We feel very lucky to have started our journey to southern Alberta, Canada, in Blackfoot traditional territory after about 1,500 miles of driving and exploring. Our route was longer than perhaps needed, but we managed a couple of nights of camping in wilderness areas and a couple of National Parks… this map covers the route we took from Klamath Falls, Oregon to Fort MacLeod, Alberta, Canada with explanations embedded within the journey.
View The drive to Canada in a larger map
We left Klamath Falls, Oregon (Kelly’s hometown) in early September and headed east to spend a first night camping in Steens Mountain Wilderness area. Steens is remotely situated in southeastern Oregon. This section of Oregon is one of the least populated areas of the continental United States, only 7,000 people live within a county that is at least 4 times the size of the state of Rhode Island. Steens has dramatic glacially carved canyons. The highest point is over 9,000 feet in elevation.
During our first night, at Steens, as darkness crept in, the sky beheld an intense clarity and we laid on the ground to witness the entire Milky Way traversing the sky amidst untold numbers of stars.
We continued our journey across the desolate but strikingly beautiful high desert of eastern Oregon, passing but a handful of cars over a 4-hour stretch until we reached the Idaho border. Crossing Idaho was anticipated for each of us as Kelly had not been here since childhood and it was Udi’s first time in the state. Unfortunately, wildfire smoke seemed to blanket the entire state and there was limited viewing as we drove toward the Wyoming border.
This summer, across all states in the western US, there were more wildfires than ever before. Late summer is now referred to as ‘fire season’ and is expected to get worse in the years to come, particularly as the climate becomes increasingly drier with more serious droughts expected to occur. Nearly all of the wildfires across the western US were from lightning. The increase and intensity of wildfires is related to climate change. This was but one instance in which we directly witnessed the effects of changing climate patterns.
When we reached the Wyoming border, we turned north, heading slowly through Grand Tetons National Park and then camping for a night in Yellowstone National Park. Both National Parks are a feast for the senses, dramatic peaks rising up from a valley floor (that is the Tetons), old-growth ever-green forests, crystal-clear and fast-flowing rivers, steaming geysers and colorful pools of boiling waters and mud and an array of wildlife that are rarely seen elsewhere in the continental US, including grizzly bears, wolves, moose and buffaloes.
Sleep that night camping at Yellowstone did not come in abundance, as the temperature plunged below freezing and the bugling of the male elks (it being mating season) was not exactly a soothing sound. However, we immensely enjoyed the natural wonders of both parks and reluctantly exited at the north end, entering into Montana.
The drive across Montana was relatively clear until we reached Billings, when again the air was saturated with wildfire smoke. We drove as far as Missoula before spending another night and leaving the next day with the anticipation and excitement of traversing Glacier National Park before crossing into Canada.