betwixt and between   16 comments

Posted at 12:10 pm in Uncategorized

This is my second post of the day – to follow the previous piece on Grasslands National Park. As I attempt to get these posts up, I’ve already traveled through two more provinces and four states, so my writings are greatly lagging my journey. No matter. One thing I’ve found during these travels is that it’s difficult to keep up some kind of steady net presence while on the road. Between time spent moving from place to place, and then the everyday routine of camp life – setting up and breaking camp, cooking our meals over a camp stove, hiking, caring for the dogs, mapping out the next leg of our route — it all takes time. Writing posts and finding net connections isn’t always that easy to work into our schedule.

So far, most of these posts have been about our visits to specific places. However, there’s a lot more to life on the road than camping and hiking around. There’s the getting from one place to the next along networks of roads over which I’ve never been before. Sometimes, a road will lead off into a direction that will take us many miles out of our way. Other times, it will become so bad that I have to stop and decide whether to push on or backtrack and take a different route. Weather often dictates whether to continue down a dirt road, or try to drive through a mountain pass.

Then there are mundane things such as making sure that the van has enough gas to make it from a town, into a remote place, and back again, or whether we have enough drinking water onboard to camp somewhere in the back country for several days. A lot of these considerations are easy enough to figure out when you’re familiar to an area, or have been over a certain road before. Let me just say that traveling through new territory is not so easy, especially when you’re alone with your two dogs and there’s no one else with whom you can brainstorm as you plan a route. Occasionally, I get feeling a little overwhelmed and wondering what the hell I’m doing out here, especially during one of those (fortunately) rare times when it’s growing dark and I’m driving along, hoping that there really *is* an open campground at the end of this winding road. I try very hard not to make stupid mistakes when they can be avoided. I call ahead for park information, carefully plan distances using a big sack of maps, keep as up to date as possible on the weather forecasts for the areas ahead of me, and try to carry extra supplies of water, propane for the stove, food for all of us, and keep the blackberry and a bunch of other gear fully charged off of a power inverter that runs off the van’s DC system. The same unit can be used to boost the van’s battery in the event of problems. Doing all of this stuff would keep two people well-occupied, but it’s almost too much for one person. I make this admission for those people who are contemplating similar journeys — and I know there are a few among those who read my blog or who have written to me to ask for details about this or that. All I can say is to plan ahead, work out as many details as possible before setting out, and be prepared to change how you do things, make additions to your gear as you go along, etc…

However, when all is said and done, there will be mistakes made. Some are minor and you just shrug them off. Some can be more than annoying — like the day that I stopped at Cranbrook to do laundry at a coin wash, then traveled on through the Kootenays, thinking that I’d be able to find a certain campground open. Time and distance miscalculations left us with no other choice than to check in to a motel around dark. With two dogs in tow, the motel bill for one night was close to a hundred and fifty bucks – which, on my budget, is a bit of an ouch. I try to ignore such glitches and find something positive in them. Let’s see… that night, I turned on the tv to drown out some noise from a nearby room and watched a reasonably decent movie on Darwin that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Also, I had a good hot shower — something that is also difficult to come upon when camping your way across a continent in the late season when park facilities are pretty much shut down.

Is all of this hassle worth it? Yes. To me, I regard last and this year’s journeys as essential — perhaps life saving. Just the five months spent back at the farm getting it sold was enough to convince me of that. At the moment, the only place that I feel comfortable and able to function is out here, far from the madding crowd. I no longer feel part of the world as it once seemed. This is my world now. One of searching for out-of-the way campsites where I can spend time studying the natural world. Towns and cities hold little or no interest to me — in fact, most of what goes on there seems meaningless now, if it ever did, that is. Those that I pass through have become a blur along the highway – the fast-food restaurants, big box stores, gas bars, strip malls, and casinos. Was that Moose Jaw or Medicine Hat that I passed through yesterday? The more one travels, the more that towns and cities become faceless entities along the road. What once seemed to exist only in more-heavily populated parts of the U.S., may be found many times along the TransCanada highway, and all down the Pacific Northwest. I have a difficult time relating to the world that has been taking shape around us.

Well, enough for these ramblings. A little about the photos in this post. After leaving Grasslands, I intended to camp in the Cypress HIlls Interprovincial Park which spans the border of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Unfortunately, the high winds and rain that developed just as I left Grasslands was to dog me for the next couple of hours as I traveled west along secondary highways. The wind became so strong that it was only with great difficulty that I could keep the van tracking straight. Within a couple of hours, my right shoulder and arm felt as though I’d been manning the helm on a sailing ship during a raging gale. I didn’t think I could go on for much longer and stopped at a couple of small Saskatchewan towns to see if their campgrounds were open – but no, they were gated shut for the season. Biting the bullet, I decided to drive on to Medicine Hat and then on down to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park which lies just north of the border with Montana. Along the way, I saw several homesteads with houses such as the above examples. I find it amazing that some of these structures remain standing, especially in the winds that seem to prevail through this part of the prairies.

