The rest of our RV caravan group has now joined us here in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Mile 0 of The Alaska Highway, also known as the Alaska-Canadian Highway (ALCAN). We are beginning our journey along the entire Highway, to Fairbanks, Alaska. This part of our trek is 1,422 miles and will take us to Delta Junction, Alaska, the end of the ALCAN. It should take us 12 days.
Their are 19 RV’s and 37 people, plus their animals (dogs & cats). It seems most RV’ers we have met, have animals.
Each RV is numbered, from biggest to smallest. We are #5.
There are 3 Class A,
another 5th wheel larger than us, down to the smallest, a Class C.
Some of the campgrounds we will be staying during the next 12 days are small and primitive. The Assistant Wagon-master, called “The Scout”, will leave before all the other RV’s so that he can arrive at the campground first and organize the parking of the 19 rigs. The numbering tells him our size so that an appropriate place will be waiting for us when we arrive.
The remaining rigs will leave in groups of 4 or 5, called “pods”. We will leave in 30 minute intervals so that we all don’t arrive at the campground at the same time and overwhelm them. Tomorrow, I will be leaving in the last “pod” so that all the smaller RV’s can be parked first, as the “big” sites are on the perimeter. This varies by campground.
It will be interesting to see how we will function, as some of these primitive sites have no sewer hookups, and only 15 amp electric. We are a 50 amp unit. I have converter plugs so we can hookup to the 15 amp. Barbara will have to give up some of her conveniences, curling iron, hair dryer, microwave.
Since we are in the Canadian Rockies, and the snow on the mountains are now melting, we wanted to see some waterfalls. We went to the area known as Tumbler Ridge, named by explorer Edmund Spieker in 1920. We hiked for about 2 hours
to find Quality Falls.
Wanting to see larger falls, we drove 40 more miles to find Kinuseo Falls, on the Murray River. Kinuseo means ‘fish’ in the Cree Indian language, owing to the great numbers of trout both above and below the falls.
We saw no fish. Barbara did taste the water for fish poop.None.
The locals say the falls is over 200 feet tall (70 meters), and therefore taller than Niagara Falls (50 meters), although the volume of water is less. They must be doing the metric conversion wrong, as it did not appear to me taller than Niagara Falls. Or, maybe they are referring to the Canadian side of Niagara.
During our drive, we passed through a turbine windmill farm.
Upon making a wrong turn, we ended up at the transfer station where they had stored replacement blades for the windmills.
When we measured their length, it came to 200 feet. That is as high as Kinuseo Falls.
Continuing our travels through the Canadian Rockies
we arrive at Dawson Creek, British Columbia. So far, this has been our longest drive pulling the Sphinx, 328 miles in just under 8 hours.
Dawson Creek derives its name from the creek of the same name that runs through the community. The creek was named after George Mercer Dawson by a member of his land survey team when they passed through the area in August 1879. George Mercer Dawson was born August 1, 1849 in Pictou, Nova Scotia and was a Canadian geologist and surveyor, who gained notoriety for mapping western Canada. Dawson Creek was incorporated on May 28 1921.
Dawson Creek is most noted as the starting point of the Alaska Highway.
The Alaska Highway, also known as The Alaska-Canadian Highway, or ALCAN, was constructed as an American military road during World War II for the purpose of connecting the contiguous United States to Alaska. It begins at the junction of several Canadian highways in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and runs to Delta Junction, Alaska, about 1700 miles. The start of construction took place on March 9, 1942 and was completed 8 months later on October 28, 1942. Since The Alaska Highway was built for American military purposes, the distance markers are in miles and not kilometers.
Over the last 76 years, the ALCAN had been modified and improved. In Canada, each community in which the ALCAN passes is responsible for maintenance, and most have modified the original road to reroute and straightened out numerous sections to make the road more convenient for modern travel. This has resulted in the shortening of the overall length of the road by about 300 miles.
One of the last vestiges of the original road is at Milepost 21, just outside of Dawson Creek. A bridge was needed to cross the Kiskatinaw River. Kiskatinaw is Cree for “river with steep banks”.
Of 133 bridges, the Kiskatinaw Bridge is the last wooden bridge left from the original construction of the ALCAN. This three-span timber truss bridge has an amazing nine-degree curve – a curve that engineers designed to accommodate the highway’s steep change in grade on the west end, and the need to land at a notch in the cliff on the east end. At the time, it was the first wooden curved bridge to be built in Canada.
