Monthly Archives: September 2009

Come home to a hot shower and a cold beer . . .

28 Sep Monday
Six and seven years ago we were backpacking every opportunity we had, doing 30-35 mile sections of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia or North Carolina, and hiking into state parks throughout North Carolina. We were going out two weeks plus odd weekends each year. We would drive three or four hours to a motel, meet a trail shuttle the next morning and leave our car at the trail terminus. The shuttle driver would drop us off thirty or so miles distant and we hike back to our car.

We aren’t fast hikers, despite being very fast walkers. A thirty pound backpack and up/down trails tend to slow us down a lot. So we have a lot of time to dream and talk when backpacking. March 2004 we were bopping down the trail, having a great day, when one of us starts theorizing aloud about another way to stage our backpacking trips. Just idle talk, sort of, about how far we’ll drive to get home after a three or four day hike back to the car.

Our reason for buying our first (of three) Airstreams was, we rationalized, “If we had a camper we could extend our range. A mobile base would allow us, once we retire, to avoid motel fees and we could work any number of new trails from an entirely new section of the country.” And, Jim said, we would return from hiking to a hot shower and a cold beer.

For Jim, the cold beer and hot shower might have been the top selling points. We would hike 30 miles over four or five days and return, elated, to our car at a trail head. We would change into dry (and much fresher) clothes, dig our snack bag from the car’s trunk, and head for home. An hour or three later of driving we would arrive home, grab a cold beer, unpack the car, spread out the gear, start the washing machine, and finally get a hot shower.

The difference with having an RV is in our supposed ability to park the RV in a campground or RV Park close to the trail head. Then, getting “home” to the cold beer and hot shower would be much, much sooner. Oh man, backpacking will be so great if we buy an RV. Let’s do it!

Fast Forward five and one-half years:
We drove from Bay View State Park, near Mt Vernon, to Colonial Creek Cmpgrd in North Cascades National Park. After visiting the dams at Diablo Lake and Gorge Creek, we drove to Newhalem to the Cascades NP Visitors Center. Almost as one, we looked at each other and said, “Let’s get a backcountry permit and do an overnighter.” It made perfect sense, the trail head is 100 yards from our camp site, the truck and trailer seem pretty safe here, and we have all our gear.

The same afternoon Boy Scouts arrived in our campground, two troops full. Campground is now noisy and busy. Welcome to the weekend. Let’s get outta here. We spent the first part of the afternoon digging our gear out of the various storage places in the truck and the trailer’s cargo compartments. The remainder of the afternoon we packed, picked our hiking clothes, and had a nice home-cooked meal.

We hiked from the campground Saturday morning, hiking four hours to McAllister cmpgrd. The trail followed Thunder Creek East-Southeast but changed elevation a lot more than the creek did. We were along the creek for the first fifteen minutes and well above it for all but the last five minutes of the hike.

Old growth cedar and fir trees are magnificent

Old growth cedar and fir trees are magnificent

The size and number of huge ponderosa pines, western red cedars, hemlocks, and Douglas Firs is just astounding. One after another, maybe 150 feet tall, arrow straight most of them, and the bases over six feet diameter. This is so neat, to stand at the bases of these trees and stare upward at the crowns so high above us.

We saw a wild variety of mushrooms — purple, brown on brown, pink, black, red, yellow, white. Some of the purple, with curly lobes, looked like tiny cabbages, others yellow and looked like little coral with their many tiny fingers. Huge flat-topped round ones pushed out of the packed trail dirt, lifting a three inch diameter crown of earth still on top of them, like Atlas holding the earth on his shoulders.

And everywhere, moss covering the ground, the rocks, the fallen trees, extending in all directions up the hill from the trail. This place is wet! The trail is carpeted with fine little evergreen needles and very well maintained. You’d never guess this trail was opened by the prospectors in the 1800s, or improved in the early 1900s by mining developers. It is a simple, clean, narrow trail, very nicely built and while not challenging it is great exercise going up and down the short grades.

McAllister Camp is along Thunder Creek, with a couple of sites fifty or sixty feet above the creek. We chose an upper site. From our campfire ring area we had a gorgeous view of Thunder Creek thundering down toward camp, then around and past.

