Go westwards!

>Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
(>Pictures at the bottom!)

Right from the start; we had to postpone our planned onward journey again by one day. Heavy snowfalls and low temperatures were not the best animators for us.

Finally we could leave our spring quarters in Pembroke and head towards Whitehorse/Yukon, where we will meet friends from Switzerland on June 2. Since my aunt and uncle had to leave early this Sunday and left before us, saying goodbye after this long time was a bit easier and without a heartbreaking farewell.

Our planned westward route had to be constantly adjusted and changed due to the weather. From the northern route we soon turned south into the USA and hoped for more pleasant conditions there. Unfortunately, (snow-) storms, icy temperatures and a lot of rain accompanied us there again and again. But secondly there were still a few nice days, even if they were a bit fresh, which gave us hope for spring again and again.

The trip through the northern states of the USA was also a journey into more and more lonely regions. In the northern part of Michigan and Wisconsin it was already very deserted, after Duluth (Minnesota) the distances between the settlements became bigger and bigger. Immensely large farm and ranch areas replaced each other.

The eastern part of South Dakota was also flat, and huge farms lined the way, followed by even larger ranches. Only towards the southwest corner it became more interesting and scenic, even with rain.

It became almost deserted in the northern part of Wyoming, where we could drive for hours on some side roads without seeing anybody. But there were a lot of wild animals of all kinds and lots of herds of cattles, which were feeding on the wide pastures.

Via the Bighorn-Mountains we reached the Bighorn-Canyons, where wild horses still gallop through the wide landscape. This national recreation area extends over two states and borders north on a larger Indian reserve.

In the meantime we had experienced a few sunny days and after the long cold these days were – purely subjectively – already too hot for us ­čśë

In Montana we went to the biggest city (Billings), where everything is about cattle breeding and oil. Our jeep got a bigger service there again. We chose this place very purposefully: Montana knows no value added tax. Before I could order all necessary wearing parts by telephone, which are available here apparently also for European Diesel engines. Within 3 hours our jeep was fully “renovated” again and our journey could continue.

Across the hilly landscape of Montana we went to the “Rocky’s”. We absolutely wanted to get a taste of the mountain and glacier world and drive through the Glacier National Park. Unfortunately we also had to adapt our project to the circumstances. The clouds were already hanging deep in the mountains and the first raindrops accompanied us into the park. Due to the extended winter closure we had to take a longer detour around the park and reached Canada – how could it be otherwise – in rain and icy temperatures.

Well, hopefully spring will finally come! At the end of May we have to be in Yukon and there, in the far north there shouldn’t be too much snow anymore.

——————————————————–>Pictures at the bottom!

If all this was a bit too fast for you; here are a few selected experiences – we had many of them every day – which I don’t want to withhold from you:

On our way to Pembroke the snow was gone, but the Ottawa River was already at its peak and everything near the river already had water on the ground floor. Further down, just before Ottawa, a dam could no longer withstand the strain and caused anxiety for many people, including those living there.
We, on the other hand, were able to drive towards the Algonquin Park in almost spring-like weather, which welcomed us again very wintery. The snow lay on both sides of the road in considerable quantity and the ice blocks in the many lakes made anything but a spring-like impression. But many wild animals stood in direct proximity of the road and searched the roadsides for food.

At Georgian Bay – a part of Huron Lake – it was again a bit more pleasant and so we camped bravely and courageously behind the railway line at some snowmobile trail. The warming fire gave us a certain feeling of comfort until well into the night.
For the following night we hoped that no voracious black bear would be able to eat our supplies.
Early in the morning we were suddenly torn from a deep sleep! No, no bear knocked at our door, but a train thundered a few meters past our mobile home, as if it were about to drive through our bedroom.

We continued in a westerly direction along the northern shore of Lake Huron. Instead of spring, the winter came back in the course of the day. The visibility became cloudier and the first snowflakes were already dancing down from the sky. In Sault St. Marie we had everything but desire on a fresh night in our roof tent, particularly since we should not have made a fire on the camping site.

For the further drive around Lake Superior we chose a side road right after Sault St. Marie, which follows Highway 17 (Trans Canadian Highway) parallel. But soon we had to stop pushing forward; on the way there was too much snow for our jeep. But the deep water erosion nevertheless made the trip a special experience (…for the child in the man!). Somewhat disappointed we returned to the starting point, drove around the area and turned off the highway again later.

