2012 - 2017 Travel Map (Map NOT Current) - Now in Salmon Arms BC

Travel to Banff National Park in Canada and Minnewanka Lake Cruise

August 12 - 15, 2017: 

I am going to break up the blog posts to one for every day of our visit to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada.  Our first post will be about traveling from Glacier National Park in Montana, crossing the border into Canada, and then travel northwest to Lake Louise in Banff.  We also stayed a couple nights in Claresholm Alberta before arriving in Lake Louise.

We left East Glacier park late at around 11 am on the 12th heading north into Alberta Canada.  We had just 150 miles to go but we had the border to cross and we had some very bad road to travel on in the US to get there.  Overall the 150 mile trip took about 5 hours!  

About 15 miles from East Glacier Park we turned on to MT 89 north to the border 40 miles away.  Well, MT 89 for the first 30 miles is absolutely awful!!  The road is very steep in places and mostly curvy with speeds of 45 or less.  Most of it or about 30 miles of it is under construction.  This is not nice construction either, it is where the road is completely dug up and we are traveling on dirt and gravel with areas of single lane where you have to pull over to let people by.  A lot of this I was traveling just 15-20 miles an hour for miles at a time.

This is the only picture we have of the crappy road.  It was actually worse than this picture looks.

We arrived at the border around 1:30pm.  It took us about 2.5 hours to go about 60 miles!  Anyway, the border crossing is very small here with just 2 lanes and just one open with us being the only vehicle in line.  It took us all of 2 minutes to get through the border here, no problem at all.  Now for the 100 miles to our first stop in Canada.

Very small border crossing in Montana.

Since we went to Glacier Park our original travel plans changed for this area so we didn’t really have anywhere to stay.  Patty tried for most of the trip on the phone and internet to lock a place in for us for the next couple of nights.  We were just 10 miles from where we finally stopped when she found a place.  Actually it was a town park where she just left a message and they called her back.  We just love town parks because of this sort of thing.  They are the same in the U.S. too.  The park was just $21 US a night for full hook up and just a block off of our route going north.  All of the private places were either full or couldn’t take our rig size so this was perfect, and did I say that they called us!  WOW!

This was just a travel stop with nothing to see or do here.  We did, as we always do, look at all of the information on the internet about the area to see if there was anything to do or see but there wasn’t anything here.  When we checked it we saw that there was a fair going on in the town and there was a car show right in our park tomorrow, Sunday, so there was something anyway!  

Our site in Claresholm Alberta

Interesting art in front of the park we were staying in

This is just about all of the downtown fair!

The car show was good for about an hour and the fair wasn’t even good for any time.  The best thing about the fair was that it was about a half a mile walk so we got some exercise getting to it.  It is a shame; the town is just not big enough to get enough visitors to make it something to see.  We got to the fair area (one street a block long) at 4pm and they were taking stuff down already.  It was to go on till 9pm.

The car show was pretty good actually.

These 2 performed mostly 50-60s songs and were very good!

If you look real close we are the rig way in the center back
with our nose forward. We were almost in the car show!

Now on to Banff National Park and Lake Louise where our site is.  Lake Louise is about 195 miles from our site in Claresholm.  We travel north up to Calgary and then turn North West into Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway 1. Except for getting through Calgary, the drive was very easy.  I had thought it would have a lot of steep grades but that is not the case.  The road travels through the valleys between the mountains making it so much easier than crossing the Rockies in the US.

Calgary is a pretty large city of around 1.3 million.

Interesting fence posts on our route in Alberta.

Getting close to Banff and the Canadian Rockies!

These tunnels are for wildlife to cross over.

This is the view from the center of the tourist area of Lake Louise.

So far the Canadian Rockies are by far more stunning than anything we have seen at Glacier National Park in Montana. It is hard to stop taking pictures here!

We arrived at around 3 pm and were set up by 4pm.  This park is electric only so we had to fill the fresh water tank before we went to our site number 99.

The view from our site in the Lake Louise campground

Our site in Lake Louise

We had dinner at the old Lake Louise train Station our first night in town.

The only bad thing at this campground is that we have almost no cell or internet service.  For us, we use the internet to figure out what we are going to do once we are at our site.  We have just enough service to make it frustrating.  We found that there is a tour package that gets us 4 of the best things to see and do here in Banff and Jasper National Parks.  Our problem was getting the tour package booked online where we save about 20% over just booking by phone or in person. 

