation. We even got in a late afternoon nap, breaking the “after 4 PM” rule. Didn’t mess with my sleep one bit. I was that tired!
Tuesday we relaxed in the morning. I worked on a little writing, and MW took a walk around the campground. Then there was a planning session for our return trip. (We both liked it much better before Covid when we didn’t have to plan anything but holiday weekends. Sadly, the spontaneity is gone.) Later we headed over to Saskatoon Farm, a local spot with shops, farmers markets, a garden center, a restaurant, a totem pole collection, and u-pick in season. (I didn’t know until later, but they also have tortoises that roam around the property in the summer months. Too cool!) We started with brunch, where I had the best quiche (chicken and vegetables) that I have ever eaten! They also served their homemade Saskatoon jam…amazing. MW had an omelet with hash browns. The latter is different than in the states…little cubes of potato with onion and savory seasonings, not crispy at all, kind of like potato salad. To me, Saskatoon berries taste like a cross between a really sweet blackberry and a tart raspberry. Some jam will be going south with us, for sure. After lunch, we checked out the property. Despite our campground being down in a little gulley, most of the area is pretty flat, so we were both surprised with the view at the end of Main Street. It overlooked the confluence of the the Sheep and Highwood rivers. They had all kinds of chairs set up along the ridge, so you could just sit out there and soak it all in.
Next we went into town to run a few errands, then headed back to Petunia. After getting a little more writing done, I took a nice, 40-minute bike ride around town. There is a pretty steep hill to get out of the campground area, and I was thrilled that I only had to use level 3 to help me up it. The last time I climbed one like that, it took level 5, and I would have appreciated 6 or 7! The more I ride my little bike, the better I like it. Now if I could just talk MW into getting one so we could ride together.
A little signage to share:
Wednesday morning we worked on more reservations, getting closer to finalizing the rest of the trip home. Later we headed out for the afternoon, making our first stop at The Royal Duke, a boutique hotel, downtown. They have an English pub that MW wanted to try. Afterwards we headed over to Canada Post to send a few things out. Wow…I thought our post office was tough. It ended up taking 20 minutes to get three envelopes posted. In their defense, the system is relatively new and requires a lot of online input, which I had to do on my phone. MW was just about to send out a search party when I finally showed back up! Our entertainment for the afternoon happened at the Okotoks Cinema, where we sat back to enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy 3. I love the humor in those movies, and the music is awesome! Our last stop on the way back to the campground was the grocery store.
Thursday morning, after some more scheduling, we took a nice hike around the park. There are trails that go around the lake and run the opposite direction along the creek and circle back to the campground entrance. I had an afternoon appointment for a mani/pedi, so we went into town a little early and tried out Browns Socialhouse where we both had noodle bowls. SIDE NOTE: At this point we had been in Okotoks for a couple of days, but today was the first time we could see that the Rocky Mountains are visible in the distance. MW dropped me off at Nails Time while he did a little book browsing at a local shop. It is always nice when I can work in a little pampering, although it doesn’t happen often. They did the team up thing, though, which I can’t stand. A pedicure is so relaxing, and this girl was very good. When she was about half finished, though, another girl came over and started my manicure while standing beside the chair. How in the world can you enjoy a little peace with someone pulling at your arms?! They ended up getting done quickly, but I missed out on the relaxation. Pooh! Later that evening we decided it was time for some ice cream, so we came back into town to the Big Dipper Ice Cream Shop. They are a tiny, walk-up place that seems to do pretty big business. You guys know I’m a bit of an ice cream-aholic, and I can attest that their version, from Foothills Creamery in western Canada, is very good. In fact, I’d even venture to say it would give Blue Bell a run for its money! Seriously!!