We had a nice campfire ring, and a mossy bed for tent floor, and Jim hung our food between a couple of trees in his best bear bag job ever. It took a few throws with rope tied around a baseball-size rock, but he had the food bag twenty feet above ground suspended between, and twenty feet from either, tree. But they say New York bears are untying the food bag suspension ropes. So we used a different color rope :-)

Nice campfire at McAllister Camp

Nice campfire at McAllister Camp

Sunday morning we started our campfire from the last night’s fire’s banked coals to warm us a little — it was 41 degrees F when we climbed out of our sleeping bags. After a nice breakfast we broke camp, hiked to Colonial Crk Cmpgrd; made much better time. Apparently we just hiked faster because the trail was net downhill back to Colonial Crk and we didn’t gawk at mushrooms and trees as much. And we were packs off only once, compared to three times on the way in.

Okay, we’re back home without a long drive ahead. Cool. What’s the first thing we need to do? A cold beer for Jim, you betcha! We unpacked, dried and stowed gear, and Jim built a nice campfire with “store-bought” firewood from Newhalem. This was a really hot fire, relaxing to sit outside in the now-quiet cmpgrd (the weekend is over, all the Scouts departed, all the working folks have returned to their jobs), poke at the fire and enjoy talking about the trip. “Hey, this was great, let’s do it again.”

And now for the hot shower — ahhhhhh. A great plan comes together, more than five years after its conception.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

We found our permanent home!

22 Tuesday —
Yes, dear friends, Jim and Deb have found the perfect house, and it isn’t our Airstream. We have studied on this since we stumbled onto it on the web in May of this year. Clayton Homes has a very nice website on which we have spent a lot of time poring over this. We extensively played on-line with the options, comparing the different layouts and pondering, to Flex or not to Flex. And now we have a chance to see a built model.

The Tim Horton’s Restaurants TransCanada Tour completed, we were plotting our course south from Vancouver, B.C. It’s high time we returned to the States. We’ve been in Canada for what seems like all summer, although less than two months. And what if, while we were away, President Obama succeeded in enacting universal health care for us but we didn’t return in time to meet the registration requirements? Should we cross the border then head sharply east through the Cascades, or head down through Seattle then east toward our next destination near Boise?

Then Debbie said, “Isn’t one of the Clayton Company facilities in Seattle? Let’s find out if we can tour and look at this thing.” We arranged an appointment to tour the home the next week. The home is in Everett, Wa, and we found an attractive Washington State Park near Mt. Vernon, Wa. Jim’s goal was to keep us well north of Seattle. This is made simpler because there aren’t any state or national park campgrounds near Seattle. The commercial RV park we tried two years ago, Issiquah RV Park, might as well be situated in the median of I-5 for the highway proximity and traffic noise. Let’s stay in Bay View State Park and drive in one day to Everett for this tour.

We drove an hour to Everett to see the Clayton I-house at Heritage Homes. The model we found is, according to sales rep Vic, the second ever built. They cannily have this looker sited on the lot front — Vic told us, “Yes, we’re getting an amazing number of visits because of it. Two busloads of DOE people dropped in the other day and toured through it.” This is not a mobile home, although it is mobilized to deliver from a factory to your site. The difference? A mobile home is lighter weight, and simply more portable. This modular home is wider, at sixteen feet, and much heavier at 67,000 pounds. And it seems, although factory built, just as sturdy and solid as a stick-built — maybe even more so.

Jim built modular homes in the 70’s in Asheville, NC with a local homebuilder, David Tenpenny. Tenpenny’s company prepared a masonry foundation and traditional subfloor system, typical of any modern sticks and bricks house. The crane and truck would deliver and place factory-fabricated wall sections in the proper place on the floor. The Tenpenny work crew plumbed and squared the sections and nailed them quickly, watching for another section lifted by the crane. One day’s work would see a 1,800 sf house framed completely with all exterior and interior walls and roof trusses placed.

The factory-built wall sections were as well-built, or better, than field-built wall sections. Some of the modular manufacturers included extras like notching or boring the wall studs for electrical wiring to speed (and reduce cost of) the field work. The delivered wall sections arrived with sheathing and siding installed, minus the lacing-in pieces to be applied in the field. Tenpenny Company arranged electrical and plumbing rough-in, insulation, then sheetrock and all finish work. The finished result was just as solid as any stick-built house but raised and dried-in in weeks instead of months.

