Sunday, October 1, 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 2017: Sioux City, to Mount Pleasant, Iowa

We made it home!  4 weeks! Interesting trip! No problems!

NO flat tires! We saw vehicles being towed, we saw a vehicle along the side of the road with no tire (taken off, to be taken, to be fixed, at least 2 ½ hours away), and we talked to a guy who after seeing the spare tires we had on the back rack said, “Wish I was as smart as you!  I had to wait 3 days for the right sized tire to arrive”!  Yes, we were prepared, as we knew we would be driving some very remote roads on this trip - thankfully did not need them or have any other problems.  
Beautiful Iowa Countryside

New and old Countryside Icons

Sunday & Monday, September 24 & 25, 2017 - Whitefish, MT to Sheridan, WY to Sioux City, Iowa. 

Sunday: Until we arrived in Whitefish, we were not aware there were forest fires in Glacier National Park.  The fires are still smoldering underground in the mosses and bogs, so driving through Glacier National Park from the west on the “Going to the Sun” road, is not possible now.  We could drive to East Glacier, drive into the Park from that direction, turn around and drive out the east end again.  We decided that after we had been to Jasper and Banff, we probably would be disappointed.  We are not going to Glacier National Park on this trip - hopefully some other time we will come this way. 
Downtown Whitefish is full of Bars, Grills, and shops. This is a tourist town with skiing nearby and Glacier National Park.
Last night we ate at Craggy Range Bar & Grill. We needed a sports bar to watch the Iowa-Penn St game while we ate!  There was another Iowan there too – She is from Clinton, Iowa, but now lives in Seattle. We finished watching the game back at the hotel.   
At breakfast, in a “hot spot” for Sunday breakfast in Whitefish, we made our final decision regarding Glacier.  Breakfast was fabulous.  We had lemon cream stuffed French toast with raspberry sauce – there were two huge pieces, thank goodness, we split the order.  

We are beginning our direct trip home, well that is, until we took a scenic-drive detour on a Montana State road, returning to I-90 about 60 miles later!  The landscape of Montana began in southern BC, Canada, and of course has continued all through Montana.  You need to experience Montana to understand the vastness.  It is a totally different vastness than Alaska or Canada. Big Sky Country is a very appropriate nickname for the State.  The topography is varied and as you look over the landscape you know exactly where there is a stream of water or a river - as that is where trees are growing.  For anything else to be green, it needs to be irrigated. Looking across the landscape is interesting as you can see for miles.  You could see toy-sized freight trains winding their way through valleys.  
Talking about trains – going both ways on this trip, we have seen airplane fuselages on train flatbeds.  We finally Googled and we think these 737 fuselages are going from Wichita, Kansas west to Seattle area, where they will be finished – wings, tail, etc.  We saw 2 on one train and 3 on another.  
We have also seen long coal trains and long oil tanker trains.  We assume the coal is coming out of northeast Wyoming coal mines, but we do not know where the oil tankers are coming from, or going to.  
There are hobby ranches, large ranches, horses, rodeos, horse arenas, cattle, wheat fields, and lots of hay ground, with huge stacks of round and square hay bales - also round straw bales from the wheat fields.   It appeared one small town was having a contest among businesses in decorating large round straw bales.  Some had very cute ideas! 
As to wildlife, this morning we saw a herd of Mule Deer and later several herd of Pronghorn antelope near the Interstate. There were lots of beef cattle herds spread across the landscape – some small and others large.  

Mule Deer

It is a LONG way across Montana!  In fact, Montana is one-time zone!  We finally made it to Wyoming! We returned to Sheridan, WY, to the same new Comfort Inn & Suites where we stayed going west. 
According to the weather map there will be snow tonight in the mountains near Sheridan.  We prefer it stays in the mountains, so we can enjoy the view without having to drive on it!          
We really did not take many photos today – we were just driving! Hopefully we will be home in 2 days.
Monday: It is raining in Sheridan this morning.  Due to fog, we cannot see how much snow is on the mountains.  For breakfast, we went to a cafĂ© in downtown Sheridan – a small hometown place. As we entered, the only place was at the counter, but we could not have sat together.  Within a few minutes a couple of guys left, opening a place for us at the counter.  It was the place to eat!  
We were chatting with the guys next to us at the counter.  The hunting season in Wyoming begins in October 15, so by then, the ranchers will have their livestock (cows/calves) down out of the high country, where they have been grazing all summer. We assume the date is similar in Montana.  We have seen more cattle in grazing lands near I-90 on our way east, than we saw on our way west a month ago, indicating the ranchers are beginning to bring the cattle down nearer to where they can get hay to them during the difficult winter months. 
I-90 goes through the northeast corner of Wyoming, which is where there are coal mines.  We took a couple of photos this morning of a coal mine near the highway.
Coal Mine near Gillette Wyoming