Finally, on our first morning here I got in the truck and drove into the town of Lake Louise about a mile so I could finish booking the tour.  We wanted to make the first event today! I finally got the tour booked by calling them.  They also had a problem booking it so it wasn’t just our lack of service!

We booked a tour that has 4 parts.  We are here 3 full days so we are going to do an event each day and 2 events on one of the days.  Our first event is today, Tuesday the 15th, at 1pm at Lake Minnewanka.   

The Lake Minnewanka Cruise is about an hour and a half from our site in Lake Louise.  By the time I got the tour booked it was already 10:30 am and I had not taken a shower yet.  We managed to get ready, drive there, and be in line for the boat 10 minutes before departure.  We made it even though we got lost a couple of times because Garmin and Google both got it wrong!  It was very tense to say the least as we drove into the almost full parking lot and still didn’t know where we needed to be.

In line for the boat tour

The view from the marina

On the boat cruise

This part of the tour package was an hour enclosed boat tour of the large glacier lake.  The tour was narrated by a very knowledgeable tour guide making it a very nice trip.  The lake and the mountains around it made it feel like the Alps in Switzerland.  The mountains were magnificent but I just couldn’t take my eyes off of the water.  The water was a bright clear blue green color.  It was very beautiful and very cold.  This lake is the same temperature all year long, just 35-37 F.

The boat cruise was nice and all but really not worth full price in our opinion.  Basically, there is nothing more to see on the boat as there is from the shore or from one of the many trails around the lake.  However, it is a no physical stress view of the area around the lake.

That was our travel to Lake Louise in Banff National Park of Canada and our first day of the visit.  Tomorrow we are going on a Glacier trip in Jasper National Park 2.5 hours to our north.

Stay tuned!

Glacier National Park

August 08-12, 2017: 

We have now gotten our money’s worth out of the National Park Pass this year.  The pass cost us $80 for just a year but we have already visited 4 National Parks so far this year.  We are planning to visit a couple more before the end of the year yet.  If we were 62 then it would have just cost $10 for a lifetime pass.  The pass will really go up this year to, I believe $80.  It’s OK for us because by the time we can get the lifetime pass we won’t need it.  We will have been to most of the National Parks we will want to go to.  We may purchase it anyway even at $80, we may find parks we have not even thought about yet.

We just finished visiting the Glacier National Park in North Central Montana.  We left Yellowstone on Tuesday the 8th of August and traveled north up to Montana’s capital city of Helena MT for just one night.  Helena is a city of just around 35,000 people.  All of Montana only has just over 1 million people, the lowest populated state in the country.  

Just a nice picture of our rig when we stopped
to stretch and take a bathroom break.

Our RV Park in Helena Montana

Our site here in Helena

We arrived there around 1 pm, early for us. We wanted to get some stuff done while we were in a non-tourist type area. For the next couple of weeks we will be mostly in National Parks, Canada and the USA.  We went shopping for just a few essentials, couldn’t get much refrigerated stuff as we are going to store the rig while we are on the Alaskan cruise. Yup, we are now in the get ready phase for the cruise! I also got a haircut so I wouldn’t need one while on the cruise. 
One other thing we did while here in Helena was to cancel our DirecTV service.  We have had DirecTV for the entire 5 years that we have been traveling so it was a little sad.  Well sad until I called to cancel the service.  After 30 minutes of being transferred a couple of times I was finally with a cancellation specialist, really, a cancellation specialist!  Long story short here, we need to send back the 2 receivers we have in the RV.  Yes, the ones we paid a couple of hundred dollars for and rent of $10 a month for 5 years for receivers!   If I really owned them it would have cost $7-800 still with rent each month, what a rip off!  

OK, back to sending the units back to them.  They are sending us a postage paid (how nice of them) box to return them in within 7 days.  At that time we have 7 days to send the receivers back to them.  If we don’t send them back within the next 14 days we will be billed $300 for them.   Ah crap, we are out of the country for the next month and DirecTV can’t send their return box to a Canadian address. Another 20 minutes goes by while my cancellation specialist asks her supervisor about what to do since we will be in Canada.  After all of the time on hold I was told again that if I don’t send the units back in 14 days I will be billed for them. There was nothing they can do for me! So after that, we sent a certified letter to the service complaint office of DirecTV saying that we will return the receivers in November.  We may do it before that but that would be the latest.  We are not holding our breath on this one!

