Day 7: An Icefields Parkway Morning

When I went to bed at the Bow Lake viewpoint on the Icefields Parkway Wednesday night, I had a comfortable feeling that I was almost home. Only another 1,400 miles to go.

A few minutes after 05:00, I went for a bit of a wander to get the blood flowing.
Dawn at Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Alberta
What an amazing place to start the day. And I had it all to myself – there was no sound except distant waterfalls.
Dawn at Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Alberta
The huge expanse of glass on the front of the motorhome gathered a heavy load of bugs that had to be washed off before the sun same up.
Washing the motorhome window along the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
The view north from Bow Summit at 05:51. I pulled off on the shoulder of the road there for a couple of minutes to soak in it.
Bow Summit, Icefields Parkway, Alberta
I found myself stopping often as the rising sun hit the peaks and glaciers around me. It’s amazing that some of the hanging glaciers stick to those cliffs.
Hanging glacier along the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
Icefields Parkway, Alberta
I stopped at the North Saskatchewan River crossing to get photos looking upriver into the rising run…
Icefields Parkway, Alberta
..and downriver.
Icefields Parkway, Alberta
Icefields Parkway, Alberta

I reached Saskatchewan Crossing Lodge at 6:30, making it a good choice for breakfast. A very basic buffet was $18.50, but it provided the fuel I needed for what I knew would be a long day.

Mt. Saskatchewan. To the right is a spire known as Cleopatra’s Needle, or Lighthouse Tower (marked by the arrow at the top).
Icefields Parkway, Alberta
Parker Ridge.
Icefields Parkway, Alberta
Reaching the Columbia Icefield just after 08:00, I decided to go for a walk up the short trail to the Athabasca Glacier (one of the 6 main glaciers that flow from the icefield) – the trail can be seen at the lower left of the next photo. If I’d ever been on that trail before, it had been decades ago.
Columbia Icefield, Alberta
It’s quite remarkable how far the glacier has retreated over the past 90-odd years. This sign notes the position of the glacier’s face in 1992 – it’s several hundred feet from the current position.
Columbia Icefield, Alberta
There are many signs warning of the danger of going beyond the roped-off area. This one tells the particularly sad story of a 9-year-old boy who went only a few meters beyond on July 4, 2001. He plunged into a deep, hidden crevasse, and died of hypothermia before rescuers could reach him. Strangely, I can find nothing online about this tragedy, using several search parameters. [Edit: one of my readers did find it – the very short report on the death of Naofumi Fukushima, a visitor from Japan, can be read here.]
Death on the Columbia Icefield, Alberta
These people were taking measurements of something.
Researchers at the Columbia Icefield, Alberta
Only a dozen years ago, the glacier was still gouging its way across this granite.
Columbia Icefield, Alberta
When I got back to the parking lot at 08:40, it was starting to get quite busy, and many people were gearing up at this car for an Ice Walk.
Ice Walk at the Columbia Icefield, Alberta
As the highway got busier and wildfire smoke limited visibility more and more, I quit making photo stops. There seemed to be almost as many motorcycles on the highway as there were any other type of vehicle.
Motorcycles on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
I’d be seeing my son and his family in a couple of weeks, so didn’t even stop in to see them. Right at 11:00, I crossed the Athabaska River on Highway 40 north of Hinton.
Athabaska River on Highway 40 north of Hinton, Alberta
It’s possible to get stuck behind some heavy/slow loads on Highway 40…
Alberta Hwy 40
…but more and more multi-lane sections are being built to minimize those delays.
Alberta Highway 40
I powered through to Dawson Creek, only stopping for a final load of cheap Alberta gasoline at Beaverlodge. At 5:30, my first Dawson Creek stop was at Stuie’s Diner for dinner, then the obligatory “Mile 0” photo – the start of the road I live on, with only 900 miles to go. As you can see, the wildfire smoke had gotten very thick – it was eye-and-throat-burning strong.
My new motorhome at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway
The wildfire smoke thinned rapidly after Fort St.John, but there was still enough to produce a dramatic evening sun at 8:17, just before it dropped into a layer of clouds.
Sunset on the Alaska Highway
Just before 10:00 pm, I parked at a truck brake check at the top of the long, steep hill south of the Sikanni Chief River. It’s not a great spot to camp, but I expected that this would be a fairly short sleep, and the truck noise doesn’t bother me.
Trucks at a brake check stop along the Alaska Highway


Day 6: Driving through Montana & Alberta

There were 2 primary focuses for Wednesday – first, get the motorhome paperwork done at the border (and I had no idea how long that would take), and meet my daughter and grand-daughters for dinner. Beyond, it was just “see what happens”, as usual.

