Category Archives: camping

Jasper National Park and The Icefield Highway

After enjoying all Banf NP had to offer,  we headed up the Icefield Parkway, past the glaciers and two bears! This road is extremely beautiful, with glacial streams, wildflowers, majestic mountains and the glaciers. One thing it doesn’t have is fuel for the RV, so we gassed up in Lake Louise at 6:30 in the morning. The only fuel available the entire length of the Icefields Parkway is at Saskatchewan River Crossing.


Our first fun stop of the day was at Herbert Lake, where we had breakfast and walked down to the lake. We then drove by Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Glacier, and Peyto Lake. We stopped frequently for Charlie to take pictures and Woolly Bear to romp around.  We stopped Midway at the Icefield Centre near Sunwapta Pass,  and were dismayed to see how much the Glacier has melted since our last visit.

At the Junction of 93A we passed Athabaskan Falls and then the trailhead to a favorite hike of mine, the Valley of Five Lakes. Finally we arrived at Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park. Our site was 26F, and was a nicely wooded site with a picnic table and no visible neighbors. No hookups, but perfect for the three of us!

We are heading to Hinton next, for a day of grocery shopping and laundry doing. The next day we will be on our way to the Alaskan Highway via the Big Horn Route and will be camping in some Provincial Parks we haven’t visited before. We can only post gen we have wifi, so it may be a while before I can update you on our trek. No worries, will catch you up when I can!

Our Great Alaskan Road Trip: Jasper National Park

Bear on side of Columbian Icefield Parkway

Bear on side of Columbian Icefield Parkway

We left Banff and headed North along the Columbian Icefield highway. This is one of the most scenic drives we have experienced! Mountains, glaciers, snow, and wild animals all in the same place. The Winnebago managed to tow the car easily up the hills and into Jasper National Park.  Charlie captured this close up of a bear on the parkway. The bear continued to graze while at least five photographers were snapping away. I had my hands full containing Woolly Bear!

Elk resting at our campsite!

Elk resting at our campsite

We camped at Whistler’s Campground within Jasper National Park, at site 29 E. This site was spacious, private, and wooded but did not have electricity or water. That was fine, we would much rather have the space and privacy, and we tried out our new solar suitcase to keep the batteries charged! Generators are allowed for an hour and a half in the morning, and two hours in the evening, but we dislike hearing our generator run, so use it sparingly. Our hope is that the solar suitcase will provide enough charge to the batteries when we camp off the grid.

The second day at Jasper Charlie was taking pictures of a unique camping set up across the loop from us (a school bus with wood stove!!!) when he came face to face with a Black Bear! The  bear turned and vanished into the woods just as Charlie tried to take a picture of him. He did get pictures of the bus. We would love to know the story behind the bus RV, but the fellow moved on before we had the chance to talk to him.

We spent time visiting Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon,  accidentally crashed a wedding at Pyramid Lake on the island there, and drove to Athabascar Waterfall.  We really wanted to drive up Edith Cavell Mountain, but the road was still closed from winter. And speaking of winter, we had snow mixed with rain our second day there. It rained off and on the three days we camped there, and the rain followed us into Hinton, and up to Dawson Creek and the beginning of the Alaskan Highway! We are currently camped at mile 300 of the Alaskan Highway in British Columbia, heading into Yukon Territory tomorrow,  and will be writing about this next segment of our trip as soon as I have suitable internet!

Woolly Bear checking out the glacial lake at Jasper

Woolly Bear checking out the glacial lake at Jasper

Our Great Alaskan Road Trip: Yellowstone NP


After leaving Custer State Park in South Dakota we drove to Cody, Wyoming and then on to Yellowstone National Park. Towing the Jeep through the Big Horn Mountains was a bit tricky, as we believe we got bad gasoline at the stop right before the hills. After stopping at a pull off to add dry gas, the Winebago resumed her good work, and we were able to ascend the hills with more ease!

We had reservations at Fishing Bridge RV inside the Park. This campground has electricity and water at each site, but resembles a parking lot. There are bear warnings everywhere, but I fear a Grizzly would trip on someone’s water hose or electric cord if he actually ventured in. We chose to stay there because the temperature was hovering around freezing each night, and we wanted to run the electric heater. With the Jeep available for driving around, we spent little time at the campground.

Fox right outside of Fishing Bridge

Fox right outside of Fishing Bridge

image

We spent six days in Yellowstone, and saw three bears the first day, multiple prong horn and elk, lots of bison, and a variety of birds including Bald Eagles and Western Blue Birds. Charlie likes to set up his spotting scope and tripod to share with fellow wildlife lovers! He helped many children view the mother bear and her baby as they frolicked in the shade of the pine trees.

