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