A (Sort Of) Overland Honeymoon


Not all those who wander are lost - J.R.R. Tolkien

Marriage. It can be said that this is one of life's ultimate adventures. Sure, I've done a lot of exploring and adventuring in my life, from scuba diving the reefs and wrecks of Florida to traipsing across Europe to overlanding my way through much of Montana and Wyoming. But I have never embarked on a lifelong journey such as this. My wife Beret, now my constant companion for the past several years, has added so much to my travels. And now, for better or worse, she's my co-driver for life. I'm very happy about that.

Being adventurous and outdoorsy types, we opted for an outdoor wedding. Where my brother and many people I know got married in a church, we opted to wed off the beaten track in the beautiful mountains of Montana's Swan Valley, along the Blackfoot River. Plus, our location was only 20 minutes outside the town of Seeley Lake, where my parents live and where I have spent a lot of time exploring. We drove up a few days early to enjoy the scenery and visit a few out of the way places. I took some friends out to explore some of the backroads, and opened them to some of my favorite places.

Then came the day of the wedding. It was a moderately sized affair, and we lucked out with perfect weather, an amazing photographer, a great location, good attendance, and good food. It was a spectacular day.

I even got to use my winch on my wedding day! It's a long drive from the highway to the wedding venue, and the road passes several turnoffs that might make it kind of confusing. So, to minimize the confusion, we made a few painted signs to point people in the right direction. On one particular crossroads, we wanted to put up a sign but didn't have anything to anchor it to in between the two roads. On the far side, down a hill, was a large chunk of a dead tree. Thinking that was what we needed, I hooked my winch to the trunk and dragged it across the road before rolling it into place and securing the sign to it. How hardcore an overlander am I? :sombrero:

Our first day as a married couple, we spent the morning with friends and family, opening gifts we received and talking among family that had flown in from all over. It was really nice getting to see everyone for a little while, but alas, the road was calling us. We packed up our necessary stuff and drove all the way to... the other side of town. Before leaving, we had to eat at Lindey's Bayburgers before venturing off. It's one of our favorite local places to eat, and a great way to start off this adventure.

Our destination for the day was Glacier National Park, and ultimately our accommodations in the town of Coram. The drive north into the park is a pretty one. Passing by Bigfork, we turned north to Kalispell and on towards West Glacier. We arrived at mid-afternoon, paying our entrance fee and making our way over Going-to-the-Sun Road. This is a route we've done a few times already, and I was eager to check some scenery out on the other side of the park this time. We crested Logan Pass and decided to stop at the overlook at St. Mary lake, which I have never done before. After seeing it, I will now stop every time.

We were driving past St. Mary Lake when we saw our first bear of the trip. It was a moderately sized grizzly, munching on berries in a low valley along the side of the road. What a cool thing to see on day one! With this good omen on our minds, we continued driving towards the eastern end of the park. Not five minutes later we were slowed by another traffic jam where yet another grizzly bear was eating just off the road. This one, though, was enormous. Probably a solid 700 pounds and nine feet tall on his hind legs, he was massive. It was an awe-inspiring thing watching him amble through the bushes. Stunned by our great luck, we continued on towards Two Medicine.

At St. Mary, we turned south into the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Now, I'm not saying this reservation is poorly run or badly maintained. But the roads we took while we passed through were shocking. Never smooth and never level, they were ridiculously twisty and generally unpleasant. Few times have I felt that I should have dropped the tire pressure on an asphalt road. This was one of them. Highway 89 was bad enough, but when we turned back west towards Two Medicine, they became ridiculous. There was even a sign saying "Intermittent Asphalt." Seriously. Luckily though, these roads were short and led to some cool places.

We arrived at Two Medicine in the late afternoon. Too late to hike, and with the sun setting on the opposite end of the lake, the lighting wasn't exactly great for photography. We took notes of the best hiking trails in the area and bought a huckleberry beer at the gift shop before deciding to go back north to Many Glacier for the sunset.

We braved the road over the pass back to Highway 89 once again, but this time, at the intersection of Road 49 and Highway 89, there was a red Chevy Silverado parked in the gravel. On the truck hung a sign advertising Indian Frybread Tacos. Uhhh... yes please! We immediately stopped and turned around to partake in the goodness. Made with ground bison meat, these tacos are a local favorite, and now they're one of our favorites too. The woman running this particular "taco truck" was a native Blackfeet Indian and had lived on the reservation her whole life. She was a pleasure to chat with, and shared a few great stories about her time in the area. This is one of my favorite parts of overlanding - meeting these kinds of people.

