Alaska Journey Day 16 by Dave Hileman

The Turquoise Day

Up early to get to a hike at Moraine Lake. But we were interrupted on our effort to get their early enough for a parking space by a grizzly bear, our first on this trip and second ever. Thus we were a bit late but got one of the last parking places at 8:00. What a magnificent lake, incredible colors of turquoise and blue and green. All surrounded by snow and glacier capped mountains, seven peaks in all, I think. The trail goes only on one side of the lake so it is an out and back. Great scenery and great weather. Then we tried to do another hike but zero parking. None. So we went to Lake Louise, the town, and ate at Bill Peydo’s Cafe. Nice place with decent food not too badly priced. Then back toward Banff on 1A we stopped at Johnston Canyon for a walk to two water falls along a 2.5 mile trail. Again rushing, turquoise glacial waters filled the canyon. We saw both the lower and upper falls. 

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

I am in disbelief! My surprise is a sentence not a gift. The Guides gave me an intern. Sounds decent of them, right? Not at all. It is a bison, with wimpy horns. It is inarticulate and only communicates with grunts, I mean, how embarrassing is that and it is called Brrricesun de Bison. I will never call him that! What am I supposed to do with this? Where will it sleep? It never sipped a latte, never toured the Louvre, never swam with the dolphins, never ran with the bulls and does not know anything about Moose Rights. Sophistication is not its strong suit. The guides said it is an ESA. I will have to look that up. What I need is someone who can make copies and coffee, someone with an MBA not an ESA. I need to research the ESA degree right away because the main problem is that BdB already adores me. Surprise!!!

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

Lower Falls @ Johnston Canyon

Lower Falls @ Johnston Canyon



Alaska Journey Day 15 by Dave Hileman

The Day the Repair Got Done

Thank you to Backcountry RV Repair in Lethbridge and especially Chris, my new hero. We were there when they opened and he was inside reading my email. Then he directed me to the back - he looked at the part and did not have one but said he could make it, saw the space was too small to work, said that’s ok “I can slide out the heater,” then notice it was riveted in not screwed in and he said, that’s all right, I will rivet it back! He was unflappable. And the repair was done right and at a fair price. If you need assistance on the way to Alaska near Shelby MT - that is almost to the border at the Sweetgrass entrance, see Chris. Great guy, good, fair company. So fixed we washed the truck and trailer is a giant truck DIY wash with VERY high pressure hoses and a fire hose to rinse. It had high walkways on both sides. Thanks, Myra, I needed those new muscles. Then off to Banff. We got a campsite we really liked and and extended to Saturday AM when we found out we could not get one in Jasper. We drove to town and found a COWS Ice Cream My absolute favorite anywhere, ever. We celebrated with double cones each. On the way back saw Big Horn Sheep and Elk. Nice day.

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

I’m still not talking. But we did find great ice cream. Maybe I should let them off the hook. Tomorrow. I bet they feel very upset that they did not have my riveting commentary today. I guess my silence has punished them sufficiently. Tomorrow I will smooth things over. Magnanimity is one of my most outstanding qualities. Then they can get my surprise. That is exciting. Big mountains today, very Moosy-like setting. Can’t figure out this Canada thing. 

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Alaska Journey Day 14 by Dave Hileman

The Plain Day (as High Plains!)

If I were you I would not read today’s post because it was a plain day on the high plains of Montana. We crossed the state on Route Two for over 300 miles and lots of construction. There were also lots of mid-century motels with neat old sign however we were on a tight schedule the only oil change I could find was 4.25 hours away and we were 4.50 and he would be closed after so no lunch or stops. It was a chore day. Some laundry, oil change for the truck and refill on one propane tank. We stopped only for gas and one coffee. Until dinner about 10 miles from Canada to eat our “forbidden” foods. We cross the boarder in five minutes and stopped for the night in Lethbridge at a Walmart. Then the day got exciting as we have a water leak from a broken tee valve. I -and I know you are astonished - took it apart and found the problem and was able to stem the leak. Thew plan is to be at a local RV shop when they open at 8:00. I hope they have the part and a tool to get the bigger brass valve off. 