The Kiskatinaw Bridge was bypassed in 1978 as it could not support modern trucking.
Barbara thinks the surveyors may have made a mistake.
Food for Thought:
Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada to Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada: 328.5 miles
7 hours 55 minutes
Diesel: $1.28 Canadian/per liter
We traversed the Canadian Rockies on the Trans-Canada Highway (this highway travels through all ten provinces of Canada from the Atlantic Ocean on the East to the Pacific on the West). With spring arriving, water was pouring down the mountains.
Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, located in the province of Alberta, the park includes the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield. The Columbia Icefield is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains, located astride the Continental Divide along the border of Alberta and British Columbia.
An ice field is an expansive area of interconnected glaciers found in a mountain region.
Jasper Hawes, orginally from Missouri, came to this area around 1817 from Montreal on a contract as a clerk and operator of a trading post here for the North West Company, a competitor of the Hudson Bay Company. The area around his trading station was named Jasper, after him. The park was established on September 14, 1907 as Jasper Forest Park, and was granted National Park status in 1930, with the passing of the National Parks Act.
Our truck effortlessly pulled the 8 ton Sphinx over the Canadian Rockies.
We are staying in the Jasper National Park. The first thing we had to do was chase the wildlife off our site.
We took a bus tour to the Glaciers and the Columbia Ice-fields. The neat thing about this bus, it had a front mounted camera with a video display at your seat, therefore not only could you see the view out your side window, but also from the front of the bus.
This peak is part of the Continental Divide. This is the only Continental Divide in the World where the water goes to three oceans, West to Pacific, East to Atlantic, and North to the Arctic Ocean.
The Athabasca River originates from the Columbia Glacier of the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park. The river was swollen with Glacier melt, which made an impressive water falls.
The Glaciers are receding.
We took an Ice Explorer out onto the glacier
Which allowed us to walk on the glacier:
Went on the Glacier Skywalk, a glass bottom walkway over the Sunwapta Valley and River. This is where the glacial waters begin their long journey to the Arctic Ocean. Unlike the glass walk at the Grand Canyon, you can wear your own shoes, and they let you take your camera.
Can’t be afraid of heights.
Banff, Alberta, Canada to Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada: 182.1 miles
4 hours 25 minutes
Diesel: $1.41 Canadian per liter
In 1882, the Canadian Pacific Railway was building the transcontinental railway through the Bow Valley in this newly acquired territory of the new Canadian Nation.
Bow Valley is a valley located along the upper Bow River in what is now Alberta, Canada. The name “Bow” refers to the reeds that grew along its banks and which were used by the local Indians to make bows. The Peigan Indian name for the river is “Makhabn”, meaning “river where bow weeds grow”
Three Canadian Pacific Railway workers stumbled upon a series of natural hot springs in 1883 here and wanted to develop it for commercial application. After much controversy and debate, the Canadian Government claimed the area as it’s First National Park. The area became popular with tourists because of these springs and easy access by the new railroad. This resulted with the city of Banff being settled in 1886.
The area was named Banff by George Stephen, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, recalling his birthplace in Banff, Scotland. The Canadian Pacific built a series of grand hotels along the rail line and advertised the Banff Springs Hotel as an international tourist resort.
We went to The Cave and Basin and viewed the hot springs. The 3 railway workers first notice the hot springs by the smell of sulphur coming out of this cave hole.
For years people came to this pool, called the Basin, to enjoy its warm, mineral-rich spring-fed water. They were drawn here to soothe aching joints, or to dive and swim in its bubbling depths.
Bathers loved the Basin for its year-round warm waters, and beautiful color, preferring it over the dark and sulfurous Cave pool.
Due to high bacterial counts, the Basin was closed to bathers in 1971.
We hiked along the Bow River.
Two miles down, the tranquil river becomes raging rapids
We portered around the rapids a 1/4 mile
to the water falls.
We also stopped at the Royal Sewer:Technical Stuff:
Calgary, AB, Canada to Banff, AB, Canada: 71.4 Miles
2 hours 3 minutes
Diesel: $124.4/liter Canadian
Fort Calgary, originally called Fort Brisebois, was established on April 10, 1875 by the North-West Mounted Police, located at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers in what is now Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The Canadian government created the North West Mounted Police in 1873 as a para-military police force that would establish Canadian Sovereignty, put a stop to the whiskey trade, and befriend the Indians in preparation for the treaties that would open the land for settlement. “F” Troop, under the leadership of Inspector Éphrem Brisebois, travelled to the Bow and Elbow Rivers to establish an outpost part way between Fort Macleod (see day 673) and Fort Edmonton.
