Scenery overload!

CAMPGROUND: 5th (and last) night at Tamarack RV. For a commercial park, it has been quite good. People are unusually civilized. Quiet at night.
LOCATION: Beautiful Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho
WEATHER: Mostly sunny. High 72

Today was a day full of outstanding beauty. First we did a drive around Lake Coeur d’ Alene. We followed several scenic byways.

The circle ended in a cute little lake town. It is the start of a bicycle trailhead, so was full of cyclists. We found a retro bar/restaurant from the 1940s for lunch.The story about how it gots its name, “One Shot Charlie” is that the owner (pictured here) had Parkinson’s, so his pours ended up being quite generous.Fun place! We had an old-style grinder.

Back in Coeur d’ Alene, we made a mad dash to the dock to catch the 2:30 cruise around the lake.

From the lake, you can really see the beautiful, expensive waterfront homes.It was a bit brisk – we have 3 layers of shirts/jackets on!

One of the highlights is the fancy golf resort on the lake.It is famous for its 4th hole, with the green on the water. The only one in the world, I think. (I obviously stole this photo)

We are glad we took the cruise. A nice way to end our stay here.

DINNER: We bought a filet of halibut at the fish market. We wrapped it in aluminum foil and cooked it on the outdoor gas grill. Side was Asian noodles and veg. A special treat!

Scenic drives and breweries…

CAMPGROUND: 4th night at Tamarack RV

LOCATION: Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho

WEATHER: Beautiful. Party cloudy. High 75

We did computer stuff in the AM. Our primary accomplishment was to book a flight and hotel in order to attend my aunt and uncle’s 60th anniversary party in Grande Prairie, Alberta. It is in late August, when we will be in North Dakota. Due to flight costs and travel times, we decided to drive from ND to Winnipeg and fly from there. Also – we just love to cross the US/Canada border so often!! (not!)

Then, fun time. Our destination was Sand Point, and we took a scenic route around a lake. On the map, the lake is barely visible, but it seemed huge, taking about an hour to drive its circumference.

It was a very curvy road with steep drop-offs. Houses were nestled in the woods all around the lake.

On to Sandpoint, a really cute town with its downtown right on a huge lake. I could live here! This downtown covered bridge is chock full of shops and restaurants.

We had lunch in a brewpub downtown – great atmosphere, brews, and food. Then, we strolled around the downtown.

On our way home, we stopped at another brewpub in a very small town. The pub was surprisingly busy for a Thursday afternoon. It is located in a building that had been a bank. They use the safe to store their liquor…

George was fascinated by the urinal in the men’s room…

Back at the camper, we were delighted to receive an email from a couple whom we know through housesitting for them in Walla Walla. We are going to get together this weekend. Not only do they use Trusted Housesitters to find housesitters for their lovely dog, but they also housesit themselves. We feel like kindred spirits.

DINNER: Enchiladas. George raved about them. I used a tortilla left over from the margarita party a few weeks ago in Grande Prairie. I rolled them up with a mix of hamburger, bell pepper, onions, salsa, tomatoes, cheese, and lots of cilantro. Muy bueno!

I was thrilled to watch some great PBS on TV – an old BBC favorite – “Are you Being Served?” and an episode of “Call the Midwife” that I hadn’t seen before. Bliss……

Work and play in Coeur d’ Alene

CAMPGROUND: 3rd night at Tamarack RV
LOCATION: Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho – in north panhandle of the state
WEATHER: Another beautiful day. Some light showers. High 73

Today was a day to work on our to-do lists. For me, it was a haircut. I walked to a mall near our RV park and got a trim. It turned out pretty well. Getting a haircut is always a bit scary when on the road. I’ve had cuts done all over the USA and Canada, Australia, England, and even one in Mexico with a stylist who didn’t speak English. Some good, some not so much.

George’s to-do was to get one of our propane tanks filled up.

With all of that accomplished, we checked out another brewery here in town. This one was really good, too. We shared a duck burger which was really good, but too rich. And of course, washed down with an IPA and a stout.

We have swapped out our important Alberta guidebook…..

For a new one…..

Then, we headed downtown for a hike. We did the 2-mile hike next to the lake around a peninsula. It was very woodsy and rocky, with a lot of ups and downs – giving us a good workout (which we needed).

DINNER: Asian vegetable and chicken stir-fry.

