After a great first day in Montana, I thought I would explore north of Whitefish to see what was up that way on Hwy 93. Given the lousy weather conditions, I was not sure if I would attempt to venture north of the border into British Columbia, Canada. It had been raining all night and into the morning, but as I drove further north, the skies seemed to be lightening as if the sun might just break through the clouds.
I enjoyed the first part of my drive, roughly 50 miles to the small western town of Eureka, Montana. Along the way I passed a number of farms and lakes through the Stillwater State Forest. I even took a short detour following the "Wildlife Viewing Area" sign on the highway.
I'm not sure that was such a wise idea in hindsight, however. Given the spring thaw and still freezing nighttime temperatures, the small winding road into a public park area was like an ice skating rink. When I got out of the car near the top of the hill (some five or six miles back into the woods), I realized I had been driving on a solid road of ice about an inch thick. It was not very reassuring to realize this at the top of the hill, as it was time for me to navigate back DOWN the hill. Fortunately I made it without incident although I did lose my traction at one point going into a sideways slide down the hill for about 10 yards. More disappointing was the fact that I saw no wildlife to speak of; only a few squirrels out looking for nuts I suppose . . . and I didn't count!
Continuing on my way north on Hwy 93, I reached the town of Eureka. It was about what one might expect of a western frontier town. It was quaint and hustling with activity. I enjoyed seeing "Von's Cafe" home of the best burgers in town. Their signage even said you could "bet your buns on it!" It was here that on my return trip through that I bought two gallons of gas at $3.54/gallon so as to assure I'd have enough to return to Whitefish with just a splash left in the rental car for its return the next morning. (I prepaid with Alamo for a full tank at $2.25/gallon! What a deal that was.)
Since the weather seemed to be clearing up, I thought "what the heck" . . . I might as well continue the additional eight miles to the Roosville border crossing into Canada. When I arrived at the Canadian Customs drive up, I gave the officer my US Passport and the rental car agreement. He asked me a bunch of the usual routine questions . . .
" Are you carrying any weapons?"
" What is your purpose for coming to Canada?"
" How long have you been in Whitefish?"
" Where are you employed?"
Mmmmm, I'm currently unemployed.
That led to a number of follow-up questions, and a directive to pull around to the left into the first inspection bay. YIKES!
About 10 or 15 minutes later, a female officer came out of the building. More questions ensued including . . .
" How do you earn money if you're unemployed?"
" How much cash to you have on you now?"
" Who are you meeting in Canada?"
" How much money do you have access to now?" (My follow-up question to this one provided that she was inquiring about how much money I could access from an ATM account from my bank accounts and credit cards.)
And on and on . . . blah blah blah.
What a colossal headache given I was just wanting to drive up into BC to see what was around up there, hoping for perhaps a spectacular view of the mountains or perhaps some wildlife. I guess it is not normal for someone unemployed to ride the train for 30 hours (each way) just to spend a couple of days in Whitefish, Montana with a side trip into Canada. LOL
Once she was assured I wasn't smuggling contraband (alcohol, tobacco, drugs, etc), I was allowed to proceed into Canada. I was later told by someone at my hotel that there is apparently an issue with Americans going into Canada for day-labor work and since I responded that I was unemployed, that probably triggered a red flag.
As I left the border, the rain resumed. I did see several deer along the roadside, but honestly, they just looked like the deer I had seen the day before back in Montana . . . or home in Wisconsin or Virginia for that matter. On the road to the mountain ski resort of Fernie, there were signs alerting drivers to the possibility of mountain goats, but alas I saw none.
I did however, enjoy the views as the mountains seemed much more jagged and sharp than those seen at Glacier National Park and the surrounding areas around the Flathead Valley.
When I got to Fernie, the rain was now mixed with sleet and snow so I figured that was my signal to turn around and head back to the good ole USA. At the American border, my return "home" was far less concerning . . . thankfully I must have looked normal to them.
All in all, I guess the drive could be viewed as a bit of a waste given that the weather didn't allow for great viewing of the mountains and I did not see any wildlife to speak of. But I'd suggest it was a fun day out and allowed me to see a bit more of the world around me, even if it was through the springtime mountain fog.