Watson Lake!

Got to the park and settled in Nose to Tail style – overnight, that’s a fine system to park a bunch of RVs. Two rigs share a pedestal (power & water) and on one side we’re back to back and on the door side – door to door. Works great!

And now we give you…

The Famous… The Infamous… The Incredible… SIGNPOST FOREST!

See if you can find your community in these photos. They show only a fraction of the 86,796 signs that were counted up to April this year. We added one when we hung up our Caravan sign:

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Hinton, AB to Dawson Creek, BC

Columbia Ice Fields, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Driving from Banff to Jasper National Park was uneventful. If moving along a road that offers mind boggling vistas around every turn and over every rise. We met a Blinking Raven at a pullout where we paused to photo an ancient glacial moraine lake. The flowers, waterfalls, vistas… well.

 

The weather had calmed considerably from the previous week’s snow storm – though it was cold, we didn’t have to drive in snow or ice. Our group planned to dry camp overnight so when we arrived after a short drive, everyone quickly leveled – so our refrigerators keep working properly – then took off for the Skywalk and Glacier Explorer adventure. Sadly, I was not one of them.

I stayed cozy in Scout laying around with A-fib and reading “Minds of Winter” by Ed O’Loughlin. It is historical fiction and involves the tight circle of explores of the Arctic, Antarctic and poles therein – with, of course, a contemporary storyline as well. I’ve read several books about Alaska in the last few months and Barb tackled James Michner’s “Alaska” – which she’s already planning to read again. In may ways, setting the stage for our adventures by steeping ourselves other’s visions and historical accounts.

The Columbia Icefields are a huge plain of ice from which the glaciers descend. There are  four glaciers in the area. One glacier the group walked on was at least 1000′ deep (and shrinking from the very activity of our and other groups).

Open from May to October, 230 workers live in barracks with common areas. The workers are from all over the world. Barb describes the huge vehicle that goes up onto the ice field, “The machine costs 1.8 million dollars and travels at 18 miles per hour. The tires were taller than the tallest in our group. They run the machine through a glacier water bath before climbing onto the glacier to cool the tires and damage the ice less. Our driver’s name was Angela and she was from Manitoba. All drivers are well trained in the science of the ice field and in managing the huge machine. At the downhill end of a glacier is a ‘moraine’ composed of gravel and dust washed from under the glacier as it retreats.”

June 29 – 30, 2019, HInton, AB

Along our route were a startling array of waterfalls, including one mountain cliff that had hundreds of falls. We stopped at Athabasca Falls to see the river scouring a crevasse as graceful as water itself. The water was still the milky color signaling high concentrations of glacier flour. We walk down into a crevasse the water abandoned, it’s  hard layered rock walls sculpted and rounded to softness.

The river water along here became less white and more blue. Barb says it has to do with the glacier flour and it’s inability to absorb blue and green colors, therefore refracting those. Whatever the phenomenon is, the river adopts a pale milky sky blue color. The river basin is flat here and water creates a shiny tapestry around and through the gravel. Barb says the nature of the material left behind by the glacier is to compact so densely that it won’t let water pass through thereby creating a ‘braided river’.

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We popped out of the National Parks on a wet, rainy day to coast down to Hinton, AB. Barb and I are last of everyone (tail gunners) and pulled in to the park in just time to set up and assist with an AVC tradition (drumroll): Wampums! A dessert treat. 

Okay, a wampum requires a special stick. It consists of a 1/2” dowel with a 2” dowel attached at one end – well attached. The 2” dowel is sprayed with non-stick stuff. Then we “WAMP” a pack of those refrigerator crescent rolls on the edge of the picnic table. You know the ones you whack on the counter and they kind of explode? Those. 

The wary victim then picks up a triangle of crescent roll and artfully wraps it around the 2” dowel – creating a pocket. She then carries this questionable delicacy to the open fire and (presumably) gently toasts the roll (several rolls became fire fodder, slipping off into the flames). When the little rolls are toasted, one slips the pocket off the stick, fills the hollow with some kind of canned pie filling or chocolate and tops the whole mess, with canned whipping cream. No matter how skeptical our guests were… these toasty goodies got rave reviews! 

