The Journey Home

We crossed the border into Canada via the Top of the World highway.  We were in clouds nearly the whole ride, but every now and then you could make out the rolling hills.  We hit our Northernmost point on this part of our journey, at a latitude 64.23N.  The arctic circle is at 66.56083N or about 160 miles north of our position on the so called “highway.”  We had a couple of opportunities to head up to the Arctic Circle, but why?  Just for a photo beside a sign?  Naaa… Besides, we were really tired of getting rained on and were ready to head Southeast to better weather.

As I alluded before, Teresa and I were getting tired of traveling.  This is a hard thing to describe to those who have never traveled over an extended period of time.  I’ve had a friend describe this experience while hiking the PCT.  After entering Yosemite, one of the most gorgeous places in the USA, and a third of the way up the PCT, he described simply feeling numb to the gorgeous scenery and had to get off the trail for a long while.  This comes pretty close to describing the way we felt.  But underneath that numbness lies a thousand emotions.  At times, both Teresa and I just simply felt like crying, with no good reason as to why.

Looking back on it, I suppose there were some things we could have done to help alleviate the emotional crunch.  Like a rolling stone, we had so much we wanted to see… so we kept moving from place to place, never staying in the same place for more than a day or two.  We didn’t strike up very many lasting relationships with the other like-minded folks we met.  And we only got the “feel” of a given area, without deeper exploration.  This constant moving became a source of our fatigue.  In addition, our camper shell was failing us as described here, leaking on us after days of rain.  But even if it hadn’t leaked, having to deal with the rain in such small quarters would have driven us crazy.  Finally, our new homestead back in Colorado was calling us, and we were eager start working on it.

But first, we had to get through Canada.  And Canada is huge!  It is larger in square acreage than the US, but it only has 30 million people versus the US’s 300 million or so… it has one of the lowest population densities in the world.  And with few exceptions, most of the population lives within a 3 hours drive of the US border.  With one nasty exception, the people in Canada were wonderful.  They generally seem to be more enviro-friendly and down-to-earth.  Most of the people I’ve met are incredibly friendly and helpful.  On the other hand, they seem to have the same kind of materialism and overdone advertising plaguing the US.  In some regards (discussed below), it is worse in Canada.  Their taxes are horrendously high, but their government also has to provide the same level of service to their citizens as the US.  They have the same standard of living, but they have a tenth of the population.  Compounding the issue, thanks to GW, the American dollar is so weak, the cash exchange rate was one to one.  In the past, one US dollar would buy a dollar and a quarter Canadian.  Canada was not good to us financially.

The first hint we were in Canada was the speed limit.  “Maximum 90”!  Wohoo!  Wait, that’s 90 kilometers an hour, not miles per hour.  Oh well.  Heck, our loaded truck couldn’t do 90 mph even if we wanted it to.

Our first populated stop in Canada was Dawson City, which came to fame during the Klondike Gold Rush.  The town still feels like it is in the gold rush era.  For example, the visitors center attendants were dressed in era clothing, and the streets were still dirt with boardwalks to keep pedestrians out of the muck.  We did a hike up to the Midnight Dome and toured the Jack London Interpretive Centre.  Remember Jack London?  He wrote some of the few high school (or was it middle school?) classics I actually enjoyed, including Call of the Wild and To Build A Fire.  They even had a restored cabin on the property that is similar to the one that he may have lived in during his gold rush fever days.  Obviously, his time in the Klondike inspired his most famous books, and it was neat to see the area that inspired these works.

We arrived in Whitehorse, capital of Yukon Territory after two more days of driving, stopping at a few sites along the way.

Whitehorse was really the first reasonable town we had seen in weeks.  It even had a Mall*Wart (AKA Sprawlmart) and a huge store called the Real Canadian Superstore, Canada’s homegrown version of Sprawlmart.  We saw the Frantic Follies, which was a pretty funny vaudeville revue which has been running for over 37 years!  And of course, we had to check out the local brewery.

We did about three more days of driving, seeing some interesting sites along the Alaska Highway, including our first herd of wild buffalo, some goats, and caribou.

We passed through the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake.

