TRIP 48: May 14-29, 2015 Canyonlands of Utah

May 14: Readington, NJ to Las Vegas, NV

Our long months of hard, constant work have left us really exhausted. We skipped taking a spring break in March because of John’s time commitments, so we decided to get away now, in mid May, as soon as his Rutgers work was completed. We left New Jersey later in the day this time, taking a 5pm flight. We brought the pups with us. As we sat down on the plae, we noticed the pups, in their crates sitting in the hot sun on the tarmac by the luggage ramp!!! We were furious! Th company that handles pets, Petsafe, is supposed to keep them in an air conditioned van till loading time, after all the luggage has loaded. We asked one of the flight attendants to check into it. She promptly asked one of the pilots to go down and check to see if they were ok. We watched him down below check the pups, but he really didn’t do much and they were loaded soon thereafter with the baggage. GRRRRRR.

The flight was ok. We landed in Vegas late, 7:30pm PMT. As soon as we pulled up to the gate, a Petsafe van was immediately there for the pups. As always, it is Newark and its employees that are always the problem. We got our luggage, got on a shuttle to the rental car place, got a nice Chevy Traverse, then headed to pick up the pups in the cargo office. They were there, no worse for wear as always, and happy to see us.We did a quick food shop at the local Wally world, then headed to the Las Vegas RV Resort where the Greyhaven was stored. We started her up, got to our site, then crashed for the night.

 

May 15: Las Vegas, NV to Cedar City, UT

Very slow start today. The time difference and flight left us out of it. We did emails and John caught up with Rutgers work and grading. The weather in Las Vegas was warm and sunny, but very windy. We left the campground around noon, and first went to return the rental car. The layout of the airport and rental car building are really convenient, and large, especially for motorhomes. We then went to a small needlework store in the west part of the city to pick up a scroll frame for my tapestry (to keep in the RV). We then went to a Sears to get some odds and ends, and then decided to get out of Dodge.

 

We never really plan a trip in advance and that opens up the sense of adventure when we finally set out. John had the idea of repeating our Honeymoon in Vegas trip that we took 11 years ago. Heading east and into Utah meant heading up in altitude and up into colder temperatures. Another option was heading south into Arizona and back towards Lake Patagonia where, this time of the year, there would be great birding, and warmer temperatures. We picked east and up, and going to see the canyon National Monuments we were unable to see on our honeymoon trip like Canyonlands, Arches, Rainbow Bridge, and maybe Canyon de Chelly, plus giving us an opportunity to return to Durango, Colorado and Moab, Utah. We headed east on I15 and stopped in St. George Utah for groceries. We made it into Cedar City and the KOA around 8pm, where we crashed after a small meal and walking the pups.

 

May 16:Cedar City to Bryce Canyon City, Bryce Canyon, UT

I awoke to walk the pups early, around 7am, and was greeted by the cooing of an Eurasian collared dove, reminding me of happier times in Sidmouth, in the UK. It was quite chilly out, low 40s. We were not prepared with warm winter coats for this spring mountain weather, but the forecast said it would war m up in the next few days. We left Cedar City around 11 and headed east up the Cedar Canyon Scenic byway Rt. 14. I recalled how we traveled this route with John’s mother and how she sat in the back of our rented Cruise America motorhome in a proper lady’s dress and pearls and high heels. I miss her very much.

 

We climbed up onto the high desert mesas, passing the snow line, and driving through spectacular red rock hoodoo canyon scenery with snow. We stopped for lunch by a mountain lakeside where we birded a bit, had some caprese pasta salad, and walked the pups. I heard a hummingbird zooming through the trees! After, we descended a bit into a farming valley, then arrived at Bryce Canyon village around 4pm. We didn’t recognize the place as much of it has been developed with a new hotel, new reception general store, huge new motels, and a huge sprawling RV campground that pretty much resembled a dirt parking lot with small stumpy trees. We checked in then drove to our site. At 7777′ above sea level, we both felt blah and breathless, so we crashed and napped for a few hours. I ventured over to the Ruby Ripoffs (our happy tongue-in-cheek moniker since our first trip here!) General Store and visitors Lodge/Restaurant, while John stayed in the RV. It wasn’t too bad of a walk, and I managed to spot a Yellow Headed blackbird in the marsh along the way. We had a small meal, then spent the evening catching up on reading and email, and re-creating the Greyhaven website/blog.

 

We have been told RV’s over 25′ in length are no longer allowed on the single lane auto road down the canyon mesa to the viewing areas. Instead, the National Park service has established a shuttle service that stops at points along the route. When we came here 11 years ago, we were allowed to drive down the park auto route in our rental RV (a 29′ Class C) and stop wherever we wished. Now, with the many crowds that are coming to national parks, large RV coaches are probably a nuisance and block the views and the road. I can see their point, but I feel sad that we are being restricted to something we were once free to explore. The crowds are killing our natural wonders, as seen in the many coaches carrying visitors at the general store. Tomorrow, we will check out the shuttle and visitor’s center and stay another night.

May 17:Bryce Canyon, UT

The temperatures dipped down into the 30’s last night and we had to pull out our small electric heaters. I did not sleep very well so I was up around 7. After walking the pups, I settled down to start some needlework. The morning dawned with blue skies. Both of us took our leisurely time and we spent lazing about til noon, when we had a small lunch, then set out for the national park. It was a short walk through the campground to the free Bryce Canyon Shuttle, which took us directly to the visitor’s center first. I don’t remember much from our visit 11 years ago, but I did notice the crowds of people, even at this time of the year before the summer crush. We got our cancellation stamp and then waited with many folks for the next shuttle into the park.

The park service runs the 10-15 shuttle, but only goes to the mid point in the park, Bryce Point. Another separate shuttle, which runs only two times per day, goes all the way down to the southernmost point in the park drive, Yovimpa Point. In essence, the park service is limiting crowds to the top half of the park. The vistas and lookouts towards the southern end are much more stunning, and contain special hoodoo formations like Thor’s Hammer and the Natural Arch. We were able to take our motorhome down there 11 years ago, and I felt disappointed at loosing the ability to travel where we wanted.

 

At Bryce Point, our shuttle became snared in bus and car traffic in the tiny parking lot which accessed Bryce Point. It was clear to see that this park has suddenly skyrocketed in popularity and the facilities, as they are now, cannot handle the numerous large vehicles. We got off and enjoyed the spectacular vistas over the red rock hoodoo formations. We boarded the shuttle again and traveled north to the next viewpoint, Inspiration Point. There, we chose to walk the 0.7 mile Rim Trail (all downhill by the way :)) to Sunset Point and the Bryce Canyon Lodge. The lookouts and viewpoints off the Rim Trail were simply stunning. The national park itself sits high on the top of the mesa at 8000′ and allows for viewing of the formations below. There are many hiking and horse trails down from each viewpoint into the hoodoo formations. On our last visit, Christopher and I walked down into the red rock and had a great time exploring the nooks and crannies of the Fairyland Trail. John was not able to join us as he had to stay with Mother. At the lodge, we rested a bit, then took the shuttle back to our campground. We had dinner at Ruby’s tonight (great prime rib!) and then retired for the night doing some reading, writing and needlework.

May 18:Bryce Canyon, to Torrey, UT

I am writing this in a small comfortable campground in the heart of the Utah canyons. It is sundown and it had rained, and yes, snow/hailed, most of our trip today. We woke to an overcast and cold morning. After breaking camp, we started our trip east on the All American Scenic Byway Rt. 12 through the canyons between Bryce and Capital Reef. We had come this way with Mother and Christopher on our very first RV trip and we were hoping to see sights that we remembered. We stopped briefly in Cannonville to collect a cancellation stamp for the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument. There were no accessible scenic routes into the monument so we continued on. Past Escalante, the roadway narrowed between red cliffs and we entered the incredible scenic Escalante Canyon. We could not stop since there weren’t many pull outs, but we managed to pause on the ‘Hogback’, a famous mile or two of highway that traverses the knife edge crest of a mesa with very steep sides falling off on both sides of the roadway. Alas, we found it was way past 1pm and we were both starving.

