Kathy & Dave consider the Adirondack Mountains of NY our home. We love to hike and travel, exploring the world around us. Dave retired from the National Park Service after 30 years and had the opportunity to live in National Parks like Redwood, Shendandoah,Death Valley, Biscayne, American Memorial Park (in Saipan/Guam), and others. His last park before retiring was the Blue Ridge Parkway where he was actively involved with establishing the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Kathy has extensive experience in the medical field, from pushing papers to working with patients. Currently both work for the same hospital: Dave as an Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and Kathy in the Revenue Cycle Division as the Director of PFS. (Kathy is now foot loose and fancy free, until she returns to the USA and has to get back into the grind, maybe!)
“Is that a wolf, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?”
Vacations ending are like going to the Christmas tree lot on the corner at 10 PM on Christmas Eve. Yep, on Christmas Eve at 10 pm, you are excited that Christmas is coming, but the only thing left on the lot is a scraggly, bedraggled, branchless tree that can only support one ornament! You are excited to go home, see your fur babies, and sleep in your own bed. But then, of course, you are disappointed to leave the wonderful areas you have visited. Like Charlie Brown’s Christmas, at first we were disappointed to have to leave. But that eventually turned into excitement once we got home and snuggled with our fur babies. (Or in this case, watching them ignore us because they were mad we left!) The disappointment of leaving was because Glacier, Banff, and Jasper were magical places that we felt blessed to visit.
The last full day in Canada saw us doing some more hiking. We had some wonderful luck and were able to see a wolf in the wild! What a treat. The trail at Old Fort Point was a long meandering trail that took us along the sides of hills and through some open areas. We met some very nice local Canadians who were gracious and pointed us in the right direction as we had meandered onto an unofficial trail. We had a great time chatting with them. Along the trail we walked along a high cliff edge that overlooked the Athabasca River which was flowing fast and high and almost a creamy coffee color. The river is fed by melting glaciers which gives it a unique color. These glaciers are rapidly disappearing as the globe warms. We next had a nice relaxing lunch. Then, another hike in the afternoon at Maligne Canyon rounded out the end of a perfect day. The weather was perfect – nice and cool, the trails were less traveled, and Kathy was feeling no pain in her foot. We thoroughly enjoyed the day and capped it off with a great dinner.
The next day dawned early and we started on our way back to Missoula. The drive itself was not without its highlights. We stopped on the Iceland Parkway to hike up to the Columbia Glacier, a hike that Kathy had skipped on the way in. It was beautiful and unique to see the glacier up close and Kathy was glad that we had time to stop and that Dave was onboard with another trip up the hill to see some snow. The drive home saw us catch glimpses of a bald eagle, black bear, and a family of turkeys crossing the road. We stopped in Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, for the night and enjoyed a lovely dinner and a really great breakfast the next morning. The last day saw us driving towards Missoula and we had the opportunity to stop at Kootenani Wildlife Refuge. We found a trail to hike and hoped to see a bear so that Dave could use his bear spray. No such luck! Dave didn’t get to see a cougar, bobcat, or use his bear spray. Oh well, no vacation can be perfect.
The next morning dawned early, like really early, like 04:30 in the morning early! Soon we were on our way to the airport. The trip home was like another “Christmas in August” present. We were scheduled for three flights with three potential issues. Fortunately, only one flight was delayed, and it was the last one so we didn’t miss any of our connections. No domino effect, except a little less time playing with our fur babies. Home saw us greet our kittens, settle into bed, and begin planning for our next adventure. “Christmas” morning came early with a meow, nudge, annoying playing with paper, and a demand to be fed. What a great trip!!!
Friday started out wonderfully. We headed out after a familiar breakfast of Raisin Bran and were determined to find our next hike. Kathy looked at the map, pointed at one of 3 trails Dave had marked on a map – not knowing anything about the hike – and we were off. Soon we were headed down the widest dirt road we have ever been on. At first, we thought the road was just under construction and the pavement had been removed. However it seemed to continue on and on forever. It was the longest, widest never-ending dirt road. Literally wide enough to land a 747 and long enough to be an interstate! Finally, we arrived at the Driftwood Boat Landing in Kananaskis Provincial Park and started up the trail. Like the road, the trail went up, and up, and up, and up. We never seemed to find the top of the mountain. Finally, we rested on a beautiful overlook near the top and decided to descend as the skies were looking a tad ominous. Heading down we took a shortcut as Kathy is still working on getting her ankle/foot to heal from the first hike in Glacier. The downhill trip was much quicker. The sad part was we saw no bears. A quick lunch in our rental vehicle and we were again off to find our next adventure.