Hardly on the side way, already a young black bear crossed our way and this in the middle of a scattered settlement! Full of euphoria, we looked for more bears and missed the right turn-off. Thanks to GPS such a lapse is soon fixed and the miracle thing showed us a new route. But maybe you should turn some filters on or off before the trip to avoid suddenly standing somewhere in the undergrowth! After many kilometers we stood in the middle of a large deforested parcel, where the forest was ploughed by the heavy machines and the existing forest road became impassable. Somehow we tried to reach a new forest road when Chantal suddenly pushed the brake pedal into the void: A piece of branch tore the brake line off the front wheel!
After the long faces we soon remembered the topics of last year’s offroad course and the bush mechanics. After about an hour of tinkering the factory was ready and the brake system had a pressure point again, but only three braking wheels.
We cautiously drove along Highway 17 back to Sault St. Marie in the hope that the Jeep workshop there had the right spare part in stock for us.
They didn’t have an original brake hose, but a Chinese duplicate, which the workshop boss praises as a good product; we wouldn’t wait for about 2 weeks for the original part.
While our brakes were put back in order in the workshop, the winter returned in Sault St. Marie with heavy snowfall and the weather forecast promised even more snow along the northern shore of Lake Superior. Without further ado we rescheduled and shifted our direct trip to the northwest of Canada to the northern states of the USA; maybe there is still something like spring there.

With a serious expression the border official asked us about the purpose of our entry into the USA. To our answer; “We are on our way to Whitehorse and are looking for spring here”, she couldn’t stop laughing. Thanks to the visa, the administrative forms were created quickly and after the confiscation of the orange we soon went on to the rainy back country of Michigan.

Through vast national and state forests we rolled countless miles westwards, how could it be otherwise – in the rain. Only in the upper part of Lake Superior the sun showed up.
In the Porcupine Mountains State Park, where in winter skiers glide through the forest snow in countless ski areas, we once again enjoyed an evening camp with sunshine and a little bit of tentative warmth. Hopefully we went to bed that spring had finally arrived in North America and would show the cold northwest wind its face.
The next day the sun still laughed friendly at us, but the fresh wind over Lake Superior was anything but inviting. Behind the windshield it made the impression of pleasant and springlike warmth. But as soon as you got out, it was bitterly cold.

The port cities Superior (Wisconsin) and even Duluth (Minnesota), where Bob Dylan was being born and where there was a lot to see about him, couldn’t fascinate us. Instead we left this agglomeration as fast as possible and followed the St. Louis River upstream to the Jay Cooke State Park, where our firewood was confiscated by the ranger: This came from the neighbouring country and we had no proof (certificate) for pest-free wood with us.

Minnesota is promoting itself as a land of 10,000 lakes – 11,842 to be precise – and most of these lakes, both large and small, are located in the northern part of the country. Many are located in state parks and forests, but where there is no protection, they have been and are still being built on weekend houses with access to the lake. Instead of a lake view, there is only a clear view of the countless weekend houses that seem to try to outdo each other. One searches in vain for a public access to the lake.

As a western fan there are more and more places in the middle west that reminded me of some movies and stories. So we had to drive along the Mississippi to Grand Rapids, or Sioux Falls in South Dakota. In the second place the water from the river of the same name thunders over the water steps, while in the other places the water is mostly dammed by a barrage and used for electricity production.

We got deeper and deeper into the wide farm areas, where the immense fields are worked with huge machinery in order to supply the world with enough grain.
In South Dakota the picture changed, the ranches replaced the farms and the large cattle herds dominated the ubiquitous landscape.

And in the middle of this expanse, already in the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, lay a part of the former madness from the time of the cold war. All but a few of the countless Minuteman Missile silos have been dismantled. The still existing missile silos are now accessible to the public and an impressive exhibition draws attention to this insane and absolutely deadly mania. Hopefully, the mining efforts of that time will again awaken on all owners of such missiles, because these things in these silos are absolutely adorable and cost the taxpayer a fortune.

Somewhat depressed we steered through the Badlands National Park. We could not reconcile this wonderful and impressive landscape with what we saw only a few kilometres further north in the missile silos and asked ourselves again and again what this sabre rattling was or still is about.