 

We stopped to eat in the tiny town of Boulder. On our Honeymoon trip, we enjoyed a lunch at a restaurant that had dozens of hummingbird feeders just outside the windows which drew in dozens and dozens of different species of hummingbirds. We tried to go to that same restaurant, but could not locate it. We turned around, parked on the side of the road and had a bite to eat at the Burr Trail Lodge Grill. John had a mexican chili dish and I had smoked trout quesidilla with pumpkin apple soup. We inquired about the restaurant with the hummingbird feeders and was told it had closed down last season. Both of us were quite disappointed.

 

Afterwards, we drove on and upwards, cresting Boulder Mountain mesa at 9600′ in pouring sleet and snow. We briefly stopped to feed and walk the pups, then continued down into the town of Torrey and up a few miles to the Capital Reef Visitor’s Center to get a cancellation stamp. It was already 5pm, and the park service was closed due to repaving of the parking lot. We were told a few rangers were a mile or so in the park at a historic house with info and a stamp, so we drove in, parked at a picnic area, then collected our cancellation stamp. The picnic area was along a rive and the trees and surrounding bushes were full of many, many birds. We decided to camp for the night and return tomorrow for the scenic drive along the red rock mesa and some quality birding. We returned to the town of Torrey and got a nice campsite overlooking a field of horses and cattle, and huge mesas in the distance. We walked the pups to the melodious song of a western meadowlark.

May 19:Torrey to Moab, UT

I am writing this entry in a KOA campground in Moab, Utah, a world famous destination for mountain biking, 4×4-ing, Jeep-ing, canyoneering, hiking, and oh, did I mention mountain biking? Our site overlooks the Moab valley on one side, and has towering mesa cliffs on the opposite side.

We spent the day yesterday exploring Capital Reef National Park, which we had missed while visiting with Mother. The park extends for 40 or so miles along a steep red-rock mesa. It is accessible by an narrow auto route with an unpaved dirt road continuing on into the wilds all the way down to the Burr Trail to Boulder. We arrived early hoping to do some birding at the picnic area, but were met with hoards of school kids on a field trip, with all the parking areas full of cars and buses. We had to continue up the road to the campground to park. Not a problem though as there was a large parking area. I walked back along the Fremont river trail to the historic Gifford house where there was a bake shop in the gift store, and bought some freshly made cinnamon buns and pies. Back to the motorhome for a quick breakfast. We then took a short stroll along the Fremont river trail and did some quality birding. We spotted a beautiful American Dipper in the middle of the rushing stream, bobbing up and down, and hunting insects. We saw a brilliant Indigo Bunting and a Yellow-breasted Chat.

 

Back at the motorhome, we drove onto the scenic roadway and traveled down the valley beneath the towering mesa cliffs. Soon, the weather began to close in and the skies began to darken. We rode down to the end of the paved bit, and had difficulty turning around as the park service was repaving the turn out. We took photos of the wildflowers and the cliffs, then headed back up the valley. We stopped for lunch by a scenic butte and rock formation, all the while listening to the patter of rain and the echo of thunder down the canyons. Once done, we decided to head on to Moab. We stopped briefly at the Petroglyphs on the side of the mesa walls for some quick photos (the wind had risen and it had become quite chilly). We spent the next few hours traveling through stunning colorful canyons, then into flat vast desert. We stopped at Green River for some groceries and called ahead to the KOA in Moab to reserve a site. I had a feeling that all areas near Moab were going to be crowded, and sure enough, when we drove down the main drag, the town and most surrounding campgrounds looked packed.

 

We found our KOA campground 4 miles south of the main town and got a fabulous site below the stunning red cliffs of the mesa. It was late in the day so we had dinner and relaxed. Toward nightfall, the temperatures dropped and during the night, I had to get up and put on the heat. Reading the Moab visitors guides, I found that this time of the year, April through May as well as September through October, are the high seasons especially for the outdoorsey and athlete types, because of cool temps in the 70’s during the day. What this means is that we have to plan ahead and book campgrounds as we travel, and be aware that most natural wonders will be very crowded. We booked our site for three nights, hoping to relax and take our time visiting the area sites.

 

May 20:Moab, UT

Very slow, lazy start today, and that, I think, was not a bad thing. I suspected that the two big national parks in the Moab area were very crowded and that the crush to get in happened in the morning. So, we decided to kick back, write our posts, relax and do laundry. After lunch, we made our way into town, which we found to be quite empty. We walked our pups and were able to bring them into a few stores like the bookstore and a pet store. All of us, pups included, had an ice cream cone (both Daisy and Shelby gulping theirs down!) We then drove north of town and into Canyonlands National Park. The park is situated on the top of a mesa and is called the Island in The Sky. After stopping at the small visitors center for our cancellation stamp, we visited the main highlights of the scenic drive. First was the Mesa Arch, which required a ‘short’ 0.7 mile hike to the rim. It was nice and cool and breezy out, and the sun was behind clouds most of the time so the hike was not too bad. The arch was a spectacular stone portal overlooking the vast and steep canyon walls hundreds of feet down to the bottom. We spotted a rare White-throated Swift and a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher on our walk. We traveled on to see the ‘Upheaval Dome’, a strange geological formation where a large salt mound is pushing itself up through what looks like the caldera of a volcano or a meteorite crater. That hike, only 0.3 miles, was a killer. Lots of steps up to the rim overlook. I encouraged John to make it up and, slowly, he did. By this time, we were pooped and the sun was starting to set. We drove down to the Grand Overlook way at the southern end of the mesa where we caught the sunset shining down into the canyons. We had our diner there with the best view on the planet! By the time we left the park, it was dark and the stars had come out. Back to our KOA campsite and to bed.

May 21: Moab, UT HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROLINE!!!

Happy happy 48th birthday to me! And what a great day spent canyoneering in Arches National Park. The day dawned overcast, but it felt strangely humid, even in the desert. I got some supplies from the camp store and made a giant spanish omlette with bacon for lunch. We left our campground after 2pm and drove into town, stopping at a few auto parts stores because we had lost a lug nut on one of our wheel caps and it was making an annoying clunking sound. No one had the part, but John managed to get a monster wrench and tightened the two remaining nuts. The nut itself is in metric and needs to be special ordered. Well, not on this trip, unless we find a truck store that has some. We then drove into Arches National Park, stopping at the visitor’s center for our cancellation stamp. The park itself was crowded, even this late in the day. We managed to visit a few arches like Double Arch and the Windows. There were many people climbing about the arches and they were loud and noisy, which kind of spoiled the atmosphere. John managed to hike up with me to see them closer, but stayed in the RV for the rest of the visit. We then continued on to the far end of the park and the Devil’s Garden, skipping the famous Delicate Arch because ,again, of parking lot repaving. At the Devil’s Garden, I went for a short walk to photograph Pine Tree arch and Tunnel arch, which were spectacular, especially in the slanted sun of late afternoon.

We took our time exiting the park, allowing for some great photography with the light, then headed back into town for my birthday celebration. We tried a Mexican restaurant first, but the wait was 45 minutes, so decided to go to Pasta Jays. Yum!! Great pasta dish of fettuccini, tomato, artichoke hearts, and shrimp for me, chicken for John. Great garlic bread too! We headed back to our campsite where we split a fabulous lemon birthday cupcake John had bought in town. All in all, a very, very happy birthday with great food, and great scenery! It is the start of Memorial Day weekend tomorrow, and because we have been distracted by all our travels, we failed to plan ahead. Our KOA campground is completely full, as well as ALL the other campgrounds in the Moab area. Bummer. So, we are heading out and southwards, to Durango Colorado, where I managed to call ahead and get a site near town. No worries though as we will be staying for the weekend. Looking forward to seeing that nice western town again.

