Wrapping up the RV Adventure

We are on I-94 heading across North Dakota today, the amount of road construction almost makes us long for Hwy 2 in Montana. Our anticipated day of uninterrupted four lane travel has been marred numerous times already by lane closures that stretch on for 12 miles apiece. We are hoping to make it all the way to Minneapolis today and turn in the RV about 12 hours early. If the going is too slow we can spend one more night on the road and bring it in tomorrow morning, but I think we are all settled in for the final push. Its been a great trip, better than any of us anticipated. We all agreed that there is a lot of appeal to traveling by RV.

The other night around the campfire we were reminiscing about our anniversary adventures:

  • 5 year - a week in Door County, young new parents.

  • 10 year - a cruise aboard a Carnival Funship! Once on Carnival is enough, and an infamous catamaran trip.

  • 15 year - a Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean, exhausting!

  • 20 year - Cruising the Hawaiian islands on Norwegian, injuries galore, getting saved by a lifeguard, and losing bicycle breaks on the way down the mountain!

  • 25 year - Alaskan cruise on Princess plus an extended trip to Denali, whales and bears and moose!

  • 30 year - RV trip to Banff and Glacier, fun and very relaxed. (but scarce wildlife)

That is a quite a list of cool places to visit, and a lot of years of great friendship! None of us had really though about how many cruises the list included, so it was definitely time for a land adventure. Who knows where our next adventure will take us in five years. If we all make it to our 50th anniversary what will we do then? We’ll all be in our early 70’s by then, so chances are slim that we’ll make a return to mountain hiking. But, who knows by the 70 will be the new 50. Whatever the case may be we are lucky to have such great lifelong friends.

So, I’m finishing up this last post of the vacation just 160 miles from Minneapolis. Today has been a wild day of quick stops for gas, Burger King takeout (our first fast food of the trip) and switching drivers at rest stops or an off ramp. We are mostly out of the windy North Dakota, Northwest Minnesota winds, in fact we have a nice tail wind pushing along now.

As I have said many times before travel always changes me, or gives me a new perspective. My world of computer science is pretty clean and indoors. It was great to get out and appreciate the natural world. Its sad to see how the glaciers are receding and I hope we have the will to do something about climate change. On the other hand it was very hopeful to see how people in both Canada and the United States treat the national parks. You can tell that the people who visit have a certain reverence for the parks and what they represent. They are clean and free of litter, people that you meet on the trails are generally smiling and greet you in a friendly way. It definitely makes me want to continue to explore the great things our national parks have to offer.

The Hike to Iceberg Lake

Ptarmigan Falls

We were just passed Ptarmigan Falls on our way back down when from behind me I heard, “Oh Crap!!” I thought Brian must have hurt himself so I asked “What’s wrong?” He said “I just remembered I have the keys to the RV!” Uh Oh! I thought, Jane and Holly are not going to be too happy when we get back. We had started the hike together that morning going as far as Ptarmigan Falls. At the falls we decided that the guys would continue on to Iceberg Lake, while the women returned to the campsite at their own leisurely pace. Nobody thought about the one and only key to unlock Willard when we parted ways. The rest of the hike we brainstormed ways that Jane and Holly would break in to the RV, we had visions of Jane boosting Holly through the front screen window, or failing that to recruit one of the small neighbor kids for that duty. Alternatively we figured they were just over at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn cooling off and using the free WiFi. It turned out that they did use the WiFi, but we found them in good spirits lounging in the shade outside the RV waiting for us.

Although the hike out to Iceberg Lake and back was a good 10.2 miles and our longest of the trip, it was definitely worth the effort. Iceberg lake is part of a cirque. What is a cirque you ask? It is a half-open steep-sided hollow at the head of a valley or on a mountainside, formed by glacial erosion. Think of a giant ice cream scoop digging out half a mountain and you get the idea. The image doesn’t really capture it, but gives you an idea.

Our trip to Iceberg Lake was entertaining due mostly to two little boys hiking ahead of us. Boundless energy and a total willingness to get wet at every opportunity. At one point we caught up with them at a small stream where one of them was dunking his sweaty little head into the rushing water. His father, of course, was egging him on and taking pictures of the thing. Instant brain freeze was all we could think about. A while later they caught up with us at Iceberg Lake, which really does have icebergs floating around. One of them was just close enough to shore to be really really tempting for these two. The shoes were off and they were hopping from rock to rock determined to get to the little iceberg and claim in for their kingdom. The water was cold, REALLY COLD, so they were not willing to wade in above their ankles or for more than just a few seconds. We left before they claimed the berg, but we were convinced it was just a matter of time before one of them got completely soaked! We did catch this picture of a young brit who had brought his swimtrunks along on the hike for the purpose of getting in the lake.

