crowsnest surprise   12 comments

Posted at 12:36 pm in Uncategorized

I’m now looking back on these photos taken nearly a month ago, and thinking that they are almost a lifetime old. That’s how this journey seems to have played out — not just miles rolling by, but also a mind-bending passage of time. I’m not sure why this should be so. Today, I should finish the last of my driving, which has generally varied from around 250 to 400 miles on those days when I moved from one place to another. I’ll be at the site where I will be spending this winter, but more of that later.

Returning to my passage across the Canadian prairies, my plans were dictated by the weather. I had hoped to camp along the way, but weather decided otherwise. Snow had fallen just ahead, and traces lay in the recently harvested wheat fields. When I would step out of the van to take a photo, the raw wind would buffet me, and at one point, blew the van door shut with such force that I had narrowly missed what would probably have proved to be a serious injury to my ankle. The van, which as you may remember, had been giving me trouble in northern Ontario, now dried out and ran well. However, I watched the forecasts for the route ahead and worried about predictions of rain in the Crowsnest Pass section of the Rockies just north of the Canada-U.S. border. I hoped to make it through before the weather turned, as I had been unable to get the van repaired without hanging around a town somewhere for an extra day or two. My restlessness got the upper hand over my usual prudence on such matters. Fortunately, my luck held as I set out from Lethbridge, Alberta on October 17th. I could see dark clouds to the north and south, but the pass looked clear, so I made a run for it.

Just a short distance before the pass, I rounded a bend in the highway and was surprised to find a long row of dark-colored wind turbines stretching out along the top of a high ridge. These were not the usual white turbines on thick columns, but blades mounted on huge lattice frames. The above photo shows just a few out of the long line of turbines. Noticing a turn-out, I pulled up to read an information sign about the Cowley Ridge. It indicated that there are 77 turbines on the ridge. The dark turbines on lattice towers were installed in the mid-nineties, another group of the more familiar white turbines on columns were installed in 2001 (see link to sign for more information). The strength of the wind in that area was phenomenal on that day. I wondered what it must feel like on an average day — or perhaps that was average. If so, it would be a difficult place to get much done, with the wind tearing at everything. I was soon to see how that would be so.

Continuing on up the highway, I noticed that my ABS (anti-lock braking system) warning light was now glowing on the dash in place of the of the flashing engine warning light. What now?! What next?! What a thing to have malfunctioning as I drove through the Rockies. However, I tested the brakes a bit on a couple of dips in the highway and things seemed okay, so I proceeded onwards. Although it takes a lot to get me rattled, the van was starting to get my goat and I got the urge to stop and regroup my nerves. Just then, I noticed a large parking lot where a couple of transport trucks were pulled in for a rest stop. I turned off the highway to join them. As I sat in my van, I watched a maintenance worker wrestle to empty garbage containers in the high winds blasting through the pass. After resting awhile, I noticed some stone structures at one end of the parking lot. Curiosity got the better of me, so Sabrina and I wandered down the path to investigate.

It turned out that this site is probably one of the better kept secrets of Crowsnest Pass — the Leitch Colliery provincial historic site. For anyone interested, here is a link to an excellent website about the history of the colliery. I spent about an hour walking around shooting photos of the ruins of the buildings and other structures. That gave both Sabrina and I a chance to stretch our legs and relax in preparation for the rest of that day’s journey. Leaving the parking area, we continued onwards, through Crowsnest and past the infamous Frank Slide site. Here’s a link to the rather sobering story, Alberta’s Frank Slide: When a mountain fell on a town. I did not take photos, but found a good shot of the remnants of the slide in a Flickr gallery by Mike Wood.

I continued on into the Rockies, stopping for the night at Cranbrook, British Columbia. In the morning, I decided to just start driving toward my destination in Portland, Oregon, and just stop for the day when I got tired. About ten hours later, I found myself driving into Portland in the dark, after having crossed into the U.S. in the morning, cutting across the northwest corner of Idaho, then down the western side of Washington state. I crossed the Columbia Gorge and tore up through there as sunset turned to darkness. I’m not a fast driver, and in fact, I barely drive at all, so blasting along the gorge after dark, in the middle of a pack of transport trucks, is not something I would normally attempt. However, I got in behind a truck that looked like it knew where it was going, and followed it all of the way to Portland. Once in the city, I became incredibly lost and had to make a couple of calls to friends living south of the city to try to figure out how to escape. After being told that I was at the “absolutely worst spot to try to get onto I-5” I did manage to straggle on and blend in with the rest of the rat pack racing southwards. Speaking of which, I should be getting onto another interstate to continue on my way and hopefully end these many days of wandering. So this seems like a good place to stop writing for today.

Written by bev on November 15th, 2008

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