TRIP 47: Jan 7-15, 2015 Heading to Warmer Climes (Seattle to Las Vegas)

January 7: Readington, NJ to Issaquah, WA

We decided to take a short winter break on the advice of John’s doctor. Both of us have been battling sinus problems since summer, John most of all, and Dr. Scher said a week or two away in a warm, dry climate just might do wonders for persistent sinus infections. (I think he actually meant a trip to the tropical islands, but that was overlooked). Though the fall was not too bad weatherwise, this first week of 2015 has ushered in some bitter Arctic vortex cold, causing the temperatures to plummet to zero and below with wind chills. I was reluctant to go because it meant leaving the pups and my horse Max for a week. Being the ever-worrying type, it meant leaving Shelby and Daisy in the care of Christopher, who is staying home, and Max in the care of Rhi at Lane’s End farm. Well, we had to go, if for health reasons, than for repositioning the RV in a different spot to explore other areas.

We left frigid New Jersey yesterday at the ungodly hour of 6:30am. A 2 hour stop in Denver, plus a 2 hour delay due to deicing, brought us into Seattle around 3pm exhausted and frazzled. The Greyhaven started just fine. It being winter time, and being at a higher latitude than NJ, the evening was closing in, and even though we had plans to try and drive off to Ellensburg, we stopped for groceries in Issaquah and wilted fast. A small RV park was 5 miles away, so after getting the basic supplies, we headed there and crashed for the night.

January 8: Issaquah, WA to Pendelton, OR

I awoke to a surreal view of a frost laden empty RV park, with low grey overcast morning skies, and rolling high desert hills in the distance hidden in mist. Yesterday, we spent a leisurely morning getting our act together, i.e. rising late, faffing with one of the stabilizing legs which froze in the extended position. We left the campground around noon and backtracked into Issaquah Village to visit a needlework shop.

‘Threadbare Street’ is a very rare find, in my opinion. Needlework shops, other than the huge box stores, have vanished in the U.S., taking with them hard to find books and supplies that can now only be found online and especially only in the U.K. The owner was very knowledgeable and pleasant. I immediately picked up a 28″ stretch roll frame, a cross-stitch kit from England of a Christmas Robin, several books and needles. Her shop was full of many different kinds of threads, hand-painted needlepoint canvases, kits, books and supplies. I was in heaven.

Alas, I couldn’t linger too long. I stopped by a bakery next door to pick up some goodies. I met John in the RV parked in the Staples parking lot just down the street. We had soup in bread bowls for lunch, then headed out and eastward, up and over the misty Snoqualmie Pass, then onward into the night. The journey was one of heavy fog and misty rain into the enclosing darkness. We managed to do about 250 miles and reach Pendelton, Oregon (home of the famous Pendelton wool mills, the company that makes the blankets). We stopped for the night in Wild Horse Casino, in an RV park empty except for a hand full of rigs. It was 8pm when we stopped, so we had a quick bite of dinner (swedish meatballs!) and then went immediately to bed.

 

January 9: Pendelton, OR to Mountain Home, ID
Today was a long 270 miles through dense fog and freezing mists which clung to the roadside sage bushes and cottontree branches. Rolling high desert prairie and sparse rural farmland was our scenery as we traversed eastern Oregon and into Idaho. We stopped for lunch near Baker City, OR and I had a traditional ‘astronaut’s breakfast’ of steak and eggs. Yum! When it grew dark, we stopped to stretch our legs at a Walmart near Meridian, Idaho and do some odds and ends shopping. We thought we could at least make it to Twin Falls, but we noticed we had lost an hour as we entered Idaho with the change to Mountain Time, so we decided to stop and set up camp sooner at a deserted KOA in Mountain Home. Dinner and then some crafts (I am getting back into knitting! Thank you darling John for showing me how to cast on again!) and then early to bed.

 

January 10: Mountain Home, ID to Ely, NV

The journey today took us from the foggy rolling hills of Idaho and into the high desert of Nevada. The mists cleared and for most of the day were able to drive in clear, if overcast conditions. I was not familiar with what exactly ‘high desert’ meant till today, when we drove through 350 miles of vast open sagebrush- covered valleys nestled in snow-dusted mountain ranges. Our elevation was around 6100′, and I could feel myself trying to catch my breath every now and then. The only living things we spotted were red-tailed hawks, a northern harrier, scattered black angus cattle in the far distance, as well as horses. The only trees visible were conifers which covered distant hillsides.
Towards nightfall, we decided to stop in Ely and found a small casino/RV park ($15 for the night with free margaritas!). Set up and relaxed with some knitting, e-mailing, and reading. Tomorrow, we should be in Las Vegas, where the temperature at this moment is in the 60’s.

 

January 11: Ely, NV to Las Vegas, NV

A very long journey yesterday took us through 380 miles of the high desert of the Great Basin. We left Ely and stopped at the Great Basin National Park just 50 miles south, where we learned that the Great Basin is the only high altitude desert in North America (above 6000′), and that it encompasses all of the state of Nevada, stretching from the Salt Lake in Utah up to Boise, out west to Lassen volcanic NP and south past Las Vegas, where the desert becomes the Mojave (low elevation, different flora and fauna). It is a basin, in the sense, that all the water within it remains in it through underground aquifers. However, it really is a dome of volcanic activity. The California plate, which is sliding beneath the North American plate, is pushing this basin upwards, like the dome of a rising loaf of bread. Thus, this is the reason why we noticed many hot springs in the area. Also, it is the reason I noticed the curvature of the horizon dipping downward as we drove over the open expanse, giving it an illusion of falling away, though we never really felt any downhill movement.

We had a bite to eat for lunch before pushing off. We noticed we were very low on gas, and decided to push on the next 80 or so miles to Pinoche, a small creepy mining town set on a hillside, where we gased up at an unmanned 24 hour gas station. We continued on into the night, down Rt. 93, to Interstate 15…and civilization. A very dark, unlit intersection made us miss the entrance ramp to the interstate, so we faffed a bit more till we got on it in a few miles. The nav system took us into downtown Las Vegas as we tried to get to out RV park adjacent to the Sam’s Town Casino on Boulder Boulevard on the eastern edge of town. Out of the blue, I suddenly felt dizzy and nauseous and had a panic attack. John managed to get us to the RV park and registered safely. We parked in out spot, and after I managed to come to, we went into the casino for a nice steak dinner. Back to our motorhome, where we crashed early.

 

January 12: Las Vegas, NV

We have arrived…..finally…..in warm, dry weather! A lazy day today. We had lunch at the Sam’s Town buffet (tacos!). Afterwards, we unhooked and did a quick gas up and shopping trip for some essentials. Walmart is directly across the street! Back to camp to relax in the warm temperatures. We went to see ‘The Imitation Game’ at the Sam’s Cineplex, thoroughly enjoying it. Back to our campsite to do some knitting and reading.

 

January 13-14: Las Vegas, NV

‘Camping’ in the middle of a large metropolitan area, we have found, is not all that bad. No, it is not like being out in the wilds, in the forests or near a lake shore, with a great view, solitude, being close to nature. But, camping adjacent to a casino, especially with hookups, has quite a few positives. We are in a major RV owner area here out west. Like Phoenix and Tuscon, Las Vegas is a snowbird destination for many people living in the northern states, as well as up across the border in Canada. Here in the RV park, there are many license plates from British Columbia, Oregon, Minnesota, Ohio, and North Dakota. The desert here provides warm days during the winter, with temperatures in the comfortable 60’s. Night time does bring a cool down, and we have had to use our propane heat to keep warm.

A site here at Sam’s Town KOA is $34 a night. Today, we did laundry in a spotless laundry room, and I did some housekeeping in the Greyhaven. We tried the buffet in the casino for lunch…an enormous spread of all kinds of food (Pizza, pasta, fresh cut meats, Chinese, Mexican, salads, desserts) all-you-can-eat for $11.99, but discounted with a casino card to $7.99. If this is not enough, there is a fabulous steakhouse, a TGIFriday’s, a Mexican Cantina, Dunkin’Doughnuts, Subway, and a few other resturants in the Casino. In the evening, after a day of lazing about, knitting, writing, and catching up on our vitamin D, we went to see “Interstellar” in the 18 cinema Cineplex….wow! Great movie!

