Exploring blog with the White Turtle. Exploring can be a single day trip or multi day trips to many locations. Tag along as I head out in the White Turtle to in search of amazing images. I exploring our great country and taking pictures at the same time is GREAT!!!
I like the scenery in Waterton but I like Waterton wildlife even more!! There are so many animals to photograph!!
Some days it can be frustrating as you can search and wait and nothing appears. Other days you cannot turn around without finding something to photograph.
The last couple of trips there has been a lot of animals to photograph. Waterton wildlife has been out in force this spring!!!
Early this spring I saw more moose in three days then I have seen in Waterton the entire 40 years I have been going there. It seemed that the moose decided all at once to venture out and about.
The birds have also been out in abundance. Many I did not even photograph as I was enjoying watching them. Cranes up around Belly river and a pair down along the entrance road.
Hawks and eagles like crazy all over the park.
Lots of song birds and even birds that just wanted to have a conversation with you like a Grey Jay up at Belly River that was having a good conversation with me.
I have also seen a couple foxes this spring. They were in a two different parts of the park. I have never seen foxes in these areas before. Since the fire animals have ventured out from their familiar surroundings and the foxes were a long way from the usual places I see them. I think this may be due to the fact that their prey have been able to expand their range as well.
Bears are also out in force. In one area I saw four bears. They seemed comfortable with each other and with the people around. Years ago I heard a talk from Andy Russel about bears. He said when the food supply is abundant bears will hang out with each other with no issues. So if that is true the food supply must be abundant this year.
Even insects can make good subjects, especially when they are busy eating.
One type of wildlife not mentioned in Waterton are the mosquitoes! My latest trip to Waterton was June 15 & 16 2019. I was not suppose to be in Waterton but was so happy I was there. The forecast for two days of rain did not happen, the temperature was nice and the wind was low… what more could you ask for!!
I seldom go into the town site. One of my favorite stops is at Maskinonge Lake. I have a couple spots I love to park at and will spend hours there. When I got to Waterton it was clear but the clouds started to move in. I got to a spot to park and wanted to head out in the kayak but I pulled a muscle a few weeks ago and still am trying to get it to heal. Instead I watched the storm move in then went to explore.
When I stopped I opened the back doors. There is a huge screen to stop bugs and it was COATED in seconds!! I carry my bear spray when I am out and was tempted to use it on all the mosquitoes.
They were THICK!!!!
I recently bought a new device that I decided to try. It is called a Thermacell and on the first try I found it works GREAT!!!!
I had another device years ago I thought was made by Thermacell and it worked good. This works amazing!!
In 15 minutes the screen was clear and I could stand under my canopy and there was not a bug to be found!!!
After the storm passed I went out to shoot and as I walked away from the Thermacell I was eaten alive. Proof how well it works!
If you like to camp or be out in nature I cannot recommend this more!!! The one I bought clips to your belt so if you are going out taking pictures you can attach it to your belt. They have other models as well. Not cheap, but effective!!!
I love Waterton Park!!! Get me started on the management of the park and you will not be able to stop me as I truly want Waterton protected for the future!. I think Waterton is perfect in so many ways. Now ask me what I think in the dead of winter when the wind will not stop blowing and the snow keeps drifting and I may say something else but that is all part of Waterton.
On amazing days there is no place any better than Waterton! Saturday morning was one of those times. I was suppose to teach a class in Waterton on Saturday morning. Just before they confirmed the class I agreed to head out to Yoho for a shoot. Then the Yoho shoot got postponed as the parkway was not open yet. So I headed to Waterton on Saturday to see what was out and about. It started raining sometime in the early morning on Sunday and got harder and harder all night. Sometime around 4 I got up for a drink and I realized that I had a window open and the rain had been hitting that window. Closed the window and went back to sleep and listened to the rain on the roof. Around 6 I woke up to still more rain. I thought if it was raining I may as well stay in bed. Woke up again at 7 and the rain had stopped and some sun had started to peak out. Got up and headed out to shoot! WOW what a morning!!! No wind, the clouds were breaking up and the sun was starting to poke through.
Where to go???
The only problem with a morning like this is where to go, there are SOOOOO many places that you want to go to when it is perfect out. After a drive up to the lookout just before the border on Chief Mountain Highway I headed back towards the town site. I passed a number of good photo opportunities as I had some ideas in my mind what I wanted to shoot. As I got closer to the town site I made up my mind. I turned off the road to a lookout over the valley that I have always wanted to use. Today was that day!!! Got up to the lookout only to run into a couple bears. So much for getting out here. A few pictures of them then to location two, Driftwood beach.