I cannot describe to you how wonderful these tasted. Food is always better when you're adventuring, isn't it?

Carrying on, we pulled into Many Glacier as the sun was on it's way down. I stopped to overlook the creek flowing from the lake, which I hadn't seen before. I was happy I did.

Many Glacier holds a special place in my heart. It is one of the most beautiful locations in all of Montana, there is great hiking nearby, and every sunset I've seen from there has been nothing short of magical. Last year, I took one of my favorite ever photos there, overlooking the lake and the canoe dock. Beret and I make it a personal mission to see sunset at Many Glacier every time we venture into the park. And for good reason. As we walked out onto the beach, we watched the sun rays explode through the mountains for the final few minutes before dropping out of sight.

As the sun continued to drop, we opted to get some dinner at the Many Glacier Hotel's restaurant. I ended up eating a delicious elk sandwich that reminded me of a sloppy Joe. Tasty!

We were on our way back to the main road when I saw something moving up on the hillside. Yet another bear! This one was a smaller black bear with an unseemly coat sniffing his way through the berry patches. I managed to snag a shot of this one.

We watched for a few minutes before driving onward. I stopped to connect my inverter so I could charge my computer for the night, and we started driving over Going-to-the-Sun Road in the dark, on our way back to our accommodations in Coram. I was thanking God for my big Hellas about halfway through the drive when something seemed wrong. Lola didn't seem to be downshifting when I accelerated, and after beginning the descent at Logan Pass, it didn't seem to want to downshift when I went to use engine braking. This startled me. Suddenly I was worried that I had lost the transmission. I came to a stop to check the fluid, but everything was normal. I went to pull away and the truck felt impossibly sluggish. Then an idea struck me. I stopped, shut everything off, and unplugged my inverter. I then started the truck and pulled away. Everything operated as normal. Turns out I was drawing more juice than the truck could pump when I broke one of my cardinal rules. When I installed the inverter, I told myself I could never run the fridge on high power mode, have my big lights on, and the inverter at the same time, as I figured this draw would overpower the alternator. Turns out I was right. I stopped once more and checked the fridge. Sure enough, I had accidentally left it on max power mode.

With this crisis averted, we powered on (see what I did there? :D) through West Glacier and on to our night's stay. Our "room" looked like this:

Yep. We glamped. And I'm not even sorry. I'll admit, it was a pretty cool experience. The staff was awesome, and the tent we got was pretty cool too. And it was cheap! I'd recommend staying here to anyone.

We woke with purpose the next morning, as we had something very specific in mind for day 2. We had dreamed about it all winter, and finally it was time. We grabbed our backpacks and prepared to hike Glacier's most famous trail, the Highline Loop.



The previous day, we had opted to park down lower and hike back to the truck. We made it to the parking spot early enough and got very lucky to find a spot unoccupied at around 10 AM. As we began packing our backpacks for the day's nearly 12 mile hike, I suddenly found that I had lost my keys. We looked everywhere, in all the pockets and all the storage containers. We even emptied our backpacks. Nothing. On the verge of panic, I stood behind the truck just staring. Then i looked up a bit and a shadow caught my eye. Turns out I had left the keys in the lock on the topper and flipped the door open. Whoops.

Crisis #2 averted.

Shortly afterward, we boarded the shuttle up to Logan Pass. I'll be honest, I've never done a point-to-point hike like this, or of this magnitude, yet in my life. I was pretty excited, but a little apprehensive. The shuttle arrived at the Logan Pass visitor's center a little while later, and we hit the bathroom and filled our Camelbaks before going to the trailhead. We examined the map for a short time and kicked off the hike with cool weather and moderate crowds.

Not more than a dozen yards into the hike, we run into a couple of mountain goats, who were grazing near the trail. They politely posed for one of my favorite shots of the trip.

We carried on, hiking over some small streams falling away to Going-to-the-Sun Road below. It didn't take long for us to find ourselves surrounded by bear grass, an uncommonly-blooming plant that is special to see in large numbers.

The views weren't bad either.