Tomorrow, we plan to have out motorhome washed and detailed (finally!) at the site. It is in horrible condition, covered with grime from the last 10 trips, and is the worst looking in the entire RV park. Everyone’s coach here is spotless, and kept that way. John just checked out flight status back to NJ and found we have been upgraded to ‘smug class’ (i.e. First class) due to his mileage. I am looking forward to returning and getting back to our pups, getting back to my horse Maximus and playing with him, getting back to our home and all the small craft business projects I have in mind, but I am not looking forward to returning to the dry cold temperatures. It is in the 30’s in Flemington as I write this, however, a January thaw is forecast to start this coming weekend.

 

January 15: Las Vegas, NV to Readington, NJ

Yesterday, we had our coach washed and detailed at the site, something we haven’t had done in quite a few years.  It was in horrific condition, and filthy after many many miles on highways. Afterwards, we moved our location from Sam’s Town KOA to Las Vegas RV Resort, a mile down the road, but securing a storage site till we come back in March for Spring Break. Later in the day, John had Enterprise drop off a small car and in the evening, we went out to ‘The Strip’.

We really wanted to visit some new casinos, but they were really spaced out so we narrowed it down to the southern end of the Strip. We passed Circus Circus, the casino/RV park once owned by KOA and where we stayed the first time we visited here with Mother and Christopher and when we got married. The KOA campground was no longer there, and a new casino was being built on the site. We decided to try Excalibur, a new family oriented casino with a medieval theme. We meandered about, just checking out the huge arcade, the laser maze, the eateries. The Excalibur was connected to the Luxor, the casino shaped like a black pyramid, and continuing on, was connected to Mandalay Bay, at the very southern end of the Strip.

We browsed the shops and casino, and finally settled on having a bite to eat at RiRa, an Irish themed pub. We both had fish and chips, then called it an early night since it was very loud and crowded. Back at the RV resort, we packed for the flight home.

Today, our flight was at 1pm. We got the Greyhaven emptied of water and put to sleep in a storage space in the same RV park by 10am. We then returned the rental car back to a brand new rental car center new the airport (very impressed! Just liek Seattle, with a free bus shuttle back to the airport and all terminals). Another thing I was very impressed with was the new airport itself. I was here aboutt 6 years ago and it was totally rebuilt with huge, spacious new terminals, tramways between terminals, new restaurants and shops, and a comfortable lounge. I suddenly did not feel all that well, and we boarded the flight for home for a 4 hour flight with me feeling ill. The flight was OK, and I did feel better as we went. We arrived back in NJ to temperatures in the low 20’s. No snow, but bitter cold. Christopher picked us up and we got home around 11pm. Back to our pups who were jumping up and down with joy when we walked through the door! Happy to be back! 

 

TRIP 47: Heading to Warmer Climes

 

Trip 46: Vancouver Aug. 20-29, 2014

August 20: Readington, NJ to Anacortes, WA

Ahhhh….a final summer fling out west to decompress, relax, and enjoy our two pups. Today was filled with long hours of traveling. Getting up at 4 to get to the airport early so that we could check the pups in always takes the most out of me. As with every trip, the folks at PetSafe were good, but they were delayed and slow, taking a good hour to check the pups in. We were able to spend an hour in the United lounge before boarding. I took advantage of the one last seat in first class to upgrade…thank you sweetie! The flight was 5 hours, and I think I slept through most of it. Once in Seattle, we picked up the rental car, then the pups, then the Greyhaven.  We headed north towards Burlington, slogging for a few hours through I-5 traffic, and stopped briefly at a Haggen food store for some groceries, then went to the Swanomish Casino/RV park to crash for the evening. Some reading and news, then to bed.

 

August 21: Anacortes, WA to Burnaby, BC

Faffing day. Shopping for supplies is a necessary evil, but it does eat into the day, and ultimately vacationing. Stops included Home Depot for coax cable, and wood dowels for a larger needlepoint frame for my tapestry work. Then, on to Haggen market for groceries, fresh sushi, and goodies. The weather here in the northwest is cool with temps in the low 70’s and it is often overcast. The forecast calls for similar conditions for the next few weeks. Our generator fuel line is leaking a small amount of gas. Since we are not really using it much, we decided to leave it for now and head north, and later perhaps get it repaired on the way back to Seattle.

 

We headed north after lunch, and crossed into Canada after a good 45 minute wait at the border crossing. We proceeded to our campground in Burnaby, just 20 minutes east of Vancouver city center and located near a scenic lake. Parking in the narrow hedge-lined site required some skill and backing, but John managed to guide the rig perfectly. Crashed. Walked the pups and then did not have enough energy to make dinner. So, we had a cold meal of thai noodles and bread. To bed early.

 

August 22 Burnaby, BC

John is not feeling well today…decompression sickness, or perhaps a sinus infection? We decided to rent a car and see a few sites without worrying about the Greyhaven and parking in the city. I took a cab from the campground to a local Enterprise in Burnaby.  Back to the RV park to have some lunch, fresh shrimp and oriental salad. We then ventured into Vancouver, heading first to the ‘jewel in the crown’ Stanley Park. Touted as one of the finest city parks in North America, it is a sprawling peninsula situated in the heart of the city and boasts many different ecosystems and attractions. There are huge redwood trees, deep northwest pine forests, a small rainforest area, an aquarium, beaches, all ringed by a fabulous cycling/jogging/rollerblading trail. John wanted to see the collection of Northwest nations totem poles.so we took a scenic route around the park, and then got stuck in some local traffic. We cut through some side streets and got to see the neighborhood of The northwest part of the city. Very trendy, lots of little stores and a variety of cafes and restaurants of different ethnic foods, many quaint apartment and condo towers.

 

Back in the park, we finally came to the totem poles, located in the easternmost tip and overlooking the Vancouver Convention center and the cruise ship docks. There were two large cruise ships there, a Holland America and a monster Norwegian Cruiselines. We took some photos of the carved poles, and walked around a bit. There were many folks about, bicycling, rollerblading, running, visiting. The city seems to be populated by very fit, thin, healthy athletic folks. The only fatties were the tourists.


We then headed into downtown Vancouver to the inner harbor area and the famous Granville Island Market. The island is located beneath a main interstate and bridge and is also a very famous spot in the city to visit. Filled with many tiny shops, galleries, restaurants, studios, and the Market, it is a miniature city within the city. The streets are cobblestone and there are the remnants of a cablecar track in the roadways. Because John was beginning to wilt, we headed straight for the Market. Filled to the brim with 100 little stalls and shops selling a vast variety of fresh foodstuffs, we walked about gazing at all the delicious goodies and produce. Salivating, we gawped at artisan cheeses, cases loaded with German meats and sausages, Italian mini pastries, Indian curries and spices, savory and sweet pot pies, veggies and fruits of all different kinds, candies and hand made chocolates, and Northwest smoked salmon and fish. We stepped outside to walk by the marina. A wooden boat show was being held with quite a few antique wood yachts and sailboats on display. Wilting, we quickly purchased some tomatoes stuffed with arugula and mozzarella and some fresh brie ravioli for dinner and headed back to the RV park. There, we enjoyed the fresh foods along with fresh French bread. To bed early.

 

August 23 Burnaby to Vancouver Island, Nanimo, BC

John was feeling better today so we decided to head out of the city area and west and over to Vancouver Island. We were lazy getting going so we arrived at the Horseshoe Bay BC ferry terminal too late to take the noon sailing. We took the pups into the little village and had lunch at Toll’s fish n’ chips. We were able to get a seat on the patio and tie the pups to the iron railing. We ate rather quickly because the next sailing was at 2:30pm and we needed to return to our motorhome for boarding. Once on board, we tried to take the pups up with us onto the passenger deck but were told they were not allowed there. We returned them to the RV and spent the rest of the trip reading and doing computer work in the seating area.

