Thursday, May 31, 2007

Frost Heave The Snowman

The mountains stayed with us again from Destruction Bay to Alcan to Tok (pronounced as though it rhymes with “joke“). We have just barely scratched the surface but already Alaska feels like a most amazing place.

A word or two about the road conditions of the Great Alaska Highway! The last two travel days we have experienced the gravel stretches, the frost heaves, the pot holes, the cracks that everyone warns you about right before they swear that the trip will destroy your vehicle, rupture every one of your tires and just generally make life miserable. Yes, there are a few generally poor spots that you could say that about, but all things being equal, the entire length that we have traveled to get here was incredibly excellent. We did NOT, knock on wood, have a flat tire, nor did we see anyone along the way who did. We did NOT have the vehicle destroyed, nor did we speak with anyone along the way who did. And we can now report that if every highway in the US and in Canada was as good as this highway is, the world would be a better place - and I would have back the hub cap I lost on Rt. 10 in Texas and the 48 bucks it took to replace it! For the most part, to spell it out, the highway is excellent, and all rumor to the contrary is a conscious plot on the part of residents to protect the state from over-population as regards tourists, gold miners, and new residents. We used to play the same routine back in Maine, telling tourists that “You can’t get there from here.“ Could you get a flat tire on the Alaska Highway? Yes. The odds that you will are about the same as they are for getting one anywhere else. Actually, they are probably a bit slimmer because you have heard so much negativity about the conditions that you make the trip on new rubber to begin with…. One word about appropriate speeds: 40 mph on poorer sections, 20 miles an hour where frost heaves are marked (and they are all marked well) and 10 miles an hour on the “washboards”- those loose gravel areas that have formed “ripples” for lack of a better word. Failure to observe the 10 mph speed recommendation for “washboard areas” will result in both bladder failure and loosened fillings.

Getting back to Maine for a minute, my old pal Chuck Kruger, singer, songwriter, performer, and big league talent booking agent, touched my life through his music in ways I will never be able to adequately share with others. Basically, we share a love both for Maine and the Caribbean- we are both “tugged” between the two and have spent significant parts of our lives in both places. Which is why I was so delighted to make the acquaintance of Alaska singer, songwriter, performer, Dave Stancliff at the general store in Tok soon after arrival here. We got to talking- one thing led to another- and before he left with his sidekick and his milkshake he had gifted us with a couple of his Alaska music cd’s. We hustled them back to the coach and popped them in the stereo for a listen- good stuff! Now I am not a guy who ever intends to equate someone to Kruger- he’s tops with me, but there was an interesting “Alaska counterpart thing” going on with Stancliff, and you might enjoy checking out his website and listening to a few sample cuts you will find there. For sure he will not mind if you send for a cd or two- they are excellent. So what’cha think Chuck, a Maine to Alaska promotional tour someday?

Monday, May 28, 2007

By Polar

I Love my little word jokes, especially when they are in the "post" titles, but let's get this out of the way right up front: this is a NON polar ice field we have been traveling beside (By) all day, not Polar. Still, at our campground of this day, the top two feet of soil is not quite thawed enough so that water and sewer are operable yet- a few days away perhaps. But the next 40 feet or so of perma frost is staying right where it is- no mater which global is warming! Destruction Bay of Lake Kluane is mostly frozen over. But around the edge and at places 20 to 50 feet out from shore, are the tell tale crystal clear chards that announce the ice out process is in full swing. There is nothing prettier in the world than the edge of a glacial lake at ice out- crystal clear, deep blue water falling to the depths that the eye wants to, but cannot, see into; chards of clear ice, floating ice daggers that twinkle and tinkle like wind chimes in the crisp air that still blows across the lake to hasten the process. Cracks in the ice remind of the glaciers coming and going of old, promising that fish are lurking just below and ravenous to attack the anglers first offering of the new and fresh season of combat. Such is the precipice of anticipation for me as I prepare mentally to enter Alaska proper on the 'morrow and fulfill the dream of a lifetime.