The trail more or less follows the road below for a large portion, before climbing for quite a ways and ducking into an area of the park where no roads exist. It's a mostly flat walk that is punctuated by a few rigorous climbs that seem to weed out the more faint-hearted. The first climb comes a few miles in, and is marked by two steep switchbacks that end at a boulder field that is, as we discovered, a great place to catch your breath and have a snack. As we hiked the crowds got thinner and thinner, and we got the sense of being in a more remote wilderness.

Eventually, we reached the high point of the trail, and we felt pretty great knowing it was all downhill from there.

The scenery remained firmly in the "awesome" zone as we made our way past the halfway mark and into a section of the park known as Granite Park. The crowds were even thinner here, and we struck up a conversation with a couple from Minnesota who were doing the hike at a similar speed. Not long after departing our new friends, we reached the big milestone of the hike at the Granite Park Chalet. This is a loose collection of buildings, cut off from any road, which houses a small snack shop and several rooms to rent for backpackers. We visited a few of these backcountry shops on the trip, and I'm becoming rather fond of them.

The view from here is nothing short of awesome too.

We stopped for a little while here to have a few snacks, fill our water, and catch our breath. What a cool place. This is another I can check off the bucket list, and I'll be really happy to come back here and stay the night before hiking to the overlook next time. We savored the time up here, basking in Montana's beauty and catching glimpses of the mountains extending into Canada.

Rested and feeling good, we began our descent from Grantie Park Chalet down to the Loop along the main road at around 2:30 PM. As it would turn out, this was a very poor decision.

To be continued...
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After eating and filling up on water, we began our descent at about 2:30, planning on a relatively easy hike down to the parking area and back to the truck. This turned out to be a bad assumption. The trail quickly turned quite steep, descending at an extremely fast pace. To exacerbate the situation, the ground we were walking over was loose and occasionally rocky as we hiked through the forest. As we were alone in the woods, a deer darted from his hiding place just a few feet away, which was a cool experience. The forest we were hiking through was a little thin, but there was enough cover to keep the sun at bay. Despite that, the park was beginning to really heat up in the afternoon sun.

We continued walking through the forest when around 3:00 things went from bad to worse. We broke out of the trees and into a clear burned area with zero cover. The sun began beating down on us as the temperature climbed to it's apex at 102 degrees. To add to the problem, we quickly entered an area of lush undergrowth, where thick bushes were growing about four feet tall. This made the hike very humid, which made the already hot weather worse. On top of all that, we were still battling the steep decline. Needless to say, we were going through water fast.

As the trail descends, it never really lets up. You get teased with a brief view of the parking lot before being turned far away from it. You actually end up hiking about a mile away from it, just to turn back and hike the remaining mile back to it. It's very disheartening. We eventually made our way to the bottom of the steepest part, only to be swallowed by thicker and more humid undergrowth. After a while, the trail evened out, but the heat and humidity persisted. It was tough going. We passed a poor park ranger who had to hike the steep portion of the trail uphill to make sure no one was in real danger in the heat. Shortly after, the trail began to climb again. It was about this point I ran out of water. Luckily Beret had a bit left to share, and it was only about a third of a mile before we climbed the last hill, broke out of the undergrowth, and found our way to the parking lot again.

I had burned through half my Camelbak on the 7.6 miles from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet, about 1.5 liters. From the Chalet I made it 3.7 miles on 3 liters. It was hot, muggy, and miserable. But we had done it. 11.6 miles, point-to-point, taking in the best scenery Glacier National Park had to offer. Talk about a bucket list item we can check off.

Approaching the truck, we began to feel pretty bad. We climbed in and made the drive to McDonald Lake Lodge, passing an overland equipped Taco and a genuine Camel Trophy Disco on the way. Super cool! We pulled into the parking area at the Lodge, where Beret went into the general store and brought high-protein snacks and Gatorade to recover from the heat and exertion. Waiting for her to check out, I noticed my hands had swollen to the point my ring was immobile and the rubber strap on my watch was a little stretched.

After picking up some sustenance, we pulled into a parking spot by the lake shore and dipped our feet in the water for a short while. We opted to grab dinner at Apgar Village and do a little bit of walking around there before retiring early to our "hotel" and taking a shower. While she found a bathroom, I bought a T-shirt at one of the many trinket shops, as the shirt I was wearing stank to high heaven after the blistering afternoon. We eventually found our way to the restaurant there (the name eludes me) and had a really delicious dinner. It could have tasted terrible, we probably didn't even notice. We were happy to be relaxing and enjoying the cool weather and great views of the late afternoon.

