Sunday, July 17, 2011

Watson Lake

He wouldn't live there. It was a sketchy little town, but it was where we decided to spend a night.

However it was home to the signpost forest. I would have wanted to go there if we hadn't just spent the night.

Bits from my travel journal of insanity.

The following is all one day's entry-- in order.

Just odd.

Muncho Lake

As promised, I am going to post about Muncho Lake today. Mel posted some photographs last post if you want to get a look at it. They're good photos but I don't think they do the place justice.

Upon leaving Stone Mountain Provincial Park, we made our way Northwest through even more mountains and wilderness. As we approached, the GPS showed a large looking body of water ahead. Wanting to get a chance to at least catch a glimpse, we slowed down looked at the scenery ahead. What we saw was a large lake completely walled off by mountains, glimmering in the sun. Wanting to enjoy it for a little while, I found a large stony shore or lot between the lake and the road and stepped out of the car.

The water rushed the shore like the waves of the ocean, the sun was unobstructed and made the water shimmer. It was warm, but not too warm. At the shore, I got a closer look at the water itself. I have never seen a lake as clear as this--the bottom was lined with blue-gray pebbles that could be seen clearly even dozens of feet out. The water was cold but I wished I had kept my bathing suit in my overnight bag rather than packing it deep within the confines of the car.

Despite being right next to the Alaska highway and lined with at least one campground, the place was silent and still save for two cyclists moving up the road. Even then, the sheer size of the mountains, and the waves of the lake on the shore made the idea of human traffic irrelevant.

Mel joked, "Can we take it with us?"
"I wish we could."

She took off her socks and put her feet into the water. In the distance, we could see a boat pulling out from the shore of the campground. I wished we had brought some boat, even a raft, just so I could get into the middle of the lake, let me see mountains on all sides, surround myself in its clear water.

Of course, we still had at least 1500 miles to go.

Muncho Lake is several miles long and the Alaska highway follows right along its Eastern shore, so even after pulling away, we got to see the lake a bit longer. I was tempted to pull over again, Mel would have been all for it as well, but I knew if I kept stalling we wouldn't make any progress that day.

Later on, I filled up at a small rest-stop. The man who ran it had moved up from Calgary and that he preferred where he was to anywhere. I told him that we were headed to Alaska and spoke a little about the trip. I mentioned Muncho Lake.
"Beautiful place. The best spot of the whole trip in my opinion."

It's hard for me to mark one place as "the best" on this trip. Regardless, there is something about Northeastern British Columbia, and Muncho Lake in particular that enthralled me. If I'm lucky enough, it won't be the only time I'll have the chance to experience it.

Mel's Muncho Lake Post

I'm sure you've realized by now that Muncho Lake was our favorite part.

It looks so clear and cold and I was thirsty-- I couldn't help but try a sip and it was very tasty. I wished I'd brought my bottle of water to fill it up with fresh cold water. My bottled water didn't taste so good after I tried Lake Muncho.

I took off my socks and soaked my feet. It was cold.

One more note

We WILL be back later with more stories, photos and even some doodles.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mel writes about birds and posts a few pics.

Eric is also writing a post at this moment. I'm just annoyed at IP providers and should be sewing. I recently got a commission for 10-20 plush daggers-- they have to be there by the 8th. I just got a sewing machine. I accidentally named it The Raven.

Speaking of ravens. I didn't take any photos of them (this is Eric pic), but they are all over the place. On the Alaska Highway norther BC or southern Yukon we saw two of them on the side of the road and after hitting a bird in North Dakota we were a little nervous of the birds there. It looked like one of them was fumbling with trash. When they flew away we saw that it had a plastic bag in its bill-- filled with crackers. "humans, get the loot let's get out of here."

(above)This is my first sighting of a magpie. They are related to crows, but I think they are adorable.

Oh, on the Alaska Highway in Yukon I saw a bald eagle. I know, though Alaska has the most bald eagles in the States. It's too bad though that the Chickadees in Alaska are having problems now. (probably a contaminant.)

