A Travellerspoint blog

Helena to West Yellowstone

With a beautiful drive through the Madison Valley

sunny 35 °C

After breakfast, we walked outside our hotel into what is called Last Chance Gulch - 4 men from another camp began panning a small stream in 1864. As they began one of the men said, “It is our last chance.” Much to their joy on July 14, 1864 they uncovered a significant amount of gold deposits. Last Chance Gulch was born. From there, we drove a short distance to Reeder's Alley, the miner's camp that we had briefly seen on the "train" yesterday. It has been well preserved - Louis Reeder built his "Alley" in 1884 and once complete it featured thirty-two single units occupied by tenants who were mainly single, working-class men, mostly miners. The alley’s dwellings were humbly built considering the large mansions majestically elevated on their own city block a few miles away. Yet these buildings still provided better amenities than a log cabin

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It was time to head to Yellowstone. We'd been told that Hwy 287 was the best way to go, and so it was. Once we had entered the stunning Madison Valley, we had 10,000' mountains either side of us as we closely followed the Madison River all the way to Earthquake Lake. In 1959 a 7.3 earthquake caused a huge section of a mountain above the Madison River to collapse - 28 people were killed (mostly campers) and the new Quake Lake was formed

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It was a short drive from there to West Yellowstone which is actually just in Montana - Yellowstone Park starts about 3 miles away in Wyoming. We didn't have any accommodation booked and had been worried that a room might be hard to come by on this Independence Day weekend. There were hundreds of rooms available and we ended up in a Days Inn with a indoor pool.

I cannot think of a worse town that I've stayed in. I know it provides some cheaper accommodation than lodges and cabins in the park but surely it doesn't have to be this bad (we actually paid less for a cabin in Lake Village than we did for the Days Inn room)

Posted by kforge 08:48 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Waterton to Helena, Montana

The quickest entry into the USA ever

sunny 35 °C

A 7:30am start for the drive down into Montana and into Helena for an afternoon of exploring this historic town

The 30-minute drive out of Waterton to the tiny USA border crossing at Chief Mountain was spectacular. And almost as spectacular was the speed with which we went through Customs and Immigration; still no smiles but very fast, mainly because we were the only ones there. We decided to take as many backroads as possible after we left Babb and the drive to Helena was fantastic despite no little green dots on the map

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It was 97F when we arrived in Helena (the capital of Montana) and after getting a walk-up room in the very good Holiday Inn in the historic district
we collapsed for a while (after I had a swim in the hotel's pool). But only for a while as we had to catch the 5:30pm Last Chance Tour Train. The old miners area and the old tycoons' area seemed to be worth a visit but not by slogging around in 95F. We had never taken one of these "Little Trains" tours but it was great and very informative

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Where the tour stopped was the Montana Historical Society Museum where there is an excellent and large collection of CM Russell's western art - you will have seen some of his work sometime in your life!

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Posted by kforge 17:34 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Lacombe to Waterton Lakes National Park

Lake Louise doesn't even come close to this place

semi-overcast 22 °C

We had an easy, if long, drive south down Hwy 2. We drifted through hundreds of miles of high plains to Cardston where we turned west and did the final hour on Hwy 5 straight into the Park and along into Waterton Village where we were lucky enough to get one of the last rooms at the Bear Mountain Motel, just 100 meters from the lake

This is a truly magnificent park

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That evening we drove up to the Prince of Wales Hotel, perched high on a rock overlooking the lake, hoping for a nice cold beer on their patio which must have one of the great views in the world. But no, they don't let people onto the patio as it's too windy (there wasn't a breath of air about and the lounge bar was stifling). This hotel is continually badly reviewed and actually had 20 rooms available. And, there were dozens of people on their lawns, looking for somewhere to have a drink. Anybody want to buy a hotel

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Wednesday the 1st of July was Canada Day. A few flags were flying and people were having barbecues at the lakeside. The weather was very overcast so after a walk around Emerald Bay to the Bosporus on Upper Waterton Lake, we drove up and around the nearest mountain to Cameron Lake, and the sun was out. On the lakeside walk, we came across fresh bear scat

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Back at Waterton Village, I couldn't resist a couple more photos

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Posted by kforge 06:46 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Canmore to Lacombe in Alberta

Visiting a long-lost cousin

sunny 35 °C

We checked out of the excellent Econo Lodge and drove the short distance to downtown. We'd hoped to spend an hour or two walking around the attractive streets but is was already too hot for strolling about so we headed off to Lacombe in Alberta (between Calgary and Edmonton)

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The drive up through Alberta on Hwy 22 (a "backroad") completely surprised me - for some reason I'd been expecting dry prairies but the land was lush rolling farmland which reminded me of Suffolk in many places. We arrived at Ian and Ann's place in Lacombe with the temperature-gauge showing 97F. Anne is a 2nd cousin on my father's side and someone I didn't know existed until a few years ago. We've been emailing each other for a while and now we were meeting up. We all talked for hours and then retired to their cool basement to sleep

The following day Ian and Ann drove us around the Lacombe area and in the afternoon Jeni and I drove to one of the "small" lakes nearby - the lake looked like the ocean, it stretched so far. Unfortunately the weather had changed drastically and was now cool and overcast; no chance for a swim

Back at the house, we spoke again for hours and could not resolve the mystery of why these 2 sides of the family hardly ever communicated, especially not at cousin level!

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Posted by kforge 20:15 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Banff to Canmore

We like Canmore

sunny 35 °C

We started the morning at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site on Sulphur Mountain. The cave and the basin (pool within the cave) was used by the Native Canadians for thousands of years before Europeans appropriated them and turned it all into a tourist offering in the 1880s, albeit as Canada's first national park. Unfortunately it has become a pathetic mausoleum - the spring is still there but they have removed the large pool and it is now a pointless building.They did have a nice photo of Banff's main street, Banff Avenue, in 1888.

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The Vermilion Lakes were next on the agenda but really they are only for dedicated birders

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Saturday is not a good day to try and visit Lake Minnewanka (Canadians prefer "wonka"). We took the 5-km drive to the lake but there were hundreds of cars circling the parking areas, so we just came back down and headed off to Canmore, 22 kms from Banff.

Our hotel room wasn't ready, so the front-desk suggested going up to Quarry Lake for a swim. Again, there were hundreds of cars there (it was now 35C) but we easily found a parking spot on the highway and walked a few hundred meters to the lake. There were thousands of people there all enjoying the cooling water - I got up to my waist but this water was very, very cold so I sat on a rock a few meters from the shore

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In the evening we drove a little way out of town to the Iron Goat Pub and Grill. Prior to the rail industry being introduced to the mining trade, goats were domesticated for the purpose of working in the mines. Horses were considered too large and donkeys were just too stubborn. Therefore, goats were chosen for their small size and notable strength. Once the railways came along, the train locomotive began to replace the goats and instead of the usual term "Iron Horse", the miners called the train "Iron Goat"

It was actually still so hot at 8pm that we had to move into the air-conditioned bar as the sun was angled under the umbrellas

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Posted by kforge 07:02 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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