The weather was still perfect so I got a amazing shot of the POW. Some days it is just a perfect place to work at!!!
When I built the White Turtle III I did not want a seat swivel. The main reason was that I was putting the house battery under the seat and I could not have a swivel and the battery. Well I decided that I want a second battery and the weight of the battery at the back so I could now add a swivel.
The cost on the seat swivel is HORRIBLY expensive for what it is!!!! Almost $600!! But when you want something that works it is better to invest the money then try and make a lesser product work. In this case a lesser seat swivel is $400 so for $200 more I got a product that works properly.
I went with a Scopema seat swivel. Rated very high by everyone that uses one.
First impression is IT IS HEAVY!!!! Take a friend to pick it up!! Just kidding about a friend but it is heavy. Second impression is that it comes with NO INSTRUCTIONS. Good thing I had read about others installing them and knew a couple sites to get instructions from. Even the instructions that I found were horrible!!
I figured to install it would be about an hour. Well with having to move the battery it was more like 8 hours for the entire project. Now for projects like these I enjoy the process as much if not mare then I enjoy the final product!!! I love taking my time when I am doing it. Add to that the fact the weather was perfect and I had a blast!!!
1 hour to make up the new #1 gauge cables with heavy duty ends
2 hours to run the new #1 wire from the fuse panel to the new location of the battery
To redo the switch and the wires from the van to the house system about another 2 hours
2 hours to relocate the battery to the rear of the van, clean up and put everything back together
20 minutes to put in the swivel
Now like I mentioned earlier the seat comes with NOTHING to explain how to put it in. I was able to find instructions on-line here.
The instructions are BASIC and I also did a number of searches to see how others did it. I can tell you that many people have issues with the bolts lining up. One person mentioned it is because when the seat bases are welded that they expand and contract and are slightly off between different vans. But the best advise I found was to put in the bolts and if they did not all go in take them out and try a different combination. It took me three tries and they all went in without drilling the swivel like some have done.
The other thing that is an issue and not mentioned is the child safety seat anchor behind the seat. When swiveling it is in the way. Some say cut it off but I hate doing this as someday I may need it for some other reason and I wanted to keep it. So I bent it out of the way. Still there but the seat works perfect.
A couple extra notes:
If you read other posts you are going to find a lot of information about the swivel that is wrong. One post will tell you that the seat swivels with the door closed. IT DOES NOT without scratching the plastic on the door. To do this some have cut the seat glides but it seems like a lot of work for this.
Others will tell you that you can leave the jack under the seat. I only tried quickly and so far it is REALLY tight and does not seem like it will work. I will try later when I have more time. There may be a combination that does work.
Others say you need to hammer or pry the seat base to fit the swivel. You do not (see above about the different combinations of bolts).
So how do I like it? So far I love it!!!!! Having a comfortable place to sit is amazing!!!!! Plus it really does not take up any more space. The seat is already there so may as well use it.
Now I need to rewire the house battery over the summer to add another battery for winter, a house charging system from 110v and maybe an inverter. But that is another project!
Hard to believe but the White Turtle is 1 year old. Or al least it is 1 year since I got most of the Turtle III finished. Well by finished I mean to the point that I can enjoy it. Over the year I have loved using it for shoots and for driving. Plus over that year I have had a chance to evaluate how I use it and what I want to change / add / modify.
A lot of the changes that I am planning have more to do with how I use the van than anything. For me the van is a place to sleep, carry gear and if in an emergency to cook and use the washroom. I am / was not planning on living in it. If I changed the use of the van I would have to change a lot more.
Many of the things work as planned and I am really happy with them.
The bed is VERY comfortable and while it is short it fits me perfectly without using up a lot of space. I have thought long and hard about whether I should have gone with the longer wheelbase van so I could have a larger the bed. But after thinking about it I am happy I went with the 148″ wheelbase. Like I have said before the main purpose is to drive the unit and a longer unit would make it harder to turn around and park.
Insulation is more than enough. If there is a weak spot it is the doors (back & side). I have solved this with a couple moving blankets over the doors. I was out the other night and it got COLD, went to bed around 10:30 and it was warm without the furnace running till 4:30, then I turned the furnace on for a few minutes to warm the van up. Then shut it off the furnace and went to sleep till 7:30. Turned it on again at 7:30 and it was toasty warm. I did not use the moving blankets that night for the doors or to block off the cab so I still could have kept it warmer. The other day I took the van out shooting. I drove around for an hour with only the vehicle heat on. After coming home and leaving the van parked for a couple hours I went out to do some work and when I opened the side door I could feel the heat come out. Pretty good for just sitting in the cold parked.
