Our Travel Blog

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Driving Miss Donna - what does this mean? Whenever I want to go somewhere, if Don is home he will usually drive. He always says he is driving miss Donna! This blog is for our travels, usually with our truck and fifth wheel trailer, but sometimes in our other wheels. When we are not vacationing check in for updates, although less frequent, about our life at home and our wonderful family:)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Last Days in Northwest Territories

Our plan for this trip was to be in Yellowknife for the solstice, but as mentioned earlier we didn't make reservations soon enough. So we departed Yellowknife yesterday with reservations at Hay River. This gave us the opportunity to day trip to Fort Smith and be somewhat north for the solstice, as well as visit some portion of Wood Buffalo National Park.

The trip to Fort Smith was uneventful. However the one challenge I haven't talked much about on this trip is the bugs. Namely horseflies and mosquitoes. We have never encountered so many of these in all our travels, including Alaska. They have been so bad that at times we have limited our walking and hiking and sitting outside. Add to that the fire bans and evening fire pit visits have been seldom. 

The trip to Fort Smith was the first time we allowed those nasty critters to totally stop our sightseeing and walking plans though. We applied 2 layers of bug repellent and still couldn't gain any comfort. So we took some photos of the salt flats but not from too close. And we couldn't get anywhere close to the rapids on Slave River for a great photo.

But the town of Fort Smith was a pleasant surprise!  Don had visited a few years ago during a work trip, and noted that the community seemed to have pulled up its boot straps in the cleanliness area. We observed the residential areas, and although the businesses weren't plentiful, they were very nice. And I had the best cappuccino this trip at the Rusty Raven Gallery and Gifts. I can guarantee you that is a strong determining factor for me!

Although the roads were not very busy on this day trip we did encounter these young men making their way south. Quite friendly, although they were looking a little bushy.

Our solstice evening was spent visiting and reminiscing. A perfect end to the NWT part of this adventure. 

We are starting the journey home tomorrow, and although Don and I would typically drive the 10 hours and just be there, we are going to take a few days and relax.  Don has mentioned several times that when we return to Alberta highways he will kiss the pavement.  Turns out he was correct.  I didn't know he was this traumatized!  LOL

This trip to the Territories has been amazing. The scenery is breathtaking. The skies endless blue oceans. The waters and waterfalls strong, you easily fall in the spells they cast, making you want to see more or spend just another few moments watching.  You gain a new respect for the people who live here, as it is easy to imagine the challenges the weather offers in the winter months. But also easy to imagine the land covered in a still prairie whiteness, and the sense of community that weather and these roads require. Miles of endless trees line lanes of highway, spattered with wildlife, allow your imagination to wander as you travel. 

I'm not sure if you will hear from us for a while, until our next adventure. We are spending a few days with all our kids at Ole MacDonald's Farm by Stettler. CANNOT wait to have all our babies on the beach together!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Our Most Northern Stop

On this trip...  We were farther on our Alaska trip in 2009

So Yellowknife?  Home to the Canadian Shield, an old community surrounded by new and diverse things. From a bustling centre to rather desolate areas, in 0 to 10 seconds.  Surrounded by more rocks and water bodies than I've seen, but reminiscent of Newfoundland as well. There is no doubt this is a dynamic and unusual place. 

And this campground finally had water. Now don't think we ran out because we didn't. Besides being great at dry camping our trailer has huge tanks. But I will admit we were at the end of our supply when we arrived. And the fill hose was slow, and I mean really slow. Oh well!

So set up, and ready to explore. Off we went in search of?  LOL. You guessed it, Boston Pizza!  When in Rome...  And then off for a few groceries. I can honestly say in all our travels this is the first place where the food prices made my eyes a bit googly. Especially items like milk and frsh produce. Oh and as I discovered the next day - alcohol!

Wednesday we started out relaxing and resting. We really don't slow down much in these holidays and it is always nice to stay somewhere 3 nights and get In a full 2 days of touring. I made an appointment for a tour of Buffalo Airways, the same place Ice Pilots is filmed. What a FANTASTIC idea!!  I must commend this company for the open arms stance they take with visitors. Tours are booked at lunch time as to not get in the way of the action, mechanics and planes, etc.  This tour was free, and upon completion it compares with any paid tour we've ever been on. They are welcoming of all questions and inquisitive minds, and let you walk around and through anywhere you wish. 

When we first were taken on the apron, and saw the DC3, the tour guide noticed the door closed and said she would try to get us in before we were done. Right at that time a gentleman came over and said hey take them in, let's get the door opened. And that was Joe McBryan, the owner. He first offered himself up for photos, then made sure the DC3 was accessible, and invited everyone in and made sure we knew the best angles for photos in the pilot seat, etc. his son Mikey once described him as a combination of Howard Hughes and Al Bundy, and I would have to say that might be accurate. What a non assuming personable guy!

