Monday, June 22, 2009

A Surprise on Entry into Canada

On Friday (19 June), the temperature low was 49° and high 75°, humidity 50%. We stayed at Malmstrom AFB in their FamCamp. These were very nice grounds and facilities. Friday was a no-travel day. We toured the Lewis & Clark Interpretative Center on the Missouri River. This was especially interesting to us, because, as we have been traveling, we have been listening to an audio book: Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. Serendipitously, in the book, the Corps of Discovery were arriving at the falls on the Missouri River at the same time that Brenda and I were actually seeing it! That provided wonderful background for our visit.
I fixed the lighting in the slide out (a fuse) and, generally, we cleaned up. We rested a little. Then, we went to the commissary for some groceries and ate at Fudruckers. Brenda had Huckleberry ice cream for desert. [It was a gawd-awful purple color]

On Saturday (20 June) we left Malmstrom and met Bob and Sallie at Shelby, MT. Then, we drove to Sweetgrass, MT, to cross into Canada. My shotgun was no problem; however, the “bear spray” I had is not considered bear spray by Canadian customs. In fact, it was considered a weapon and thus contraband -- a $1,000 worth. But, for $1,000, I got my truck back. There is a long story here, but it is best left for a later telling. Generally, this has tainted my opinion of Canada. I won't be back, if I can help it. After finally clearing customs, we drove through the Alberta countryside of wheat fields and range land. This is gentle rolling hills, much like eastern Kansas. Of course, in January it might appear differently. Gradually, the prairie gave way to some deciduous trees and conifers. The deciduous varieties were obviously handicapped, because sometimes entire limbs would be dead and bare of leaves. Clearly, the winter is a killer for trees like this. On the other hand, the conifers are tall and straight. We camped at River's Edge Provincial Park. For our evening meal, we had grilled pork tenderloin, fresh yellow potatoes and topped it off with coffee ice cream for desert.
We awoke fairly early on Sunday (21 June) to go see the “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump” Interpretive Center. However, they didn't open for another hour (the summer hours of 9AM on the brochure don't start until July). So, we drove off into the countryside. Most memorable from this drive was seeing two young buck Mule deer cross the road in front of us. I captured one on camera as he effortlessly jumped a fence. You can see the grace in the photo.

The buffalo jump site and display was very interesting and informative. This site is where plains Indians drove bison off the cliff edge, thus procuring a large quantity of meat, hides, etc, for the winter season. Apparently, once in the distant past, a young brave wanted to see the bison fall to their death up close and personal. He waited on the ground beneath the jump site. That particular “hunt” was very productive, and the brave was buried under the bison. When they finally dug him out, his skull was crushed; hence, the name. As our good luck would have it, on this day the center was sponsoring a special event. We listened to Blackfoot Native Americans sing and play drums and we watched some authentic dances. For your information, the authentic beaded clothing the performers were wearing is NOT to be called a costume – “that is what a circus clown wears” – it is to be called “regalia”. I am sure you wanted to know that.
We didn't get away from the River's Edge park until after lunch. We drove only as far as Banff. Gentle rolling hills gave way to steeper slopes and lots of rocks. Then, it got even steeper and rockier. And, then voila! We were in the Rocky Mountains. The drive into Banff was punctuated at each turn of the road by Brenda's exclamations of awe and amazement. These mountains are truly beautiful. We camped at the Tunnel Mountain, Second Village Provincial campground with full hook ups. It is very nice, but it is pricey. In fact, everything I have purchased in Canada has been pricey. Diesel fuel was $0.85 a liter, which is about $3.25 a gallon. Coffee from a convenience store at the gas station was $1.60 a cup! On the other hand, I don't think the temperature ever got above 65 degrees today. It started raining by 6 PM and continued into nightfall, which, by the way, is after 10PM.
The campground is very nice, but has lots of spaces and lots of campers. After setting up camp, Brenda and I went for a hike to view the HooDoos. It was more than a mile hike from our site. HooDoos are, if you don't know, stone columns along the river bed. For reasons known to geologists, but totally sounding like BS to me when I read the descriptions, the erosive forces of wind and water carved out the river bottom, but left these huge vertical spires standing. Anyway, we had a much needed bit of exercise. Chloe enjoyed the walk, too. She especially liked sniffing the ground squirrel holes.
Animals seen today: Mule deer, Marmot, prairie dog, weasel, Mallards, BW teal, Magpie and 13-stripe chipmunks.

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