Sunday, September 15, 2013

Yukon Bound Day 6...Grande Prairie,AB to Muncho Lake,BC

"Emergencies have always been necessary to progress. 
It was darkness which produced the lamp. 
It was fog that produced the compass. 
It was hunger that drove us to exploration."~Victor Hugo

 I thought that Blogger was being temperamental but switching browsers had enabled me to actually upload photos, which is half the fun when reading a blog. Today was the second last day of my grand journey across Canada. I drove from Grande Prairie, Alberta to Munch Lake, British Columbia. About 11 hours of driving and stopping for breaks. It was pretty epic in beauty and distance. I hope you enjoy the photos I have included here. 

The dawn, seen above, was outstanding. One of those days that looks like the sound of a light bulb breaking. Intense and blinding and satisfying all in one. A fracture of colour that cracks across the sky, with colour that seeps out where the sky has broken. That, combined with copious amounts of fog, made for an absolutely stellar dawn as I drove through Dawson Creek (mile '0' of the Alaska Highway), Taylor, Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Wonowon, Toad River, and finally Muncho Lake Provincial Park, where I am tonight.
 I had to chuckle when I entered my address in Whitehorse in the GPS. The distance until the next turn, seen in the upper left hand corner, made me smile. 


Today was all nature. The architecture to admire was the mountains, the streams, the rivers, the wildlife. Lots of signs warning me about bison and caribou around every corner. I saw four caribou...gorgeous and pretty unmoved by the vehicles so close to them. 

The expanses that opened up north of Fort Nelson were beyond compare. Lots of solitude, trees as far as the eye could see, sunshine and two lane blacktop. No billboards. All awesome. A good audiobook (I am finishing listening to 'Ready Player One' by Ernest Cline. The audiobook is read by Wil Wheaton, who does a bang up job of it. If you haven't read it, get it. Great book. If you are a child of the 80's, a nerd, geek, a John Hughes or Rush fan, or any other member of that subculture, it is for you :)

 The yellows foliage was gorgeous today. I have seen lots of photos recently on Instagram from Yukon residents snapping pictures of leaves changing, and I saw plenty of it today. All mottled green and yellow together, it is as though the hillsides and mountains were trying to catch fire, but very slowly, like trying to making a fire with damp wood, not a quick process. The brilliant yellows and greens, juxtaposed against the blue sky made for some amazing horizons to chase.


I forget which river this was but it is irrelevant...the braids and branches of it weaving under the bridge brought back memories of my first trip to Alaska in 2008. That trip and subsequent ones have all been working towards this moment of moving up here. How could one NOT want to be within this landscape? 

Around a couple of turns I saw four caribou in total. They were a chocolate brown, and there was a calf with his/her mother here in this shot. The mother was so sweet, nudging him up the game trail in front of her. A sweetness that was palpable. To see creatures like these, wild and almost untouched by any sight of human beings, is like seeing magic happen right before your eyes. And, like magic, it usually is gone quickly. Thank goodness for cameras and art :)

They were like shadows that could disappear if you looked away.

Finally after hundreds of winding kilometres I arrived at Muncho Lake Provincial Park. The lake is that gorgeous blue that you see in healthy environments. 

The dining room of the lodge where I am staying. Log cabins/homes/structures are the best.

Another long day in the saddle today for Sasha. Here he is helping me write this blog entry. I never thought he would handle this whole process as well as he has. It has made it so much less stressful than it could have been. I cannot wait to see what paintings come from this experience. New friends will become new muses, and the space and freshness of this land is the perfect catalyst for focused painting. I cannot wait...setting up my studio this week...:) long last....WHITEHORSE, YUKON TERRITORY! 

Have a wonderful week and thanks for reading...


Friday, September 13, 2013

Yukon Bound Day 4!...Winnipeg to Saskatoon

"Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; 
what is essential is invisible to the eye."~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I did not take many photos today. I'm not sure why. It is not as though the prairies didn't offer much to capture. On the contrary, I enjoyed the immeasurable flatness in all directions, a golden yellow expanse pressed under the thumb of a giant rolling pin. I left my hotel around 6:15am, the earliest departure yet. I wanted a good jump on the day as I knew there would be the better part of 9 driving hours to cover. 

Dawn bloomed around 7am this morning...a hazy, sleepy eye opening with lovely colours all around. Today I drove from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The odometer pronounced that 1,849 miles have been driven so far. Just shy of 3,000 km. I am pleased with this progress. From here on out it will be another 9-10 hours to Grande Prairie, Alberta tomorrow, and then another 9+ hour day to get up to Muncho Lake, British Columbia on Sunday. All things going according to plan I will arrive in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory on Monday late afternoon. My new home.