I was in bed early last night, and by 06:15 was well north of Great Falls on I-15. I passed through a couple of new oil/gas regions, reinforcing my feeling that many of the rigs at the campsite last night had been workers in that industry.
I-15 north of Great Falls
Sunshine on vast wheat fields, and the Rockies in the distance – what a gorgeous scene.
Montana - sunshine on vast wheat fields, and the Rockies in the distance
The Marias River Valley south of Shelby.
Marias River Valley, Montana
The number of prisons I saw really surprised me. This is the Crossroads Correctional Facility near Shelby. The only private prison in Montana, it houses 664 men.
Crossroads Correctional Facility near Shelby, Montana
There are some intriguing mountains off to the northeast of Shelby.
Mountains to the northeast of Shelby, Montana
The little town of Sunburst has a lovely setting just 8 miles from the border.
Sunburst, Montana
This is the border crossing at Sweetgrass, Montana / Coutts, Alberta. It’s obviously a very new facility – the old brick building to the right, now boarded up, was a standard Canada Customs structure for a few decades. I had all my paperwork in order, including receipts and a summary sheet for all the purchases I made beyond the motorhome, and the border crossing only took an hour in total – 10 minutes on the American side to ensure that the vehicle was clear and legal, and 50 minutes on the Canadian side for a few forms and payment of $2,700 (5% federal tax on the motorhome).
Border crossing at Sweetgrass, Montana / Coutts, Alberta
Welcome to Alberta, at 09:30. I went into Coutts expecting to find a cafe for breakfast, but most businesses are boarded up, and there was nothing.
Welcome to Alberta sign at Coutts
A few minutes after 10:00, I turned into Stirling for 2 reasons – first, breakfast, and second, I saw a sign for a railway museum. No luck with grub, but a gravel road led north of town past wheat fields…
… to the Galt Historic Railway Park. I eventually found a staff member, who went and found a young woman who would give me a tour for $5. Excellent 🙂
Galt Historic Railway Park - Stirling, Alberta
In 1890, Sir Alexander Galt built the narrow gauge Great Falls & Canada Railway from Lethbridge, Alberta (a city he founded) to Great Falls as part of his coal operation. This station was built straddling the international boundary line, and the design is quite interesting, as it included Customs offices for both countries, and a 2-person jail. It was moved to this location and restored in 2000.
Galt Historic Railway Park - Stirling, Alberta
The tour was certainly one of the best $5 I’ve spent in a long time – the presentations in the museum, both physical and verbal, are very well done.
Galt Historic Railway Park - Stirling, Alberta
After the formal tour inside the station, I looked around the outside for a while. Included in the collection are several “speeders”, including this very early Fairmont.
Fairmont spdder at the Galt Historic Railway Park in Stirling, Alberta
My railway detour took over an hour, but by 12:30 I was back on the road to Calgary.
How can that not make you smile at least a little bit? 🙂
Smiley face on an Alberta barn
Ah yes, the Deerfoot through Calgary 🙁 This turned out to be a nasty 7-vehicle pileup, with a 3-ton truck, a Mustang convertible and a pickup all driven up high onto the concrete median. I texted my daughter several times as our dinner date got later and later.
Accident on the Deerfoot in Calary

Dinner was wonderful. Not only my daughter and grand-daughters, but my ex-wife and her husband from Australia as well. I’ll be seeing them all in a couple of weeks in Kelowna when my daughter gets married, but this was a great preview.

The sun made a beautiful exit from the sky as I neared the Rockies west of Cochrane at 7:30.
Sunset near Cochrane, Alberta
The new plan was to just camp on the side of the road somewhere for the night, possibly a little way up the Icefields Parkway.
The Trans Canada Highway east of Canmore
I thought about staying at this spot along the Trans Canada Highway near Canmore, but decided to continue on for a while – getting home as quickly as possible was the goal now. This was shot right at 9:00 pm.
The Rockies at night
The viewpoint at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, would be an awesome place to wake up. At 10:35 pm, I shot a few photos and went to bed.
Bow Lake at night


Day 5: Wandering through Idaho and Montana

Travel excites me. Especially largely-unplanned travel – I love not knowing what’s around the next corner, and being able to take detours on a whim. Tuesday was one of those days – not spectacular, but very special.

The well-equipped motorhome dash had an addition this morning, with a souvenir from the Snake River RV Park added to the Spot, the GPS, my faithful lead dog Nanook, and a visor 🙂 I slept like the dead the night before, and didn’t get back on the road until 07:30.
Motorhome dash with tools and toys

“Back on the road” had already gotten a change in meaning – rather than the fast way on I-15, I decided to go northeast on Route 20 for a peek at Yellowstone. Just a quick one, mind you 🙂

Yesterday it was an Alaska moving truck, today it was a Yukon sign (okay, they misspelled it but that’s okay) 🙂
Ucon, Idaho
I stopped a few times around Ashton to take photos.
Agriculture near Ashton, Idaho.
Barely visible through wildfire haze, the mountain range that includes The Three Tetons – originally Trois Tetons in French – meaning three breasts.
The Three Tetons
Just north of Ashton, I got delayed a bit by construction.
Construction on Idaho Route 20
Looking north on Route 20 from Island Park. The Idaho/Montana border is about 20 minutes ahead, but I didn’t see a sign noting it.
Island Park
Reaching West Yellowstone at 10:00, I quickly gave up any thoughts of seeing any of the park. There were hundreds of vehicles sitting still, and the park gates are quite a ways in yet.
Heavy traffic in West Yellowstone
Heading north on Highway 191, I made a U-turn and went back to the Yellowstone Airport, but there was no indication that scenic flights are done here. I took the side road into the West Yellowstone water bomber base, but there were no planes – probably all off fighting the Oregon and Washington fires.
West Yellowstone Fire Center sign
I turned west on the Hebgen Lake Road (U.S. Route 287), which turned out to be exceptionally interesting. I had stopped to read signs describing the largest earthquake ever recorded in the Rocky Mountains, which occurred on the night of August 17, 1959. A local stopped to show some people with him the information, and recommended that I take the self-guided auto tour and some of the walks, for which there were brochures available.
Hebgen Lake Road, Montana
The Hebgen Lake Earthquake measured 7.5 on the Richter scale, and killed 28 people.
Hebgen Lake Earthquake sign
I was 8 years old when the earthquake happened, and I have vague memories of the story, I think because it was mostly campers who were killed by a huge landslide and floodwaters.
Hebgen Lake Earthquake newspaper story
I went for a walk at a site called “The Lake That Tilted”, to the ruins of the Hilgard Lodge that was destroyed that night.
Ruins of the Hilgard Lodge, Montana
An old section of the highway, much of which was destroyed by the quake, landslides or floodwaters.
Old highway through the Hebgen Lake Earthquake area
Just before noon, I went for a long walk above the Earthquake Lake Visitor Center, seen at the center right of the next photo. To the left in the photo is a boulder bearing a plaque with the names of all the victims of the slide that created the lake.
Earthquake Lake Visitor Center, Montana
The earthquake-triggered slide, containing about 80 million tons or rock and gravel. Many of the victims’ bodies were never recovered.
Earthquake Lake landslide
The view to the west (the West Portal).
The West Portal at Earthquake Lake, Montana
By 12:30, I was northbound on 287, into a series of thunderstorms that produced some impressive lightning, though not a lot of rain.
Highway 287 in Montana
South of Harrison, Montana, looking to the west.
The huge Golden Sunlight Mine, seen from Montana Highway 69. Six weeks ago, the mine’s owner, Barrick Gold, hired the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce to help them sell the mine, which has been recovering gold since 1975 but reports only 192,000 ounces of reserves left (about 2 years’ production).
Golden Sunlight Mine, Montana
On I-15 north of Helena just after 4:00 pm. About a mile ahead, I saw the first serious car crash of the trip – a mid-sized American car had hit the median and was totalled, but the woman driver was standing beside a Trooper’s car talking to him. A few miles to the left of this pass is Glacier National Park, a few to the right is the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness.
This rest area at Lyons Creek, just north of the pass seen above, is one of the nicest I’ve ever seen anywhere. Everything from washrooms to interpretive signage gets top marks. I made a short stop there at 4:30.
Lyons Creek Rest Area, Montana
Northbound on I-15 between Cascade and Ulm at 5:00 pm.
Northbound on I-15 between Cascade and Ulm, Montana