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

This may be the most exited I have been since I got an autograph from Bullwinkle Moose as a young but promising Mooseling. We must be ready to leave Montana for Alaska ‘cause we have been riding for hours and hours. They still didn’t tell me the surprise. Two excitements are more than most Moose can stand. 


Wait, what? Where? I am confused again. We left MT but we are apparently in Canada. How? Canada is near where I was born in Maine and it is full of ice and Polar Bears, how can this be Canada and what happened to Alaska. And on top of that I was subjected to a great indignity because the Driver said I did not have a passport I could not ride into the frozen land but had to SNEAK across the border on hoof. I am sure I barely escaped a bear (but I have to admit at 73 degrees it was not too cold). Why can’t I have a passport, more Moose Rights. Besides the Driver said no one would really notice a Moose walking along the lake. I am outraged. At least they waited for me to get back into the truck. But I am not speaking to them. So they said no suprise until I get over my funk. I can’t I don’t know what a funk is!

The old hog barn at Reindel’s ranch

The old hog barn at Reindel’s ranch



Alaska Journey Day 13 by Dave Hileman

The Entering New Territory Day

We left the Reindel’s barn about 8 - really enjoyed catching up (and Chris reattached our AC cover properly -thanks!) Lots of miles on this trip have been true to our name on two lane roads and today was completely on pretty country roads, miles of them. We stopped first in the North Unit of Roosevelt NP, a first time visit to this part but not a new park. Had a 2.4 mile hike to a spectacular view overlooking multiple bends of the Missouri River and and bright green Cottonwood trees all from high up on the edge of a canyon. Then after a stop for gas and groceries - stocked up, we went to Fort Union NHS. This was John Astors most profitable post where thousands of fur pelts were traded for lots of good from all around the world. Several different tribes would make this journey once a year and from 1828 until after the Civil War when the trade ceased to be profitable. Then, two hours into Montana we stopped for the night in a small RV park in Glasgow.

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

Do I need to tell you it worked. We are again on our way. I don’t think they suspect a thing. Oh, I hope the North Pole is near Alaska, well, of course it is. And, drum roll, we entered Montana. Montana is near Alaska because my ex-girl friend, Fairlane, lives here. Or at least she did. We wrote to each other last year and she was a great help in focusing on Moose Rights. She was just perfect. We were so right for each other I still don’t know why she decided to get married last fall to, well, whoever. I know she must feel awful about that but I don’t know where she is and I must push on. Well, perhaps because the Guides knew that I would be a tiny bit sad they said they had a surprise for me tomorrow. It will be stupendous I am sure. 

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Alaska Journey Day 12 by Dave Hileman

The Walking Meriwether and William Day

Sunday so we went to town with the Reindel’s to their church. Interesting place, verse by verse teaching is the primary focus of worship. After we stopped at McDonalds for a breakfast sandwich to surprise Tori who was at work. Cindy and I then went to the Knife River Indian Villages NHS. This is where Lewis and Clark met Sakakawea (not how I learned to spell it or say her name) as they pushed westward along the Missouri River. The park was nicely done, good reconstruction of a circular earthen mound lodge, spacious and rather clever how it was used. The tribe had about 5000 people - more than St. Louis at the time. Enjoyed a walk of about 2 miles and on the way we left the trail and walked along the bank of the Missouri River looking at basically the same scenery as Lewis/Clark. Neat atmosphere. The walk back across the knee deep grass for a long way was a bit too much atmosphere. 

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

OK, so the Guides went somewhere to do something, I don’t really listen unless the little white pill they haul around is connected because I know we are not going to make any progress. So while they were gone I made up a flyer for the Best Ice Cream in the US at Moost Be Good and picked a place that Tori told me was way north. Never heard of the North Pole but it does sound like the right direction. I made the flyer look excellent (one of my most outstanding abilities) and I know they can’t resist especially since I also added free coffee. I think tomorrow we will be back on track and by nightfall I shall be sleeping in Alaska. I am not sure it is legal to be this clever.