Okay, I said in the previous post I would give you the whole Brutus picture at once, so here goes. Almost a month ago, when we were in Kirksville, Missouri, we heard a noise. Not a loud noise, but a low-pitched vibration/rumble that was transient and only happened a couple of times. You could feel it in the pedal and floorboard, but couldn’t pinpoint its origination. Hmmmmm. What was that? For the next week, we randomly heard it, but it was always quick and gone, like a burp, and there was no way to isolate anything. No leaks of any kind. No overheating. No nothing. On April 21, as I headed out to do laundry in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, it was suddenly louder, and a little more consistent, but seemed to only happen when I went up hill. I turned around, picked up MW, and he headed over to Jim’s Automatic Transmission after dropping me at the laundry to have it checked out. The visit was totally unproductive, because the noise could not be duplicated on a test drive. Well dang! This was beginning to play on our nerves. I mean, you can’t go driving off into the Yukon with your truck making weird noises!! On April 25th, as we drove over to Fort Pierre, we began to hear the noise on flat terrain, but still sporadically. It tended to happen more when the truck was cold, and MW noticed that it was happening in high gear with low RPMs when a load was applied (i.e, hill or slow acceleration on level ground). Still, the sound was very sporadic and not duplicatable on cue. By the time we were in Minot on April 29, though, it was much more worrisome…louder and more often, and in addition to the original stuff, MW didn’t feel like the shifting mechanism from 2WD to 4WD (which is manual, and we don’t use often) was working properly. That made him realize that this all started just after we used the 4WD the last time to get into a particularly stinky spot at Thousand Hills in Kirksville, MO. Maybe there is a link!! We made arrangements with Murray Chevrolet in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and dropped him off the morning after we hit town. On the test drive this time, Alex heard the noise, but only once and briefly. After they had a chance to check it out, Adam, the mechanic, said that the oil pressure was dropping to the very bottom of the range and may be an issue and there were some minor leaks, more like slow oozes, in a couple of places. We had them change the oil and check that pressure, but didn’t feel like that would cause the noise we were hearing. They kept searching. On Thursday, they had us come pick it up. Adam said he did find a tiny bit of metal in the transfer case and thought that the shift fork was rubbing, but said that should be fine for the rest of our trip since we don’t use 4WD that much. He recommended that we change it out when we get home. Relieved, we were ready to get back on the road…we thought. Turns out that, whether we think it is bad or not, we just cannot go into the Yukon and Alaska, where we will be much more isolated, with that noise happening. It was stressing us both out! There wasn’t any place near our next stop at Maple Creek, but before heading on over to Okotoks, I called Jack Carter Chevrolet in Calgary and talked with Jeremy Rae. After describing the situation, including that we are on a road trip to Alaska, he said get it to him as soon as we can and they WILL figure it out. That brings us to the beginning of this post and Brutus being dropped off around lunchtime on May 8. By Tuesday afternoon we had a message back that they thought there was a problem with the transfer case. They could have one delivered and installed by mid-day on Friday at the latest. Okie dokie! Now let’s just wait for, as Paul Harvey said, the rest of the story.
Friday started with laundry at the campground. It wasn’t too bad, but with only 4 washers and another person already there, took a bit of time. I finished up around 10:30 AM, and we headed up to Calgary. Brutus was ready, and we were VERY excited to pick him up, turn in the little zip-zip car, and get back to normal. We traded our keys for a small fortune, then headed towards the car rental place, MW following me. At the gas station, he dropped the bombshell…it’s not fixed!! WHAT THE ******!!! We parked Zippy (might as well name her as we seem to be keeping her) in a lot next door and went for a longer test drive. HE. WAS. RIGHT!! I texted Jeremy at the dealership to let him know we were on our way back. When we arrived, the shop foreman went with MW for a ride. This time, he was able to duplicate the noise several times, so the guy heard it well. We left Brutus there for a diagnosis, then we went to lunch…it was 2 PM, and I was starving! (Not really. It would take a long time to starve me to death, but I was really hungry and getting a headache.) We popped over to Penny Black Bar and Kitchen just around the corner, where MW had the pizza special and I had fish tacos. Yummy! Before we were done, I received a text from Jeremy that began with “well terrible news…”! That isn’t really what we wanted to hear, but headed back around the corner when we finished up. They now suspected something in the transmission. THE 9-MONTH OLD TRANSMISSION!! We just had that thing put in in Salina, Kansas, last August and have only put about 14,000 miles on!!! Ugh! Best case, it just needs to be rebuilt, and they can get it back to us by Tuesday-ish. Worst case, it needs a new transmission, and assuming they can get their hands on one, it’d be more like Friday, May 19. HOLY SMOKES!!! It had been such an up and down, emotional day, and to say we were frustrated and tired and over it would be the understatement of the century. Still, we understood that it is clearly not an easy thing to figure out. Otherwise the first dealership that had it for several days would have. On the plus side, the dealership was embarrassed about not getting it done on the first go round, so Brutus is now the priority for the entire shop. AND they still had the old transfer case if we want that reinstalled and those charges taken off. Zippy’s lease had already been extended to the 16th, and it was time to get back to Petunia and try to unwind. Since they wouldn’t be starting until Monday, we were able to take Brutus back to figure out our next move and get Petunia settled.
