Day 25 – Calgary, AB to Butte, MT to Bozeman, MT

Miles Today:  551

Total Miles:  8,422

Longer travel day, but its that time to really start thinking about getting home.  Fortunately, the majority of the day was exclusively I-15 and then I-90 in Montana.  The only minor delay was “winning the lottery” and getting to spend another 15 minutes at border control in secondary inspection.  As I told the border guard: “not the lottery I wanted to win.”

Don’t misunderstand, border control has a job to do and everyone is subject to the secondary inspection – today it was me.  Like I said, everyone was professional and courteous.  I did get to see a “border control” issue when some idiot “forgot” he had a gun in his vehicle trying to enter Canada.  Really and truly, not the best idea in the world.  For anyone going north of our border, Canada is a great place (and I’m planning to go back often), but, it is ANOTHER COUNTRY.  While many of the laws are similar, there are many that are different and the punishments are often times much harsher than ours.  In other words – “DON’T BE STUPID”.

The only thing different along the way was that much of the wheat that was just starting to grow in early June was now heading out and the crops that I couldn’t identify turned out to be canola.  Here are a couple of pictures of blooming canola and an old-fashioned grain elevator along the road.

After re-entering the USA, I-15 head south through Great Falls and then on to Helena (the capital) and Butte.  Once again I was reminded that there are majestic, scenic, open spaces in this country as well.  I-15 basically follows the Missouri River south out of Great Falls to it source in the “Big Belt” Mountains.  Crossing the Continental Divide (I was wrong, I wasn’t through with steep grades quite yet), you make your way into Butte.  Unfortunately, Butte’s majesty is being destroyed by open pit mining which, while necessary for our lifestyles, does take away from a pretty area.

Taking I-90 east out of Butte, you once again climb into the mountain and re-cross the Continental Divide (I think for the last time) and drive through some more scenic, twisty, mountainous terrain.  As you come out of the mountains, you follow several rivers, including the Gallatin, and on in to Bozeman.

Bozeman is the home of Montana State University and is a picturesque town in its own right.

Tomorrow its on to Denver – another 550 miles or so.  I’ll stay a day or so at my sister’s and then drive home from there.  Hopefully, home on Thursday.

Day 24 – Calgary, AB

Miles today: 15

Total Miles: 7,871

As I said in the last post, today was a true rest day.

For all practical purposes, the rest of the trip is heading home and there’s really no new sights that I anticipate.  Of course, if I see anything that I consider interesting, I’ll take a photo and post it.

If you’ve ever travelled, especially by car, there’s always the point where you are just headed home.  That’s me right now.

Day 23 – Lillooet, BC to Calgary, AB

Miles Today:  533

Total Miles:  7,856

Longer drive today as I have another “rest” day tomorrow here in Calgary.

The drive today retraced my route along BC99 to BC97 and I then turned south and east towards Cache Creek, BC.  In Cache Creek I turned onto Canada Hwy 1 (on the the trans-Canadian highways) and headed east.  Next was Kamloops and several impressive lakes (along with developments and golf courses) and lots of steep grades (up to 10%).

From Kamloops, the next major town of note was Salmon Arm which is built on a lake and its sawmill “floats” delivered logs to the mill.  Really neat to see in person.

In Golden, BC, CAN1 jags into the Canadian Mountains National Parks.  This is a series of national parks and preserves that rival or outclass anything in the US.  I crossed the Continental Divide somewhere between Golden and Banff and then headed into the plains towards Calgary.  Here are a couple of pictures of some of the peaks in and around Banff.

Maybe not the best pictures, but, with very few exceptions, all the pictures  I posted were taken inside or just outside my truck.

Another milestone on this trip occurred today, this is the last time I will cross a major mountain chain.  All of the roads and highways from here to home are on the east side of all the mountain ranges in the western US and Canada.

Day 22 – Lillooet, BC

Miles today: 10

Total Miles: 7,323

Spent the day with River Monster Adventures and Guide Dylan Harder.  I had a blast and would recommend the trip to anyone.  It is done catch-and-release only as the white sturgeon is protected (both US and Canada), but each fish is tagged and then tracked for statistical purposes.

So, here are some pictures of the fish I caught today.

