A Travellerspoint blog

2017 Happy Trails - Week 03

British Columbia into Alberta and Icefields Parkway thru Banff National Forest and Jasper National Forest

Map of Week 03 Travels:

Sunday, June 4th

Drove 150 miles.

Route: North on US 93 to Roosville Port of Entry border crossing station; then north on Canada Hwy 93 to Fort Steele, British Columbia

Campground: Fort Steele Resort and RV Park $42.00 Canadian

Hooked up and ready to say goodbye to the US as we begin our trek north.

We left Whitefish, MT this morning at 10am and shortly after beginning our drive, we passed a herd of deer right by the side of the two lane highway. Luckily they didn’t leap out in front of us as we drove by at 65 mph! Shortly after it began raining so not many pictures to speak of.

We crossed the border at 11:25am. It took less than 5 minutes to get through the normal border process but another 15 minutes to declare the firearm. They never even asked about the dogs or the booze.
Canadian Border Crossing at Roosville, BC

We arrived at the Fort Steele Resort and RV Park and were elated to find it was a beautiful campground with large, full hookup sites and a million dollar view of the Canadian Rockies. Unfortunately clouds were obscuring the mountain tops and shortly after arriving the rain set in.

Official Campground Greeter – a Prairie Dog!

Deer on the hill behind our site; there are also horses and donkeys in the corral at the bottom of the hill.
Sunshine was mesmerized by the Prairie Dogs.

We drove into the nearby city of Cranbrook, BC for a late lunch (which became even later as we got lost in town.)

Monday, June 5th

Drove 75 miles.

Route: Scenic drive north on Hwy 93 through Kootenay Valley along the Kootenay River

Campground: Fort Steele Resort and RV Park $42.00

We woke up to a clear, beautiful morning with gorgeous views of the Canadian Rockies from our campsite.

View from our campsite.

Our “Big Box of Things That Break” nestled in the trees.

Prairie Dogs

Sunshine on the hunt!

Emu near the campground.

Here’s looking at you, Emu!

Emu eating grain seed heads.

Clear sunny day but clouds still covering snowy peaks.

Panorama shot of view from our campground site.

Later in the morning the clouds cleared the mountains. What a view! Wow!

We saw some spectacular views both of the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Purcell Mountains to the west as we drove north thru the Kootenay Valley. The Kootenay River itself was pretty impressive also. It is a very, very swift river full of silt; dangerous looking, not something you would try to wade into!


Bridge over Kootenay River with Canadian Rockies in the background.

Kootenay River

Early evening view from our “BBOTTB” when we returned from our drive.

Tuesday, June 6th

Drove 103 miles.

Route: Hwy 93 north from Fort Steele, BC to Radium Hot Springs, BC.

Campground: Canyon RV Resort on Sinclair Creek $48.83

Before leaving Fort Steele, BC for what was going to be a short day of driving north to Radium Hot Springs, BC, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and tour the Fort Steele Heritage Town where the Fort Steele Mounted Police barracks and the restored town are located.

The origin of Fort Steele is closely linked to the discovery of gold in nearby Wild Horse Creek (a tributary to the Kootenay River) in the 1860’s. The gold rush peaked in 1865 when over 5000 prospectors combed the hills. As time passed disputes over land rights between the local Ktunaxa First Nation population and the newcomers would arise. The North West Mounted Police were sent in to resolve the problems. They established the first post west of the Rockies, the Kootenay Post, later to be renamed Fort Steele in honor of Mounted Police Superintendent Samuel B. Steele.

Kootenay Post

There are 61 structures in the Heritage Town but the first thing to catch our eyes when we entered the park were these beautiful black Clydesdale horses used for carriage rides through the town and around the countryside.

At Fort Steele Heritage Town the pets have their own entrance. LOL

People entrance.

An interesting Nubian Burro – a breed of Burro that has a cross on its back.

Tim observing work hands hitching up Clydesdales

Clydesdales’ pristine Stables

View of the Kootenay River which borders Fort Steele Heritage Town on two sides.

Tours are given by guides dressed up in period attire and the commentary is done as if they were reporting on 1890’s current events.

