Exploring the Salmon Glacier Road at Stewart, BC

Wednesday, October 7th, day 29 of the trip, began early at our site at the Bear River RV Park in Stewart. I wanted to have a quick look at the Salmon Glacier, then be on the road for home. An excellent 22-page booklet, “Glacier Highway and Salmon Glacier Self Guided Auto Tour” is available online or at the Stewart visitor centre. It points out 14 major sites of interest, several of which were new to me and will require a couple of days to explore on a future visit.

By 08:00, a few minutes before sunrise, the dogs and I had crossed the unguarded border into Alaska, gone through the village of Hyder, and were well up the road along the Salmon River.

The road along the Salmon River north of Hyder, Alaska
A pullout at Km 27.7 (Mile 17.2) beckons travellers to stop to enjoy the views.

Looking down the Salmon River. The brochure says: “Notice the small ponds located below the toe. These depressions, known as Kettles, are formed by the melting of buried ice blocks, which are stranded on the outwash plain after the glacier recedes. The colour is caused by the fine materials suspended in the water.”

The toe of the Salmon Glacier. When I lived in Stewart in 1975 and worked underground at the Granduc copper mine, I rode a bus along this road to the mine and back to Stewart 5 days a week.

The toe of the Salmon Glacier at Stewart, BC
With nothing nearby to judge scale by, it’s hard to tell how big the ice cave is that the Salmon River is born from, but I’d guess at over 100 feet.

From this ice cave in the Salmon Glacier, the Salmon River is born
Nearing the summit, the original Granduc mine road can be seen far below. In the late 1970s, a new road was built along cliffs less prone to rockslides and avalanches. I don’t know what the collapsed building was, though that appears to be a mining cut beside it.

The original Granduc road far below
The summit viewpoint over the Salmon Glacier, which is the fifth largest glacier in Canada. “Stunning” barely begins to describe the scene. I’ve posted photos of the glacier in 1975 and 2015 to show you how dramatic its retreat is.

Salmon Glacier at Stewart, BC
A young couple had spent the night in their pickup at the summit, and when I arrived, the guy was heading over the side to try to reach the glacier. I’ve heard many times that there’s no way down to it, but have never tried myself.

Salmon Glacier at Stewart, BC

The auto tour booklet ends at the summit viewpoint, but I decided to continue along the road to see if the Granduc mine site can still be reached as it could when I visited in 2002. I’d heard that the Granduc property is being re-opened and is blocked by the new operator, but wanted to confirm that.

The first site of note is this tunnel, which wasn’t a mine as most people would logically think. The road used to go through that tunnel, which is almost a kilometer long. It was covered at both ends by doors which the bus and truck drivers opened by pulling a cord that hung from a “T” post outside. At the far end of the tunnel, a generator station was blasted into the cliff – it provided fresh air in the tunnel as well as power for lights and the doors.

Old road tunnel along the Granduc road
Looking through the tunnel – the pinprick of light in the centre is the far end of the tunnel.

Old road tunnel along the Granduc road
There used to be a lake here called Tide Lake – so called because every few years the water would melt its way under the Salmon Glacier and the lake would drain (the tide would go out). On the far side are some of the original Granduc mine workings from the 1950s.

Former site of Tide Lake at the Salmon Glacier near Stewart, BC
Sure enough, at what was the head of Tide Lake, “No Trespassing” signs halted further progress – smoke in the distance showed that work of some sort was being done on the property. It was now 09:40 and I needed to get going back, so I wasn’t hugely disappointed.

No Trespassing signs on the Granduc road near Stewart, BC
Going by Tide Lake again.

The former site of Tide Lake on the Granduc road near Stewart, BC
On the flat area to the right in this photo, many scenes in the 1982 movie “The Thing” were shot. In 2002, I had fun helping a group of hardcore fans of the movie find the site, and they took away some artifacts that hugely impressed them. Their Web site describing the adventure is still up.

Salmon Glacier at Stewart, BC
Beside the road ahead is one of the avalanche cannon stands from the Granduc days.

Avalanche cannon stands along the Granduc mine road
As much as I was in a hurry, I made a few photo stops. I sure wish that I had taken many more photos in 1975!

The view from the Salmon Glacier road near Stewart, BC
This was the camp for the Boliden Premier Gold Mine, which closed in about 2000, then was the base for their mine reclamation work until 2012.

Boliden Premier Gold Mine near Stewart, BC
At this easy-to-miss spot with its small border monument, downhill travellers go back into Alaska for a few miles. From the 1920s into the 1950s, there was a Canada Customs post about 500 meters back up the hill, at a spot known as Silver Heights.

Canada/USA border on the Salmon Glacier road
It was very quiet at the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site – no bears to see, and no people looking for bears. This million-dollar facility was opened in 2001.

Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site at Hyder, Alaska
I hadn’t brought my passport with me on the trip, forgetting about wanting to go through this little tit of Alaska, and at the Canadian border, I got hassled about that as expected. I’m an easy guy to check on, though, and a few minutes later, I was on my way again. This has to be the silliest place for a border inspection anywhere in Canada.

Canada/USA border at Hyder, Alaska
I had one more stop to make before going back to the RV park to pack – I needed to update my photo of the memorial for the victims of the Granduc Mine disaster of February 18, 1965. After the memorial was erected, a spelling mistake in one of the names was discovered and it’s now been corrected.

Granduc Mine disaster memorial at Stewart, BC

From Stewart, there would just be one more overnight out in the middle of nowhere south of Dease Lake, but the adventures were not over yet.

BC RVing: Highways 16, 37, and 37A to Stewart

Tuesday, October 6th, day 28 of the trip, was going to be a fairly long day, 552 km from just west of Fort Fraser to Stewart. It got even longer and much less fun when we were attacked in the early afternoon, resulting in several thousand dollars in damage to the RV.

We spent the night at the Dry Williams Lake Rest Area, west of Fort Fraser at Km 577. We arrived after dark so didn’t see just how nice a site (and lake) it is.

Dry Williams Lake, BC
We were on the road just after 08:30, and at 10:20 had reached one of the best views on the section of Highway 16, at Six Mile Summit.

The view west from Six Mile Summit on BC Highway 16
At 11:15, the Bulkley View Rest Area east of Smithers at Km 371 provided a great place for the dogs and I to stretch our legs.

Bulkley View Rest Area on BC Highway 16
I thought about stopping at Smithers to wash the rig, but decided that was a waste of time and money, then stopped briefly at Morice Canyon, but nothing enticed me to look around again.

Morice Canyon, BC
For anyone going up the Stewart-Cassiar (Highway 37), the Petro-Canada station at the junction with Highway 16 is a must-stop, as gas prices get much higher to the north – at $1.229, they’re high but not unreasonably so.