Back at the campground, we looked at our schedule. In the beginning we built in several 1-week stays on this trip, which are unusual for us, but give a little jostling room. I can’t remember whether that was MW’s or my idea, but it was flippin’ brilliant! The upcoming stays, though, were in the Banff and Jasper areas in the Canadian Rockies, with a national holiday weekend approaching. We knew we had to be out of our current site the next day, so decided to continue to the next stop, about 1-1/2 hours west of Calgary. We were able to extend that reservation out until Friday, May 19. The next issue was in Jasper where we were supposed to stay from the 15th to the 18th of May. They were super helpful and were able to shift us to the 19th thru 22nd despite it being Victoria Day weekend. Finally, the park in Clairmont, Alberta, which was our planned week stay, had no problem shortening our stay. Whew!! It is hard not to be frustrated, but all that working out was a true blessing!
Riverbend Campground in Okotoks is not bad. Despite being fairly close to a busy highway, it was pretty quiet thanks to its location in a little gulley. Our first choice for a campground here was the one located in town. They did not open up for reservations until much later than this one, and we didn’t want to risk not having a spot. After spending a few days in town, I think we were happy where we ended up. You could have walked around the downtown area from the other one and the facilities were newer, but it would have been noisy all the time. Amenities here include a general store, on-site propane and wood sales, gazebo, playgrounds, mini golf, paddle boats, bike rentals, nature trails, and laundry. Wifi is available for an extra fee. While they are open year round, winter is for monthly campers only, and there are a LOT of them. When we were there, it was cleanup time in preparation for the summer crowds. The campground has two bathhouses, which were very clean and well-maintained. Showers were $1 Canadian for 5 minutes, which is pretty cheap for those places that do charge. There were several porta-johns spread through the property, too. RV campsites are gravel, full-hook-up with either 30- or 50-amp. There are also primitive tent sites and ones with 20-amp power and water. All campsites have fire pits and picnic tables. Not too far off of CA-2, we were surprised at the lack of traffic noise. Cell signals were strong, but still no over-the-air tv to speak of. Okotoks has just about everything you’d need, shopping wise, and Calgary about 30 minutes north with lots more stuff. We will keep this place on our list for a later visit up to the Calgary Stampede. For this stay in May 2023 we paid $198.45 for 5 nights in a 50-amp, full hookup site.
I awoke groggy on Saturday morning after sleeping like a log. All of that stress did a number on me. MW, on the other hand, didn’t get much sleep thinking about the what ifs. My plan…roll with the punches. We headed out about 8 AM for the relatively short drive over to the mountains. It was absolutely beautiful. Just like the U. S. Rockies, the land is flat to a little rolling until it just butts right up against the tall, rugged peaks. There was still lots of snow on the peaks, and the day was just gorgeous. Plus, as I’ve said before, after spending time in the flats, my heart just sings entering any mountains. They are my happy place!
Normally we couldn’t arrive quite so early, but we technically had the spot since Thursday, and there was a note on the file that we would arrive late. Imagine our surprise when we pulled in about 10:30 AM to find someone set up in site 9. MW knocked on the door and explained to the older gentleman that he was in the wrong spot, but he said he had a reservation and pulled it up on his phone. He was right…he had a reservation for site 9…in mid-April. Apparently he visited last month and just came back to the same spot without thinking. He only had the other site for a couple of days. While normally we might just take his spot, we were going to be potentially stuck and explained that we just could not with the truck situation. He understood and was very nice. While he packed up, we went down to talk to the camp host. What kept MW awake the night before was the problems if they don’t get our truck ready by Friday. We would have to figure out where and how to get Petunia moved. JJ, the camp host, said not to worry. They hold back a few sites for emergencies, and she will make sure there is somewhere to put us. What a gem!! I feel certain that we can find someone to physically move Petunia, too, because campers are typically just good folks. It will all be fine, no matter what.