That adventure came quickly! As soon as we were on a paved portion of the road, we saw a heard of bighorn sheep – ewes and rams! Check that off the list. Still waiting to use the bear spray!!
Next stop: another trail! Once again this trail seemed to go up and up and up. Going up we had amazing views. But yet once again we were close to the top, but not yet at the top when we decided to turn around due to impending weather.
Finally it was time for dinner! Time to relax, chill, and be casual. Oh yeah, and run from the downpour of rain and wind that seemed to open up the minute we decided it was time to stroll around town instead of hike. Great pizza! Lovely salad! And a waiter that Kathy is sure was flirting with Dave! (Dave’s comment: How is it that Kathy had not yet had any alcohol when she thought this??)
The next day dawned bright and early. Kathy, as usual, was up at the crack of dawn to drink her coffee and do a bit of work. This time of the day is one she actually looks forward to: nursing a coffee while doing a job she really enjoys. This, though, had to end and we were out the door by 08:30 AM to head to Jasper.
What an amazing journey that was!! One should never race down the Icefields Parkway. While it rained on and off all day and the high was only 50 degrees, it was still worth not racing through the sites. In this case the winner of this Amazing Race was the person who came in last! We routinely stopped to check out the amazing sites. We saw glaciers, waterfalls, and other amazing sites. The 3.5 hour drive took us approximately 8 hours due to all of the fun stops an short hikes along the way. Finally at our next home, we were pleasantly surprised to find we were in a small log cabin. Next on the journey was a nice dinner at a local brewery where Kathy tried a glass of brew with her dinner. Next stop on our amazing journey was to go back to our cabin where we finally settled in and relaxed. Next amazing race will be who falls asleep first. In this case the first one who does, wins!!
Feeling the burn! We are feeling the “burn” in our calves, in our thighs, in our feet and in our stomachs. What a great two days! Since Sunday August 21st we have hiked and walked 42 miles, along cliff edges, through dirt, a few puddles, and some rocky paths, up and down, across swinging bridges, and occasionally on sidewalks. The hikes on the eastern side of Glacier NP were some of Kathy’s favorites. We hiked 11 miles yesterday and 11.7 miles the day before, but the trails were shaded by conifers, the winds blew nice and cool, and despite the predictions, we had no rain. We hiked to Lake Grinnell yesterday and along the way spotted a mom moose along with her baby. Dave finally got to see a grizzly, but way too far away to justify “lethal force” and he had to keep his bear spray holstered. We planted ourselves next to the lake and enjoyed a leisurely lunch before heading back.
Getting up this morning we celebrated our last day in the motel in East Glacier and were excited to head out for the day. We drove back into Glacier to try and find some of the elusive wild sheep, but none were around and we turned around disappointed. We headed to the Canadian border with our passports in hand and the ArriveCan arrival form ready to present at the border. Presenting our passports and a little bit of chit chat and we were off. The big question that Dave had related to the obligatory questions from the border agent. “Do you have any weapons? Guns? Mace? Pepper Spray?” Dave responded that he had bear spray. The officer said that was fine. Guess that does not count as a weapon when heading into bear country, who knew? Off we went. We drove through flat farm fields that were reminiscent of long stretches through the Midwest, miles and miles of hay was all we could see. Suddenly we were greeted by the Rockies in all their majesty. We stopped in Canmore, Alberta, and walked around to kill some time before we could check in. What a beautiful resort town and completely opposite of the town we just left. We were hopeful that our new accommodations were also the opposite of the one we just left. Upon arriving – YAY!! We can eat a meal at a table, get out of bed without have to walk sideways against the wall, and, yes! we cannot take a shower and brush our teeth in the sink simultaneously.
We drove back to Canmore and decided to stop at a store for some cereal and milk in the morning and pick up dinner. The decision was a bold one for Kathy, traditional Indian food. Feeling daring after conquering some of the hikes we have done, Kathy ordered Tandoori Momo’s, a traditional chicken dumpling, while Dave had Tikka Masala. We each also ordered a traditional green salad to get some veggies in us. Excited, we drove back to our room and opened the packages. Kathy started digging into her dumplings while they were still warm and raved about the taste. Dave did a deep dive into his salad, which is really a vegetable platter consisting of a stack of sliced carrots, sliced cucumbers, sliced red onion, sliced tomatoes, and what looked like green beans. Not everything was as it seemed……..the green beans were actually some kind of extremely hot pepper! Dave tried eating cucumbers, rice, drinking – nothing helped and his mouth was not just burning but was on FIRE!!! His Tikka Masala – apparently the National Dish of England – is a chicken dish is a sauce similar to marinara sauce. Once he recovered from his “green bean”, he enjoyed the rest of the meal. Kathy did try the “green bean”/chili pepper and took a small bite which translated to a much smaller fire, but, hey! she did try it, even knowing it was going to burn.