Petro-Canada gas station at Kitwanga, BC
A couple of k up the Stewart-Cassiar, at the north end of the little Native village of Kitwanga, things got ugly. The short version of the story is that I was driving up the highway when a guy walking along the shoulder suddenly fired a handful of rocks at us, breaking both windshields. By the time I shook off the shock and got the motorhome over to the shoulder, I was far past him, with no way to get back to him (the rig is too long to do U-turns). I called 9-1-1, and about an hour later two RCMP cruisers showed up and took the report. Despite 24 breaks in the windshields, one larger than a golf ball, the motorhome was still driveable, but the damage will cost over $4,000 to repair, and with winter now here, can’t be done until warm weather returns next Spring.

With that lengthy delay, it was almost 5:00 when I reached Bear Pass, the most impressive part of the Highway 37A side road into Stewart.

Bear Pass, BC Hwy 37A

Bear Pass, BC Hwy 37A
Bear Glacier. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen the glacier with no snow on it, but its retreat since I started taking photos of the glacier in 1975 is quite shocking.

Bear Glacier, BC
By 6:00 I was settled at the Bear River RV Park at the north edge of Stewart, about 3 blocks from my house when I lived there in 1975. The only thing I really needed/wanted beyond a spot to park was wifi, and it was very poor even with only 5 rigs in the park.

Bear River RV Park, Stewart, BC

The plan for Tuesday morning was to take the Tracker up to see the incredible Salmon Glacier, then continue the drive home, still 2 days away.

BC RVing: Williams Lake to Fort St. James

On Monday, October 5th, day 27 of the trip, I left Williams Lake at about 09:30, planning to put on as many miles as possible due to problems at home. I hoped to end the day up the Stewart-Cassiar Highway somewhere. The day, however, turned out to be very different.

The morning began very foggy, and I was almost an hour north of Williams Lake on Highway 97 before it cleared.

BC Highway 97 north of Williams Lake
I could do a trip based on trains. Riding trains and just shooting trains. So many trains, so little time… (this was shot at Quesnel)

Train at Quesnel, BC
There’s quite a bit of road construction along Highway 97 as the Cariboo Connector Program continues. This is a long-term strategy to widen the 440-km portion of the highway between Cache Creek and Prince George to four lanes.

Traffic delay on Highway 97, Cariboo Connector Program
Phase 2 of the project, with a $200 million budget, is now underway. At the completion of this phase, almost 50% of the highway between Cache Creek and Prince George will be either 3 or 4 lanes wide.

Construction on Highway 97, Cariboo Connector Program
With lunch and dog-walk stops, I reached Prince George at 1:30. When I was a kid, “Mr. PG” was much more impressive, made of logs and standing alongside a not-very-busy 2-lane highway.

Mr. PG in Prince George, BC
When I stopped in Vanderhoof for gas, I phoned home, and things had calmed down enough that we decided that I should continue on to the next destination in my original plan, the historic community of Fort St. James. Just before 4:00, I turned off Highway 16 and headed north on Highway 27 towards Fort St. James, 60 kilometers (37 miles) away.

Highway 27 leads to Fort St. James
The main reason for the detour was to visit the Fort St. James National Historic Site. Originally established by Simon Fraser for the North West Company in 1806, it became a Hudson’s Bay Company post in 1821 when the 2 companies merged, and has the largest group of original wooden buildings representing the fur trade in Canada. It had closed 3 weeks earlier, but seeing the outside of the buildings was good enough for me this time. This graphic is at the entrance to the site.

Fort St. James National Historic Site
I’ve always loved old fur trading posts, and having lived and been heavily involved in history-related activities at Fort Langley for a few years greatly enhanced that.

Fort St. James National Historic Site
I was only the tiniest bit disappointed that the site was closed – the weather and the Fall colours were glorious, and having nobody else there is usually a good thing for me.

Fort St. James National Historic Site
Most of the windows were covered, but a couple allowed me to see inside, to get a glimpse of what life would have been like here in the targeted restoration date of 1896.

Fort St. James National Historic Site
The setting of the fort – of the community as a whole – is beautiful. It’s on the shore of Stuart Lake, which is 66 km (41 mi) long, 10 km (6.2 mi) wide and relatively shallow, with an average depth of only 26 meters (85 feet).

Fort St. James National Historic Site

Stuart Lake at Fort St. James, BC
A brochure for the Ripples of the Past Interpretive Trail led me next to Cottonwood Park, where this ⅓ scale model of a W34 Junkers bush plane of course caught my attention. Considered to be one the best bush planes of the 1930s and early 1940s due to its gentle flying characteristics and rugged construction, the W34 was built between 1926 and 1935 by Germany’s Junkers Flugzeugwerke. A W34 that was built in 1931, registered as CF-ATF, is at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.

Model of a W34 Junkers bush plane in Fort St. James, BC
Further along the interpretive trail is Our Lady of Good Hope Church. Built in 1873, this is one of the oldest Roman Catholic Churches in BC. Although I didn’t get there, there’s also a cemetery where headstones can be seen written in the Carrier syllabics developed by Father Morice.

Our Lady of Good Hope Church in Fort St. James, BC
By 5:30, I had almost given up finding the Russ Baker Memorial, which was erected in honor of Frank Russell “Russ” Baker, one of the first bush pilots in the Fort St. James area in the 1930s. Luckily, we had gone out to the marina, from where I spotted it up on the bluff.

Russ Baker Memorial, in Fort St. James, BC
The site and the memorial are perfect to remember the humble start of one of Canada’s most influential aviators. After working for several operators, he established Central British Columbia Airways in 1946 on the strength of a fire-patrol contract. Aggressive take-overs of other airlines in western Canada resulted in the formation of Pacific Western Airlines (PWA) in 1953. A short version of a long and complicated story is that in 1987, PWA bought Canadian Pacific Airlines and formed Canadian Airlines International, which in turn would become part of our national carrier, Air Canada.

Russ Baker Memorial, in Fort St. James, BC

Russ Baker Memorial, in Fort St. James, BC
As sunset neared, I thought about spending the night in this wonderful spot – a small community-run RV park on the shore of the lake beckoned, and it seemed unlikely that anybody would even come around to collect the $13 per night fee. However, although the emergency at home was past, I still wanted to get home fairly quickly.

Community RV park at Fort St. James, BC
One last look at the Junkers in the evening light, and I headed back towards Highway 16, with either of a couple of rest areas along the highway as my planned overnight spot.

Model Junkers bush plane at Fort St. James, BC
My view of the Dry Williams Lake Rest Area west of Fort Fraser at Km 577 at 9:00 pm.