We also saw our first bear, a black bear with two cubs, near Fort St. John. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get our camera out in time. We arrived in Dawson Creek, not to be confused with Dawson City.  Dawson Creek is the historic start of the Alaska Highway.

It was here that we ran into the ugly American in a visitors center.  Or more properly, ugly US citizen.  The ones we saw were, not surprisingly, from the more affluent areas of South Florida. [Or should I say effluent? 🙂 ]  I do my best to not be an ugly American, and in doing so, I try not to call the US “America” or even “North America” while in Canada.  Many of us forget, Canada is part of North America too!

Our first visit within a Parks Canada Park was in Jasper/Bannf National Parks in the Canadian Rockies.  We went ahead and purchased a Parks Canada Annual Pass since we figured we’d be in the Canadian Rockies for a few days.  It cost a whopping $123 CAN for a family pass (on a good day, this would be equivalent to $100 USD).  (The Golden Eagle USA Annual Park Passes only cost $65.)  There were a couple of things that really bothered me about the Canadian Parks.  First of all, major Canadian Highways pass through some of the parks.  (While this does occur in some USA parks, it is quite rare.)  Second, there are townships in all of the parks we visited.  I’m not talking government owned villages within the park like Grand Canyon Village.  These are normal towns, with privately owned city centers, privately owned homes, local governances, rampant shopping opportunities, and rampant commercialism.  Third, at many of the most beautiful sites, there is private lodging available, sometimes horrendously disturbing the natural beauty.  Lake Louise in Banff is an exquisite site, destroyed by a huge chateau right in front of it.

I’m not sure why Parks Canada took such a different approach to managing their parks.  Perhaps the townships were in place before the parks were established?  Perhaps their mission statement (vs. NPS statement) is key.  The NPS stresses preservation first, while Parks Canada stresses the “protection and presentation.”  In some respects, maybe this is a good thing.  Perhaps it gets people who are less likely to visit parks, into the parks, and that is a good thing!  It just isn’t our thing.  Oh well.

We spent a few days in Jasper, enjoying the Miette Hot Springs, and doing a few walks.

At the Southeastern edge of Jasper, we walked on the rapidly shrinking Athabasca Glacier, part of the Columbia Icefield which forms the hydrographic apex of North America where water flows to the Arctic, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans.

We explored the ever beautiful Lake Louise, enjoying tea at a teahouse a good ways up a trail.

By the time we got in to Banff township, the exhaustion of continued travel was really setting in.  We decided to book it out of Banff and head home to Colorado.

Of course, we had to stop at the Vulcan Trek Station.

We made a quick stop at  Waterton Lakes (Parks Canada), which, when combined with Glacier National Park (NPS), forms the Glacier Waterton International Peace Park.

We entered the USA and drove through Glacier, doing a short walk along the way.

We drove through Yellowstone, but stopped long enough to see Old Faithful erupt twice, and view a number of other geysers, hot springs, paint pots, and fumaroles.

At this point, we were hitting extremely smoky skies from a HUGE fire burning in Montana and 20 others in Idaho and Wyoming.  We entered Grand Teton National Park, but could hardly see the mountains through the smoke. We did, however, see our first moose.

In Dubois, WY, we had to stop and ride the wild Jackelope. Hmmm… and I always thought they were bigger in Texas?

We finally crossed into Colorado in a marathon day of driving.  I cannot say it any better than Teresa did in her diary entry.  “As we drove thru southern Wyoming and into Colorado, the terrain changed from heavily treed forests to treeless sagebrush prairies. On the horizon we could see the mountains rise with the aspens glowing golden yellow. It started to feel like we were going home. …And now we have to build one.”

NOTE: As the bulk of our travels are now completed, this blog is going to enter a new era of more frequent and less formal posts.  Most will be about the building of our house and getting set up on our land.  I’ve set up some categories, so if you are only interested in a particular topic, you can simply filter things out by category by clicking on the category of interest on the right side of the screen under the calendar.

We still hope to get around to editing some movies, so stay tuned for more exciting videos.

As we begin to build our new home, we enter a very stressful time.  We appreciate everyone’s continued support!

Yikes! We hope no one was hurt.

Gotta love Canadian signs.

Is this Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver?

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