As I drew closer to Writing-on-Stone, I watched for Pronghorn along the way. This area is so like some of the regions where I’ve seen Pronghorn on the high plains of southern Oregon. I was not to be disappointed. By the time I reached the park gates, I’d spotted two small and one large band – each consisting of a buck with several does. The band in this photo had raced out of a grain field and across the road almost right in front of the van, at breakneck speed as the buck chased a particular doe while the rest followed. Writing-on-Stone proved to be a safe refuge from the weather and grind of several difficult days on the road, but more about it in my next post.

Written by bev on October 27th, 2009

16 Responses to 'betwixt and between'

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  1. We did the trip through southern Alberta a few years ago now … visiting those spots you’ve mentioned. I really enjoyed Writing on Stone.

    You are brave to be traveling on your own. It is very hard to find things open off season. So much, around here anyway, closes down following the September long weekend. I hate not having my place pegged already by the time it gets dark.


    27 Oct 09 at 1:33 pm

  2. ” I no longer feel part of the world as it once seemed. This is my world now.”

    You have reached the point I have mentioned reaching in my motorcycle trips of yore. It’s a letting go. Not everyone can do it, and even fewer can do it for very long. But I feel a strong attraction to it. I can’t indulge any more – too many responsibilities and obligations.

    I worry a little about your problems, but I’m pretty confident you will always make it through them.


    27 Oct 09 at 5:31 pm

  3. Thank you for the update on your travels, Bev. Intriguing to know that you are much farther down the road in real time and that these places are now in your memory. Traveling alone through wilderness brings out our wild nature and wonder and gratitude for life, doesn’t it?


    27 Oct 09 at 7:24 pm

  4. Curious, the more diffcult your communications, the further you get beyond the grid, the more eagerly we check for a new post from you each morning. I fully realize admiration or accolades are the last thing you aspire to, but you continue to amaze me.

    So there!


    28 Oct 09 at 9:38 am

  5. Your description of your internal space matches the photos so well. A vastness almost beyond measure.

    robin andrea

    28 Oct 09 at 9:54 am

  6. I continue to eagerly anticipate each new post so that I can devour the photos and descriptions, and it sets my heart at ease to know that you and your faithful companions are happy and doing well.


    28 Oct 09 at 1:57 pm

  7. I fell in love with Pronghorns when travelling through WY this summer. I read in the beautiful book by Craig Childs – Dialogues with animals – that the pronghorn is the fastest land animal, because, eons ago, when there were still cheetas in North America, it was a predator to the Pronghorn. So, the pronghorn runs just a tadbit faster then a cheetah. There are no more predators now except humans. Baby pronghorns can run from day one. It is quite an amazing animal. Thank you for the picture of the small group with the male. Wow. I don’t think that I had spotted a male through all my travelling this summer. Are they not just magnificent in their natural setting ?
    Travel safe. And enjoy those precious moments out there.


    28 Oct 09 at 5:19 pm

  8. Erratum! Fastest animal in North America.


    28 Oct 09 at 5:20 pm

  9. Oh, and pronghorns are sort of genetics orphans. They are alone on their branch, as far as their genetic code, not related to any other creature that is still around. They are neither antilope nor goat. Sort of a crossover, left from another era. Thanks again for the great posts and pictures. Good to see that your journey is carrying on. And don’t worry about ‘your presence’. I doubt any of your readings would leave this site for good. 😉


    28 Oct 09 at 5:23 pm

  10. Cis – It’s definitely more complicated to camp your way anywhere in autumn. I thought it might be more difficult in Canada, but some parks do stay open so long as there is road access. However, I did have problems in BC. One of the staff at a visitors center in eastern BC told me most parks were still open until about mid-October and gave me a camping guide that listed closing dates. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that the parks were closed in spite of what the listings said. The same thing has been happening in California, which is where I am at the moment. I’m thinking a lot of this may be related to cutbacks in park budgets.

