Monthly Archives: July 2010

July 29th – odds and ends

I found this room with the exact colours I have in my kitchen. See Fred, other people like those colours together too. Of course, my kitchen looks better.

I found this room with the exact colours I have in my kitchen. See Fred, other people like those colours together too. Of course, my kitchen looks better.

I like the little town of Pincher Creek and as I pulled out of the campground I decided to visit their museum. Wow. I have never seen a small town museum like this. It was huge, literally a whole village, and the horticultural society has made it a haven for heritage plants. Well worth the trip if you are ever in this area.

Sod house from the museum. I am quite taken with these cozy, effiecent homes. I especially like the garden on the roof.

Sod house from the museum. I am quite taken with these cozy, effiecent homes. I especially like the garden on the roof.

Along the road I passed C0wley Ridge where Alberta Hydro has invested heavily in wind turbines. They sure picked the area well. There were signs warning traffic to be aware of high wind gusts. I sent lots of energy to my bike riding friends from the night before. They were riding along the same stretch, into the wind, into the mountains. I hope they made out ok.

Cowley Ridge

Cowley Ridge

There are hundreds of these things. I wonder what kind of neighbours they make.

There are hundreds of these things. I wonder what kind of neighbours they make.

As I started to get into ranch land I passed three drovers driving a small herd of cattle. Oh I wished I could stop for a picture but I couldn’t. You just have to believe me, it was like a scene from a movie, except they were moving them along a grassy plain and there was no cloud of dust.

The radio was giving storm warnings and I watched this cloud being peirced by lightning. It was beautiful and I actually snapped many photos trying to catch one lightning strike but didn't get that lucky. I had to drive in the rain for a bit, but basically missed the whole thing.

The radio was giving storm warnings and I watched this cloud being peirced by lightning. It was beautiful and I actually snapped many photos trying to catch one lightning strike but didn't get that lucky. I had to drive in the rain for a bit, but basically missed the whole thing.

Black Diamond

Black Diamond

When I got to Black Diamond, Catherine and Dwight treated me like family and when I told them I wanted to see a special place that had been recommended by a friend, they took me on an evening drive. This is for you Fay

Okotoks Big Rock

Okotoks Big Rock

Big Rock in Okotoks is a part of a train of 500 glacial erratics (stones dropped into weird places many years ago during a big melt) that they mentioned at Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump.  I had no idea how big it would be. I thought sort of in the order of Big Rock in Campbell River BC but it is much more impressive than that.

Climbing up the inside trying to make the top. Guess next time I will bring some proper shoes. I stopped about 10 feet short of the top wondering how I would get down. Not sure they would send a helicopter for me.

Climbing up the inside trying to make the top. Guess next time I will bring some proper shoes. I stopped about 10 feet short of my goal wondering how I would get down. Not sure they would send a helicopter for me or just leave me stranded.

Both Catherine and Dwight are going above and beyond the call of duty to show me a good time. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we are going to take a picnic and take back roads through the mountains and into Banff Park. That reminds me, I need to charge up the camera battery.

I am leaving for Calgary early Monday morning to visit Wendy’s sister Holly. I am looking forward to that. I probably won’t post until Tuesday. Talk soon.

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July 28 – Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump and other things

Isn't it clever the way they conceal a 6 story building here

Isn't it clever the way they conceal a 6 story building here

I locked my keys in the car today. I was just walking away from the parking lot toward the Head Smashed In Interpretive Centre when I realized they weren’t with me. I went back to Vincent and he was standing, shifting from tire to tire, a bit contrite…I mean, should he allow me to lock the doors with the keys in the ignition? Sometimes he doesn’t, but there they were, hanging deliciously beyond my reach. Luckily I had my purse with me…and luckily it has a spare. I am not sure if CAA would have come out there. My memory…sigh. But other than that the visit was great. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. Today they had powow dancers and drummers. No matter how far I walked out into the field, the pulse of the drums followed me. Amazing the distance those drums carry. I didn’t watch many of the dances but saw a Jingle Dress dance and remembered Gail’s neighbour whose steps were just as sure even though her regalia was not quite as elegant.