Dry Williams Lake Rest Area on BC Hwy 16 west of Fort Fraser
Despite the morning’s stressful start, it had been an excellent day – I finally got to Fort St. James, and put on an even 500 km (311 miles). On Tuesday, I’d be heading up the Stewart-Cassiar, but again with no destination for the night in mind. Clicking on the map will open an interactive map of the route in a new window.

Map of Williams Lake, BC, to Fort St. James, BC route

BC RVing: Wells Gray Park to Williams Lake

In my last post, I had just left Wells Gray Provincial Park on Saturday, October 3rd, day 25 of the trip. Saturday and Sunday were mainly visits with friends from high school near 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, but I got some touring done as well, notably to Farwell Canyon to the west of Williams Lake.

The roads travelled on most days during this trip have been easy to locate on a map, but as these 2 days are on Roads Less Travelled, here’s a map. If you click on it, an interactive map of the route opens in a new window.

From Wells Gray, the basic route was south on the park road to Highway 5, south on Highway 5, west on Highway 24 and Horse Lake Road, then north on Highway 97. The first photo shows Highway 24 just west of Little Fort at 10:50. The new winter-tire signs are seen everywhere in BC now – all-season tires are no longer acceptable.

BC Highway 24 just west of Little Fort
The highway soon starts climbing, and the climb is both very long and very steep. I haven’t been able to find stats on it, but I’d guess the steepest part to be about 8 km (5 miles) long and perhaps 12%.

Steep climb on BC Hwy 24
The Lac des Roches rest area, listed on the official BC rest area map as the MacDonald rest area, is 46 km from Little Fort. By that point, I’d seen less than a dozen other vehicles – yes, it’s my kind of highway. The large sign there is the first major promo I’d seen of the highway as “The Fishing Highway“.

Lac des Roches rest area on BC Hwy 24, The Fishing Highway
Lac des Roches from the rest area, which was a great place to walk the dogs. Although the skies threatened to drop rain on us, none fell.

Lac des Roches, BC
Visits with long-time friends are never often enough or long enough, but seeing Marky and her husband at Horse Lake was wonderful. On Sunday, we went to a charming cafe at the nearby community of Lone Butte, where there is indeed a lone butte :)

Just before noon, the kids and I were back on the road, headed west towards Highway 97 on the Horse Lake Road.

Horse Lake Road, BC
At 12:45, we were just north of 100 Mile House on Highway 97, which is the longest provincial highway in Canada, stretching 2,110 km (1,311 mi) from the southern border with Washington to the northern border with the Yukon Territory. Along its length, various sections are known as the Okanagan Highway, the Cariboo Highway, the John Hart Highway, and the Alaska Highway.

BC Highway 97 just north of 100 Mile House
I arrived at Sharon’s home just outside Williams Lake at noon, and as at Marky’s, was able to camp on her acreage. She’s done a great job of re-connecting with many of the people we went to school with, and has endless stories. Within a couple of hours we were out touring, though, west on Highway 20 to some places that Sharon knew I’d enjoy. Our first stop was at the bridge that carries Highway 20, which ends at Bella Coola, over the Fraser River.

BC Highway 20 bridge over the Fraser River
Looking up the Fraser River from the bridge.

Fraser River west of Williams Lake
Much of the country we travelled through is in the Interior Douglas Fir Biogeoclimatic Zone, the second warmest forest zone in the interior, which has a fairly wide variety of vegetation. Little of it is untouched by humans, primarily from logging, mining, and ranching. At lower elevations, the Bunchgrass Biogeoclimatic zone is a grassland zone that’s important to California bighorn sheep, burrowing owl, white-tailed deer, and sharp-tailed grouse.

BC's Interior Douglas Fir Biogeoclimatic Zone
The light was right to get a photo of dramatic Doc English Bluff, which we’d return to at the end of the day (and which I got to the summit of :) ).

Doc English Bluff, west of Williams Lake, BC
This is really pretty country, and is certainly on the list to spend much more time in. Over 40 years ago, I drove most of Highway 20, but got stopped by a landslide before starting down towards the coast at Bella Coola, and for no particular reason, hadn’t been back.

BC Highway 20 west of Williams Lake
Just before reaching Riske Creek, we turned south on the Farwell Canyon Road, which crosses mostly open rangeland. The 3 trucks coming in this photo were the exception – there was very little traffic.

Farwell Canyon Road, west of Williams Lake, BC
A stereotypical Cariboo/Chilcotin Country scene along the Farwell Canyon Road. Sharon stopped so I could get some photos, but none of our bovine neighbours wanted to chat :)

Cows along Farwell Canyon Road, west of Williams Lake, BC
We’d be stopping at the Chilcotin River crossing, but on the west side of the river, the Farwell Canyon Road climbs back up and continues for many miles.

BC's remote Farwell Canyon Road
As the road drops down towards the Chilcotin River, a hiking trail offers access to a large sand dune system above Farwell Canyon. At the trailhead is a memorial to Wayne Dale Fisher, a 17-year-old cowboy from the Gang Ranch who was killed in a flash flood near here in 1962.

Hiking trail to Farwell Canyon sand dunes in BC
Looking back at the bridge over the Chilcotin River after crossing it.

Farwell Canyon Road bridge over the Chilcotin River
Just past the bridge, a short side road goes to a plateau which offers great views of the Chilcotin River and Farwell Canyon. First, a look back at the bridge.

Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon
Farwell Canyon and its dramatic hoodoos (there are also pictographs, though we didn’t get to them). Although there are lots of photos of Farwell Canyon online, little has been written about it. I did discover that the canyon is named for Gordon “Mike” Farwell, who established the Pothole Ranch there in 1912.

Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon

Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon
Looking upriver, the Pothole Ranch could be seen.

Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon

Abandoned ranch along the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon
The old ranch site offered even better photos of the river and canyon.

Abandoned ranch along the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon

Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon
Stark and beautiful.

Farwell Canyon, BC
The ranch house and outbuildings are in good condition thanks to the very dry climate, much like the Yukon.

Abandoned ranch along the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon
The root and meat cellar is large enough to have supplied food for a large crew of ranch hands at one time.

Abandoned ranch along the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon
It was well after 4:00 when we pulled away from Farwell Canyon (having a photographer along makes keeping to any sort of tour schedule difficult!), but nearby Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park was our next destination. There were many places along the road where I wished that we’d brought the Tracker, which has much higher clearance.

The road to Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park in BC
I can explore along roads like this for days. A couple we met said that they had found about 30 California bighorn sheep near the end of the road, but that would just be a bonus, not a reason to continue.