The weather was cool and breezy, but very hazy so we did not get a great view of the surrounding scenery. Once in Nanaimo, we headed a short 10 km to the Living Forest RV park, a scenic campground we had stayed at in 2007 on a winter trip to this area. The first site we were assigned to proved to be too narrow and had too many noisy neighbors. While walking the pups, i managed to spot a vacant site in a quiet area with a great view over the bay. I quickly called the office and found out that it was available, so we switched sites. We parked head in, allowing us a fabulous view over the bay. Dinner was British ‘bangers’, savory onion gravy and roasted potatoes. YUM! Relaxed into the evening doing some needlework and computer programming.

 

August 24 Vancouver Island, Nanimo, BC

Relaxed for the day in this beautiful campground. Cool sunny weather has been with us all this trip. In the afternoon, we took the pups for a long walk to a drug store near the entrance of the RV park. There, we mailed a birthday card for Maggie’s birthday, picked up some bottles of water, and had a bite to eat at Tim Horton’s. We returned to our campsite where we enjoyed the afternoon and had a dinner of British bangers and roasted potatoes.

 

August 25 Vancouver Island, Nanimo, BC to Saanish, BC

Another beautiful sunny cool day. We spent most of the afternoon visiting Butchart Gardens. We were able to bring the pups with us! They were a big hit with the crowds of people. We were stopped often with cooing and adoring people wanting to pet them and asking all sorts of questions. Both Daisy and Shelby soon became accustomed to all the attention and walked with us without barking or shying. We stopped at one point to feed them ice cream cones and really drew a crowd of onlookers. The gardens were more spectacular that I remembered them for our last trip back in 2007. Back then, we visited during spring break. It was cool then and there were not as many flowers displayed then. This time, there were many many blooms out, especially dahlias and roses. Also, we noticed many topiary sculptures placed here and there in the landscape. Afterwards, we decided to find a campsite along the shoreline. Nearby was the Beachcomber resort in Saanish, so we headed there. Very narrow campsites along the rocky beach, but a neighboring camper helped us park. Watched the sun set across the waters. To bed early.

 

August 26 Saanish, BC to Port Townsend, WA

We arose early to try and catch the 10:30am ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, USA, but arrived to find the ferry already full for sailing. We had till 1:30pm to walk around so we took the pups on a stroll through the harbor and into downtown along Government St. near all the souvineer shops. They were well behaved once more and drew in lots of people wanting to pet them. I visited a few stores and of course Munroe books. While walking back to the ferry dock, we passed the seaplane terminal. A restaurant was located there called the Flying Otter (de Havilland Otters are the workhorse airplanes of the seaplane fleet)and they were offering fish and chips. I managed to get some take away for John and myself. We returned to the ferry waiting line and had lunch.

Boarding was at 2:30pm. A few of the border guards remarked on a woman driving such a huge rig! The crossing was a little under 2 hours and the seas became rolling as we approached Port Angeles. Finally, back in the USA. We drove an hour or so east to Port Townsend, another of our favorite camping spots, and got a site on the shoreline with a great view of the bay from the Point Hudson Marina and Campground. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner of scallops and salmon at the Marina Grill right next to our campsite.

 

August 27: Port Townsend, WA
We managed to move our site today to one closer to the beach without an obstructed view. We spent the day relaxing in Port Townsend. I made omlettes and Irish bacon for lunch, did some laundry, needlework, pup walking and napping. Later in the day, I ventured into town for a stroll. Dinner was at the small restaurant nearby.

August 28: Port Townsend to Renton, WA

 

TRIP 46: Vancouver, British Columbuia

 

 

TRIP 45: Banff, Jasper, and the BC Rockies May 22-Jun 6, 2014

May 22: Readington, NJ to Mount Vernon, WA

Sipping coffee, watching the rain fall here in Mount Vernon, Wa. We are camped on the Skagit river and have had a very slow start. We arrived yesterday after a long flight from New Jersey. Everything went smoothly. Pups arrived safely. We rented a tank (GMC Yukon) and went to the RV storage to get the Greyhaven awake, stopping along the way for a bite to eat at Burger King. The motor home started ok and after we loaded it up with our gear and water, we headed back to the airport to return the tank. 

John was feeling tired, but not anywhere near the way he felt last time we were here. Although I was just as pooped, we decided to just head north a bit. We stopped around Maryville for a quick grocery shop, then slugged 40 more miles through heavy stop and go traffic around Everitt to stop for the night in Mount Vernon. Not the best looking RV park, but cheap and close to Wally World. Crashed soon thereafter without even eating.

 

May 23: Mount Vernon, WA to Hope, BC

Today we are feeling still out of sorts. Decompression has begun. We did not get going till after a lazy morning trying to adjust to the time change. The weather is now rainy and cool. John felt that the tires on the motorhome needed some air so the first thing we did after getting gas was head to a tire store. sure enough, the chappy there checked the pressure and all tires were really low. After filling the tires up with air, we were ravenous so we shopped for lunch salads and groceries at the Haggen next door.

We turned northward, traveling on a local road through farmlands and orchards up to the border crossing in Sumas, WA. The wait was about 30 minutes and we crossed into Canada without a problem. I have always found that when you enter Canada, there is something very subtle that changes. You sense you are in a different place, but it is unusually difficult to actually say what the differences are. The skies seem bluer, though today they were overcast. The homes and gardens and farms seem neater and well taken care of. People are more friendly. The air is crisp, cool and clean. Whatever it is, both of us are always happy to be back here.

We traveled up the Fraiser River valley, and were surrounded on both sides by lush farms growing trees, shrubs, bushes, raspberries, herbs and even bamboo. We did not go very far as we soon began to wilt. Traveling eastward on the Trans-Canadian Highway (Rt.1) the river valley soon began to narrow into a steep walled canyon. The tops of the canyon peaks were hidden in the mists of the clouds and everywhere you looked, you could see huge towering waterfalls cascading down the sheer granite walls. We decided to stop in Hope, BC at the Wild Rose campground. We enjoyed fresh chicken pot pies for dinner while listening to freight train whistles echoing down the canyon. To bed after doing some computer work.

May 24: Hope to Kelowna, BC

I am writing this while enjoying the sunset on this cool, crisp spring evening. We are in an RV resort just north of the large sprawling town of Kelowna. Our start this morning was slow. Not sure if we are just tired or ailing. It was misting with rain when I got up at 2:30ish to walk the pups, and was still drizzling as I was making coffee. After breaking camp, we explored the small mountain town of Hope. We checked out a small used book store, bought some pens at a stationary store, and walked the pups around Main street after a bite to eat.

We decided to stop by the Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park and the Othello train tunnels located a few miles east of Hope. The train tunnels were carved out of the solid sheer granite canyon walls in the last century when the area was a new focus for gold and silver mining. We took the pups with us on our hike. The trail was easy and led us through five massive very dark tunnels which traversed a canyon with the roaring, flooded Coquihalla river beneath. There were many other hikers out enjoying the Saturday afternoon with us. I was amazed at the engineering that went into creating this railway. It was fun to walk down the trail and I think the pups enjoyed the walk with us.

Afterwards, we decided to keep heading eastward. We took Rt. 5 north through some wild scenic expanses of pine forests and rocky hills. At Merritt, we turned eastward, continuing our trip through empty pine wilderness. Everywhere you looked there were vast swaths of pine trees scraped away and clear cut down to the dirt. The trees looked very skinny and young, too short to be real logging trees. We guessed they might be forests full of the devastating borer beetle we saw in Colorado. We journeyed across hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness with not a house or a road in sight. Suddenly, we arrived in the crowded, strip mall lined town of West Kelowna, then crossed Okanagan Lake into the larger town of Kelowna. It was a huge difference from the lonely, desolate vast forests we just came through.