Everyone enjoyed grocery shopping in Hinton and we all went to an amazing trail system that wound around and thru a beaver habitat complete with beaver dames, huge beavers and yet more wild flowers! 

July 1, Dawson Creek, BC

After a long – 280 +/- mile drive, we pulled in to Dawson Creek, British Columbia. I vividly remember our family trip – in a truck camper – and arriving here in Dawson Creek! The town has grown about 75% in fifty-six years though. 

Barb and I drove out to Kiskatinaw Bridge, the first curved bridge in Canada. The first one was destroyed by ice jams that broke free and took the bridge with it. This one was built in 1942 – it was the first and now is the only curved bridge in Canada and one of the last in North America. It consists of 500,000 board feet of creosoted BC fir that was shipped in from the coast. More than 100 men worked on the bridge and only one lost his life when he fell to his death on the ice, yes… they built during the winter. The new bridge that bypasses the Kiskatinaw was built in 1978 when they straightened the Alaska Highway. 

I walked out on the bridge and though fifty-six years of experiences have buried the memories, teared up pretty badly remembering my dad and his determination to take his girls on an adventure of a lifetime. We traveled in a truck camper and ‘the kids’ didn’t sleep inside. My sisters and I stuck close to the camper though… we saw plenty of bear.

Today we also did “Photo OP” at Milepost “0” and the Welcome sign. It was super fun and the museum there had an incredible collection of all things necessary for family life in a pioneer train station. 

BC is wide open country compared to the Rockies we’ve been traversing. Gigantic fields of canola (like in Alberta), cattle and trees. Lumber is a huge product here also – lodgepole pines making up a plywood and siding industry that is substantial. 

Dawson Creek has all of the essentials but no big malls. There is Canadian Tire (a combo of Walmart and Home Depot) and Safeway grocery store. Cannabis is legal in Canada and there are a couple of shops on the highway.  They have a skate park, senior center, hospital, schools and all the civic necessities. The sky is pale, pale blue (now that the clouds have pulled back) and stretches forever. 

Tomorrow, we go north to Fort Nelson. This is Day 13 of our 58 day trip. It’s a long drive 282 miles and is followed by a short travel-day to Laird Hot Springs where we all will bask in the waters that bathed 1820’s gold rush stampeders. 

p.s. some photos have captions, just click.

Digging Canada’s National Parks

Banff National Park, Canada 

June 25, 2019

After arrival at Banff National Park and the Tunnel Mountain Campground, we ate dinner and at about 8 pm B and I took off for a walk up the Hoo Doo Trail. For our horticulture pals, I took photos of flowers along the way. The hoodoos will one day be eroded away as they’ve lost their protective tops. Watch the mountain. We started walking at about 7:45 and ended our walk after 10 pm – in the light. The sunset shot light to the tops of the Rockies.

With the group we discovered Lake Louise, Lake Moraine, the Summer Gondola/chair lift and Banff’s Bow Falls. Words (almost) fail me here. 

Lakes Louise and Moraine are glacial and so sport a shade of turquoise that could have come from an early mine in Arizona or New Mexico. Clear, pure, thousands of years old water filled with gazillions of ancient ground rock particles that reflect the slightest light to GLOW. The blue is unearthly against the grays, blacks, silvers and deep greens that surround the lakes. 

From the Lake Louise Summer Gondola we ride the ski lift from four to six thousand feet. There, miles away Lake Louise radiates blue-green light in her nest of dark trees, gray scarp &, talus slopes. Though clouds cast dramatic shadows the sun brightens just as many swaths of hill and mountainside. 

June 26

Today is a fine and ‘free’ day – that means no formal planned activities for the group. Barb planned and led a bird / elk / bear spotting walk. 

We found the small, untidy Three-Toed Woodpecker in a tree right beside the trail at about 8’. This bird rammed her beak into the edges of scaly pine bark, ripping off the scales and feeding madly enough that it didn’t seem to notice us (a group of 8). 

Two galls went back to camp and on the way spotted a bear – texting us to let us know. 

The remainder of the group opted to forge ahead and found a small herd of Elk – with mom’s and babies – the young bull had a beautiful set of velvety antlers. We observed many trees with bark scraped off by the itchy antler set. 