After spending a little time in Apgar, we left the park and filled up at the gas station in West Glacier before driving back towards Coram. On the way, we remembered our awful experience at the border last year and decided to drive down to Columbia Falls to wash the truck before making for the border the next day. We also bought a few jugs of water that we figured we'd need that night.

After arriving back at Under Canvas and taking a shower, we decided to make our way down to the fire. At Glacier Under Canvas, there is a communal fire where travelers from all over can congregate and talk. We were fortunate to meet some great people from Alabama, New York, San Diego, and even a couple from Sweden. Since we had seen much of the park from previous visits before, we were picked for knowledge, which we happily gave. After an hour or so of new friendships, we made our way to the tent, exhausted and still a bit dehydrated.

The next morning we woke early and packed quickly. We checked out and drove into West Glacier, where we ate breakfast at the restaurant there in preparation for our border crossing, knowing we had a long driving day ahead of us and we probably wouldn't get lunch. After eating, I quickly checked my tire pressures and we opted to go over Going-to-the-Sun Road one last time on our way to Waterton. The weather was pleasant, and we were doing much better than the day before. Unfortunately, traffic was a bit heavy going over the pass, but we eventually made it over and into St. Mary. Knowing the upcoming fuel prices, we filled up one last time and made our run at the border.

As we continued north, the weather became stormy. A week of thunderstorms was just beginning, and would be a constant for the remainder of our time in Canada.

Eventually, we made it to the border with the rain reaching a full-on torrent. We crossed the border into Alberta without issue, and made the scenic drive to Waterton.

We were greeted with this weather.

Determined to not let that stop us, we drove into Waterton to check out the town. As we discovered, Waterton is a really nice town full of nice little shops and restaurants, and one really awesome outdoor store. I bought a new French Press for coffee while we camp. I'm pretty excited about that! As we shopped, the storm came down harder and harder, but we pulled on our rain jackets and kept exploring.

During our walk around Waterton, we even spotted this awesome looking Saab. Not sure of this history on this guy, but it sure looks like it has some good stories.

The next sight on the list was the Prince of Wales Hotel.

This beautiful and historic hotel was built in the mid 1920's by the American Great Northern Railway (which also runs through Whitefish, MT) to bring American tourists up into Alberta. It's a fantastic piece of history, and a really beautiful building in and of itself.

It does help, though, that it overlooks such amazing scenery.

We saw a sign advertising afternoon tea, but after finding out it was $30 CAD a head, we opted not to. Besides, we had a schedule to keep!

We had made plans to meet up with a couple of friends, who had driven up to Canada after the wedding, and run a trail with them in the Crowsnest Pass near Coleman. After that, we had planned to tackle the Forestry Trunk Road from Coleman to Hinton. Without working cell service in Canada, we planned to meet at a Tim Horton's in Blairmore at a specific time and make plans for the next few days. To make that deadline, we made the decision to move north to Coleman and get checked into our accommodations before going over to meet them.

The drive between Waterton and Coleman is a pretty easy one. Not too long, but not overly exciting. The scenery is nice though. Eventually, we turned back west onto the Crowsnest Highway and into the mountains and were greeted by more nice scenery and a part of Canada with some serious history. We passed a series of small towns before being met with an enormous rock field adjacent to the town of Frank that had us a little befuddled. Shortly after, we pulled into Coleman and were a little nervous when we found the neighborhood of our B&B. In the US, this wouldn't look like the most appealing hotel.

It was obviously an old neighborhood, and things looked a bit run down. When we walked into the office at the B&B, we were a little concerned, but I was determined. The place had stellar reviews and the scenery was at least nice. We rang a bell and the woman running it came out, all pleasantries and smiles. That put us at ease a bit. Then she took us on a tour, past the office and through the B&B, which boasted it's own library, a hot tub, rental bikes, and fresh baked cookies at any time of day. We were shown our room, and we were very impressed at the beauty and charm of this place.

Our room was graced with it's own balcony, which overlooked the scenery and the fire area outside.

But the best part? The old Ford truck they have parked out back, that apparently they give tours of Coleman in.

Suddenly feeling awesome about my choice in places to stay, we relaxed for a bit until we had to drive into Blairmore to meet my friends. Spotting his yellow Xterra, we pulled in and greeted each other. They asked about our trip so far, and we asked about theirs. Then came the part about trip planning. As it turned out, there was a serious problem.