I decided to spend Tuesday night at Dick’s RV Park in Great Falls, 4 blocks from I-15 and only 2 hours from the border. They didn’t have any power-only sites left, but a full hookup site only cost $36.59 for the night.


Day 4: Wandering through Utah and Idaho

To get to the border at Sweetgrass, Montana at the scheduled time (or day, at least – Wednesday the 13th), I had about 48 hours to drive the 950-odd miles – 2 easy days. I had run into a problem that needed to be sorted out at Salt Lake City, though – all of the towing gear that I’d bought at the Camping World store at Flagstaff was wrong. Even after me describing what I wanted, and the clerk coming out to the motorhome for a look, he’d packed the wrong stuff. Good thing I opened the boxes while there were still a couple of Camping World stores ahead!

This was the basic route planned – though I might take a detour if a good reason appeared 🙂
Route map through Utah, Idaho and Montana
So much to see and so little time – I had to just pass through Panguitch, Utah, “one of the great historic towns of the West”, noting it for a future leisurely trip.
Panguitch, Utah
Just north of Panguitch, I took Route 20 west for some 20 miles to meet the freeway, I-15, which would be the primary route north.
Utah Route 20
I don’t like freeways, but here we go, at 10:50 Monday morning.
I-15 in Utah
The 80 mph speed limit was a surprise. Remember when the “double nickel” speed limit program started in 1973-74? “Stay Alive, Drive 55” and whatever the fuel economy slogan was. Signs or not, I never took the motorhome to 80 mph – I’m happy with 65-70 (105-120 kmh).
80 mph speed limit on I-15 in Utah
There is a whole lot of really pretty country out there to see. This is just south of Nephi, shot at 12:20.
I-15 south of Nephi, Utah
It struck me when I took this photo that this was a “colony” community, and a bit of research has shown that to be true. The majority of the 403 residents of the attractive community of Rocky Ridge are members of the Apostolic United Brethren, a polygamous Mormon fundamentalist church within the Latter Day Saint movement. Speaking of polygamous, Cathy suggested that when I passed through Bountiful, I might want to pick up “a spare” (wife, that is) – no, I’m good 🙂
Rocky Ridge, Utah
As I neared Salt Lake City, I got awfully homesick for some reason 🙂
Alaska moving truck in Utah

The folks at the Camping World store at Draper, on the south side of Salt Lake City, made exchanging the wrong towing gear for the right stuff very easy, and I thanked them by buying a few more things like camp chairs and a camp table that I knew I’d have a hard time equalling the quality of elsewhere.

Getting through Salt Lake City on the freeway was nowhere near as easy – what a mess. This was shot at 2:40 pm.
Gridlock on I-15 through Salt Lake City, Utah
By 4:00, life was good again 🙂 This is near Brigham City.
Along I-15 near Brigham City, Utah
At 4:37, Welcome to Idaho! I stopped for a few minutes at a rest area and went through a large map book I’d bought at Camping World, soon deciding that a Good Sam campground on the Snake River at Idaho Falls would be a good stop for the night.
Welcome to Idaho
The Devil’s Creek Reservoir in Malad Pass.
 Utah
The north side of Malad Pass, at 5:25. No, the bridge didn’t seem to be icy!
 Utah
The variety of terrain, switching back and forth between mountains and dry valleys was quite interesting.
 Utah

After what I got at the Grand Canyon, I was very pleased with the Snake River RV Park – although quite busy, a treed, grassed site for $34.50 suited me fine. The final day through northern Idaho and Montana tomorrow would be easy.


Days 3/4: Exploring Bryce Canyon, Utah

When I left off yesterday, I’d crossed into Utah at 3:10 pm, headed north on U.S. Route 89. Travel was much slower than I expected due to the many photo ops that kept presenting themselves. But Bryce Canyon, another of my Bucket List destinations, was tonight’s goal.