We continued seeing herds of pronghorn antelope – one herd had approximately 20. This area has been having rain since we drove through here a month ago, which has brought out the green in fields.  The pronghorn with their white body pattern stands-out again the green in the fields.  You first see either their white rumps or white sides.
Pronghorn Antelope

The sunflower plants we saw a month ago, that were in bright bloom, are still losing leaves and drying.  Those that appeared to be drying then, are now harvested.  For those fields still unharvested, flocks of black birds are having great meals sitting on the sunflower heads.    
In the Black Hills area of western South Dakota, we stopped at the Black Hills National Cemetery which is located near the highway.  We pulled off and drove around the cemetery for a little while.  It has been continually raining all morning so we did not get out to walk around.  From the vehicle, we saw that most of the memorial stones were for veterans of WWI and WWII and Korean War.  However, we saw one memorial stone for a veteran from the Spanish-American War – wow, when was that war?  Of course, Google knows everything!  1898!  It lasted 3 months, 3 weeks, & 2 days! This short war changed a lot of territorial sovereignty in the world.  

It has rained almost all day!  Tonight, we pushed it a little later that usual, making it to Sioux City, Iowa – just inside the Iowa border!  We hope to be home soon after noon tomorrow.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Friday & Saturday, September 22 & 23, Jasper National Park, Icefield Parkway, Banff National Park, Lake Louise and on to Whitefish, Montana

I did not write last night, as we stopped too late.  I am going to combine both Friday and Saturday, as we were in both Jasper & Banff National Parks on the Icefield Parkway.

Each morning there has been fog until about 10:00 am, when the sun finally burns it off.  Therefore, we have not been in a hurry to get out and going in the morning - as the fog has been too dense.  By the time we arrived in Jasper it was after lunch.  We drove to Pyramid Lake just outside of Jasper, before getting on the Icefield Parkway.

Mount Robson

Our first Elk

I don’t know if there is a place in the world like the Icefield Parkway.  It is just a continuous drive of mountains, usually on both sides of the road which is in the valley, alongside the river.  The mountain peaks are so interesting.  Right now, with the “termination snow”, it accentuates the ridges and strata’s in the mountains.  There was still plenty of daylight so we kept driving, stopping often to take photos – all around us.  It was a beautiful mostly clear day. The sun was better on the mountains to the north and east, but we took them all around.

There is a lot more traffic on the roads than we have experiencing the last few weeks. There are many pull-outs, plus there is a wide shoulder on the highway for cars to pull off for photos.  There are also areas to park, allowing you to walk to waterfalls or beautiful reflective lakes. We did not stop at every pull-out, nor did we do any long hiking trails, except for this morning.  Cal walked to Peyto Lake at Bow Summit.  The trail was icy from the snow that had fallen in the area 2 days ago.  I did not change shoes to be able to go with him. 

Athabasca Falls

Our second Elk

We did see some wildlife along the way. There was a herd of elk right beside the road.  There was a male, 3 females, and numerous young. At another location, there was just a single male elk. There was one medium sized black bear that decided to scamper into the wooded area, instead of poise for us. 

We also discovered that most of the campgrounds are already closed for the winter, even though there are lots of campers on the highway.  Motorhomes were parked in parking lots.  We kept driving, as it was not dark.  Finally, we reach Rampart Creek campground, which is open until Oct 9th unless there is too much snow.  By now it is 7:45! We found a nice spot, made a light supper on our stove/burner, and crawled in for the night by 8:30.  It was a beautiful clear night.  There were millions of stars shinning, as this is in a very dark location.  We saw the stars until early morning, but by 8:30 when we woke, it was foggy.  We were looking forward to a clear day!  It was 34 degrees, so getting up is a quick process!! We drove a few miles to a restaurant for breakfast, taking our time, as we were sure the sun would burn off the fog.  By the time we finished breakfast, sure enough it was almost clear and the clouds were continuing to rise. 
Athabasca Glacier

After Jasper National Park we continued into Banff National Park.  At Lake Louise, we ran into a traffic jam.  Vehicles and more vehicles!  Parking lots were overflowing.  The parking lot at Lake Morraine was full – they would not let more traffic drive there, so after viewing Lake Louise, we continued southwest through Kootenay National Park to Radium Hot Spring, BC. It was a lovely drive, but after the Parkway, nothing can beat it! 

We are going this way so we can drive the “Going to the sun” road through Glacier National Park in Montana. We crossed the Canadian/American border at Roosville, Canada, and drove to Whitefish, MT for the night.

Snow along the Trail

Peyto Lake Cal hiked to see

Beautiful Reflection

Narrow highway opening at Radium Hot Springs

A Saw Mill