Slow Down You're Movin too Fast

Grinnell Lake and Glcier

“Slow Down!” Ok, this was not delivered in the sing-songy spirit of the Simon and Garfunkel hit by the same name. Despite the fact that I was only going 15 miles per hour, apparently it was uncomfortable to those in the back. I’m not surprised as it was not a great, no, not even a good road. It was a crappy road 12 miles long to get back to the Many Glacier campground. A place that I had heard in my head the entire trip as the “Mini-Glacier Campground” was imagining something on the order of a snow cone. Tonight was to be our first RV night “boondocking it” No electrical, no water, no sewer. We switched into full conservation mode. The worst thing was we were also in a no generator zone so we couldn’t even make coffee in the morning. It really wasn’t that bad as we just walked over the the store with our travel mugs and got some.

We started out yesterday with our rental car and headed back up to Logan’s pass. One day ago it was shrouded in clouds, fog, and rain. But today the skies were sunny with just a few puffy clouds to make things interesting. What a difference a day makes. The sunshine gives Glacier a whole different look. I can’t even say better because despite the overcast weather of the day before it was still really cool. But, once we got to Logan’s pass we were set to make the hike to hidden lake. A hike in the snow!! Its June 26 and we are hiking in the snow! Layers People! We started with a lot of layers and ended up with short sleeves!

Today was, by far, the nicest day of our trip so far, with clear skies and highs in the mid 70’s! We started out in shorts and short sleeves today. The plan was to make today an easy day, saving our energy for tomorrow’s hike to Iceberg Lake (or Ptarmigan Falls). Instead we did 7.2 miles around Swiftcurrent, Josephine and Grinnell lakes. The thing about hiking is that you always feel fine when you make the bad decision that takes you just a little bit further than your feet would like to go!


In keeping with the theme of this post, it is also clear that I am not a good person to lead the hikers. My stride is too long and my pace is too fast. “Slow Down!”

Tie Your RV Down

MacDonalds Lodge

As we got in the car to head over to the hot tub at the KOA in St. Mary’s Montana, I pointed to the rope tied to the rear view mirror of the RV and the picnic table. I said it looks like we tied the RV to the picnic table to keep it from blowing away! Ha, imagine a picnic table holding back a 32 foot Winnebago in a 25 mph wind!? But 20 - 25 mph winds are what you get in St. Marys, just east of the continental divide. We had a lot of wind all day yesterday and today as we drove from Banff to Glacier. This area is known for its wind and highway 22 even had signs with warning lights for RVs and trucks for days when the wind is gusting and dangerous! Thankfully it was not bad for us at the time we drove that stretch.

Now, we are in a KOA campground, a source of some discontent amongst the group. however it has a hot tub, pool, and laundry facilities. These are all good things after a week of traveling together. Plus they also rent cars that you can take on the road to the sun. This is good as our RV would never be allowed to attempt the journey. The roads are indeed very narrow, and the rocks overhang on one side and would definitely tear off parts of the RV!

This morning we got up and were on our way by about 8:00 on the “road to the sun”. The main problem was that the sun was not cooperating! When we got to Logan’s pass we could barely see in front of the car because we were right in the middle of the clouds. But, we kept on going and in the end we were rewarded, not with sunshine, but with “lord of the rings” mystical beauty. The above photo is from MacDonald’s Lodge. Although the national park is called glacier, it could more appropriately be called waterfall national park at this point!


After MacDonald’s Lodge we took the Avalanche Lake hike! Wow, was this pretty, even in the dripping rain the sites along the way and once we got to the lake were well worth the hike!

Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake

After the hike we headed back the other direction on the road to the sun and by this time the clouds had lifted enough for us to really enjoy the scenery!

Glacier Valley

Of course no trip to Glacier, in June, would be complete without photos of the giant snowdrifts-cum-glaciers that we humans plow out of the way for the tourists!

Avalanche Lake

And finally, no trip to Glacier would be complete without a picture of Goose Island!