This impressive butte is about 3 miles north of the Arizona/Utah border.
Butte along Route 89 in southern Utah
Rest areas or pulloffs of any kind had been a rare commodity so far, and I never passed one up. This one would certainly have gotten me to disconnect the 4×4 and go exploring if I had the 4×4 in tow and had the time. It describes the community of Pahreah, which was first settled in 1865, on the Paria River a few miles north of this pullout. As well as the remains of that town, you can also visit a recreated pioneer town used for western movies.
Pahreah historic marker, Utah
Looking west towards Kanab at 4:06 pm.
Route 89 east of Kanab, Utah
I was following my Garmin GPS, and didn’t question when it said to turn off Route 89 and head north on Johnson Canyon Road. It looked like a reasonable idea at this point.
Johnson Canyon Road, Utah
One of the ranches I passed had its own ghost town with a half-dozen buildings.
Ghost town along the Johnson Canyon Road, Utah
Mile after mile, I was the only vehicle on the road – since that’s the norm in the Yukon, I didn’t even notice it except in retrospect – and the scenery was wonderful.
Johnson Canyon Road, Utah
When the pavement ended at 4:30, I began to question Garmin’s wisdom, and when cattle started to appear on the road, I knew that I’d been led astray. On and on the road went, up and down across the low mountains, though I kept wondering when it was going to end at a rancher’s gate in the middle of nowhere, or worse, if it just gradually petered out to nothing.
Ranch road in southern Utah
Finally the pavement did reappear, and a couple of minutes after 5:00, it seemed pretty clear that I would be back on a highway shortly. Yes, Route 89 was down in that valley, and I got back on it at the town of Glendale.
East of Glendale, Utah
At 5:45, I was on State Highway 12, also known as “Highway 12 — A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway”, following signs to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Highway 12 to Bryce Canyon, Utah
The first stop made by many travellers on Highway 12 is Red Canyon, which has an extensive trail system running through the spectacular pillars. I, of course, headed for the highest one, wearing my best trail-climbing flip-flops 🙂
Red Canyon, Utah
The Birds Eye Trail offers amazing views, and is a superb introduction to this country!
The Birds Eye Trail at Red Canyon, Utah
There were a few dozen people on the lower trails, but I had the high trail to myself. I was on my way back down to the parking lot when I met this young Italian couple heading up.
Red Canyon, Utah
I spent about 20 minutes hiking at Red Canyon, then got back on the road to Bryce. There are two of these cool little tunnels on the highway.
Tunnel on Scenic Byway 12 to Bryce Canyon, Utah
I passed through bustling Bryce Canyon City, with several large new hotels, restaurants, etc, and just before 6:30, reached the Bryce Canyon National Park gates. I paid my $25, asked about camping, and was told that 2 of the campgrounds in the park still had spaces available.
Bryce Canyon National Park gates, Utah
For nature-staved city folks, even deer can cause a traffic jam 🙂
Deer at Bryce Canyon, Utah

At this time of the evening, Sunset Point seemed like a good place to start. The 4 RV parking spots were all taken, so I parked in one of the dozen bus spots, which were all empty but had large “No RVs” signs. The elevation at Sunset Point is 2,438 meters (8,000 feet).

The lighting wasn’t what I had expected at Sunset Point, but there’s no question that the main Bryce Canyon amphitheatre is incredible. I played around with the lighting a lot, shooting the shaded areas…
Bryce Canyon, Utah
… the distant areas lit up by the setting sun…
Bryce Canyon, Utah
… and back into the shade. I took a few photos to create HDR images, but haven’t processed them yet.
Bryce Canyon, Utah
At 7:20, Sunset Point started to show its possibilities.
Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon, Utah
If you click on the panorama of the amphitheatre below, a larger version will open in a new window.

Panorama of Bryce Canyon, Utah
A glorious sunset, at 7:28.
Sunset at Bryce Canyon, Utah
At the same time as the sun was setting, the full moon was rising.
Full moon rising at Bryce Canyon, Utah
As darkness quickly descended, I drove back to Sunset Campground, which has 100 RV and tent sites, found a site, walked back and paid the $15 fee, and soon after I got the rig settled, was sound asleep. I shot this photo at 6:10 Monday morning as I was getting the day started. Because this was such a rushed trip, I didn’t do any cooking or even making coffee in the motorhome – it was just not a good use of my very limited time.
Sunset Campground, Bryce Canyon, Utah
I laughed about yesterday’s “deer-jam” on the road in, but I stopped for a spotted fawn!
Fawn in Bryce Canyon, Utah
I went to all 3 major viewpoints around the amphitheatre this morning. The light at sunrise is definitely more photo-friendly than at sunset.
Bryce Canyon, Utah
I started to leave just before 07:00, then decided to spend some more time at Bryce. This horse-and-prairie-dog-crossing caught my eye as I was looking for a spot to turn around.
Bryce Canyon, Utah
The main reason for going back was to hike down into the amphitheatre a way on this trail. Despite all the signs warning about the hazards, it’s a major trail with no hazards by my standards.
Hiking trail at Bryce Canyon, Utah
Yes, hiking down the trail was a very good idea!
Bryce Canyon, Utah
I had the trail almost to myself on the way down, but it started getting quite busy just after 7:00 am.
Bryce Canyon, Utah
At 8:05, I was through Bryce Canyon City, with getting the export/import of the motorhome done my next major focus.
The edge of Bryce Canyon City, Utah
Approaching Red Canyon from the east.
Red Canyon, Utah
By 8:20 am, the red rocks were just a memory, and I was looking forward to whatever might present itself along the road north.
Utah Scenic Byway 12


Day 3: Grand Canyon to the Utah border

To tell you about Day 3 requires more than one post – after editing, I have 537 photos in the day’s file. So I’m cutting this one off at the Utah border, which I reached just after 3:00 pm.

This was the planned route – seems simple and short enough for an easy day. Having 2 Bucket List destinations and many other sights of interest made it much longer, and a very odd GPS routing even more so. If you click on the map below a new window opens with an interactive map of the route.