Let's talk stats: the ice fields in the pictures below are more than a mere snow capped mountain, which, by any standards is beautiful in its own right. But the icy fingers you see in these photos are glacial ice flows dating back 20 thousand years plus or minus and are...GET THIS!...2200 feet deep. If you did not previously get what I was saying when I told you the camera, the photo, and I could not capture the moment- perhaps this will help.

Perspective: The campground is gravel, not really even open yet, and ugly by many standards of beauty in and of itself. But would you spend 25$ Canadian though, to be cradled in the arms of ice fields and mountains, rivers and lakes, dating back tens of thousands of years- the beauty and awe of which is unquestionable if you can just look passed the gravel of the vacant camp site next to you. Problem answering that rhetorical question? Would you pay that amount if it included filling your fresh water tank, which is running on empty, from the owner's house hose? And if he let you tap into his wifi connection gratis, would that make it worth the price of admission. The answer, for those of us who have now traveled this route is a resounding, " Hell yea!"
Tonight I think I will sleep with the window shades open. Mountains in a 360 degree circle for the last thing I see before I fall asleep. Water filling the 180 degree view. Light not fading until close to midnight. And light reappearing three hours later. No one here other than me and mine to complicate the issue. Yukon, yes, but sweet dreams of Alaska....

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Ladder Runs Through It

Back in Whitehorse, once again on our way NORTH to Alaska, and in the capitol of the Yukon, and a thoroughly modern city, a ladder runs through it. Technically, of course, a river runs through it and the ladder runs "around" it- the dam above the Whitehorse rapids and below the hydro-electric dam, that is. This is the largest wooden fish (salmon) ladder in the world, which is as it should be. This is also one of the longest salmon migration routes in the world as well. We were about a week before the first salmon run, so the ladder was not quite yet in operation. When we come back through in the fall, we'll have another visit and see if there are any fish going through. In addition to the Chinooks (aka King Salmon), Grayling and Trout also make use of the ladder and may be seen at the glass viewing station about halfway up the ladder.

SOUTH To Alaska...Huh?

In a course correction brought about by things we learned about summer scheduling in local communities, we decided to move the end of the trip up to the beginning…and headed south to Skagway on the coast rather than seeing it in the Fall on the way out of Alaska. Glad we did. It put Alaska on our map of visited states a few days earlier than we expected to have it and it was a spectacular intro to Alaska.
From the Yukon, through a strip of British Columbia, the road to Skagway is breathtaking both in terms of beautiful and unusual scenery, and in the literal sense, as the 11 mile decline from the mountains into the harbor town is 11 miles of 11% vertical drop- the steepest decline on any of the major Alaskan roads. It was a constant question whether to marvel at the vistas and breath with excitement or hold your breath for fear the coach would run away and send you into the abyss. There are two “runaway truck” ramps along the downward path that are supposed to stop you if the brakes fail. Personally, I think they would just launch you further out into the canyon, but fortunately I didn’t need to find out. For the trip back up the hill we have dumped our holding tanks of as much water and fluids as possible and lightened the load where-ever possible. Even a 400 HP engine will be tested climbing back to the top.
The customs agent coming “back” into the states had a sense of humor. How rare is that?
“Is this rig yours?
“Yes, sir.”
“Huh. Too bad. You deserve better.”
With that, we did the usual questions about what we do and don’t have and what we will and won’t do on this trip.
“Do you have any Canadian beef?”
“No sir, just some buffalo burgers from Montana.”
“That’s good. Because Canadian beef is just nasty. And speaking of that, while you’re in Skagway, be sure to order the fish because even down there the beef is all old enough to vote!”
Skagway is a nifty little village completely surrounded by mountains that afford it great protection in many ways from the weather, so the salt water keeps it more temperate than other places in Alaska in the winter. Still, a look at the snow thrower that mounts to the front of the train that descends into the village from Whitehorse speaks volumes about what temperate actually means in the greater scheme of things. It’s also a resourceful place. Reminded me, in that sense alone, of life on Roatan, where, objects found on the beach washed in by the tide, were not junk at all, but raw materials for anything you could figure out what to do with them. The facade of the visitor’s center is completely covered with drift wood. I actually found a nice piece myself to use as a walking/bear beating stick, and one store we walked into wanted to have their carver come out and do an Eagle head on the top of it right there and then.
“What kind of wood is that?”
“Oh, I don’t know; I call it “drift””
I bought my much anticipated Alaska fishing license in the local hardware store, where, I am reasonably certain, I was the first person ever to do so and then insist on a photo of the occasion. Hey! You wait 50 years for something, you should make a note of it when it finally happens.
We posted a picture of Emerald Lake which is on the road in. As is true of so much we are seeing and experiencing the picture refused to capture the glory of the color of the lake, but hopefully it will provide a glimpse into that amazing color for which it is named. Marilyn said that one lake alone made the trip worth doing; we just stared at it in amazement before continuing on. It left us with one of those images you store in your mind that never goes away- it was just that special a place.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Unpaid Advertisement!