To be continued...


We met my friends Ashton and Lucas in Blairmore at the pre-set time, and we said our hellos and described our trips so far. Things seemed to be going well, until we started talking about what was coming next. Our original plan had been to run the trail along North York Creek to the site of the old C47 plane crash the day after we made it to the Crowsnest Pass. The next day, we were going to run up the Forestry Trunk Road to Nordegg, where we'd spend the night, then motor on to Jasper. As it turned out, there had been a scheduling SNAFU that tore that plan to pieces.

Lucas's manager had not gotten him the correct time off, so he had to be hone several days earlier than any of us intended. We talked over our plans and possible outcomes. Eventually, it was decided that they would abandon ship and make a run for Banff on the day we were supposed to do the trail. That way, they could really enjoy the best of the Canadian Rockies instead of being tethered to our plans and missing out on some of the best sights. It was a major bummer and a complete deviation of our original plan, but we rolled with it and turned it around for the better. Beret and I decided we would spend the next day checking out Coleman and the surrounding area, then drive the Forestry Trunk Road by ourselves the following day. It's a road we're familiar with, and I knew Lola could handle it unsupported. We bid them farewell and found a local pub to have dinner at, the Rum Runner.

The restaurant is named for Emilio "Emperor Pic" Picariello, a notorious bootlegger operating out of the Crowsnest Pass during Alberta's Prohibition era (1916 to 1924). An Italian born emigrant, this native of Sicily was well known to be the area's Al Capone, operating illegal liquor operations and running contraband alcohol not only across the province, but also into British Columbia and Montana. His reign was ended in 1922, after a local Alberta Provincial Police constable by the name of Stephen Lawson opened fire on Picariello's son during a raid on Picariello's hotel. After he had been told his son succumbed to these injuries, Emperor Pic joined forces with Florence Lassandro, the wife of one of Picariello's employees. The duo went down to the police barracks in Coleman to confront Constable Lawson. An argument ensued, and guns were drawn. One of Alberta's most notorious gunfights followed, ending in the death of Constable Lawson and the arrest of Emperor Pic and Florence Lassandro. The liquor kingpin was the owner of $200,000 in assets at the time of his arrest. After a brief trial finding both him and his cohort guilty, they both were executed in May 1923. Just a year later, on May 10th, 1924, prohibition in Alberta came to an end.

Carrying on Emperor Pic's tradition of good booze and good times, the bar is a lively place filled with happy, friendly locals and some great craft beers. To add to it, the food is fantastic. Beret and I scarfed down the Tandoori Chicken Pizza, drank a few locally-brewed beers, and retired to the B&B. We were falling in love with the area fast. A little research that night led me to discover just how historic Coleman and the surrounding areas are. As it turns out, they're not run-down or uncared-for. They're just very old, historic, and protected. All this just reinforces my belief that you can't judge a place until you've spent a few days there.

The next morning, we awoke early and headed downstairs for breakfast made Dawn, the owner. It was a delicious way to start the day, with poached eggs and her own corned beef hash recipe. We were also treated to some fellow travelers staying there, and we had a conversation that lasted well past 10 AM. It was a delight to get to know some of these people. Again, this is one of my favorite parts of traveling like this.

With full bellies, we decided to go check out the campground at Chinook Lake, where our friends had been staying while they were in the area. The weather was nice for the time being, and the scenery was great. Chinook Lake lies below the dominating peak of Crowsnest Mountain, one of the most interesting sights in the area.

We took a brief walk around the lake, still a little sore from the massive hike on day 2.

Found this carved into one of the trees along the trail.

Our curiosity satisfied, we left Chinook Lake and drove a few minutes down the road to Frank, at the site of the enormous rock field.

As we arrived, rain and thunderstorms were blanketing the valley, as they would for the entire day. It's a good thing we didn't attempt the plane crash trail. The recent rains would have turned the dirt to soup. My research had led me to discover that there was an interpretive center dedicated to describing why there was several square miles of huge boulders covering the valley floor. This side trip did not disappoint.