So the tour continued to wow us as we saw more DC3's, a C46, CL215 water bomber, and several bird dogs, and parts and parephanalia. We spent a lot of time in the hangar, which incidentally once was owned by Ward Air and stands on 6 feet of cement, to counteract any permafrost issues that might arise. 

Don was studying a rotary motor (R2800 twin wasp radial engine) he believed was nicknamed the corncob, which the tour guide wasn't able to confirm, when a mechanic on his way back from lunch stopped to talk. It was Chuck!

Again I cannot say enough about Buffalo Airways, simply because of their open door approach and friendliness!  We picked up a few souvenirs,my-shirts and a stunning coffee table book about the business and staff. 

The DC3 in our pictures was actually at Normandy on D Day and flew paratroopers behind enemy lines. This year, on the 70th Anniversary, Joe told us he flew 12 Canadian and 12 American Special Forces for a commemorative jump. The circular decal shows the date, squadron etc  

Today I found a nice "little" walk that led to Cameron Falls. There were some obstacles on the way though. The Ingram Trail, highway 4, is under construction almost every time you turn a corner or go up and down. And roads here appear to be mostly blasted rock underlays, so it was unique. 

Second obstacle was I thought it was a gentle 1km walk, however I was out to lunch. It was about a 6km up and down climb, sometimes over bedrock, sometimes up man made stairs, and other times through bush. The reward?  The most breathtaking falls of the trip!  I think Don, Paul and Mary forgave me eventually. I will let the rest of these photos finish the story. 

Tomorrow we off to Hay River, as a place to rest the trailer.  Our real destination on Saturday is Wood Buffalo National Park!  Talk to you after that trip...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Getting Further North

This has been an amazing trip.

Yesterday we moved a bit further up the road to Fort Providence. The Territorial Parks (equivalent to our provincial parks) are all pretty standard.  There are a few "odd" elements though. First they do not have potable water to fill up with. They do have power. So although you do not need to be observant of battery usage you do need to be careful of water. There is a place to fill up a water jug, but you are NOT allowed to fill an RV. And the sites everywhere we have been are HUGE.  In Fort Providence there is room for 3 trailers in some and 2 in all. They are kind of U shaped.

Anyhow, once we got set up we decided to go check out the town. That took 10 minutes!  Seriously although we knew it was small, we were surprised. LOL

Today our plan was the travel to Fort Simpson, with a stop to hike around the Sambaa Deh and Coral Falls. We knew it was a long trip but it only seemed right when this close to not miss the community.

The falls were well worth the stop. We had prepared a picnic lunch and you could not ask for a prettier eating place!

And Fort Simpson was just as I had romanticized a northern community should be. From the one stop we sell everything community store to the float planes on the river.

And the Mackenzie highway through this area was actually quite good.  We finally spotted the wildlife we've been expecting. This bear was our welcoming committee both to and from Fort Simpson, and a moose and calf were an unexpected bonus, although they were too quick for my camera hand.

The sunset overlooking the lake at day's end was radiant.

Tomorrow we are headed to Yellowknife for 3 days. I'm so excited to see this northern city and observe their community culture!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

And We Are Here!

Our first destination in the Northwest Territories was Twin Falls Territorial Park. Located just minutes from the bustling community of Enterprise, the Louise Falls Campground promised access to at least 2 waterfalls, and hopefully some hiking.

We were not disappointed in either the falls or the hiking. From the day use area the trail led to a comfortable walking path. The first stop proved to be the most unique we've encountered in a while. The viewing started with a 138 step winding metal staircase, which then progressed, or declined, depending on your nature, to another 130 wooden steps built into the side of the river bank. The treat at the end of the journey was a spectacular view of Louise Falls.

We continued that hike and saw the downstream side of Alexandra Falls. 
The next day we went back to a day use area and hiked to Alexandra Falls, and saw them from their best view.

We were camped only 30 minutes from Hay River, and although we will be back there in a week or so, we decided to go into town and explore. At the airport the Buffalo Airways company has a hangar with a few planes.  We took a quick photo as their main offices, etc. are in Yellowknife and we are hoping to catch a tour.

So although the town tour didn't take long, it's always great to see each community, instead of finding it on the map and wishing you had stopped.

Back at the camp some young locals told us about a spot by Louise Falls where you could scale down the embankment with a rope and end up under the falls, between the water and the rock. They showed us photos and we were game to try. Unfortunately the rope was not within our sights, and we determined the slope was not for us!  However it did afford us the opportunity to scale all those steps again!  And captured the rainbow...

