Thursday, August 30, 2012
Today has been a truly delightful day. Ironically, it has also been my husband’s birthday; though, I felt like the day was more for my benefit than his… :/ Despite being awakened in the wee hours of the morning by birthday texts from caring folks two time zones ahead of us, we slept in a bit and got going at an enjoyable pace. With Jonathan driving, I got to read a good book and watch scenery.
We were travelling the Pacific Northwest of British Columbia on the Alaska Highway. This is officially the middle of nowhere. You know the Rand McNally atlases that you can pick up in Walmart? Well mine has all of the US, Mexico, and parts of Canada. Originally, I thought it had all of Canada. But as I found out on this trip, the map only covers about half of Alberta and British Columbia and none of the Yukon, except in a very small (one page) view of the major highways crossing Canada. Shortly after exiting the Icefields Parkway, and heading north, I ran out of highways to trace, and thinking that meant we had crossed from British Columbia to the Yukon (and thinking: man, either the journey to Alaska isn’t as far or as bad as they say, or the Yukon is really huge), I started looking for the Yukon map. My husband told me that I just had to look at the full (small, one-page spread) Canada map to determine highways that we needed to take or cities that were large. Then I knew it. We were officially in the middle of nowhere if even Rand McNally didn’t care to trace its terrain. We now fill up at every gas station that it is worth its salt so that we don’t get stranded (though the extra gallons we carry just-in-case give us comfort). Real towns (not even cities) are now hundreds of kilometers (for those of you who don’t know metric, that is still hundreds of miles as well) away. There are gas stations at “campsites” and lodges along the way. And, we have determined if we have gotten into a decent town if there is a Subway restaurant there. It is really big (maybe even a city) if there is a McDonald’s.
Anyway, today’s events made me decide that I like the Pacific Northwest of British Columbia, despite it not being in my atlas. First of all, the road was like you might expect the landway road to Alaska to be: scenic, winding, and in need of construction (although they were in the process of rejuvenating parts of it, there were still areas that were “patched” with just gravel). Probably because of the rain early in the day, the mountains and hills in the distance were a pretty blue, which played nicely with the greens and reds (dead pines) of the forest.
Then, all of sudden, when we were rounding a rocky cliff face by Stone Mountain, there were two bighorn sheep on the road! We slowed down and I snapped a few shots of them. One ran up the rocks quickly to escape us, but the other stayed resolutely on the road, determined to keep us from following the other. When other vehicles started converging, though, he ran up the rocks as well. That made my day. Bighorn sheep are reclusive creatures and to get to see one is tough. When I went to Yellowstone in 2010, I searched and searched for just a glimpse of one with no success (I did happen to see one a week later in the Badlands). So, little did I expect to see one, much less two, here on a highway of all things!
And, since Glacier National Park, I have been hoping to see a moose. The Canadian roadways have signs ever so often to indicate to watch out for them on the road, but after seeing some bighorns, I didn’t expect to see anything more that day. After rounding another corner in another valley, we saw something in the distance along the side of the road. At first, Jonathan thought that it may be a horse or something, but it didn’t quite look right. Then, we realized it was some other wild creature. We couldn’t decide between an elk or a moose until I pulled out the “wild critter guide” and determined it was a female and baby moose! What a sight! And they just skimmed over the road, their hooves barely touching the ground. You wouldn’t even guess that they weigh hundreds of pounds. They were gorgeous.
Now, my day was full: beautiful scenery, bighorn sheep, and moose. But, it wasn’t done. Little did I know that before we would pull off for the day that there would be a mystical, elusive caribou waiting around another turn. He was a cutie! He didn’t know whether he should get out of the road or not, so we got a good look at him. Finally, with traffic oncoming, I had to shoo him off the road.
By now, we were about ready to look for a camping site. We finally found a road that looked like it pulled off into the valley a ways, so we took it. The road took us to an area in Muncho Lake Provincial Park where we could disperse camp so long as we left no trace of ourselves. After find a suitable spot to create camp, we decided to do something fun and go kayaking in the little pond that we saw next to the gravel road. It was very enjoyable. I love kayaking and the sun and temperature was just about right. While exploring the pristine waters, we discovered that some spots on the bottom looked to be roiling, but producing no bubbles. Upon examining it closer, we realized that we had found the source of the pond: a clear little spring from underground. There was also the spinal bones of a some creature in the lake. While not much to brag about, I really enjoyed the adventure.
After we returned to camp, I took off on a quick run. I shortly found out that we had pulled off on the only likely spot for us to camp, as farther on the road’s bridge had been completely wiped out in a torrent of water or in a landslide. Who knows how long ago that was, though, as the road is not maintained. By the time I got back, Jonathan had supper ready for us.
To top it off, the view for my bathroom visit was fantastic and the sunset pretty.
Speaking of sunsets, it is very interesting to have the sunset getting later and later in the fall. Obviously, it is a result of me getting further north into the land of the midnight sun, but it is still an interesting experience. It was 9pm today and there was still a glow to the sky. Weather has been nice though. Gets a bit cold a night, but that provides us will cool water to drink all day long. There has been concern from loving folks back home about the weather, but we are moving at a brisk pace and nothing closes until October around here. All the trees still have their leaves and are only now beginning to turn colors. I have a feeling I will have a long and glorious fall, starting here in the North and following me all the way back to the States.
Now, to end this glorious day in some well-deserved sleep and hoping the morrow contains more happy adventures for the both of us.