After getting Petunia set up, we retraced our tracks right back to Calgary to deliver Brutus back to Jack Carter. (Had we been smart, we would have parked Zippy somewhere in Calgary and not ridden separately both ways, but I didn’t think of that until we were halfway to the campground.) I was following MW in Zippy leaving about 6 car lengths between us, just cruising along and listening to music. A guy pulls up and rides my tail for a few minutes, then changes lanes to pass. It is just the three of us on the highway, and I am matching MW’s speed. Instead of going past Brutus, this jackwagon pulls between us and then slows down. Seriously?! Why?? MW was pulling away, so I passed the guy, still with my cruise control on, so not aggressively at all. Well clear of his car, I pulled back in behind MW. Within a couple of minutes, he did the same thing, parking himself between MW and me, then slowing down. This time there were more people in our vicinity, but no reason to pull into the gap. He slowed again, and I passed again. Then he did it a third time. What the heck is wrong with this guy?? This time when I pulled in behind MW, I closed the gap and kept it tighter. The guy pulled up beside me, clearly planning to pull back in. Honestly, he could have ridden between us. I can see the giant RV for quite a ways, but every time he slowed down and let MW start pulling away. Heading into Calgary traffic, I didn’t want him to get too far ahead of me. Plus, at this point I’m starting to seriously wonder about motive. I’ve not been aggressive or impeded his progress in any way. Is he targeting the Tennessee tagged truck in some way? Is he just a jacka** all the time? Is he dangerous? What gives?! After a minute or two of me not opening the gap back up, he sped up and got in front of MW, where he promptly slowed down. MW changed lanes to pass, not totally aware of everything going on behind him, and as soon as he pulled back into the right lane, the guy sped up so I could not get behind the RV. I pulled in front of MW and led the train for a while. I guess the guy lost interest, because he passed me a little later. That’s when I saw the girl in the passenger seat looking at me and laughing. I guess it was all just a game.
We dropped off the truck, then headed over to Montana BBQ & Bar for lunch…brisket sandwich for MW and pulled pork nachos for me. Next we went shopping for some shoe laces, then drove through downtown Calgary before heading back west. We finally made it back to Petunia at about 4:30 PM, where we finished setting her up and sat outside enjoying the evening. Honestly, I was exhausted.
On Sunday we started with a little church, watching the service from home. I was missing my peeps there a bit, too, so it was nice to tune in to Sneedville First Baptist. Afterwards, we headed into Canmore, just down the road, to check out the Visitor Center. Lunch was at Tank 310, which is attached to the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company. Their dining room is gorgeous with tall windows and a deck looking out at the gorgeous mountains, including the Three Sisters. Our waiter/bartender, Brenton, was amazing. In Canada on a work visa from Australia (because the process to get one from the U.S. was very long and hard, and yet thousands cross our southern border EVERY HOUR), he hooked us up with what to try. The brisket sandwich and MW’s Great White North burger were both great, as was the Thai curry peanut soup. The best thing, though, was the Grizzly Greyhound. An order was changed after he made the drink, so Brenton brought it over for me to try. In addition to beer, the brewery makes six craft sodas. That drink has their grapefruit soda, vodka, grapefruit, and lime. It was just a delicious summer, citrusy flavor, perfect for a warm Spring day. I also tried the Mountain Mule made with vodka, lime, and their ginger beer. Oh, and MW and I both tried the Rutting Elk Red beer, which was also very good. Normally I have about one drink every 6-ish weeks, so 2-1/2 met my quota for a while. It was worth it, though.
It was a lovely afternoon, so we sat outside and enjoyed the weather. A little ground squirrel that lives at the edge of our campsite was chastising us a bit for being in his space. I told him that, no matter how much he complained, we weren’t leaving until Friday. MW thinks he is trying to finagle a little food.
Mid-afternoon we took a walk down to the Bow River, then later I set about putting together spaghetti for dinner. I was stopped in my tracks because what we thought was ground beef defrosted in the fridge was actually roast beef. Time for a punt, I ran out to Safeway in town for a few things to put together a vegetable and beef stroganoff-type dish with egg noodles. It was pretty darned good. MW likes it when I just throw stuff together.
Monday we headed out about 8:45 AM for a little walking at Quarry Lake park in Canmore. Mining began in the Canmore area over 100 years ago. Prospectors found anthracite coal with a high carbon content, which made it burn hot and clean, perfect for steam generation. The industry had its ups and downs, fighting high shipping costs and blockades and the strains of two world wars and the Great Depression. The mines continued operations until July 13, 1979. The change from coal-fired to diesel engines by the Canadian Pacific railroad, and later, competition from Australia for the Japanese steel and chemical markets spelled the end. Locals still refer to that date as Black Friday. This park is the result of reclamation efforts to return Canmore Creek No 3 Surface Mine to public use. In assisting with the efforts, Canmore Mines, Ltd., became the first mine company to restore a surface mine to its former glory. Awesome! The park has a section for off-leash dogs, and lots of people were out playing with their furry friends. We checked out Quarry Lake, which was designed for fishing and, although it looks small, is actually 80′ deep. Trails lead off in several directions, so we headed up into the woods and down the power line section. As we looped back around the other side, we saw a pond that is in the doggie section where several were taking advantage of the opportunity to swim, chasing each other around and barking. Too cute.