Avalanche Lake

Taking a Break on a Rainy Afternoon

Bow Lake Reflection

“A clean underwear!” came the shout from the bedroom of the RV. “Thanks Holly, you just provided me with the opening line for today’s blog.” After a morning of touring the sites on the road to Jasper, we are back in the RV, having lost our will to hike in the rain. In the gloom and rain of the day I would say that the Columbia Ice sheet and all of the surrounding glaciers was actually a little depressing. You just can’t help but see how much they have shrunk over the years, and we overheard people talking. “When I was here 20 years ago, this glacier came right up to the road.” Now the glacier in question is a good kilometer back from the road.

So, as we are taking this downtime to shower and cleanup a bit in preparation for our move south tomorrow, I’m taking a few minutes this afternoon to catch up a little. There is only so much you can write about all of this mountain beauty. On the other hand it seems as though just when we think we’ve seen the most beautiful site, something new comes along and surprises us. so I’m just going to include some pictures today with a minimum amount of commentary. I think they speak for themselves.

The photo at the top is from Bow Lake, right off the highway. But everything was so still it was crazy beautiful.

Close up Reflection

This one may trip you up a bit. It is a closeup of the mountain reflection, but the stones in the foreground are not a reflection. It looks kind of weird without the perspective of the real landscape!

Peyto lake

This is Peyto Lake, just a short hike off the highway, it is well worth the stop!

Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls was another really short hike off the highway, with spectacular falls. The power of the water never ceases to amaze. I was messing around with shutter speeds to get the effect you see in this photo.

Emerald Lake

We hiked around Emerald lake, I think you can guess how it got its name. Emerald Lake is in Yoho national park in British Columbia. If I had written this post yesterday I would have titled it “Yoho, Yoho a Pirates Life for Me!”

Natural Bridge

Another beautiful waterfall, next to a spot you could easily drive by and dismiss. But well worth the stop.

Natural Bridge

Here’s another which gives you a better view of its bridge like qualities.

We are older than we think

Lake Louise

Sitting in our campsite in Banff, my feet are up, I have a Gin & Tonic next to me, the campfire is started, the sun is still high in the sky, it’s 18:00. My iPhone tells me that I have taken 35,196 steps and gone 14.6 miles today! I believe the G&T is well earned. We are thinking of ordering pizza from Temple Pizza at the Fairmont hotel on Lake Louise because NOBODY WANTS TO GET OUT OF THEIR CHAIR!!

The first thing to say, is that today is totally a gift! The forecast was calling for rain but today was absolutely beautiful! Sunny and nice all day long. We had a perfect view of the mountains and everything else around Lake Louise today.

The day started out cool, with temps down to 35 overnight. Its OK, as Willard has a furnace to keep us nice and comfortable. But we all totally overdressed for the hike today, as I think it got well above the advertised high of 67 degrees. We thought this was our warmup hike of only 10K round trip. So Brian and I said we would ride our bikes up the road to Lake Louise. According to our best information it was only supposed to be 200 meters of elevation over 4 kilometers of distance. A slope of only 1/20. Someone Lied! it was 4k of straight up hill, lets just say we were warmed up by the time we got to the lake!

We took the obligatory, but still totally beautiful, pictures at the the Chateau and then we headed out for our hike to the Tea House in the Six Glaciers Plain. Six is definitely and overstatement, and if anyone thinks that global warming is a “hoax” they are idiots. If you think global warming is a hoax, I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, but science is not a matter of opinion. Science is based on observation and analysis and the evidence shows that the glaciers are MUCH SMALLER than they were 100 years ago. Why would glaciers be smaller? Higher average temperatures.

Anyway, the hike was still beautiful, and Brian even managed to see a chunk of glacier break off and fall off the cliff. The rest of us heard it, but by then it was too late!

Arrival in Banff

River Hike

It was difficult to get out of bed this morning. The rain was making rainy sounds on the roof and there was a chill in the air. Windows were cracked open an it was only in the 40’s outside. Someone had to get up and start the coffee. Also, it seemed like a great time to try the heater. I’m not sure it had been used before as it had that new furnace smell to it as it warmed up our little home. This got everyone out of bed and eating breakfast. It is Father’s day today. I’ve had electronic wishes from both Kaia and Josh.

Even in the rain our departure was pretty easy. Unplug, retract, and go. It was rainy and windy as we left the campsite, the rain ended pretty quickly but the wind hounded us all the way past Calgary. We had quite the experience of refueling at the Costco gas station! We pulled off Highway 1 expecting an easy (and cheap) experience only to find the lines 6 cars deep. Thankfully there was a nice guy directing traffic who got us over to the line for the end pump. It could have been a real disaster trying to make the turn out of the station if we didn’t have the extra room. We are finding that we are limited to $150 worth of gas which seems to be about half a tank!! We can go from ¼ to ¾ on a $150 charge.