What we found out was a fascinating tale. The town of Frank was a newly-booming mining town, held aloft by the profits of the local mine beneath the looming Turtle Mountain. Despite being founded less than two years before, a permanent population of 600 lived in Frank by April of 1903. During the night of April 29th, 1903, a huge swath of Turtle Mountain let loose. About 90 million tons of limestone rock slid off the mountain, burying part of the town and collapsing the entrance to the mine. Traveling at speeds of up to 70 miles an hour, the slide was heard from as far away as the town of Cochrane, about 120 miles to the north. About 90 people were dead or missing, and the miners on the night shift had become trapped in the mine. Working through the night, they mined their way through a thin portion of the ceiling, eventually mining their way out and back into the sunlight. Every miner that was underground during the slide survived. What remains now is a reminder of the power of nature. The rock field stretches two miles, from the base of Turtle Mountain to partway up the valley on the opposite side.

Discovering this history for ourselves was such a cool experience.

Determined to dig into even more of the area's rich mining history, we decided to go for one of the more interesting activities we had seen advertised: a tour of the now abandoned Bellevue Mine a few miles down the road. I wish I had a bunch of great photos to share of this place, but I don't. It's a mine. It's dark.

The tour starts at a small shop, where you sign up and pay, where you're then herded to a staging area and given a traditional miner's hardhat with a headlamp, and a belt-mounted battery pack. Then they go over some history and safety stuff, and you're sent into the mine.

The tour itself was very cool. The guide was awesome, explaining the history of the area as well as the history of coal mining. As you walk into the mine, you see exhibits of old mining technology and tools, and the gal leading the tour gave us a great explanation of a lot of things. It was a really cool tour that I'd recommend to anyone in the area. The entire tour is lit only by the glow from your headlamps and takes about 90 minutes. It's money well spent, at least for us.

Now imbued with the knowledge of what went on below the surface, we decided to take a look around the site of the abandoned Leitch Collieries, close to Bellevue. This interpretive park is the site of an abandoned mining operation ran by the Leitch Brothers during the height of Alberta's mining rush. It's a very interesting site with a lot of old buildings, and curated by guides who are very knowledgeable about the area's history.

We toured through an old powerstation and train station, as well as through the old manager's mansion, which is now just a foundation.

Now chock full of the history of the Crowsnest Pass, we drove into Blairmore, where we stocked up on food at the local supermarket. We knew we'd be putting a lot of miles on during the next few days, so having some food in the fridge to eat for lunches was a solid plan. We also picked up some Canadian treats that we hadn't tried before. After the excitement and travel of the previous few days, we opted to go back to the B&B to relax for the rest of the day. For dinner, we once again ate at the fantastic Rum Runner, before going back to the B&B to rest and prepare for the real reason we had stayed in Coleman: running the Forestry Trunk Road.

To be continued...


Congratulations on taking the Vows! I skimmed the pics and will read this later. Looks like a blast. Then i got to thinking, "dammit. i should have not gone a cruise for my honeymoon, bought a RTT and gone on a trip. in the end, i would have gone a trip and still have a RTT".



We still haven't done our honeymoon - and here I am one year later. I'm thinking about doing something similar in Maine next September/October.


New member
Congratulations! The trip sounds like a blast. I'm planning a similar trip for next summer. I may have to pick your brain.


Outstanding and Congratulations! Looks like you guys had a blast!

Thank you! We had a great time and wouldn't hesitate to suggest such a trip in that area.

Congratulations on taking the Vows! I skimmed the pics and will read this later. Looks like a blast. Then i got to thinking, "dammit. i should have not gone a cruise for my honeymoon, bought a RTT and gone on a trip. in the end, i would have gone a trip and still have a RTT".

Thank you so much! It was an amazing adventure. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It's such a great area, full of breathtaking scenery and wonderful people.

Go. You won't regret it.

blessed is the. That is a honeymoon to live for.

Indeed it was. We loved it, and it was totally "us".


We still haven't done our honeymoon - and here I am one year later. I'm thinking about doing something similar in Maine next September/October.

It was a great trip. I don't have much experience with the east coast, though I'd love to do some exploring out there at some point. I imagine fall in Maine is stunning.

Congratulations! The trip sounds like a blast. I'm planning a similar trip for next summer. I may have to pick your brain.

Thanks! It was so great. I love that area so much, and you can bet I'll be back sooner than later.

Feel free to ask questions. I've been up there so many times now I'm pretty familiar with most of it. I know NW Montana like the back of my hand, and I'm getting pretty good with the Canadian Rockies.

That hotel looks like a great place! I love seeing old architecture.

