Vernon

Our stay at Econo Lodge last night was nice and roomy, although it smelt like stale cigarette. Our room included a continental breaky. Super nutritious, not! The kids thought it was fun to try fruit loops!image

The view looks like a mystical fiord land where the clouds are stuck to the top of the pine trees. The road is misty and to the point where you cant tell if its light rain or low clouds. The top of the mountain ranges are now whiter with more snow. You can tell winter is just around the corner. The season called Fall is here and it only lasts for a month before Winter comes. Leaves are falling at a rapid rate, summer businesses and tours are closing down and people are draining out of the towns. Locals are wearing their gloves, beanies and heavy jackets.

During the first half of the day we drove though some spectacular scenery in Glacier National Park. We started with a walk through the interpretive centre. The kids completed another of the Park Explorer books and collected the Park Dog Tag.image

Rogers Pass is an amazing story of how the Canadian Government put a train line through a steep and treacherous section of mountain. We drove through heaps of awesome tunnels that allow the frequent snow avalanches to pass over the road without incident. Fantastic jaw dropping scenery. This section of road matches the Ice Field Parkway. Cedar and Cottonwood forests, autumn trees, low clouds, snow capped mountains, a highway that clings onto the mountain edge, moist moss and waterfalls.

We got to Revelstoke National Park by lunch time and gained an hour leaving Mountain Time. The weather is cold and stormy and we heard its snowing up Mount Revelstoke, and its a scenic must do up the summit via the 26km Meadows in the Sky Parkway. Now we were crazy excited like a bunch of squirrels at a nut convention as we neared the top as snow was falling on the car. The real fresh fluffy white stuff we had been wishing for. We put the windows down and in it came. Geoff managed to keep focussed on driving despite the fact the rest of us were squealing like piglets. We had to quickly find some more clothes and the kids put sox on their hands to keep warm.image

Oh there is something so so magical about snow. We played in it for a couple of hours which was basically until we could not longer feel our toes and fingers.image

We made a snow man and the kids rolled big snowballs. We discovered what you see on the cartoons are true. If you make a snowball and roll it along, it quickly becomes a massive snow ball to the point you can no longer move it.image

One thing I wanted to see was fresh snow sitting on the pine tree branches. Sound crazy? I dunno, you just see that magic in the movies when fresh snow is falling… It was so beautiful. When we did stop making the noises of excited Aussies in snow we could actually hear the snow falling onto us and the trees. The snow flakes fell down onto our faces. The snow was fresh light and fluffy. We seen some kind of small black animal the size of a rat run across the snow leaving his cute snow prints.

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We ended our day full to the brim with wonderful memories and feet that needed defrosting. We are still enroute to our destination of Vancouver. What a fantastic road trip so far. What a magic way to end our Canadian adventure.

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Golden BC

The internet means we are always connected with the world. Despite things like instagram and facebook being poohooed by the naysayers we love that we can use these from across the world. Even a day behind and feel like we are connected to home. The things we love, our town, local news and the people we miss. Wifi access has been great overall. I have not brought a phone plan while here. Just relied on free wifi and everywhere offers it from the cheap motels, ski lodges, corner cafe, shopping centres, tourist attractions, airports and libraries. More often the signal is fast and usable, only some places it is slow and you cant access it. Geoff brought a basic data sim for his iPhone so we could search the internet for motels and make phone calls while driving. This actually saved us sometimes. This morning once we had all piled in the car, Geoff plugged ‘destination Vancouver’ into the GPS and it came up with 1154kms West bound. We will take three days to cover this distance. Our GPS and car have been our saving Grace. They have meant we can go anywhere, do anything and fit in as much as possible with no restrictions. Thank you to the cave men who invented the wheel. We have loved the Badlands. One of our favourite places in Canada. Sure the Rockies are stunning in every way shape and form. However the Badlands offer something you cant get anywhere else. A rich hands on emotionally charged adventure in a place that looks like it comes from another planet. Stuff that gets into your system and you want more. There is not doubt this holiday has been life changing for the four of us. It has been equally our most challenging and most rewarding. Which confirms the ‘bumper stickers’ and other cliches about living on the edge, ticking all the boxes and doing things that we fear. Everyone has grown. imageToday we travelled from dry farming country to back into the Rocky Mountains. Oh it was a real treat to pass through this outstanding ranges again. Snow capped mountains, beautiful rivers and lakes, pine forests and the autumn trees in bright shades of yellow. imageThe kids kept themselves entertained in the backseat with their diaries, school work and reading books. The weather changed from sunny to cold and stormy as we drove deeper into the Rockies. We pulled over and watched a coyote prancing in a paddock to catch a mouse. We crossed the border back into BC without noticing. We were hoping to stop in the little town of Field for the night and do a hike into the Yoho National Park to see the Burgess Shall, however it has closed down for the year. That was a shame as it would have been an amazing experience. We learnt about the Burgess Shall at the Museum in Drumheller. Its all the little 500 million year old critters fossilised in black shale as fossils, at the time when the only life on earth lived in the sea.

