Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Trip to Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies

Kintla Lake, Glacier National Park

A trip to visit the northern Rocky Mountains has long been on my bucket list. Many years ago we had taken the train across the country through the mountains. We did not realize when we booked the trip that the train traversed the mountains during the dead of night. We spent two days looking at the flat land of North Dakota and eastern Montana before reaching the foothills at dusk. We resolved one day to return during daylight hours. It took a long time but we finally made it back.

Given our choice, we would have timed the trip for early summer or later in the fall when fewer people would be visiting the parks. But with other comitments, we had to go in peak time- mid-July. We knew there would be crowds. We planned to disperse camp to the extent we could and otherwise just surrender to the experience. As it turned out, dispersed camping opportunities were hard to find near sights we wanted to see and we ended up in campgrounds most of the time.

Our original plan was to head to Canada first and then drop down into Glacier. As it turned out, the weather was so hot through the plains that we decided to head to Glacier first in hopes of escaping the heat.

As is our style, we stayed off the freeways and took the backroads. We like passing through the small towns and getting a sense of the country we are passing through. It takes longer, but we are not in a hurry.

I kept a diary of sorts and downloaded photos from the phone to the computer each night (except for one night when I forgot). This proved to be a very good thing as my phone died along the way and we lost two full days of photos.

You can click on the thumbnails for a larger version of the photos.

Sheyenne National Grassland

Day 1 Sunday
Minneapolis to Sheyenne National Grassland

Our first camp target was in the Sheyenne National Grasslands just across the border into North Dakota. We knew we could disperse camp there, but we did not have maps or a particular destination. As it turned out, we had to hunt a bit for a good campsite. We eventually found a trailhead for the North Country Trail which passes through the area. The trailhead had a good map that allowed us to get our bearings and find a nice shady spot for the evening.

Our camp at Sheyenne National Grassland

Day 2 Monday
Sheyenne National Grassland to Teddy Roosevelt National Park

Day two took us to Teddy Roosevelt National Park. We stopped at a visitor center to inquire about camping. A theme that would hold for the rest of the trip first emerged here- all the campgrounds were full. We asked about dispersed camping but the people at the visitor center gave us few ideas. We were able to secure a good map and after a bit of driving around, eventually found a nice site in the Little Missouri National Grasslands that surround the park. The evening was hot- 95°F at dinner time. We ate dinner, enjoyed the view and a nice sunset.

View of Teddy Roosevelt National Park

Our camp in the Little Missouri National Grassland

Panorama from camp

Nice sunset with crescent moon

Day 3 Tuesday
Teddy Roosevelt National Park

The next day we planned to do a driving tour of the park including visiting the site of Teddy Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch.
"My home ranch-house stands on the river brink. From the low, long veranda, shaded by leafy cotton-woods, one looks across sand bars and shallows to a strip of meadowland, behind which rises a line of sheer cliffs and grassy plateaus. This veranda is a pleasant place in the summer evenings when a cool breeze stirs along the river and blows in the faces of the tired men, who loll back in their rocking-chairs (what true American does not enjoy a rocking-chair?), book in hand--though they do not often read the books, but rock gently to and for, gazing sleepily out at the weird-looking buttes opposite, until their sharp outlines grow indistinct and purple in the after-glow of the sunset." From Hunting Trips of a Ranchman by Theodore Roosevelt

Exhibit at Elkhorn Ranch

We got an early start and enjoyed a leisurely tour of the park loop road before the tourist traffic. The landscape of badlands is beautiful and interesting. We drove out to the Elkhorn Ranch site alongside the Missouri River. There was a short hike from a trailhead to the actual ranch site.

Morning view over camp

View of the park from the loop road

The Elkhorn Ranch buildings are long gone and their former locations simply marked by iron fence posts. A few interpretive signs provided a bit of information. We enjoyed seeing the location and imagining what it was like when Teddy Roosevelt was there. But overall the visit was a letdown. The site was overgrown and poorly interpreted. Not even a bench to sit on. It's a shame we don't provide sufficient funds to maintain important sites like this.

Path to Elkhorn Ranch site

Elkhorn Ranch

Missouri River from Elkhorn Ranch

We had intended to camp at the Elkhorn Ranch campground, but found it occupied by a large group of horse people, with their horses and horse trailers. It was very hot and horse flies were abundant. We anticipated a rowdy group and decided to move on.

