Camping Across Canada II

I think we left you last week as we were driving into Calgary, Ontario. Calgary is quite a city and as I drove into the edge of it, I thought “I don’t want to find my way in this place.” Spying a visitor information center, I pulled over so Charles could drive. Of course we went in the visitor center. That’s a good way to learn about an area even if you don’t have time to sightsee. In a few exciting minutes our new plan had developed.

We discovered it was not just any week in Calgary. It was the week of “Stampede Calgary” and the tour consultant told us she thought we could still get tickets for that night. We found a motel, checked in, changed into warmer clothes, and hurried to Stampede Fairgrounds.

Luckily for us, we were an hour ahead, having crossed into mountain time. So we had plenty of time to eat an absolutely scrumptious plate of barbecue with trimmings and get into the stadium in time for the chuckwagon races. It was late in the Stampede week so the only tickets available were “rush” or “standing room only.” We found our places at the front line about thirty feet from the spirited thundering horses pulling the wagons around the track.

An older Canadian couple stood with us and explained some of what was going on. They heard our Georgian accent and had pity on us! There were nine races of four entries each, four horses for each wagon, and four outriders. Outriders must be within 100 yards of the chuckwagon when it goes under the finish line. Winners are announced at the end of the ten-day Stampede according to the number of points throughout. When the wagons came past us, it was almost overwhelming but we loved it. The rough and ready flavor of the old west surrounded us–men in their big hats laughing and yelling, horses raring to go, the crowd cheering all around us.

Immediately following the chuckwagon races a stage was rolled into place in front of us and we were treated to two hours of Canadian talent–music, humor, dancing, skits, unicycling, circus elephants, trained dogs, bands, and even fantastic fireworks. My fingers grew tired of taking pictures but, surprisingly, our legs weren’t all that tired after three or four hours of standing. We were just that enthralled.

Following the show we wandered about the grounds enjoying the sights–local art, home displays, so much that was interesting and delightful. To cap off this surprise involvement in Canadian life, we went to our motel which had, to our delight, a flush toilet, hot shower, and a wonderful luxurious bed!

July 13, 1988–After sleeping in (two days of 500 miles each had earned us that!) and breakfasting at Denny’s, we pulled back on to our western road. While getting petro, we were told by an eager friendly attendant about the Olympic grounds. “You’ll be going right by them. See? There are the ski jump towers you can see from here.”

We did stop at the scene of the 1988 Winter Olympics–so interesting! We saw a much-used bobsled, the bobsled chute, and the ski jumps–all different without the snow. We had watched the Olympics on television and it was surreal actually standing on the grounds, viewing the high slopes, imagining the skiers and the bobsled riders vying for the gold.

Soon after we left Canmore, we began to see high craggy mountains, our ears tightened, new (to us!) wildflowers appeared on the slopes. At our first stop we grabbed our coats and still shivered in a fine mist of rain. It was such a beautiful drive up to Roger’s Pass and on, stopping often to read historical markers, mainly about the railway, the spiral tunnels, etc.

We passed through Banff, British Columbia (both town and region), Lake Louise, rode across and along Bow River. Couldn’t believe the generosity of the Lord as He poured out beauty in wildflowers, waterfalls, mountains, and trees. There were glacier lilies (white bloom low to the ground similar in appearance to a dogwood blossom), bluebells, pink sweet williams, Indian paintbrushes and more!

There were, along with the beauty, very large and healthy mosquitoes who loved us! While eating our lunch by a little lake, we kept them about an inch from our faces with a thick spraying of “Off.”

We stopped in Glacier National Park at a visitor center built in the form of a snow shed with moss and grass growing on the roof. There was a fire inside, a cheerful sight compared to the chill damp wind. It was a long day and we were dead tired when we arrived at Niedusachsen campground. The hostess was a warm interesting lady originally from Germany. Coffee tasted so good along with our beef stew eaten in sight of glacier mountains. We went to bed quickly when it started raining and lay in bed talking about all we’d seen. We hoped some of the poor dry wheat fields back in the Saskatchewan were getting rain too.

July 14, 1988–We weren’t quite as thankful for the rain when we woke up with puddles developing in our tent and rain still drumming on our thin roof. We had to take down the tent in the rain and pack it away wet. Our big black garbage bags came in handy. We were so thankful for a down home kind of restaurant downtown. We had eggs, croissants, and sausage. Charles asked for grits and got very little humor from the waitress, though she was very nice, just didn’t know anything about grits.

Traveling through the Rockies was wonderful as long as Charles was at the wheel. The flow of the traffic was about 70 mph even on those steep grades where signs warned trucks to gear down and watch for runaway ramps if necessary. At one point, we took an alternate route through the Okinagan Valley on advice of a petro clerk who lives there. There we saw lake after lake after natural lake, a rich land of orchards, pastures and beautiful gardens. We bought cherries and raspberries at a roadside stand to add to our lunch menu in a provincial park.

July 15, 1988–We arrived in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia, home of Butchart Gardens in time to have almost a day going crazy over the beautiful flowers. The beauty of Butchart Gardens took our breath away, a trite description but so true. We literally fought over the camera in that garden begun by Mrs. Butchart in her husband’s gravel pit. She turned an ugly eyesore into a lasting place of beauty visited by people from all over the world.

It was late afternoon when we began investigating the ferry possibilities in Victoria. I had spent a day in Victoria in 1964 as a college summer missions volunteer working at Port Angeles. I was delighted now to see that VICTORIA is still written with gorgeous flowers on the slope one sees ferrying over from Port Angeles, Washington.

Prospects of our getting on the ferry that night were slim. It was already full, we were told, so we’d have to wait till the next morning. Even then, we must be in line no later than 7:00 a.m. or we’d still be left behind. What to do? This was no place to set up a tent and if we left to find a motel we’d lose even the tiny hope that we could get on that night. We walked to see what we could of that beautiful city and took a ride in a carriage pulled by horses named Gypsy and Hope.

We were elated upon our arrival back at the docks to learn that one vehicle in line for the ferry was too big so we would be allowed to be the last car on! We arrived in Port Angeles about 10:00. It was hard finding any campground but we did and had to set up tent in the dark. It reminded me of our night at Niagara Falls. But this time there was no railroad nearby.

Thus ended our trek across Canada. We would attend the American Veterinarian Medical Association Convention in Portland, Oregon in just two more days, and then we’d have another long trip across the USA before getting home. It was truly a “trip of a lifetime.” We were then, and still are, grateful for that opportunity. We owe a big thanks to Dr. Eugene T. Maddox for his cooperation in letting Charles be gone from the veterinary practice for all those weeks.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Camping Across Canada II

  1. Suzanne Dover

    I loved Camping across Canada!

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