Along the Knife River and Missouri River confluence - beautiful grasslands

Along the Knife River and Missouri River confluence - beautiful grasslands



Alaska Journey Day 11 by Dave Hileman

The Amphitheater Day.

We woke up later than usual, about 7 and used the morning to visit a bit with Chris and Rebecca, work on web site and banking and a bit of clean up in the trailer. After lunch we went to Theodore Roosevelt National Park with the Reindel’s driving, a nice break for me. It was very windy in the park and cold, especially at the top of Buck Hill. The other short hike we did was Wind Canyon and it was not windy at all. Nice views of the Little Missouri River. We ate diner in Medora and then went to an outdoor show at a venue just out of town in Medora, It was a lot of fun. Music a bit of comedy, some stylized history and a family of jugglers. Home late.

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

Day two in the barn. What has inflected these people! I tried to Uber to town, there is no Uber, but that’s OK I don’t think there is a town! I have not had a latte for two days. No ice cream, no doughnuts and my guides are sleeping in a barn. I really think they believe we are in Alaska. But I know we are not. No signs of my rallies or posters, no TV interviews. Not Alaska. I got them moving west now how to convince them we are not at the goal. 

When an iPhone is what you have, pretty good camera.

When an iPhone is what you have, pretty good camera.

People on stage represented historical folks and they showed old photographs while they were preforming. Look at the right side of the set.

People on stage represented historical folks and they showed old photographs while they were preforming. Look at the right side of the set.

Before the show they hired an elk to walk across the hill

Before the show they hired an elk to walk across the hill

Prayers by Dave Hileman

Native American prayer clothes are placed in trees are shrubs around the base of Devils Tower NM as it is a sacred place in their culture.

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Alaska Journey Day 10 by Dave Hileman

The Life in a Barn Day

Up and out early on the Red Bed Trail at Devil’s Tower. What a beautiful hike first across a prairie dog town and along the Belle Forsch River. The trail then starts upward and along very red cliffs of the Spearfish Formation that looked amazing in the morning light with the vibrant green of the river valley in view as well. We spotted a very Black-Billed Magpie, a fabulous bird and lots of Nuthatches and Chickadees. The trail wound along grassy fields punctuated with fragrant pines and spots of bright yellow or white flowers. The Tower loomed over the scenes but occasionally it would disappear behind a thick growth of trees. At the 2/3 mark we were back on top at the VC and replenished our water. Then the descent back to the campground along a newer yellow rock called the Sundance Formation. Great views again as we completed a 4 mile circle of the Tower. We then packed up and headed north toward Dickinson ND. Along the way in a tiny hamlet called Buffalo we found a free dump station in a roadside park and a nice coffee shop! called Blossom and Brews. Otherwise miles of perfectly straight two-lane roads and endless green grazing lands. We arrived at our friends farm in ND about 5 and they cleared out a space in one of the barns for us to back into because the forecast was for strong storms and hail. After burgers and chat we headed into the barn. A strong storm did ensue and we were glad for the protection. 

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

So even with my warnings the Guides headed out to walk on the vibrating mountain. I had to go with them, despite the danger, for they clearly needed my protection. We made it around, must be some sort of ritual but I kept myself between them and the mountain. So I am exhausted as we set out again, maybe tomorrow i’I'll be in Alaska. I napped a bit and we were again in the insidious South of Dakota. SD has to be the biggest state we have been in seven times. Thankfully we finally arrived North of Dakota at some more nice people’s home and they cooked. Highlight of the day. But the Guides are sleeping in a barn! Moose don’t sleep in barns and the outside is full of those bovine beasts. Fortunately I have access to the house because Tori adores me already and invited me inside. That was a close call.  

