The stay in Harlowton was wonderful. The little motel had a set of rooms behind the main building, off the busy main highway, so our room was quiet. It was large, clean, and wonderful. We even found an amazing breakfast at the local grocery store, where they had a bunch of breakfast sandwiches and burritos as well as coffee in vacuum urns instead of a heater plate.
We got going before 8, and headed further north. Montana was greener than Wyoming and Colorado, and the rolling hills and grasses were beautiful and easy driving. The long flat stretches made the two lane highway pretty easy to negotiate. I took a lot of pictures that mostly turned out the same...
I guess, geologically, all the lands just east of the Rockies are closely related. The mountains wring all the West-traveling clouds of their rain, and the rise of altitude is the same, so it's nearly all high plains, with mildly different amounts of precipitation. The further north we go, the more rain there is along the plains, so the greens got gradually more and more green.
There were swatches that were all pink from clover or yellow from what we could only make out as being mustard. One of the things that surprised and delighted me was that there were bee colonies all over these grasslands. Without a lot of commercial crops and a huge amount of grass, meadow, and fodder plants there really aren't that many crops that needed pesticides. So the bees were everywhere, and nearly all the hives we saw were stacked. As you can see in this picture, the hives already, before July even, have multiple boxes on top of them. This isn't usually done to weak hives, and these were all stacked pretty high.
I was impressed.
Calgary was much bigger than I expected, but probably just as big as it ought to be as the largest city in Alberta. It was interesting for me to see that nearly all the store names are different up here compared to what we'd find in the US. One thing we did find was a Taco Time, which started in Seattle, of all places, and we got to indulge in crispy beef burritos, which is very much Northern American Mexican-style food. *laughs* But it brought back a lot of memories.
We also decided, in Calgary, that we were going to change some of our plans, and instead of trying to enter the Canadian Rockies at the north end of the parks, i.e. go all the way through Edmonton and come West from there, and go a huge number more of miles, that we were going to just head West from Calgary and use the inner park diagonal to get up to the northern parks.
Some of that change in plan was due to just how long a day today was... and we've managed to go 1100 miles and stay in our time zone, which isn't something we've done before. *laughs* Turning West, we ran right into the mountains, as we had expected, but the way into Banff was relatively flat compared to the climb up the foothills that is necessary to get into the Rockies from our home. The park entrance was easy and we bought a five day pass for all the parks, and then went into Banff to find a place to stay for the night.
Just for the fun of it, we drove all the way to the Banff Springs Hotel just to see what was there. It's a beautiful old hotel, built out of stone, and is nearly a castle, with a full, bustling staff, and lots of restaurants, spas, and all the like in there. The price matched the setting, and we decided not to go there and went back into town and just stuck with a Great Western hotel with a hot tub and beautiful big queen beds. *laughs* We also go a good walk into town and found our dinner at the Banff Ave Brewery.
They were surprisingly good, we had a classical poutine with just brown gravy, lovely melted cheese curds, parsley and showstring fries. I needed the food and I just snarfed a lot of it while it was hot. For our dinner we shared a barley salad that also had lots of cranberries, fruit, walnuts, goat cheese, kale, and big Romane lettuce leaves and we shared a wild boar bolognese on tagliatelli. It was great... One of the things that I really loved was a Fentiman's Dandelion and Burdock soda pop. It was amazing, with just the right amount of bitter.
We actually walked all down the whole town and then back again, and got to the IGA grocery store, and I managed to find the Fentiman's Rose Lemonade as well. While we were wandering, we happened on a Bernard Callebaut's chocolates. There used to be one in the Seattle area, but it closed down due to lack of business, so it was amazing to find a really wonderful and thriving one here. We each got two chocolates just for tonight. They don't last, but they were totally worth experiencing.
So it's been a really good day and we got a long way, and tomorrow, we'll be out of touch completely, electronically, and just out camping, hopefully in Jasper. It's a long way from home, but it's been good.