Greyhounds and the Mothership of all National Parks.

It’s not even been seven days since my last update and yet it feels like we’ve accomplished great epic holiday milestones the likes of which usually take people years to get round to. So we said goodbye, a little sadly I must admit, to Canada. I’ve decided Vancouver is my favourite city so far. I’ll make a list if I need to prove that favouritism to anyone and the list will be splendiferous in reasons why Vancouver is (up to this point mind you, let’s not forget there’s three more months of holiday here) my most favourite city.

On our last night there we parked the RV at Capilano River RV Park on Tomahawk Ave and got to stroll across the bridge of the Capilano Bridge which was really quite picturesque and then I realised – there are very few places in Vancouver that don’t fit that one word description of picturesque. So that Capilano River was just utter Vancouver common scenery after that. It did grab me with the urge to impulsively go hire a bike and go for one last-moment-there great bike ride round the place. Alas there was no one renting bikes within walking distance of the RV. I thought to myself though, one day if I ever live here I will be buying a bike and riding it. It’s good to have solid, future affirmative actions in place.

After handing the RV over we were transported to the Vancouver Main Terminal where we secured our Greyhound Bus Tickets to Seattle. For myself I was pretty excited, First official ride on a real actual Greyhound bus. I think. I vaguely remember at the age of 13 getting on a bus with a bunch of ice-skaters and driving across the Nullabor to Adelaide but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a Greyhound bus. Our bus driver on this Greyhound was named Roger. As we crossed the US/Canada border Roger announced over the bus PA system “Welcome all to the Corporate States of America…oh I mean United. Of course” I liked Roger. I didn’t like Jose at the crack US customs counter checking our passports.

“When do you go home?”
“January 3rd”
“January?”
I nod and give my most winsome smile.
“How can you be here this long?”
“We have a VISA”
“Yeah but you can’t be here that long. What are you doing for that long?”
“We’re having a holiday.”
He looks incredulous at this unexpected turn of events.
“What jobs do you have, do you have any money? What money do you have on you?”
“Teacher, he works for government, we have money in our bank accounts, not personally on us”
Smile fading.
“But you can only be here till December”
“We’re getting an extension.”
He manages to look pained by this news whilst simultaneously looking harried. STAMP!
“Whatever. Go. NEXT!!!!!!”

I love it. There’s the USA Customs tax dollar at work. Anyway we got through and Tim was rejoicing the avoidance of TSA pat downs as we reloaded all luggage and humans back on the bus and arrived at Seattle Greyhound terminal at around 6pm. We then had five hours to soak up the ambience of the Seattle Greyhound terminal. Tim calls it an experience he’d rather miss. I call it an opportunity to observe all the colours of humanities’ existence. Soo so colourful, as was the public restroom (they don’t call them toilets here) replete in so many of the chromatic tones of all the things you really don’t want to see when you walk into a restroom. There was the guy who weaved his way purposefully over to the drink vending machine and literally spent 45 minutes swaying and waving dollar bills every so often and staring into the lights before he finally made his ultimate decision and chose…..the cherry coke. But the Greyhound desk guy was entertaining too but in a more normal comedic way, things like dancing to Call Me Maybe on the radio would definitely help you get through your shift where you have to deal with the crazy and the irrate and/or distraught passengers who miss their bus due to any number of really quite stupid reasons. So I put that one down as a life experience perhaps not best repeated and happily got on the new greyhound bus at 11.30pm to take us to Spokan by 5.30am. I think I must have slept on the bus. I am rather enamoured with the someone else being in charge of all things roadlike. Usually being a passenger in a regular car I don’t do too well. But on a bus is entirely different matter. Oh yes the busdriver could still get us killed but there’s all this extra metal and space and other humans around me to suffer the possible effects.

We pulled in to Spokane at 5.30am, were in a rental car (a shiny new model IMPALA – I LIKE) by 8am and on the road to Missoula Montana by 10am after a stop at Walmart to sort phones and get drinks. Spent one night in Missoula at the Traveller’s Inn where I think I left my Mason and Pearson hairbrush behind. *sigh* Had that brush nearly 17 years now. We are ringing them to see if it’s been handed in. It might be time to invest in a new one. Can’t complain since they last forever (if you don’t lose them that is). The next day Tuesday we drove on through to where we are staying right now in Gardiner, Montana. Just 5 miles outside the North Entrance to Yellowstone park. It’s a great little place. Very handy to the park.

And now the YELLOWSTONE Part!

Tuesday afternoon we took a drive into Lamar Valley as we’d heard the wolves were frequenting the area and as the sun goes down this is a good spot. First encounters with the Bison happened here!