From the top of the cliff. Glad I am not a buffalo.

From the top of the cliff. Glad I am not a buffalo.

I had a tasty buffalo burger for lunch and headed, after several recommendations to Waterton International Park, another UNESCO site. I had hoped to camp there at the place where the prairie meets the mountains (thanks Marce and Gail) but believe it or not, every site was booked tonight.  It was a great drive though.  I headed to Pincher Creek where I am staying in another urban campground with internet service and a creek behind me to lull me to sleep.

Waterton Park

Waterton Park

More impressive than anything, today I met a couple of young people who are bucking the winds and biking across Canada from East to West. Rene from Ottawa and (oh darn I am so bad with  names – sorry) from Winnipeg, started in Winnipeg on July 17 and are already here. I ran into them earlier today when I was getting gas and thinking I was camping south of here. We arrived at the campground at the same time. They looked hot but were still moving and after showers, they looked positively energetic. I met an older cyclist who is staying in the same campground and he didn’t have the energy to talk. Both had gone about 100 km today. I have to say, sometimes I think that, as slow as I can travel in Vincent, biking or walking has to be the way to see the country. I pass things too fast to even get decent pictures. My knees are cringing (interesting mental picture) at the notion of some of those hills but my imagination and heart really wish I could do it.

A cyclist's dream. Can you see the windmills in the back there?

A cyclist's dream. Can you see the windmills in the back there?

I kept seeing signs warning of wildlife on the road and two deer, at separate times made me put on my brakes, once pretty hard, mainly because I didn’t see him throw himself in front  of the guy I was following and intending to pass…erp! Since I was stopped anyway, I tried to get pictures but they were moving fast. I have a picture imprinted on my brain though.

With the heat, my walk around the jump area was fragrant and peaceful.

With the heat, my walk around the jump area was fragrant and peaceful.

A beautiful drive along the mountains to Black Diamond tomorrow. Doesn’t this make you want to pull out your map of Canada? Maybe while I am at Catherine’s I will put this year on my map.

The edge of the world. There were storm warnings for this afternoon but looking at that, it is hard to believe.

The edge of the world. There were storm warnings for this afternoon but looking at that, it is hard to believe.

July 27 – The World is Flat

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A few short weeks ago I would have said that the world is round but after today, you could talk me into believing it is flat. Either that or it has a great big blue bowl over it. One or the other, either I will drive til I fall off the edge or, I will run into this great big blue wall.

Mountains on the horizen

Mountains on the horizen

Then again, first there was a blue smudge on the flat horizen but after driving for hours an edge or lip to the world became apparent. It looks like the flat prairie actually ends at a wall of mountains. I’m headed that direction. It doesn’t look like I will fall accidentally off. I will have to work harder at it. I will keep you posted.

Most of my driving today was on gravel highways like these, no traffic, lots of sun and sky. Not too hot. Perfect.

Most of my driving today was on gravel highways like these, no traffic, lots of sun and sky. Not too hot. Perfect.

I thought I was lost but nope, there I was at the cross roads.

I thought I was lost but nope, there I was at the cross roads.

Today was a great internet day. I found it every time I turned around. Tonight I am a community campground in Cardston Alberta. I can hear horses talking to each other and I have Wi Fi. Interesting combination. You might know Cardston as the home of actress Fay Wray, King Kong’s girl friend. When she came home in 1962 they dedicated this monument to her. Cool.

Memorial to Fay

Memorial to Fay

I am in Alberta. I am getting an urge to get those Cowboy boots I’ve always dreamed of. I will keep you posted on that.

Tina – this one is for you.

Vicki on the walking trail around Cardston

Vicki on the walking trail around Cardston

Talk soon.

July 26 – Weyburn to the Cyprus Hills

Water damaged side road

Water damaged side road

I made it to Alberta today and then to the Cyprus Hills Inter-provincial Park. I could have camped on the Saskatchewan side but there are no roads from one side to the other and it would have been out of my way so I decided to come here. I met a woman in the next campsite who said that they didn’t camp on the Saskatchewan side because this year they instituted a new policy that out of province guests pay more. So, I guess it was a good choice on  my part.