We decided to stay the night nearby so we stopped at the Holiday Park Resort. Like all RV parks with the name ‘resort’ after them, it was a sprawling long term community of RV sites and condos for retirees. Expensive, compared to last night’s campground, but we were too spent to continue on elsewhere. We took the pups for a run at the dog park. The weather and the sounds of the European Collared Doves in the trees reminded me of being in Sidmouth, visiting John’s mother during the summertime. It was warm out, but cool, and felt just like southwest England. Back to our Greyhaven for dinner and a movie.

May 25: Kelowna to Revelstoke, BC

This Sunday dawned overcast and cool. While John did some emails in the morning, I took the pups to play in the dog park. There were a few other owners there with well behaved little dogs. This is a big difference from my experiences in NJ where people bring huge, wild, out of control animals and let them run free without thinking of their responsibility to control them. Most of the folks I met here seemed to be older retirees. It seems to me that here in Canada, a trailer park or mobile home park or RV resort is not a dump as in the states and is a reasonable affordable alternative to being in an elderly home. The RV resort had motor home lots for sale, so I guess you can buy the slot and pay taxes and utilities just as you would a house. Almost all are impeccably kept, with flower and veggie gardens outside, and most folks travel by golf cart. As we were leaving, we spotted quite a few California Quail running about with their to knot feather waggling.

We packed up around 11 and decided to visit one of the many wineries the Lake Okanagan region is noted for. If you look at a map of the British Columbia territory, the land is striated with very long slender lakes running north-south for hundreds of miles. The lakes are at the bottom of are u-shaped valleys which have been scoured out by the retreating glaciers of the last ice age. In their wake were left verdant soil thus making this area a vast agricultural haven. Many many wineries line the Okanagan valley on the eastern shore. 

We stopped at Grey Monk winery just outside of the town of Lake Country. The winery was founded by the Heiss family from Austria and is the oldest one in the entire valley. Grey Monk means ‘pinot Gris’, the first wine the Heiss family brought over to cultivate. We first had lunch at their restaurant which was located on the hillside and commanded a spectacular view of the lake. Both of us had the lunch special, a luscious pan seared salmon with fresh local asparagus and rice in a white wine cream sauce topped with wild chives..flower and all. Yummy. I had a flight of the three most popular wines made by the winery: Latituge 50 white, rose, and red. My favorite was the rose. 

Tipsy from lunch, we headed north up the valley towards Vernon and then to Revelstoke. The landscape slowly changed from open farm valley, to mountain lakeshore, to passage through steeper mountains and small hamlets. The rain became more steady and, as had been the way throughout this trip so far, we began to wilt around 5pm. Once in Revelstoke, we sought out a small local provincial park, Williamson Lake, and the small campground next to it. There, we made camp for the evening. Though the ad boasted of it having WiFi, we were unable to get a decent signal, even though we moved our campsite to a more open area.

We took the pups for a walk along the small beach, not reading the signs that dogs were not allowed there. Oops. I saw a few trout leap out of the waters and began to itch for a fly rod, but I did not have a license for BC Canada yet. We watched an episode of ‘Wallander’, a detective series starring Kenneth Brannagh set in Sweden, while having pasta salad and fresh bread for dinner. Off to bed early.

May 26: Revelstoke to Golden, BC

I am having my morning coffee looking out at the Kicking horse River rushing by our campground. We are in Golden, BC, a beautiful mountain town on the doorstep of the route to the high peaks region around Banff National park. I am watching freight trains on the opposite side of the River going up into the canyon. On the other side of the valley are the snow capped peaks of the Columbia mountain range.

The time zone here is mountain time so we have lost an hour since last night, and I am having trouble adjusting to the small change. Yesterday, we spent the morning visiting the Revelstoke Train Museum. Inside was a restored sleeper car and a huge steam locomotive. Afterwards, we had a bite to eat and visited the Revelstoke visitor center for maps and info. John did some email communications while I browsed around the town. There was a book store, quite a few cafés and mountain sports equipment and clothing stores. We did not linger and left after lunch. The rain showers stopped by midday and the skies cleared just enough to view the spectacular glacial valleys and surrounding mountain ranges.

We did not go too far, just 100 miles or so to Golden, where we set up camp in the Municipal campground on the kicking Horse River. We decided to eat out and walked a short distance to the Wolf den, a log cabin restaurant just down the River. John had a great burger, and I ordered a NY strip steak. When I took one bite, I immediately sensed it was off. John smelled it and agreed. I could not eat anything after that. The waitress apologized but I had lost my appetite. I felt bad but I did not want to get sick again on a trip like I did in England. Back to our campsite where we spent the evening watching trains pass up and down the opposite side, and watched an episode of ‘Wallander’. I am hoping I do not become ill in the next few days.

May 27: Golden to Banff NP

Another spectacular sunny, low humidity day has dawned. I was hoping for a day like today to at least see the stunning scenery going into Banff for the first time. We broke camp around 11 and drive about an hour east on the trans Canadian highway 1 into Yoho National park. We stopped at Field, a small hamlet on the Kicking Horse river and had a bite to eat after getting some maps, entrance permit, and info at the national park visitor center. I managed to get a fishing license for the national parks, but few locations are open this early in the season (some are still iced in from winter!) After lunch, we took a short drive up to Emerald lake, a stunning glacial green lake surrounded by soaring snow capped summits. We took the pups for an after lunch stroll through the lodge village. There was a trail circumnavigating the lakeshore, but it looks snowed in and muddy so we returned to the RV and continued on down the Bow River valley. We drove the more scenic Bow Valley Parkway, looking for wildlife such as bears and elk. Within an hour, we arrived at the town of Banff.

Since I was a child, I dreamed of coming here. Living in small suburbia of Edison, I read about far away places such as these glacial silt emerald lakes high up in the Canadian Rockies and always wanted to see them along with the beautiful mountain terrain. The journey here was put on my personal bucket list, and I am very excited to finally be here and experience it. We briefly drove through Banff, and headed to the major camping areas at Tunnel Mountain. There are three separate campgrounds here, one just for tents, one for big rigs with full hookups and one for trailers with varied service options. We chose the trailer park area and got a site overlooking the Bow River valley and Tunnel Mountain on the opposite side.

We did not hook up for the night, but ventured into town for an hour or so. Named for a village in Banffshire, Scotland, birthplace of Canadian Pacific Railway president George Stephen, Banff became a major tourist destination for the wealthy traveling on the newly constructed transcontinental railway in the 1880’s. Many luxury hotels were built here. It also drew many people with illnesses for the sulfur hot springs. It is a beautiful mountain town located amidst soaring snow capped mountains with many shops, cafés, restaurants, and boutiques. We browsed a book store and a few gift stores, then had a cappuccino at Starbucks while watching the tourists walk by. There were many Chinese tour groups about. We could also catch some French and German being spoken here and there.

We returned to our campground and set up for the evening. No WiFi service here either, so we made do with a couple of long walks with the pups, gawping at the breathtaking scenery. Dinner was Swedish meatballs while watching a ‘Wallander’ episode. To bed early and some reading. Tomorrow’s forecast looked grim with showers and thunderstorms, so we think we will hunker down outside the National park in a campground with a WiFi and get some work and laundry done.

May 28: Banff to Canmore, BC

It poured all last night and into the early morning hours. Yesterday was a wash and mend day. We did not travel far, just 19 miles to the town of Canmore down the Bow Valley. We got some more groceries and fresh water at the Safeway in town, then headed for the only full service campground in the valley, Spring Creek. It is a beautiful campground set in the valley surrounded by tall snowy mountains and it had working WiFi. We tried three separate sites before we found one with a suitable connection. Apparently Canadian campgrounds are just beginning to tune in to the fact that campers need and wand an internet connection as a necessity to traveling. John crashed for a while as I spent the afternoon catching up on email and laundry (only 1 dryer! in the wash house.) We booked in for 2 nights so that we can explore Lake Louise and other things without using the NP campgrounds.

