Final Days on the Road

Another RV snowbird trip, my sixth, has come to an end. And it finished on a definite high note.

When last I wrote, we’d just moved from the dispersed camping area near Valley of Fire north of Las Vegas, and that spot made fourteen and a half straight weeks of boondocking. The reason this is significant is that boondocking means water rationing, rocky campsites, monitoring battery levels, finding places to drop off garbage, and other such off-grid camping necessities. Don’t get me wrong, we all love being “out there” but the humans do miss the luxuries of home after a time, like non-military-style showers, and we usually break up the winter with short stints in RV parks or campgrounds.

Looking down into the gorge from up top. Nope. I didn’t hike those stairs.

Nevada state parks are all first come, first served, and when we reached Cathedral Gorge State Park at around eleven in the morning, the sites were all full, other than two tiny, van-sized spots we had no hope of getting into. After our second time around the loop, just to make sure, we crossed paths with the ranger coming in to do his rounds. A lucky break, as it turned out. He directed us to a large pull-through site that was one of two sites set up for disabled campers. Paved, level, garbage disposal right in camp, and showers just steps away (on a paved path) from the trailer. The peeps were pretty excited, especially when the ranger told us we could stay in the site as long as we wanted. And we did. A full week! (That’s our camp in the banner image.)

Happy campers.

I didn’t try the showers, but apparently they were well worth the one- or two-quarter cost. And the scenery and hiking were worth the nightly fee. I tend to be more of a scents than views guy, but Cathedral Gorge is a spectacular little corner of Nevada. And in addition to its cathedral-like spires and slot canyons, there are three very cool communities nearby and three more state parks, all of which we explored during our week in the area.

I’d noticed T was sometimes homesick after we left Lake Havasu, but that disappeared when we got to Cathedral Gorge. It breathed a whole new life into her and we were constantly out walking around the campground or exploring the caves and canyons. At least we were until … the WINDSTORM.

Happy travellers.

It was a windy winter in general, with at least one wind advisory in every place we stayed, and many other windy days that didn’t quite reach advisory strength. But the wind at Cathedral Gorge was on a whole new level, especially in the blowing dust category. Holy sandstorm! The canyon looks like it does because of all the sandstone cliffs, which means there’s a lot of loose sand everywhere, and it was everywhere, a bunch of it inside the trailer after two days.

See all that sand just waiting to be relocated?

But we endured and got in one more hike around Juniper Draw on our last day. Between the hill climbing at Valley of Fire dispersed and the many walks at Cathedral Gorge, I was feeling pretty fit by the end of the trip, so much so that I passed Nollind and my chariot at one point on the trail. If it hadn’t been sunny and warm, I probably wouldn’t have needed a ride at all and it’s a 5+ kilometre loop!

On your left!

We spent two nights in Cedar City getting Sid ready to store for the summer, and the temperatures at 5,800 feet were a bit of a shock to all of us. My ramp became a slide after some overnight rain! Last Fur-iday morning, we dropped Sid at a storage place north of Cedar City and were on our way, homeward bound. It was a good thing I’d gotten used to riding in the front seat because there was no room in the backseat for me. We were filled to the roof with everything that needed to travel home with us.

One final night around the fire at Cathedral Gorge SP.

After two days of driving and one night in a motel in Idaho Falls, we were across the Canada/US border and home. I didn’t leap out and zoom around as I’ve done on other arrivals home, but I was pretty excited in my old-dog way. There is truly no place like home, especially when you’ve spent some time wondering if you’re ever going to see it again, like I did when I was so ill back in December/January.

Hitting the road.

I am confused about one thing, though. How did our floors get so slippery while I was gone? Did someone polish them? But, more about that next time.

Hike ‘n’ Brew

Back in September I wrote about an alternative adventure we took, when we weren’t able to go on our planned camping trip due to truck troubles. We wandered out to the Cochrane area, took some walks, visited a brewery, and had just the best day.

Brown-Lowery Provincial Park

Well, a couple of weeks later, when we still didn’t have a truck, we went wandering again. It seemed the hike ‘n’ brew was too much fun to not be repeated. This time we visited Brown-Lowery Provincial Park southwest of Calgary. This is a day-use-only park with 12 km of trails through the forest with some views of the Rocky Mountains from up high.

The view from the top.

We hiked the trail that circumnavigated the whole park, taking a scenery and water break at the viewpoint. It was another warm day so I was pretty pleased the peeps thought to bring my water bowl along.

Brown-Lowery trail.

After the walk, we went in search of the brew part of the hike ‘n’ brew equation, driving further south to the town of Black Diamond and the Hard Knox Brewery. Much to my delight, beer and dogs go together in the minds of beer makers and, because Hard Knox doesn’t cook and serve food in their establishment, I could even go inside with T and N while they made their selections. Crazy, right?

I wonder what beer tastes like.

It was too nice a day to drink indoors so we grabbed a table in the beer garden. Did you know that beer grows in a garden? I did not. Odd thing was, there were no likely beer-producing plants in the garden that I could see, just grass for me to lie on and tables and chairs for the humans. Nollind had a beer, T had a collection of tiny beers, and I had water while I watched the other dog patrons come and go.

See what I mean? No beer plants.

In late October, one chilly day, when T wanted to visit a NE Calgary store to get me some new food (I do love her), the peeps decided to turn it into a hike ‘n’ brew of a different sort. Up until then, brew had meant beer, but that was on the warm days. This time brew meant a hot beverage, tea for T and coffee for Nollind. And, OH MY GOD, did you know that Timbits come in a box?! A whole box full. I had to share with the peeps, but wowzers, what a discovery.

A box of 10?!

Coffee and tea in hand and Timbits in bellies, we hit the trail at Nose Creek Park, walking the whole 6-km loop. Admittedly, city parks are not quite like mountain trails for making discoveries, but for a dog who follows his nose, there is plenty to experience everywhere.

Discovering the scents of Brown-Lowery.

This past Wednesday, T decided it was time to squeeze in another hike ‘n’ brew before the conditions turned more wintry so we set out for Bragg Creek west of Calgary. Did I say before the conditions turned wintry? Right. Thought so. Well, nobody told Bragg Creek.

We started off at Bragg Creek Provincial Park, a new spot for us, but there was too much snow in this dense forested area. Next stop was West Bragg Creek where the trails are pretty familiar from skiing and horseback trips. The peeps were pretty sure there’d be bare ground on some of the more open trails of that area.

Me showing off my hunter jumper form.

Despite a week of very warm weather (including a record-breaking day on Monday) and quite a lot of sunshine, the main trail heading west out of the parking area was completely snow and ice covered, as were the trails crossing the creek to the south. So, north we walked, up the south-facing hill that was largely devoid of treacherous conditions.

The trees are so much taller than the ones we have at home.

There were a few stretches of mushy snow and some ice, but nothing a group of prairie dwellers couldn’t handle. We got back to the parking lot with the sun just fifteen minutes above the hills, or so Nollind measured with a finger above the horizon. Do you think that method could work for a dog paw?

Trail dog.

Although there are a couple of beer options in the Hamlet of Bragg Creek, it was brewed tea and coffee again, and the patio was closed so I had to wait in the car. :o( But T did bring me part of her salted caramel cookie. Yum.

I have to say, I’m rather a fan of this hike ‘n’ brew thing we’ve got going. I wonder where we’ll go next time?

Straight A’s

I hardly know where to start. What an awesome trip! And you know that my censor doesn’t let me use that word lightly, as is the habit of today. So, just this once, I’ll use it again—Awesome Autumn Alberta Adventure.

Maybe it was because we’ve spent so much time at home this year, or perhaps because fall was lingering and colourful well into October, or maybe just that we landed in four really terrific camp spots. Whatever the reason, the fall tour was a grand success.

One of many autumn trails.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, we kicked off the trip with three days at Sibbald Lake with friends G and S and their trusty sidekick Ria. Games, walks, laughs, wine, and food are common themes when this group gets together, walks and food being my favourites from the list.

Checking out the Escape treat dispenser.

Neither Ria nor I get the excitement with throwing golf balls attached to strings at ladders made of pvc pipe, but, hey, humans do a lot of things we dogs don’t understand. And likely vice versa. Different strokes for different species I always say.

The final night at Sibbald was the first sign of what was to come in terms of weather, when it got quite chilly during the post-dinner campfire hours. Fortunately, a senior dog like me gets a little extra consideration including being turned into a very cozy doggy burrito. Thanks, S.

Warm and cozy.

We said goodbye to our campmates on Wednesday morning and drove south on Highway 40 through Kananaskis to the bottom end of the province. Our destination… another place new to us, Beauvais Lake. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore when we arrived just before sunset, but first view and sniff told me we were going to like it. Turns out, we liked it so much that two planned nights turned into five with side trips to Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass.

This place looks great!

Day one we hiked Piney Point Trail through coloured forests of aspen and poplar trees, leaves drifting to the ground in the breeze, and incredible views west to the Rockies. T was actually teary at one point as she looked out over the landscape, ready to build a cabin right on the spot.

View from the front porch of T’s cabin.

Of course, I notice smells more than sights and there was no shortage of human and animal scents to explore. And then there was Beauvais Lake itself for a drink when we came down off the hill.

Beauvais Lake tastes mighty fine.

Day two, Nollind took the truck to Pincher Creek for a leaky hose repair, and since T wasn’t feeling so great, she and I stayed back at the trailer. We set out for a walk when Nollind returned, but T was feeling worse, so they doubled back to camp, tucked me in, and drove to Pincher to a clinic. In the past, it’s been me or Logan needing to see a vet along the road so this was a new thing. I was worried and did what I always do when concerned, slept.

I like being included in everything, everywhere.

When they got back, T had a bottle of pills and, by Saturday morning, was already feeling a little better. So, off we went to the Crowsnest Pass just half an hour west. In February, we stayed in Blairmore during the Wintervention Festival. One of the walks we took during that winter stay was on the Miners’ Path at Coleman and it was fun to repeat the experience on this trip, sans February’s death-defying iciness.

Miners’ Path inhabitant.

With T on the mend, Sunday morning was spent circumnavigating Beauvais Lake, about a 6 km trail. This hike didn’t have the vistas of Piney Point, but there was plenty to see and smell along the shores and wetland areas, finishing off with the trail along the cabin section. I can’t say for sure, but I think T would really like one of those cabins on Beauvais, but, the provincial campground is a pretty fine second choice, close to the lake, the hiking trails, and open year-round.

Stream along the Beauvais Lake trail.

Monday, it was finally time to leave Beauvais Lake. The plan had been to travel farther south to two locations, Payne Lake and Police Outpost Provincial Parks, but Fred’s leak problem hadn’t been fixed due to an out-of-stock part, so we drove to St Mary’s Lower Campground instead with plans to take the truck to Lethbridge on Tuesday morning.

That’s us!

At St Mary’s, we were treated to a campsite that backed onto the river plus a warm, calm afternoon for exploring the campground and surrounding area. Sometimes it’s those unplanned stops that turn out to be the real gems on a journey. Don’t you think? Tea and cookies in the sun (I do love ginger snaps) wrapped up another fine day before retreating inside from the cooling temps and a light rain.

Afternoon teatime in the sun.

Tuesday’s weather was damp but spirits were not when Nollind returned to camp with a fixed Fred. The trip we feared was going to end similarly to the last one, limping home with a broken truck, was not over yet!

Police Outpost Provincial Park sits right at the border between Alberta and Montana and features a pretty lake, a campground tucked into aspen woodland, and crazy cool views of Chief Mountain. First Nations people from both the US and Canada travel to the base of this mountain for sweet grass ceremonies and other religious rites and, if you’ve ever seen it, you’ll understand why.

Pretty wow, right?

It was windy and mostly overcast when we arrived at Police Outpost, so the peeps made the decision to venture along the lakeshore trail that first afternoon. We had the place to ourselves, the campground and the trail, and our walk included a long footbridge to the tip of an island. We do find the coolest places to walk.

Walking to Outpost Island.

It started to rain again that night, turning to snow in the wee hours and covering the ground by morning. T wanted to see the mountain shown in many of the photos of the park, but it wasn’t going to happen with the heavy skies. So, it was a snowy walk around the campground followed by a matinee in the trailer. I do love a matinee … it fits in so well with my nap time. Maybe it should be called a nap-inee?

It was a great movie.

By mid-afternoon, the sun was shining brightly on melting snow. The hike to the United States was on! Yup, that was our destination … Montana, USA. The southern boundary of Police Outpost Provincial Park lies right on the International Boundary and there’s a terrific trail, with views of Chief Mountain, to the border obelisk (and cameras). I’ve been across the US border in a vehicle five times now but never on foot and, since the land border is currently closed to nonessential traffic, this is the only border crossing I’ll experience this year. Nobody there but the cows to check my health papers.

See the leash? So you know where I was.

The hike to the border was so much fun we did it again Thursday morning before packing up and heading out in a chilly northwest wind. Payne Lake was going to have to wait for another trip with snow on the ground and more headed our way, along with wintry temps. We’d rolled right through Mother Nature’s first winter pitch, but we wanted to be home and tucked in before she brought out her A game. And we were, just in time, with most of last Fur-iday to winterize trailer and farm.

Snowy afternoon at Police Outpost.

With the border closed due to the pandemic, we won’t be trailer travelling to snowbird destinations anytime soon, sad to say, but I know there’ll be more adventures, probably snowy ones, in the months ahead.

Chico, Fur-iday Files correspondent signing off, from the farm.