(above) Cleveland has some neat things.

(above)Gary- chief export-- pollution.

(above) Chicago line.

(above) Min's Bud plant. I thought Merrimack's was the ugliest.

(above)Kluane Lake-- Yukon's largest

(above) LONDON DRUGS?! I have a comic about that. Will post later.

Seems Eric finished first.

The Wild Mountains of British Columbia

If the earlier parts of the trip were characterized by endless flat landscapes, the remaining trip from Grande Prairie and onward proved to compensate for the lack of features. An hour or so into western Alberta, the land began to dip and rise through wooded river valleys and tall hills. As we crossed into British Columbia, these hills gave way to more jutting mountains beyond. Somewhere along the way, we were surrounded by huge stone mountains on all sides. We stopped at a few overlooks and stream-beds to get some pictures and take the scenery in.

Despite our delays, we made pretty good time. In early afternoon we were driving through Stone Mountain Provincial Park. Early on a sign warned us about "WARNING: Goats on the Road." It was less of a typical "Wildlife Crossing" signs you can find in any wild area and more of a certainty. Sure enough, as we headed around the cliff road we were greeted by a large herd of mountain goats grazing on the cliff-side.

The rams weren't the only wildlife we'd encounter. A few miles down the road, bison grazed and rested in the grass. We stopped to take a few shots of them.

We also managed to get a picture of this fellow:

This was bear four of five we spotted. The first three were black bears that just happened to pop up in a spot before Mel could get her camera out. The last one was a brown bear (grizzly?) that I mistook at first glance for yet another bison. By the time we passed I knew it most certainly wasn't a bison but it was too late to turn around.

It really is impossible to document just how many creatures we saw—they ranged from the common squirrels and brown rabbits, the less familiar ravens (I never knew how large they were until I saw them up close. For the uninitiated, a raven can be as big as two-feet tall!) and the more regionally exotic as shown above.

There is a lot more to cover on just this leg of the trip. I'll have some pictures and musings about our stop at Muncho Lake--perhaps one of the most amazing places I have ever been. For now, I hope you've enjoyed the creature show.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In Fairbanks sans Internet

Hello, just a quick update to let you all know we're alive. We're in Fairbanks now but we have no internet access at the place. I'll post tales of our journey and some more pictures once we have our own internet (or at least find wireless that works on my netbook.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Some Random Photos

The order is a little off but it's a general look at where we've been:

Somewhere in Saskatchewan

Windmills are everywhere in Canada.

Saskatoon at night.

Central Alberta

Outside Regina, Saskatchewan I think.

Just outside of Fargo, North Dakota


Honestly don't know. This could be at least three US states or three Canadian Provinces. There are a lot of flat lands.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

More Canada: Flat and Rugged

One thing I've noticed about most Canadians: they're not afraid to strike up a conversation. While filling up somewhere in Eastern Alberta, an older man filling up his RV stepped over to my side.

"From New York, huh?"
"Around Albany."
"Really? My wife and I were just there three weeks ago--well, not that far south but close."

Maybe it's just a trait of people from the "heartland" or just something people who spend a lot of time on the road do.

After leaving Saskatoon, we headed northwest bound for Edmonton, really the last large city in our trip. We crossed into Mountain time just as the land began to rise and dip a little more. One thing to remind us of where we are: the trees became almost exclusively coniferous, tall and packed together. Eventually we ended up back in flat territory though soon we'll be crossing deep into British Columbia and Yukon. As of writing this, we're on the western edge of Alberta, in Grand Prairie. We're a little more than 2800 miles into the trip.

Perhaps another post in the morning, I should really get to bed.

Canada: Empty Highways, booked cities

On the third day, Mel and I crossed into Fargo, North Dakota (avoiding any wood-chippers) and hooked north on I-29. We stopped briefly in Grand Forks for a pit stop but ultimately passed through the remaining continental US without hindrance.

At the border crossing we were asked to pull to the side. I thought at first that they would inspect the entire car (not a problem except it would eat up a lot of time and it would be a pain to repack everything after) but they merely wanted to confirm everything. I hear crossing back into the US is a little more thorough so it may come to that, but not now.

