Adventures in Travel: “Up” North America
The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
By Miriam Rutzen, For The Quill
Twelve months ago my bags were packed and I was in New York City preparing to begin my first round of travels with a trip around the world.
The goal for the year: step foot on all seven continents. The end result?
Six out of the seven are checked off and I could not be more thankful and amazed at all the past year has included.
While I have not made it to Antarctica, the last Round of travel on the itinerary from a year ago included a two-week trip north into Canada to start off July 2017. Even though there were no penguins or icebergs, my parents and I did walk right beside the “toe of a glacier” and saw numerous large wildlife including a bull moose and massive bison that strolled close enough to the van to make us nervous!
Over five thousand miles and multiple provincial and national parks later, we have returned and recovered.
This year Canada is celebrating their 150th birthday. As part of their celebration, they have made it free admission for entrance into all of their national parks.
Going north through Minnesota, we crossed the border at International Falls into Fort Frances, Ontario.
My mom was in charge of the itinerary for our two weeks and both of my parents worked together to do an excellent job sketching out our route.
From Fort Frances we made our way north and west to Winnipeg, Manitoba and then over into Saskatchewan, before going even further north to Edmonton, Alberta. Edmonton was the farthest north we would get on our travels, about six hours north of the US border. It was here that we particularly noticed that daylight went from around 3 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. From there we made our way to Jasper National Park, and after camping beside the Athabasca River (we tent camped 9 out of the 14 nights we were on the road!), we traveled south on the Icelands Parkway (Highway 93) to Athabasca Glacier before heading into Banff National Park. The water there is unreal in its color and beauty. Leaving Banff we went a little more west into British Columbia then south crossing into Idaho to reenter the United States. Next was Glacier National Park in Montana, visiting friends in Missoula and Bozeman, then Yellowstone, the Big Horn Mountains, Mt. Rushmore, and the Badlands to finish off the loop in style.
My parents and my mom’s parents did nearly the same trip in reverse 37 years ago. My parents have always wanted to take me out there and I had never been to Montana, Idaho, or Canada so I was thrilled when we finally decided we could all make it work. Two of my former coaching co-workers are at the University of Montana and Montana State so I was very excited to visit their families. Otherwise, we were just one of the many tourist families enjoying the incredible weather (we had mid-80s to mid-70s the whole trip) and the nice price deal on the parks. Fun fact, over age 62, you are eligible for a $10 Senior Parks Pass that gets you into US National Parks for free and provides a reduced rates for services (ex. camping) both at the parks and at some other sites. That worked in our favor as well-thank you Mom and Dad!
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There were daily favorites on this trip-too many to list them all here! I believe my photo count made it up to 1,500 before edits. My favorite picture is of me standing in Morraine Lake in Banff-the water was about 45 degrees but the background?
Breathtaking (well the water was too). We spotted five black bears, one grizzly bear, three cow moose and one bull moose, over three dozen bison in Yellowstone (including one rolling on its back in the dust beside the road which was quite a sight), mountain goats, elk, antelope, big horn sheep, and of course, deer.
We found a really cool oasis of sorts while meandering through Saskatchewan called Buffalo Pound Lake. The landscape goes from fields of canola and other grains to arid and rough hills covered in shrub.
Driving on some random back road that reminded us of home we rolled up to the gated entrance of this provincial park, drove a little further in and found ourselves on the cliff edge of this massive lake with beautiful rolling grassy hills (that we later found out are covered in mountain biking trails). That was my favorite camping spot, although nearly every place we stayed was very nice.
When you use an older van to take a 5,000 mile loop Up North, you have to put some major prayer insurance into it.
Thankfully, the traveling mercies continued and we only had the car battery die on us twice.
As we were finishing up our trip and driving across South Dakota we faced our hottest temperatures with the van gauge reading 98 F.
It was at this point that our air conditioning stopped functioning (not ideal) for our drive across over half the state, until finally temperatures dropped 12 degrees and it kicked back on.
That was a rather sweaty and noisy patch but since that was the worst we had to deal with, we couldn’t really get very mad. While not so much a challenge for our family, it was occasionally quite the puzzle to unfold our maps and figure out exactly how far we could make it each day.
The miles, destinations, and goals were all printed out, but since our number one rule is flexibility we occasionally called an audible.
One audible had us camping in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, east of Cody. Setting up our tent in the pitch black under the light of shimmering stars, we could hear sounds for miles. The next morning we talked to the camp site manager and scouted out our game plan to look for the wild mustangs that also live in that area.
Unfortunately, we did not see them galloping across the land, but it was definitely a Wild West feeling to have the possibility before us!
Next week I will write a conclusion article of my adventures for the Quill. It has been a delight to share these stories with you and I hope that they have also been as much fun to read.
After all of these places, people, and things, it still resounds loud and clear for me that this is, and always will be, Home and for that I am very thankful to this community!
Photos of my travels can be found on Facebook or Instagram: mrutzen25 and more in depth stories are chronicled at www.miriamrutzen.blogspot.com.