The southwestern corner of South Dakota, including the Badlands National Park, clears up all the boring landscape in the east; here really one big cinema is announced and one highlight follows the next. Besides the four presidents at Mount Rushmore, where probably every American must have been once, the Custer Buffalo Park followed, where the cars meander through the buffalo herds.

At the Grazy Horse Monument we spent some more time and delved deeper into the history and contempt of the Indians. We also became more and more aware of the mutual hatred and why the whites spoke with a split tongue. Today’s area of the Black Hills would have been assigned to the Indians after a contract. A few years later gold was found in the Black Hills and the treaty was immediately cancelled by the American government. This resulted in warlike conflicts, which almost always ended to the disadvantage of the indigenous population.

Through the Black Hills (Nat.-Forest) we reached Wyoming; an even more deserted area; huge ranches and endless expanses. Somewhere in this expanse stands the Devils Tower (Nat. Monument), which is considered by the Indians to be a sacred mountain and becomes the place of their meditation every year. They are very disturbed by the fact that we – the white people – climb this mountain and even during the meditation period we do not let it go. The climbers respect closed areas because of bird breeding places, but not the concerns of the Indians.
Chantal put it in a nutshell: “What kind of uproar would the Christian world be if the Indians suddenly set up a camp in a church?

The deserted Wyoming accompanied us even further to the foot of the Bighorn Mountains, where we were again on our way with many other tourists. The weather was at its best on this Mother’s Day. For the Granite Pass we climbed to over 2’700 meters above sea level and back into the winter landscape. The last snowmobiles were still winding through the snow, other recreation seekers were already digging through the snow masses with the offroad vehicles. On many signs you could read again and again that cross-country skiing is forbidden! Probably there are too many snowmobiles on the road!

West of the Bighorn Mountains we dived down to the Bighorn River, where a semi-desert awaited us. Along the rivers the fields are irrigated with great effort and the green colors are like oases in the middle of the dry landscape.

After Greybull the dryness accompanied us to the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, where the border between Wyoming and Montana lies. Here wild horses still trot over the wide areas. For a long time we did not discover any of these noble creatures, but hoofprints from horse shoes and deep canyons, where the Bighorn River meanders northwards through the deep gorge.

The continuation of the journey through the Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area to the Crow Indian Reserve is not permitted for whites, according to a plan, and for further information the visitor centre of the park was closed.
So later, already in Montana, we turned off the highway and followed the route of a disused railway line into the Indian reserve. This time no prohibition sign, but a great landscape, as if we would gallop through a western movie.

Almost inconspicuous we suddenly stood at the southern edge of the biggest city in Montana and after crossing the Yellow River the hectic pace of modern times definitely fascinated us again. For our drivable vehicle we had to do a bigger service, so that we could drive the next X-thousand miles through the wide landscape again. While it – the jeep – was standing in the workshop, we strolled through the countless specialist markets, where there is really everything for dollars what the heart desires; whether only food, a colt, or should it be a bull? There is simply everything here! Thank God our loading possibilities are rather modest and the shopping craze was limited to a few things; we renounced the bull and the shooting iron and left both behind in Billings.

Up to the Glacier National Park again wide flat areas where grain is cultivated or countless cattle herds follow their fodder.
The larger river courses loosen up the expanse with deep valleys and canyons, where much revolves around fishing and water sports. During the summer months, thousands of nature lovers and people hungry for leisure probably paddle through the endless areas downstream.

At the south-eastern border of the Glacier National Park, a shop assistant immediately took away our optimism for some sunshine: For the next five days, rainfalls and snow at higher altitudes are coming.

So we spent once again a cooler evening at the edge of the Glacier National Park and secretly hoped for a sun hole. Unfortunately already in the night the rain splashed on our roof and with the drive through the park also nothing happened; the road was affected by the winter closure longer than usual due to the weather and forced us to a longer detour around the national park.

The officer at a small border crossing to Eureca greeted us very friendly and after a few minutes the whole magic of crossing the border to Canada was done. And just by the way: He had never seen a license number plate from Switzerland before! He wished us a good and carefree trip into the wide country.

Canada itself welcomed us with a lot of rain and snow over 1400 meters. Now we are going north towards the sun (hopefully)!

>Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator