day 10: trek to ak

The Big 3 today! 1) Passed halfway mark between El Paso, TX and Anchorage, AK. 2) Entered a new province, British Columbia. 3) Visited Dawson Creek and the 0 Mile Marker of the Alaskan Highway! Yahoo!

We left Hinton and drove 336 Miles/541 Km today. The roads were clear with no rain or snow. A family of three caribou stood along side of the road waiting for us. What an amazing treat! Photo coming soon… taken on a different camera.

We hit a bit of construction before Grand Cache but found a gem of a Visitor’s Information Center in the town. Today’s route included lots of hills and curves which were a bit tricky with the strong wind. The area seemed to be home to industries of farming, logging, oil refineries and coal mines.

After passing through Dawson Creek, we anxiously began looking for kilometer (formerly mile) markers til Fort St. John, where we settled for the night.

Note for Packer Backers: A man walked out of a restaurant wearing a Green Bay hat. He told me he went to a game in Lambeau 3 years ago. He was quick to introduce me to his friend in the doorway. This man delivered the new goal posts to Lambeau in 1998.  Just wanted to share with the fans.

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day 9: trek to ak

We woke up to fresh snowflakes falling from the blue sky this morning. The ground, trees and mountains were covered in sparkling dust as we headed out of Canmore, AB to Hinton, AB (393 km/244 miles) today.

Our drive included countless views of majestic peaks and valleys of the Canadian Rockies along the IceField Parkway. After our first hour on the road, we stopped at Lake Louise. A strong chill was in the air due to the low temperature and heavy wind. After our initial peak at the lake, we headed indoors to a cafe to try the Canadian delicacy “nanaimo bars” and warm up with some coffee.  Believe it or not, the climate changed for our second exposure to the lake. It was 5 degrees warmer and a milder wind. It is amazing how such a small difference can have such a big impact. The kids loved sliding down a mini snowbank and ‘skating’ on the ice covered sidewalk. The views of the lake with the mountainous background were amazing!

We drove a bit further and found ourselves at the foot of Athabasca Glacier, one of the ‘six principal toes of the Columbia Icefield.’ The glacier is almost 4 miles long, covers a little more than 2 square miles and is 980 ft thick. It was extremely cold, but this was our first glacier to see and the kids jumped and ran in the snow. There is a sign posted where the glacier extended to in 1908. Today, the glacier has receded almost a mile from that point.

We continued on clear roads with occasional flurries on the Icefield Parkway through Jasper until our destination in Hinton. We will sleep well tonight.

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day 8: trek to ak

This morning we headed to the Banff Visitor Center to get updates on trail conditions of Johnston Canyon. The agent confirmed the trail was in poor condition due to snow and ice. She suggested to rent ice cleats at a sporting good shop a couple blocks away. As newbies to the Canadian Rockies, we were quick to follow her recommendation.

After our rental pick up, we drove 30 minutes to Johnston Canyon. Then we bundled up in winter gear and tried to remember the store clerk’s 30-second demonstration on how to attach the ice cleats to our shoes. With much success, we were set to go.

The 3 km trail is a paved catwalk in the canyon overlooking Johnston’s Creek. The views are beautiful and lead to a low tunnel opening to the Lower Falls. We were amazed with the clarity of the water. The ice cleats helped a lot on the little icy hills of the trail. Other tourists, who didn’t have cleats, slid all over the trail and had difficulty climbing up small inclines.

The kids enjoyed crawling on the rocks of the canyon and sliding around when possible.  We spent a bit longer on the trail today as they were having so much fun.

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day 7: trek to ak

A chilly morning with gorgeous sunshine and mild wind welcomed our day!  It was wonderful to have a kitchen to prepare breakfast in our condo.

After getting bundled up, we left for Banff National Park. It was a 4 kilometer drive from our AirBNB to the park entrance. Then we proceeded to the Banff Gondola. One of the perks of visiting the park in ‘shoulder season’ are fewer crowds and a few off-season discounts! Free child admission for each paying adult when you visit before 12 noon and a discounted cost to prepay for lunch. Yahoo!

Our little ones loved the eight minute ride up on the gondola. We began our tour on the 360 degree observation deck  which is the 4th level of the upper terminal. The summit of Sulphur Mountain offers spectacular views of six mountain ranges and the Bow Valley. When we needed to warm up, we ate lunch at the Northern Lights Cafe (3rd level). Afterwards, we all enjoyed exploratory family friendly activities indoors at the Interpretive Center (2nd level) and continued outside for a little excursion on the mountain boardwalk. The trip down on the gondola was even more exciting for the kids.

In late afternoon, we ventured to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, birthplace of Canada’s National Parks. We visited the dark cave leading to a thermal natural spring of turquoise blue and headed outdoors to follow the Marsh Loop Trail. The trail was a bit icy in spots, but provided wonderful views of Bow Valley and surrounding mountaintops.

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day 6: trek to ak

We began the day with a delicious breakfast at the hotel alongside a group of truck drivers. I couldn’t help but listen to the amazing stories from their life on the road.

We left Lethbridge and drove to Canmore (313 miles), just outside of Banff. We stopped at a grocery store along the way.  We found many of the same familiar items in El Paso, even chicharrón. I was excited to find my favorite juice that was a treat in Malawi, made in South Africa. It was fun exploring new foods unique to Canada as well and calculate prices in Canadian currency.

We drove through the big city of Calgary with lots of traffic and construction. We stopped for lunch and saw the Olympic Park from the 1988 Winter Olympics, aka XV Olympic Winter Games.

We are staying at an AirBnB condo for a few nights close to Banff National Park. The front desk clerk confirmed that we are in 100% off season. We arrived after the summer so most of the adventure activities are closed, yet we are a little early for the winter activities like sledding, skiing and ice skating. We plan to fit in as many toddler friendly activities as possible while trying to stay warm.

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day 5: trek to ak

Yahoo! We are in Canada!

Today’s 367 mile drive took us from Bozeman, MT to Lethbridge, Alberta. The long driving hours were full of all kinds of weather. We experienced fog, sun, rain, sleet and snow, often at the same time. The temperature continued to go up and down in degrees, reflecting in corresponding precipitation. The route followed the Missouri River much of the way. We were surprised to find so many people fishing and kayaking. We encountered minimal traffic in either direction. The Canadian border crossing was a wonderful site to see and we were thankful to pass through easily after the officer reviewed our passports and asked a few questions.

As we are outside of the USA, we needed to upgrade to an international cellular plan.  The cost is low, but is charged per device. My husband’s phone will continue to have unlimited talk, text and our current data plan, but I will only use hotel internet when available.

As the roads were slick and the evening approaching, we decided to stop early for the night. The little ones are already sleeping.  We can’t wait to see what adventures the Lord has in store for us tomorrow.

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day 4: trek to ak

We woke up to sunshine with temperatures below freezing. We left Cody, WY and headed to Yellowstone National Park. The snow from yesterday left a dusting on many of the Lodgepole Pine and covered mountain peaks, as well as ground cover in low spots.

We spent time at Yellowstone Lake, various look out points, boardwalks overlooking active geysers, Old Faithful and its visitor center. The wind was strong and chilly, but the sights were breathtaking. The lake was enormous and glistened in the sun, serving as a beautiful carpet surrounding the snow-capped mountains. The little ones adored running around the rocky beach. Each look-out spot we visited provided a new view from a different perspective. I won’t share how many photos I took on this trip. The geysers or hot springs were stunning in color and released warm fluffy steam. Old Faithful remains loyal with its eruptions 60-90 minutes apart. Due to the direction of the wind, we saw a majority of steam instead of the bursting geyser of water during its timely eruption.

We spotted seven bison, one coyote, flocks of  Canadian geese and common loon.

This route brought us to Bozeman, MT for the night (235 miles).  It was a long shortcut, but well worth it!

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day 3: trek to ak

This morning we were blessed to worship at a congregation in our fellowship led by a dear friend of mine. He and his family served as missionaries in Malawi during the time I was there. It was wonderful to see them and catch up.

After visiting, we left Ft. Collins, CO and made it to Cody, WY (435 miles). Fog, cold rain and heavy wind accompanied most of today’s trip. There was little traffic heading north in comparison to the number of RV’s and other vehicles southbound. The landscapes began with endless hay fields and hills lined with snow fences slowly turning to spectacular mountain ranges and canyons in a variety of colors. Wind River Indian Reservation was breathtaking. We saw our first snow-capped mountain near the horizon in Casper, WY and spotted herds of mule deer and pronghorn throughout the drive. The kids chased a few desert cottontails at a rest area.

The city of Cody is named after Buffalo Bill Cody.  It appears to be a small tourist town similar to Cedarburg or Ruidoso, full of quaint shops, cafes, breweries and other fun places. It is a nice place to rest for the night.

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day 2: trek to ak

After a hearty breakfast, we drove many miles on I-25 today. Our starting point was Las Vegas, NM and we stopped for the night in Ft. Collins, CO (390 miles).

The waking temperature was 38 F, rising to 58 F during the day. It is a bit chilly compared to our 90 F El Pasoan weather.

The first few hours were a straight drive with the Rockies one side and flat fields for grazing cattle on the other.  We stopped at a rest area to run around a bit and saw Capulin Volcano in the distance. As we entered Colorado, the terrain changed a bit. The roads were curvy, climbing up and down in altitude with big green trees painting the hills and mountains. Beautiful landscaping framed major cities of  Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Denver.

Our toddlers were great little travelers as they enjoyed counting cows, eating snacks in the car (a very special event) and watching VeggieTales. We are thankful to the Lord for another day of safe travels.

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day 1: trek to ak

It was an emotional week of many farewells, long days with the moving company and lots of cleaning.  Late last night, we loaded up our car and waved goodbye. Many tears were shed as we began to miss all the amazing friends we’ve made during our 28 month stay in this special border town.

Today, we officially began our journey to our new home. We left El Paso, Texas and drove to Las Vegas, New Mexico (311 miles).  After an hour on the road, a little voice asked, “Daddy, how many more minutes until we are in Alaska?” I think it may be a long trip, full of wonderful memories. We look forward to what the Lord has in store for us as we head northbound.

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