The road to BC's Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park
Nearing the end of the road, at 5:00 – the Fraser River is in the canyon ahead.

BC's Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park
The Fraser River from the end of the road. Any sheep that had been here were out of sight by the time we arrived.

Fraser River at the Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park
The colour of the light at 6:15, just before sunset, was lovely, and prompted a couple of stops.

Cows along the Farwell Canyon Road
It was getting dark by the time we got back to the small Doc English Bluff Ecological Reserve, but Sharon said that the steep hike to the top of the bluff offered superb views, and she was right. There was only time to snap a few shots and look briefly and unsuccessfully for a unique rock formation she told me about (she waited at the car), and by the time I got down at about 7:15, it was dark.

We had plans to do a bit more touring the next morning and visit the local animal shelter, but a call from home caused me to cancel those plans and head straight home, though home was 1,850 km (1,150 mi) away yet. It had been a wonderful 20 hours, though.

BC RVing: Exploring Wells Gray Provincial Park

The last-minute decision to make the fairly long detour to Wells Gray Provincial Park resulted in one of the most memorable 24 hours of the trip. Established on November 28, 1939, the 541,516 hectare (1,338,115 acre) park offers superb opportunities to see spectacular canyons and waterfalls as well as wilderness canoeing/boating, hiking and horseback trips. Only a small portion of the park, which has 39 named waterfalls, can be accessed by road.

I arrived at the Wells Gray Park Visitor Information Centre at Clearwater in a cold, heavy rain at 11:30 on Friday, October 2nd, day 24 of the trip. As I mentioned in my last post, I arrived thinking that I’d unhook the Tracker to explore the park with, but the very friendly staff at the centre said that wasn’t necessary, that there was good camping up in the park that would make a perfect base for seeing the park.

Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Roads go into the park from the west (from 100 Mile House) and east (from Blue River), but the main access road, the one I used, is the Clearwater Valley Road from Clearwater.

Clearwater Valley Road  to Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
My first stop was at the Spahats Falls viewing area, which has a huge parking lot. There were only 2 other vehicles there, and the bathrooms were closed – these have flush toilets and the water has been shut off to prevent freezing.

Bathrooms at Spahats Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
From the parking lot, it’s a 5-minute walk through the forest to the waterfall and canyon viewing area, where a long fenced path leads to a viewing deck perched on the edge of the canyon.

Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
With clouds and fog, my first view of the Spahats Creek canyon was perhaps even more impressive than it would be on a sunny day.

Spahats Creek canyon, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Spahats Falls is 73 meters (240 feet) high and 9 meters (30 feet) wide. According to Roland Neave’s “Exploring Wells Gray Park”, Spahats is the First Nations term for bear and the stream was long known as Bear Creek. When the first accurate topographical map of the Clearwater Valley was published in 1953, it labelled the stream as “Bear Creek” and the falls as “Spahats (Bear) Creek Falls”. By the late 1960s, “Spahats” had become an accepted alternative due to the large number of Bear creeks in British Columbia and was officially adopted.

Spahats Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
A look back at the main Spahats Falls viewing deck. It would have been an interesting job to install the fencing and build that deck!

Spahats Falls viewing deck, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Back on the Clearwater Valley Road, a tiny sign marks the viewing area for very impressive Third Canyon. This is the canyon above the road, from the road bridge – it’s hard to see just how deep the canyon is. On the other (downstream) side of the road, the canyon is 80 meters (262 feet) deep.

Third Canyon, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
The trail to Dawson Falls was my next stop. This parking lot is not big-rig friendly. Luckily there were only 3 other vehicles, but if there was any indication of this on the road, I would have gone to the campground and unhooked the Tracker first.

Dawson Falls parking lot, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
A view of the park road crossing the Murtle River, from the Dawson Falls trail.

The park road crosses the Murtle River in Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Dawson Falls, on the Murtle River, is 18 meters (59 feet) high and 107 meters (351 feet) wide.

Dawson Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
There are some blocked trails leading down to the Murtle River – the fact that they’re blocked made me want to go down to see why, of course :)

Blocked trail to the Murtle River, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Another view of the park road crossing the Murtle River.

The park road crossing the Murtle River, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Pyramid Campground, sometimes called the Dawson Falls Campground, would be my home for the night. It has 32 sites, and although it closed on September 30th, was not gated. Wikipedia says that the campground is “seldom full as mosquitoes are abundant” but that’s not a problem in October.

Pyramid Campground, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
There was nothing at the campground information and registration area to indicate that the park was closed and paying the $18 fee wasn’t necessary, but the staff at the visitor centre in Clearwater had told me that was the case.

RV at Pyramid Campground, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Not finished with the one-lane bridge across the Murtle River yet, I took the Tracker back to it and did some wandering.

Murtle River bridge, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC

Murtle River bridge, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
There are some potholes below the bridge. These are caused by rocks swirling around in depressions, eventually eroding these potholes which can be of any size. Sometimes the rounded rock that formed them is still in the bottom.

Potholes along the Murtle River in Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
At 141 meters (462 feet), Helmcken Falls is the highest waterfall in the park and the fourth highest in Canada. For several minutes the fog completely obscured the falls – I talked to 3 Scandinavian men who had just spent half an hour hoping for the fog to clear, with no better luck than this shot shows.

Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
This sign at Helmcken Falls shows the park’s 3 main waterfalls compared to Niagara. The reported heights and widths of these waterfalls vary a fair bit depending on where you’re reading them.

Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
I decided to drive up to the end of the road, the boat launch at Km 68.5 (Mie 42.6). Just north of the Helmcken Falls turnoff, the pavement ends. The gravel road was all in pretty good condition, though.

Road in Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
The coffee shop on Clearwater Lake beside the campground was reported to be open, and 2 signs on the building said that it was or at least should be, but the sign on the door said “Closed” and the lights were off. Too bad – I really had a craving for a coffee and a piece of pie.

The coffee shop on Clearwater Lake in Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
The Clearwater Lake campground was also closed. Cute shower sign :)

Clearwater Lake campground, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
I had made few stops on the drive to Clearwater Lake, planning on a coffee stop and then to make lots of stops on the way back to the motorhome. The first stop was Bailey’s Chute on the Clearwater River. A few weeks ago, there would have been spawning salmon jumping here.

Bailey's Chute on the Clearwater River, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
All of the attractions in Wells Gray require at least a short walk, and all of the trails that I saw are excellent. The one at Bailey’s Chute has some impressive cedar trees.

Trail to Bailey's Chute, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Fall colours brightened up all of the trails, even in the light rain that fell sporadically for much of the day.

Trail to Bailey's Chute, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
The small Redspring picnic area is in a lovely spot along the Clearwater River.