Bathroom. While the bathroom is nothing more than a porta potti in a closet it is perfect. I have not used it much but it sure is nice to know it is there should I need it. The porta potti could have just put it in a cupboard, or on a slide under the bed but having it in the closet gives more privacy and I have storage above the toilet for towels and toiletries.
I love the size of fridge that I went with. I could always use a larger fridge but honestly don’t need it. Again I use the van mainly for driving so the fridge is for short term storage and I am not filling it for a week at a time. It cools fast and does not use much power. I have had a issue with the second coldest level and that it runs a lot more than I figure it should but I am going to add a vent fan for the rear cupboard and see how this does. SO happy I did not go with a propane fridge as I never worry about the angle of the camper when the fridge is running
When I built the cupboard that houses my food and dishes I thought it may be too small. I was wrong big time. At this time it is just a cupboard with two shelves and I use a couple containers inside. It holds a lot of stuff!!! Added a slider and put in a platform so I can pull out the food and dishes easier. Works great!!!
I originally was going to put a stove and sink built into the counter. So far really happy I did not. Have yet to use the portable stove. I have changed what and how I eat when traveling and just have not needed it. Not that I won’t use it just that when I am shooting I eat small snacks / meals all day rather then a huge one at the end of the day. Plus I am eating more food that does not require cooking. Sandwiches, vegetables, fruit have taken the place of cooked meats, eggs etc.
Sink / water was a big issue for me to decide on. I wanted running water/ hot water but did not want the extra stuff to do it. So I did not even add a sink and I carry a collapsible water container under the bed. So far it is working perfectly. I do not miss the running water. I have started to wash up at gas stations, tourist information stops and in campgrounds that have hot water. If I do need hot water I have the portable stove to heat some water on.
Flooring was another area that I struggled with when planning. Do I build a wooden floor, or leave the floor with the cargo mat and cover it with carpet? I decided on the cargo floor insert that came with the van, underlay and carpet. It works / feels GREAT!!!! Again I am not on it 8 hours a day but even then I think it would be enough. AND the time / cost / weight that I saved is HUGE!!
Some things I still want to tweak
First is the house battery. Currently I have the group 31 battery under the passenger seat. When I put it there I did not cut any of the bolts or modify anything so I can easily remove the battery and return to stock. After 1 year I have decided that I want to move it to the back under the bed for a number of reasons; The battery weight will be at the back for some extra traction. Also I can add a second battery easily. With the battery out from under the passenger seat I can add a swivel to the passenger seat. I cannot add the swivel now as the battery is too high. The battery(s) will be close to the external power and I can add a charger / maintainer to the set-up easily. I can also add a inverter (lots of space) to get 110v power when on the road.
Exhaust fan and roof vent is being added. This is still a question with me as I am happy without it but I know in the heat I will appreciate it.
I really want to finish the wiring as it has been 1 year. I did not know what I wanted for power & wires when I built it and now I think I do. So far the wires are rough run and I want to finish that up. I also want / need to run power to the exhaust fan I am adding. May also add another light over the bed for reading but honestly the light I have is really bright.
Slider for the food cupboard. I have some bins in there now and it works but I think if I have a slider then it would work even better.
Fan on a switch to move more air from behind the fridge. Will run it while I am driving to keep it cool behind the fridge.
Passenger seat swivel. After 1 year of use I decided that I want it.
Considering a bench by the door for sitting. It would add a lot of storage space as well and the space could be used for easy outside access. Really not sure about this, will have to keep designing and thinking about it. Have some cool ideas but really do not need it. May be a fun project! Could add some lights and a drop down table.
Screen door(s) and screen for the side windows. I have inserts for the side windows for at night but will make some screens for during the day. Also may make a screen for the side door with magnetic closer.
I really do LOVE the van. It is not a luxurious as many campers but it is homey enough for me and I love it. Now all I need to do is to get out some more!!!
Headed to Waterton yesterday, May 11 2019. Was an AMAZING day. Not many people outside of the town site. The town site was PACKED. Was going to spend the night at Belly River campground but decided to head home as the wind came up later in the day.
A few pictures of the van in Waterton.
first stop has been the same for the last year and that is up on Chief Mountain Highway. I head up to the border then turn around and work my way down.
It is cool looking into the US without crossing the border. From this lookout I headed to Belly River Campground to see how busy it was. Not busy at all but that will soon change.
After a tour and shooting around Waterton it was off to find a quiet place to rest. Maskinonge is the perfect spot, lots of people drive through but they don’t stay, must be because there is no services there. I do not mind, better for me. Also being May 11, 2019 it still is not tourist season.