A word about my Garmin: it sucks but it's still useful at times. When attempting to locate a bank to change our cash, my GPS claimed every one was at least 80 miles south. We were in Winnipeg, a city, it seemed impossible that there would be no banks. Then I realized: it's search functions didn't work for Canada except for New Brunswick. (We were in Manitoba heading west. Check a map if you don't know where the two are in relation to each other to illustrate how absurdly useless that is.) On the plus side, it still could give me vague directions like "turn Northwest." I still used it for a general guide and marker for where we were, but it's lost all use for helping us find nearby gas, banks, stores and other places.

So on we went down strange Canadian highways. Unllike the US interstate system, you can turn left and even U-turn on the highway at certain intervals. They also have intersections and stoplights. Granted, in Manitoba and Eastern Saskatchewan it's so flat and empty that it's rare those things ever slow you down.

Our attempt for the day was to reach Regina or a little after it. Mel discovered that our guides made no mention of places to stay between Regina and Saskatoon. In other words, we either would need to stay in Regina or drive 200 miles before we could stop for the night with a roof over our head (save risking some small-town, middle-of-nowhere place.) On the way to Regina, we began running very low on gas. My hope/expectation was that we'd have just enough to get to Regina but before we arrived the gauge was sitting pretty solidly on E. After a few nail-biting minutes we found a station on the side of the road.

An older man came out of the store as we pulled up. "Oh, we were just about to close."
"Are you?"
"Don't worry about it, just fill up what you need."
I went inside to prepay.
"You don't have to pay first, folks around here are honest... okay, maybe not."
I laughed. "It's the presumption at least."
He saw my New York plates. "Long way from home aren't ya?"
His wife ran the counter, it looked like one of those old crowded corner stores from decades ago--the kind you see in old movies.

We arrived at our motel about twenty minutes later. The lady at the counter delivered some bad news.
"Sorry, we're totally booked."
"Oh?" I said. "Do you know of another place nearby?"
"The whole city is booked tonight."
There was a big sports match-up in town that night plus a series of weddings. Just when we thought we'd be done a little early, we would have to drive an extra 200 miles.

Forging on into the night, we passed a bunch of tiny farm towns but nothing even close to developed. When I get tired, I get paranoid. Earlier, in broad daylight, I saw a coyote or something very similar dart out across the highway just as an eighteen wheeler was passing. He made it through okay, but it gave me a sense of just what the animals in the area were capable of. Seeing a series of Moose Crossing signs in the middle of the night made me worry a moose would try the same thing.

A few hours later, we arrived in Saskatoon. It was a bigger city than we were anticipating, probably the biggest city we'd seen since at least the Twin Cities in Minnesota, maybe even Chicago. We managed to find a place that was, thankfully, not booked and thus here we are this morning. We are a little more than 2200 miles into the trip. That's halfway through! Onward we go: the rest of Saskatchewan and Alberta await. We haven't checked to see how far we'll be by the end of the night but it's possible we might reach Easter British Columbia. For now, we'll just keep moving on.

Miscelaneous Midwest

Hello all, due to a bit of a rushed morning yesterday I was unable to do a post. I'll post twice today to cover lost ground.
We left Indiana and headed west toward Chicago. Passing through the industrial wasteland of Gary, Indiana, we crossed over into the Central time zone. Shortly thereafter, the skyline of Chicago was in sight.

You may be thinking, "gee that looks like a lot of cars." My answer? "UUUUUGGHHH." Traffic was even worse than in Erie. This was around 10am, in other words, this wasn't even close to rush hour. Still, we inched forward until we reached the exit for our first stop:

This is the storefront for 826 Chicago, Mel and I decided to stop in while wearing our 826 Boston attire.

Once that was done we made our way north to Wisconsin and Minnesota. I'd post more on that but I'm trying to get as much as we can done before we leave for the day. I'll have our first leg of Canada up in a bit.