We also went through a high mountain pass through the range and Gracie asked if they split the mountain open. We settled for the night in the mountain town of Golden in a really nice spacious motel with cable, microwave noodles and a bath. Woohoo!image

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Dinosaur Exploration Day… Absolutely amazing. One of our most memorable on the whole trip. Today we were immersed in all things dinosaur in the Dinosaur Provincial Park Alberta.

imageThe park is one of the listed World Heritage Sites. Like the Great Barrier Reef, Great Wall of China and the Galapagos Islands. There are 981 sites on the world wide list to date. Today we were lucky enough to be in a very special part of the world.image

We stayed the night in cow stink town then headed towards the park all filled with excitement and anticipation for what we might find.

First we went to the interpretive centre and museum. This place in linked to the museum in Drumheller.

Dinosaur Provincial Park has 90,000 visitors a year from all over the world. The park is 70 sq kms in size. 1% of the animals that died 75million years ago have been fossilised. Despite the low sounding percentage this is actually very high in term of preserving bones for fossilisation. The conditions have to be ‘just right’ otherwise the dead animals just rot. So what makes ‘just right’? The animal has to die near a river or water channel. The dead animal has to be covered quickly in mud. Then ground water has to be able to seep in to send the skeleton into the fossilisation process. This means it turns to bone and is saved for us lucky human beans to come along and dig up. Who would have dreamed such an adventure!image

Today we were four of the lucky 10,000 a year that get to go into the rich fossil beds to explore and learn. We thoroughly enjoyed two hours in the field learning about different fossils and how to identify. We were shocked at how many. Soon as we walked in we came across a big bone nearly a metre long. The rest of the time it was bone after bone and piles of broken parts.

imageAnything from 75 million year old turtle, ancient crocodiles, fish and of course the big ticket prize – dinosaurs. On the way to our hunt site to Bone Bed #50 we seen a couple of desert Mule Deer. They are greyish and have big ears like a donkey. We all loved it when they bounced through the grass as the bus drove close by.

To spot the bone was super easy once we got used of it. Fred our very skilled guide said you must check four things, shape, colour, texture and the lick test. Now this was fun. Dinosaur bone will stick to your tongue. It sticks like an octopus tentacle. We also learnt that petrified wood is a little sticky, but bones were the most fun.

imageWe found heaps of bones whole or in pieces, some crocodile, turtle, dinosaur skull, legs, fingers, toe, tooth and a piece of crocodile. All day we were grinning like the Joker. The landscape is so spectacular. The amazing coulees, the formations, textures and the colours. It was just a once in a life time experience just to hike through and over them.

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Brooks

Looking back on our holiday pictures from the start it seems like we have been away for a year. I have taken about 5000 photos on my Iphone. When I get home I will spend weeks sorting them down to about the favourite 1000 that tell the story of our journey to have printed in an album. I will also put the photos on our digital photo frame and we can watch them rotate for the next year. Reminded of all our adventures. And yes it has been full and epic. What an amazing family adventure. But wait there is still more to come…

I took everything out of the car and had a big clean out. We have got to compact our car life back down into four backpacks. I can tell you most of the new weight we have acquired are rocks. Seems we collect the heaviest of souvenirs!

imageWe ticket off a couple of simple fun things, like going shopping in Walmart and to Wendys for a junk food fix. Now we have completed our all American road trip! hehe…

We left Drumheller and travelled through wheat country towards the town of Brooks. All the farmers are flat out with groups of headers ripping around taking off the crops. I love watching farmers do their thing. Beautiful memories, smells and landscape. I could see my Dad going around in circles harvesting. Love the farmers we have seen here with their dirty tucked in jeans and braces and cap hat.

imageThroughout the landscape the farmers paddocks are dotted with oil pumps and gas station pipework. Any land that is rich in fossils of course creates fossil fuels. There are 120,000 pumping and sucking stations in Alberta. Is this what is to come in Australia with fracking. It is scary to think they can drive into your paddock and insert a pump to frack, pump and suck and there is nothing you can do about it. We have read little signs along the way they are extracting oil and natural gas and we see some local concern with methane gas and the removal methods like fracking.

