Day 18: From States to Provinces

Day 18: June 2, 2013. Great Falls, Montana, USA, to Ft MacLeod, Alberta, Canada. 216 miles traveled. Over 3000 miles traveled since leaving Georgia through 12 states and 1 province, camping in 10 states and 1 province.

A pleasant surprise when we arrived at our campsite – good internet!

“North to Alaska” was playing on the radio as we departed Great Falls – a good omen! As we traveled 122 miles through the plains of northern Montana from Great Falls to the Canadian border the interstate was bordered by ranches and farms as far as the eye could see. A few oil pumps and huge grain storage silos dotted the landscape. Horses, cattle and the occasional pronghorn antelope stood in some of the fields. Far off in the distance we could see the mountains.

The border crossing was not busy this Sunday morning. There was only one RV ahead of us in line before we stopped to have our passports checked and answer the usual questions. The agent was very nice and after a few minutes we were in Alberta traveling on Alberta 4 to our destination of Ft. MacLeod about 100 more miles away.

Welcome to Alberta
Welcome to Alberta

Our first stop was at the Alberta Visitor’s Center for lunch. I picked up more travel brochures to add to our collection and we were off again. Canada uses the metric system so all the signs are in kilometers, not miles. Trying to figure out how many miles are in 100 kilometers isn’t easy so out came my phone to use the handy metric-to-US conversions.

The US to Canadian Dollar is a one-to-one exchange now so American dollars are accepted everywhere. The change comes back in Canadian dollars so I now have a separate wallet for Canadian money. Canada no longer use pennies and instead of one dollar bills there is a dollar coin called a loonie and a two dollar coin called a toonie.

We got set up at our campground and drove a few miles to the Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site. The Interpretive Site is very interesting and informative with an excellent film which reenacts a hunt and many exhibits. For thousands of years, natives of the North American plains depended on buffalo as their main source of food. Nothing went to waste. After butchering the buffalo, the hides were used for the skins of their tipis, the bones used for tools, and even the horns were used to carry coals from fires when they moved to a new location.

Before horses and guns were introduced, hunting buffalo was done on foot. The people observed the buffalo and learned ways to get them to stampede toward a cliff. The herd would be running so fast that the animals in the lead wouldn’t see the edge of the cliff until it was too late. They would all tumble to the bottom of the cliff to their death for the tribe to butcher.

This buffalo jump was named Head Smashed-In because according to Blackfoot legend, a young boy hid under a ledge in order to watch the buffalo plunge by. As the boy watched the bodies pile up, he became trapped between the animals and the cliff. His body was found with a crushed skull.

Evening Sky over the Oldman River in our campground
Evening Sky over the Oldman River in our campground

Back at the campground, Blondie and I walked along the Oldman River. A very good Day!

7 thoughts on “Day 18: From States to Provinces

  1. Wow… Free wifi at Canadian campsites? Internet at campsites in the lower 48 has improved once again since we headed west 2 years ago. Just 10 yers ago we were lucky to find dial up for 5 mins at a time. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years brings!!


    1. Holly, we are in a small private campground. Our site is close to the office so we have a great signal! We will be in national parks the next 5 days so we won’t have anything there unless we go to a coffee shop or McDonalds.


  2. Can’t believe “North to Alaska” was playing on the radio as you left your campsite to cross into Canada. A good omen indeed! When we traveled to Alaska, we had internet at all the private campgrounds, I believe. Rather it was good or not was a different story. I do remember when we started traveling eight years ago, not having internet at so many campgrounds, especially out west.


  3. There’s a whole new dimension to the term, “loonie toons “. Okay, I know it’s not spelled like that but, work with me here. Yeah, it’s a boring day !


  4. This was a great post, Mom! I loved the description of how the tribe hunted buffalo. The cliff reminds me of Blue Mounds in Minnesota. Y’all probably didn’t see them because of the snow while you were there, but I wonder if the tribes there hunted the same way. Your photos of the plains are gorgeous.


  5. Ranches and farms as far as the eye can see mixed with oil pumps and silos – sounds like Alberta for sure!

    I had not heard the story of the boy being the reason this buffalo jump is called head smashed in. I guess I always assumed it was because the buffalos got their heads smashed in the fall:)

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