Éphrem A. Brisebois was born March 7, 1850 in South Durham, Canada East, now part of Quebec. He initially named the Fort after himself. He was despised by his men, and was replaced in 1876. The Fort was renamed Fort Calgary by Colonel James F. Macleod, after Calgary House, a castle at Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. The name of this area by the Indians was Moh’kinsstis, or Elbow.
Between 1876 and 1914 the Fort grew into Calgary Barracks and became the center of a flourishing community that ultimately became the City of Calgary.
But then the railroad came
The land had been settled, treaties made with the Indians, and the Fort was no longer needed. In 1914, Fort Calgary was sold to the Grant Trunk Pacific Railway for use as a rail terminal. They demolished all the fort buildings. No trace of the Fort now exists, just this empty lot.
Standing on the site of what use to be the Fort, you can see the Bow River.
Turn 180 degrees, what use to be the open prairie for miles and miles, is now the city of Calgary.
Looking up to what use to be hundreds of geese and birds, you now see
Cochrane was established in 1881 as the Cochrane Ranche, after Matthew Henry Cochrane. It became a village in 1903 and incorporated as a town in 1971.
Matthew Henry Cochrane was born November 11, 1823 in Lower Canada, the son of Irish immigrants. He was a Canadian industrialist, livestock breeder and politician, serving 31 years in the Canadian Senate. His Ranch in Alberta was one of the largest in the British Empire.
We walked the ranch, which was originally over 40,000 hectares, but because of modern development and changing times, only a fraction of the original ranch land is left.
As far as the eye can see, was originally this ranch. Now, a superhighway and development occupy this once cattle laden land.
He rode tall in the saddle
when I went to take a closer photograph, my flash startled the horse and threw him.
Fort Macleod, Alberta, Ca to Cochrane, Alberta, Ca: 131.1 miles
2 hours 57 minutes
We are now at Crowsnest Pass in Alberta, Canada. Rivers born in Canada’s Rockies carved passes eastward to Hudson Bay or westward to the Pacific Ocean. This one was long used by Indians.
Searching for gold in 1873, Michael Phillipps was the first white man to cross the Canadian Rockies through this unexplored pass. The Crowsnest Pass is the lowest through the Rockies passes on the Continental divide in this area
Tidbit of Information: A continental divide is a ridge of elevated terrain that separates the drainage basins of a continent. Rivers west of this divide will drain toward the Pacific Ocean, rivers east of the Divide toward the Atlantic.
Henry L. Frank was born in Ohio in 1851. He was a self-made entrepreneur who invested in various enterprises. He had various coal mines in Montana, where he was active in politics and the community. In his home city of Butte, Mr. Frank was a prominent business man, being one of the heaviest mining operators and real estate holders.
In 1901 rich veins of coal were discovered in Crowsnest Pass. Frank developed the Canadian-American Coal and Coke Company to mine the base of Turtle Mountain in the Pass. Native oral history refers to Turtle Mountain as “the mountain that moves.”
He built the town of Frank, named after himself, to house the mine workers and stores to support them. The town’s grand opening was on September 10, 1901. The mine was a success, and by 1903, 600 miners worked and lived in Frank.
We wanted to view this historic mining community, so we drove to Frank. Standing on one of the main streets, on the edge of town, this is what we saw:
At 4:10 in the morning of April 29, 1903, the tip of Turtle Mountain broke loose, slid down and decimated part of the Village of Frank.
The primary cause of the “Frank Slide” was Turtle Mountain’s unstable structure. The rock layers of soft sandstone and hard granite, stacked like slippery playing cards, simply slid into the valley.
I never heard of a buffalo jump until I visited the Buffalo Jump in Montana (see day 667). Now, I come upon one here in Alberta, Canada. In Montana, the starting point was the plains leading up to the jump, which we hiked, then hiked to the top of the jump, a 3 mile jaunt.
Here, the interpretive center is at the base of the jump, were the Indians dressed the fallen buffalo. From there you take an elevator 6 stories up to the top of the jump. The intervening 5 floors tell you the history of the area, and a detailed description of how the jump was set up.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is situated at the very southern end of the Porcupine Hills. They are a separate geological feature, not part of the Rocky Mountains. West of the Jump, is a natural U-shaped basin where the buffalo, grazing, were rounded up for the kill.
Long lines of small rock piles, called cairns, were built in the Gathering Basin. The cairns, spaced 5 to 10 meters apart, stretched many kilometers west into the gathering basin and formed the drive lanes. (Since we are in Canada, I have to use their measurements.) Like a funnel, the lanes converged to a narrow exit at the cliff. Several young men, the buffalo runners, located a herd and slowly directed them into the lanes. Buffalo saw the cairns as solid walls and moved deeper into the funnel towards the cliff. At the last moment the buffalo were startled into a stampede. Unable to stop, they fell from the cliff.
A successful hunt probably killed several hundred buffalo. When the killing was over, buffalo carcasses were dragged downslope to the level prairie for butchering.
If you were the Indian that was tasked with urging the herd on, this was your view:
The interpretive center had really cool carpeting.
In Blackfoot, the name for this site is Estipah-skikikini-kots. From what I can gather from this buffalo hide drawing, this is how the cliff got this name:
In 1812, a young brave wanted to witness the plunge of buffalo as his people drove them to their deaths over the cliffs. Standing under the shelter of a ledge, he watched the great beasts fall past him. The hunt was unusually good that day. As the bodies mounted, he became trapped between the animals and the cliff. When his people came to do the butchering, they found him with his skull crushed under the weight of the buffalo carcasses. Thus, they named the place “Head-Smashed-In”. And now, you know the rest of the story.
Fort Macleod, in Alberta, Canada, was established on October 18, 1874, with the arrival of the North West Mounted Police, led by Colonel James F. Macleod. James Farquharson Macleod was born September 25, 1836, in Drynoch, Isle of Skye, Scotland.
The original fort was erected of log walls, rough planking, sod roofs and dirt floors. It was located on an island in the Old Man River valley, about one mile east of the present town. The island, now known as Macleod Island, was chosen for the site of the fort as it was both a picturesque and defensible location. However, it diminished in attractiveness with the arrival of spring flood waters, which rendered the site practically inaccessible. By 1884, the NWMP relocated their quarters to the south bank of the Old Man River.
The Northwest Mounted Police had been formed to protect Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Territory. This interest was being threatened by the American whiskey traders who were trading deadly “firewater” for buffalo hides, wolf skins, and other items of value. The arrival of the NWMP put an end to the illicit trade in the Blackfoot, Blood, and Peigan Indian territory of Canada. Moreover, they established an official federal presence in the North West Territories, which were being eyed by the United States for possible annexation, and effectively opened the Canadian West to settlers. Fort Macleod was the first permanent police post in the British North-West.
The town soon followed, and incorporated in 1892. It became a bustling settlement, complete with a main street and a variety of commercial interests providing services to the region’s ranching industry. Development proceeded until 1906 when a fire destroyed most of the wood frame shops and businesses on Main Street. As a reaction to the fire, a law was passed requiring future buildings to be constructed of stone or brick, thereby changing the look of Main Street forever.
Let’s not forget Dudley Do-Right, of the Northwest Mounted Police:
Shelby, Montana to Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada: 131.9 miles
3 hours 13 minutes
Shelby was named for Peter O. Shelby, General Manager of the Montana Central Railway, which operated from January 25, 1886 to 1907. In 1907, the Montana Central ceased to exist after it was made part of the Great Northern.
We stopped here because it is the closest town to the Canadian Border, which we want to reach in the morning.
We have met up with the other RV’ers whom we will be spending the next 3 months with on our trip to Alaska and back. Our new adventure starts tomorrow.
Barbara and I have updated our phone plans so they work in Canada. If there are no more blogs, you know that didn’t work.
Great Falls, Montana to Shelby, Montana: 85.5 miles
1 hour 53 minutes
Master Sergeant Rob Turnbow explained to us the current workings of Malmstrom Air Force Base, just outside the city of Great Falls, Montana. We learned that Malmstrom AFB is one of three US Air Force Bases that maintains and operates the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile. Airfield operations began on November 30, 1942 when the first B-17 Flying Fortress landed at the newly constructed base. Originally named Great Falls Army Air Base, later Great Falls Air Force Base, the facility was renamed Malmstrom Air Force Base on October 1, 1955 in honor of Colonel Einar Axel Malmstrom.
Colonel Einar Axel Malmstrom was born July 14, 1907 in Chicago, Illinois. (Who names their son Einar? No wonder he spent his life in the Armed Forces.) He enlisted in the Washington State National Guard on May 12, 1929 as a Private and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on May 25, 1931. He served a distinguishing carrier as a fighter pilot, including vice wing commander of this base, attaining the rank of Colonel. He died while flying a jet airplane that crash on August 24, 1954.