In the Yukon Territory, there are three, not two, things that are certain. Death. Taxes. And Dings in your windshield!
New friends from the road traveling now behind us, and friends who know they will be passing by this way at some time: TAKE A NOTE!
The locals call him The Glass Doctor, but the yellow pages call him Glass Magnum. We saw his sign headed into the town of Whitehorse. George Sahlstrom, working neat as a pin in a white shirt and a surgeon's apron, is gainfully self employed doing "highest quality in all forms of glass repair." Plain and simple, he's a windshield man. The rest can call him what they like, but after he put a perfect fix on a mega bullseye with a crack starting to run in our front windshield today, we now think of him as "The Surgeon of Silicon." A more pleasant guy you are never going to find. I had asked for a referral at the fuel stop, then again at an RV repair shop near the campsite, and yet again at the campsite. Everyone said, "Call George." There was just cause: he is a master of the process and a hole I wasn't too sure could be fixed at all is now virtually invisible. How sure is George that the repair will last? He offers a two year guarantee on the job. With the wink of an eye and a pleasing grin he adds, "Two years...or two miles, whichever comes first." (George emailed after I posted this to add a "ha! ha! after the "2 mile gag" - I've no doubt his guarantee is every bit as good as the quality of his work...which is simply excellent)
And like all good doctors, dentists and surgeons, George is blessed with a wonderful "coach-side manner." As he started to drill out the ding for repair, he glanced at me over his shoulder and said, "Now let me know if this hurts...."
All of you headed to Alaska: You will require glass services! You DO want George to take care of you. He took our biggest ding to date and "healed it" without even the "scar" left by our other trips to the windshield clinic. Thanks Doc!

George Sahlstrom, Glass Magnum, Glass Doctor, Surgeon of Silicon makes a nasty ding in the windshield just plain go away. Note Marilyn inside supervising the job.

Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog

Jeremiah was a bullfrog;
was a good friend of mine...
Ah, but Rudolph was a Caribou,
Who knew?
Caribou, when domesticated and raised in such a herd- are REINDEER, making the famed Christmas Rudolph, the red-nosed caribou. This critter was NOT domesticated so he was a true caribou, and as a lot, they are skittish and spooky and don't hang around for a photo op ("now dash away, dash away, dash away all"), which is why this is the first image of one we have posted. We had cameras at the ready, traveling as slow as possible, and prepared to stop and jump out to capture at least one image, which is exactly what happened here. Gorgeous animal! Maybe not the best shot! But the best of the shots I got so it will have to do until I get a better one.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

When The Waterfall Is Closed

What do you do when the waterfall is "CLOSED"?