Bison never bore!

Bison never bore!

On Tuesday we traveled through the Geyser area and spent time driving all of the small roads that our RV was not allowed on when we visited the Park in 2011. Firehole Lake was especially nice, as were the paint pots and various other thermal sights. But the most memorable part of that day will be the shock of seeing a tourist gored by a bison on the boardwalk adjacent to Old Faithful! The poor man was walking the boardwalk ahead of us when he came in close proximity with a huge bison. I did not see what happened, but saw the aftermath and was impressed with the Park’s immediate response. A Ranger quickly drove her car between the bison and the man lying on the boardwalk. After shielding the man with her car, she administered first aide until the ambulance, then life star helicopter arrived. The most shocking thing for me was observing some of the tourists taking “selfies” of the scene after it happened. Unbelievable behavior!

Thermal activity at Yellowstone

Thermal activity at Yellowstone

On the Wednesday we drove through the Lamar Valley area, and had the opportunity to watch four wolves, two gray and two brownish black, feeding on a bison they had killed a few days before. We heard that the bison was having difficulty giving birth and that the wolves had watched her til she weakened, then moved in for the kill. Both pairs of wolves had litters of pups that needed to be fed and they worked together to do so. We had always looked for wolves when we visited, but never had the luck to see them before. Charlie set up his tripod and spotting scope and we spent a good portion of the morning just watching the wolves! The kill was about half a mile from the road, so the camera didn’t capture it, but the spotting scope made it very clear to see.

The best Charlie's camera could do. Four wolves, one rib cage in the distance!

The best Charlie’s camera could do. Four wolves, one rib cage in the distance!

On Friday we broke camp and moved North to Glacier National Park. We did not have wifi or cell service in Yellowstone, and even as I write this in Glacier, the connectivity is sporadic! As we move further North I expect more issues with wifi, but will post when we can.

Our Great Alaskan Road Trip: The Black Hills of South Dakota

Bison at Custer SP

Bison at Custer SP

We left the Badlands and drove to Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This state park is a “must visit”!!! It is set between Wind Cave National Park and Mt Rushmore, but rivals those two as a phenomenal destination in itself.

We camped at Blue Bell Campground at site 22E. It is a spacious, wooded site that lies adjacent to the tenting area and backs up to the woods. The only small downside to it is the difficulty we had trying to get the camper level. We finally decided it was close enough and that as long as our refrigerator worked we weren’t going to fuss with it anymore.

The camp hosts are a delightful couple who go out of their way to be kind and helpful to incoming campers. They showed us where to fill our water tank prior to setting up, as each site has electric, but no water at it. After we set up camp we hopped in the Jeep to traverse the Wildlife Loop. We saw BigHorn Sheep, hundreds of Bison, mountain goats, pronghorns, deer, and lots of Mountain Bluebirds. Charlie was in his glory, taking hundreds of bison pictures. At one point we were surrounded on the road by about 50 bison, several way too close to the car for my comfort! Woolly Bear was well behaved, and only whined at the critters instead of barking loudly.

Too close to the Jeep for comfort!

Too close to the Jeep for comfort!

The second day we drove the Needles Highway through interesting rock formations. We planned on hiking in the Sylvan Lake area, and brought a picnic lunch. Just as we exited the second tunnel the skies opened up and rain and hail hit the windshield. The thunderstorm lasted until we had returned to our camp, and we decided to do the hike the following day. Once again we drove the wildlife loop, and then we headed to Wind Cave National Park, which is adjacent to Custer SP. this National Park offers hiking both above the ground and on guided tours through the cave.

We are spending 5 days in the Black Hills and my next post will show some of the amazing scenery on the Needles Highway!

Prairie Dog

Prairie Dog

Pronghorn at Custer SP

Pronghorn at Custer SP

Our Great Alaskan Road Trip. Minnesota: Blue Mound State Park

Bison grazing at Blue Mound State Park

Bison grazing at Blue Mound State Park

Charlie and I left Indiana Dunes State Park with the promise of a return visit, and headed the camper West. Our next noteworthy stop was in Minnesota at Blue Mound State Park. The Park is located on the southwest side of the state, six miles north of Route 90  and Luverne. The park entrance is off of U.S. 75.

Blue Mounds State Park contains 1500 acres of prairie grasslands filled with wild flowers, birds and animals. We saw white tailed deer, lots of birds, and the resident herd of 60 bison. Coyotes also are reported to live in the park, but we did not run into any on our hikes.image

There are miles of hiking and biking trails to take you along the quartzite cliiffs. The trails are actually mowed into the prairie grass and look like a path of manicured lawn meandering around the creek bed. There is a wildlife viewing platform with high powered scopes for watching the bison from a safe distance.

