We "closed the circle" on Thursday arriving back in Vancouver after two months away. Much of the trip west was spectacular. After miles of flat and endless fields of corn, the sudden rise of the Badlands (South Dakota) was both welcome and striking. The gentle pinks piercing the blue skies, the occasional wildlife, totally captivating.
More highways, more corn, and then the Black Hills of Mount Rushmore fame - northwestern South Dakota. A few years ago we witnessed the presidents carved from rock, but hadn't seen Crazy Horse - equally ambitious and impressive. The 172 meter high carving was started in 1948 and continues today - initially the dream of Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear who invited sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to carve a memorial honouring North American Indians.
The white plaster cast below stands at the visitor center, a model of the plan for the finished carving; in the distance the progress so far.
Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, jointly shared by Alberta and Montana was the next highlight. We set out before sunrise one morning in Montana to drive "The Road to the Sun". The pavement curves, precipitously clinging to the sides of those rocky mountains, every corner offering expansive unparalleled mountain vistas and dramatic drops to the river below.
We came upon the locally famous "Wild Goose Island" as the sun rose, and were lucky enough to see it again on our return - we drove the road west for two hours and back east again immediately. The RV was neither welcome nor practical on the winding roads, so we used our tow car for the journey - happily retracing our tracks for the 'reverse views'.
The dark shadow below is cast by our motorhome transiting the golden fields between Glacier and Waterton. Although they are united as one park, it is currently necessary to exit Glacier Park to cross into Canada before reentering Waterton.
Perhaps the "signature" of the park, Waterton Lakes Lodge welcomes the visitor on arrival to the Alberta side of the peace park. While there is no equivalent "highway to the sun", the park and its lakes are hugged by glorious mountains, the sides of which, sadly, are now viciously and extensively scarred by fire. Somehow the beauty is not diminished - the power of the peaks somehow more visible through the leafless trees.
And then, BC. The drive through the Kootenays is beautiful; lake after lake and cotton-candy skies greeting us with each turn.
The changes are startling - suddenly there's a transition to dry Okanagan grasslands and Kamloops country sage, and more lakes.
The ultimate conclusion - on our final day we were treated to the sight, from the safety of our RV, of a mama bear with three cubs traipsing across a nearby field. After prolific "Wildlife Corridor" signs lining so many of our routes, it was a delightful surprise to see bears appear without warning. We were in their environment, not vice-versa. Encouraging.
It's good to be home. I'm running out of superlatives.