Ok, who knows what this is:
The missileer went to the bathroom, and I took this photograph. Don’t tell anyone, it’s top secret.
How, you may ask, do they get the minuteman missile into the silo? They use a Transporter/Erector. The missile is loaded into the Transporter, like a torpedo, it then positions itself over the silo and erects upright. The missile is lowered by a waiting elevator. Today, a state of the art diesel powered unit is used.
The Spanish first brought horses to the North America Continent in the 1500’s. How then did Indians here kill the buffalo for food and clothing? Here in the Northern Plains of what is now Montana, they came up with an ingenious method, which they had used for 1200 years before the Spanish arrival.
They found a cliff and stampeded the buffalo over the cliff. Once the animals were driven over the cliff and incapacitated, they would be slaughtered and their meat, hides, and bones used by the hunters to feed and clothe their families and to make various tools and weapons, and of course, gulf clubs:
We walked across the Plains to the cliff.
Then hiked the mountain to the top of the cliff
From there you can see the prairie leading to the cliff from which the buffalo were stampeded.
Is that blood from 5,000 years ago?
At the beginning of our hike, just over 3 miles round trip, we got the usual warning of rattlesnakes. Barbara heard a rattlesnake as we crossed over a ravine, and we saw this bullhead snake toward the top of the cliff:
Lewis and Clark, and their party of merry men, were happily going up the Missouri River looking for the Northwest Passage and exploring the newly acquired Louisiana Territory for President Thomas Jefferson, until they arrive where we are now, Great Falls, Montana. Here they ran into their first major obstacle, water falls. The only way to surmount the falls was portage. What is “portage” you ask? Good question. Portage means “to carry”. They had to build a devise on which to carry their boats out of the water, up the mountainside, pull them on land around the falls, back down the mountainside and back into the water.
As it turned out, to their great dismay, there was not just one waterfalls, but five, and they had to lug everything 18 miles overland, on top of the mountain that the Missouri River carved, to surpass the falls. We went to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive center to learn all this.
They had this diorama to give us a visual interpretation.
We met with the descendants of the Chippewa tribe they encountered. Today was the 20th anniversary the opening of this center, and there were all kinds of activities and demonstrations about the expedition. Here Barbara partakes in an Indian ceremonial dance. They also demonstrated the firing of the “swivel gun” Lewis and Clark had with them A raptor demonstration, here the dissucision is about Vultures: This is the “portage devise” built and used to pull those boats up the mountain: And they reminded us, only YOU can prevent forest fires.
New tires on The Sphinx.
All filters and oil and differential fluids changed on the Truck.
I am ready.
Great Falls, Montana, takes its name from the five waterfalls along the upper Missouri River.
Meriwether Lewis was the first white person to visit the area, which he did on June 13, 1805, as part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Following the return passage of Lewis and Clark in 1806, the next white person to come here was explorer and trapper Jim Bridger in 1822. Bridger led a fur-trading expedition to the future city location in April 1823 (and was attacked by Blackfeet Indians while camping at the site).
The City of Great Falls was founded in 1883 by Businessman Paris Gibson, born July 1, 1830.
We are here for a week to have maintenance done on the Truck and Sphinx. We will be meeting here with the other RV’ers to begin our trek to Alaska. Going through Canada and up to the Arctic Circle in Alaska and back is a 7,000 mile journey and will take us just under 3 months. We will probably be stopping at the North Pole to say hi to Santa.
Dillon, Montana to Great Falls, Montana: 222.7 miles
4 hours 28 minutes
Dillon was founded in 1880 as a railroad town by Union Pacific Railroad President Sidney Dillon, for whom it is named. The town’s location was selected because of its proximity to gold mines in the area. We chose this location because it is halfway between Rexburg, Idaho and Great Falls, Montana where we are meeting up with other RV’ers to begin our Alaska adventure.
One of the interesting things in going to these small towns are the unusual finds, like this sewing rocker chair:
Imagine how proud the original owner was of this vehicle the first time he got in it when it was brand spanking new:
In the old one room school house, they had on the chalkboard how to remember to spell “geography”:
Rexburg, Idaho to Dillon, Montana 135.1 miles
2 hours 48 minutes
Did you know there is a canyon and 300 foot waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park?
We went there to hike, but 98% of the trails were closed because of deep snow
Of course, we saw blowholes