 

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Looking through my camera today I realize that all of my pictures are of big sky and long horizons. Wow. It is beautiful. As I crossed the border into Alberta, I began to see flood damage. A section of the Trans Canada is being repaired and we were detoured to the other side of the road, there is water standing in the fields and in one case, I saw a house that had been undermined by the water and half of it was hanging in mid air with no ground supporting it. I talked to a woman at the park information centre and she said that this area had been hit hard. It will take years to recover. The whole population seems to be excited about the heat wave that is on it’s way. Personally, I could do without temperatures exceeding 30 degrees that are supposed to hit us later in the week but it sure looks like this area deserves it’s sunshine.

Sunshine and sky, with hay bales on the side of the road. I wonder who bales them, and who uses them. It is an idea we could use at home.

Sunshine and sky, with hay bales on the side of the road. I wonder who bales them, and who uses them. It is an idea we could use at home.

I guess I whined a bit about everything being closed in Southern Saskatchewan on Sunday but as I drove today I realized something. There is a whole area of Canada that does not have Canadian Tire, Walmart, Tim Horton’s you name it. The big chains have not discovered most of the land south of the Trans Canada in this area. Of course there are some exceptions, the bigger towns do have some of those chains but for the most part, the little towns I drove through had stores and restaurants operated by people who live in those places. Interesting concept. I’m not sure it will catch on but it sure is good to see small towns that still have their own character and haven’t been homogenized by big corporations.

 

A wild rose. I guess I must be in Alberta

A wild rose. I guess I must be in Alberta

 

Well, internet has been scarce lately. Hope I get to post this tomorrow, Tuesday, which might even be Wednesday before you read it. Talk soon.

 

Bird playing hid-n-seek in the bush. Can you actually see it? Some days I want a better camera but most of the time one that fits in my pocket is fine.

Bird playing hid-n-seek in the bush. Can you actually see it? Some days I want a better camera but most of the time one that fits in my pocket is fine.

July 25 – lost in Saskatchewan

Such blue sky

Such blue sky

Ok, I’m not really lost but in Southern Saskachewan they must not get many tourists because after I crossed the Manitoba Saskatchewan line I didn’t see any more tourist info centres. I didn’t realize how much I rely on those places until they aren’t there.. Tourist info centre, I couldn’t even find a gas station. I just drove miles and miles seeing only field after field of canola, flax and some sunflowers (not in flower yet but that must be spectacular when fields and fields of them are in bloom) It seems that the roads bypass the towns and unless you turn off the main road you see nothing but road, field and sky with the odd grain elevator or oil pump sticking up in thedistance. I was beginning to worry that I would not find a camping place because my map, although pretty good at showing roads and towns, gave me little other information. Finally I turned into a museum in Estevan thinking that they might at least have some local information. Closed. Yup. It is Sunday in rural Saskatchewan and everything is closed. Finally, leaving Estevan I found a tourist info centre, and what do you know, it was open. The woman there came from Ottawa a few years ago. She cautioned me to get gas before I headed out. You won’t find it out there on the roads on Sunday she said. Yes. I noticed.

I love trains - they are such a way of life here and they seem to go on forever

I love trains - they are such a way of life here and they seem to go on forever

Tonight I am staying in Nickle Lake Campground just outside of Weyburn Sask. The lake is man made and I can still hear motor boats coming in as dusk is falling. The family across from me is shaking popcorn over the fire and the smell is making me feel like creeping over with my little bowl. Tomorrow I think I will be in Cyprus Hills inter-provincial campground on the Alberta side. There are not many couchsurfing hosts in southern Saskatchewan but there seem to be more north of the trans Canada so hopefully on my way home I will meet more people. For now, the weather is perfect and camping is great.