Redspring picnic area, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
The Clearwater River at the Redspring picnic area.

Clearwater River at the Redspring picnic area, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
We had a very quiet night at the Pyramid Campground, and were all in bed early as usual. Saturday, October 3rd (day 25 of the trip) began early – I left the dogs in the motorhome and was back at Helmcken Falls by 07:00 (sunrise was at 07:18). It was a bit chilly, with the temperature at about +3°C (37°F). These were the views I wanted to complete my visit to the park.

Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC

Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
The view down the canyon below Helmcken Falls.

The canyon below Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Satisfied with the photographic results at Helmcken Falls, I went back to the campground, fixed breakfast for everybody, hooked the Tracker up, and we were back on the road just after 09:00.

Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Before leaving Wells Gray, we made one more stop back at Spahats Falls, to improve on the foggy photos I’d gotten the day before.

Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC

The destination for that day was a friend’s place near Horse Lake, east of 100 Mile House.

Road trip to get a new puppy

I’m not nearly finished showing you the places I visited on my epic BC road trip, but yesterday our family expanded, and I’d like to introduce our new puppy, Tucker, to you before going back to the trip.

This was the photo that started the process. We’ve looked at a lot of dogs over the past few weeks, but none spoke to us. Cathy saw “Sundance” on the Yukon Animal Rescue Network (YARN) Facebook page, and got “the feeling”, then phoned me. I had the same response – this was the dog we wanted to join our family. I filled out an application immediately, and sat back and waited.

Puppy up for adoption in Watson Lake, Yukon

Approval for the adoption was delayed a bit, as a woman had said that she wanted him. Luckily for us, she never sent an application in, and on Saturday we got a call that he was ours.

Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, I was on the road early so I could make the 850-kilometer (528-mile) drive to the shelter in Watson Lake and be back in time to have Thanksgiving dinner in Whitehorse with our best friends. At 07:45, I crossed the Teslin River bridge on the Alaska Highway.

Dawn on the Teslin River, Yukon
Fifteen minutes later, a colourful sunrise brightened up my day even more as I approached the village of Teslin.

Sunrise along Teslin Lake, Yukon
Sundance with his brother Cassidy. Cassidy had been adopted a few days before by a family from Whitehorse who was waiting for someone to offer to bring him to Whitehorse. I was happy to be able to do that for them.

Puppies ready for adoption at the YARN shelter in Watson Lake, Yukon
At 12:20, we were all ready to get into the Tracker and make the trip to new lives – completely new lives for the puppies, and an even better life for me and my family.

Puppies being adopted at the YARN shelter in Watson Lake, Yukon
The boys weren’t entirely happy with what was going on, and made their concerns clearly heard! :)

Puppies on their way to new homes in the Yukon
It didn’t take long before the hum of the tires put the puppies to sleep, and I could enjoy the drive in peace. I had the rear-view mirror set to keep an eye on them.

Transporting them together no doubt made the trip easier for all of us, as they had each other for comfort. They slept cuddled up in various ways for much of the trip.

Puppies on their way to new homes in the Yukon
Just before 3:00, I stopped at the Morley River recreation area to give the puppies some water, dinner and a run.

Puppies being fed on their way to new homes in the Yukon
At 8 weeks, these may be the youngest puppies I’ve ever taken care of, and they were such fun! They have very different personalities – Cassidy is more cuddly and vocal, while his brother is more adventurous. One of my grand-daughters, Kylie, had suggested that we name our puppy “Tucker”. Cathy and I immediately liked the name, and by the time we left Morley River, Tucker was his name.

8-week-old puppies running

I phoned Cassidy’s new family from Teslin, and they agreed to meet me at our friends’ home to get him. They were there when I arrived just after 5:30, and I said good-bye to the puppy now called Emmott.

Tucker was a big hit immediately – he was the perfect guest except for one little accident.

Puppy Tucker in his new home
Bella getting to know her new puppy. As expected, she wasn’t too sure what to make of him, but both she and Monty were great with him. What a superb way to celebrate Thanksgiving – a wonderful dinner with close friends, celebrating Tucker’s arrival.

Bella getting to know her new puppy

Last night was much easier than I expected it might be, as it was probably the first night that Tucker had ever been alone. There was a lot of noise from the kennel beside the bed, but it didn’t last long. When he fussed at 02:00, I took him outside and he peed immediately. At 06:00, he fussed again, and got both jobs done right away on our short walk outside.

This morning, we had our first family walk, and it went well beyond anything we could have hoped for. Bella had been great with him all morning, playing with and disciplining him, and even trying let him nurse from her at one point. She’s very quickly getting to know how hard she can play with him.

Bella and her new puppy playing
Monty’s only limit is when Tucker jumps at his face – that gets a growl. As you seen from Monty’s posture in this photo, though, he’s accepting him.

Bella and Monty with their new puppy
Our new family. After me helping him onto the lower deck when he couldn’t make the leap, Tucker climbed the stairs to the upper deck himself.

Bella and Monty with their new puppy
When Tucker couldn’t get down the stairs and cried for a minute, Bella went up and guided him down. This is going to be so wonderful for all of us. We have no idea how long Monty has left – it isn’t long, though, and Tucker will help us all through these difficult days as well as the journey ahead.

Bella teaches her new puppy to go down stairs

BC RVing: Kelowna to Salmon Arm and Wells Gray Park

It’s now Saturday, October 10th, and I’m home in Whitehorse. We got in on Thursday night after a long, dreary day that began with freezing rain. But between Kelowna and Whitehorse, we saw some wonderful places that I want to show you, so let’s step back a few days.

On Thursday, October 1st (day 23 of the trip), I started north from West Kelowna at about 11:30, and an hour later was out of the congested Kelowna area, on Highway 97. My destination for the night was Salmon Arm, only 123 kilometers (76 miles) away.

BC Highway 97 north of Kelowna
Nearing Vernon, the country dries up considerably and has a very different feel to it.

BC Highway 97 south of Vernon
Located near the north end of the Okanagan Valley, Vernon has experienced one of the fastest growths of any community in Canada over the past couple of decades. When I was a kid, it was mostly known for it’s large Army cadet camp – the camp, which I was passing through when I shot this photo, is hardly noticeable anymore.

Vernon, BC
North of Vernon, I stayed straight when Hwy 97 turned left, and Hwys 97A and then 97B got smaller and smaller, with less and less traffic – just what I wanted :)

BC Hwy 97B south of Salmon Arm
I had extreme sciatica pain the night before and had hardly slept at all, so by the time I reached Salmon Arm I was exhausted. The Salmon Arm curling club wasn’t on my GPS but I eventually found it by asking a couple of locals while I was walking the dogs at the fair grounds. A fellow that I drove Yellow Cabs with in Whitehorse in the mid-1990s is the head ice tech there, and after finding Glen, we went out for a excellent dinner. Glen was a good tour guide as well as explaining the science and art of making curling ice, and he okayed with the club manager for me to stay overnight in their parking lot.