We also photographed three types of scat, some pika, a red ground squirrel and more mountain views. 

There’s a farmer’a market today (Wed.) in Banff so several of us drove in to town for it and for a loosely organized LEO (let’s eat out) at a local pub. The farmers market had great offerings of British Columbia (BC) and Alberta produce – I stocked up on organic yellow patty pan, a russet tater and some local cherries. There was also a Mead stand and I bought a couple of fine artisan mead offerings. Down the aisle were two distilleries so, naturally I had to stop and smell the… junipers. Lovely local Gins – great tastes but pricy for my CA$ so I tasted and walked on. 

The brews and food were roundly praised by our table of 12 – great dinner getting to know another couple and their meeting and love story. My element for sure (as a Systems oriented MFT). Both Barb and I are reveling, we are in our community! Grateful for the gift of being unguarded and accepted. 

Tomorrow we head to Columbia Ice Fields.

Breathe

2019 Alaska RVW – AVC Trip

Trip Log, 6/19/2019

Great Falls, MT to Hill Spring, AB, Canada

From this point on, prepare for tons of photos. When words fail… photos will tell the tale.

At this moment, we’re on 15 North driving from Great Falls, MT to Hill Spring, AB. Barb and I are filled with joy and anticipation to be on this journey at last. Seems like we’ve been planning and waiting forever.

All of the RV’s have been inspected by Barb and our tail gunner trainee Mary. Small things fixed, tires filled, safety checks performed and they’re ready to go. Kris, our other trainee, and I did all of the interviews and made sure we noted any medical and dietary issues as well as how excited everyone is to see, learn and do.

Yesterday was a full day of Orientation, welcome dinner and Travel Brief. It was time for everyone to learn about how the trip will go, what to expect, and the responsibilities of each adventurer. Our Wagon Master, Tina, is very engaging and a thorough & informative presenter. Lots of laughs and many questions were answered. After a great Welcome dinner, to bed and everyone checked out in the morning.

Barb and I are tail-gunning along behind everyone, hoping that there will be no problems and that everyone sails right through the border and up to our next stop at the Great Canadian Barn Dance & Family Campground.

Green pastures stretch, rolling and bumping across the country and copses of low trees and bushes are splashed with pink roses of several hues. Acres of azure sky high above cloud banks, ten different colors of green on the ground seem to pull water from the deep gray cadet blue clouds that look like inverted buttes. 

Stopped in Shelby, MT for gas $2.82, last gas in US. Thirty-four miles to Port of Sweetgrass & passport time!

Phew, made it across the border with our two catz! AND we arrived at our terrific campground out here on the rolling plains of Alberta. B and I are parked at the end of a row facing a little lake. Sweet!

We passed swaths of golden fields of yellow flowers and rose flowered fields. Hummm… cultivated. What would be those colors? And on hillsides, pinks mixed in with near black bushes… Alberta is the Wild Rose Province.

(It’s the next day now…) This morning we hopped on our bus to go to the Remington Carriage Museum and up to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump UNESCO Site.

Turns out, the giant yellow fields – many circular and irrigated by motorized sprinklers, are Brassica Rapa (a variety of rapeseed) used to make canola. Canada is the largest producer of Canola, hence the name: Can-ola – ‘Can’ for Canada and ‘ola’ signifying oil.  The rose-pink flowered fields are flax another of Alberta’s star crops. And the pinks mixing in with conifers and short bushes, roses for sure.

Remington Carriage Museum is a HUGE collection of carriages – with emphasis on Canadian carriage companies who helped build and settle the Canadian West. From tiny carriages children drove turkeys to pull to very impressive carriages that would transport groups of friends out into the countryside with picnic supplies, this museum seems to have it all. They have an early car designed and made by a Canadian Carriage company as well.

We toured the museum and took a carriage ride pulled by a pair of lovely blacks called Pepsi and Karma. Karma was a “Canadian” a horse that descends from Arabian, Quarter Horse and Percheron stock. Black’s are used here at the museum and they have 27 horses.

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Does anyone else see the dog in the clouds up there?

As we approached the Buffalo Jump Heritage site, the bluffs rose from the plain, rocky and gold against the green. Our driver shared his knowledge of the area: Indigenous peoples here over the years have been repatriated to some of their lands, measured in sections. This area comprises the largest amount of reservation land, in area, in all of Canada.

Photos: the buffalo jump, a Yellow Bellied Marmot, Tail-gunners three (Mary, Liz, Kris)

June 21 is Indigenous People’s Day and we were in the right place at the right time as Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Site is today celebrating. The staff on site are indigenous folk and their community dance to celebrate. Every dance was gorgeous but the Hoop Dance left me… poof, mind blown. 

But wait there’s more…. We had dinner and after that a concert! These folks at the Great Canadian Barn Dance & Family Campground put on a rocking, foot tapping – a bunch of us got up to dance – concert of great tunes. A great end to a very interesting and mind boggling day. 

Hearts full.

Breathe.

Wyoming, Words Fail

The Road, I-90 to Montana

6/10/2019 

What a surprise Sheridan, WY turned out to be! First, we needed a new water heater plug and went to Dalton’s RV to see if they had one. What a great store – tons of parts and a very nice RV repair facility attached. I even did a bit of impulse shopping. Recommended.

Next, we went to King’s Saddlery on Main Street. Main St. is an attraction in itself, most of the old buildings are old and well kept (including the Mint Bar). King’s is a love song from and to Don King, master saddler and all around grand character. The store has a high end western art gallery and tons of practical stuff for ranch folks to use and a secret… go out the back door, cross the alley and go in the black door.

Banks of racks 15’ tall with 2,900 ropes of every material and size known to man straight ahead! Saddles surround you. Most are labeled with the owner’s name, maker, year and whether they are for sale or not. Not ten but more like fifty saddles. Go through the door on your left and you’ll find the King’s saddlery museum. It is simply fabulous. We spent hours there reading and touching and talking to folks. Fabulous! So many saddles from the long past to recent, with documentation!

Don King, the patriarch of a ranch family became a master saddler whose work influenced Western saddle making deeply. Don pioneered a type of decoration – a full flower with leaves both furled and unfurled. The pattern is continuous – all over the skirts and prominent on other parts of the saddle. We learned of the three schools of decoration and when they became prominent among other things.

Second, we got up and out early to drive over the Bighorn Mountains and back on 14 and 14A. Three words: snow, wildlife and vistas! The photos will speak.

Wyoming Sunset Meditation:

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Breathe.

Roaming Wyoming

The Road, Wyoming, I-25N – I-90W

6/7/2019

I couldn’t help myself when I put that title up there! Sorry. Wasn’t that a song? It sure fits though. What an incredible state. First to allow women to vote. First National Park, Yellowstone. First National Forest. First woman justice of the peace. First all female jury. First woman elected to state wide office. First National Monument. First town in the US to be governed entirely by women. First woman governor in the US. Does it get better than that? A downside – from my POV – the last time a democrat was elected to the senate was in 1970. Sigh.

 

 

 

My fingers are sore as I click the keys on my Mac today. I’ve not made time practice the Ukulele in a while and those babies are tender! Michelle, my uku teacher, suggested practicing while passengering, a shout out to Michelle: Great Idea!

From Colorado Springs traffic and busy-ness to the long slide of I-25, N, Wyoming.  Boy, is this road quiet – not much traffic and long distances between anything but farmsteads.

If I’ve already said this, forgive me, please. I once thought Kansas, Eastern Colorado, Wyoming and Montana had the longest most boring roads in the world. I must have missed the grandeur of the tall-grass prairies with their spring green heads moving in unison with the breezes. I certainly didn’t notice those tall-grass prairies as they slowly morph into short-grass prairie. I must have been belly button gazing or something to miss the outrageousness of the “Fourteeners” of the Rocky Mountains! And the long slow rising and falling hills bitten as by a giant’s teeth by white rock formations marching along the highway when I traversed Wyoming previously. 

I mean, how does one miss Wyoming’s stretch of snowcapped rockies; the cloud shadows deep purple on pistachio and emerald green hills that were carved by the wind, ancient seas and glaciers; or the pronghorns that dot the roadside pastures – oblivious to the RVs, trucks and cars roaring past? We just passed a mom with two tiny babies!

Boy, age has certainly given my eyes new vision and my heart the openness to soar with the wide landscapes.

 

Guernsey State Park, Guernsey, WY, is a go and do park. It’s not one you want to sit around in at all… Sure, the sites are relatively new, spacious, some lakeside and quiet. The kicker is that this park has a whole lot of buildings erected by the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

I can’t tell you now many parks across the nation we have visited that bear the elegant, rustic architecture of the CCC. At the top of a tall cliff you’ll find Brimmer Point – yup, there’s a big rock edifice (quarried here on the park’s own land) built by the CCC – you climb up the steps and gaze dizzyingly down at the Guernsey Reservoir – a damming of the North Platte River. Awe inspiring, though not as deep as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, that was remembered to us as we looked down and over the towering cliffs that hug the lake. The CCC also built from locally quarried stone, a picnic shelter, museum and a “million dollar biffy” (no, it didn’t cost a mil$ to build, but it was so upscale for the guys they felt that was its value.)

Wyoming in the spring is wildflower country. Great swaths of tiny blue flowers, blue grass and silver salvias and sages paint the hills. From tiny white stars growing not two inches from the ground to the mounded silver bushes with their yellow flowers, there is something for everyone!

 

Speaking of wild flowers… what birds did Guernsey give us? How about the Lark Sparrow? The Lark Bunting has been dazzling us with it’s flashy white wing windows since Kansas. Ten feet from the front of our toad the Bullocks Oriole chewed on seeds and bugs on the salvia bushes. Just outside the windows of the RV, the brilliant neon yellow of tiny American Goldfinches grabbed our attention and made us hop outside, lunch forgotten, with the binoculars. We kept hearing the Common Night Hawk buzzing away somewhere nearby on walks and our visit to the CCC Museum and it was there that one finally scooped and swirled around the tree tops like a WWII bomber, the stripes of white on the wings  accentuating the likeness. Oh my yes, between using the camera to discern the Western Kingbird from the Cassins (hard to tell) and the binoculars to pick the House Wren from the cottonwood trees, our eyes have gotten a workout!

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Western Kingbird or Cassins?

After exploring the park, we decided to visit some of the best known of Oregon Trails Historical sights.

First off, Wagon Ruts Historical Site.

 

This park has some of the best preserved ruts made by pioneers’ wagons. The trail cut through rock, sometimes to a depth of four feet or more.

 

A beautiful, accessible path rises gently to the ruts site, parallels them and moves down the hill in a gentle loop. Looking at those ruts, it’s hard not to allow your imagination to wander to what it must have been like for the thousands of women and children, walking barefoot beside and behind the wagons as they traversed these rocky hills. 

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Birding the Ruts.

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Next stop, on the same dirt road, Register Cliff State Monument.

 

The parking lot butts right up to the cliff! What a cool place, hundreds of names from 1757 to contemporary times incised, scratched, cut and artistically arrayed over the face of the cliff. Graffiti!

 

Folks coming across the plains obliterated pictographs made by early native peoples at this site, those graffitist! The North Platte River moves with its quiet power not far away and this made a sensible stopping point for many pioneers and with the evening ahead, what better to do than carve one’s name on a somewhat blank cliff face?

 

 

There was even a trading post not far away. A chain link fence protects some of the cliff from the depredations of those who can’t restrain making a mark

And the day of discovery continued with a 26 mile ride east to visit Fort Laramie. Even before the wagon trains made their way out there, the fort was a trading post and rendezvous point for the many tribes of plains Indians and fur trappers. 

We’ve visited many of these forts and never heard the story we read at Fort Laramie. One of the worst massacres of the settling of the west was started by an Army commander choosing to take a battalion of soldiers out to scold an “Indian” who had “stolen” a cow from a wagon train and used it to feed his family. By then white folks had already broken one local treaty that could have kept peace and dignity for both the whites and the native folk. By then so much had been taken from folks who lived on these lands for ages. Well, the commander went out to a Chayenne camp, most who were there that day were women and children. The Army massacred every living being in that camp. Thence, the wars began in earnest. 

The fort is well restored and truly gives an idea of life there at its heyday. Officers’ wives imposed a sense of Eastern gentility on its residents though there were only 53 regulars living at the Fort at any given time. A couple of fancy officers’ houses, a la Boston, and a wonderfully restored and furnished barracks filled our imaginations with the sounds of bustle and hustle of an everyday pioneer fort. 