This time of year, latter part of May in the Yukon, we expected most everything to be up and running. By now in Maine, where we spent much of our lives, seasonal activities are starting up no matter how grudgingly and no matter the fact that the weather can still be less than favorable. But that has certainly not been the case the further north we travel. Many if not most campgrounds are closed. Many if not most fuel stops are closed. Restaurants, closed. Gift shops, closed. Even the trapper's den was closed. But the waterfall? Yes, the waterfall near Rancheria, a 10 minute hike in from the road from the marker on the road was "closed." No idea why, but there was the sign we had seen so many times in the last couple days. Perhaps there were lavatory facilities that were inoperable. The ground is still frozen hard in places. Campgrounds that are open often do not have water and sewer operable yet, so you plan ahead as much as possible and conserve as hard as possible in between. It's not such a bad thing, just takes some thinking ahead.
The fact that the waterfall was closed brought to mind some related issues. The satellite TV we use to view our programming has been "closed" for several days now; it quite simply only works to a certain degree north...and then it's all done. But amusing ourselves with our developing northern sense of humor, we realized that, when we tried to start up the TV just in case it might work here, and the "snow" and background noise that usually accompanies a blank white screen both looked and sounded like the waterfall we hadn't been able to see en route today. We fancied the picture and sound to be the rush of the white water over the rocks and down the drop into the ravine....and then we moved on, just as we would have done had the falls been open. It's not like it's the only waterfall around, so no big deal, and we will be able to see it on the way back through in the fall.
Now a closed waterfall doesn't cost you much, but with the majority of fuel stops and eateries still closed up tighter than a drum, the cost of both food and fuel at the places that are open skyrockets. If those of you in the states are grappling with gas and diesel at 3 bucks a whack, try nearly 6 bucks a pop and see how that feels when your tank hold 150 gallons. A block of Cracker Barrel cheese that's normally in the 3 dollar range, sits on the shelves up here near 9. Still, it is what it is, and we consider those prices to be the price of admission to a show we surely do not want to miss.
Other than the waterfall thing, it was just another day in the Yukon Territory: bald eagles sitting atop a beaver dam, snow covered peaks on the Cassiar Mountains, black water glacial reflecting ponds and lakes and rivers, and caribou darting in and out of the pine cover along the side of the road.
Road Sign Of The Day: "All Those Who Hate Speeding Tickets, Lift Your Right Foot!" Personally, I don't know how it is possible to speed here. You miss too much if you go fast. You HIT too much if you go fast. And you burn way too much fuel if you go fast. Besides which, one small error in steering on any of these roads and, with almost NO guard rails and deep drops- you could be toast in a hurry if you're in too much of a hurry.
Below: Marilyn writes out post cards in our site for the night overlooking Lake Teslin. I'd like to tell you the lake is "open," but in fact it is still quite frozen in places other than right in front of us!

Monday, May 21, 2007

"Yu-kon" If You Try Hard Enough

Not much integration between photo and commentary in this post ( if ever there was). From the Yukon Territory, where the connectivity is little more than an occasional “internet Laundromat.” We sent e mails to “loved ones” as follows:
“We have spent our first day in the Yukon Territory. It is far easier to find elk, bear, caribou, fox, deer, beaver and a whole host of other glorious creatures than it is to find an internet connection! We say that to make a point about the wonder of the wildlife, not to complain about the lack of technical wizardry- although staying connected is part of our challenge; which is why I find myself writing to all of you this evening from Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, from, yes, an internet Laundromat! My clothes are all clean; I just needed the connection, thank you very much, Elvis.
Having an amazing time! Even for someone who fancies themselves a writer of sorts, there are no words to pass along the wonders of this place. It simply must be seen, or forsaken.
We expect to be without cell phone now for some time. This e mail is evidence that even in the wilderness, technology provides a link to the outside world if you just seek it out.
Best to send an e mail if you need to contact us and we will pick it up asap.
Think of you all far more often than we have the time to write individually; please don’t take that to heart- just keep in touch with the blog which will still get published as often as possible now. Link provided now at end of signature- just click and go….”
The sign forest at Watson Lake is perhaps what this thriving town of a couple dozen people or so is most famous for. There are probably more people than that based on the services here, but they’re not advertising population so I don’t know. Surely it is more than Liard at the Hot Springs which had about 29 people in residence. At 104 degrees F we bathed in the springs in lieu of shower and sewer connections at the adjoining campground where the ground was still frozen and things weren’t quite up to par yet.
We are running ahead of the madding crowd at this point and happy to have it that way. Left behind in our diesel exhaust are the weekenders and family outing types. Those of us leapfrogging down (make that “up”) the highway now are all booking it for Alaska. No longer the gold rush, now the salmon rush is in full regalia. I contemplated seriously tonight buying my Yukon fishing license and taking some of the grayling that are being caught at ice out edge in the lakes in the area- but to fish here now would only slow me down, and if nothing else now, I am “gold-rush-pitched” to get to Alaska and wet a line. No doubt the time and place is here for good fishing, but the allure of what has called to me all my life is only a few days away and I am feeling driven to keep going. As soon as I cross the border, I will be most happy to drop my fishing license fee into the state coffers. Alaska: I’m coming, honey. Just give me several more days!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mile Marker 300

The bad news is: we had yet another day of driving in rain and cold and snow.
The good news is: We saw a Sasquatch sighting along the way at the posting crossing. The campground there, as the one we are in tonight, cannot guarantee that you can pump your sewage (the ground is still quite frozen) but they, unlike where we are tonight, can guarantee a daily sighting of the Bigfooted One.

We had heard it was expensive in Alaska. One can only hope that it is not as expensive as the Canadian Provinces. To save on water and sewer and all that good stuff that we do not have tonight we had a drink and dinner in the "neighborhood Pub." Ouch!!! At least the campground was only 13 dollars US. ( It was worth about $3.00) But that's still a deal here, boy!

900 miles now to the Alaska border; 1200 to Fairbanks. We be comin'! Slow but sure.

Great Alaska (ALCAN) Highway Begins

Dawson Creek, BC, Canada, the beginning mile "0" of the Great Alaska Highway. Well! We made it this far. 1500 miles from here to Fairbanks, Alaska, which for now is the aim of our plan. Weather corrections may need to be made. We arrived here today to four inches of snow which was promptly melted by a couple inches of rain, which in turn made for a soggy, muddy mess as the frost is just now coming out of the ground anyway. We 'bucket washed" the coach in near freezing temps because you could barely see it anymore after all the road grime that collected on it today.
Today's thrill was a quick pull-over at a creek crossing where a huge bald eagle was "looking fish" as they used to say on Roatan. Perhaps he just looked extra large because he was only about 50 feet away on the gravel bar. Eventually he flew off up stream; no time to grab the camera, but it was one of those up close and personal images that leaves a picture in your mind forever.

Click on pic below to read about the highway construction and Dawson Creek...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More Banff To Jasper

It was a second amazing day in a row enjoying the run from Banff to Jasper. Another day of superlatives. The "sno-coach" shown below takes area visitors onto the Columbia Glacier in the distance behind it. There is a second such coach in the picture, already on the glacier, but to give you a sense of the scale here- you can't even see the other coach when the picture is blown to full size- unless of course you can make out that little speck way way off in the distance. You DO have to see it to appreciate the grandeur of it all.It was a productive day for wildlife sightings as well. Lots more elk and even more Big Horn Sheep, one moose off in a distance at a place where there was no way to stop and get a picture. And speaking of NO PICTURE, there was one point along the run when I looked up at the mountain before us and said to Marilyn, I hope to you-know-what that is not a road up that hill that we need to travel..." It looked like a zigging zagging series of cuts to keep rocks from falling on the highway below- only it had what, at that distance, looked vaguely like a guard rail. Most of this stretch had been deceptively easy to drive with little sense of change in elevation and little sense that you could exit the roadway and plummet over the edge into the abyss at any given moment, but THIS...this gave me cause for concern. And with good cause- because it was exactly what it had appeared to be- the single most challenging grade and elevation change of the last two days. I needed to drop to 2nd gear to keep old Buster moving his butt up the mountain. It was an "I think I can, I think I can" type of situation. I didn't stop at the scenic overlooks for fear of never getting going again, and maybe I should just say I didn't stop "for fear." Period.
Much of the day was spent driving past areas posted as "Avalanche Zone" and to be sure, there were several places where there were "fresh" signs that the snow cap had given out and come down clearing everything in its path including rocks, trees and even the roadway. There were fresh repairs in a number of places and we took the posted warnings seriously and kept an eye out for what was happening above us most of the day. It may be May in the rest of the world, but it sure doesn't seem like it here, even though daytime temperatures have been more than comfortable. Winter wonderland is alive and well here for now.
Athabasca Falls is a beautiful spot along the route. It is in the part of the Province of Alberta where the Canadian Oil Sands Reserves are to be found. I spoke with a camp ground owner who is also on the Alberta Travel Council and he told me of the great difficulty in finding workers not only for campgrounds which are seasonal, but for nearly every job available here- the reason is that the oil field jobs pay wages that make it nearly impossible not to go to work for them if you have a skill they can possibly use. But the oil shale was nowhere to be found today and the falls was, so here's the picture...

