Living on a boat is great, except during the stifling heat of the summer hurricane season. Every year we make new plans to inexpensively travel north while escaping the heat in the Sea of Cortez. As most of you know since we’ve visited at some point, that means a few couch surfing adventures! In an effort not to wear out our welcome with friends and family, this year we thought we had the perfect solution; house sitting! We could spend time in new places and exchange plant watering and pet minding for a roof over our heads.
As it turned out, our best laid plans to be house sitters came to an untimely end when we discovered that I was allergic to cats. Having never had allergies, I was pretty dismayed to suddenly be covered head to toe in itchy, red welts. Anyone who’s had hives knows they are no fun! Luckily we were able to make other arrangements with the home owner resulting in a shorter stay in Slave Lake, and we were able to cancel our other “sit” in Nanaimo. Oh well, it was a great plan, but as we say in cruiser land, plans are written in the sand at low tide. Next time we try house sitting we’ll do a bit more research.
We happily departed Slave Lake, which wasn’t really a spot we wanted to stay in anyway, and headed for higher ground. Next stop, Jasper National Park. We drove into the town of Jasper and walked around a bit; cute, with some interesting history, but too touristy for our taste. Our lodging that night was at the edge of town in a funky lodge with cabins and conference rooms, right on the Athabasca River. It was fitting to stroll along the milky glacier fed river channeling Siddartha’s path to enlightenment while singing Loggins and Messina’s, “Watching the River Run”, and wrapping our minds around the fact that the water in front of us was flowing north to end up where we’d started that morning, in Slave Lake! Ah, the circle of life…
The next morning we took off for our trek down the Icefield Parkway. Unfortunately the smoke blowing over the mountains from all the forest fires in the west started to get thicker the farther south we traveled. No worries, instead of focusing on the gorgeous mountain peaks hidden in the mist, we concentrated on the roaring beauty of the waterfalls and ravines. Since I was still a bit gimpy from my surgery we were going to have to keep our walks short and sweet anyway. No big hikes just yet!
Our first stop was Maligne Canyon, a very popular spot because of the many waterfalls and easy trails. After driving in circles around the parking lot for a while we finally made our way on foot down the path to bridge #1 and took our turn along with all the other tourists at the perfect viewing spots. We meandered slowly across a few more of the 6 bridges in the canyon, enjoying the incredible force of the Athabasca River being squeezed between the rock walls. Needless to say, it was gorgeous.
Our next stop was Athabasca Falls, known not so much for the height of the falls, as it is for the sheer force and volume of the water falling into the gorge. Even being there at the end of the summer when the water levels were lower provided a pretty big wow factor.
We made plenty of stops for short walks and scenic views as we drove south, and one that really stood out was a wide spot in the road looking over the Columbia Icefield. The Athabasca River and the North Saskatchewan River originate in the Columbia Icefield, as do tributary headwaters of the Columbia River. Since the icefield is atop a triple Continental Divide these waters flow ultimately north to the Arctic Ocean, east to the North Atlantic Ocean, and south and west to the Pacific Ocean. Mind boggling!
We finally wound our way down out of the mountains, driving west from Lake Louise. There was lots of smoke and it was sad to think of how much timber must have been burning. We finally arrived at our next stop in Golden, on the western slope of the Rockies. Our accommodations were pretty funny; a small cabin with plywood walls and the breakfast room had dirt floors. It was nice and quiet though, and we slept well listening to the owls in the woods.
After our sightseeing tour in Canada we soon found ourselves crossing the border back into the U.S. of A., where we’d booked our next accommodation at brother Bob’s house for a couple of days. Sitting on the porch looking out over Lake Osooyoos is not a bad deal! Plus it’s pretty funny watching all the crazies that are on the lake “surfing” on the wakes behind the motor boats. We miss Happy Dance!
From Eastern Washington, the rest of our trip was brought to us by the letter “S”. Stops in Seattle, Salem, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, and S-Pheonix, with a final landing point in San Carlos! We couch surfed all the way south, enjoying visits with family and friends and we thank each and every one of you who entertained us! It was a perfect way to end the summer, seeing so many of the people we love and miss while we’re off sailing.
Since arriving in San Carlos we’ve mostly been spending our days getting Happy Dance ready for a 5th season in the Gulf of California. The first few days were unbearably hot, but since then the weather has been lovely. We have been walking each morning at sunrise, trying to lose those summer pounds, and we’ve also found a few new adventures in the area to enjoy. We visited a dragon fruit farm, and learned more than you ever needed to know about these delicious creatures, then we went to the pearl farm nearby and learned about rainbow lipped oysters. We’re just filling our heads with more trivia! In a couple of days we’ll be storing our new wheels, and untying the dock lines as we leave San Carlos to head west over to the Baja.
So there you have it. 79 days, 7,140 miles of driving, 20 different beds (21 for Sue since she stayed in the hospital), and only 4 rib eye steaks. We may need to re-think the numbers next year!