We took advantage of the opportunity to watch PBS and watched several shows about space programs.

Lovin’ Coeur d’ Alene

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Tamarack RV.
LOCATION: Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho
WEATHER: A little rainy in AM; perfect in PM. High 76

We goofed off in the AM since it was a bit rainy – doing internet things and making reservations for upcoming locations. I made chicken broth from the rotisserie chicken bones, then used it for soup for lunch. Very cozy!

When the sun came out, we drove downtown, about a mile away, and stopped at the Visitor Center for info. The little volunteer ladies there loaded us up! We strolled around the lakefront – it is so beautiful.

The resort dominates the lakefront. Their marina is the largest floating dock in the world. At .75 miles, we walked its perimeter.

At the end of the loop is a nice park with a cabin owned by the city’s Rotary Club. They lease it out as a lakeside bar and grill – great idea for revenue for a Club! (Reminding me of my days in Rotary)

The downtown is full of cute shops and restaurants.

Then, we checked out one of the city’s brewpubs. When we arrived, we realized that we had been here before – during our visit here with our Nova Scotia friends. We did the usual – I had an IPA (one of 7 IPAs on tap) and George a stout).

Back at the Airstream, we watched the evening news. It is nice to catch up with the world – especially on the multiple PBS stations.

DINNER: We walked to a restaurant that had caught our eye – a seafood market that is also a restaurant. It was super! We will probably return to buy fresh fish one night to cook ourselves, but tonight we sat at their sushsi bar and gobbled up some really good sushi. We haven’t had any in ages. As they say in Japan – Ooishikata!

Out of the woods to a city..

CAMPGROUND: Tamarack RV Park. Sewer, 50-amp, water, wifi, cable, laundry. Pretty good shade and trees for a city park. A bit crowded, but neighbors are considerate. Great location if needing a city. $47/night. Picnic table, but no fire ring. 3 stars out of 5

LOCATION: Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho – in north central part of state

WEATHER: Very nice. High 73

We left the lovely Yaak River and drove about 150 miles south on the Wild Horse Trail Scenic Byway. It was indeed quite scenic. We stopped for a picnic lunch along one of the lakes near the highway. We were here a few years ago with our friends Tony and Jenny, but there were a lot of forest fires, making visibility poor. So far, this year, we have been lucky with no fires.

We got settled into the RV park. We selected this for a week, as we wanted a change of pace to an urban setting for awhile.

We took a drive around the city center. It is very upscale and pretty.

We are anxious to check it out further. We spotted quite a few cool-looking shops and restaurants. Did I mention that there are about 5 breweries here?

As it started raining a bit around dinner time, we decided to cook inside. I used the oven, which I rarely do, since it was not hot. (As the oven heats up the Airstream).

DINNER: I wanted to try a flatbread recipe that I had picked up but 1) the grocery store did not have any flatbreads and 2) we don’t have a campfire to cook it on. So, I improvised…..I sliced a French baguette long-wise and toasted it in a Pyrex glass casserole dish. Then, I added bits of rotisserie chicken, sauteed red pepper and onion, and BBQ sauce. I topped it with pepper cheese. Pretty darn good, I might say!

We don’t know what time it is. We think we moved to Pacific time when we crossed into Idaho, but our devices all say something differrent, and the TV says something even more different. Who cares?

A fabulous drive in the Kootenai Forest

CAMPGROUND: Yaak River National Forest Service Campground. On the Yaak River. As with most NFS campgrounds, there are no services. Flat, paved sites far apart. Huge fire ring and nice picnic table. Pit toilet even smells ok! $5/night with senior pass. 5 stars out of 5
LOCATION: In far NW Montana. Near Troy
WEATHER: Perfect. Sunny. High 73

Another nice night sleeping with the windows wide open. This time, we heard loons calling all night long. How cool!

We packed up and said goodbye to Kokumon River Provincial Park in British Columbia, and headed to the US border, about 20 miles away. This time, we had no troubles at all with Immigration, and managed to get a decent border agent who even welcomed us back to the USA.

Our drive was spectacular. We followed a road cut on the side of a mountain that first paralleled Koccosa Lake, then Kootenai River.

We had heard that gas is more expensive in British Columbia than in Alberta (where it is a mere $4/gallon). So, we had filled up in Alberta a few days ago. George’s plan was to make it to Montana for cheaper US gas. There were no gas stations near the border. 😦 Then, the first town we came to had gas, but at $2.89/gallon, it was too expensive for George. So on we went.