These guys were everywhere and paid the humans and their cars no heed at all. Which when you weigh in over 700 pounds and can ram your skull at full force into pretty solid objects with no after effects is understandable really. They never seem overly concerned about traffic jams either.

No luck with the wolf watching though on this trip. We did manage to drive up on a group waiting to see if the wolves would move into their line of sight but alas all we could do is look through the superman vision telescopic lens the wolf watcher project member had there and see this black grey smudge moving a long, LONG way off. Still an actual live wild wolf in Yellowstone. It was a little bit special.

The second day we got up very early to try and catch the wolves again, we headed this time for Hayden Valley. On the way we managed to take a number of pretty morning mist and light shots.

We spent the morning wolf watching – or rather wolf waitiing. Which is how wildlife viewing is done 90 per cent of the time so it was rather pleasant to just sit and watch and soak up the Yellowstone Park feel. It does feel vastly different here from all the other parks. The landscape is just so massively diverse and varied. The colours in this park are so vivid and eye catching. The temperatures in the morning plummet to minus 6 degrees. Yet the park is dotted all over with these thermal landscape features that send steam shooting up and across the terrain creating such a mystical and sometimes very eerie atmosphere. You want to drive slow because there is soo much to look at.

After the morning we headed to the Grand Canyon which was also stunningly pretty.

It’s here you see the actual Yellowstone part of the Park. Once we walked the rim a little, I got changed out of jeans and into track pants to do the “Strenuous” Uncle Tom’s Trail. It said this trail took an hour in all the guide books and that it is strenuous because of the elevation and the grade of steepness. It descends around 155 meters just about straight down. So the down part is easy. The getting back up part is the hard bit. I was psyched up for a physical challenge. It took me ten minutes to get down it (it takes you near the bottom of the lower falls in the Grand Canyon) and about seventeen minutes to come back up the 300 plus steps and a couple of switchback areas. I was done in 27 minutes and whilst I did stop a couple times it wasn’t through the lack of legs but what I notice was the effects of the elevation. The whole thing is about 6000 feet above sea level. That had an impact on my breathing. So I had to stop to catch my breath a couple times. The views on the way down are indeed pretty special. But it’s not what you’d call a strenuous trail for any length of time. After Uncle Tom’s Trail we then headed off to a new post in the park. On the way though some Coyote photographic ops presented themselves!

We then got to watch Old Faithful blow up. Our timing was perfect we literally walked up to the platform and bam the geyser blew!

After that we headed back out the park in a slow drive, trying to see if we could catch any wolf sightings but also heading out to find some dinner.

The third day which was today, we repeated our early get up again to try and see if we could get our wolf sightings and maybe, if lucky, photographs in. Plus I wanted to try and grab a decent sunrise pic.

I kinda like this one 🙂

From there the day just got better!

Alpha female wolf spotted – from the Canyon Pack. Yellowstone has 10 packs comprising of 98 wolves and two loner wolves also roam the Park. Truly we were in the right place at the right time and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger grin on Tim’s face when we saw the shots we managed to get.

Reflection shot 😉

Grand Prismatic Pool

Middle Geyser Basin

Osprey.

We took hundreds of photos combined as you can imagine. I’m not uploading them all up here but maybe we can create an online Yellowstone album where we can show them all. This park has far exceeded any expectations I had. I think it really should be the number one place to visit for all US visitors and for all Americans themselves. I’d be curious to know the nationality makeup of the over 3 million visitors that pass through the park each year. I’d say if I walked round the car parks in Yellowstone it wouldn’t take me long to find all 50 states represented by number plates!

 

Jasper, Banff and Calgary and not a single horse ride was to be had…

Alberta has associations for me purely from the perspective of one who was addicted to all things Canadian once the TV show Due South hit Perth television screens donkeys years ago. I wanted to go to Canada and see a real live Mountie all dressed in the red serge, I wanted to Ride Forever underneath the blue Alberta skies. Track a caribou on horseback. Have my loyal wolf husky trail beside me. Learn to speak Inuit and enjoy maple syrup and just generally be as polite and nice as possible to the point of being annoying. I haven’t done any of these things whilst in Canada. But I had done related like things!

First I went to the RCMP store in Vancouver. That was very cool…even got a couple of Mountie postcards.

   

Then there was food with maple syrup on it.

Please note these are not the actual crepes I consumed. But they do look like them and it’s not my fault they were so delicious I was halfway through them when I realised I had forgotten to take a picture.  Mmmmmm crepes.

There was no horseback riding. But we saw lots of horses and even started one of our hikes at some riding stables. But alas there was no horse riding per se. Couldn’t convince Tim about this one, not even a little bit. But we saw Deer! Not quite Caribou I know but still. They were on the road and we had to slow down for them.At one point they’d frozen for a second looking at each other. It was almost like they’d either changed their minds on the chosen course of direction or one of them had stopped to go “Wait. Which way were we going again?”

