Rocky Mountain Road Trip 2017 (by Michelle) - The Beginning

September 21, 2017  •  1 Comment

We've been home from our "fabulous" trip for a few weeks now and I've been trying to figure out what method(s) to use to describe and share our adventures.   It was such an amazing experience, it just doesn't seem right to let it go without documenting where we were, what we saw, and what we were feeling during our travels.   I want to record my memories for Art and me, and also our daughters - so they can read about their parents and how much they love eachother and enjoyed their time spent together.  So, I've finally decided to use this blog to do just that.

I have two disclaimers before I start:

  1. I am not the creative writer and blogger that my daughter Alana is - her writings of her time in India are excellent and have been a joy to read.
  2. Unless specified otherwise, all pictures in this blog were taken by me using my Samsung cell phone.  I'm doing this for a few reasons:
    • I took pictures of things Art didn't - so it's from my point of view and captures things that were important to me
    • to demonstrate that you don't have to have a professional quality camera to record your memories
    • some of them are pretty darn good - even from a moving vehicle! 

Now, here goes.....

First, a little background:

Those of you who know anything about Art and me know that we rarely go on a trip or vacation that doesn't involve hunting.  Sure, we've taken our kids Up North (that's a real place in Wisconsin) many summers, to Disney a couple times, and Vegas.  But when Art and I travel alone, it is almost always a hunting or hunting business trip. The only trip I can think of where we didn't hunt was a trip to Mexico for our 15th anniversary.  In fact, even our honeymoon started as an antelope hunt with two other men!  (that's a whole other story).   

We have now been married for almost 25 years.  The actual date is December 19th, but travel to or from anywhere in the northern half of the continent can be dicey that time of year so we thought it best to go in August.  Plus, Art was hoping for lots of wildlife photo opportunities.  I had never been to Glacier National Park, and Art hadn't been since childhood and had only briefly stopped in Banff, so we decided to do a big trip and see it all!   We'd talked about this trip for months and made some reservations in May.   We would go to Canada first, then Glacier, and then make our way home.   I made reservations for the 11 nights spent in the mountains but we were winging it for the trip out and the last few days heading back East.

Day 1 - Friday August 11th

The camper's packed - all of our clothes, hiking gear, and food - and we're ready get up and head out in the morning.  But wait.  The night before, after backing the truck up to the fifth-wheel, Art noticed a puddle of fluid under the truck!   This is after it had been in the shop two days earlier to get everything tuned up and checked.  So, our first morning finds us at the dealership when the doors open to replace the transmission fluid and plug.  I guess better now than somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  At 0845 we're headed out of Dodge.

Day one took us across Minnesota and half of North Dakota.  That stretch of road is pretty unremarkable to put it nicely.  We decide to stop around Jamestown, ND.   I find a couple potential campgrounds using Google on my phone, and after a little scare letting the gas gauge dip too low, we find Parkhurst - a little self-serve, honor-system, no utilities campground for $10 per night.

Parkhurst, North DakotaOur first night's view The view from our camper the first night of our vacation - Parkhurst, North Dakota.

Day 2 - Saturday, August 12th

Up early and headed north.  It's North Dakota - not much to look at, but there were a few interesting things to break up the boredom:

Crop duster - those pilots are crazy!                                                I love sunflower fields :)   Did you know they turn to follow the sun?

Then, near Kenmare, North Dakota, we came upon hillside after hillside decorated with rocks.  It appeared that each graduating class from the local high school claimed a piece of ground and made it their own.  I guess you can't do anything else with that terrain, so why not?

The best part of this day?  Crossing the border!!!   While I had flown into Canada twice on hunting trips (Saskatchewan and Quebec), interestingly enough I had never crossed the border by land.    I was so worried about packing something that wasn't permitted and having the whole camper searched and thereby delaying our vacation that I went so far as to weigh all our food categories and make an inventory list.  Art got to bring a bottle of rum, while I would have to buy my spirits in Canada (alas, only one type of alcohol allowed).   The border crossing guard was quite impressed with my preparedness.  Needless to say, we were across within 5 minutes.


Obviously, we knew that Canada (and most of the world) uses the  metric system.  That doesn't mean we were ready for the instantaneous change we needed to make in our thinking.  Speed limits (thank goodness spedometers have both), distances, and money.

Take this gas station sign for example:

Seems like a great price, right?  When's the last time you saw gas for less than $1.00?

Ya - it's 98.9 per Canadian dollar, per liter of gas.

You do the math.


Southern Saskatchewan via the Trans-Canada Highway looks just like North Dakota, so pretty unremarkable drive.  Except for one thing:  we were now without GPS.  Due to the cost of international data and call rates, we put our phones on airplane mode when we crossed the border.  So we were old-school with my brand new Rand McNally and directions to Lake Louise that I thankfully had printed ahead of time.  The other thing we noticed about Saskatchewan: the highway signage was awful.  Teeny tiny highway signs and zero warning when a major intersection was coming up.  Combined, these conditions made for some fast turns where we were nearly laying down black marks and riding on two wheels while pulling the camper.

We drove through Moose Jaw and spent the night at Ponderosa Campground in Swift Current (cute names for cities, eh?).  The sign in the closed office read "help yourself to open sites behind the office or west down by the creek".  We left $40 American in the box, which included a $12 tip.   This would be the one and only night we would grill out for dinner - mostly because there was a fire ban everywhere out west due to the extreme dry conditions and wildfires - but also because we were too busy to bother with the hassle involved with cooking and cleanup in bear country.

View from my camp chair on night #2 - Swift Current, Saskatchewan 


Bruce Thomas(non-registered)
Middle Lake Saskatchewan is where i have been goose hunting several
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Wild Reflections Photography, a division of Art Helin Outdoors, specializes in photography of nature & wildlife and muscle cars, classics & motorcycles.

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