And here's a great couple we met along the way today. While we were pulled over at a scenic overlook (they call them "parking lots" in Alberta) another coach towing a car pulled up along side.
"OK. Who's from Florida?" asked the driver.
Long story short: Tom and Mary Lou had a house on Cape Coral before going full time in their coach. They lived near the library which put them not too many blocks away from our place on the Cape. Where are they headed? Alaska. Where are they staying tonight? Same place we are? Where? Two sites over to be exact, so we got together for happy hour and got to know each other a bit. When we first met, I was wearing my "Bite Me" mosquito shirt from Roatan. Can you believe they are divers too and had been on one of the Roatan live aboard dive boats? We have a lot of small world stories (guess this one is a small third world story). Tom's theory is that the world may not actually be that small, but the number of adventurous people probably is quite small, so we always meet sooner or later. I like that! Rings true. If you can, note the front plate of their coach: 2CHILL. It's a parrot head plate and for those who may be saying, " A what?" A parrot head is a Jimmy Buffet music fan. And I am a fan of any fan of Jimmy's. No doubt we'll see you again down the road.
Closing notes about Verizon cell phone service and the pc card for the wireless laptop: Yea, yea, I know, this is more technical than this blog usually gets, that's why we have the link to Geeks On Tour, but a number of readers have been discussing phone connectivity lately so now that we have some slightly out of the ordinary experience I thought I would weigh in. Much to our shock, amazement, and joy, our cell service with Verizon on the North American plan has been totally without interruption so far in Canada, with the exception of certain parts of the Banff to Jasper run- where no one gets service of any kind and probably never will. The mountains there are so high and surround the road so completely that on occasion even the GPS dropped the satellite for bits here and there. Verizon told us not to expect coverage in many of the areas we have been. Now maybe that will become the case as get further north and in more remote areas but so far so good. And the PC card has worked absolutely everywhere the cell did, despite the fact that Verizon told us that probably none of the Canadian towers would support data transmission. This is NOT a paid advertisement (Although, Verizon, if you're reading this I do love you and I do have a sponsorship open for you). But it is to confirm that where others have failed, Verizon, knock on wood, is hanging in there with the wifi and the satellite phones.

One final note for tonight, when we arrived at the campground (well, actually right before we arrived) we drove past it a couple miles into the village of Hinton, which will not be on our route tomorrow, so that we could fuel up at the only truck stop for many miles. The pumps were fitted much differently than in the states, the main difference being the nozzle is small and looks like a gasoline nozzle. So I asked a number of questions to assure myself that in fact I would be pumping the correct fuel into the tank- #2 diesel. First one employee, then two, then three came out to the pump to "help." Much to our surprise, they all claimed never to have seen a motor coach this big at their service station and they all wanted a good look and a quick chat. Their "diesel guy" as they called him was curios to know if he could buy our kayaks, so I guess he hadn't seen those before either. I don't know! The town didn't seem THAT small to me. It was a curious but friendly enough encounter and I guess we all learned something- and isn't that just the point!?