Next we headed north for our first look at Banff, about 30 minutes away. The drive is beautiful, and it was a perfect day for it. We took a scenic route up to overlook the Bow River and the beautiful Fairmont Hotel. Wow! That’s quite the place, and we can thank the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) for it. In 1885, they completed Canada’s coast-to-coast railroad. The country was only 18 years old at the time, and the railroad company was just starting out, too. Recovering the costs of the build were essential, and the General Manager, an American named William Cornelius Van Horne, came up with the solution…tourists! The CPR encouraged the government to set aside land around the hot springs, which would later become Canada’s first national park. Called Banff, it was named for CPR president George Stephen’s birthplace in Scotland. The railroad, meanwhile, opened the Banff Springs Hotel in 1888. From there, they built more luxury hotels along the line all the way out to the Pacific. That hotel, rebuilt after a fire in 1926, is the current day Fairmont.
Next we headed into town for a bite to eat. The crowds were crazy and parking nonexistent, so we settled for a quick bite at A&W away from the chaos, then headed over to take a look at Bow Falls. Just on the edge of town, you can easily access the area by vehicle or walk/ride on one of the trails. The drop is only about a 10′ drop, but it is beautiful and the surrounding area is nice for enjoying the sound and views. If the falls feel familiar, and you are an old movie fan, you might recognize them from River of No Return with Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum. Back at Petunia, we sat outside and enjoyed the weather. Our little friend returned, but was a lot less annoyed by our presence. He came out and hung around the fringe of the campsite while two of his buddies just ran willy nilly under our chairs, picnic table, RV, etc. Clearly, they don’t see us as a threat anymore.
Tuesday we were up and out early to beat the crowds to the Banff Gondola. (We had driven by on Monday, and the parking lot was totally packed! Online tickets and early morning starts are the way to go.) After a little coffee for MW in the lower lobby, we took the ride up to the Summit Center on Sulphur Mountain. We followed the boardwalk out to the Cosmic Ray Station and Sanson’s Peak at 7,486′, where the views were amazing despite the mist hanging over the mountains. The peak was the home of both weather and cosmic ray research until 1978, and you can still peek in the windows of the meteorological station built in 1903. When we were out at the point, I caught a whiff of smoke, but didn’t see anything. Back at the building, we checked out the movie and the gift shop. It wasn’t until we stepped outside to head back down that we saw how much more smoke had moved in. Turned out to be part of the smoke plume from fires in western Alberta. As quickly as things were getting socked in, those heading up then weren’t going to see much, and the smoke smell was awful! Thankfully at the bottom, though, it hadn’t really settled in too much…YET.
Next we took a drive up to Lake Louise, thinking we could get a look at the scenery that everyone recommends. However, we ended up not getting to see it at all, because the parking lot was overflowing. I recommend that, if you are driving up there from Banff, you just take the bus to make it easier. We attempted to find a place to eat, but had no luck there, either. We ended up heading back down to Banff where we stopped in at Pancini downtown. Yum! Then, after popping back by Petunia to clean out the rental car, we headed back to Calgary. Brutus was FINALLY ready, so hopefully, this would be the last trip back there! The smoke only got worse as we headed south, but nothing could dampen our spirits. At Jack Carter Chevrolet, we went for a good, long test drive with the Shop Foreman, Gary. No problems!! Then, after finishing up there and returning Zippy to Enterprise, we headed back. Exhausted, all we both wanted to do was put our feet up.
Here is the same peak on Monday and Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, you couldn’t see it at all.
Relaxing went out the window when I realized my necklace was missing. I know it is just a thing, but that cross means a lot to me. I’ve had it forever, and my BFF wore it in her wedding. Heartbroken, I started retracing my steps throughout the day, and there were a LOT of them. I made the couple of calls to the places that were still open, leaving my contact information should it turn up. Everything else would have to wait until morning. Praying that it would be found, I tried not to mope. A short while later Ghandi from the gondola (nope, didn’t make that up) called to ask me to describe my necklace. Since it is in Tina’s wedding pics, I was able to text him a pic. Someone FOUND IT!! Of all of the places on top of that mountain that it could have fallen off and never been seen again, it was on the carpet on level 2 of the building in plain sight. Wow!! I’m counting that as a minor miracle and thanking God for the blessing!