Outside of Calgary we left the plains of Alberta and climbed into the beautiful Canadian Rockies! We are really getting the hang of setting up camp. Less than five minutes today. We’ll have to move our campsite by about 30 feet tomorrow as we are camped next to the site we have reserved for the next few days. After a quick lunch in the RV we decided to take a bike ride to the Village for some ice and then hike along the Bow River. As you can see the scenery is pretty nice!

Little Dam

Crooked Pine

The Worlds Largest Buffalo

Big Buffalo

This morning we left the Pratt’s at 8:00, right on schedule. I took my first shift in the cockpit. This thing drives pretty nicely except when the wind gets gusty. Then you feel like you are constantly overcorrecting one way or the other. As we buzzed along I94 through North Dakota, we realized that we were not really in the spirit of things. No large balls of twine, no giant ears of corn! Of course, there’s an app for that! “Road Trippers” to the rescue! In no time at all we learned that Jamestown had the worlds largest buffalo monument. After a quick stop at Cenex to top off our tank (38 gallons for about half a tank), we ended up on a really bad gravel road that brought us into the frontier village from the wrong direction. Oh well, we got there.


Now we are headed towards Bizmark for lunch and maybe a glimpse of the worlds largest Holstein! Wait, how much giant bovine statuary can we see in one day?! We shall see… the Holstein is reportedly some 40 feet tall and 50 feet long.

Picking up the story a bit later, we have crossed the border into Canada! A relatively painless and friendly process. When the border guard asked if we would be staying in Canada long term, we told her it depended on the outcome of the election. She smiled and said she was hearing that a lot. Its 4:30 now, and we have another hour to go before we get to Weyburn for the night. We are not making quite as fast progress as we thought but its been a pretty easy day except for the gusty winds. I’ve taken my second shift driving, and it was definitely much better heading into the wind than having it directly across this big beast.

There is not much scenery yet, just a lot of wide open spaces and oil wells. At one point we saw big big numbers on the side of the hills outlined in stone. I suspected it was UFO markings – the infamous “area 15”, Brian thought they were targets for bombing practice from the Air Force base. Holly looked it up on Google and learned that it was a local high school tradition to spell out their graduation year in rock on one of the local hills.

We crossed into the mountain time zone just before we got to Weyburn, Saskatchewan for the night, which meant that we were right on schedule for happy hour. I like this RV style of camping, it took us less than 10 minutes to level up, connect the electricity and the water. We rolled out the canopy and set up our soccer chairs poured drinks, and by 5:15 we were relaxing and enjoying our campsite.


For dinner we took the bikes into town, and ended up at Boston Pizza. Jane and Holly both ordered a Bloody Caesar (like a Bloody Mary but Canadian). The waitress offered “fishbowl size” little did we know that they would actually be served in a fish bowl!

Bloody Caesars

We are on the road this morning having successfully navigated the dumping station! More on that later.

Packing up and Heading Out

Mobile blogging! Her is my view as I write this post.

looking ahead

Where to start? We awoke this morning and split our preparatory duties. The women went to Costco, the men took Tucker back home and picked up the rest of the knutson’s belongings. By 1:00 we had two SUVs FULL Of stuff to put in our 32 foot Winnebago, henceforth known as Willard.

full car

We arrived at Rent and Travel just before 2:00, our appointed time to take possession of Willard. After about 30 minutes (only) of introduction and education (which we recorded for later reference) we began the 90 minute process of moving in. Food, lawn games, photography equipment, adult beverages, hiking gear, clothing, bedding, adult beverages, grilling equipment. All the comforts of home for the next 15 days and 2,800 miles. It was hot sweaty work, but we are all packed up and on the road. Jane, of course, is taking the first shift of driving this giant beast. Brian is riding shotgun and Holly and I are trying out RV travel in the back. I’m sitting at the kitchen table writing as we go. I just saw the sign that says Morehead 198 that is our destination for the evening.

We’ll be parking at the home of our friends Dave and Carol Pratt tonight. Dave just texted us that he was going to get some beer and put some ribs on the grill to slow cook for us. We should be in Morehead by around 7:30 for our practice night of leveling, setting up, and trying things out without a lot of neighboring campers watching us mess around.