The Bigger They Are...

The bigger they are, the harder they fall, or so the saying goes. Last night, as I was washing my hair in my nice, private shower, in my nice, comfy coach, tucked into the Canadian Rockies between Banff and Jasper, where 911 is a joke because "ain't no phone service anyway", the saying's worth became evident. The fold-down seat in the shower stall, rated to hold a 300 pound "showerer" (a rating which I am nowhere near), let go, actually shattered without warning- and my 6'3" vertical frame was instantaneously dropped and wedged into the bottom of the stall. This is like trying to fit a 20" salmon into a six inch fry pan- some thing's gonna get bruised along the way. Wrenched my foot pretty good, cut a finger on the right hand, gashed my abdomen a tad, and did irreparable damage to my pride. Falling down is embarrassing enough, but far worse when one is bare ass to boot. I let out a reflex grunt when I hit bottom. Marilyn, who doesn't ordinarily move all that fast, came dashing in from the salon to report an earthquake- only to find me scrunched up in the bottom of the shower.
"Did you pass out? Did you have a heart attack? Did you suffer a stroke" Is your back OK? Are you hurt?"
Let's see, "No, No, No, No, and Perhaps."
One or both of us managed to open the shower door, water still running on full. You've seen the ads where the person has fallen and can't get up? Been there, now, done that. Just like sardines do not remove themselves from the can, I couldn't seem to find a position from which to start the initial ascent from the shower pit. But after some adjusting, we managed to extricate my crumpled ruins from the pit without having to remove the skylight over the shower and having the glacier sight seeing helicopter hook on and pull me up through it.
A couple bruises, a few drops of blood, nothing lasting.
I decide I am A-OK. That allows a concerned wife to say how she really feels about her friend and companion and lover and chauffeur: "Good, because you looked like a soft pretzel that had been left out in the rain!" Eh!
There was a good solid hour of laughter that followed. She's still laughing...
And NO there are mercifully no pictures to accompany this report. You may each thank me for that at the appropriate time.

Mountains In My Mirrors

The true temptation is to post all 130 of the “keeper” photos from today. Cutting it to fewer than 20 took a long time, and while I could and should cut it a whole lot further- I don’t feel like it! The run from Banff to Jasper, of which we completed about half today on the Ice Field Parkway, is the most amazing drive I have ever taken in my life- bar none. In miles it wasn’t all that long a day, but hour wise it took some serious time. Not because the drive was scary or difficult, but because with every bend in the road, the scenery, which was already spectacular, became even more so. Mountains bigger and more breathtaking. Snow cover more solid. Glaciers closer to the road. Wildlife we’ve not spotted before. Multiple photo op stops were necessary! And then I realized that there were mountains in my mirrors- an important life lesson no doubt. We had been so intent on looking forward to the next mighty vista, that we had forgotten to look back to see where we had been. The first time I noticed what was already behind me, I realized it was as good as what lay before. The same mountain from the other side is a different mountain all together.

Most of the photos used for this post will speak for themselves. You can blow them up for a somewhat better idea of what we saw, but honestly a photo cannot portray the sense of majesty and scale of the Canadian Rockies. Talk about awesome! They line both sides of the road we travel. Essentially we are weaving our way through the entire chain of them, so high mountains on the left, on the right, immediately ahead and bringing up the rear at all times. Transitioning from about 3000 feet to 7000 feet elevation, the highway is an engineering marvel and the changes were gradual and nearly unnoticeable. If we weren’t here and seeing it for ourselves, we might just find it unimaginable. But here they are and here we are.

A note on the critter shots. This is wilderness, not a zoo, so you get what you get for a photo opportunity. You can’t jump out and go walking up to the nice bear for a better shot, so pardon the “posterior” angle and slight blurriness. Thanks to the digital zoom just for allowing me to prove I really saw him in the wild! And as for the Big Horn Sheep, well, we worked darn hard to find them but when we did it was an “oh My God” moment to be sure.