RV camped at the Salmon Arm Curling Club in BC
I was in bed early, but by 06:00 was in the curling club to see Glen and his assistant pouring the next layer of water as they built the season’s starting ice.

Salmon Arm Curling Club in BC
The club seems to be a vibrant part of Salmon Arm, and I can see why my friend is enjoying his life there.

Salmon Arm Curling Club in BC
By 07:30 I was ready to hit the road, though my plans for the day were pretty vague. A planned visit that day nearby had been cancelled, so I had a day to spare and no strong idea yet where to spend it.

Salmon Arm Curling Club in BC
Dropping down from Uptown Salmon Arm to Downtown on Highway 1.

Once on the road, which wanders along a series of lakes and the Thompson River, I soon decided to head west to Kamloops, then north on 5 to a road that I hadn’t been on in a few decades, Highway 24, which would take me west to my next destination. This photo was shot a few k east of Kamloops. As BC’s highways get bigger, they get less fun to “tourist” on as pullouts and rest areas are discarded in favour of more driving lanes.

Highway 1 looking west towards Kamloops, BC
Highway 5 north of Kamloops soon quiets down, and in that calm, my plans changed again – Wells Gray Park would now be my destination for the night.

BC Hwy 5 north of Kamloops
The large Fishtrap Rest Area, located 50 km (31 mi) north of Kamloops, was the right place at the right time – reaching it at 10:00, the kids and I both need a long walk. Although I didn’t know about it until writing this post, BC Highways has recently produced an excellent new interactive map of rest areas that even says whether or not they can be used by large rigs.

Fishtrap Rest Area on BC Hwy 5
It’s not obvious when you stop, but the Fishtrap Rest Area is in quite a scenic spot above the North Thompson River, the largest tributary of the Fraser River.

Fishtrap Rest Area on BC Hwy 5
An old forest fire burn area across the river from the rest area.

Old forest fire burn seen from the Fishtrap Rest Area on BC Hwy 5
A few minutes after leaving the rest area, it started raining, and the further north we went, the harder the rain came down.

At 11:30 I parked at the Wells Gray Park Visitor Information Centre at Clearwater, 233 km (145 mi) from the curling club. I arrived thinking that I’d unhook the Tracker to explore the park with. The very friendly staff at the centre said that wasn’t necessary, though, that there was good camping up in the park that would make a good base for seeing the park.

Wells Gray Park is simply awesome, and the next post will show you why.

BC RVing: 6 nights in West Kelowna

When I last talked to you, on day 17 of the trip (Friday, September 25th), we had just arrived in West Kelowna. In a few hours from now, on day 23 (Thursday, October 1st), I’ll be starting the 2,600 kilometer (1,616 mile) drive home. The days in the Kelowna area have mostly been family time, so I don’t have much touristy stuff to tell you about, and there are only 15 photos.

The West Bay Beach Resort turned out to be a very good choice for us. The sites are fairly large, it’s very quiet, and despite the fact that dogs aren’t allowed on the beach, a large unused field provides decent dog-walking. It’s a short drive to the Gellatly Dog Beach, where we went every day, and to my Dad’s apartment.

West Bay Beach Resort RV campground
If you have dogs, you can’t get one of the lakefront sites, which are quite wonderful, and a steal at $38 per night. This is the last of 7 campgrounds that used to be along the lake here – a woman showed up just after we got here for her 40th year here! A redevelopment application to replace it with condos is well along, though, and the surveyors were here yesterday, so this may be its final year of operation. Kelowna is becoming more and more both RV and dog unfriendly.

Lakefront sites at West Bay Beach Resort RV campground
The dog-walking field I mentioned is about 10 acres, and the Canada geese that hang out there and in adjoining pastures were a bonus for Bella. The resort’s llama and alpaca were only close enough to the fences to be interesting once, but Monty was particularly fascinated by them.

West Bay Beach Resort RV campground
I’d been looking forward for a very long time to getting Bella and my sister’s dog together, and they both certainly got some great exercise during their times together :)

Shelties playing
Winery tastings are usually a big deal for Cathy and I, but we only went to 2 this time – Little Straw and Beaumont’s. We added a case of assorted wines from each to take home, though.

Vineyards in West Kelowna

On Sunday night, Cathy had to board an Air North flight to go home and get back to her job while the kids and I continue our solo journey.

I had decided to expand my agricultural-product horizons to include apples, and to try some good ciders while I was down this time.

Apples in Kelowna
I started with “I don’t like cider”, but hoping that that was just because I’d never tasted any good ones. That turned out to be true. The first 2 cideries that my sister and I went to, Ward’s and Double Cross, are producing some excellent ones, and I’ve packed some to take home for Cathy. Compared what I’ve had before, these are apple wines – in fact Double Cross makes ice ciders that are like sipping brandy.

Ward's Hard Cider, Kelowna
One of the things that I needed to buy as insurance that I’ll be able to get the motorhome back to Whitehorse is a set of tire chains. I started at Kal Tire, and the young man I talked to there not only used to live in Whitehorse, he used to play hockey and almost certainly rode on my bus for some out-of-town games. Small world! Anyway, he phoned Lordco just a few miles away, and they had what I need. Like any insurance, I hope that I don’t need to use them, but it’s a very good $270 “policy”.

Cable chains for my motorhome
Whenever possible during my Kelowna trips, I drive down Highway 97 to Peachland to see a woman who has been a good friend since we met in White Rock in 1967.

BC Highway 97 south to Peachland
The last time we met for lunch, Jean suggested that we try a different place than usual, and the Blind Angler Grill was so good that that’s where we met this time as well. The location, to start with, is superb.

Blind Angler Grill, Peachland, BC
And the view from our table was stunning. Add 22°C air and it became perfect :) Oh yes, the food – we hadn’t seen their breakfast menu before, but my seafood omelette was both unique and excellent.

The view from Blind Angler Grill, Peachland, BC
I spent a few minutes walking along Peachland’s beautiful waterfront before heading back to Dad’s.

Peachland, BC
Dad lives at the Westwood Retirement Resort, and he’s finally admitted that it’s wonderful :) Among the many great features is the rooftop terrace with a gas firepit and a killer view.