Okay, back to the I-house. This modular house is completely assembled and finished in the factory. It differs from the modular houses we built in the 70’s because it is built to be transported (once) on the road. The I-house isn’t just a “Wide Load”. This is apparently called a “Super Load” in the DOT permitting jargon, because it is sixteen feet wide and sixty-seven feet long. The model we viewed was built in eastern Oregon and had a rough journey to Everett. The trailer under the modular home suffered a broken axle and three flat tires in Yakima, Wa. They stopped and fixed the axle and tires although they had ten more axles and nineteen more tires still good on the ground.

What about the model we saw? We didn’t take pictures because it is staged identically to brochures. All the rooms, wherever you view an I-house model, are supposedly staged almost exactly as the on-line pictures and the print brochures. Clayton Co decided it knew how to market these homes and wanted the “just right” appearance matched in the models everywhere. No problem for us, the uniformity kept the touring surprise-free. The house and the Flex were everything we expected, which is a nice surprise.

We entered the living room through a french door flanked by two fixed french doors, all Andersen with Low-E double pane glass. The bamboo flooring is very attractive. We found simple and nicely arranged IKEA furniture consisting of a comfortable dark brown leather sofa, a coffee table, a not-so-comfortable orange reading chair, and a twelve feet long entertainment center. The living room, dining room and kitchen are open plan and so create one attractive room of almost fifteen feet by thirty feet. Clerestory windows are in the wall above the entertainment center. The opposite wall has two large double Andersen Low-E windows facing the living room.

Upscale IKEA casework and Energy-Star stainless steel GE appliances create an attractive and very functional kitchen. The kitchen has a lot of natural light from a large Andersen Low-E casement window facing into the kitchen and two small windows along the kitchen counter. The wall cabinets have translucent glass panels and might be really cool with a little LED lighting behind. An island sports a large counter, the double bowl sink and a lot of storage below. A huge pantry flanks the refrigerator, opposite the sink island.

A hall connects from the great room, past the bathroom, guest bedroom, and two hall closets to the master bedroom. The hall has natural lighting from three clerestory windows and another two clerestory windows are in the alcove entering the master bedroom. WOW! Great natural light. All the windows plus the french doors on the ends admit a lot of light. A good idea would be to visit this house on a really dark day to see how it feels in articial lighting.

The bathroom much larger than we thought it would be and has water-saving fixtures including a dual flush toilet. One of the hall closets conceals a Rheem tankless water heater, capable of two gallons per minute at a temperature rise of 90 degrees (F). This is plenty of hot water since supply water temperature is around 58 degrees. You would use the 148 degree water (58 + 90=148) mixed with some cold water so 2gpm of hot water is plenty. The roof is heavy duty steel, insulated from the house with R-30 to R-40 insulation (depending upon your locale). The entire roof area is designed to collect rainwater to the two outboard roof leaders for storage and later use on the garden or washing.

The walls are framed with 2X6 studs and the floors with 2X10 floor joists. The owner provides a continuous foundation for this pre-assembled modular home. We want either a crawl space or a garage under the I-house, depending upon the lot. If we extend the garage foundation by the lengths of the two decks (12’X16′ at each end of the house) we can put a long garage underneath. The garage could be a very cool feature — consider an eighty feet long by sixteen feet wide enclosed space under the house. This is long enough to provide pull-through parking for the Airstream and attached truck, with room left for parking our Honda Civic at an end. If we don’t have a sloped lot to provide daylight basement for the garage entrances then we build an interesting garage above-ground somewhere.

I-house also can have a “Flex” addition. The Flex is a 16′ X 16′ room with a partition hiding the lavatory and door to the toilet and tub. The Flex was the most cozy portion — is it because we are used to our little “flex” home? Perhaps, and Jim changed his mind about whether he wanted I-house only or both I-house and Flex. He liked the Flex so much. It adds a guest efficiency/bedroom, a second story deck, a “ham shack” for our radios, maybe an office. You access the second story deck via outdoor steps, and 15′ X 15′ deck is a great space. Overall, the I-house and Flex seem very chic, well-built, solid, comfortable, affordable, and ecologically sound.

