Category Archives: leaving the country

home: landfall

So–we made landfall in Kalispell on the afternoon of Friday, May 23 as planned. Internet access was set up today, so this final post in the series was delayed for a bit. That, and we were busy unloading, unpacking, and uncluttering. It’s amazing how little stuff you actually need when you live without it for a while.

The house is coming together.  The air is clean and sweetened with a faint scent of cow manure from our neighboring pasture. I say that in all sincerity. It’s a warm, earthy scent that is very calming and satisfying somehow. Our water is cold and tastes like spring water should. We have owls, hummingbirds, and foxes. And cows. We feed them dandelions, which we have in abundance. They come to the fence and wait for us.

Takeaways from the trip:

  1. The drive from Jasper, AL to Kalispell via the Icefields Parkway and AL/US 93 should be on everyone’s bucket list. Pictures cannot do it justice. Bring your hiking boots.
  2. When you do, stop at our house, just three miles off US 93.
  3. It’s good to reboot your life every once in a while.

A few pictures are included, with a gallery of the interior to come as soon as we get things put away, or at least hidden.

P1070074 Instant beautification in progress. Nice garden stores around here.

IMG_1317Will on deck after a round of mowing.

IMG_2774 Emily feeding the neighbors.

kids Emily, Zach and Will, without whom we would still be unloading the UHaul. They got us moved in, mowed, and unpacked in record time.

P1070050 A double rainbow against the Flathead Mountains.

IMG_1324Part of the living room. Instruments are first priority.

on the way home: banff ab

We’re in Banff, Alberta–perhaps the most beautiful setting for a town in North America. I don’t much like the town itself–faux-quaint, lots of Spandex and fur and shopping bags being toted around–but the Rockies are spectacular.

We got here the hard way–combat interstate driving from Valleyview to Calgary, made a bit more intense by missing the bypass and being forced to drive the local route through the middle of the city at rush hour. I use “drive” in the sense that we were in vehicles, on roads, and with engines running, but in actual practice we weren’t moving all that much. Not much fun in a 14′ UHaul behemoth. But we fought through it, and the entrance to the Rockies from Calgary is mind-bogglingly beautiful. We couldn’t conveniently stop for pictures, sadly enough.

Zach and Emily took the scenic route down the Icefields Parkway. They’re not here yet, which means they’re still enjoying themselves. I’ll add some pictures if they share any later this evening.

For now, here’s a quickie–the view from the hotel balcony where I’m writing this.


And another from the street.

on the way home: valleyview ab

Why Valleyview? Because it’s there–550 miles from Toad River, BC, and enough driving for the day. But the story really centers around the trip between Toad River and Fort Nelson, in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. A beautiful day, made more beautiful by the forecast for snow that never materiaized. The Stone Sheep in the road across the high passes and the black bears along the side made for slow but glorious progress. Lots of pictures–some below, and some will appear in an album later. The wildlife list was rounded out by coyotes, elk, and marmots. The density of black bears was surprising. We lost count after a dozen or so.

Tomorrow, Zach and Emily split from us and drive to Banff via the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff–reputedly the most beautiful drive in North America. Mary and I will do it later this summer when we’re not split between the UHaul and the Subaru. It’s only 300 miles from our house…

We meet up in Banff for the final push to Kalispell on Friday.

A few images, with more to come later.

Stone Sheep lamb, wondering what I am.

Stone Sheep ram, looking for road salt.

More sheep on the roadway.

Stone Sheep ewe and lamb.

Black bear–one of many.

on the way home: toad river bc

Schizophrenic weather today–everything from bright sun to drizzle to hail with a bit of lightning thrown in here and there, all occurring within minutes of each other. None of that seemed to affect the local fauna. The wildlife list grew by leaps and  bounds to include black and grizzly bears (9 at last count), caribou, innumerable bison on and off the road, elk, and porcupines. The morning began with a bald eagle snooping around a small bay on Teslin Lake. just outside of Whitehorse. As if on cue, a dozen or so gulls shot up from every angle all converging on the eagle, who beat a hasty retreat. Nesting area, I presume.

This was a short day in comparison, leaving us enough time for a soak at Liard Hot Springs–a beautiful natural pool with a nice changing dock along one side. It’s reputedly terribly crowded in the summer, but we had it virtually to ourselves.

Tomorrow it’s on to Valley View. More later.

Bison on the road.image
Bison calves, looking not at all like their parents. image
Up close and personal. image
Liard Hot Springs pool. image
Muncho Lake, BC.

day five: kalispell

Before we left Airdrie for Kalispell, a little game of Last Tag from the Great White North.

Looking west toward Glacier National Park on Highway 2 heading toward Kalispell.

We find the house–henceforth to be known as The Shire–to be intact and waiting.

An interior. Either that carpet goes or I do.

The fireplace. Two stories of local stone.

View from the rear. It’s an earth house.

And a view from the yard.

Odometer reads 2,405. No more driving.

Tomorrow, we move the contents of the UHaul into the house.

day four: airdrie, ab

Odometer is at 1,847. Nothing else to report after a full day of interstate-like drving from Grand Prairie to Airdrie. Made good time, arrived early.

Airdrie has many chain restaurants and motels.

Oh–we did pass under the world’s second longest wood train trestle earlier today. The thrill was fleeting.

Should be in Kalispell by mid-afternoon tomorrow.

day three: grand prairie, ab


The Toad River Lodge has a collection of 8,447 hats (to date) which they staple onto just about every surface in the restaurant. No single photo could do it justice.


Left the northern Canadian Rockies behind at midday and ventured onto the endless prairies of Alberta.

Odometer now stands at 1542 miles.

What I’ve learned:

The Northern Canadian Rockies are as wild and beautiful a place as anywhere on earth, including Alaska.

Fort Nelson, BC used to the the disposable chopstick capital of the world due to its vast poplar forests and the fact that apparently no one else wanted to be.

Gas costs roughly 63% more in remote segments of the Alaska highway than it does in large communities.

The Alaska Highway is made up almost entirely of remote segments consisting of many miles and few gas stations, so you have to purchase gas whenever you can.

Especially if you are driving a 14′ UHaul that gets 9 mpg.