I slept like a LOG and woke up Wednesday morning ready for the day. We headed out early to Banff, our first stop to pick up my necklace. Ghandi was there and all smiles, so happy to return it. He said a visitor turned it in to the lost and found. Wow! Next we parked at the edge of town and walked over to Tooloulou’s for breakfast. They have an eclectic, cajun-inspired menu. I was impressed with the variety of Benedicts. They even had one with soft-shelled crab, which you know I went for, while MW had the Ragin’ Cajun omelette with andouille sausage. After that, we needed to walk a bit so we hit the streets. Some stores were opening up, so we did a little browsing, too. Then we walked around the park and Surprise Corner. The smoke was still pretty thick, so the views weren’t great. I spoke to a couple who just arrived on Tuesday and were heading back home today. They said it wasn’t worth it to stay without the views, and I don’t blame them. We are very thankful that we had a couple of days before this mess.
After leaving Banff, we headed south to the Grotto Creek Canyon trail. This is a pretty cool hike, although the first half doesn’t look like it. Just off of CN-1 and next to the Baymag plant, it is very noisy and has some pretty industrial views. But about half-way in you turn up into the woods. After a bit, the noise falls away. We followed a small creek way back into the hillside in a washout canyon and kept going until we were STOPPED. BY. SNOW. Yes, you read that right. The first patch we hit was so black that I didn’t even realize it was snow. A little further up the canyon narrowed to 10-12′ across and was filled with hard-packed snow. We would have continued, but the creek had washed out under it, creating a shelf. Plus, we didn’t have the shoes for walking on something that slick. We climbed up the side of the canyon, thought to get a pic around the bend. It was beautiful! By the time we got back to Brutus, I was ready for a break and my knee was ready for Ibuprofen. That really ended up being one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on. It was very peaceful once you got into the canyon, and we only passed a few people. The temps were perfect, too. It’s a good day when you end up with over 11,000 steps, and most of them are in the woods! Back at Petunia, I put my feet up and tackled a bit of writing.
Since we are still off of our normal travel schedule, Thursday was laundry day. I headed into town, yielding to an elk on the way, and found the Canmore Sunshine Laundry. It was spotless, and although there were several people there when I arrived, they had plenty of washers. Once that chore was complete, I headed back to Petunia, put it all away, and picked up MW for lunch at the Iron Goat Pub & Grill, where I had an elk burger. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t the guy from the road!) While I really prefer elk steak to burgers, this one was pretty darned good with smoked cheese and other deliciousness. After lunch MW was in the mood for a good walk. My hips had not quite recovered from the day before, so I opted to be dropped off at McDonald’s to get some writing done while he headed out to one of the walks in town. When he picked me up later, we headed back and prepped Petunia for an early departure.
Bow River Campground is nestled into the woods along the river and pretty nice, but noisy. Just off of CN-1 and less than 5 miles from Canmore, and 25 miles from Banff, you can easily get to anything you want to do in the area. This seasonal campground, open from mid-April to mid-September, is not planned for just hanging around, unless you are fishing. There are no playgrounds or ball courts, and the river is fast moving and not appropriate for swimming. (The water is REALLY cold year round, too.) They have a nice bathhouse/toilet building that is kept very clean, and you can also find a couple of vault toilets on the property. The four pay showers are separate rooms away from the bathrooms. The $3 CAN for 5 minutes was pretty expensive, especially since MW said the water pressure is low and you struggle to get rinsed well. Shower tokens and firewood can be purchased from the camp host, but there is no camp office or store. The campsites are situated around a large loop with several along the river. There are 59 30-amp sites with water and 7 walk-in tent sites. Water will typically not be available at the beginning and end of the season due to freezing temps, so check before you go to see if faucets and the bathhouse are useable. All campsites have fire pits and picnic tables, but they do have province-wide fire bans during times of high risk. Our site (9), was a booger to get into because of a tree at one corner, a post at the other, and boulders on the other side of the road. Despite the noise, we would stay here again. The sites along the river weren’t available when we booked, but they would be ideal. Cell signals were moderate, and we had one over-the-air tv station. One thing they did not have, though, is a dump station. However, there are free ones at the Visitor Center in Canmore about 5 miles away and up in Banff. For this stay in May 2023 we paid $251.22 for 6 nights. Sorry I was slack on the pics for this one.
Well, that’s the end of a long one. Next up…glaciers, Jasper, and into British Columbia. See you on the path!!
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