Prairie Lake - the grass around it blows in waves just like the water

Prairie Lake - the grass around it blows in waves just like the water

Oh, one last thing. I heard Michael Enright do a repeat interview with Oscar Brand on the occasion of his 90th birthday. He sang a song he wrote, you may remember it, “This Land of Ours.” He had me in tears by the end as I sang along. It was a good day to be on a prairie highway and singing at the top of my voice.

A small oil rig. These remind me of those silly birds that we used to get that would dip their beaks into a glass of water...remember the ones. These little rigs dip and sip from the ground, stand up and then dip and sip again.

A small oil rig. These remind me of those silly birds that we used to get that would dip their beaks into a glass of water...remember the ones. These little rigs dip and sip from the ground, stand up and then dip and sip again.

Talk soon.

PS. I forgot my glasses this morning and can’t really see this post so it could be worse than usual. I am not even sure that I got the right pictures in….ha ha.  This campground is unusual in that it has internet service but I walked a long way to get it and I was not prepared to go back. Hope you can read it. I am on my way now.

Straight roads, blue skies and rippling grass. It is almost impossible to drive. I just want to stand and admire.

Straight roads, blue skies and rippling grass. It is almost impossible to drive. I just want to stand and admire.

July 24 – Winnipeg, Turtle Mountain and Souris

big-sky

What luck I had to meet Nellie’s sister Lorraine in Winnipeg. I just want to thank the powers that be for amazing sisters. What would the world be without them? Lorraine treated me like a sister and gave me insights into why I love Nellie so much.

On the way through Winnipeg it was raining hard. I let Karma take the lead. I had an address and no directions. She took me right down town, past Portage and Main. A big fan of the rock band the Guess Who, I was thrilled to be there. Maybe the way back will be sunny and I will find a parking spot and gawk. That day though, I simply clenched the steering wheel and hoped that Karma knew what she was doing. She did.

On the way out of town, Lorraine gave me a by pass, the road was sunny and I missed the traffic of down town completely. Much easier but not nearly as much fun.

Prairie Grass Preserve

Prairie Grass Preserve

Yesterday I went to the Prairie Grass Preserve that I once heard Peter Gzowski talk about. What a thrill to be there. What an adventure finding it. Vincent had a mud bath, but the hot, humid air brought the sweet scents of the un-tilled prairie field to me and it was everything I had imagined it might be.

wild-flowers-and-grass

After taking a 2 h0ur hike and being impressed at the loving way that volunteers have labeled many of the plants, I headed east again for Turtle Mountain Provincial Park. On the way the sky got black and I ended up setting up camp in the rain. Vincent wore his raincoat last night.

Volunteer labels

Volunteer labels

Vincent in a rain coat

Vincent in a rain coat

Today I got up and had breakfast, then headed to Souris for a walk across the swinging bridge, a car wash and some technology. I am staying at Turtle Mountain one more night before heading to Saskatchewan.

Long suspension foot bridge - not as sturdy as you might think

Long suspension foot bridge - not as sturdy as you might think

When people have said that I would find the prairies a boring drive, I always thought they would be wrong. I love sky and I have not been disappointed. The landscape is startlingly beautiful and the people seem to be just as friendly as the sky is wide.  I have been surprised at how flat Southern Manitoba is. I wonder if it is just as flat in the north.  Turtle Mountain Park is in a more rolling area but the sky still goes on forever.

Could this be Vincents roots?

Could this be Vincents roots?

I am having trouble finding internet service these days. Hope to talk soon.

July 22 – Steinbach

Manitoba border

Manitoba border

I crossed the border yesterday after 8 days of enjoying Ontario and it’s hospitality. I have to thank Gail for being a wonderful host and for those moments where I thought, “This woman is a sister who I just never met.” I guess it is good that I left because I think both of us were starting to lack sleep because of gab sessions that lasted into the wee hours. It is wonderful to meet such kindred spirits on the road. Thanks for the connect Alison.

Last look at Ontario from the Manitoba border

Last look at Ontario from the Manitoba border

As I crossed the border I wondered at the way the lines for provinces were decided. I understand that each province has a diverse geography and many different types of land forms, but there is almost a clear line between the rocks of the Canadian Shield and the flat land of Manitoba, at least at that  border crossing. I can’t say how Northern Manitoba looks, although I hope to get a glimpse on the way back.  I think I will head to Saskatchewan and Alberta along roads south of the trans Canada.

