Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ancient Cedar Rainforest Hike

On June 5, 2011 Shelley, Dante and I traveled 118km east of Prince George, British Columbia to hike through an ancient cedar rainforest Shelley had heard of while doing her interview in the previous month.  This ancient rainforest of giant trees is of significant note as it is located 800 kilometers from the Pacific coast (most temperate rainforests are found by the ocean) - the furthest inland existing ancient rainforest on the planet.

A Walk Into The Past

Hiking amongst these ancient giants feels like you are crossing a threshold into an ancient past.  Some of the trees in this rainforest are over 1000 years old. The oldest dated living tree is estimated to be at least 2000 years old.
To put that in perspective with some history of humanity:
- 9000 years ago First Nations People arrived in North America
- 6000 years ago humans first began to settle in one place and form the first city in Mesopotamia.
- 2000 years ago the Roman Empire falls and gives rise to Europe's middle ages
- 500 years ago Europeans began exploring and colonizing the globe
- 200 years ago Industrial Revolution beings
- 20 years ago Information Age begins
 Thems some ancient ass trees!

No one has determined a reason why, but red cedars seem to grow in tree circles. It's a natural mystery of the world akin to fairy circles.

Part of the hike included a trail up to a mountain waterfall.

Dante enjoyed a drink of nice cool mountain run-off -well he drank further down the trail where the water wasn't so turbulent and we were a little further away from the snow.

And I like photos of running water it seems

Wait - Lord of the Rings?

And because we are classy like that:
Thou Shall Not Pass!

But seriously, this tree is named Tree Beard.
 Tree Beard needed a hug

It might not make a lot of sense to a tree to hug it, but then again we are very small...

Final Ancient Cedar Rainforest Fact
The year round moisture of this area keeps the trees safe from forest fires, and bug infestations that decimate the tree population of surrounding forests. All the dead trees in this area have all died of old age!

It's important for all potential visitors of this forest to know that there is a HUGE ditch you have to drive through that I"m certain at some point was a pot hole but it has surpassed that long since and has entered ditch territory. Shelley's front bumper got dented as she floored it to escape.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Prairie Entertainment Project Version 2.0

or How To Keep You Sanity While Driving Through Canada's Prairie Provinces.

I'd like you to keep in mind that Shelley and I did not plan this until the day before we entered the prairies when we feared the boredom we experienced from Wawa to Kenora in Ontario would make a resurgence.  With that in mind we could us only costumes, props, and casting of characters that were already packed in the car. I think it turned out for the better.

in review of the footage, perhaps we didn't quite keep our sanity... but we certainly weren't bored

The song is brought to you by the Arrogant Worms and is called Pirate of Saskatchewan

Remember when I said Canada's Really Big with Rocks and Trees?

Shelley created this lovely video that summarizes nicely what it's like to drive for 6 days across Canada.

At the end of the video is a little taste for you to understand how crazy we were going after two days of whining from Dante in the back seat.

Shelley remixed two songs together by the Arrogant Worms, Canada's Really Big and Rocks and Trees.The Arrogant Worms are required listening for any cross Canada tour.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 6 - Hinton, AB to Prince George, B.C.

We arrived safely at Shelley's new house in Prince George B.C. on June 2 early afternoon. I've been unable to update anything as the internet at Shelley's house is due to be set up tomorrow, and I leave on the bus to Edmonton tonight. Our only contact with the outside world has been Shelley's new smart phone, and the radio. Currently I'm attempting to do a quick update for everyone while squatting on Starbucks' wi-fi (I did buy a chocolate-coconut frappichino which is fantastically delicious by the way).

Edit: The wi-fi at Starbucks was too slow to update the photos and the map, so I'm finishing this post from Edmonton, AB at my friend's place.

View Day 6 - Hinton, AB to Prince George B.C. in a larger map

On With The Show

We had a lot of animal sightings on our final day of our cross country adventure. I actually managed to get this epic photo of a black bear chowing down on the dandelions.

Capturing this photo was quite amusing, we saw it off to the right side of the road and pulled over (the highway between Jasper and Prince George is rather devoid of traffic), I rolled down my window and as I turned the camera on, the bear paused to sniff the air. It quickly deduced we were humans gawking from a car and turned back to it's delicious meal of dandelions. Now that wasn't the photo I wanted, I wanted the bear to look at me, so Shelley and I started calling "Mr. Bear" and making kissy noises like you would to get the attention of a dog or a cat.

 It didn't work. He went right on munching. Dante, who at first assumed the bear was a large dog was whining, once he stopped to sniff the situation out and realized it wasn't something he'd ever smelled before, he started to bark - loud.

That worked. The bear looked over at us with a look (captured in the photo) like "you seriously aren't going to let that thing out are you? Because yea, I'll mess it up, I'm eating here."

Let's Do The Time Warp Again
Shortly after crossing the boarder to British Columbia, we gained another hour to our day. 

I would hate to do this trip in reverse where you lose an hour to your day.