    Mark – You describe this feeling so well — yes, it’s a feeling of letting go, and of not really needing much anymore. It is enough to just see the world around me. I agree that it’s probably not a feeling that would appeal to everyone, especially on an extended basis. For me, the longer I’m “out here” the better it feels to be off on my own, at least until I tire of dealing with the day to day problems that come up when you’re living in a van with a couple of dogs.

    am – Yes, I’m much further along in my travels, mostly pushed along by weather that has been fairly hostile at points along this trip. I’d actually intended to move much more slowing and do more exploring along the way. That’s a bit of a disappointment, but then that’s part of what makes life on the road unpredictable and kind of interesting. And yes, traveling alone through the wilderness puts my mind into a different space – to a place I actually know quite well from before Don’s illness, but haven’t really been able to return to until recently.

    Steve – Thanks! You’re right that I don’t put up these posts for, or expect, accolades for traveling alone. It’s just part of my attempt to document a difficult personal journey – for myself, and for anyone else who may be making their own journey, or who just wants to know about life on the road. I’m just a little sorry that I haven’t been able to post more regularly — mainly due to technical difficulties, but sometimes due to lack of extra time and energy.

    robin – The vastness of the prairie landscapes, and the lack of populated areas, was such a relief to my mind. It’s too bad that the weather turned so hostile as I could have spent weeks in some of these locations. However, now I know where they are and what they’re like, so I can return once more.

    Marni – Thanks! I’m glad that you’re enjoying these photos. It’s been hard to pick just a few to put up — I know I put quite a few up for the Grasslands post — more than I would usually put up. However, it was just so hard to pick a few favourites. The dogs and I continue to do well. Sabrina is getting on in age, so I try to pace everything to what she can handle.

    Suzanne – Thanks for the notes about the Pronghorns. Aren’t they beautiful creatures. I love watching them run flat out – something I’ve seen a few times in my travels this year and also in 2006 when I traveled in southern Oregon. Their speed is incredible, especially their ability to accelerate from a standstill to breakneck speed over terrain that few other animals could negotiate. I had read something somewhere about them having no natural predator on this continent but had never looked for a source on that info. Interesting to read all of this. Thanks again for posting these comments!


    29 Oct 09 at 9:38 am

  11. Alas that you’re bereft of a copilot! It’s so hard to both travel and navigate by yourself.


    29 Oct 09 at 9:21 pm

  12. It is these wide wild expanses of rock and filed that have always seemed most like home to me, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to see them again through your eyes.


    30 Oct 09 at 3:22 pm

  13. Error: should have said “wide wild expanses of rock and field” in my previous comment.


    1 Nov 09 at 5:53 pm

  14. Dear Bev,

    When I read this:
    “Is all of this hassle worth it? Yes. To me, I regard last and this year’s journeys as essential — perhaps life saving. Just the five months spent back at the farm getting it sold was enough to convince me of that. At the moment, the only place that I feel comfortable and able to function is out here, far from the madding crowd. I no longer feel part of the world as it once seemed. This is my world now. ”

    Yes. I understand that. Betwixt and between – your world now.

    I have so much to catch up with on your blog. Your reports from the Journey to the Center are the most poignant sharings I read. Your inner voyage enmeshed with the changing terrain and encounters outside your little van .. . . well, dear – it is very wonderful.

    There have been several (all OK, now) crises in my family and that coupled with a determination to sweep up procrastinated concerns before winter has kept me away from blogging. But here I am – drawn to your journey and sending you and pups many hugs and my good wishes for comfort and joy in the new days and star-dappled nights.


    3 Nov 09 at 9:13 am

  15. fred – I definitely miss having a co-pilot – or more, of being a navigator, which was my usual assignment when Don and I traveled together. Actually, what i miss a bit more is moral support when things aren’t going quite right, but I guess I’m managing okay.

    Cate – I feel best of all when I’m in places like grasslands, towering forests, etc.. I do least well in towns and cities. Those are the places that are hardest to deal with.

    Cathy – Always so great to find one of your comments here at my blog. I’m sorry that you’ve had a summer of crises, but hope that there will be some smooth sailing for awhile. That’s what I always hope for these days — a little quiet time between the difficult stuff. I haven’t had much time to visit other blogs but hope you’ll be back to writing on yours this winter when I’ll be settled in for awhile in Arizona and can spend time catching up on what everyone has been doing. Take care.


    4 Nov 09 at 2:29 pm

  16. WOW Bev…what a journey! Don would be so proud of you and I’m sure he’s with you through all your travels. I’m sure your talking to him all of the time.
    I really enjoy your Nature pictures, but just love the homestead, clothesline and expecially the fencepost with the barbed wire…those are the type of pictures I seem to relate to. I have just started reading your Blogs and am enjoying your descriptions of your travels. We’re hoping to travel to Arizona in 2011/2012 via western Canada and will hopefully stop at some of the same places.
    Keep Safe

    Judy Pollock

    22 Jan 10 at 2:08 pm

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