Along with dozens of restored and original buildings, the town site also has many machines of the period on display.

This Michigan Logging Wheel was invented by Silas C. Overpack in 1870. It enabled a single team of horses to carry logs up to 100 feet long across this difficult terrain.

There was also a demonstration of gold panning with an original Assayers Office building.

There were at least three restored churches.

There was the original bakery building with a story illuminating its significance; beside it was the bakery building restored, which is where we ate lunch – Farmer Sausages and Cinnamon Buns washed down with Fort Steele Mountain Ale, made to the original recipe. Yummy!

There were 5 streets, lined with original as well as restored structures. This original 1912 Willicome House was but one.

This house was furnished with period antiques.
Singer Sewing Machine – We have an identical Singer stand repurposed into a washstand in our guest bathroom at home in Florida!

Other photos taken along the tour:

A huge Water Wheel

Water Tower


The Fort Steele Heritage Site also is home to an interesting Ice Museum. Here we see iron fossil replicas of Mastodon and Wooly Mammoth.

This is the actual size of beavers as shown by fossils from the Ice Age. Huuuge!

One display showed many fossil plants, insects, mollusks, fish, frogs, birds, and 12 species of mammals found on Ellesmere Island in the Strathcona Fiord, today just a treeless, frozen wasteland, but 4 million years ago the Artic climate was much milder with a boreal forest ecosystem similar to that found in Labrador today. So much for man induced global warming, eh?

Along the scenic drive up Hwy 93 from Fort Steele to our destination of Radium Hot Springs, BC we came to the spring fed Columbia Lake, which is the source of the Columbia River, the 4th largest river system by volume in the continent!

The Columbia River Wetlands designated a Protected Wildlife Management Area by the government in 1996 are to the north of the lake. They stretch 180 km from Canal Flats to Donald, BC, and are the longest, continuous, developed wetlands in North America.

The views were just spectacular!


The Canyon RV Resort on Sinclair Creek was our destination and it turned out to be a “resort” in reality! This is the first campground so far in our travels this summer where I could actually sit outside in my rocking chair and have a cup of tea! It was quite beautiful and Sprocket especially enjoyed having the soft grass for his walks. (Of course he insisted that I carry him across the stony road. LOL) Sunshine was equally impressed as the hill that was immediately behind our site was home to many Prairie Dogs.

Sinclair Creek winds through the campground; there are little wooden bridges that you have to drive the RV over - scary.

Once we set up camp, we backtracked a few km to the town of Invermere, BC where we located a CIBC (Canadian bank) to pick up our Canadian National Parks Pass which allows free entry into all Canadian National Parks. The pass is free this year in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. Something like our 4th of July Independence Day, but not. LOL

Rusty the Moose, made from old rusty engine parts, saws, horseshoes, whatever!

While in town we bought some local beer and wine at a liquor store (quite an experience – ask Tim) and then had a latte at The Blue Dog Coffee Café.
Caesar mix as opposed to Bloody Mary mix; I guess it has something to do with insulting the Queen. And I had to buy this Rigamarole wine because the label was so funny. “Why is it always such a RIGAMAROLE to simply find a great drinking RED? The puzzling complexity of terroir, oak ageing, vintages, and those ridiculous descriptors is just too much. Save that mental energy for WORKING OUT THE DANCE ROUTINE OF THE BLACK RHINO…”

We stopped in a Canadian Fresh Express grocery store which in itself was an interesting experience – all different brands than what we’re used to and everything, and I mean everything down to the tiniest item is labeled in both English and French. This is true of all their road signs as well. It can be very confusing as you drive along trying to find your way – too many words to read!

Another sideline – when we went to fill up the truck with diesel before departing, the attendant kept getting a “declined” message for our credit card. Tim contacted VISA and they said they didn’t show any declined messages but they suggested we get a “vacation” note on our account since we would be travelling out of the country and to Alaska. We didn’t have enough Canadian cash to pay that way so the attendant was forced to call in his boss to see what could be done to remedy our situation. It turns out that it wasn’t our card that was being denied but that the ESSO Gas Station company internet was down and could only process Canadian cards, not US cards (which require a conversion from Canadian dollars to US dollars). So the workaround was to use the ATM machine in the gas station, get enough Canadian cash out of it to then pay in cash. I had an ice cream cone while this was going on but I didn’t get to enjoy it much. The steam coming out of Tim’s ears melted it.

Wednesday, June 7th

Drove 105 miles.

Route: Hwy 93 through a narrow tunnel and the rocky cliff lined Sinclair Pass at 1486 m and then along Vermillion Crossing and thru the Vermillion Pass at 1650 m in Kootenay National Park.

Campground: Tunnel Mountain Village 1 $42.95

This route along Hwy 93 through the Kootenay National Park encompasses a huge valley on either side of the Kootenay River.
Kootenay River

The entire Hwy 93 thru Vermillion Crossing was lined with 6 to 8 foot high fencing. Along the way there were many places with tunnels under the highway for wildlife crossings.

Vermillion Pass took us across the Continental Divide and out of British Columbia into Alberta, Wild Rose Country and the Banff National Forest.
Along the way at 12:05 pm we had our first bear sighting! We passed a huge black, Black Bear eating dandelions along the side of the highway. Nowhere to pull over for pictures unfortunately so you’ll have to take my word for it.

In Banff Hwy 93 combines with the Trans Canadian Highway which we took to the east with our destination being the Tunnel Mountain Village 1 Campground in Banff, AL. Our route guidance system in the truck, which I affectionately call “Blathering Betty”, took us through downtown Banff to get to the campground! It was not pleasant and of course after arriving we learned that had we gone just one more exit on the Trans Canadian Highway we would have been able to drive almost immediately into the campground. Live and learn.

After registering and stopping to fill the water tank (this is our first night of “dry camping” in the BBOTTB, i.e., no hookups,) we went to the site and set up.

Campsite at Tunnel Mountain Village 1 and the view from our campsite of the huge mountains surrounding us.

Around 2:00 pm we were sitting outside having lunch when first a Red Fox and then a big mama Elk trotted by. Of course my camera was still in the truck. They both came to within 50 feet of us. But a bit later another elk walked by!
mama Elk

I love this site. It is on the back edge of the entire campground with just forest behind us and the sites are at least 100 feet apart so there is no one close, just critters and trees.

Later we drove back into Banff to the Visitors Center to get maps of the National Forests. While in town we stopped at the rooftop Rose and Crown Pub for a beer and appetizers. The weather was great and the scenery was gorgeous.

Mountains surround Banff, as seen from the rooftop of the Rose and Crown Pub.

Back at the campground Tim built a nice fire (firewood is free in honor of the Confederation anniversary) and we roasted hot dogs over the open fire for a real camping experience.

An elk calf came close by the campsite, watched us for a while, and then kneeled down in the grass for a nap. So cute.
Elk Calf

Calf kneeling down to take a nap

Later mama showed up again. We think it was the same one because of the collar. Do they all wear collars? Maybe it’s an Elk fashion thing here in Canada.

You can tell an Elk from a Deer not only by its size but also by its distinctive rump.

Thursday, June 8th

Drove 179 miles.

Route: Scenic drive north on the Bow Valley Road to the Trans Canadian Highway west, and back again.

Campground: Tunnel Mountain Village 1 $42.95

Today our scenic drive (without the trailer) began with us driving north on Hwy 1A, the Bow Valley Road in search of critters. We were skunked! No critters to be found. It was very pretty though and we were able to pull over a few times for pictures. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating; it was a dreary day.

Castle Mountain

Storm Mountain

Bow River – Back in 2012 when we came up to Alberta to the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, we camped alongside the Bow River.

Panorama shot of the Bow River

RR as well as the highway follow the path of the river.

Day was becoming increasingly overcast.

At the end of the Bow Valley Road we turned onto the Trans Canadian Highway west across the Continental Divide via the Kicking Horse Pass into Yoho National Park.

One of the interesting sights along the way were the railway Spiral Tunnels.

There is an upper spiral tunnel and a lower spiral tunnel. It is an engineering marvel whereby the grade is accomplished by tunneling into the mountainside and making a huge circle underground that runs back over itself before exiting the mountainside! Before this arrangement in the route, there was a 4.5% grade that the steam locomotives would inch their way up and the descent trip was a nightmare with wrecks and runaway trains common.
Spiral Tunnels

After stretching our legs a bit we proceeded on to the next stop on our agenda, the Kicking Horse River Natural Bridge. The power of the water flowing under the natural bridge was astounding.

Kicking Horse River Natural Bridge

Kicking Horse River Valley

Emerald Lake was our next destination. The site is similar to Lake Louise (which we visited in 2012, so were skipping it this trip) with beautiful turquoise water from a melting glacier, just not as big as Lake Louise and not surrounded by the same breathtaking views of the mountains.




We had packed a picnic lunch before our departure this morning and the plan was to hike a little ways to a picnic area here at Emerald Lake. No longer had we set the cooler down on a picnic table than it began to pour! The dogs ran under the table but there was no helping Tim and me. Luckily we both were wearing raincoats with hoods so we weren’t any worse for the experience, just cold and wet.

We finished lunch in the truck and then drove on along the Trans Canadian Highway west to our ultimate destination for the day trip – the Wapta Falls on the Kicking Horse River. Somehow we missed the turnoff (if there even is one when you’re heading west) and there was nowhere to turn around once we realized we had driven way too far. We were almost into Golden, BC before we were able to exit and get directions.

Note: We’ve been on the Trans Canadian Highway before in 2012 and it isn’t anything like a US Interstate. In fact, we got lost driving through Calgary for about a half a day! There are no informational road signs telling you how far to the next exit (sorte) nor what it is, and the exits are very few and far between. You just suddenly come to a sign, so and so exit 1 km. And this is on a 100 km/hour highway!

The directions for getting to Wapta Falls that I got from a worker at the rest stop were to drive east until we saw some rafts and a sign for raft trips and to turn off the highway there. So we did. The road we turned onto was an unmaintained gravel road at least a mile long, full of deep muddy potholes. The truck looked like we had been mud bogging but it was a good excuse for Tim to use the 4 wheel drive!

The Wapta Falls were not at the end of the road however; they were only to be found after a 45 minute hike down and around the mountain, so the posted sign said. Oh well. “In for a penny, in for a pound”, as the English say. So off we went.
Beginning of the trail to the Wapta Falls.

It looks like a nice easy gravel walk, right? Wrong! About 300 m in there was no more gravel, just a muddy, tree rooted trail. It was very strenuous meandering up and down the mountainside and it wasn’t too long after we started that it began to drizzle. I was wearing hiking sandals. Not the best choice as the trail was full of mud, roots and puddles. But we weren’t going to let a little trail defeat us! So we continued onward.

The trail

After 30 minutes into the hike we got our first glimpse of the Kicking Horse River through the deep forest, but still no falls.

We finally reach the Overlook

Wapta Falls

Flowers seen along the trail.

Just before we got back to the truck, we were probably within 200 m, the drizzle turned into a driving downpour. We ran the last few meters. The thermometer in the truck showed the exterior temperature had dropped to 37 degrees while we’d been on our hike!

As we drove back to the campground from our adventure, the driving rain became driving sleet and was accompanied by huge wind gusts and bolts of lightning. It was a harrowing drive but it did wash most of the mud off the truck.

Friday, June 9th

Drove 183 miles.

Route: Trans Canadian Highway north to the Icefields Parkway north to Jasper, AB.

Campground: Whistlers Campground $34.15

Before breaking camp this morning Tim had to run into town not only to gas up after yesterday’s excursion but also to visit a hardware store. During the night while the storm was howling outside the BBOTTB, we were sleeping as peacefully as is possible in the midst of a storm, when there was this loud crash. I yelled “What was that?” as we both sat straight up in bed. Assuming something had crashed down on the trailer roof, there was nothing to be done but to go back to sleep. The next morning Tim went up on the roof to see if there was damage and found that the drain vent cover was missing and all of the caulking around the vent was gone. This had nothing to do with the loud crash in the night but still needed tending. And anticipating that we were going to need to use the generator soon, Tim also needed to get a funnel for refilling it. So it was after 10:45 am before we were actually on the road.

Our plan for today was to leave the Trans Canadian Highway and Banff National Forest to drive north along the Icefields Parkway (still highway 93) in Jasper National Park. This drive is credited by National Geographic as being one of the top 10 most scenic drives in the world! We were so looking forward to it but the weather was terrible. The forecast was calling for temperatures in the 20’s and snow and we didn’t want to waste any time making our way over the mountain passes to get to our next campground.

All along the Trans Canadian Highway the government has installed wildlife overpasses for the migrating critters.

We reached the Icefields Parkway at 11:45 am. Shortly after getting on the parkway we came to a snow avalanche – one with trees brought down with the snow on both sides of the highway.

And then there on the side of the road we spotted a black bear. This time we were able to pull to the side of the road and take a picture but he was so busy eating dandelions, he wouldn’t even look up for a photo.
Black Bear

We passed beautiful azure colored Bow Lake and Bow Glacier and noticed the lake was just beginning to thaw. As we drove over Bow Summit, altitude 6809 feet, the weather took a turn for the worse with the temperature dropping to 42 degrees as we drove into the clouds and drizzle.
The next gorgeous vista was at Parker Ridge but it was now a full downpour so no more pictures were to be had.

We stopped to view the Athabasca Glacier at the turnoff for the Columbia Ice Fields and took time to eat lunch at the Chalet restaurant with a beautiful view looking out over the glacier.

Athabasca Glacier

People up on the glacier.

It was getting colder by the moment and still raining so we decided we would just proceed to our campground and on a better viewing day, return for pictures and a tour of the Ice Fields.

We did spot a Bull Elk off to the side of the parkway as we drove down from the Columbia Ice Fields summit. It was still in velvet.
Bull Elk

We checked into the Whistlers Campground just south of the town of Jasper, AB. They warned us to be careful because there had been a lot of bear sightings. We were happy it stopped raining long enough to get set up because it was a difficult site to back into. We are “dry camping” here the same as we were at the Village, so there isn’t as much to connect. The site itself is not as spacious as the one at Tunnel Mountain Village 1, it doesn’t have a fire pit, nor does it have heated restrooms. So I’m a little disappointed. No pictures of the campsite until the rain stops.

Saturday, June 10th

Drove 24 miles.

Route: Into and around the town of Jasper and back.

Campground: Whistlers Campground $34.15

Today was a lost day. It was freezing cold (27 degrees when we got up this morning) and freezing rain all night long and all day until late afternoon. I kept busy sorting through the many photos of the past week and Tim had a puzzle to solve.

Yes, the BBOTTB is giving him another challenge! This one is quite serious though. Last evening before we went to bed the battery alarm went off. That means that the battery is dangerously low on power. The gas heater fan draws a lot of current but still, both batteries should have been fully charged by the drive up here from Banff. Hmmm. So Tim had to go out in the cold, freezing rain and switch over to a second battery. Then around 4:30 am the alarm for the second battery went off! It was in the low 20’s outside so this is not a good thing that’s happening. Now we have no heat. We’re cold! And campground rules are that you cannot run a generator except between 8:00 am to 9:30 am and 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

Tim worked on the problem all day today without success. He found a blown fuse in the truck in the circuitry that runs power from the truck to the BBOTTB’s batteries and thought that must be the problem. He made a trip to the hardware store in Jasper where he purchased another fuse but after installing it in the truck and checking the voltage at the trailer batteries while the truck was running, there was still no charge.

Then he thought maybe it was a problem with the batteries so one by one he disconnected them and drove into town to have them checked. They both checked out fine. So that’s not the problem.

He’s been doing a lot of online research (thank goodness for Google) but can’t find any information on the connection between the “black wire” bringing 12 volt DC into the trailer, to the batteries where the energy is stored for use when we’re dry camping.

It is looking more and more like the “black” charging wire from the truck was never hooked up to anything; it just disappears into the trailer! Tim cannot find anywhere that it is actually connected to anything. The rest of the wires that come in from the truck that cause the tail lights, brake lights, turn signals, etc. to work all run to the rear of the trailer and those all work. But where the “black wire” goes is a complete mystery.

Meanwhile, Judy is very cold…

Posted by JudyandTim2015 19:40

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