Grassland at Elkhorn Ranch

View of Little Missouri National Grasslands near Elkhorn Ranch

Looking at our maps, we found a campground on the other side of the river and the map indicated a river crossing (not a bridge) a bit north from where we were. We followed the gravel roads through cattle country and past a prosperous looking ranch. At the anticipated spot, a narrow road turned off toward the river and we were greeted with a large "Private Road- No Trespassing" sign. Although narrow, the road was clearly regularly used but I was reluctant to pass the sign. We traveled on the main road for a bit to where we could see back to the river crossing. It was definitely a well-used crossing. With a campsite tantalizingly close, we were tempted to cross in spite of the sign. But we didn't. We backtracked the way we came and headed out to the highway to continue our journey towards the mountains. I second-guessed my decision the rest of the day.

Now we faced a dilemma with no identified campsite and a waning day. We found a campground marked on the map but when we got there found it unsuitable- very hot, alongside stagnant water and trash-filled fire rings. We headed for Hwy 2 and aimed for the Downstream Campground at Fort Peck Dam in Montana. We called ahead and found out there would be a site for us, even with a late arrival.

We arrived at the very large Downstream Campground at dusk- found the gate manned by a very pleasant young man from Wisconsin. He set us up with a nice shady campsite in the primitive section which turned out to be next to a very noisy family enjoying themselves with boombox music, loud conversation, a smoky campfire and crying kids. A textbook case of why we usually try to avoid campgrounds.

It was still really hot and we were tired. Being late in the day, we just moved ourselves to a campsite away from the noise with more space and privacy. After a quick dinner, we took our customary walk around the campground and discovered a nice shower building. A shower would be just the ticket after a long hot day and we took advantage.

Camp at Downstream Campground, Fort Peck Dam

Day 4 Wednesday
Fort Peck to Summit Campground, Marias Pass, East Glacier.

We left camp early the next day. I had discovered on the internet what sounded like a good coffee shop in the next town of Glasgow so we resolved to stop there for breakfast, get gas for the truck and figure out our next steps. The shop lived up to its billing with good coffee and baked goods. We settled at a table to take advantage of the free wifi and do some trip research. The relentless heat was getting to us. Days in the 90°s and not much relief at night. We had originally planned to cross into Canada at this point and camp at the Grasslands National Park just across the border. Checking the weather forecast showed the heat would be there to greet us with no shade as it is a true grassland. We decided to change our plans and head to Glacier National Park first in hopes of finding some cooler weather.

We knew that the campgrounds in Glacier would be full. Our plan was to find dispersed camping in the Flathead National Forest. From the road I called the Forest and got connected to a District Ranger. He was very helpful with suggestions. There was a small forest service campground right off Hwy 2 midway between East and West Glacier at Marias Pass Summit. If that was full, we could follow a nearby forest road and find good dispersed camping. As we left East Glacier and headed for the campground, we passed a small lake off to the left. To our amazement, there was a huge moose swimming and feeding in the lake. What a great welcome to Glacier National Park. We found the campground and there were a few open sites yet to choose from. We picked a nice one and set up camp. I like the rustic forest service campgrounds. They are usually small with nice sites. They don't have services for the big RVs so you usually mostly have tent campers for neighbors. This campground turned out to be a great home base for exploring Glacier National Park and we stayed 3 nights.

Camp at Summit Campground, Flathead National Forest

Day 5 Thursday
Glacier National Park

In the morning, we decided to drive to the St. Mary visitor center to get oriented to the park. We encountered major road construction with miles of rough road and long waits at one-lane sections. We saw another moose cow and calf along the way- that was fun.

St. Mary was our first encounter with crowds. The line of cars to enter the park was long. The visitor center parking lot was full. We waited for a spot to open and went inside. We confirmed that all the campgrounds were full, checked the weather reports and looked at some exhibits.

St Mary Lake

Another view of St Mary Lake
We decided to drive up the road to Many Glacier and visit the historic Many Glacier Hotel. The roadside scenes were indescribably beautiful with wildflowers and the mountain backdrop.