 

This is the largest, a tad under 8 feet long and about 275 lbs (or more, we didn’t weigh it).  The unique thing about this fish is that it had never been caught before.  At likely more than 100 years old, and the fishing pressure on the river, that is amazing to me.

 

Here is a picture of the river and surrounding mountains (yes the sky was that blue).

Here’s a snapshot of downtown Lillooet, BC.

Tomorrow, its back to Calgary, AB and another rest day on Saturday.

Day 21 – Prince George, BC to Lillooet, BC

Miles Today: 323

Total Miles: 7,313

Again, not a lot of pictures today (well one of a logging truck that I got stuck behind for about 45 minutes) that would be of any interest to anyone but me most likely.

Today was a shorter drive, only 330 miles, and the first 290 or so were pretty ordinary as far as this trip has gone.  Prince George is a little bit larger town and had a good “vibe” to it.  Make no mistake, its an industrial town, but the town feels comfortable and modern.

Traveling along the “Caribou Highway”, or BC97, you snake yourself south towards Vancouver.  Plenty of ups and downs but nothing to severe. That was, until I turned onto BC99 which is the “Scenic Byway” to Vancouver through Whistler (think winter olympics).

BC99 is another road that I feel (my opinion) everyone should drive.  While I followed the Fraser River most of the day, BC99 follows the Fraser River Canyon which is a spectacular, “Oh My God!” type road.  The highway itself is a couple thousand feet above the river, and you can’t see it for most of the drive into Lillooet, but it is stunningly amazing.  To see hay fields and pastures on the terraces above the cliffs down to the river makes you wonder who thought to do that.

The only caution is for those that get claustrophobic or have a fear of heights.  They will both get you.  Also, if you have problems driving on steep grades (9% and greater), this is not the road for you.  The first sign you see states:  “The speed limit is 100km/h, but whose your own good sense on how fast to drive.”  I don’t think I got over 80km/h for the 40 or so miles that I drove.  Again, WOW!

Tomorrow is a white sturgeon fishing trip on the Fraser River (catch and release only), so I’ll update either tomorrow or on Friday when I get to Calgary, AB.

Day 20 – Prince George, BC

Miles today: 0

Total Miles: 6,982

Today was a true rest day.  I did go to The Black Clover for lunch  and walked around the block.  Dinner will likely be at the Copper Pig BBQ and that’s just across the street.  Otherwise, for the first time since June 1, I did absolutely nothing today.

That all changes tomorrow (and the rest of the month for that matter), so, I think I’ll go back to watching TV.

Day 19 – Prince Rupert, BC to Prince George, BC

Miles Today:  447

Total Miles:  6,982

I guess you could call today’s journey : “Misty Mountains” to the “Lonely Mountain” (kudos if you get it)

This is a picture along the Skeena River as I was leaving Prince Rupert, BC this morning.

The Skeena is a major flow across north-central BC and is a major salmon river.  Although, according to the radio, all salmon fishing has been stayed until July 15 and then only certain species can be fished.  It is an effort to rebuild the population but there is some concern that they may not open the season next year either.  Another sad example of how humans impact the planet.

The drive today was one of lots of “flats” and lots of steep grades.  It is all logging country so you have to be very wary of logging trucks.  About 90 miles from Prince George, BC, is the “Lonely Mountain”.  While there are still “hills”, the really rough terrain seems to be over for now.  Although, I have to cross the Rockies at Banff on Friday.

Agriculture is beginning to pick up again as many places are farmed after the timber is cut.  I saw fences, cattle, and domestic horses for the first time in about 10 days today.  Kinda refreshing to see something familiar again.  I’ll be in Prince George for an extra day to rest and recoup, so, there may not be much of an update tomorrow.

Day 18 – Dease Lake, BC to Prince Rupert, BC

Miles Today:  425

Total Miles:  6,535

Today’s travels were all about black bears and trees.

In case anyone is wondering, there appears to be no shortage of black bears in north central British Columbia.  They are everywhere – even in the trees (couldn’t get a picture with the semi-truck in back of me).  Here is a fairly representative picture of what I saw today.  At least they are black (most of them anyway) and easily seen.