Route from Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon
Before I left the Grand Canyon Camper Village I did some poking around, and found this 3d map with some great information for my route out, on Hwy 64 (Desert View Drive) along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. In the background you can see the camp site and motorcoach of the French students I mentioned yesterday.
Grand Canyon Camper Village, Arizona
I pulled away from the RV park right at 07:00, and 20 minutes later my touring day got off to a spectacular start with this view from the side of the road between Mather Point and Yaki Point (see map).
Grand Canyon, Arizona
My first-ever cougar crossing sign! (a.k.a. puma or mountain lion) No cougars, though 🙁
Cougar crossing sign at Grand Canyon, Arizona
I hadn’t expected the road to be so incredible, and made a lot of stops.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Many of the views are available without any walking – this was the view out the side window of the motorhome.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
The same view as above, from ground level.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
A few minutes after 08:00, there were still very few people around. Much better than yesterday afternoon at Mather Point.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
This view reinforced my feeling that a person could spend their entire life studying and exploring the Grand Canyon. At left center is Horseshoe Mesa, and the mostly-cleared oval at the bottom right is the site of the Last Chance Mine, where copper was mined starting in 1890. This view is from Grandview Point, from where a “steep and rugged” trail takes hikers 3 miles (4.8 km) to the mesa 2,500 feet below.
Horseshoe Mesa and Last Chance Mine at Grand Canyon, Arizona
Life at the Last Chance Mine was hard for both men and animals, but the mine operated until 1907 when copper prices crashed.
Last Chance Mine at Grand Canyon, Arizona
The patterns and colours change constantly – fascinating and captivating, and I soon resigned myself to this being a very long day 🙂
Grand Canyon, Arizona
I reached the Tusayan Museum and Ruin at 08:45, a few minutes before it opened, and had the large site pretty much to myself. Tusayan was a thriving Pueblo Indian community some 800 years ago, as illustrated by its pottery, arrowheads and other household artifacts.
Tusayan Museum and Ruin, Grand Canyon, Arizona
This is the foundation of the kiva, Tusayan’s ceremonial and spiritual center.
Tusayan Museum and Ruin, Grand Canyon, Arizona
This struck me as funny – the type of vegetation would tend to discourage the barefootin’ the sign warns against 🙂
Tusayan Museum and Ruin, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Between 2,000 and 4,000 years ago, people made these animal figures from split twigs of willow, cottonwood and rushes. They’ve all been found in remote, hard-to-access caves with no sign that they had been lived in, so they have a special meaning, though exactly what can only be guessed at.
Tusayan Museum and Ruin, Grand Canyon, Arizona
The view from Lipan Point.
Lipan Point, Grand Canyon, Arizona
In the 1960s, archaeologists discovered that the Unkar Delta, seen in this photo, was the site of a thriving agricultural village 1,000 years ago. One of many such villages along the canyon’s bottom, the people here grew corn, beans, squash and cotton on terraced fields.
Unkar Delta, Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Desert View Watchtower, 70 feet high and built in 1932, was designed by architect Mary Colter.
Desert View Watchtower, Grand Canyon, Arizona
The gift shop in the Watchtower must surely have the most incredible view of any gift shop in the world. No, that’s not a mural, that’s looking out the window!
Desert View Watchtower, Grand Canyon, Arizona
The interior walls of the Watchtower are covered in designs from the culture of the ancestral Puebloan people.
Desert View Watchtower, Grand Canyon, Arizona
A long-abandoned trail along the canyon rim took me to this view of the tower. I had to keep reminding myself of the elevation of the South Rim – at Desert View, it’s 2,267 meters (7,438 feet).
Desert View Watchtower, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Dropping down to the desert along the Little Colorado River, at 10:50. I was starting to feel like breakfast might be in order, but there seemed to be few options!
Desert along the Little Colorado River, Arizona
A sign pointing to a Scenic View, obviously of the dramatic canyon of the Little Colorado River, prompted a turn off the highway. As well as the trail to the viewpoint, there was a very large booth selling Navajo jewellery, the first of many along the highway. I was very surprised at how low the prices were (such as necklaces for $12.00).
Canyon of the Little Colorado River, Arizona
The trail and view of the gorge were definitely worth the stop, though the access road was very rough.
Canyon of the Little Colorado River, Arizona
As noon approached, food became the prime focus, and just in time, the large Cameron Trading Post appeared right after I turned north on Hwy 89. The restaurant is beautiful.
Cameron Trading Post, Arizona
And the Navajo taco was amazing – worth waiting for 🙂
Navajo taco at Cameron Trading Post, Arizona
The Cameron Suspension Bridge crosses the Little Colorado River beside the Trading Post. Built in 1911, its main span of 200 meters (660 feet) was the longest suspension span west of the Mississippi River when it was built.
Cameron Suspension Bridge, Arizona
One of the things I noticed early in the trip was the virtual absence of rest areas or even pulloffs, but every now and then I took advantage of a wide shoulder to get photos, in this case of a bridge from the old highway, and the colourful bluffs beyond.
Arizona desert
A detour to avoid construction took me onto Indian Route 20, now signed as 89T (Temporary), at 1:10 pm.
Indian Route 20 (Hwy 89T), Arizona
The Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River at Page prompted a couple of long stops and walks.
Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona
Lake Powell, formed by the Glen Canyon Dam, must be incredible to explore by boat. There seems to be almost no road access to it. A very large marina can be seen in the distance in this photo shot from the dam.
Lake Powell, Arizona
At 3:10 pm, I crossed into Utah on Hwy 89, my first time in the state. I’ll tell you about the rest of the day, getting to and exploring Bryce Canyon, tomorrow…
Grand Canyon, Arizona


Day 2: Route 66 and the Grand Canyon

Back to the trip. I spent Friday night, my first night in the new motorhome, in the parking lot of the Walmart in Kingman, Arizona, and was up early Saturday, pumped to get to another shopping destination near Flagstaff and then to the Grand Canyon.