A rather unassuming little sign welcomed drivers to Saskatchewan. The Prairies, in earnest. Land of terribly expensive beer, pleasant inhabitants, mottled cows, grain elevators and crisply distant horizons.  I couldn't help but notice the cows and horses as I drove past them. They were very handsome and looked to be well cared for. The cows were a mixture of ruddy reds, deep ochres and blacks, jumbled about in herds, lazily swatting their tales. They reminded me of multi-coloured corn kernels. As I approached Saskatoon I saw more variability in the landscape; some deeper hollows slid down away from the road, probably remnants of long-dried streams. The temperature was hot and dusty, a perfect day to be here. The prairies at their best, as they should be. The wind was present and constant. With nothing to stop it it blew about the buildings and vehicles everywhere. I felt a little bit cast back in time, or at least, frozen in it for awhile.  

Before this drive people had rolled their eyes when mentioning the prairie component of a trans Canada drive. "Stay awake!" "They are SO boring." "It gets better when you are beyond the prairies". And I have also heard that some people feel agoraphobic in the prairies. The expanse can be unsettling. I find it comforting. Nothing can sneak up on you out here. There is a knowledge that most things are seen here and you can prepare for them, as opposed to being in deep valleys or deep woods. I find this landscape uncomplicated and relaxing. And it is far from boring.

Today I passed through Portage la Prairie, Brandon, Regina, Chamberlain, Craik and finally Saskatoon. I didn't get much chance to look around town here but rather made a beeline for my hotel, a horse for the barn. Sasha is typically tired and fed up by that time of day and I like to get settled in and relax to prepare for the next day of travel. I promise I will take more photos tomorrow. I have no idea what the landscape will be like heading across northern Alberta to Grande Prairie. All I know is it will be another long day. But another beautiful one as well, no doubt.

I didn't see much wildlife today, other than a few geese flying in a loose 'V' and the odd lone duck in little lakes by the highway. Sasha slept most of the day, after his morning yowling. I would be upset too, but he takes it in stride and resigns himself to his blanket.

New adventures tomorrow...more trucks, bugs on the windscreen, Tim Horton's and always a new horizon.

"What makes the desert beautiful," says the little prince,
 "is that somewhere it hides a well."~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Yukon Bound...Day 3! Thunder Bay to Winnipeg

That was my country—Terrible winds and a wonderful emptiness.
- Georgia O’Keeffe

Today I drove another 700km as I drove from Thunder Bay, Ontario to Winnipeg, Manitoba. This is day three of seven that I am taking to get up to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. From here on out the days will be longer, as I am basing my stop points around seven to nine hour driving lengths. Next stop is Saskatoon, then Grand Prairie, Alberta, then Muncho Lake, BC and finally Whitehorse!

The Canadian Shield, so ubiquitous over the course of the last two days, faded away from view today as the landscape was taken over by limitless flatness. I started off early again, around 7am. Sasha has his usual morning complaints at being in his crate again but he settles down and has a good sleep for most of the day. We are settling into a routine, and I know how much cats like routine. I know that at the end of the day we can both unwind in the hotel, fed, watered and clean.

Today I spotted a bat, a fox, a coyote, a bald eagle and a turkey vulture making short work of road kill with a flock of ravens nearby. The roads were excellent, and the quantity of trucks and vehicles going my direction was markedly less than those going east towards Thunder Bay.

I appreciated the sign as I entered Dryden, Ontario today. It was one of those signs that appears near bingo halls and variety stores or restaurants announcing various dinner specials or pot luck dates. But this was the town's main welcome sign. Quaint.

As I made my way northwest out of Ontario the usual battery of moose-warning signs flashed by. I appreciate that the moose on this sign appears to be doing its own version of the tolt, a unique gait that only the Icelandic horse can make. The tolt happens when three of the horse's four legs remain on the ground. Here is a great example:
Super Tolt!

Today I passed through Sunshine, Upsala, Ignace, Kenora and a multitude of parks in between.
The land quickly transitioned shortly after the Ontario/Manitoba border into the flat topography that I was expecting. I have driven through the Midwest from top to bottom and this makes even the Midwest look hilly. I can't imagine what I will see when I get to Saskatchewan!

A new province visited!

I love the angularity and simple geometry of this landscape. The clouds counter the sharpness of the land with their puffy faces, seeming to look down on us through a fishbowl. It only serves to accentuate how mercilessly unbroken the lines of the road and fields are. Pretty spectacular. People have warned me to stay awake during the drive across the prairies, complaining of its tedious repetitiveness. But I am excited for it. Because there is in fact tonnes going on, but in a more subtle way.

Getting close to Winnipeg here. There was nothing...nothing...nothing...nothing...and then a tall cityscape WAY off in the distance to the southwest. I feel as though I'm in a western here, some Canadian Coen Brothers realm. Some McCarthy-esque, alternate universe. Tomorrow...Saskatoon!