The reason we canceled DirecTV is that we are now using the Fire Stick with great success.  The stick was just $39 and we now have unlimited data on Verizon.    We also are Prime members so we can get all of those shows too.  We added to our Fire Stick the Add-on KODI.  KODI lets us watch just about anything on TV for free.  Anyway, we were paying DirecTV $138 a month and with using the Fire Stick we are paying $0 extra as we already pay for the unlimited data and for Amazon Prime.  We got the stick before we left Texas in April and have not used the satellite TV since so we thought it was time to cancel.

On Wednesday the 9th we were off to Glacier National Park. The park is about 190 miles from Helena and about 360 miles north of Yellowstone.   We had a reservation at the Y Lazy R campground in the town of East Glacier Park MT. Good thing we had a reservation, this park as well as all of the others around were full.  This is a nice little park with just about 30 or so sites.  It’s close to town so you can walk to the store and to a couple of very small restaurants.  And the town is just about 500 people and it is located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

A blackfeet trading post on our way to East Glacier Park

We arrived at the start of a major Indian Pow Wow that was being held in the town Heart Butte a few miles away.  It didn’t look like something we wanted to see but it did impact us some.  When this Pow Wow is going on alcohol cannot be sold.  That means no alcohol sales in liquor stores or even served in restaurants.  We didn’t need any alcohol but we would have liked a cocktail with dinner so we just didn’t go out to eat while here.

As for the National Park, the town of Glacier Park is sitting right next to it.  We had 2 days in the area and the first was a cloudy and rainy day so we did laundry and just puttered around and took a nap in the afternoon.  Sometimes we just need to do nothing.  

Our RV Park while in East Glacier Park

Site pictures in East Glacier Park

We are taking a walk around town and to visit
the Post Office to mail the DirecTV letter.

Loads of these small motels.

Indian monument in downtown East Glacier Park

A big thing for me was the arrival of the Amtrak Monument Builder train.  This one was coming from Oregon heading for Chicago. There are 2 trains a day, one in each direction.

I snapped this picture from our RV dining room table
of the Amtrak train going toward Oregon.

Our second and last day we took the Going To The Sun Road scenic drive through the park.  If you have just a day here the drive on the Going To The Sun Road is the thing to do.  Actually, unless you want to hike here, Going To The Sun Road is THE thing to do here.

We took US 2 about 50 miles west to West Glacier Park and got on Going To The Sun Road there.  First, we had lunch in West Glacier Park before hitting the 55 mile Going To The Sun Road.  After lunch we spent about 4 hours driving the 55 miles of the scenic road which ends in St. Mary’s and then another 1.5 hours getting back to our site. 

The train station in West Glacier Park.

The road is very narrow with steep climbs and sharp hairpin turns, in other words it was fun to drive!  However, our truck is 22 feet long and the road is just for vehicles 21 foot long.  Our truck is also wide at 8 foot and the road is good for just 8 foot.  What this all meant is that it was very nerve racking going around the sharp curves with someone else coming the other way.  A few times our rear outside tire rode up a little on the rock protective wall while I was sure my mirror was going to hit the other guys mirror in a few turns.  The speed limit was never over 35 so there was just enough adrenalin to make it mostly fun.

You can just see the road we are going to be on
on the mountainside after the tunnel.

There are a bunch of these tour bus/wagons.  They look like a lot of fun.  

We saw some incredible mountains and scenery along the drive.  We only saw one black bear and it’s cub very far up in the woods.  My picture didn’t come out, the picture looked like a tree stump that looked like it had ears!  It still was great drive.

A few kids were sliding down the leftover glacier snow.  It was around 80 here!

This was at the welcome center about half way on Going To The Sun Road.

Great hiking trails, paved this one!

Another Indian memorial.  This one tells about the land the Indians lost.  The Blackfeet tribe had control of the territory from Colorado to South Dakota and back here.  Now they have this little postage stamp area.

Besides seeing a couple bears that I couldn't photograph,
I did get this cow blocking the road!

That was it for Glacier National Park.  This park for us was sort of an afterthought.  We weren’t going to go here originally but all of the reviews of this area said we just had to see it.  Now after seeing it we wouldn’t come up here just to see this park.  If you had to make a choice of either going to Glacier or going south and seeing the parks in Utah (Arches, Canyon Land, Bryce, Grand Canyon), Utah wins hands down no question.  Glacier was actually along our travel route so it really was a no brainer to stop and to take a look.  We are glad we did.

Now we are off to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada before our Alaska Cruise at the end of the month.

Stay Tuned!