I couldn’t find any place that looked good for breakfast nearby, so backtracked a few miles to a large truck stop I’d seen. The truck stop across the road from it hadn’t fared so well.
Abandoned truck stop in Arizona
After a good, big breakfast, I wandered around the Kingman area for a bit, with no particular destination in mind. There’s some very interesting country in the mountains around there.
Highway 93 west of Kingman AZ
The historic Route 66 has drawn me for decades – how could it not for anyone of my era with an interest in cars? My wandering brought me to the Powerhouse Route 66 Museum, but I got there just after 07:00, 2 hours before it opened.
My little travelling buddy Nanook has so many new places to see! 🙂
Nanook on Route 66
Not quite finished with the area, I headed west on Hwy 68 for a look at Golden Valley.
By 09:00, though, I was far east of Kingman on Hwy 40, headed for a shop where I could get the equipment we need to tow our Chevy Tracker with the motorhome, as well as some general RV equipment and supplies.
Arizona Hwy 40 west of Seligman
A sign along the freeway that noted Seligman as the “Birth Place of Historic Route 66” prompted a short detour that turned into a 40-minute look around the heart of the very colourful little community.
Welcome to Seligman, Arizona
The Route 66 marketing in Seligman is as tacky as it comes – it’s wonderful! 🙂 There are old cars everywhere, the sound of 1950s music coming from some shops, a very good singer and guitar player performing outside another, and some really nice vintage signage amongst all the newer ones.
Route 66 shops in Seligman, Arizona
It took a lot of self-control to not buy anything. I really wanted something – even a coffee mug – but I need more “stuff” like I need a hole in my head (as my Mom used to say).
Route 66 shop in Seligman, Arizona

My shopping destination was Camping World at Bellemont, west of Flagstaff and a few miles past my turnoff to the Grand Canyon. It didn’t take long to have a couple of carts with over $1,000 worth of equipment stashed in the rig.

As I was taking photos of some flowers between the Camping World store and the tracks, this long BNSF train came along. BNSF Railway was created in 1995 when Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Pacific merged.
BNSF train at Bellemont, Arizona
This field of flowers was getting a lot of people to pull off the highway. I’d like to know what caused it – perhaps 100 acres in size, it was the only one I saw like this.
Arizona flowers

I turned north on Hwy 64 towards the Grand Canyon just after noon, with no solid plan as to how I was going to see the canyon. I had done minimal research on this trip, as I had no idea how it was going to go. All I really knew was that Route 66, the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon were all possibilities with fairly short detours from the most direct route home.

A sign pointing to the Grand Canyon Airport gave me an idea of how to get started, and a few minutes later I had a boarding pass for a 45-minute tour in N148SA, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter / Vistaliner.
N148SA, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter / Vistaliner
At 2:00 we took off, and I shot this video to show the approach to the Grand Canyon, then switched to stills.
One of the things that surprised me the most about the Grand Canyon was how it appears so suddenly. The early explorers were travelling through a fairly level open pine forest, when all of a sudden their world disappeared. It’s hard to imagine the thoughts that went through their minds – there can simply be no “Plan B” for a sight like that.
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
The Colorado River snaking through a canyon that is 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide, and a mile (1.6km) deep. “Stunning” barely begins to describe the feeling – I was completely at a loss for words for days.
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
After editing, I have 199 photos shot in the 27 minutes we spent over the canyon.
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
The Twin Otters do the high views, the helicopters get down low. I don’t think that one would be better than the other, but they’d be very different.
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
Having a few clouds added to the drama of some of the scenes below.
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
The North Rim is some 1,500 feet higher than the South Rim, so has a very different climate, and a much thicker forest.
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
Aerial view of the Grand Canyon
We landed at 2:40, and 20 minutes later I was at the south entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. Admission is $25 per vehicle regardless of how many people are in it, and the pass you get is good for 7 days.

Nearly 5 million people visit the park each year, and most of them were there when I was. The parking lots were overflowing, the RV spots were full of cars, and I eventually parked in a hatched no-parking zone at the end of a row of cars for my introductory look.

Mather Point, the closest viewpoint to the main Visitor Center, is where most people go, As crowded as it was, though, it wasn’t overwhelming even to this country boy 🙂
Mather Point, Grand Canyon
This turkey vulture was hanging around Mather Point – looking for children, small dogs or people going over the fence for a better photo, no doubt 🙂
Turkey Vulture at the Grand Canyon
A more adventurous viewpoint off to the west of Mather Point.
Grand Canyon viewpoint
Not many people carry real cameras anymore, but when I saw a fellow with one, I asked him to take this shot for me. I often have people ask me to take photos of them, and am always happy to oblige.
Murray at the Grand Canyon
At about 4:30, I left the park and drove a few minutes to the Grand Canyon Camper Village where I got a site with water and 30 amp power in the nearly empty gravel lot for $46. My first RV park ever. Being a practical guy, I can’t help but think that I paid $46 for wi-fi, since I don’t need the water or power hookups except once every week or two. Oh well, I’ll get that figured out.
Grand Canyon Camper Village
Smoke from a forest fire off to the east a few miles moved in for a while, but after a couple of hours the wind shifted and it cleared again. Having elk wander through the RV park was pretty cool.
Elk in Grand Canyon Camper Village
Thunderstorms threatened but never did get us wet. There were 2 groups of tenters near me – one a group of 30 or so students from France, the other about a dozen young women travelling with G Adventures.
Storm at Grand Canyon Camper Village

It had been a very busy day, and I was exhausted. I had a bag of chips for dinner, a couple of beer, and was in bed early, with no plan for the next day except to continue north.


Our RV / Motorhome Shopping Process

Some of you are wondering how Cathy and I ended up with the motorhome we did, and why we bought in Arizona. It was a very long process that saw us assessing every type of RV from tent trailer to diesel Class A over a period of months – here’s a short summary of it all.

Everyone who is shopping for an RV will have specific wants and don’t-wants in the outfit they eventually choose. Our 2 primary considerations both involved size. It had to be large enough to comfortably hold 2 people, 2 huskies and a cat, and it had to be able to navigate the rough roads and tight camping spots that are our favourite locations.

Some people want a “starter” RV, to test the theory. We knew from spending a month in a little campervan in New Zealand that RVing is a lifestyle that suits us well, so we felt no need to start off small for a possible move up later. We did, however, look at old campervans that we could buy cheaply (under $5,000) and pound into tough spots with no particular concern for scratches or dents.