My dear co-pilot and true friend Sasha, tired after a long day. Tomorrow..more adventures! See you then.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Yukon Bound Day 2!...Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay

“Set out from any point. They are all alike. They all lead to a point of departure.” 
― Antonio Porchia

Day 2 began early. I arrived in Sault Ste Marie in the dark and left in the dark this morning, with my sights set on Thunder Bay. Garmindy (my Garmin) proclaimed it would take 8 hours of driving time. With stops it was about 9 hours. As I departed The Soo fog was blanketing the landscape. Eerie and beautiful and casting a blue hue over everything, I took extra care driving. On top of that rain and multiple signs warning to be on the lookout for moose made for an extra-vigilant driving experience. 

The Canadian Shield and construction. Two constants up here these past two days. Frankly the construction doesn't tie up too much time. The unlimited transport trucks really unnerve me however on two lane asphalt highways like the Trans Canada #17. Yet the landscape more than made up for the nervousness. Wave after wave of tree-heavy rock, trees that grew right out of the rock, true tenacity. I know there is a lot of logging up here but fortunately didn't see too much evidence of this. 

Lake Superior. As incredible as I hoped it would be..the earth stretching out in a necklace of islands which span the horizon. I passed through towns including Marathon, Batchawana Bay, Pancake Bay Provincial Park, Wawa, White River, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, Nipigon and my favourite sign, "Rabbit Blanket Lake"(my friend Kelly will like that). The leaves are continuing to turn, but not in a hurry. They echo the rocks in their subtlety. They are dark brown and ancient green still, with the odd flush of red here and there, the colours of dinosaurs that I remember from childhood books, all mottled and seeming to know secrets I am not privy to. The rock appeared to be alive, rising and falling from view like pods of whales, giant humpbacks with their murky skins disappearing under the waves. 

This is a screenshot from my phone. I had no cell reception for most of the day. Normally a welcome thing but alone in the middle of a new place with so far to go, I was unnerved. Still, I was thankful to get a signal in Thunder Bay.
In Terrace Bay, when I stopped at a Tim Horton's I passed this very Canadian sight...a huge Canada flag and a large statue of a Canada Goose. I had to smile :)

Approaching Thunder Bay. So much rock up here. I love it. It was clear and crisp and beautiful today. I am so pleased to finally have seen Lake Superior and do this drive. Tomorrow I leave the Great Lakes and head west to Winnipeg. The PEG. "You know it's made well if its made in Winnipeg!" Never been.  Time to check off another province!

Sasha is doing really well. He wasn't thrilled about being in his kitty condo crate this morning but he settled down in the afternoon. I have toys for him, lots of food, and lots of love.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Yukon Bound! Day 1--Burlington, Ontario to Sault Ste. Marie

White Lightning all packed up and ready for the road.

"Adventure is worthwhile in itself."~Amelia Earhart 

So the journey has begun! Operation Yukon is in full swing. Day One is complete. I drove from Burlington to Sault Ste Marie. About 9 hours in the seat of my Subaru all told. My cat Sasha is my co-pilot for the entire journey. We are making our way to Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory. I have written about my love of the North before I so I shall get right to observations about the drive today.

For fun I entered my address in Whitehorse in my Garmin first thing this morning. This was the notification I received. Awesome, and ironic from one of the world's top GPS companies. To appease the device I changed my goal to my end of the day stop, Sault Ste Marie. About 700km or 450 miles give or take. 

I built a little shelf in Sasha's crate. This way his litter is below, along with his food and water. He slept most of the day. What a trooper!

The day started off slowly with lots of stop and go traffic until I was north of Toronto. Still, glad I was on the road at a reasonable hour. The traffic and haze dissipated slowly and before I knew it the rocky humps of The Canadian Shield were everywhere...the highway cutting through large sections of seemingly impenetrable rock. Mixed forests sitting atop grey rock, crimson sumacs starting to bleed into the landscape. Although my destination was on my mind I tried to enjoy the beautiful scenery as much as possible. 

Fog set in around Kilarney area and stayed off and on until beyond Sudbury. A deluge hit while I was driving into Sault Ste Marie. Incredible rainfall. Glad I made it to the hotel just in time. 

Lots of fog everywhere today. A nice opportunity to deploy the fog lights on my Subie.

Approaching The French River. I remember this drive so well from childhood. Summer vacations up on Manitoulin Island...this was part of the long drive around rather than taking the ferry from Tobermory to South Baymouth.

Another shot of the bridge over The French River. It's funny how you can not drive a stretch of road for over 20 years and yet remember hills and valleys and places like they were yesterday...from some far off place in your heart that comes right back up to the surface when you see the landscape again.


Further on up Highway 69 I came to a place where my family vacationed one summer..Point Au Baril. I remembered where to turn and that there would be a rail bridge...sure enough there it was. Quite nostalgic. 

The Sign leading to Espanola, and on south to Manitoulin Island. I had never been west of this intersection before up here...but I was today. I drove along the North Channel of Lake Huron, and it was gorgeous. 

 Finally in my room in Sault Ste Marie. This is what I eat when I have options on the road...that vegan jerky is actually awesome if you can find it...tomorrow...Thunder Bay!