Later in the afternoon, we walked the pups around the campground and spotted the Canadian Rocky Mountaineer sightseeing train pass by the campground. The thought of traveling by train across the Canadian Rockies is an exciting idea, the cost is not. $3-4K starting price for a week. i managed to do some birding along the beautiful crystal clear creek next to the campground. I spotted an Osprey, which often means fish in the river, and a pair of Mountain chickadees.

May 29: Canmore, BC

Today we visited Lake Louise, the most visited and photographed lake in all of Canada. It was pouring rain when we arrived after stopping by the roadside by the Bow River for lunch. The lake is at 6000′ elevation and the parking lot walkways were still snow covered! The lake itself did not appear like any of the photos I had seen….emerald waters below towering mountains. The lake was still ice covered from winter, and the mountains were hidden in rainy mists. We took some photos, then returned the pups, soaking wet, to the RV, and went to the Fairmont hotel to browse the expensive shops and have a hot chocolate. It was very cold outside so we did not hang around, nor try a gondola ride on the opposite side of the valley. So much for the changeable mountain weather. Back to our campsite in Canmore after filling up with gas for the long trek tomorrow up the Icefields Parkway and to Jasper

May 30: Canmore to Jasper, AB  John’s Birthday!

I did not sleep for more than a few hours last night, so I got up around 6am, fed and walked the pups, then watched the sun and shadows play across the mountains on the opposite side of the valley. The day looked very promising with broken clouds and lots of sunshine. We broke camp early around 9 and headed north along the Icefields Parkway.

Often referred to as the ‘world’s most spectacular road’ the Icefields Parkway runs for 143 miles between Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta. The road climbs through stunning, breathtaking Rocky Mountain scenery and varies from deep turquoise mountain lakes, surging aqua rivers, alpine tundra, to glittering snow covered glaciers and mountain passes. I felt so very very lucky to have the opportunity to finally do this drive and to do it on such a splendid day! The guide book description did not disappoint!! Mile after mile after mile offered snow covered peaks topping out at above 10,000′. Both John and I switched over driving so that we both could take in the wonderful sights. The camera did not stop clicking for the entire 143 miles!

We stopped for a birthday lunch around the Crowfoot glacier lookout. I made a pepper and onion omlettte while John made real thick European style bacon and fried toast. Finally, after days of rain and mists, we were treated to this awesome view. We continued onward, the road initially was well cared for and there was not much traffic. Towards the northern end up to Jasper, the road became more bumpy. The congregation of tourists, tour buses, mini caravaning RV’s was at the Columbia Icefield. About half way between Lake Louise and Jasper lies the Athabasca Glacier. It is very close to the road, though it has retreated about a mile in the last century, and offers tourists the chance to walk (or drive) out onto the glacier ice. The park offers rides in glacier buses, vehicles with huge tires, to take you out onto the ice so that you can get some photos and walk out on an Icefield. We decided not to join the squash of people going up there, so we took some photos and continued northward.

Another hour or two of driving through the glacial valley brought us to the small town of Jasper. We first headed to the only open park campground, Whistler, to grab a campsite. There were many folks at the entrance office already so we were lucky to get a full hookup. It being still early in the season, many park campgrounds are still not operational. After checking out our site, and taking a breather, we decided to have dinner in an exceptional restaurant for John’s birthday. Just up the road for our campground was the Jasper Tramway, a gondola ride up to about 7000′ above the valley. John and I had dinner at the Treehouse Restaurant, fish and chips and a view beyond belief. The skies were still a bit cloudy, but some blue shone through. You could see the entire valley floor 2000′ below with the Athabasca River, Jasper, toy-like freight trains, many glacial green lakes, and mountain ranges stretching in all directions. A short hike brought you up through the snow to the real summit, but we were too tired to attempt it.

Back down, to our pups in the RV. We took a short spin around the town of Jasper, taking note of the small herd of elk in the downtown park, and the large train station in town (also a stop for the Rocky Mountaineer). Back to our campsite, where we walked the pups, watched another ‘Wallander’ episode, and crashed for the evening. Wow! what a day!!

May 31: Jasper, AB to Clearwater, BC

I have had a difficult time adjusting to both the latitude and the time change. I don’t think I have been this far north and, though I have read a lot about the ‘land of the midnight sun’ in Greenland and Alaska and living in Arctic climes, I have never experienced this many hours of sunlight. The pups grow restless about 4:00am and need a walk. It is already dawn and the skies are brightening. We often get to bed around 10ish, after reading and a movie, and the skies are still light out. So that is about 6 hours of dark, and 17-18 hours of sunlight,and it is only Late May. We also have been criss-crossing the Mountain and Pacific standard time zones, which almost follows the Alberta and British Columbia province line. So going into Banff we lost an hour and coming band towards Clearwater we gained it back. My sleep clock is all screwed up and I am feeling out of sorts.

Today, we mostly did scenic driving through the Alberta Rockies. After packing up in Whistler campground, we took the scenic and wildlife-filled Maligne Lake drive just a few miles north of Jasper. We spotted a black bear (along with 20 or so foolish tourists out of their cars and very close to the animal to take photos), a mountain goat, and a few mule deer. Like Lake Louise, Maligne Lake is a hot spot to visit because of its deep aqua waters, reflections of surrounding snowy peaks, and boat tours that take visitors out to Spirit Island, a stand of fir trees in the center of the lake. Not today though…like Lake Louise, it is still ice covered. There were a few motored canoes far out in the cracks between the melting ice. After a short walk with the pups and illegally feeding a family of grey jays by the parking lot, we headed westwards and out of the national park.

We traveled the rest of the day through a vast rolling landscape of empty pine forests and mountain slopes. Not a single house or roadside stand for miles and miles, with only logging roads zigzagging up the hillsides barren of trees and large rapid-filled rivers of snow melt heading downwards towards the ocean. We stopped after 250 miles or so in Clearwater and crashed. Long days of driving like this one take its toll. John was dizzy and I was wiped out. We would stop more frequently in trips past, but here the camping areas and towns are few and far between. We are thinking of heading to Whistler and spending a few days there to chill.

June 1: Clearwater to Cache Creek, BC

Repositioning day today. Not feeling too chipper either. Wiped out and ailing. We kept heading westward after a lazy, slow start and stopped in Barriere for lunch at a local cafe. We then headed to the large town of Kamloops. There, we managed to give the rig a good wash at a self serve place located on a First Nations community. One of the attendants was a young native lad and he mentioned he saw our license plate..and then said he always wanted to go to New Jersey! We were stunned and tried to talk him out of it. Apparently he is a cinematography fan and likes Chris Smith of ‘Clerks’. We then stopped at the town visitor center for info and let the pups run around in their small dog park.

Some shopping followed at the local Chapters bookstore, then at a Staples. John got the idea of buying a small WiFi unit that we can use ourselves in these remote camping areas. It is called a MiFi and is used like a hotspot. I cannot use the hotspot on my phone because it would incur horrendous roaming charges, especially for data downloading. At the local mall, we were able to purchase the device at a Bell kiosk. Easily activated and has a month to month charge system.

The skies opened up in a downpour when we were leaving. We managed to stop at a local Costco on the way out of Kamloops for some fresh shrimp. Westward, along TransCanada 1, the scenery changed once again in the rolling foothills of the Rockies. The landscape became barren and desert like, with open ranges of sagebrush and grasslands. We followed the huge churning Thompson River on its way to the sea and stopped to camp for the night in Cache Creek. The campground was quite full of large rigs, probably heading north to Alaska for the summer (I guessed). We had a shrimp dinner and did not have enough stamina to stay awake for any movies. Off to bed.

Jun 2: Cache Creek to Whistler, BC

We are sitting by out Greyhaven in the Riverside Campground in the warm sunshine, awaiting a Canadian pizza for dinner. We arrived in Whistler after a long hard drive through some spectacular canyon scenery that was not in any guide pamphlets or on the map. We happened upon it by chance and by choosing the route west of Cache Creek.