We drove through all National Forest Service land so it is pristine, not developed at all. We stopped at the Libby Dam for some dam good photos. 🙂

As we passed through the small town of Libby (me searching frantically for a gas station), we spotted a sign shouting to us “Brewery”, so off we went. First things first!

It was really a nice one with very friendly people. We shared a panini and sampled their beers. Now that we are across the border, we filled our growler.

Then, we found gas. Still not cheap, but a tank was $65 compared to $100 that we have been paying in Canada.

A short distance farther, we found the campground that I had seen on the map. What a lucky find!!! A few sites were filled, but the primo, river-front, pull-through site was just waiting for us. We happily paid our $5 and pulled in.

We followed the path from our site down to the ice-cold river. Really beautiful.

George even got his feet wet!

We walked around the campground; we scavenged some firewood from previous campers, and then met a fellow Texan. Traveling alone, I think he was lonely, so he talked our heads off. He stopped by our site later, and talked even more! While he talked, George drank some of the Yaak Attack IPA from the growler we had filled at the brewery.

DINNER: Necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say. I made some soup using a can of wild mushroom soup, homemade chicken broth, chunks of sausage, and leftover canned peas. (We couldn’t bring any fresh veg across the border and we haven’t had a chance to shop yet in the US). We cooked it over our campfire. Quite nice! Tomorrow, grocery shopping is definitely on the to-do list.

A perfect day in Fernie (well, almost)

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Kalipell Campground, part of Kikomun Provincial Park
LOCATION: SE British Columbia
WEATHER: Cool in the AM; hot in PM, cool again in the evening

We slept with all the windows open. Unlike most RVs, we have windows on all 4 sides, so we can enjoy a nice breeze from all directions. During the night, we listened to the coyotes.

After tidying up, we left our campsite and checked out the other 3 campgrounds in the park. Two are on nice lakes; all are packed.

Then, we drove back in to Fernie, about 30 miles away, since it had seemed like such a cute town. First stop, of course, was the brewery.

Since the weather was perfect, we took our tasty beers (an IPA and a stout) out to the deck.

The brewery faces the highway, and we were watching RVs and logging trucks go by. Suddenly a deer jumped out of the trees. Everyone on the deck watched him zip along. Then, we all yelled “Don”t do it!” as the lovely creature dashed into the highway. The sound of it colliding with an RV was horrific. We all gasped as the now halfway dead deer bounced down on the road. We were all shocked, standing there in horror, even though we have obviously all seen dead deer on the road before. It was just too personal this time.

We reported the incident to the brewery staff and asked them to call it in. Soon a policeman arrived, stopped traffic in all directions, pulled out his gun, and shot the deer twice. It was the humane thing to do, but the shots reverberating in the air were unreal. The deer twitched a bit, then it was over.

Now shaken, we finished our beers, and went into the downtown. Fernie is a resort town, especially busy during the ski season. It is a town for sports enthusiasts. Every other shop was a bicycle shop, or a healthfood store, or one selling athletic gear. The residents looked tanned, thin, and muscular.

We found a cute place for lunch. We shared a flatbread that I would like to replicate some time – seemed like it would be easy to make. The flatbread was covered with a garlic white sauce. On top of that were slices of pickled red onion, grilled portabello mushrooms, slivers of parmesan, and mounds of arugula which I love.

At the restaurant, I followed this sign to the loo.

This will be the last time I see it called this, as we are leaving the land of Canadian “washrooms” for the American “restrooms” tomorrow. Both words are a bit strange when you think about it.

Back at the park, we stopped in one of the other campgrounds to use their showers. These campgrounds have no services – no water, electricity, or sewer hook-ups. It is called boondocking when you camp off grid. If we are careful with water use, we can go about 4 days boondocking.

DINNER: The afternoon sun gets really intense here, and our site has no shade. Not wanting to heat up the Airstream, George cooked dinner on our new gas grill. We had homemade salmon burgers and Asian-style broccoli.

After dinner when it cooled off, we made a fire, using up all of our firewood, as we can not transport it to the USA tomorrow. We don”t have any fresh fruit, and only a few beers left, so we shouldn’t encounter any issues at the border tomorrow. Let’s hope!