Manitoba sky

Manitoba sky

I met Lenore and Doug through the couchsurfing site. They live on a small plot of land just outside of Mitchell near Steinback, right in the middle of Mennonite country. On my way here I stopped at the Mennonite Museum in Steinbach and spent a very enjoyable 3 hours lost in the past.  In many ways (can I say this?) It was like any pioneer museum, showing a way of life adopted by people who came to a country with many challenges but, some things were uniquely brought from Russian when they came to Canada. One of the things I loved was the concept of the housebarn. A house attached to the barn. I think I would have loved that on cold winter mornings when I got up to milk the goats. I am told that many of these structures still exist and are being lived in in villages south of here. I hope to see some of them. I love barns and I have always wanted to renovate one to live in. This would definitely give me the best of both worlds.

housebarn

housebarn

From what I can understand, with very little research into the thing, other than conversations that I had yesterday, being a Mennonite is a way of life, not just a religion. It colours ever aspect of living from morning til night, every day. I love that idea of a life that has work, play, spirit, emotion and land all tied together. It is a way of being that makes each breath  part of the community, the earth and the divine. That appeals to me because it is the way I am trying to live now. I felt a little ting of recognition in the presence of a community of people who have done it so long that it is natural to them. I will have to think more about that. Comments are always welcome if you are thinking about it too.

Sod house

Sod house

I am not sure what I thought when I heard about sod houses. I guess I imagined that they were built of big, bricks dug from the earth. Nope…this one is built with sod, just like the stuff people lay down for lawns. It is stacked like that light, layered, puff pastry, making a thick wall, that must repel the cold well. This one is dug down so that the windows are just above ground level and the home although low, is comfortable to stand in and very cozy. I loved the grass roof too. It looks like a very energy efficient, cost effective way of building. I wonder if people are still doing it? I will keep a look out for more of these wondrous structures.

Can you see the layers?

Can you see the layers?

When I got to Lenore’s, it felt like home. I could hear CBC playing in the house and the organic gardens are beautiful. As we ate dinner and talked about life, kids and grandchildren. Again, I felt like I was meeting a sister. I wonder about the miracle of couchsurfing.org. It occurs to me that people who volunteer to have strangers come and stay in their homes must be a special breed and that is why my experiences are so universally amazing. I am looking forward to continuing across the country and someday maybe couchsurfing as Erik did, in other countries.

I am heading to Winnipeg this afternoon to meet with a friend of Nellie’s and then will be continuing west. See you when I have another computer connection.

Lenore's garden

Lenore's garden

July 20 – Kenora: Trains, Float Planes and Skip Bo

Phone booth on the waterfront

Phone booth on the waterfront

Today I am leaving Kenora to go to a place near Steinbach, Manitoba. I will be changing provinces. Last year I moved from home to Vancouver in 5 days. This year it has taken me over a week to reach the border between Ontario and Manitoba. It has been a much more relaxing trip, my bottom is still speaking to me.

Little house on the rocks

Little house on the rocks

Kenora is a beautiful town, tucked onto the scenic shores of Lake of the Woods. I am staying with Gail, whose little house perched on a rocky shoulder of the rocks of the Canadian Shield. Her location has everything. It is across the street from the tracks where long trains race past often, it is on the float plane path back to the cove where they land, and yesterday, we saw big seagull like birds flying over. Later Gail identified them as pelicans. Pelicans? Really? I thought they were a Florida bird. Apparently not and today, before I leave, we are going for a Pelican stalking walk so I can get a good close up look.