As I said, there really weren’t many opportunities for new types of pictures, but here is a river along the highway.

I mentioned the trees.  In Alaska, Yukon, and northern BC, it is mainly spruce and poplar trees.  Most of these are less than 8 inches in diameter and a tree that large may be close to 300 years old.  Somewhere just north of Dease Lake, there is a change and you start to see fir, aspen, and birch trees intermingled with the spruce and poplar.  As you get further sound, there are also tremendous cottonwood trees (which are in full cotton mode).

As you drive south and towards the coast (Prince Rupert is about 300 miles south of Juneau, AK), the trees get huge.  Whereas a large tree in the north was 8 inches and 30 feet tall, as I drove to Prince Rupert, the trees were 100+ feet tall and 30+ inches in diameter.  A big difference.

Tomorrow I retrace 120 miles along BC16 (Yellowhead Highway) and then stay on BC16 to Prince George, BC.

Day 17 – Whitehorse, YT to Dease Lake, BC

Miles Today: 405

Total Miles: 6110

Whitehorse was much cooler than when I was here last week.  Last Friday the high was in the 90’sF, this week 40’sF.  When I left this morning, it was 35F and I drove through some light snow about 30 miles from town.  The highest temperature I saw on the truck’s thermometer today was only 49F, so it’s cold compared to the 100F or so at home.

Today’s route followed the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to the junction with BC37 about 12 miles from Watson Lake.  This is the same road I wrote about in my Day 8 post, so there’s not much to add other than it is a much nicer drive when its dry.  Today’s drive was almost all wet – either rain or snow.

Turning south at BC37, the Cassiar Highway (or BC37) is a two lane track through the mountains of western BC.  I say two lanes, but, in fact, the entire road is unstriped right now (although it is paved), so, you kind of have to pick your path.  This gets interesting if you meet a large truck or RV.

About the only thing to note was that, somewhere along the way, I transitioned from almost exclusively spruce and poplar trees to spruce, fir, aspen, birch, and poplar.  The scenery is spectacular (as it has been for a while) with the added benefit of fresh snow (about 6 inches in places) on the mountains.  Dease Lake is as beautiful as most of many of the other lakes I’ve seen.  Smaller lakes along this highway are crystal clear; being able to see their bottoms even from the road.

The only thing I was able to take a picture of today was a black bear and I will post that when I have better internet.  As for cell phone service, the last signal I had was in Whitehorse – over 400 miles away – and I don’t expect any for another 300 miles or so.  Anyone relying on being connected should definitely avoid the Cassiar Highway.

Day 16 – Glenallen, AK to Whitehorse, YT

Miles Today: 533

Total Miles: 5,781

I left Glenallen, AK early this morning.  Temperature was around 35F/1.7C with a little frost on the windshield.  Needles to say, I’ve finally found the cool weather I was looking for.

As you leave Glenallen headed east, you don’t have many options.

I chose Fairbanks/Canada, which also took me back to Tok.  The road from Tok to Anchorage, through Glenallen, is called the Tok cut-off and is the route most people take to Anchorage.  When I left Tok the other morning, I wanted to complete the Alaska Highway, so, I went north instead of taking the Tok Cut-off.

Filled with gas in Tok (about 140 miles from Glenallen) and headed towards Canada and Whitehorse.  The Yukon sign (below) and the Alaska sign (from the other day) are in the same parking lot and this is the “official” border; however, the customs offices are about 20 miles apart with the Canadian stop at Beaver Creek, YT.

Canadian customs asked a few more questions than the first time, but I made it through with no issues.  Again, I had an RV in front and in back of me – starting to think timing it this way is everything.

Driving towards Whitehorse, I again passed Kluane Lake.  After some research, I discovered that the glacier that fed the lake has retreated to the point that it now feeds a different river.  So, Kluane Lake, at this point, is completely dependent on snowpack and rain (and it was raining today).

Along the road, I got to see one of the last species of “large” wildlife I’m probably going to see on this trip.  Since traffic was already stopped, here is a picture of a cinnamon color-phase grizzly bear.  Quite impressive to see it eating on the side of the road.

The rest of the trip was made in a light, steady rain that did a good job of cleaning bugs off my grill and windshield.