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Alaska Journey Day 9 by Dave Hileman

The “Like a Rock” Day

Up early and off to the Cliff Shelf trail. A unique area of the Badlands where centuries ago a cliff face fell and created a “slump” as they call it, where water drains and vegetation flourishes. Saw mostly rabbits but rumor is that lots of animals use this place. Then a short, very short, walk to a “window” in the wall overlooking a craggy canyon. We then headed west again and showed great restraint in NOT stopping for five cent coffee and a doughnut for the third day. However we did stop at Panera in Rapid City to use the WIFI and get a bit of a charge on the computers. We arrived at the Devil’s Tower National Monument about three after a nice walk in the town of Spearfish where we found an excellent ice cream shop and shared a “mountain huckleberry” as it was not quite lunch. The tower is both unique and more spectacular than I expected. It was hot and the parking lots were nearly full at the VC so we stayed in the wonderful campsite, fixed dinner and did a hike around the base of the tower, about 1.4 miles. Then we set up the camera at a strategic spot off a dirt road and waited for sunset. Again lots of clouds rolled in. We did get one nice reflection but the plan to stay and shoot stars was a no go. 

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

It worked. I am a near genus. Oh, who are we kidding, a full genus. We went west again. Finally. And we had an excellent ice cream stop. What a day, full of anticipation as we have to be very close to Alaska in Wyoming. I still have not heard much about the rallies I am planning but, Moose are always late, great procrastinators, unlike myself, where promptness and timeliness are among my most outstanding qualities.

Parked near a very strange mountain that set my antlers tingling. Very odd, almost alien like vibe. Not sure I'll sleep well tonight. 

view of the Tower from campsite in late afternoon

view of the Tower from campsite in late afternoon

Last Badlands hike over this kind of trail.

Last Badlands hike over this kind of trail.

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Alaska Journey Day 8 by Dave Hileman

The Prairie Dog Day

Up early-ish and on the Badlands Loop. We traveled west and the light was beautiful. Very clear and still morning. On the way, in addition to the scenery we saw, pronghorn, bison, mountain goats and scores of prairie dogs. Many with lots of babies. Very cute to watch and listen to them. The loop road ends south of Wall and so we went over some back roads and once again had nickel coffee at Wall Drug. And we shared another donut. Then we stopped at Minuteman National Historic site. I didn’t realize how hard it is to get a ticket to tour an underground silo. The next opening is in late July. So we just did the grounds of two launch sites, most is underground but there are a few things to few. Then back to the Badlands where we did a 3/4 mile hike but it was getting too hot. Not comfortable at all. We came back to the trailer for lunch - then a migraine so stayed here until dinner, which we fixed and then ate outside in delightful, bug-free weather. We went for a two mile hike in the evening. Striking land. 

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

The Driver may not be lost but he is confused. Not exactly breaking news for anyone who actually knows him. We drove the same interstate, the same direction, on the exact same route as yesterday. Why. Well, except for excellent doughnuts. Which I tried a few different icing varieties for research purposes only, always a thorough investigator. My adherence to the best scientific practices is one of my most outstanding qualities. 

My plan tomorrow is to rig the GPS the Driver uses so that we are forced to go west. I am so clever. Remember Moose Rights. 

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“I told you they didn’t bring enough water.”

“I told you they didn’t bring enough water.”



Alaska Journey Day 7 by Dave Hileman

The Wall Day

We traveled from the Black Hills to Badlands National Park about 50 miles north and 60 miles east. I tried to get a tour at the Minuteman Missile National Monument but first available was mid-July! We stopped - mandatory I believe for all travelers - at Wall Drug and had $.05 coffee. I splurged and bought Cindy her own. And we shared a maple donut. We arrived at the park campground and secured a spot - no power but nice and then the rains started. So we simply went to the VC and then took about a five mile drive to scout out a sunrise photo spot. Getting up at 4:15 6:00 tomorrow. In the evening the rain stopped, we fixed dinner in the trailer early so we could get out on the road and shoot some photos at sunset. It was pretty. Nice soft pink colors against the pale rocks of the Badlands. 