Tomorrow we head out to explore the local area, hoping that the hiking is just as great! Banff and Kananaskis is beautiful and we expect we will find some great trails, Kathy hopes we don’t find any bears and Dave hopes we find a bear so that he gets to deploy his bear spray.
Today was a slow start to the day; we didn’t even get up until 05:30. (In all fairness, we are in Mountain Time and for those on the east coast, it is still a lazy 07:30). The day started out fairly slow. Kathy worked for a bit while Dave strategized our next hike. We then had breakfast and were out the door by 10 am. We are currently staying on the east side of Glacier, which seems worlds away from the west side of Glacier that we had just left. Similarly, the lodging seems light years away from each other. We went from ski mountain chalet chic to banjo playing boondocks abode. Additionally, it seems less populated in the local area and so fortunately the trails are less populated. We started out for our hike early. We planned to start from the campground going to Two Medicine Lake. Unfortunately, the trail we had intended to hike was temporarily closed due to unusual bear activity (Which is exactly why we wanted to hike it. Dave is dead set on using up the bear spray that he paid thirty bucks for!) The hike instead went another (longer) way and ended up at Twin Falls, a spectacular set of twin falls that cascaded down the mountainside. Our 5.2 mile journey to get to the falls meant an early lunch and we settled in to eat our repast. We were soon joined by an American Dipper, a bird uncommon to be seen by most who hike the back country. The small grey bird bobs up and down on the rocks in the stream looking as if it is trying to get the gumption to dive in. The next thing we knew he dove in, so maybe we were right. Apparently the bird dives into the rivers catching bugs that abound in the shallow streams. The fun fellow entertained us for quite some time. Dave even put down his much anticipated lunch in order to photograph the lively antics of the bird playing and eating in the steam. The next part of the journey was the 5.2 miles to get back to our car, which was shortened to 5.0 miles when Kathy realized that they had taken a short detour on the way up to view another waterfalls that was just off the trail. The hike, while sounding daunting, was lovely and we enjoyed the cool mountain air and talking to people as we walked along the trail. Soon we were back to our temporary residence where Dave settled in for a nap and Kathy worked for a bit. Dinner brought the unhappy realization to Kathy that she had hiked several long distances in the last few days and she hobbled out of bed, creaked as she bent over to put on her tennis shoes, and walked like a penguin for the first little bit until her limbs got “limbered” up. This could turn out to be a Vitamin I (ibuprofen) night for her. It is now time to now settle in and watch some TV and figure out what we will be doing tomorrow.
The song sounds so positive, but it is hard to find that positivity at 4:50 in the morning when you realize that we have overslept. Yep, you got that right. A mad dash around the condo aptly named Gray Wolf, we dressed quickly and “wolfed” down our breakfast. We then headed out the door to start our day. Heading to Glacier we started up the Going to the Sun Road to find our next hike. We started out on our hike heading towards Avalanche Lake before the sun had completely peaked above the mountains. Heading down the path we felt blessed to see the rays of sun peak out over the mountains giving us a beautiful start to the day. The song, while beautiful, was topped by seeing the actual sun peeping behind the outline of the mountain tops and being present in the moment. Soon we were at the lake and watched several waterfalls from melting snow cascade down the sides of the mountain to fill the lake. The hike, just a short 5 miles out and back, had us back to our parked car by 10 am. We stopped at the visitor center to discuss some of the pictures taken yesterday and to see if we wanted to hike anymore. As an editorial correction, the ptarmigan we reported seeing yesterday turned out to be a dusky grouse. It was still a novelty and a delight to see. (The education needs to be expanded to the interpretive rangers in Kathy’s opinion!) Soon the realization that we could barely walk directed our next course of action. Back to the condo we went where we chilled and had a leisurely lunch. Kathy logged into work and put some hours in while Dave managed to get us a remote to watch TV and did a load of laundry. A short walk up to the resort pub for dinner was a reminder of our big hike yesterday. Soon we were back home where a bit more work for Kathy and another load of laundry rounded out our day. It was an amazing day and Glacier NP is worth every moment and every aching muscle. Tomorrow sees us head to the other side of Glacier and move to our next home away from home.