And that was our experience in Twin Falls/Enterprise.

The night skies are bright and not really our kind of night, but we are used to that now. Temperatures haven't been that hot, mid 20's, but when the sun is up almost 20 hours a day, and never really goes away, that makes for a long hot day!

We are having a great trip, good company, good food and refreshments and incredible scenery.  You can't ask for more when you are Driving Miss Donna!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Adventures Right Here at Home

Our June trip is right here in Canada!  On Saturday after I completed a morning workshop facilitation gig, we headed off to northern Alberta. The trip's destination this year is Yellowknife.
Alberta's north has always lured us in. The majestic views, the unique geography and the relentless pursuit of residents to enjoy every daylight hour.  I think this can all be traced back to starting our lives together in Fort McMurray. The draw of the night sky and the aurora borealis is never forgotten.
Our first stop is Grande Cache.  We had hoped to stay at Pierre Grays Provincial Park but waited too long for reservations. Thus we ended up at the Grande Cache municipal campground. And this is how you find hidden gems. The campsites are huge private sights with towering evergreens all around. And the best part was a chance to visit with our friend Yvonne. I first met Yvonne when I started work with Volunteer Alberta in 2010. We were soul mates from the start. And as we were the 2 project staff assigned to northern Alberta areas, we had an immediate bond. Yvonne has visited us many times over the years and I was thrilled to finally return the favor. We had a great stop in her town and a great visit with her!
And I can't not mention the scenery around Grande Cache.  The mountains are breathtaking right now.  Looking out the window at all the green life, you see a circle of light and snow covered mountains on the other side.  So beautiful!

Next on the list was Grande Prairie. We picked Saskatoon Island Provincial Park to unhook. This stop was a bit miserable on the weather side, but we enjoyed exploring the city. And the campground offered lots of opportunities for walking and exploring. There is an area where you can try your luck at sighting protected trumpet swans. We may have spotted one across the water, but as you can see the photo gets a bit fuzzy at that distance. And no Don cannot get another lens for the Nikon!

Our last stop before the Northwest Territory border was Hutch Lake. Don spent many weeks of 2013 working in this area and during that time inadvertently discovered a gem of a campground at Hutch Lake. Of course that was while finding the Hutch Lake gravel pit. 
We would not normally choose the overflow sites when camping but I'm sure this photo convinces you we made the best choice. 

We spent an afternoon shopping in High Level, and had a lovely dinner with Dean as our guest. 
Tomorrow we will cross the Alberta/NWT border. I can't wait to tell you all about that!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I Missed May!

We are always soooo busy when we return home in the spring.  But it's a great kind of busy.
So here is a recap.
Fabulous welcome home visit with the Camerons.  Why must those kids grow every time we leave?  Hockey is over, but we still have dance, swimming and soccer is now added.  But first we got to celebrate Blake's 7th Birthday!!  How does that even happen.  I keep telling him how clearly I remember his birth.  He is so big, mature, goofy, smiley, happy, intelligent and handsome to mention a few traits.
As I had said we got to see Lindsay in Tisdale, but it was also wonderful to see their new home in live in condition, not in transition.  And definitely Mason was the grandchild we saw the most change in.  He was only 4 weeks old when we left.
There is nothing like their arms around your neck and the hugs we get.  Love these kids so much.

We had to settle in our home routine pretty quickly, as Don headed north for week of work.  I had a day in Vegreville, and some miscellaneous work to clean up.  I also had an exciting presentation to prepare for - the presentation of a research book I wrote!
My work is getting kind of busy, which sounds good, but DWS keeps me pretty busy, as well as the Co-op board work, etc.  And ALL those grandkids!
One of our most treasured events happens in May - the May long Weekend extravaganza.  This year it was 8 families, again at Cross Lake.  As always the company, food and spirits was beyond compare.
We have had many days visiting the Stecyks, so great to have them all close.  And numerous soccer games and dinners with the Camerons.  We are not able to attend Emerson's dance recital this year so we were lucky to be able to attend her fist dance competition instead!  Oh and Emerson had her playschool grad as well!
Lindsay turned 30 this year, and Tracy and Jeremy planned a "little" celebration for her, complete with best friends, catered food and balloons.
We celebrated our 34th anniversary on May 31, which seems like such a long time that has passed in such a short time!
There were so many hours and days of love in the last month.  I could go on and on about each and every grandchild and the happiness they bring.  Their smells, their kisses and hugs, their achievements, etc.  But I won't.  Those are our precious memories that make up a family and we hold them dear.

After completing some work commitments the first week of June we are headed north to Yellowknife.  Why?  Why not?

Here's some photos to enjoy - stay tuned for Yellowknife reporting.