We did see wolves! I posted that recently though – in my last entry I believe. And I must admit I have been extra special polite of late. The Canadians are assimilating me quite obviously. But I don’t mind because they live here in this beautiful wild place.

This shot was taken whilst driving. Tim took it because I was doing the driving and I just love it. I messed around with it a little in photoshop to accentuate some of the contrasts and if that’s not a picture postcard look right there I don’t know what is. That mountain almost looks animated in.


These previous 3 images were taken when Tim and I decided to do Canada’s #1 Day Hike as rated by TripAdvisor. We trust trip advisor, it hasn’t steered us wrong yet and this hike was pretty damn cool. Literally and figuratively. SNOW!! Well not snowing but it was there on the ground. We could have had a snowball fight but being 8,000 feet above sea level you tend to want to conserve your energy especially when you find out there’s a 1km hike that is pretty much on a 60 degree gradient just as you get off the bus in order to get to the START of the trail.

Tim and I did the first couple kms together then Tim decided to investigate a viewpoint 1km further on and I did the 3.9km extra loop that took you round the Three Lakes trail. Felt good to use the muscles again and it was definitely good scenery to distract you from the physical exertion 🙂

In Jasper we checked out some stores on the main street and I managed to find some pretty cool vintage metal signs.

They have a special interest for me but they also have a look about them I like. I liked wandering the streets of Jasper, they had some quaint little stores and interesting architecture of the residential housing there.

This was the steak I had last night at Charcut restaurant in Calgary and what was also very good about this meal was that we were able to share it with a new friend and her husband whom I had met at the Con in Vancouver. Nicole and Jeff appeared to be on the same wavelength as us when it comes to food so this was a great place to enjoy their company and some gastronomical delights.

The dessert was superb as well – milk chocolate parfait with sea salt caramel, ovaltine crunch and dark chocolate crumb. Soooo good and also light to eat.

We also managed to catch a couple of movies whilst in Calgary and both were enjoyable.


This was indeed a good laugh AND it had cars in it that were especially good looking. Movies with car chases in them have potential but movies with beautifully made and aesthetically pleasing vehicles racing in them? Well you have the first half of the Hit part done. Beau Bridges was also in this as well as Jason Bateman – it was an excellent cast even if it probably was mostly just Dax Shepard’s self fulfilment wish story.

We also saw Joseph Gordon Levitt (always and forever Tommy from Third Rock from the Sun for me no matter how brilliant in Inception and the Dark Knight Rises films) in a flick called Premium Rush.

Ever since Quicksilver (Kevin Bacon was actually pretty good as a bike messenger in this one) my not so secret adoration for Lance Armstrong and then seeing Jensen Ackles and Jessica Alba in all their bike messenger glory in Dark Angel I’ve always had a soft spot for these guys. Their work is hardcore physicality and I have total respect for anyone with longevity in this job. This movie portrayed all that perfectly and JGL is turning into a great young actor. Entertaining from start to finish, a no brainer of course but thinking thinky thoughts was never going to be an expectation on this one or the one before. I think those kinds of movies have just as much importance as ones like The Help, Power of One and The Shawshank Redemption. They just fulfill a different kind of escapism.

So the one disappointment about Calgary was that I was booked on the 4pm Zipline at Olympic Park and they had to cancel due to weather being too windy. Which totally sucks because this is the biggest and fastest zipline in North America and it hurtles your body through space at up to 140kph. Sounds like my thing all OVER. Grrrr stupid wind. I would have been happy to take my chances but apparently there’s some sort of liability issues. Whatever. Never mind…I’ll just have to come back to Canada one day and fit the zipline in. There’s nothing else for it. Perhaps if I arrange that teacher exchange after all…..hmmmm.

We are now currently staying in a little town called Fernie which from what I can gather has a grand total of two RV parks and whose claim to fame is about 10kms before you get to the actual town they have the world’s biggest truck on display. The sign said World’s Biggest Truck 1.5km. Now Tim will mock me (and already has) but if you see those words followed by 1.5km is it so ridiculous to think that the truck might be 1.5km long? It is the world’s biggest after all. But no. That was the distance to drive to see said truck. I was wondering how a 1.5km long truck functioned but I figured it was probably a truck put on one of these ridiculously long trains we see sliding through the countryside up here. Then it could totally be 1.5km long. See? Not such a ridiculously untenable idea after all is it?

Tomorrow we drive on! Perhaps to Grand Forks or maybe even Hope. We liked Hope. They had good wifi in that RV park 😉