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

No one will believe me but we spent the day going EAST. I am … no, remember San Juan Hill and TR, I will prevail. Maybe the Driver was just lost, again. The odds are certainly good. Soon I think he will figure out if we are going away from the setting sun it is not correct. I did ferret out a dozen maple donuts, some solace. We saw some animal with a poor excuse for antlers.

Part of the “Wall” in the Badlands.

Part of the “Wall” in the Badlands.

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Alaska Journey Day 6 by Dave Hileman

The Underground Day

Well things are looking up. Of course it would have to be since we spent much of it 200 plus feet under the surface of the earth. It really feels like the vacation has begun here in South Dakota. We had just a super day. First we slept really well at the KOA, it takes a while to get completely acclimated to travel for me. After breakfast (and an extra coffee with a peach muffin from Mornin’ Sunshine - I said it was a super day:) we went to Wind Cave National Park. We were able to get a tour early and it was very interesting and quite different from the caves we have seen in the east. It is dry, constant 54 degrees and did not have the stalagmites etc. Mostly what were called “boxes” places where the interior dissolved leaving what would compare to mortar if you could take out the bricks. We were at one time over 24 stories down, lots of steps but they have elevators to get back. Except we saw that later that day the tours were closed because the elevators broke. I blame the Moose. 

Next Custer State Park, what a treat. Stunning scenery and lots of buffalo and some pronghorn. Then we went to Mt Rushmore. Still not my ideal kind of park but it was much better approaching by way of the Iron Mountain Road where you got great long-distance views including two framed by one lane tunnels. We took a short hike, half mile or so on the Presidential Trail. Nice closer views and you got to see the old studio. There were also another 200 or so steps down and up - no elevator. Then off to Jewel Cave and a really excellent tour, the Discovery Tour. I’ll write more about these later. So if you are keeping score, new park numbers 225 and 226 and one revisit but first time photographing. We ate our first meal in a restaurant this trip in Custer SD at the Black Hills Burger and Bun - watch for the Eats! next week. And then back to the beautiful grasslands over Wind Cave to shoot a sunset. I got set up but a big black cloud formed and the sunset did not materialize too well. What a fun day. 

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

I expect you already guessed - no airports. I’m clearly stuck. And they unhooked the little caboose so that is not a good sign. Though it did get better in some respects. First I got a great muffin. The Driver and the Guide then disappeared underground. I’m not going there, no self respecting Moose would play in a hole in the ground so while they were, well wherever they were, I found a nice little shed and hooked into the electric power to charge my phone. Not getting timely response from my Moose Power Missive to Alaska. Probably just the time difference. By the way the Guides did the hole thing twice, I think they need therapy. But, as I eluded to at the start, not too bad because we went where they had giant heads and one of them was Roosevelt, the leader of the Bull Moose Party. I am inspired again. I will follow TR’s example and take the hill. We will achieve Moose Rights and, I add modestly, expect my image will soon be on top of that rock. North to Alaska!

The Heads framed by the pines on Iron Mountain Road

The Heads framed by the pines on Iron Mountain Road



Alaska Journey Day 5 by Dave Hileman

The Well-Executed Poorly-Planned Day

Talk about a plan working out but you wish it did not. We left a great camping spot at a winery in Vermillion SD and went to a church for the 9AM service and arrived 10 minutes early. They meet at 10:45 in the summer. Cross the Missouri River to see the ONLY place open on the Missouri National Recreation River, an overlook on a bluff. Then up the Nebraska side to cross again to Yankton, SD and found a church. Decent place, nice downtown setting, good stop except I was in line to get a coffee and they ran out one person in front of me. Small issue! Then back across to Nebraska on another bridge. The scenery was really neat and we were amazing how few “anything” we saw. Traveled 165 miles to Valentine NE to see another park with a bridge. Very “are you kidding me this is a park” stop. I mean you could not even see the structure of the bridge. On the way we were 114 miles of tiny two lane road in NE with one or two tiny “towns” and no services. We had 17 miles of gas left when we finally found it about 28 miles from our destination. Back to SD, two hours later and dead tired we arrived at our campground. We also, counting the night before, crossed the Missouri River on 3 different bridges and only 4 of the 10 were even open because of flooding but we did not know that. 