Into the Rockies

CAMPGROUND: Kalispell Trail Camground in the Kikumon Creek Provincial Park. Some sites are right next to the lake. Ours is one row in, still with a view. Pit (but nice) toilets. No services. Gray water dump areas. Picnic table with ledge for grill built in. Firepit. Gravel sites. $28/night. 4 stars out of 5
LOCATION: In the Kootenai Ridge area, in far southeast British Columbia. Only a few miles from Montana
WEATHER: Surprisingly hot for the mountains. Sunny. High 89

We left sunny Fort Macleod and headed west, straight into the Rocky Mountains. The drive was beautiful. First, we passed huge fields of hay and canola. We passed the turnoff to Waterton National Park. If we ever come back here, Fort Macleod would be a good base for day trips there.

There were lots of signs for wildlife, but we didn’t see any. As we drove west, the scenery became more dramatic.

We passed through cute mountain towns, including one that had a huge, famous landslide years ago. Rocks were everywhere. Then, we passed a town with the “world’s largest truck”, from the coal-mining years.

Our destination was Fernie, British Columbia. It is a popular tourist place year-round, with lots of skiing in the winter. The private downtown campground (at $100/night) was completely booked. The Mount Fernie provincial park was full with reserved sites, but the website had said that there were a few first come-first served sites. After a frustrating attempt to find the FCFS ones, finally finding them already occupied, we gave up. I found this Kikumon provincial park in our guidebook, so we headed there. It is a much bigger park, with 170 sites. Surely, there would be one for us?

We drove another 30 miles or so to this provincial park. At least this one has a park ranger to talk to. She said all their reservable sites were full, but there might be one or two left in the first come-first served campground. So, we drove to the end of the road and found this beautiful campground, right on the lake. We grabbed the next to the last site. It is a double site, with campers’ stuff like a grill and chairs sitting on their side of the site. After we got settled in, neighbors told us that it was quite strange that these campers never showed up. So, we had a double site all to ourselves! Just beautiful!

We hiked around the lake and took a drive down to the river.

It is quite peaceful here, and all the campers seem very nice.

DINNER: Time to get creative, with the refrigerator almost bare……We made a campfire and cooked outside as it was so hot. George grilled some frozen Polish sausage links for me. I added onion and sauerkraut. Sides were mashed potatoes and canned peas. Not too shabby!

Neighbors invited us to join them around their campfire. We watched the sun set over the lake (at about 9:30)

Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at River’s Edge Campground
LOCATION: Fort Macleod, Alberta – in SW part of Alberta
WEATHER: Very nice. Sunny. Very windy. High 78

The reason we are at this campground and location is to visit the UNESCO site of Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, so off we went this morning. It is about 10 miles from town on a vast, beautiful prairie overlooking Oldman River. We squeezed in between tour bus groups to the interpretive center, one of the best we have been to. We first watched a film to learn about the custom. Dating back 6000+ years ago here, the First Nation people (Indians) used this method to kill buffalo (real name is American bison). They revered the buffalo and depended on them almost entirely for their food. The method was to first get a herd in a nearby “gathering basin”. They made lanes for the buffalo to run in. When conditions were perfect, they dressed in wolf skin and ran toward the buffalo to scare them. The buffalo started to stampede, and ran over the cliff. They either died immediately, or the Indians finished them off. Then, they worked furiously to get everything they could from the dead animals – skins for their tipis, meat, bones for tools and weapons.

We walked through the interpretive center learning about the Blackfoots. The center doesn’t talk much about the name of the place. I guess it is because it is kind of gruesome. I incorrectly thought it was named after one of the buffalo who got its face bashed in while jumping over the cliff. But, the name came from a young Indian boy. During the buffalo jump, he wanted to get close to see the buffalo jumping over the cliff. He placed himself under the cliff. That particular year, the jump was particularly good and a lot of buffalo jumped. Consequently, he got trapped under the cliff, head squashed by the dead buffalo piling up.

We took hikes around the site to see the cliff from which they jumped.

For those who know George, you know that he has never met a stranger. As our daughters used to say…”He talks with EVERYBODY!” Here, he started chatting with one of the First Nation guides at the center. He met his match – Little Leaf (the Indian’s name) talked his ear off, too!

We ate lunch at their cafe – buffalo meat (of course) chili, then we went into the town of Fort Macleod. It is reallly cute, and they are working hard to preserve its old, Western-style feel. We used the wifi at the library (always impressed by these small town libraries), then found the brewery.