It was such a cool hotel. I never really looked into staying there, I'm sure it's expensive. Also an awesome hotel to check out is Many Glacier Hotel overlooking Swiftcurrent Lake in Glacier National Park.


Last year when we went to Canada, I had intended on driving the length of the Forestry Trunk Road from Coleman to Hinton, a distance off highway and overland of about 435 miles. My attempt was stymied by weather, when we got 36 hours of heavy rain. Instead of meeting the group to go wheeling in Coleman, we headed for Waiparous. That means instead of going from Coleman to Hinton, we drove from Cochrane to Hinton, taking several miles out of the trip, and making the drive incomplete.

This year, I was determined to see it through to the end. Unfortunately, now I had lost the other vehicle meant to do the route with me, so Beret and I were on our own. The morning of our departure, we awoke early and got the truck packed up. We met Dawn, the owner of the B&B, downstairs to settle up our bill and say our goodbyes. But not before a good breakfast. This time was breakfast sausages and fruits and veggies, enjoyed in completely new company. After scarfing down our final meal, we bid farewell to this awesome place. We will definitely be back.

As we turned north, we had some cloudy weather, but once we hit the gravel the road climbed and we got out of the foggy morning. I stopped to air down the tires and hit the music.

Dawn had informed us that the road was pretty rough and washboarded from Coleman to Livingstone Gap, which was okay by us. At 28 PSI in the tires, we were able to hit 50 miles an hour in total comfort. The drive was an awesome one, that only got better with time.

Before long, we reached Livingstone Gap, a forest fire outpost manned by a decent crew and a Bell Huey helicopter. They waved politely as we made our way past.

This road is a complete gem. It's not overly rough, but it's length and remoteness keeps most people from traversing the entire route. On the whole drive, which took most of the day, we only saw a handful of other vehicles, most of which were confused by my well-outfitted Nissan. This route passes through some of the best scenery in Alberta, but keeps you away from the traditional tourist traps. It's a truly wild part of the Canadian Rockies, deep in the foothills where the only other travelers you'll meet are locals or fellow overlanders. This won't be the last time I run this route, I'm certain.

The stretch between Coleman and Cochrane isn't particularly long, and some of the best scenery is near the end, when you approach Kananaskis Country.

As you push on, you start to see mountains over the crests in the road and through the breaks in the trees. Then, suddenly, you crest a hill and are presented with a vista rarely seen by tourists to the region. What an awesome sight. I love this road!

Not too much farther on, the dirt ends at a T-junction with an asphalt highway known as the Kananaskis Highway. Near this junction is a small general store, where we stocked up on a few things and aired the tires up. We turned left and made our way towards Cochrane.

From here, the scenery becomes increasingly epic. The clouds and the light were dancing all over the amazing mountain shapes, leaving us in awe of the landscape. To make matters even better, we were completely alone. Not a soul was on the Kananaskis Highway at the same time as we were, which made it a truly special experience.

Sadly, this part of the drive is far too brief. We were slowed down for a little bit by a herd of Bighorn Sheep in the road and a little construction, but we made decent time. We stopped for a short time at Kananaskis Lakes, where we quickly ate lunch, but we were eager to get on the road. We filled up when we got to Cochrane and continued on our way. Sadly, I failed as a photographer here and didn't take any photos of the drive between Cochrane and Nordegg. That's a shame, because that's my favorite part of the drive. It's the most wild, and the most remote. We powered through the afternoon and the weather on our way north, passing some truly stunning scenery. Seriously, this drive is one of my favorites in the whole world. I've been on a lot of dirt, but this stretch holds a special place in my heart. Driving through the remote foothills of the Rockies, catching amazing glimpses of scenery and having all of it to yourself is as close as an overlander can get to heaven on earth.

Still drunk off the amazing run, we rolled into Nordegg, our stop for the night. Nordegg has exactly one hotel, which we had booked for the night (although there was no one there, so booking ahead wasn't really necessary. We got checked in and decided to take a short tour of the town. Our first stop was at the awesome little food stand, where we got some really good ice cream.

I just had to stop and take a photo to share with you Nordegg's massive public library.

And that's about it. There's a museum, but it was closed, so we didn't get to see that. Suddenly feeling our exhaustion, we drove back to the hotel and decided to eat at their restaurant for dinner.

The owner and his bartender found out we were on our honeymoon, so we got free drinks that night, which was an awesome gesture. Dinner was excellent, and not expensive. So, with our bellies full, we hit the bed and fell fast asleep.

The next morning, we awoke early and gassed up in preparation for a slight detour from the Forestry Trunk Road. We had a special event planned for the day, one that was just a few miles down the road from Nordegg. We left the town and turned west towards Saskatchewan Crossing along the Icefields Parkway. Between there and Nordegg is the beautiful scenery of Abraham Lake, and the mountains that look like layers of earth crust pointing straight into the sky.

Near Abraham Lake is a small operation manned by a really amazing staff. That operation is Rockies Heli Canada. We pulled into their parking lot at around 9:45 AM.

Our plan was to book a helicopter flight for later in the day and take a tour over the Rockies. When we arrived, the only available flights were in early afternoon. That's not an ideal time for photographs, but it's what we had to work with, so we signed up for a 20 minute ride. As we walked back to the truck, we were discussing what we wanted to do for those few hours. We climbed in and were about to drive out when the staff member we had talked to came running out of the office, trying to get our attention. I put the truck in park, thinking I had forgotten something, and talked to him. He told me that they had a flight going out that wasn't full. It was a family of four, but they had two more seats available. It was a 30 minute flight, but he'd let us upgrade for free so they didn't have empty seats. The one catch was it was leaving almost immediately. We quickly and excitedly agreed and headed back to the office to wait for our flight.

What ensued was better than my wildest imagination. It was a part of the trip I will never forget.

To be continued...
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Excitement isn't a strong enough word. My wife and I were over the moon at what we were about to do. A 30-minute helicopter flight over the vast Canadian Rockies is one of those things you never want to forget. We were quickly weighed and given a pre-flight safety lecture before sitting down to wait for the helicopter to return. Shortly after it landed we were ushered out and near the pad, where we waited for it to be refueled. Not long after, we were guided to the doors, ducking under the wash from the rotors, and climbed aboard.

We strapped in and off we went. The pilot climbed from the base near Abraham Lake, where we were able to get some amazing views of the Rockies as they began to climb to their highest peaks near Mount Columbia.

The colors staining these high peaks are incredible. It only adds to the beauty of these massive mountains. It didn't take long until we were climbing higher still.

Before long, we were over complete wilderness. Areas that are difficult to backpack to, and the landscape became truly incomprehensibly massive.

The vertical wall in the photo above should give you a little sense of scale. That wall is, at it's shortest point, a little over a thousand feet tall. That's a relief of over 1,000 feet! And there's a waterfall that spills from the lower lake, known as Lower Michelle Lake, over the wall to the forest below. I cannot imagine what it would be like to stand at the foot of that wall and look up.

Then we banked over the North Saskatchewan River Valley, and we were met with one of the most truly awe-inspiring, humbling, and unspeakably beautiful sights I've ever seen in my life.

Flying at just under 10,000 feet, we felt so very small. These huge and jagged peaks rose around us, giving us the sense of being on another planet. The scale of it cannot be expressed with words. Those peaks surrounding the valley rise to a height of nearly 11,000 feet from the floor at 4,700 feet. That's a vertical relief of about 6,000 feet! That towering mountain you see in the background, pushing into the clouds above all the others? That is Mount Columbia, the second tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies, and the tallest in Alberta, rising to 12,293 feet. It's absolutely massive. in a rather funny comparison, it's still shorter than the tallest mountain in Montana, Granite Peak, which is 12,808 feet in elevation. Nevertheless, Mount Columbia and the incredible wilderness surrounding it are a sight unlike any in the world.

We hovered there for a short while, floating near Mount Wilson, which was soaring some 500 feet above us. We banked off, turning away and back towards Abraham Lake and the helipad.

On our way, we once again passed by Michelle Lakes, this time from the other side. This is another view that gives you an idea of scale.

From there we flew east around Mount Cline, with an astonishing view of a glacier.

A little while later, we continued on.

Flying over Abraham Lake, we got a glimpse of the turquoise blue waters, and a sandbar disappearing into the lake.

But sadly, our flight had to come to an end. We approached the helipad, still riding the rush of excitement from this amazing experience.

As you can see, we were quite pleased with our decision.

Our next stop was Hinton, following our final stretch of the Forestry Trunk Road. From there, we could continue on into Jasper, where even more adventure awaited us. We just had to make one detour first.

To be continued...

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