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

Despair engulfs me. We finally escape The Iowa and then are in the South. I thought we left the south days ago. And it gets worse, we are in South Dakota, then NE Braska - back and forth all day. NO DINNER. NO ICE CREAM. Barely ever stopped and They got out and looked at a bridge. What for - trolls, tolls? It must have been midnight when they stopped. I am going to find an airport in the morning. I need off this bus. 

Mulberry Bend of the Missouri National Recreation River - park number 225

Mulberry Bend of the Missouri National Recreation River - park number 225

Niobrara National Scenic River - park number 226

Niobrara National Scenic River - park number 226

Alaska Journey Day 4 by Dave Hileman

The day began well, we slept in a bit until almost 7. Then after breakfast Jean, the grandma of the Hansen clan, gave us a personal tour of the operation. A lot of work and really neat how they divide the labor. The grandkids chip in too, and they are paid. Wonderful time and great people on this 155 year-old family farm now in the seventh generation of ownership. Then off to the Cedar Falls VC and walked a two mile trail past ponds, restored prairie and saw lots of blackbirds. Then armed with a couple of things we wanted to see we set off on historic Route 20 across Iowa. A detour to see barns with painted quilt patterns did not go well. Most of them were too far from the road or badly faded but we did see a few. One plan was to ride along a scenic river drive on the Iowa, could not find it so I stopped in a store and asked. She said go through a state park, up a hill to a stop sign and then turn left, go 1/4 mile and turn right on the gravel road. Then this discussion between her and another lady was how bad the shape of the highway would be given the flooding. We did not try it with the trailer. Nice country. After a gas stop we headed west again but the plans did not work out, either things were closed or flooded. We got into Sioux City and then crossed the Missouri River into SD and stayed in a winery in Vermillion. 

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Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

I am sure we are lost, again. All day in the Iowa. At the last minute we ended up in the South again. Some place called Dakota. Must be somewhere near South Carolina. This is not the way to Alaska. If it were not for several flavors of fine ice cream I stashed I would have given up. 

Farm Camping is the place to be, farm living is the life for me…

Farm Camping is the place to be, farm living is the life for me…

Alaska Journey Day 3 by Dave Hileman

Today was a primary travel day so we could get across the Mississippi. It always feels like we are really on a long trip once the river is behind us. We stopped not too far into Iowa at Herbert Hoover’s birthplace. We have been before and it is a great spot 1/2 mile off the interstate to walk in a pleasant place, see some historic buildings and not be next to the highway. We walked past the library to the grave site this time. There was a young lady there recording bird calls to compare songs once a sound barrier is built to see if a more quiet environment will entice them to sing more. I wanted to play an Arctic bird’s call into one of her mics but thought better of the idea. We stopped at a dairy for the night. Harvest Host is a wonderful idea and this was a perfect place. Once we negotiated a very strong hail storm! We were parked by a small lake, had a super peaceful night, ate fresh Key Lime ice cream from the dairy and simply loved the place and the people were so helpful and welcoming. Delightful.

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

The trip is unraveling a bit. We are in Iowa. Did anyone ever hear of an Iowa? I am sure the driver is lost. We are in the midst of giant flat lands that don’t really exist anywhere I have been with strange upright cylinders poking up everywhere. I don’t think this place is anywhere near Alaska. The absolutely only decent thing is that we stumbled into ice cream. I had 12 flavors to stock up because we may never see a real ice cream store again. Oh, I forgot, I once again had to step in and save the day when this hideous horned monster began to attack. I think he was the leader because these things are all around us (maybe they live in the cylinders?) but none of the others have attacked. 

Herbert Hoover and Lou Hoover graves.

Herbert Hoover and Lou Hoover graves.

Cadillac says “I held so tight he froze just like a statue.” Another rescue for the amazing Moose.

Cadillac says “I held so tight he froze just like a statue.” Another rescue for the amazing Moose.