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2017 trips start in Victoria, go to Nanaimo, then back home to Alberta. Next was a trip to our usual fishing hole at Whitecourt, them to the west coast at Prince Rupert to cross halibut fishing off Tess’ bucket list. And finally the circle route of home to Calgary, Kananaskis, Banff, Jasper then back home. We came home when we woke up to snow on the ground. 65 nights out and 6,912 kms travelled this year.

January 2017  - Nanaimo, BC


Our site in Nanaimo


Here we are back in our favourite commercial campground anywhere, Living Forest RV Park in Nanaimo, BC. We are backing onto the ocean with a wonderful view of the harbour.

It is unusually cold here on Vancouver Island with overnight lows dropping to -10C and daytime highs only a few degrees above zero.

We have had to take special steps to prevent freezing our fresh water system including heated fresh water hoses and supply tap and 60 watt incandescent light bulbs going in two of


the basement storage compartments to provide additional heat to ward off freezing.

On January 17, at least two months before we planned, we returned home for the rest of the winter because Tess had a new health issue and we thought it best. The motorhome is asleep in a Nanaimo storage yard.

We had lots of water damage due to leaks from the roof, a vent, a faucet, and a blown line inside an interior wall. There is damage to floors and walls so I will have a few days of work to do when I get it back home in the Spring.

May 2017 - Whitecourt

After a solid week of work on 7 to repair the leaks and potential leaks in the marker lights, vents, skylight, air conditioners, antennas, and seams, I think the roof is once again waterproof.

We packed up and came to our traditional first trip of the season campground; Carson-Pegasus Provincial Park just north of Whitecourt. We had plans to catch a few fish today (Wednesday) then go to the casino to watch the Oilers beat the Ducks for the NHL divisional title.

When we arrived after an uneventful trip, we found the lake frozen solid except for 10 feet or so at the shore line. So, no fishing today. We can only get CTV over the air here and didn’t bring the satellite receiver because the signal is blocked by trees so we went to the casino to watch the game. The Oilers lost and are now out of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It was a good season, though.

As has become a tradition over the last several years, we went back to the casino for Tess’ steak and lobster birthday dinner on Friday. This year they changed the menu and moved things up scale in the restaurant. We decided on Neptune’s’ Basket which came with two appis, four sides, a kilo


of crab legs and lots of shrimp, oysters and mussels. Tess got free birthday cake too.

 

By Thursday the ice had started to retreat.


There was so much food that we brought home an 8” Styrofoam clam-shell full of crab! We got the $20 birthday discount too so even with a 20% tip for excellent service, the bill came to only $69.50.

Tess wasn’t in the mood to play but on the way out a machine called to her so she fed it $20. Her first spin triggered the bonus round and she won $75. She cashed out right away and we left which means dinner was free! Can’t beat that.



The next morning, it had rained steadily all night and what sounded like hail a couple of times. When we finally rolled out from under the toasty electric blanket, there were even a few snow flakes mixed in with the rain.It was too cold and wet to fish so we went into town for a bit after our naps.

Sunday was mothers day and we went for a brunch buffet. After making piggies of ourselves again, we went after some trout. At 3 days after ice-out, they should be getting ready to feed. Tess landed one fish and we both had several tentative nibbles so things were looking up.By Tuesday the fish were finally back to full appetites and we caught our limit in a few hours. Just in time as we left the following day.

Fresh caught rainbows

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August 2017 - Prince Rupert BC

Between Valleyview and Grande Prairie is Swan Lake. We haven’t fished here in several years. This is where Tess caught her 8 lb Rainbow trout back in 2002. Nothing that big this time but we did get 5 nice fish in the 2 -3 lb range.











From there, Dawson Creek is only an hour or so farther north-west and is Mile “0” of the Alaska Highway. We looked longingly at the highway heading north and we turned west.

We stopped in Hudson’s Hope BC so I could go take the tour or the WAC Bennett hydro-electric dam nearby. I spent several hours on the tour and exploring the area. I even drove across the dam just to say I did.











We carried on westward and managed to score free camping nights at the Prince George casino and at the Burns Lake municipal campground where I spent my birthday. We stayed again at both places on our way home too. Free is good.

Along the way we saw fewer animals than usual. Plenty of deer, eagles, and the occasional bear but no elk, sheep, goats, coyotes/foxes/wolves.

The reason we went on this trip was to cross an item off Tess’ bucket list - go fishing for halibut and crab. On August 3rd, after 11 days on the road, we arrived in Prince Rupert.

The last couple of days’ drive were very scenic with real mountains (with glaciers) and wide, clean rivers. Once we settled into out site at the only RV park in Prince Rupert, we got busy trying to find a charter. The going rate for a full day is around $800 which includes the boat, crew, gear and tackle.

We picked Garrett Woelders of Anchor Management Fishing Charters. We bought our licences and were on the dock at 6am. The plan was to drop a couple of crab traps on the way out, catch our limit of salmon then halibut and pick up our limit of crabs on the way back in.


Well, things didn’t quite work out that way. The salmon part did as it took only 90 minutes to catch our limit of 8 nice coho ranging from 6 - 12lbs. Plus a couple more on the crew’s licences for a total of 10.











We caught a couple of black rock cod (which are very tasty) and a skate (like a stingray but no stinger) which we threw back, but no halibut. We tried several places, different methods and different baits. The skipper and his son really tried everything but eventually we had to admit defeat and return to the marina.







The final kick in the pants was when we stopped to harvest our crabs - one trap had been emptied and the other stolen, so no crabs for us.

We took the fish to Dolly’s, a local processor where they were filleted, vac packed, flash frozen and packaged up in a styro cooler for transport. We picked them up on our way out of town a few days later.

Our first stop eastbound was Ferry Island campground in Terrace. They even had a large freezer where we could store our fish. We decided to give halibut one more try, this time out of Kitimat, about a 30 minute drive south of Terrace.

We dealt with a broker in Kitimat and hit the water with Blue Heron Charters. We chose a 6 hour charter this time for crab and halibut only. The skipper was knowledgeable and professional. The result? No halibut, again. But we did get our limit of dungeness crab which works out to be $58 per crab. Ouch! But at least Tess got to cross this item off her bucket list.









Ron Osika, the broker, has a bait and tackle shop in Terrace and he lent us the stuff needed to cook all the crabs which took less than an hour. All I had to do was refill his propane tank. We’ll use him again.


As I mentioned, we stopped at the free campground in Burns Lake again on the way home. Our next site neighbours were a couple from Brazil! Raoul and Valkyrie Seara have circumnavigated South America, toured Central America and are now doing the western part of North America in their Brazilian built Class C motorhome.









They are returning from Prudhoe Bay, on the Arctic Ocean in Alaska. Next year they plan to do the north-eastern USA and Atlantic Canada. This couple are my new RV heros!

They have a blog chronicling their adventures. Click on the translate button if your Portuguese isn’t up to snuff. It is very interesting to read a foreigner’s view of our region.

So now it was August 15 and we were back in Prince George. I was happy to see a Costco with its (relatively) low fuel prices and I pumped 247 litres into the tank which will get us the 800 kms / 500 miles home. Our next door neighbours were a friendly couple originally from St. Louis who have been on the road for 3 years in their 40’+ motorhome. Good for them.








We had planned to take a couple more days to get home but the fish in the styro cooler are starting to get soft and we really have no other practical options available so I drove straight through the next day. We got home around 8:30pm but didn’t unpack anything except the starting to thaw fish which went straight into the freezer.

We arrived home to a pile of mail on the kitchen counter (thanks, Mark) and everything in good order. The lawn needed cutting and that was scheduled for the next day by the maintenance company I hired. A couple of days after we got home we were sitting at the breakfast table talking about where and when we would go again.

I think we need to spend some time in the mountains. Once past Labour Day, the crowds disappear and we’ll have our choice of campsites and relaxing side trips. Maybe Calgary, Waterton, Kananaskis, Banff and Jasper? It has been over 15 years since we’ve done much of this route and even longer for Waterton. The RV is all serviced and ready to go on another trip so we’ll see.


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September 2017 - Rocky Mountains

We are off again, this time south to see the new baby penguin at the Calgary zoo then into Kananaskis, the national parks, Whitecourt, then home. At least that’s the plan for today. We had problems just leaving Morinville. The engine computer on 7 threw some codes and the battery disconnect relays are misbehaving. Neither is serious but could have postponed the trip but we’re going anyway.

We went to the Yellowhead Casino for our first night, just in case we had troubles. Well, we did, but not the kind I was concerned about. The Yellowhead no longer allows overnight RVs so we headed south. The Cash Casino in Red Deer they said sure, park in our lot. And here we are for a night on August 29.

The farther south we went, the worse the smoke got. The sun is a big orange ball in the sky and I can look at it with only sunglasses so the smoke is thick.

We had a short drive to Calgary the next day and the GPS brought us right to the Grey Eagle casino. I checked in with security and they showed me where to park. It is so hot today that we can’t leave Camper alone in the RV in case the generator quits, taking the air conditioning with it. Once we were set up, cleaned house and ate, it was 3pm. Tess went to play while I kept an eye on camper. Nice and cool, a good radio station and wifi from the convention centre and we were set for a nice peaceful afternoon.


At dinner time Tess came and got me and we had the Pan-Asian buffet for $27 each. Lots of great food and we both made piggies of ourselves. Tess even found two kinds of seafood she doesn’t like! After dinner, I played blackjack for a while and left the table down $24 after an hour and a half. That’s cheap entertainment.

The smoke in the air turned the moon dark orange and eventually it cooled down so we got a good sleep.

It was almost 10 degrees cooler today (31st) so we had no worries about leaving Camper on his own for a few hours while we went to the zoo. There is still construction going on to repair the damage from the 2013 flood but most of it is up and running. The two advertised attractions were the newly hatched baby penguin (which was huddled at its father’s feet and looked a lot like a rock) and the lemur exhibit where we go inside their area and they can interact with us if they choose to. They didn’t, but we were within a metre of many of them. They really are cute little guys.


On September 2nd we woke up to blue skies with a few high clouds. Two of the other motorhomes were gone by 9am. Today was a scorcher – Calgary has set a record for the number of days over 30C in a year. Since we couldn’t safely leave him home, we took Camper with us. I wanted to see Canada Olympic Park so off we went.

There is a very tall and expensive zip line with a 250 lb limit which I can’t ride, a 1.5 km luge run which is a neat concept but too slow for me, a mountain bike course serviced by a chair lift and other stuff. The bobsleigh used by the Jamaican team in the movie Cool Runnings was on display. Neat place.

The next day we left Camper and went to Heritage Park. This is billed as the largest living history museum in the country. It is huge with a great variety of things to see and do. We went for a ride on the steam train and on the paddle wheeler, toured the car memorabilia museum, saw an old train car being restored (perhaps the very one my grandfather traveled in when he came to Canada in 1911. There were lots of restored old buildings, all fully furnished. There was even a bakery with most excellent cinnamon buns!


Back on the road again on September 4th. We left around 11am and since Costco is closed, we fueled up at Canadian Tire on the way out of Calgary. We travelled down Hwy 2a to Okotoks then turned west to Black Diamond then south again on Hwy 22, The Cowboy Trail.

Lots of ranches although not as many cattle as I usually saw when driving through this area for TL Wood on the way to Sparwood. At Longview we turned west again taking the back route into Kananaskis Country. Being surrounded by 3,000+ metre mountains is still awe inspiring. There are even a few small pockets of snow left in shady areas up high.










We decided to treat ourselves and got power hookups for two nights so we came to Mount Kidd RV Park. Eaux Claire unserviced campground where we usually stay is now closed. Not sure if it is because it is past Labour Day or because it was damaged in the 2013 flood. The golf course has still not reopened so the damage here was extensive. There used to be a big indoor hot tub here with a glass wall looking at the mountain but it has been demolished.

We had our first bbq of the trip last night since this is the first night we have been in a campground. After, I fired up the propane firepit as they are still allowed. I gets dark early here in the mountains and the temperature drops quickly as soon as the sun goes behind a mountain. We went in around 9pm.

I went fishing by myself on Sept 5th. At Lorette Ponds there was apparently only 1 trout left so I didn’t have very high hopes of catching him. And I didn’t. It was peaceful and quiet; I was the only one at the north pond. There was an Osprey in a tree not far from me but he eventually gave up waiting for me to catch his lunch and flew away.











Since fishing wasn’t productive, I just lay back using my tackle box as a pillow and had a nap or two in the sunshine at this beautiful spot.

A very short drive on Sept 6; about 25 kms to the First Nations casino on the TCH. There are 17 RVs here overnight and several semis and buses. I tried my luck at the table and lost $50 so I tried a poker machine and won $45 so came out almost even. I went to the bar and had a few then Tess joined me all excited. She got the clipboard 3 times including a big win of $1,130. Woo hoo! We had a good dinner to celebrate.

On my way back to the RV, I saw a young starling hopping around on the roadway. I thought he’d get squashed so I walked up to him, bent over and put out my finger and he hopped on then climbed up my arm and settled in on my shoulder! He tucked his head under his wing and went to sleep right after he pooped on me.

Of course, everyone walking by had to stop and see the bird which I named Cranky because he kept pecking my ear and cheek. At one point I had a half dozen people around me. Another fellow is a bird guy and he took over and Cranky flew back onto my shoulder. Eventually, he settled down on the new guy’s shoulder and I left them. I returned 20 minutes later when walking Camper and he was still there but had gone to get his cockatoo from his van. The birds ignored each other. Cranky did eat a few bugs including a big moth and he was much less agitated.

The plan was to put him in the bushes for the night. He should be able to find enough food there and hopefully survive to join a flock.



















We woke on Sept 9 to less smoke – we could actually see some mountains. While taking Camper for his morning walk I stopped at the trees where we turned Cranky loose last night. There were a couple of blackbirds in there talking away. They let me get within a few feet of them, feeling secure in their Spruce tree. I didn’t see a Starling but since starlings often flock with blackbirds, I think Cranky has a decent shot at survival.

We got to Tunnel Mountain after a 35-minute drive and settled in to site 802, up on the top of the hill in campground 2. We took full service as that’s all they had available but the cost is $9 per night less than Mount Kidd which had power only. Combined with the free pass to the park for Canada’s 150, we got a good deal. Like all sites, it is a pull through graveled site on a paved access road. Nice spot.

Tess decided to treat me to a ticket for the Randy Bachman (of Bachman Turner Overdrive fame) concert at the Banff Centre today (Sept 10). Seems fair as I treated her to the lobster buffet the other night even though that meal was a little disappointing. He is getting up there in years and really isn’t a very good singer but his stories and guitar playing were great. The 90 minute show flew by. I really enjoyed it.

Sept 11 was a perfect day for travelling along the Icefields Parkway – sunshine and blue skies. We left Banff at 11am and after a 20-minute delay caused by wreckers recovering a car carrying semi in the ditch near Lake Louise, we turned north on the Icefields Parkway. Significantly less traffic and a lower speed limit than the TCH meant we could poke along like the tourists we are. We had forgotten just how spectacular this drive is. There is a new mountain, glacier or lake around every corner. Truly world class.


One of the many places we stopped was the Bow Summit which lets us get off the highway and walk to a viewpoint. I was coming back up the hill to where we had parked and I had to stop and catch my breath every 100 feet or so. I was starting to worry a little about my heart until I read the sign indicating how high we were – 7,000 feet above sea level! I was running out of breath because there’s no air to breathe. What a view!

We arrived at Whistlers Campground at Jasper around 4 and were only able to get an unserviced site. There are close to 1,000 sites here and it is very busy, even in September. The majority of Class C motorhomes are rentals. We have heard accents and languages from all over the world. On the way to our site we saw a bull elk grazing. Nice rack on his head but no females in sight so I guess he lost the battles for them. No doubt he will be cranky so we’ll be careful when going for a walk.

Sept 12 was a just us day; we left Camper at home while we went exploring the Jasper area. From Hwy 16 we saw several elk along the Miette River and at the turnoff to Jasper Park Lodge we saw a couple of small black bears in a tree. We saw Jasper Park Lodge, Maligne Canyon, and toured around the shops downtown on foot.

Actually, with the snow and cold forecast, we decided to call it a year and went home on Sept 13.


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