Our day ended in Guernsey, WY at the small but lovely Guernsey Public Library, the Visitors Center and the central park. They all offered Guernsey Park Wifi – very strong and fast connections, even with our VPN working to protect our transmissions! We got caught up, a bit, and drove home to put the day to rest with one of our favorite recipes, Soba Noodles with baby Bok Choi – with a poached egg topping its deliciousness off. Mmmmm yummy! Comfort food of the spicy good variety.

This morning we took off at a leisurely pace to go to our next camp spot in Sheridan, WY. On the way we stopped at Ayers Natural Bridge State Park. A small park not far from I-25, Ayres Bridge is one of the only Natural Bridge formations in the world with its creek still running and carving away beneath. A great breather from the road and for photo opps it can’t be beat! Like a bowl carved by water and ice a million years ago, the red and orange cliffs hold you as you explore. Scout squeaked in and out of the parking lot okay, but I don’t know as I’d drive a 40 footer through the trees and rocks.

 

Barb just remarked that the mountains just  west of us  – backed by snow topped peaks – remind her of Switzerland. We’re on 90 now and moving closer to the Rockies.

It’s simply lovely, dahlings!

Breathe, y’all. See you in Sheridan, Wy. 

What’s new?

Road: I-25 North to Wyoming 6/5/2019

While I’m captive in my passenger’s seat, I thought I’d update y’all.

Pretty soon here our travels will change pretty radically! We’re going to rendezvous with a few other RV’s in Great Falls, MT. The rendezvous is for our Adventure Caravans, RVing Women, 58 day, 2019 Trip to Alaska! Barb and I are tail gunning the caravan.

Adventure Caravans (AVC) is a premier RV caravanning company that has been around a long time and has a fabulous track record and catalog of adventures. It reminds me of Road Scholar (used to be Elderhostel) only for RVers. You see, do and learn from experts and folks who live in the area. We’re proud to work with such a reputable and organized company. Our guests feel the same and most travel with AVC multiple times.  Adventure Caravans Website

What is tail gunning? Well, we’ll be the last people to leave each of the RV parks we stay in for one thing. The job entails making sure all the other RVs make it to the park safely, solving any problems with RVs, helping anybody who happens to fall ill or get injured – heaven forfend – and assisting our Wagon Masters in any way we can. Our objective is providing safety and fun for our guests.

What do we do on a caravan trip? Oh gosh, we visit all the most interesting sights along the way and of course, everything is arranged in advance so our guests don’t need to fuss with or worry about making reservations or missing sights, activities or any fun. B and I will be helping to ensure our guests have the BEST time, while having a grand time ourselves. Lots of social hours, potlucks and staff cooked meals don’t hurt either!

Why go on an RV caravan journey? As many of you know, B and I have been traveling together in our various RVs off and on since 1995. We’ve done so many amazing things on our own but for one trip we organized with three other rigs. We loved that first trip we took with our little group. Traveling with a group is a blast! Sharing all those fabulous sights and learning about the area, it’s history and it’s people with other like minded folks only adds to the experience immeasurably. Another reason would be the old “Safety in numbers” idea. Caravaners have wagon master and tail gunner teams to make sure any problems are addressed and everyone has a smooth, fun, safe journey.

The upshot is that due to potential internet availability issues, potential having the times of our lives, potential working like busy bees and potential being so in the moment… meeting up with you here will likely be in pretty abbreviated amount and form. I can’t say I want to apologize though. You know we’ll get back to posting and fill in the blanks as internet and time are available. We will, after all, be hip deep in glaciers, bears, salmon, museums, musk oxen, halibut, out of this world mountains (Denali) and activities (rafting, fishing, eating, hiking…)

Next time we caravan to Alaska will be in 2021. Next year, we’ll be tail gunning a trip up the Gaspé Peninsula and over to Newfoundland. These trips will be all female teams and guests – we’ll give our guy friends a catalog to sign up for the same trips or even more varied choices with co-ed tours. Want to come along or need more information? Email us at twogalsgo@gmail.com.