Wild flowers near Many Glacier

Another view of Many Glacier wildflowers

We drove to Swiftcurrent and had lunch at the end of the road. Everywhere was choked with cars and people. We knew there would be crowds but it was still mildly traumatic to be dealing with such congestion at every place. The hotel was worth the visit- quite a picturesque setting and impressive main lobby space.

Many Glacier Hotel

Lobby at Many Glacier Hotel
Lobby Staircase at Many Glacier Hotel
View of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel

Swiftcurrent Lake

We decided to drive the famous Going to the Sun road as our route back to camp. This was maybe not the best decision. By driving the road east to west (in the reverse direction as most people go), it put us on the wrong side of the road for most pullouts. Since the pullouts were mostly full anyway, and with the number of cars on the road, we couldn't really stop to take pictures. We did enjoy the mountain scenery quite a bit. At one point, traffic stopped totally. We wondered what was going on. Others told us someone about 5 cars ahead of us saw a grizzly bear and simply had to get pictures. So they stopped their car and left it in the roadway to go off in search of a bear picture. The road being narrow with no shoulders, no one could pass. We were stopped for probably 15 minutes. Cars were backed up for a very long way before the people returned to their car and drove on, laughing about the consternation of others they had caused. Of course by then the bear had wandered off and we did not get to see it.

Scenic view from a Many Glacier road pullout

Day 6 Friday
Glacier National Park

The next day we resolved to get into the backcountry a bit to escape the crowds. Before heading out we stopped at the Rock and Roll Bakery and Gear shop in East Glacier. Awesome baked goods and a surprisingly well stocked, very small camping and climbing gear store. We drove to Two Medicine Lake to see the historic Camp Store, site of one of FDR's fireside chats. We stopped along the way for a short hike to visit Running Eagle Falls. Also known as Trick Falls as the river flows out of a cave in the rock which makes a falls that is obscured in times of high water flow.

Colorful gravel and clear water in Two Medicine Creek

Two Medicine Creek

Running Eagle Falls

Two Medicine Creek

Indian Paintbrush

Purple Asters

Sticky Geranium

After seeing the camp store and looking at a map, we settled on a hike on the Scenic Point trail and had lunch beside Appistoki Falls. We enjoyed the hike quite a lot.

Two Medicine Lake

Scenic Point trail

Appistoki Falls

Scenic Point trail view

Scenic Point trail view

Appistoki Falls lunch spot

Trail to Scenic Point

On our way back to camp we stopped to tour the historic Glacier Park Hotel. It was another grand building to see. What fun it must have been in the early days to ride the train to East Glacier and stay in that hotel. We also took the opportunity to do laundry in East Glacier and treated ourselves to a good dinner at Serrano's Mexican Restaurant. The wait for dinner passed quickly while we sipped a beer on the porch- a fine way to end a good day.

Glacier Park Hotel- huge Cedar Tree columns

Glacier Park Hotel- huge Douglas Fir tree columns

Glacier Park Hotel- Douglas Fir tree columns

Day  7  Saturday
Glacier National Park

In the morning we decided to do some backroad exploring in the Flathead National Forest. We drove a forest road for a few miles south of Hwy 2 until we were turned back by a deep washout. There had been a fire in the area some time in the past and we enjoyed seeing the forest recovering from that.

Flathead National Forest view

Flathead National Forest view

New growth after fire

New growth after fire

We decided to head back to Two Medicine Lake for another hike. Again we hit the Rock and Roll Bakery- those ladies really know how to bake. This time the parking lot at the trailhead was full. We decided to drive through the campground to check it out while we waited for a parking spot to open up. We met a very friendly young man in the campground who flagged us down thinking we were looking for a campsite. When we explained we were just looking for a parking spot he invited us to park at his campsite. We had a nice conversation and he gave us a tour of his home-built Dodge Ram van camper which he was very proud of. We left our truck at his camp and headed to the trailhead. The young fellow's hospitality made our day.

We had a nice hike on the Dawson Pass trail which goes alongside Two Medicine Lake before heading up to Dawson Pass. We walked for a couple of hours and stopped for lunch in the shade of some big trees along the trail.  Our lunch entertainment was provided by the antics of a chipmunk trying to cajole a snack from us. Dinner and showers in camp ended another nice day.

Along the Dawson Pass trail

Along the Dawson Pass trail

Along the Dawson Pass trail

Two Medicine Lake from the Dawson Pass trail

Along the Dawson Pass trail

Day 8 Sunday
Summit CG to Kintla Lake Campground

We decided to pack up and head to West Glacier. We wanted to see the historic lodge at Lake McDonald. After our tour, we stopped at the West Glacier visitor center to inquire about the status of campgrounds at Bowman and Kintla Lake. Both are rustic, remote campgrounds in the northwest part of the park. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we had a good chance of getting a spot if we got there early in the day. We also stopped at the Alberta Travel Information Center to get maps and information for the Canadian portion of our trip. We headed for Kintla Lake.

Lake McDonald Lodge

Video of interior of Lake McDonald Lodge

We arrived at the Park Gate and the Ranger informed us there were sites available at both Bowman and Kintla Lake. We opted for Kintla.

The road to Kintla Lake was a narrow, rough gravel road. The drive took about two hours. Partway there we passed the small town of Polebridge, site of the famous Polebridge Mercantile general store. We were wanting to secure our campsite so we passed by but resolved to stop on our way out.

The drive took us through woods and meadows, past remote cabins and homesteads- a great drive. Finally we came to the Kintla Lake Campground. We picked a site and set up camp. The small campground is situated at the narrow end of the lake with a nice gravel shoreline and a beautiful vista of the lake and mountains beyond. The sites were small and close together but the people there were pleasant and respectful of their neighbors. There is also a day-use parking area which filled each day we were there. The campground serves as a trailhead for several trails that head off into the backcountry. The location was so pleasant we decided to stay an extra day.

Camp at Kintla Lake

View of Kintla Lake Campground

Kintla Lake view from campground

Outlet of Kintla Lake- flows to North Branch of the Flathead River

Day 9 Monday
Kintla Campground

Started our layover day in the Kintla Campground with a big breakfast of sausage, eggs and hash browns. Cleaned up and walked along the lake path to the Ranger cabin- a simple log house- pretty nice digs. We sat on a log bench by the lake for quite a while then walked along the road to collect some windfall firewood for our evening campfire. We had lunch in camp and took a leisurely hike on the Boulder Pass trail. We saw a western tanager, woodpeckers with brown crest, a merganser. Came face to face with a deer- it was curious not fearful. It was a pretty fun hike. We spent a lazy late afternoon in camp, made dinner, watched the sunset and had a campfire. Tomorrow- Canada.

Flowers along the Boulder Pass trail

Kintla Lake from Boulder Pass trail

Tree having a bad hair day

Boulder Pass trail

Green glacier water- Kintla Lake

What bird is that?

Curious deer

Boulder Pass trail

Boulder Pass trail

Another deer pic

Kintla Lake

Day 10 Tuesday
Kintla Campground to Kootenay NP BC Canada

We got an early start from Kintla Campground. Stopped for breakfast at Polebridge Mercantile- a throwback to the days of general stores. It is a fun creative business in the middle of nowhere known for its huckleberry bear claw pastries (which lived up to their advance billing). The store contained an interesting assortment of staples, necessities and tourist goods. The business also has a few cabins, a vegetable and fruit stand, lemonade stand, hot showers for purchase, a true general store. We shared a "hot sammy" breakfast sandwich similar to an Upper Peninsula pasty- stuffed with bacon, eggs, hash browns and cheese and we each had a bear claw. I had a great latte with an extra shot- who would think you could get that in the middle of nowhere! We saw several deer along the drive. We drove to Columbia Falls where we stocked up on food and propane before heading to the Canadian border on Hwy 93. The border crossing was uneventful and we got to Kootenay National Park by 3:30 PM. We lucked out with the last campsite at Redstreak Campground. Mountain goats supervised our entrance to the park. The camp site was substandard but came with hot showers which we enjoyed. During dinner, a young mountain goat trotted through camp- a first for us both.

Polebridge Mercantile- bakery open!

Polebridge Mercantile

Day 11 Wednesday
Kootenay NP to Monarch Campground, Banff NP

We got an early start from camp and drove to Banff. We saw Bighorn sheep alongside the road on the way out. We drove straight into town and the worst traffic jam ever. Stop and go through the downtown to the famous Fairmont Springs Hotel. Couldn’t get in to see the hotel unless a you were a registered guest and there was no parking available anyway. We quickly decided to leave Banff and drive the Bow Valley Parkway. By sheer luck, we found a very busy gas station and waited to fill up then left town for the parkway and some breathing space. The parkway was a pleasant drive but several campgrounds we passed were full. With the crowded situation, we decided to look for a campsite first and then visit Lake Louise. We found a nice site at Monarch Campground in Yoho National Park after being turned away at the full Kicking Horse Campground. We returned to Lake Louise late in the afternoon and found another traffic jam. The parking lot was closed but I cajoled the attendant to let us in, seeing a car pulling out. We lucked out with a parking spot. Walked to Lake Louise- it was unbelievably crowded. We took our picture and left. We wanted to visit Moraine Lake but the road to the lake was closed due to the lake parking lot being full. We left the scene and returned to our camp. The crowds were a bit overwhelming. We went early to bed and resolved to beat the crowds the next day.

Camp at Monarch Campground

Lake Louise

More representative of Lake Louise experience

Day 12 Thursday
Monarch Campground to Rampart Creek Campground

Granola for breakfast- on the road by 7:30. We backtracked to Lake Louise to catch the Icefield Parkway to Jasper. Our plan again was to find a camp early and then explore. We stopped at Peyto Lake for a short hike to an overlook showing off the beautiful green color of the lake. Stopped at a few more scenic overlooks before turning into Rampart Creek Campground around 9 AM, which was recommended by one of our guidebooks. We found a site readily and self-registered. We then continued on our way to the Columbia Ice Field. We toured the visitor center which had some interesting exhibits. Tours to the glacier were on sale, including rides in special buses that drive out onto the ice- seemed crazy touristy to me. We hiked out to the glacier and took lots of pictures. Signs were stuck in the ground showing the limits of the ice in past years- quite impressive at showing the amount of melting that is happening. The landscape was severe- just ice, gravel, rocks and water. It was interesting to observe the scrapes left in the bedrock by the glacier as it had advanced over the years. We continued on the Ice Field Parkway for a while and took some more pictures. We visited Athabasca Falls- quite impressive. The drive lived up to its billing as one of the great drives in the world.

My phone stopped working on the way back to camp after trying to charge it on a USB charger in the truck. I realized later that all my photos taken that day and the day before might be lost. Very sad, as this had been one of the most scenic days of the trip. We took some replacement photos with Kathy's phone the next day on our drive to Jasper, but our best photos were gone.

Ice Field Parkway view

Ice Field Parkway view

Ice Field Parkway view

Ice Field Parkway view

Ice Field Parkway view

Video of glacial outflow

We got back to camp, set up, made dinner and had a campfire. After dinner, a small black bear wandered through the campground- it took notice of us but was not concerned. As requested on the campground bulletin board, during our customary after dinner walk around the campground we duly reported the sighting on the provided chalk board.

Day 13 Friday
Rampart Creek to Jasper to Watson Creek Provincial Park

We had oatmeal to start the day, packed up and were on the road by 8 AM. We drove straight to Jasper with intent to deal with the phone issues, do laundry and grocery shopping. We stopped at the Wilcox Campground which was full but got good information from the Ranger about Jasper. We tried the Snaring Campground but it was also full. Jasper has an overflow camping area with no services- basically a dirt parking lot full of RVs and we decided we would not stay there. We returned to Jasper and found a tech store where the owner eased my mind about the phone- even if the phone did not come back to life the data should be safe. We called Verizon and got our Canada plan switched to Kathy’s phone.

We found a Laundromat and were surprised to find it packed full of Amish people doing their laundry- an entire tour bus full. We waited for a machine to open up. While waiting I found an ATM and got Canadian currency which we hadn’t needed up to this point. With laundry done (total cost for 1 load- $10 Canadian, came with 30 minutes free internet), we found a grocery store and stocked up on fresh food stuffs- vegetables, fruit and bread. We filled the gas tank and the extra can and hit the road.  $80 for gas in a Tacoma truck is a shocker even if it is Canadian money!

On the way out of town we stopped at Maligne Canyon to marvel at the narrow deep chasm carved by the river. We headed for Hwy 40 to begin a less traveled route toward home. We found a nice campsite at Watson Creek Provincial Park along the Mcleod River. We made dinner, walked around the campground and I bushwacked over to the river for some pictures while Kathy returned to camp. Early to bed.

Maligne Canyon

Maligne Canyon showing kettle carved by water

McLeod River at Watson Creek campground

Flowers at McLeod River

Camp at Watson Creek

Flowers at McLeod River

Day 14 Saturday
Watson Creek Campground to Little Fish Lake Provincial Park

We made a quick start with no breakfast- intending to find it along the way. We continued driving on forest road 40. We dueled with giant logging and mining trucks in a choking cloud of dust on the dry gravel road. The road was in poor condition and dust made it difficult to see ruts and holes. After a time, the trucks vanished into their various destinations and we were left to drive in peace. The road conditions eventually improved as the road narrowed- signs the industrial users were elsewhere. The landscape was beautiful with forested hills blanketed in haze and mist, twisting rivers interspersed with the hills. It was a most enjoyable drive. We emerged from the forest at Nordegg- a small town with a coal mining past. We stopped at the Miner’s CafĂ© for a fine breakfast and a tour of the small mining history museum there. We bought a piece of homemade bumbleberry pie to save for later.

Hwy 40 view

Hwy 40 view

We drove on to the town of Drumheller, site of the world famous Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology which we had only discovered by reading a quidebook. An easy drive from Calgary, the place was mobbed on a Saturday afternoon. We decided to go find a campsite and return on Sunday when hopefully the crowds would be diminished. We managed to find a nice camp at Little Fish Provincial Park- tucked away in the midst of an agricultural landscape and underused. Eight campsites- two other parties were already camped- well spaced. We found a nice site at the end. The little lake was picturesque but unfortunately the victim of a fierce blue-green algae bloom so swimming was not advised. The water from the provided hand pump was also marked unsafe. Nevertheless, it provided a peaceful quiet backdrop to our very relaxing evening. I took a camp shower warmed by the afternoon sun. We had dinner, polished off with pie, and took a short walk on a path above the lake for some nice views.  We watched the sun set over the lake and went to bed.

Camp at Little Fish Lake

Little Fish Lake

Prairie at Little Fish Lake

Nice sunset at Little Fish Lake

Day 15 Sunday
Little Fish Campground to Dinosaur Provincial Park

We had a good breakfast of eggs and Spanish rice leftovers. Drove to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. Easy parking and entrance in contrast to day before. This is a fantastic museum with creative interesting and informative exhibits about Earth’s history, the scientific method and paleontology. We spent 3 hours and could have spent much more time. Following our museum tour, we drove to Dinosaur Provincial Park to camp, thinking we would complete our immersion in all things Jurassic. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and after the museum we expected great things. We were underwhelmed- probably as much due to the oppressive heat as anything else. We drove the scenic tour through the badlands and saw some dinosaur fossils in place where they were found- that was interesting. The campground was hot with lots of biting gnats. The park facilities were ok. Best was the air-conditioned service center with free wi-fi. We took the opportunity to figure out the next leg of our trip home. With the exception of the Fort Peck Dam, site of a less than great experience on the way out, campsites and public land were scarce on the map in the areas we could reach in a day’s drive. Feeling the effects of two weeks on the road, we decided to stay in a hotel and booked a reservation in Glasgow MT. We returned to our camp, had a light dinner and retired to the camper for the evening to escape the bugs.

Fossil fish

Turned to stone

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Day 16 Monday
Dinosaur Park to Glasgow Montana

An early start from Dinosaur Campground- I made coffee but no breakfast. We stopped at a Tim Horton’s in Brooks, Alberta to complete our Canadian experience- the food was surprisingly good. We drove to the border crossing at Wild Horse, Montana- it was not busy- I think we woke the guard from a nap. We had to surrender an apple. An uneventful day of driving followed. We stopped for lunch in Havre, Montana at the same city park we stopped at on the way out. The hotel in Glasgow, MT was nice. It was fortunate that we had reserved ahead- the County fair started the next day and rooms were scarce. We missed seeing a real Montana rodeo by one day- bummer. We ate dinner at Flips and Treats- quite a treat. I had a hot fudge malt- so thick I had to eat it with a spoon.

Since I had forgotten my CPAP 120v power source at home, I had to sleep without the CPAP- first time in several years.

