Friday, June 8, 2018

Day 6 Alberta, Canada

Well, today is the day we have been waiting for.  We are finally going to cross over into Canada.  We will be going right from Glacier NP to Waterton Lakes NP.  The crossing is called Chief Mountain.  There are lots of border crossings along here, the one most people use is east of here on I15 called Sweetgrass.  We chose this one as we wanted to go directly to Waterton Lakes.  We read everything we could find about crossing the border in an RV and hope we are prepared.  The big no no is handguns and drugs.  Also, if you have been convicted of any crimes in the past, you should check prior to arriving at the border. Chances are they will not let you enter.  Our biggest worry is the food we are carrying.  We tried to make sure that we had no fresh fruit or vegetables, fresh meat or raw eggs.

Before leaving St. Mary, we topped off the tanks as fuel is going to be very expensive from here on out.   We paid $3.58 a gallon for diesel and are mildly outraged, but it is something you must accept if you are going to go beyond this point.  We continue north on Hwy 89 through Babb, MT and then turn left on Hwy 17.  You can cross on Hwy 89 as well at the Piegan Border Crossing.  Runor has it there are no pies there.  There are a few others on the road and I pull over to let a car go by us.  It is the people who were camped next to us back in Glacier.  4 adults in two tents traveling in a Subaru Outback.

Before long there is a sign saying we are back in Glacier NP, but there is no entrance station.  As we approach the Canadian Border Services area I can feel the anticipation building and the butterflies stirring around in my stomach.  Last thing I need is a body cavity search!  We wait while the people in the Subaru go through the process.  Seems to be taking quite awhile, but there are four people with 4 passports and everyone is grilled.  They finally get the go ahead, but pull over after leaving the gate.  Not sure why, but it concerns me.  We get the green light to approach.  I put my window down and greet the young lady in the booth.  She greets us and is very polite.  I hand over our passports and wait for her questions.  I feel like I am at the bridge of death in the movie "Monty Python and The Holy Grail".  She asks why we are here, where we are going, do we have reservations for the night, are we carrying more than $10,000 in cash, do we have any weapons.  When I say no, to the weapons question, she laughs and says "What?  You don't have any guns?"  Like all Americans are packing pistols.  I say, no guns, we left them at home.  She asks about our food and alcohol.  I tell her we have a few cans of beer left.  That's when I hear someone standing by the back of the RV on my side.  I don't know when she showed up, but they both laughed and wanted to know why we didn't drink the rest of our beer prior to arriving at the border.  It's all in good fun.  They were both very nice.  She stamps our passports, hands them back and welcomes us to Canada.  She also says there is one rule.  "You must take some of these mosquitoes with you!"  The people in the Subaru are just now leaving the spot they stopped in and we pull over after leaving the booth.

We are now on Hwy 6 and we start heading off towards Waterton Lakes.  We hadn't been in the country more than 20 minutes before seeing our first bear.  She was right there on the road, chowing down on dandelions.  She was so close, we could see the mosquitoes flying around.  We stop to take pictures.  I can't find some of these pictures.  Imagine a black bear on the side of the road eating dandelions.  There you go.

Hwy 6 runs into Hwy 5 and we turn west a bit then left to go south into the actual park.  We arrive at the entrance to the park and pay something like $14 CDN for a day pass.  It is still very early and nothing is open, but the scenery is fantastic.  We drive around a bit, hit the visitor center and then spot a place selling souvenirs.  Sharon jumps out and gets her Waterton Lakes Park souvenir.  She collects them from each park we visit.  We stop and take some pictures of the mountains surrounding the lake and then head out.  Back on Hwy 6 we head north to Pincher Station.  We are surprised to see a Walmart there and take advantage of that to do some grocery shopping.  On the way out, another camper pulls in next to us.  It is based on the Mercedes Sprinter like ours, but it is a 3500 where ours is the 2500.  This guy is a Canadian, very friendly and talks nonstop for about 20 minutes.  That's OK, we aren't in any hurry.  Finally, the tape starts to loop back to the beginning and I beg off.  He goes towards the store and we head back to the road.

Our next stop is the site of an ancient buffalo jump, called Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site.  We head north to Hwy 3 and then turn right.  Just a few miles down the road we turn left on 785.  We start down this road and there is a sign:  HSIBWS, 30 km.  Pavement ends ahead.  What?  30 km on a gravel road?  I mentally convert that to miles.  You have to do a lot of math here in Canada.  Of well, here we go.  The road turns out to be nice and wide and pretty smooth for a gravel road.  Not a whole lot of traffic and we are able to about 45 mph.  Pretty soon, the gravel ends, the pavement returns and we are at the site.  We park and as we are getting out, there is a shuttle bus waiting to pick us up.  Almost like they were expecting us.  Thanks goodness for that bus, it is quite the climb from the parking lot to the exhibit.  Turns out the head smashed in stuff is not the buffalo's heads but a young Indian who wanted to view the buffalo jump from down below where he was killed by the sheer number of buffalo that were killed that year.  We watch the movie that depicted how the hunt was organized and the preparations they went through and what happened after the hunt was over.  It was quite interesting.  The displays in the museum are also very well done.  It was senior day or week or some such thing and we were admitted free to the museum.  I was prepared with a fistful of CDN dollars to pay our admission.

After leaving the site, we continued on 785 to Hwy 2.  This is road that heads north to Calgary.  It is about the same as our interstate highway except it is not limited access.  It is one of the major roads in this part of the country and has a lot of traffic.  Fortunately, we won't be on here long.  We travel north to Hwy 540 and head west over to Hwy 22.  We could have backtracked on 785 and gone up that way, but that was enough gravel road for one day.  We stay on Hwy 22 until we reach Longview, AB where we pick up Hwy 40.  This will allow us to bypass Calgary altogether.  Much better views and none of the madness associated with such a large city.  Soon, we arrive at the junction to Hwy 1 which is the Trans Canada Highway and is a limited access highway.  It is also very busy, but we need to be on this road for now.  Somewhere along in here we stop at a very busy gas station and top off the tank.  We bought 39 liters for $50 CDN.  This works out to ~$40 USD for 10 gallons.  $4 a gallon.  You have to prepay for your fuel.  Our routine becomes, pull up to the pump, Sharon runs in and prepays, they turn the pump on, I refuel, she gets the change back and we are off again.  Works out pretty well.

Hwy 1 is very scenic and takes you into the Banff area.  We have no idea where to stop but find a visitor center where I go in and ask for recommendations.  It has been a long day and I need to stop for the day.  Turns out that there is a city campground right next to the visitor center.  We head over there and find a spot for the night.  $37 CDN (~$28USD) for the night with electric.  No water and no dump station (it was closed).  Showers, bathrooms and nice views.  Another RV that we had been seeing takes the spot next to us and we discuss the days events with them.  Turns out they made a wrong turn and went right through Calgary in their Class C camper.  He was not a happy camper.  Apparently, it was quite the experience.

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