An internet search turns up a lot of articles for the I-house. Many (most?) seem to be from the manufacturer’s press releases early 2009. Some of these articles have blog comments following. The comments vary widely between favorable impressions and sharply negative criticisms. The more we re-read the literature, the more our positive impressions are solidified. The wildy critical posts we read about the I-house seem so far off-base it is clear the writers did not see the house first-hand and also apparently did not read the available literature.

We stayed at Heritage Homes almost four hours, including a very quick look at several Marlette homes on the lot. Vic, the sales representative, is very knowledgeable about the I-House and hopeful to start generating sales on these neat homes. We hope so too. We want them, or a good successor, to be available when we’re ready. Big question remains, where? And, when? The Clayton I-house really looks like a sweet answer for future permanent residence for us, whenever that is.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

Farewell, O Canada

Our longest time out of the States draws to a close. We finished this visit with Eleanor (well, and with her mommy and daddy) this evening and tomorrow morning head for Mt Vernon, Wa. We entered Canada from northwest Minnesota (bound for Winnipeg) six weeks ago. Our Canada exploration and discoveries have been interesting and fun.

Did you know Canada is larger than the States? Not in population (only 33 million), certainly not in GDP (hey, gdp isn’t as important anymore, just ask Sarkozy) but in land area Canada is second only to Russia, and a little larger than the States. So we have barely scratched the surface, visiting only four of the thirteen provinces and territories (we need to stop sometime and count the states we’ve visited). We hope we can have many more exploration opportunities in Canada.

The most interesting part for Jim has been tracing the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) from its crossing of the Red River to its Pacific terminus in what the CPR General Manager in 1886 decided should be called Vancouver, named after the early European discoverer. Along the way Jim greatly enjoyed reading a book about CPR by Pierre Berton called The Last Spike. The CPR created a backbone for Canada’s western expansion and was instrumental in a variety of interesting social, political, and business developments.

Debbie’s favorite parts have been the Rockies, the gorgeous scenery and the time with Eleanor & Kelsey & Stephen. We’ve had Eleanor full-time this weekend and she has been a joy. She gets us to spend more time at playgrounds and parks than we would otherwise, and we play camping too.

We’ve both enjoyed looking for wifi at Tim Horton’s Restaurants across Canada. There is one more we’ll try before we quit Canada, the one in Aldergrove just above the border crossing at Lynden, Wa. The search may be fruitless but it is a lot of fun. We’d collect photos of our Tim Horton’s Restaurant visits but they all look almost identical. And the pastries and coffee are equally good at all of them.

We’ll stay a couple of nights in Mt Vernon then eastward to cross the Cascades and south to Coeur d’Alene and Boise. We’ll stay near Boise a week then attend the Sun Valley Jazz Festival before we head for Mesa, AZ for November. We’re looking fwd to Thanksgiving with Jim’s brother in Scottsdale before we turn east for the cross-country cruise to Charlotte for Christmas.

Check out our website if you haven’t recently — and check back here, we’re soon going to feature a recent analysis we did of another RV, a self-contained and self-powered class-C with four beds and more storage.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

Making the grade

Cayoosh Creek is far below

Cayoosh Creek is far below

On how steep a grade do you tow your trailer? We found our new high last week. Last week’s drive was one of the most beautiful and certainly the most harrowing we’ve experienced. Almost the entire distance from Kamloops to Pemberton the views were just absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Half the distance had excellent roads. The other half were the worst paved roads we’ve ever traveled, bar none.

Our route from Kamloops was Highway #1 to Cache Creek, then a short stretch north on #97 north to pick up #99 south toward Whistler. The bulk of #99 was narrow and without shoulder, and in countless places suddenly the road surface would be like a twenty feet long pothole, causing the truck and trailer to pitch up and down wretchedly. We were sure all the hangers would be off the closet rods and one or more roof lockers might be lying on the floor. But no damage whatsoever!

Highway #99 (if we should call this stretch highway) has at least a half-dozen one lane bridges over Cayoosh Creek, Gott Creek, and others. A few of these we found with new bridges under construction. We stopped for fifteen or twenty minutes while the flagmen decide whether northbound or southbound will have the route next.