Mural in Kenora

Mural in Kenora

Gail has a 9 year old neighbour who goes to Pow Wows and dances the Jingle Dance. She brought over her Jingle Dress to show to me. Beautiful, and it really does jingle. She showed me the steps to the dance and I could imagine 40 or 50 women dancing together wearing similar dresses. The sound, accompanied by the drums and the dancers would be beautiful. She and Gail convinced me to look for Pow Wows as I cross the prairies. That evening they taught me to play Skip Bo and then proceeded to beat me badly. I didn’t have a chance, but it is a good game. I think I will get it for my grandchildren when I go home. Lots of numbers, not too complicated and fun. I can’t believe I have never played it before.

Kenora Museum

Kenora Museum

Yesterday I went to the Kenora Museum and took a look at the map exhibition that just opened. I love maps and these ranged from the very first explorers renderings of the area to sophisticated satellite images. Two things really amazed me. One was the accuracy of the ones made for the explorers by  the first nations people.  They had never seen the satellite images or even flown above the land. Their knowledge of the land and the way they were able to  detail it, were amazing. And the second thing that surprised me was Lake of the Woods itself. It contains 14,500 islands and over 105,000 kms of shore line. Looking at the maps, I wondered how the early voyageurs could navigate their way through reliably, but they did, making Kenora a stop along the early water highway west.

Lake of the Woods

Lake of the Woods

Yesterday I walked along the waterfront, dodging rain showers and enjoyed the huge wall paintings, street art and of course, Husky the Musky. I think it would be wonderful to have a year round cottage here. There seems to be so much going on all the time. On the other hand it is a bit far from home, and Gail says I am welcome to stop by any time. Next time I am definitely bringing my kayak.

Float plane parking lot

Float plane parking lot

Talk the next time I have a connection.

Husky the Musky

Husky the Musky

July 19th – living lightly

art on the kitchen cabinets

art on the kitchen cabinets

I met Shawn last year on my way home, just stayed one brief evening and so I was glad to have more time this time. She is one of those amazing women who has really decided what is important to her. Recently retired, she lives in a very small house tucked behind the big buildings down town Thunder Bay. The first thing you notice on arrival are the cheerful flowers in front and on the porch. Once inside, you are in an artistic wonderland

art and magic everywhere

art and magic everywhere

Since Shawn retired she has been exploring the self she never had a chance to get to know. Whimsical clay sculptures and walls of paintings give the tiny house a magical feeling. Every time I turned around a new treasure leapt up to greet me. She shared her grand sons and a slice of her life with me and it was a wonderful time.

Shawn has also helped give focus to the way I would like to live lightly on the land. She has little money and uses it for the important things in life, not really for stuff. She has what is necessary to live and finds joy in her relationships, not in the things we consider important. She draws magic out of her life and adds it to the lives of others who meet her. In my mind, my visit with her will always be how I think of Thunder Bay.

couchsurfing cat Silver

couchsurfing cat Silver

Another plug for couchsurfing: if you are traveling and not a member of couchsurfing.com, you are missing out on the most amazing people. Try it.

Swimming hole along the way

Swimming hole along the way

The road to Kenora seemed long but, it was dotted with little lakes, many of which had picnic areas. I met a family from Hamilton who waded into one with their fishing rods hoping to catch dinner. I am not sure how many fish they caught but all were well dotted with leeches when they waded out and totally grossed out. I took a 15 minute nap there in Vincent, in the shade. Later I came to a little lake with rocky shores where I went paddling to cool off and stretch my muscles. I finally arrived in Kenora on beautiful Lake of the Woods where I am staying with Gail, a friend of a friend who I almost got to visit last year. She is now registered on couchsurfing so even you could stay here if you play your cards right.

Too much to do to stay on the computer. Talk soon. Vicki

July 17 Old Fort William

Cooking in the heat

Cooking in the heat

Today I went to Old Fort William. It has been on my list of things to do since I was in Grade 5, and it was worth the wait. It was a perfect day weather wise and it was Rendez Vous at the fort so lots was going on. I got pickerel for lunch. Ummmmm. I will definitely go back. I would LOVE to work there for a summer.

I am off to either Fort Frances or Kenora in the morning. It is a long drive and as eager as I am to finally meet Gail after a whole year of writing, I may have to take a break on the way.  Talk next time I have a connection.

Gathering at the dock

Gathering at the dock