Westwood Retirement Resort in West Kelowna, BC
Monty and Bella have had a ball at Gellatly Dog Beach. “Wanna go to the beach?” might just be Monty’s favourite question now. I was confident for quite a while that he’d see the Yukon again, but he’s having some very rough spells the past 3 days, so now I’m mostly just hoping and doing what I can.

Gellatly Dog Beach, West Kelowna, BC
Monty’s energetic bursts are very short, but Bella is the Eveready Bunny when there are other dogs to play with. She’s swimming more and more each day, learning from the water dogs she sees and tries to imitate – it’s great fun to watch!

Gellatly Dog Beach, West Kelowna, BC

So that’s the Kelowna area. I’ll be spending the next 4 days stopping to visit family and friends between Salmon Arm and Williams Lake, and with a couple of other small detours along the way, should be back in Whitehorse on about October 9th.

Alberta/BC RVing: Cochrane to West Kelowna

On days 16 and 17 of the trip (Thursday and Friday, September 24 and 25), we drove from Cochrane to West Kelowna with a detour into Lake Louise, a total of 610 km (379 miles).

Before we leave Cochrane, I want to show you some more photos of the Bow Rivers Edge Campground, which as I mentioned before, is our new “best-ever” commercial campground. A bonus to us is that the campground is owned by the Rotary and Lions Clubs of Cochrane, and all the profits are put back into the community through grants and bursaries for community-based organizations.

Bow Rivers Edge Campground in Cochrane, Alberta
There are 144 sites, at $40 per night for pull-through, full service 30-amp sites. All of the facilities were extremely well maintained.

Bow Rivers Edge Campground in Cochrane, Alberta
The sites are a decent size, though I couldn’t easily get into the bays on the driver’s side because of the privacy bushes. Although we didn’t use the firepit, it’s nice to have one in case we did want a fire one night.

Bow Rivers Edge Campground in Cochrane, Alberta
We left the campground just before the 11:00 checkout time, but then decided to go for a good breakfast at Smitty’s so didn’t hit the road until after noon.

Alberta Highway 1 west of Cochrane
Lac des Arcs, a widening of the Bow River, was a good spot for a short dog walk. A huge and ever-growing cement plant, the Lafarge Exshaw Plant, has dominated the view across the lake for my entire life (to the right of the view shown here) – it has cut up and crushed pretty much an entire mountain during that time.

Lac des Arcs, a widening of the Bow River
We wanted to stop at Lake Louise for an hour or so, so paid the $19.20 daily fee to Parks Canada at the Canmore gate on Highway 1.

Banff park gate on Highway 1 at Canmore, Alberta
Cathy and I would like to spend an entire summer wandering slowly through the Canadian Rockies. Some day…

The Trans Canada Highway through the Canadian Rockies
Castle Mountain, 2,766 meters high (9,075 feet), dominates the view for many miles. From 1946 to 1979 it was known as Mount Eisenhower, and that’s still what I automatically call it.

Castle Mountain, a.k.a. Mount Eisenhower
While the girls curl up and try to sleep, Monty’s preferred position is still snuggled up beside me, in lead dog mode :)

My husky Monty helping navigate the RV
If you’re driving anything large, don’t take it up to the Lake Louise parking lot if at all possible – there really isn’t room for anything longer than about 25 feet. I should have paid attention to the large electric “Limited Parking” sign, disconnected down in the townsite, and taken just the Tracker.

Large RV at Lake Louise, Alberta
Lake Louise is stunning – this is one of the iconic views in the Rockies. There were dozens of canoes scattered across the lake.

Lake Louise, Alberta
Looking back at the world famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, where even off-season, lake view rooms start at $419, lake view suites at $769.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, Alberta
We’re always happy to let tourists pose with “a real husky!”, and Monty is always gentle and tolerant :)

Tourists posing with a husky at Lake Louise, Alberta
In 1899, the Canadian Pacific Railway brought the first Swiss Mountain guides to the Canadian Rockies, and a new form of tourism was born in an area that 6 years later would become part of the Province of Alberta. This monument was erected on the centennial of the arrival of those guides.

Swiss guides centennial monument at Lake Louise, Alberta
Half an hour west of Lake Louise just before 4:00 pm, we had a lengthy delay at an impressive piece of cliff-blasting. At the upper left, a man can be seen putting explosives into holes that had been drilled. We didn’t get to see a blast, though :(

Cliff blasting along the Trans Canada Highway in the Rockies
By 5:00 pm (we gained an hour crossing back into BC) were all due for a long break at the Rogers Pass National Historic Site, where the Trans Canada Highway was opened. On September 3rd, 1962, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and representatives from all ten provinces attended the opening ceremonies. The pass is 1,330 meters high (4,364 feet). The gun is one of the ones that used to be used for avalanche control, but they’ve all been replaced by newer ones.

Rogers Pass National Historic Site, BC
A closer look at the Swiss Glacier above Rogers Pass, with Hermit Mountain (3,110 m/ 10,203 ft high) behind and to the right of it.

Swiss Glacier and Hermit Mountain above Rogers Pass
At the eastern end of the historic site is a section of abandoned Canadian Pacific rail line. On March 4, 1910, an avalanche killed 62 railway workers near this spot, and in 1916, after a total of more than 200 people had been killed on the Rogers Pass section, the line was abandoned after the 8 km (5.0 mi) Connaught Tunnel under the pass was completed.

Abandoned Rails Trail in Rogers Pass
The 1-km Abandoned Rails Trail was closed for some reason.

Abandoned Rails Trail in Rogers Pass
At about 6:30, just before sunset, we stopped for the night at a rest area at Craigellachie, west of Revelstoke. It was here that the “Last Spike” of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven by Sir Donald Smith, a director of the railway, on November 7, 1885. Pinched between a busy highway and a busy railway, it wasn’t a peaceful spot, and neither of us slept well. We didn’t expect it to be quiet, and in fact chose it so we could see some trains, but I hadn’t expected a semi to park beside us and keep his engine running most of the night.

Rest area at Craigellachie, BC
It started raining very early in the morning, and got steadily harder, but I went out and got the first of the photos I wanted of the site and trains, which went by about every 15 minutes. The building in this photo is a gift shop run in the summer by the Revelstoke Railway Museum. The first bus full of Asian tourists stopped in at 07:20 (!), and several more came through before we got back on the road.

Craigellachie historic site, BC
The next photo, shot from a caboose sitting there, shows the Last Spike monument and an east-bound freight train.

Last Spike monument at the Craigellachie historic site, BC
The rain continued even as we reached the north end of “the Sunny Okanagan Valley”, but became scattered as we neared our destination.

Rain in the Okanagan
For our campground for the next few days, we had decided to continue past Kelowna to avoid the congestion that so often chokes the roads. This multi-km jam across the floating bridge was caused by an accident on the main highway through the city.