Day 17 Tuesday
Glasgow Montana to Grahams Island State Park North Dakota

Another early start. I did not sleep well without the CPAP- I appreciated having it the rest of the way. The 120v power supply will now always be added to the kit. Stopped at the Loaded Toad coffee shop- a find from our way out- for a good latte with an extra shot. They were sold out of baked goods this visit- bummer. We picked up some muffins from Albertsons and were on our way. This leg of the trip was boring! Hwy 2 is straight across mostly featureless terrain- lots of cows, oil wells and burning natural gas plumes. Poverty was apparent as we passed through three Indian Reservations. There are few amenities for road travelers beyond the typical occasional franchise restaurants. No rest areas or picnic areas and few parks and campgrounds. We did pass the geographical center of North America, as determined by the USGS. A modest monument along the highway in Rugby, North Dakota marks it, appropriately located in the parking lot for a Mexican Restaurant.

Sign at geographical center of North America

Monument at the center of North America

A long way from everywhere

We identified Grahams Island State Park as our next destination. It is situated on an island in Devils Lake North Dakota. We arrived about 4 PM, selected a campsite, paid our fees and set up camp. Rain was threatening so we made a quick dinner and cleaned up. Still awaiting rain, we took a walk around the campground which is large and very nice. Most campers were in big RVs with full hookups. We were in the separate primitive section with no services but many more shade large trees and a view to the lake. Three other campers were in our section. We stopped to chat with them and meet the dogs- a national obedience champion black lab at one camp and a friendly golden retriever at the other. It started to spit rain so we retired to the camper to hang out.

Day 18 Wednesday
Grahams Island Campground to Home

After a good nights sleep, had a good breakfast of eggs with sausage, peppers, onions and broccoli. Packed up and on the road about 8:30. Uneventful drive home on the back roads through rural farm country. Crops looked healthy and most of the towns did too. Ran into traffic when we hit the Minneapolis suburbs- rush hour. Took some well known alternative routes and got home around 6 PM. Unloaded the truck, made a light dinner and crashed into bed.

Even with the crowds of people, we managed to enjoy ourselves and see some beautiful country.  We remain thankful for the freedom to travel and the opportunity to see the wonders of the natural world.

The statistics: 4427 miles, $898 for 273 gallons of gas. Low- $2.73/gal in Ada, MN. High- $5.89/gal in Lake Louise, AB. Wildlife sightings- moose, antelope, black bear, elk, coyote, deer, eagles, mountain goats, big horn sheep, prairie dogs, wild horses and various birds. Alas, no grizzlies.


  1. Nice trip, except for heat and bugs! TRNP is a great place, but we didn’t get time to explore the grasslands.

    Two Medicine is a great place as well!

    1. Steve, thanks for your comment. We enjoyed the Two Medicine area quite a lot. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Thanks Al.Great report.Crowds what can I say.The reason we don't get out during summer months.
    Nice to hear you enjoyed Kintla Lake in Glacier.
    We had a great stay at Bowman years ago.

    1. Frank, thanks for your comment and the tip about Kintla Lake. Wish we had taken our kayaks along- would have been a great paddle as you suggested.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to share your trip. You went to many places that I want to visit someday.

    1. Vicki, thanks for your comment- you should visit your places sooner rather than later!

  4. What an adventure! You saw many places we yearn to see someday. Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

    1. Ski- thanks for the comment. Like I said to Vicki, you and the Lady should get cracking on visiting those places! :)

  5. Thanks for the stories and pix of your summer adventures. I had a smile on my face throughout the read! It brought back many wonderful memories about trips to Glacier NP. How was the bumbleberry pie...that's a new one for me!

    1. Steph, according to the baker, bumbleberry pie = anything you have on hand. In this case it was several kinds of berries plus rhubarb and it was tasty! Thanks for your comment!

  6. Oh my God, what a trip. I never thought of the geographic centre of America. We have an aptly named town at the centre of Ireland..... Birr.... close to being called brrrrrrrr.

    I love the camper van, a neat size, is the enSuite in a trailer? Where does the Chef reside?

    I have just seen that I am commenting as "Baile an tSaoir", no idea how that happened. THat is the Gaelic for town of the Stone Mason. We live in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains, primarily granite but also some other softer stone! In English, it is known as Ballinteer, Co. Dublin

    All the best form your Irish cousins.

    1. Ha, en suite sits under the bench, chef is moi, haha. Thanks for your comment!