The most challenging aspect of the drive was the steep grades. Our trip mapping program (by Trailer Life) highlights every section which has more than a 6 percent grade. Steeper than this can be a little challenging for some tow vehicles or motorhomes, you probably know. And how about ten percent, eleven percent, and fifteen percent? Yeah, really 15% grades. We didn’t know highways have these — or how we would manage. It was fine towing downhill in second and first gear, the engine provided almost all the braking we needed.

Amazing how CPR carved a railroad through

Amazing how CPR carved a railroad through

A couple of places we stopped for the view, it was just too great. Tremendously steep deep gorges, and peaks rising straight up above us. We were glad for the stops too. You know, grab some more cookies out of the pantry or maybe visit the washroom in the RV. A young couple on big motorcycles stopped at this outlook while we were there. They asked if we would snap their picture. So they returned the favor for us. We played tag with them the remainder of the trip to Pemberton.

Our destination was to have been Alice Lake, near Squamish south of Whistler. We had a little less than two hours remaining when we decided we just didn’t need to go so far. We had passed ourselves several times in the switchbacks and half feared the trailer would bypass us on a couple of the grades. We pulled into Nairn Falls Provincial Park near Pemberton. It is another very nice provincial park, if a little close to the highway.

The sites are large, nicely graded, and covered with fine crushed gravel like the sites at Paul Lake. The natural growth is much thicker here because the annual precipitation is double or triple that of the Kamloops area. So the sites have a little more privacy but it hardly matters at all — the peak occupancy is past. School started for September, the long weekend is over, and even the Europeans are probably flying home by now.

We didn’t know we would have so much “fun” driving . The views and landscape were worth it, maybe. But in retrospect, maybe it would have been more enjoyable and easier on the transmission and brakes to have driven Highway #1 the entire route through Vancouver. We could have gone up to Whistler another time, and the highway from Vancouver to Whistler is perfect, thanks to hosting Winter Olympics 2010.

We made the grades up and down, thanks to great engine, transmission and brakes. Next time we see a 15% grade warning we know a little of what to expect. Oh yeah, we won’t try this in freezing weather. And we would drive this route again, but perhaps at a lower speed than the posted 60 km/hr maximum to dampen the bumps a little.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

Vancouver walking

It may not always be perfect, but Vancouver has really nice weather this week. We arrived Wednesday after another rainy driving day through Whistler. And like last year we find this a super place to visit. It takes a couple of days to get used to driving in this huge city (metro Vancouver 2006 census was 2.2 million). We drive across the city’s center every day and return late evening from Kelsey’s and Stephen’s house.

Touring Van Dusen Gardens

Touring Van Dusen Gardens

We walk a lot here. Yesterday we walked the Van Dusen Garden for hours. The day was wonderful for this and the two brides having evening weddings in the Garden were fortunate for the weather. The garden was sited 35 years ago upon the former golf course grounds of Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club, and the Golf Club moved west. The Van Dusen Garden is a delight and we all enjoyed the afternoon.

High rise residences and offices

High rise residences and offices

View of bay from Robson St

View of bay from Robson St

Today we walked from Dusnmuir Street, in front of BC Hydro headquarters over to Robson St then northwest along Robson Street almost to Stanley Park. This is such a big city, chock full of high rise residence buildings and office buildings. Here and there you can catch a glimpse of the bay, or you look up and see nothing but tall buildings reaching up to the sky.

Enjoying Capers Organic Food Fair

Enjoying Capers Organic Food Fair

We might have walked longer but encountered the Organic Food Fair at the West End Capers Store at Robson St and Nicola. Great food odors had weakened us all along Robson, as we walked past Greek, Mexican, Italian, Viet, Chinese, Japanese, and other nationalities restaurants. When we stumbled upon the Organic Food Fair we found samples of yogurts, fruit and nut bars, organic corn chips, matcha tea, and vegetables. And for one loony each (a Canadian dollar) we purchased huge ears of cooked corn. This took care of lunch and used up some of our walking time.