It is brand new, but was renovated following strict guidelines (as we learned by chatting with the brewer/owner)

We don’t know why, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police rode by on the main street while we were sipping beers.

Back at the campground, we invited the owner over for a drink over the campfire, then watched the news on the TV – first TV we have had for awhile.

DINNER: Chicken quesadillas, using the tortillas left from our Mexican lunch party in Grande Prairie.

BOOK: I finished the Michele Obama auto-biography “Becoming”. I would rate it a 9 out of 10. I especially liked the first part about her growing up in Chicago.

South and south we go..

CAMPGROUND: Riverside Campground. Brand new – not in guidebook. Private. A field with about 40 sites. Water and electricity at sites. Sites not too level. Picnic tables. Firepit at some sites. $32/night. 3 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada – in southwest Alberta
WEATHER: Mostly sunny. High 75

My assessment of last night’s campground might move it from a 4-star to 5 after this morning…..I took a glorious shower. Since we have stayed in so many campgrounds, we have become rather expert at critiquing showers. This one, although dated, had everything….lots of hooks to hang towels and clothes, benches for putting things and for sitting, nooks to put shampoo and soap, and a ledge between the shower and the dressing area to keep the floor dry, loads of hot water, and…..free!

Then, as we were hooking up, 2 deer scampered through our campsite. Cool!

We took our time getting started as it was a lovely day. We continued south on the Cowboy Trail, another 200 miles or so. We followed the Rockies most of the way, so enjoyed beautiful view of the snow-topped mountains.

We got excited when along one stretch, we followed a fellow Airstreamer from Texas!

When we first entered Alberta, we picked up a brochure listing the craft beer breweries in the province. It has really come in handy. I counted up and we have visited 14! I realized that one of the towns we were going through today had a brewery, Black Diamond, so we stopped at the Hard Knox Brewery to check it out.

Going down the highway, we suddenly saw this huge rock, and stopped to read about it. We realized that it is the Okotoks Erratics rock we learned about several weeks ago at Writing on Stone. There, we had gone on a guided tour through the Indian rock art. The ranger pointed out an ancient pictograph of a rock, and told us this Blackfoot Indian story…..

>>One hot summer day, Napi, the supernatural Trickster of the Blackfoot, sat upon the Rock to rest. Because it was so hot, Napi threw his robe over the Rock saying, “Here, I give you this robe because you are poor and have let me rest on you. Keep it always”. Napi walked on and it began to rain and get cool. He returned to the Rock and asked it to give him back the robe, but the Rock refused. Napi got angry and took “his” robe back. As he walked away, he heard a noise– the Rock was chasing him!

Napi was scared and ran. His friends – the Buffalo, the Deer, and the Antelope – tried to stop the Rock, but were crushed.

(Here is where the Blackfoot tale uses this story to teach young Indians about nature – for example, when the Skunk tried to help Napi, the Rock ran over his beautiful black fur and created a white stripe down the middle. The story goes on like this with many different animals.) The story continues…

Nearly exhauasted, Napi called upon the Bats for help. The Bats dove at the Rock and one hit in the middle, and split it in two.

This Blackfoot tale explains not only how the rock was split but also teaches others why each animal is like it is today – like the skunk with its stripe, and the bat with its squashed face. As in all Indian legends, there is a moral – “Don’t take back what you have given”.>>

So, it was so cool to see this rock that we had learned about previously. You can believe the Indian tale, or the geologists who tell us that it rolled down from Jasper centuries ago during the glacier melt.

We wanted to stop in Fort Macleod. Our camping guidebook said that there were 2 campgrounds in this area – a private one and an unserviced provincial park. We stopped at the commercial one and were immediately turned off – it is the kind of RV park we dislike. When it is called a resort, it automatically means expensive. This one’s resort amenities included a pool and there were kids running all over the place with their swimsuits on. RVs were parked cheek to jowl. No picnic tables or firepits. Mean-sounding signs all over the place, including signs about an additional price for the dump station. We said “no” and headed toward the provincial park. On our way, we saw this campground, which will be fine for 2 nights.

The weather here is so different from northern Canada – pretty warm and very dry. We made a campfire, just to use up the wood.

DINNER: Using some leftover Phillipino adobo (a thick pork stew), I added gravy and peas, and served it over a baked potato. Having this Phillipino food has been such a treat!