Our campsite was $28 for electric, and considering it was the start of the Memorial Day weekend, we were grateful to get it without having made reservations. The campsites you might want to reserve have a view of  (28, 29, 30, 31, 32e) the river in the B loop, but all sites were spacious and very well maintained. We definitely would have stayed another night, but all sites were reserved for the weekend. The lady acting as Campground Host was very friendly and helpful and even invited us to sit by her campfire. Most of the campers were from Minnesota and staying for the holiday weekend.

Site 24, Blue Mound State Park

Site 24, Blue Mound State Park

Yosemite and Snow!!!

P1070091After spending time at Sequoia NP we drove a bit north to Yosemite. We were fortunate to be able to secure 3 nights camping in the park, as reservations often fill minutes after the availability opens. At first it looked like we would need to move camp each day, but once in the park the Reservations desk ranger helped me find a site for two nights, meaning only one move during our stay. We camped at the Upper Pines Campground in sites 102 and 112, no electricity or water and $20 per night.  Of the two sites, 102 was the best as it backed up to the woods and had plenty of space for WB. Site 112 was also spacious, but the adjacent campsite, with a family with two small wandering children, had their campfire within 20 ft of our camper. A bit too close for my comfort!

P1070016P1070013

John Muir, Ansel Adams, and Teddy Roosevelt were all correct about Yosemite being a very special place  in need of preservation!  It is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited. And, because of the snow, Tioga Pass and Glacier Point Roads were still closed. But the valley itself is magnificent, Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls and Bridal Veil Falls were all surging down to the valley. The meadows were beginning to bloom, and I had my coffee each morning while watching the sun progress over Half Dome!

P1070075

Yosemite is also one of the most dog friendly national parks we have visited. Woolly Bear was allowed just about anywhere on the 12 mile paved bicycle loop that traverses the valley. He could also walk on paved paths to the lower falls, and we did take him on dirt paths that did not forbid dogs. Yosemite has a kennel in the summer for pets,  but it was still in the 50’s most days, so he could safely stay in the camper while we hiked.

There is a free shuttle bus for hikers, and a for fee bus from the nearby commercial campgrounds and hotels. It is very easy to get around the Yosemite Valley.

P1070025Our visit came to an abrupt end on Thursday evening when we overheard the Ranger telling another camper that  6 to 12 inches of snow was expected the next morning! We have no desire to drive in that type of weather, and we knew we could not get another day’s campsite, so we left that evening and drove to a KOA 23 miles outside the park, but at a much lower elevation. Friday morning we had a cold, steady rain, and the Yosemite to Sequoia area got the predicted snow.

Yosemite is a very special place that we need to return to at a time when the mountain passes are open and we can truly appreciate the entire park! Maybe mid July some year??? With reservations made well in advance!P1070039

 

Lake Havasu to Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree NP

I have been without good internet for a while and am behind on posting! Will try to get caught up, today and tomorrow, before we move to another wilderness spot without service.

We left Moab, making notes that we must return with bicycles in tow next time. There is so much to do, and the bike trails and off road biking looked awesome! We had debated bringing our bikes, but had opted not to add a bike rack to the camper. Big mistake! We would have used them just about everywhere we have traveled. But, there is always next time.

Campground visitor at Lake Havasu State Park

Campground visitor at Lake Havasu State Park

We left Moab and headed west again, staying in the St George’s area in what may well be the worst commercial campground ever. Then we drove to the Lake Havasu State Park in Arizona. We had a beautiful waterfront site with lots of privacy and space for Woolly Bear. It cost $30 but had electricity and we enjoyed watching the boat traffic as dusk approached.P1060946P1060942

The next morning found us up and on the road by 6:30 am. We headed to Joshua Tree NP and Cottonwood Campground on the southern side of the park, off of Rt 10. This campground is first come, first serve and we thought we wanted a spot.

We arrived at the park before noon and were pleased that the campground was not full, but even though we drove through the campground several times looking for a suitable site, none were found. We need to level our 24 ft van so that the refrigeration works and none of the vacant sites were both big enough and level enough for us! So, we moved on to plan B, then plan C. We ended up at a commercial campground after spending the day at Joshua Tree. The cacti are simply beautiful and the rock formations are neat, but I would advise people to leave their RVs at home and bring a tent when camping in Joshua Tree. We would have been more than fine with our backpacking tent or even our car camping tent. In addition to the camp ground issue, all the trails in that part of the park were closed due to wind/flood damage.

View at Joshua Tree

View at Joshua Tree