We hustled fifteen blocks back up the hill to our truck to find our parking meter out of time. A nice drive through Strathcona neighborhood skirted downtown and back home to Kelsey’s and Stephen’s house. Everyone settled down for quiet time to read, nap, or write a little. Debbie was first to spring alive and cooked us supper, a wonderful shrimp and grits recipe she has enjoyed cooking many years.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

Camp des loups or Tk’emlups; it’s Kamloops to us

Sep 7 2009
We departed yesterday from Canyon Springs between Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, B.C. Overcast skies, temperatures started out 9 C (48 F). A short drive to city of Revelstoke, stopped for gas and Tim Horton’s coffee and muffins. And caught an ark full of rain the entire gas stop. Boy do they ever need rain around here. Media have announced continued forest fires this side of our day’s destination, Kamloops. We hope the firefighters have the blessing of rain there too.

CPRs Last Spike

CPRs Last Spike

Next we enjoyed an impromptu stop at Craigellachie. We won’t offer a pronounciation — we’ve been offered two already. Significantly though, this is the site of the pounding of the last spike joining CPRs 2,000 mile transcontinental railway November 7, 1885. There is a monument, a view of the current version of the last spike valiantly trying to stay in the tie (you know someone must have made off with the first dozen or more), a little shop, and flush toilets.

The latter we have begun to appreciate more as the BC Provincial Parks have been lacking only in this. Although we have a flush toilet in the RV, we are in the midst of a dry camping six day run. No dumping, no taking on water. We have done up to four or maybe five days, but not six. So we’re using theirs, not ours. Do you know what will go first, fresh, rinse, or black water tanks? We’ll bring this up again in a couple of days.

Our driving weather was clear the remainder of the morning and warmed nicely to almost 18 C (64 F). We found Kamloops alongside the CPR rail line, right smack on Highway #1, and turned north then back east 20 km (12 mi) to Paul Lake Provincial Park. British Columbia did a fine job building up sites on loops terraced up the steep hillside. The roads are terraced, the sites are perched above and below the road for each loop. Each site is nearly level, well-drained, and only a little tight to back into.

near-desert Kamloops area

near-desert Kamloops area

Kamloops is an interesting place in Thompson Valley west of the Rockies. The area was long inhabited by the Secwepemc (Shuswap) Indians and invaded in the early 1800s by trappers and fur trading companies. Currently Kamloops is a transportation hub and home to several large industries including pulp, veneer, and plywood, cement, mining, and Thompson Rivers University. The University has ten thousand students and is the largest employer in Kamloops. But the area is semi-arid, and apparently receives less than .3 meters or 12 inches rainfall annually. So lots of sagebrush, cacti, and rattlesnakes, things we didn’t expect in supernatural British Columbia.

Lees-ure Lite Excel tent trailer

Lees-ure Lite Excel tent trailer

This morning, as we prepared for a day trip to Kamloops a tiny Lees-ure Lite Excel trailer pulled by a Mazda Matrix pulled in and parked just around the hill from us. Not just little, it is tiny. The total weight is 470 pounds, the tongue weight is 23 pounds. Our RV weighs almost 7,000 pounds and the tongue weight is 1,000 pounds. On the other hand, we have 180 sf, they have 38 sf.

They walked over and spoke, we learned he is an active ham in Kamloops. VE7ODS, Dave Sutherland, and Marg from Kamloops pull the little tent trailer. They drive up to Paul Lake PP to escape the heat — Paul Lake is 5 C (9 F) degrees cooler in the summer than Kamloops. We invited them to join us to chat after supper this evening, then we left for town.

The First Nations museum was closed — Labour Day holiday? — so we drove around Kamloops briefly then parked to walk about. The only things we found open were the coffee shops, drug stores, and groceries. Perfect! Our three priorities for today.

While Debbie shopped groceries, Jim caught up on email and updated our websitea little. Back to the RV, repackaging food for storage and fit into our compartments.

Dave and Marg visited a little while after dinner and entertained us with stories of how Dave came to Canada from Scotland, his call to the pulpit, their meeting each other, and traveling together with various modes of RV and tent. We enjoyed getting to know each other and will look forward to hearing from them again soon.

We played Rummikub until midnight, Debbie adding another victorious night to her scorecard against Jim. Poor Jim. But he does keep going back for another drubbing, so he deserves it.

Tomorrow morning we drive to Squamish, between Whistler and Vancouver, to Alice Lake Provincial Park. See you there!

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

Glacier NP (Canada) redux

Sep 5 2009 Saturday
Our first visit to Canada’s beautiful Glacier National Park was thwarted by Mother Nature’s tempestuous (90km/hr!) blasts two days ago. We evacuated to a private campground, Canyon Springs approximately 30km (19 mi) to the east when Parks Canada closed all three National Park campgrounds in Glacier. So we took another visit to the beleagured area, both to view the damage and to enjoy some of the fine attractions.

Old growth red cedars

Old growth red cedars

Yesterday we walked Giant Cedars Boardwalk, a short tour through an old growth rain forest. Tried to walk Hemlocks Boardwalk and Skunk Cabbage Trail. Both closed by windblown trees yesterday, but we heard they opened again this morning. This is a beautiful area with a lot to do.

windblown trees block some trails in BCs Glacier NP

windblown trees block some trails in BCs Glacier NP

Today we returned to Illecillewaet Campground to find the windblown trees still strewn about the entire campground and all loops still closed. Most of the trails are open, attesting to a great amount of effective work by Parks Canada crews. The crews started during the storm Thursday, as soon as the worst gusts passed but while the rain was still pouring down. Their emphasis apparently was to reopen the trails, and they largely succeeded. We parked and hiked above the campground.

Little remaining of Glacier House hotel

Little remaining of Glacier House hotel

The trails all start near the Glacier Hotel ruins. This hotel, according to the plaque descriptions, was one of the grandest in “the West” at the turn of the century. But CPR vastly underestimated the dangerous challenges of maintaining the 1885 rail line. The rail line was too exposed to avalanches, rockslides, and treefalls, and 62 company men lost their lives trying to reopen the blocked rail lines the first 25 winters.

A terrible tragedy occurred in 1910 as CPR’s workers were trying to clear the tracks from an avalanche. A second avalanche covered them, killing almost all the workers and crew members. CPR almost immediately started creating a new tunnel and rail line route to avoid the most dangerous sections of this passage through the Selkirk Mtns. And in 1916 CPR abandoned the 1885 rail lines, effectively isolating their own great Glacier House hotel.

The hotel struggled on for ten years without convenience of direct rail service before CPR finally closed it in 1925 and eventually, in 1929, demolished the hotel. It appears people have scavenged everything portable from the burnt ruins in the past 80 years, except the concrete piers, a couple of bathtubs and two boiler firetube sections. But it is easy to imagine this hotel in 1900 offering unequaled comfort amidst great natural beauty. And the guests had many activities to choose from.

Once part of CPRs thrust through Selkirks range

Once part of CPRs thrust through Selkirks range

CPR retained Swiss hiking and climbing guides to accompany and assist guests on the many trails and mountain climbing opportunities. Glacier House became “the” North American mountaineering destination with its many unexplored peaks and new trails. CPR capitalized on the attraction with aggressive marketing campaigns to attract guests interested in tea and croquet on the lawn or arduous peak-bagging and glacier expeditions.

1911 Stone trestles only reminder of long ago rail path

1911 Stone trestles only reminder of long ago rail path

We walked past the hotel ruins along the former rail bed of the 1885 line. This is a nicely maintained 4 km (2.5 mi) trail to the Loop Brook trestles, a set of tall and stark stone trestles with 26.5 meter (86 ft) spans between them to bridge the small gorge. Now the trestles are a reminder of the bold work CPR completed for the cross-Canada rail contract.

Recreation of old snow sheds protecting rail line

Recreation of old snow sheds protecting rail line

After our hike we drove a short distance east on #1 to the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre. Parks Canada provides a nice museum, two small theatres, a gift shop, and a backwoods trail registration desk. We gained the most information we’ve found yet on grizzlies and black bears avoidance and response manuevers for hikers and campers. And we found a very nice book on CPR’s railway development west from Winnipeg to Vancouver. We’ll talk about the book again later.

A good day of touring in Glacier NP (Canada), and now home for the night. Tomorrow we take off for Kamloops, to Paul Lake Prov Park. See you there!

Jim and Debbie
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locate us here

©2009 Dreamstreamr