We didn’t have a vehicle that was suitable for towing a trailer or 5th wheel (though Cathy’s Chevy Tracker might handle a tent trailer), so whatever we chose would entail adding another vehicle to the fleet. Although we came back to them every now and then during the months of shopping, trailers of any kind never made it very far because we wanted something completely self-contained – the fur-kids needed to be with us, and we didn’t want to have to park to get something out of a cupboard.

Budget will be a large part of most people’s decision. For us, the less money spent the better, but we set $45,000 as the high end for the perfect rig, though the total bill for the motorhome we bought will be a few thousand more than that.

The most complicated decision came in choosing a Class C, B or A, and we went back and forth on this for months. Basically, a Class B is a campervan, a Class C has a larger body over a van cab, and a Class A looks like a bus.

Class B is the most fuel efficient by far, largely because it has the smallest and most streamlined front, but the initial purchase price is much higher for a given year/mileage because they’re very popular. Our RV travel plans for the next few years involve relatively short distances and lengthy periods, making fuel economy less of an issue than it will be for some other people.

In the Yukon and Alaska, Class C motorhomes are the most commonly seen. They provide a good balance of features, come in virtually any size you want, and are available at pretty much any price you want to spend. The smaller Cs don’t have full-size beds, and since the fur-kids like to sleep with us, a 27-foot was the size that worked the best for us.

Throughout much of the shopping process, we would often look at the Class As and then decide that they are more than we need. Once we started looking more at a very long-term decision, though, a small A – under 32 feet – would offer the most flexibility. Whatever we decided to do, a small Class A could handle. Part of that, though, is because of my driving experience – a million miles or so driving highway buses gives me a comfort level with a rig that size that a casual user will never get. While that’s not an issue on the highway, it is when you’re in a situation like backing into a tight camping spot at night with no assistance as happened at Bryce Canyon on my 3rd night with it. The vast majority of used Class As for sale are 34 feet and longer – most much longer. There are very few smaller ones available.

Most used motorhomes, though not all, can be bought cheaper in the United States than in Canada, and our experience has been that Arizona and Texas offer the best deals in the western US. As long as you’re very careful about following every step, exporting a used motorhome from the US and importing it into Canada is an easy process – the Registrar of Imported Vehicles at RIV.ca is the place to go for all the information you need about that. The process takes about 15 minutes on the American side of the border crossing you use (I crossed at Sweetgrass, Montana / Coutts, Alberta), an hour on the Canadian side, and then a couple of weeks to get all the paperwork done to license the rig in Canada. The cost is $195 for a federal inspection plus GST on the price you paid for the motorhome. Buying from a dealer who does a lot of sales to Canadians can make the process even easier.

We eventually found a 2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M, a 31-foot-long Class A with 2 slideouts (more about slideouts below). It was at La Mesa RV in Tucson, but we had been talking to a salesman at their West Phoenix operation, and they moved it for me once we came to an agreement on the price. The purchase was much more complicated than it should have been, but still worked out well in the long run. In the middle of July, I flew to Phoenix to confirm the purchase and drive it home. The rig had many more cosmetic flaws than the single small ding on a luggage door that had been described, but it was still a good deal at about $11,000 off the original $54,500 list price. It only has 30,000 miles on the chassis, but the generator has almost 1,000 hours on it (4-5 times what you would usually expect to see on a rig of this age), so it’s been used a lot in places without electricity.

The motorhome also, however, had a dead air conditioner, and it would take 2-3 weeks to get it shipped from back East, so I flew home to await a call that it was ready to go.

So, finally, here’s what we now have:

Sitting in the driveway this morning, with a 24-foot Class C belonging to friends from BC who camped there for the night.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
The driver’s position is very comfortable. In particular, the Flexsteel seat still felt great even at the end of a 7-day, 3,400-mile drive. It’s powered by an 8.1-liter Chevy Workhorse gas engine, with an Allison automatic transmission with overdrive.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
Looking back from the front of the rig, as it looks while driving (with the slide in). A slideout is a section of the motorhome that extends out at the push of a button, typically 20 inches or so. Some motorhomes don’t have any, most now have 1, 2 or 3 of them. Ours has 2, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. This is a view that shoppers need to see, as some motorhomes are almost unusable with the slides in. While new Class As are, I think, all 102 inches wide, if you’re looking for an older one, many are only 96 inches wide, and that can make a big difference.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
With the living room slide out, it feels like you could throw a party! There’s certainly plenty of room for 2 huskies to stretch out.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
Looking to the front from the kitchen, with the slide out.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
The kitchen has several features we like – while the microwave is almost standard now, the oven and the window are not. The extendable shelves add a fair bit of useful counter space at meal prep time. A toaster oven can stay on the counter, but the coffee maker has to be stored in a cabinet when we hit the road.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
This photo shows an unusual feature that kept us coming back to this floor plan over and over – a hallway on the side instead of down the center as is the norm. The huge windows are wonderful for opening the rig up visually. What looks like cabinets to the right is the fridge and freezer.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
The side hallway also allows for a huge bathroom, with 2 doors, one into the hall and one into the bedroom. Having a spot for the cat’s litter box was important to us, and it fits nicely beside the toilet for humans.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
The bedroom, with the slide out. This is a queen bed that you can walk around. When the slide is in, the end of the bed slips under the wardrobe to the right.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
The other end of the bedroom, with the slide out.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
Above the bedroom slide, you can see a little awning that keeps leaves and other debris from getting into the slide mechanism – although they are very common, not all motorhomes have them.
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M

That’s a quick look at what has brought us to this point. In about a week we’ll be getting a form from RIV telling us what modifications, if any, need to be made to get it licensed in Canada. Daytime running lights and a metric speedometer are the usual ones, but this rig already has both.