Traffic jam on the Kelowna bridge

We were in for a surprise when we got to Todd’s RV Park in Peachland, however. With generally good reviews on TripAdvisor and not having seen anything to the contrary, we showed up to get a site for 4 nights, and were surprised to find a very tight, very old campground. We were even more surprised when they said that we couldn’t stay there because we have 2 huskies! Huskies are among about 10 “strong jawed breeds” that aren’t allowed at the campground – the fellow on duty didn’t know why the rule is there, and apologized profusely. As it turned out, I’m glad they did turn us away, because we got a much more suitable campground in West Kelowna for the same price ($38).

Going back to West Kelowna, we were settled in at the West Bay Beach Resort by 2:30, and were at Dad’s place not longer after.

View from our RV at West Bay Beach Resort in West Kelowna

We’re now in Kelowna for a few days. Although Cathy flies back to Whitehorse on Sunday night, I’ll be staying to see more family and do some writing, then will start a fairly slow wander home.

Family Time around Cochrane

Starting on day 13, Monday, September 21, we had 3 full days to spend with my daughter and grand-daughters from our base at the Bow Rivers Edge Campground in Cochrane, which is our new “best-ever” commercial campground.

Figuring out everyone’s work and school schedules was a bit daunting, but the first day, I wanted to show Cathy the prettiest park I’d found in the area, and then spend some photography time with Andrea.

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park is just a couple of kilometers off the direct route between our campground and Andrea’s home – the blue sign pointing to it can be seen in this photo of Big Hill Springs Road (Hwy 567).

Big Hill Springs Road (Hwy 567), Alberta
The series of little waterfalls are the main feature in the park for me, but there are also some wonderful tufa formations along the creek. This would be a superb park on a hot day, but apparently it gets very crowded on hot weekends, whereas we only saw 2 other people.

Waterfall at Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, Alberta

Waterfall at Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, Alberta
Even a short walk at the park is excellent, but walking the entire circuit, 2.3 km, is even better, and climbing the 20-meter hill is a good way to start the day.

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, Alberta
A few minutes after noon, Cathy took the dogs back to the RV, while Andrea and I headed south in her car. This view is looking down to Cochrane on Hwy 22.

Cochrane, Alberta
A few minutes south of Cochrane, we went by this building under construction. An odd hotel? No, Andrea said that this is a single-family home, and when we got back to the RV Park, I found that it Googled well. This mansion, set on 80 acres, is 11,000 square feet with a 9-car garage. Comments about it online (including mine) are not complimentary. Being built right beside a major highway instead of in a secluded spot on the acreage, this is simply a monument to narcissism. It’s even being built on the cheap, if the stated value of $3,159,594 is correct.

Mansion being built south of Cochrane, Alberta
Highway 22 gets very pretty as you get into Kananaskis country.

Highway 22 in Kananaskis country, Alberta
It was Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area that Andrea wanted me to see. The very popular picnic area was largely destroyed by a flood in June 2013, to the point that it’s not going to be rebuilt. Some 17,000 cubic meters of land above the viewpoint was washed away. High River, Canmore, and Calgary suffered extensive damage in the same series of floods. The first photo shows one of the destroyed picnic tables that still stick out of the gravel above the falls.

Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta
The viewpoint and walking trails over the waterfall were’t damaged by the floods, and it’s still a popular place to come even without picnic facilities.

Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta
The main waterfall.

Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta
Below the falls, some large caves have been eroded into the banks.

Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta
The amount of damage is quite impressive, with several paved trails now ending in high banks. Looking through photos in Google images, it’s a very different place than it used to be.

Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta
As we left Elbow Falls, I asked Andrea what was further up the highway. She hadn’t been that way before, and just a mile or so away, we found an excellent series of beaver dams with an interpretive trail. It’s off the main river and hadn’t been damaged by the flood.

Beaver pond west of Bragg Creek, Alberta
The beavers are very busy, with very active “logging haul trails” down the slopes above the ponds, and a new dam being built right across the trail.

Beaver dam west of Bragg Creek, Alberta
The next day was much calmer, filled with quality dog and family time. The leash-free park along the Bow River was so perfect for us.

Leash-free dog park along the Bow River at Cochrane, Alberta
Our site at the RV park was a wonderful place to just chill.

Bow Rivers Edge Campground in Cochrane, Alberta
I got to take part in a surprise event, helping Andrea buy a new car in Airdrie. My part was largely telling her that she really needed to buy a car that she loved, not that she was just making do with :) (as well as watching over the negotiations). This photo was taken a couple of days later as she was taking delivery of her new Honda Civic.

Taking delivery of a 2015 Honda Civic
Back to Cochrane, the RV was also a wonderful place to host a 15th-birthday barbecue for my twin grand-daughters Kaitlyn and Kylie!

Birthday barbecue at Bow Rivers Edge Campground in Cochrane, Alberta
“Surely you’re not going to eat all of that birthday cake by yourself!” :)

Bella and 2 of her sisters at the leash-free park along the Bow River in Cochrane, Alberta
For many weeks we’d been looking forward to meeting another part of Bella’s family. She was one of a litter of 6 puppies that was rescued from Morley by the dedicated folks at Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue, and we keep in touch with the families of other of those puppies, including Kim, who adopted 2 of the girls. On Wednesday morning, Kim and her Mom came to Cochrane and we had 2 hours of play with the 3 girls, and Monty took part in the fun occasionally.

Bella and 2 of her sisters at the leash-free park along the Bow River in Cochrane, Alberta
This is Luna with Bella – Luna is the only one of the litter with that colouring, but seeing them like this makes it easier to believe that they’re sisters.

Bella and 2 of her sisters at the leash-free park along the Bow River in Cochrane, Alberta
Koda play-bowing with Bella and Monty. This was the first time we’d been downriver far enough to find this beach, which is beautiful!

Bella and 2 of her sisters at the leash-free park along the Bow River in Cochrane, Alberta
Our official portrait of the day – Bella, me, Luna, Kim, and Koda.

Bella and 2 of her sisters at the leash-free park along the Bow River in Cochrane, Alberta
This is the photo that best shows the fun we all had. I am so looking forward to being able to do it again some day, maybe even with more of the pups from the litter.

Bella and 2 of her sisters at the leash-free park along the Bow River in Cochrane, Alberta
Kaitlyn asked us to stay an extra night so we could watch her play volleyball. It was good fun to watch – I love being in Grampa mode :)

Girls volleyball in Airdrie, Alberta

On Thursday, September 24th, we’d start the 2-day drive to West Kelowna to see my Dad.