Starting out late we left the condo at 6 am to begin our day. Driving to the park we were for the first time greeted by a ranger. We flashed our pass and were soon on our way to our first stop. We drove up the Going to the Sun Road and started the descent to the other side of the Continental Divide. Luckily we found a spot to park somewhat close to our next trailhead. We started the hike to view St Mary Falls. It is a beautiful waterfall with crystal clear water and just a hint of turquoise color. It cascades down the side of the mountain in stages. Walking further we arrived at Virginia Falls. While we were impressed with St Mary Falls, the subsequent falls, Virginia Falls, was even more spectacular. We looked up in awe, feeling the spray of the falls as the cool wetness pelted us like a dewy early morning mist. We were joined by others who stood equally transfixed at the bottom of the falls. The journey to the falls further delighted us when we got to see our first cow moose standing at water’s edge grazing on the lush vegetation. The journey back gave us a glimpse of a bull moose whose impressive antlers gave Kathy pause when he started to walk towards us. All in all the morning was a success. Now we drove on to our “home” for the next three nights. The next “home away from home” is about the size of our camper van in New Zealand. To give the readers an idea, you can go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, and take a shower simultaneously. The bed – a double – will be a test of our marriage patience. We hope that we both survive: no air-conditioning and being jammed next to each other sharing our body heat. A little bit of work for Kathy while Dave napped rounded out our afternoon. As evening approached we did a little grocery shopping and planned our next day’s adventures.
Montana and Alberta, Canada – August 2022
The start of our trip began well. George woke up bright and early (well, at least early!) to take us to the airport, our flights were on time, and we had an empty seat in our row. What a nice change from some of the issues we have had lately with flying. It was nice to get on and through the airports with a limited amount of issues. Especially since flights are always Kathy’s stress point. Arrival in Missoula, Montana was smooth and the airport was small and easy to navigate. First speed bump was when we picked up our rental car (Well, rental SUV. We reserved a compact car, but all they had was a Toyota 4Runner.) We drove off from the airport and discovered the vehicle only had a 1/4 tank full of gas. Really? So a quick stop at Walmart to get a few items (including bear spray!), then gas, and then we were off. First stop had us heading south to visit our first NPS site, Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site where we toured a historic cattle ranching site that included most of the original furniture from the Kohr’s family. Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) Kathy sampled a cup of cowboy coffee that was made at an old fashioned chuck wagon. Next stop: the hotel for a much needed rest.
The day started early on Friday where we headed out to visit our next NPS site, Big Hole National Battlefield. Big Hole National Battlefield (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) The battlefield is a part of the Nez Pearce National Historic Park and tells the story of the battle which occurred between the Nimí-pu and US soldiers. The Nimí-pu were famous for their horse breeding. The site is considered sacred as the Nimí-pu who died that day still rest in the hallowed ground. It was a solemn moment to realize that much of the reason so many Native Americans were driven to reservations was to expand the ranching industry and pan for gold. Visiting the two sites back to back gave us both a lot to think about.
Finally we arrived at Glacier NP, or should I say our condo outside of Glacier NP. Arriving we collapsed from the hectic two days and just chilled for a bit before we decided to go hunting for something to eat. Unlike the Nimí-pu, Kathy did not dig up any roots or go hunting, instead she stopped by a nearby minimart store for a frozen pizza and some other essentials to get ready for the next day, which was going to be a long day!!
Saturday morning saw us up bright and early, like really bright and early, like it was really dark. Kathy poured out her first cup of coffee at 04:10 in the morning and we were out the door shortly after 5 am to head up to Glacier NP. The Going to the Sun Road opened up at 06:00 and we were just behind some cars driving up to the Logan Pass Visitor Center to find a parking spot. When we arrived the parking lot was already almost full so good thing we started out as soon as we did. Additionally, the cool morning air made it the perfect time to hike. We started out on the Highline Trail that runs along the side of a mountain with perfect views. We hiked up to a chalet about 7.6 miles in and stopped for our lunch. We had a great conversation with fellow hikers. We then started down the mountain on the Loop Trail for another 4-5 miles to catch the shuttle that would take us to our car. In total we hiked 12 miles and while we hit a few speed bumps along the way we had more Woo Hoo’s and High Fives as we saw a mountain goat, a ptarmigan, a deer about 2 feet off the trail who wouldn’t budge, and some very inquisitive ground squirrels. Making it down and feeling accomplished meant a very happy fist bump and a plan for getting a milkshake, that is, if we can ever walk again. (Ok, Kathy would crawl to get ice cream.) Safely back at our lodging, we are planning for our next hike tomorrow. Glacier National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)