To get the dogs and cat used to it, we’re camping in the driveway for a few days. So far, it’s working out great – they’ll all very comfortable in it. Tomorrow we’ll take them for a short drive in it.

I hope that you’ve found this to be of some interest. If you have any questions about our buying process or yours, I’d be happy to chat with you.


Taking Delivery of the New Motorhome

Friday was the big day, starting a whole new direction in our lives. No more international travel, no more leaving the 3 furry members of our family home, and a whole lot of exploring the North slowly, in great detail.

I took a few photos from my 6th-floor room at the Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel starting at 05:35, but the light had gotten really nice when I took this one at 06:45.
The view from the Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel
I had really hoped for a big sit-down breakfast, but the only restaurant within walking distance was closed, so an egg sandwich from the snack bar in the hotel lobby had to suffice. That’s the only negative about the Aloft, though – in every other way it’s been perfect for my purposes.
Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel
Any hotel that greets its guests this way gets top marks from me, of course 🙂
Dog bowls at the Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel
I had the desk call for a cab at 07:30, and for a $40 bill was at La Mesa RV for the scheduled 08:00 delivery. La Mesa is a huge company, which has its good and its bad aspects. The bad that I keep running into is that every little part of a sale is handled by a different person – on the phone in particular, it’s like dealing with the federal government, trying to find the right person. The good includes infrastructure like this air-conditioned Delivery Center…
…where my rig was shined up and ready to go. It’s a 2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M, a 31-foot-long Class A motorhome. Another of the good parts of La Mesa is that everyone is very good at their little part of the deal. After Lauren helped me get a stack of company and state and federal government paperwork signed, Ken spent almost 2 hours showing me the rig and how everything works
2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M
La Mesa has obviously done a lot of sales to Canadians, and has the process down pat. By doing the actual delivery of the rig 2 hours away via Highway 10 in Blythe, California, no Arizona taxes have to be paid by out-of-state buyers, saving a couple of thousand dollars. While Steve drove the motorhome, Bruce and I followed in a pickup, and we had a great chat along the way.
Welcome to California. Neither the motorhome nor the pickup fit whatever profile the Agriculture Inspectors were looking for, and we both got waved through the inspection station.
California Agriculture Inspection Station

The notary that usually does the paperwork in California was off sick and it took a while to find another one, but we got it all done, the 3 of us went for a fast-food late lunch, and just after 3:00 p.m., I was off on my Adventure 🙂

I didn’t have a firm destination in mind for that night, but went back to Quartzsite on Hwy 10, then north on 95 towards Kingman.
If I come back as a desert rat (the human kind!) in my next life, I’ll be okay with it – I really like this stark world. Reading some of the writings of Edward Abbey a few decades ago no doubt enhanced my appreciation for the beauty.
I had a long list of things to buy to set up house properly, and as evening came, I pulled up the Kingman Walmart on the GPS. By the time I made 3 trips through the store and back to the rig, it was nearing 8:00 p.m., and I decided to just camp there. Easy, stress-free, and free – all good for a short stop when I didn’t need any campground services.

The very basic plan for Saturday was to go to the Camping World store near Flagstaff to buy a bunch more stuff, then stop at the Grand Canyon.


Flying from Whitehorse Back to Phoenix

I’m in a campground at Idaho Falls, Idaho, as I write this, halfway through an Adventure that truly has me overwhelmed. There will probably not be an update until I get home, as I’m speed-touring a 3,200-mile route home with my new motorhome. I’m dying to tell you about flightseeing over the Grand Canyon, and hiking into Bryce Canyon, but first, Day 1, the drive and flights to Phoenix on Thursday. I enjoyed the last trip through Skagway so much that I decided to take that route again.

The Venus mill along Windy Arm is a great site to say “goodbye” to the Yukon with.
Venus silver mine, Yukon
At 09:50 a.m. (10 minutes early), the Wings of Alaska Cessna 207 was airborne from Skagway and within a few minutes we were over the most dramatic part of Taiya Inlet.
Dramatic coastline along Taiya Inlet, Alaska
I’d sure like to have a closer look at this shipwreck I spotted north of Haines in Taiyasanka Harbor – but it’s boat access only.
Shipwreck in Taiyasanka Harbor, Alaska
Fort William H. Seward at Haines is a great photo subject from the air or the ground.
Fort William H. Seward, Alaska
The Davidson Glacier. I sat on the opposite side of the plane to what I had that last trip, offering quite a different view.
Davidson Glacier, Alaska
The people on the large Allen Marine whalewatching boat at center left got very lucky just a second before I took this shot, when a humpback whale surfaced right beside the boat.
Whale watching boats at Juneau, Alaska
Landing at Juneau at 10:30.
Landing at the Juneau airport
The 3 hour stop in Juneau really dragged – I wanted to get to Phoenix! But I killed time by looking more closely at some of the aviation history displays…
… and, of course, watching airplanes. I hadn’t seen a Boeing 737 combi in a very long time. Carrying freight forward and passengers aft, this one had arrived from Petersburg and was now headed for Wrangell.
Boeing 737 combi
We were over a cloud layer for most of the flight to Seattle, and this shot along Vancouver Island was one of the few I got.
A look at the coast of BC from 37,000 feet
The Olympic Peninsula, with the sandbars of Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge at the lower right.
Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge from 37,000 feet
A lot of frozen fish came off our flight in Seattle – great souvenirs for some lucky tourists.
Frozen fish coming off an Alaska Airlines flight in Seattle
We started taxiing for the flight to Phoenix just before 6:00 pm. I love the Alaska Airlines regionals that have been painted in college football colours.
Mount St. Helens.
Mount St. Helens
We flew directly over the incredibly destructive wildfires burning in eastern Washington.
At 10:00, I got to my room at the Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel. I went to the lounge for one beer, and then crashed, pumped to get the real adventure started. I had an appointment at 08:00 Friday to get the keys to my new rig 🙂
Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel