Thursday, 9 October 2008

Fall road trip

Since my last post we have spent a week on the road with my parents traveling around the US and Canada discovering some fantastic new places and revisiting some wonderful old ones.

On our first day we headed off to the Cypress Hills, south-east of Ralston and close to the US border. Here we discovered a hidden gem, the Cypress Hills Winery, a small family run vineyard in the middle of nowhere which produces such exotic tipples as rhubarb wine, honey mead and Saskatoon berry wine. We had a wonderful lunch of cheese and bread on their patio in the sunshine and bought a few bottles to bring home too. Jim wasn't with us for this leg of the trip as he had only just flown in from the UK, so I think I might be taking him for a return visit quite soon, especially as they stop serving lunch at the end of October!

In the afternoon we drove on to Fort Walsh, which was a mounted police and trading post in the 1880s. It has been rebuilt as it was at the time and we had a guided tour of the site, finding out about the heavy bison coats they used to wear in the winter and the illegal whiskey trade they were sent to control.

Then on to Elkwater for our first night, taking a very scenic unmade road across the park which is only accessible in summer. I'm not sure if it was during this or later journeys that my father cracked the windscreen of his hire car, but his Ford Escape did not make it back to Calgary airport in one piece!

On our second day we drove across the border into the US, stopping at the one horse town of Havre for lunch and then spending the night in a brilliant 'Kamping Kottage' at the KOA campground in Great Falls. Along the way we drove alongside the Missouri river, which begins all the way up this far north and meanders down to St Louis in the south east of the US.

Our third night should have been spent in St Mary on the southern side of Waterton Park, but the hotel screwed up our booking and as we weren't impressed with what we saw anyway, we used their error as an excuse to dump the accommodation and press on to Waterton.

As it turned out this was a great decision, as we ended up having 3 wonderful days in Waterton in tropical temperatures! (It was 27c on October 1st!). Jim and I have visited Waterton in various weathers (remember the deep snow in May?) and have always loved it, but with the colours of autumn, the sunshine and the lack of tourists, it was idyllic. (see photo right)

My parents stayed in a fantastic loft room in the Glacial Suites, whilst we parked the RV up in the town campsite. In a strange twist, it turned out that the huge RV next to us was owned by the in-laws of a bit of a Canadian celebrity, Brad Pattison, the presenter of At The End Of My Leash, a show that Jim and I watch regularly!

Whilst in Waterton I also managed to see my first and second bear. Unbelievably despite having lived in Canada for 14 months, my parents had seen more bears in a 3 week holiday than I'd seen in over a year!

We eventually spotted the bears after pulling the car over at dusk on the Red Rock Canyon and waiting. They were both quite far away, but at least I now believe they exist!

After an amazing few days in Waterton, we moved on to Fernie, where the highlights were walking up the ski hill we spent so much time on last winter and seeing it without snow and an absolutely amazing breakfast at the Red Tree Lodge. I had something called Decadence For Breakfast, which was french toast stuffed with banana and Nutella with a side of fresh fruit and maple syrup. We'll be coming back for more of that in a few months!

From Fernie we drove to our final stop, a beautiful mountain resort called Nipika. It's 32km from Radium Hot Springs, deep in the forest close to Kootenay National Park.

Nipika has eight log cabins built round a meadow. It was absolute dog heaven because Macy was allowed off her lead to run round, meet other pets and frolic in the stream - and the humans didn't have a bad time either. I absolutely fell in love with their little blue roofed cabins and despite the fact the weather had changed for the worse by the time we arrived, we had a great weekend reading books round the open fire. Nipika is added to a growing list of places we must return to!

We arrived back in Ralston last Sunday with apparently noticeable tans after our Indian summer in Waterton and in the last few days temperatures have been dropping steadily. It was -5c when I went to work this morning! Still, we have lots to keep us busy including sausages and thrift shops, but more on those two subjects in my next post!

If you'd like to see more photos of our travels, click here or use the link on the right hand side of the page.

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