We arrived in Brooks for two nights. We are here to visit the Dinosaur Provincial Park. This town is the nearest access point. After being here a few hours we now refer to it as stinky town. It goes from stinking of urine to poo to smouldering cow. We enquire why to learn there is a big cow land and processing plant. One of the major industries besides oil and gas supporting this town. Poo stink, plus the flies to match.

imageKids enjoyed a swim in the motel heated pool while Geoff supervised. I done a couple of loads of washing.

Drumheller

We all boinged out of bed knowing we were going to spend the day at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. This museum is dedicated to all things palaeontology. Anyone with a fascination for life and creation will just love all that is inside. And yes, the Watters family are at the top of this list.

The museum nicely moves in chronological order through the periods of time. Beautifully showcasing 3.9 billion years of evolution on planet earth.

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We have done this kind of natural history journey many times in various museums around the world. However each time we learn more as it is such a complex and overwhelming subject. Just to really grasp the time frames, changing periods and the coming and going of species can send any primitive brain into a spin.

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This museum is very well done. It is full of impressive skeletons and fascinating fossil exhibits. All of the interpretive panels, reenactments, interactive displays and videos were easy to understand and informative. We are lucky in Australia that we have a place similar for fossil dino buffs at the Dinosaur Trail through Winton (The Age of Dinosaurs), Richmond and Hughenden (I would also include Boulia) http://www.australiasdinosaurtrail.com in outback Queensland. Not many Aussies have heard of this amazing place. It is worth the plane ticket.

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In the museum today we spotted some of the plant fossils we seen yesterday on our surface fossil hunt, learning they were conifers, ferns and other tropical forest plants that lived in a wet humid period on Earth.

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All up we immersed ourselves in our love of amazing stories learnt through rock and bones. And we all came away a little wiser for the evolution process and the lengthy stages Earth has endured. Species have come and gone, periods of ice, water, heat and catastrophe. It also shows us that Earth is ever changing and continually doing its down thing despite what species dominate at the time. It is incredible how many species have come and gone even before humans evolved. We are just one speck in the matrix. So enjoy the ride while we last.

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Drumheller

Amazing… I know I have said it before, but I do have to now officially declare we have the MOST FUN when we are in nature, in the dirt, wild and free range. Drumheller we love you.

Off we went with map in hand travelling the Dinosaur Trail loop extending from Drumheller. We learnt all about the creation of coal to finding our own fossils to yes, the amazing, absolutely amazing coulees. As I said yesterday, the mountains are created by the bottom washing away, leaving world class canyons in its wake. (Should I say rivalling the Grand Canyon or Bungle Bungles?).

This place was created in the last ice age only 22,000 to 17,000 thousand years ago when the glaciers melted, lakes formed and burst which flooded the valley numerous times. This exposed the 70,000 million old rock formations, colourful layers and ancient fossils. One of the trail signs said the thick tropical forest flourished 300,000 million years ago. OMG this has been one of our most fantastic days on the trip.image

We started our day at the last historical coal mine site in Alberta. We all learnt how coal is actually made by ancient fern forests that fell into the swamps and created the layers in the coulees. The mine is owned by the local Hysterical Society and the do a fabulous job. The mine has been restored, mine shafts reopened and a great underground tour to appreciate this bygone industry.

We checked out the Hoodoos. Similar to our Pinnacles in WA. They are created by a mix of soft and hard layers interacting as a result of erosion leaving the tall standing pillars. Neat enough.

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Along the trail there are numerous stops like the suspension bridge and the ghost town of Wayne. Well actually it has 28 residents and of course a happy fully operational old time tavern. At the suspension bridge we scoured the coolees and found some unconfirmed small pieces of fossilised wood. The layers in the coolees are just spectacular. You can see  from the ice age, to the ancient fern forests, volcanic ash explosions to the dinosaur era to present day, and everything in between. Layer after colour changing layer exposing the story. And you can just explore it all with your hands and feet layer by layer. Some are soft and crumble while others are stone hard. Colours range from milky white to black to reds and much more.image

Now you know we are in prime fossil country. The reason we were attracted to coming all this way to a dinky little town in the desert. It would rate as an all time blow our heads off to find petrified wood, plant or the holy grail, a dinosaur bone.

Next stop on our trail map was Horseshoe Canyon. A fantastic canyon singing mouth frothing ancient story. The white layers at the bottom were created in the last ice age as the glaciers melted and ground the stone, swamps dried up, coal seams and bone dinosaur discovery layers all with the local farmer harvesting wheat on the top present day layer. We trekked down to the Canyon floor to examine the layers with our hands and yes, look for more fossils. Eureka we struck gold with Bailey picking up fossilised plants on the surface. Bailey was so excited he nearly wee’d his pants. I was not far behind. He said he has been waiting his ‘whole life’ to find his own fossils just like this.image

There was much to look at and take some great photos as keepsakes. We also found a largish bone imbedded in a big rock that was maybe a dinosaur fossil. Anyone can go fossil hunting here. How amazing is that! Real life awesomeness.image

Luckily the sun stays up late. We continued our journey checking out Horse Thief Canyon, taking the dinky ferry crossing and enjoying sunset. imageThe also checked out the open stage theatre. Just great to explain and show the kids what an outdoor theatre looks like. This reminds me of Rome and Athens plays we see on telly. image

Home to hot bath, soup out of a can, red wine, pumpkin pie with pressure can cream on top. Doesnt get much better than this!

Drumheller

Our housesitters at home are doing a wonderful job of taking care of, and enjoying, our home. Thank you to Margaret and Neville. It is always essential for us to find a retired couple who love our poodles as much as we do and from all reports the dogs are having fun and feeling loved. When we have great housesitters it does make it easier for us to be away from the place we call home sweet home. We know you have to time just to enjoy the place and hang out. We know you are taking good care of our animals, gardens and home. And we know Margaret and Neville you are having fun thanks to your photos and regular updates. Thank you. It is such a lovely time of the year to housesit in Geraldton in our home enjoying fresh veggies from the garden, tending to the chickens, cups of tea gazing upon ocean views and warm fire burning while listening to the rain. Lately with all the storms hitting WA all are enjoying some wild and wooly weather.

Maybe a year or so ago when I was at home researching ‘things to do in Canada’ I came across a place called Dinosaur Provincial Park. Now you should know by now that anything that resembles a fossil, dinosaur, interesting rock hunt or scavenge – the Watters family are close by. When we were in Vancouver a month or so ago we asked at the Visitors Centre about hunting for Dinosaur bones. She said ‘oh you are talking about Drumheller’. We didnt know now did we! So we wrote it down and here we are.

We left Canmore this morning, the last town in the East Rockies. The change was dramatic. One moment we were surrounded by massive beautiful Rocky Mountains and the next we were in flat brown farming country.

imageWe headed into the City limits of Calgary. It took us two hours to find the right Government Department office to get the information we needed to transfer our car. This saga has been going on since we brought our car two months ago in San Francisco. Nothing is easy right! Canadian customs were struggling to keep up with our story that an Aussie family brought a car in USA and drove over the Canadian boarder with no one asking any import questions. After a bit of running around, we think we have it sorted. So Rhys and Alisha can buy our car without getting arrested. hehe… jokes!!

After that required hullaballa we keep moving towards our destination – dinosaur land. Plus we didnt feel up to staying in the big city of Calgary. And we are thinking about making the most of our final week in Canada.

Again the landscape changed right before our eyes from vast flat brown wheat fields to mysterious hills and valleys. We drove down into the the valley known as the badlands. Tell you what it felt creepy and super exciting all at the same time within a matter of minutes. Instead of the mountains rising upwards like the Rockies did, we drove down into a valley that looks like it was created by massive flash flooding. This may explain why its a famous fossil hotspot. It looks like the bottom was washed way, rather than the mountains rising up. Very cool geology.

The lady at the Visitors Centre told us the locals call the weird layered mountains coulies, not mountains. We have all the information we need now set for a two great days of touring to come.

imageWe found a motel first and booked in for three nights and beat him down to $100 a night. Its a nice big open plan room with the basic comforts we have come to love, telly, microwave, clean sheets and bath tub. Off to the shops for some supplies. Notice Geoff won over this time buying chocolate cheetos cereal. I won out buying a pumpkin pie for dessert.