It is called the Sea to Sky Highway and is BC Rt. 99, traversing the Cayoosh Creek Canyon from Whistler up through Lillooet. After breaking camp this morning, it soon turned into lunchtime. Just a few miles west of Cache Creek we came upon a winding broad canyon sculpted by the mighty Fraser River. We managed to spot the Rocky Mountaineer scenic train at a halt alongside the road, probably waiting for another train to pass. We pulled out at an overlook and enjoyed our lunch in the warm sunshine.

Continuing on after we ate, we passed through Lillooet and onto Rt.99, which suddenly became very narrow and twisting. It took us up to Lake Seton where I spotted salmon spawning runs up alongside the roadway. The lake is dammed for hydroelectric use. The salmon come up from the ocean, up the Thompson and Fraser rivers and then up these side rivers, like the Seton, to spawn in August. After the dam, the road became even more precarious, narrow, winding, and quite terrifying with the drop off on the driver’s side hundreds of feet down a sheer cliff wall to the Cayoosh Creek below. For several hours we switched off driving between John and myself. The road was treacherous and there were very few pull out areas along the way. The road also was being repaired in places, so the construction areas proved to be challenging in a rig our size with sudden stops and narrowed lanes.

It became a real ordeal in the end, especially on the down hill side into the Whistler valley. We stopped a few times to feed and walk the pups, and to let the brakes cool. John managed to see a Western tanager in one area. Great spot! Down, down, down we rode, down 15% grades in first gear till we finally came to Lillooet lake. Whew! Exciting but terrifying. Along the way into Pemberton, we entered a First Nations village of the Lil’wat People. I spotted large outdoor structures which resembled pole and canopy pavilions. These we read were used by the Native folks to dry salmon outdoors in the summer.

Down, down we descended into Pemberton, and finally into our campground in Whistler. We were totally exhausted. The resort/campground is on the edge of town and we were in no shape to do any sightseeing. We got a site for a couple of days, and ordered a pizza delivered to out site from Avalanche Pizza: organic bread, mozzarella, sauce, pepperoni, Canadian ham, bacon, mushrooms, and green peppers. A little ‘Wallander’ before reading a bit before bed.

Jun 3: Whistler, BC

We enjoyed the day here in this beautiful 4-season resort area. Bright sunshine, clear skies, and warm temps were with us most of the day. We started out having brunch at the campground restaurant, located in the registration lodge. It was the first time I had an eggs benedict, and it was delish!

After doing some laundry, we drove down the valley and spent a few hours in the downtown Whistler Village, a sprawling complex of lodges, hotels, plazas, restaurants and shops. The 2010 Winter Olympics were held here and these large lodges were built to contain all the visitors for that huge event. We did some shopping for grocery essentials, but could not get much since our RV was parked in a very distant parking lot along with the other oversize vehicles. In essence, this town is still a ski town, with small roads and parking areas. The guide books describe Whistler as being the mecca for mountain biking as Maui is to surfing, and it is very evident. Many,many biking trails lead up and down the valley, and of course the ski slopes become mountain biking terrain accessible by chair lift. Lots of folks peddaling around, which gave the ides for John and I to try it…possibly tomorrow.

We returned to our campground for a curry dinner. The Riverside Resort campground is a beautiful campground, designed with private sites, which are well spaced out, and offering many amenities. The laundry room was sparkling clean, and the staff is friendly and helpful. The resort offers Wifi, but it is limited and a cable box is offered for rent. John and I tried it but were unsuccessful at getting it to work. Satellite is also unavailable because of the high peaks surrounding the valley. Great chance to unwind while not connected to the outside news of the world. Lots of reading, stitching and long walks rounded out our evening.

June 4: Whistler, BC

Several things I have learned while being in Canada:
1.) The Canadians don’t really say ‘eh’ at the end of every question, nor do they say ‘ah-boot’ when saying about.
2.) The air is definitley cleaner up here. And the folks are friendlier.
3.) It is a very civilized society, as evidenced by the presence of HP Sauce in all the restaurants (according to John).
4.) They make the best ‘bennys’ here!! Benny, as in eggs benedict. Oh to die for!!! Soft boiled egg on an english muffin, with fresh smoked salmon and topped with hollandaise sauce. Heaven any time of the day.
5.) Whistler is THE mountain biking capital of the world. Ski lifts to the summit, miles and miles of trails (which become nordic ski trails in the winter). Bike it, ski it, hike it, dog walk it,…just incredible.
6.) Coming home will be a big let down.

After another ‘benny’ brunch (this time with fresh spinach), John and I finally bit the bullet and did the ‘E’ word today…exercise! We rented two mountain bikes for the day and, after taking care of the pups, biked along the Valley Trail (paved bike path) into Whistler Village. It was not so easy getting back into it. I had mountain biked years ago and found that, while enjoyable, the muscle memory was true…it is painful on the butt and knees. John was not to comfortable either, but we did make it to the village where we walked around a bit, bought some coffee and gellato, and relaxed in the warm mountain sunshine. We watched some very serious and dedicated mountain bikers tackling the Mountain Park (basically the downhill ski slopes converted into steep dirt tracks). Cycling to the village was a gentle uphill, and cycling back to our campground was an easy, enjoyable glide.

We relaxed for the evening, finally able to get a satellite TV signal by changing our campsite. After dinner, I biked a bit more down the valley, around the Nickalus golf course and by Green Lake where the float plane dock was located. I watched a few planes take off and land on the water, then headed back to our campsite. Early to bed because of a long travel day tomorrow back to the US.

Jun 5: Whistler, BC to Anacortes, WA, USA

Back in the USA. The crossing and trip back into the states were uneventful. The GPS selected a route that took us back through Blaine, WA and a secondary border crossing that took about 15 minutes. The first destination on our agenda was the Petsmart in Burlington so that we could get the pups checked for the flight back to Jersey. Everything was a-OK, and the dogs were cleared by the vet at Banfield with no problem. We decided to try camping at the Northern Lights Swamish Casino, just outside of Anacortes. Hooked up for the night with a fabulous view across the bay and great train spotting right outside our window. We had a delicious dinner at the 13 Moons restaurant in the casino: fresh salmon and halibut. Back to our campsite where we sat out with the pups and enjoyed the sunset over the water.

Jun 6: Seattle, WA to Readington, NJ

Long, long day. We first drove back to Seattle, rented a car (large Buick Enclave) at the SeaTac Airport, and went to the storage facility in Kent to put the Greyhaven to sleep. It is a long detailed process that requires a checklist similar to taking off in an airplane. All the perishable food needs to be thrown out, all the water in the holding tanks and lines need to be emptied, the batteries (engine and interior) need to be disconnected, dog crates need to be assembled and ice for the flight made in advance. Then there is the suitcase packing (with all the computers, cameras, and souvineers). Ugh. Just a long set of items that need to be done meticulously so that when we return (hopefully in August), the motorhome starts up OK, does not smell of rotting food, and is set to go.

Then, it was off to the Red Roof Inn (located close to the rental car facility and airport) to catch a few hours of fitful sleep. John checked us in and the pups were quite curious about being in an elevator and a hotel, probably for the first time. John then went down the block to pick up some Chinese/Pakistani food for dinner. Comfortable room with bouncy beds. Shelby and Daisy took to jumping up and down and across them. We both tried to sleep a bit, only to wake around 2am for the flight home at 6. The pups needed to be dropped off and registered at the United cargo desk. The United rep was supposed to arrive around 3, but did not show up till 3:30am. They were safely set to fly with us on the same flight home. That done, we went to return the rental car, hop a bus to the terminal, check in, go through TSA screening, and crash for an hour at the United Club. Ahhhhh…coffee at last. It is a long, long mental checklist of things to be done and when it is over and you get aboard the plane, it feels a bit better. For me, though, I still worry all the way home if the pups are OK in the cargo hold.

We arrived back in New Jersey to the familiar heat and humidity around 2pm in the afternoon. I picked up my car from Haynes parking and then picked up John. The pups were delayed a bit, but were happy to see us and finally empty bladders! Back home, and so to bed.

 
 

TRIP 45: Banff, Jasper, and the Canadian Rockies