Mount Robson

Mount Robson is the highest point in the Canadian Rockies as 3954m. Obviously it's still pretty far away in this photo.

This started the debate about Mount Logan in the Yukon, which is the tallest mountain in Canada. That would lead us to believe that Mount Logan is not in fact a mountain in the Canadian Rockies' mountain range.  It's true, it's not. I just never really put a lot of thought into it before.

The Scourge of British Columbia

While driving through British Columbia, Shelley and I noticed a lot of brown/burn looking dead trees. These are trees that have been attacked by the pine beetle. Pine beetles attack older trees of approximately 80 years of age. The beetles have become more widespread since 2005 because the winters here have been unseasonably warm and the beetles haven't been dieing off in the cold.
 It was sad to watch the landscape pass buy and notice all the infested trees, and trees showing early signs of infestation.

Final Destination - For Shelley Anyway

 After spending a few days in Prince George B.C. I can understand why Canadians have a reputation of being polite. People were so polite it was creepy. People actually apologised in COSTCO for cutting you off with their cart - a shock to me who once witnessed cart rage at COSTCO in Ottawa, ON that would have lead to a fist fight had security not arrived.

This, my friends, is officially the most northern point on the planet I have ever been.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 5 - Calgary, AB to Hinton, AB

via Banff and Jasper National Parks.

View Day 5 - Calgary, AB to Hinton, AB in a larger map

A great day for wildlife sightings. Two black bears, ground squirrels, deer, mountain goats (I didn't even know Canada had those!), and multiple elk.  I actually managed to get a photo of one of the elk, and the ground squirrl. I tell you, the animals in the park are so use to people gauking at them, they barely move away as you approach them with a camera.

We saw two huge groups of people at two different points on the side of the road taking photos of the black bears. We didn't realize what they were gathered for until we had already passed so no photos of black bears. 

 Dante really wanted to get this Elk.

The Mountains - Are Very Pointy
 You can see the Rocky Mountain range from Calgary. Yet it still takes an hour or so to drive there. And even when you get there, you still aren't very close to a lot of the mountains.
 Note this is not the view you get from Calgary, in the city you can just make the shapes of the mountains out on the horizon. This photo was taken on Hwy 1 towards Banff National Park.

Lac Des Arcs
This is the first place when you are heading towards the Banff National Park that it's worth pulling over to take a photo of the mountains.
You can get an idea of the scale if you notice the tiny little white processing plant on left side at the base of the mountain.
Dante enjoyed being a mountain dog and drank some of the cold mountain lake water.
For those of you keeping track, no he did not find a monocle.

The Three Sister's in Canmore
Shortly before you enter Banff National Park is the tourist town of Canmore.  From Canmore you can get a fantastic view of a popular mountain called The Three Sisters. 
 It may be difficult to see as the clouds were low when we started out in the morning but there are three very similar styled mountain peaks side by side.

 A Matter of Scale
 The Rockies are big. You think you are approaching a mountain and then you realize you are no where even close to it's base.

I tried hard to capture the majesty of being surrounded by mountains, but it's really something that has to be experienced and can't really be captured through the photos. 
 The cars in this photo give you a bit of an idea of the scale and we aren't even that close to this mountain yet.

Crowfeet Glacier
 We drove up to this Glacier's look out point and couldn't stop laughing because there in the pouring rain is a miserable crow at Crowfeet Glacier. 
 Like the other animals in the park, it seemed unconcerned with my presence and managed to pose nicely so I could include it in the glacier photo of it's namesake.
Crowfeet Glacier is 50m thick at the edge. Once again, a matter of scale.

And the higher up we went, the more white stuff we found
Like Northern Ontario on Steriods
There were times when it felt like we were driving though the roads of Northern Ontario again. Rocks, trees, and water.

Then you would lift your view above the road, and there loomed a mountain.

And you would be reminded of the scale of the landscape

And you try hard to convince yourself that you are actually here and experiencing this.
 And when you think that it can't possibly get any better,
you climb higher
 This road does almost a 360 degree turn to get you onto a path that climbs a mountain.

The View From Up Here
This is probably the most breath taking spot we stopped at (save the ice fields that were so high I was actually a little short on breath on the climb).

 To understand the scale, see if you can spot the bus on the road below us.

This is MY mountain.

We did have some jocularity on this leg of our journey.

But overall I can't use enough adjectives to describe the experience.

The Tip of the Iceburg - Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Ice Fields
We continued to climb higher and higher up the mountain in the car (and saw some crazy cyclists) until we finally stumbled upon the Athabasca Glacier.

We wanted to get closer so we found the path that led to the top. 
Unfortunately we were unprepared for a hike through a section of snow on an incline (we were wearing running shoes and hoodies). Shelley remained behind but I continued forward undeterred by my sore knee (probably foolishly). 
 I was determined to see the glacier closer.
 At 6,500ft (2000m) it was harder to breath but not too bad. I still wonder if it was all in my head because I swear I was fine until I read the sign and started climbing.

This glacier is only a hint of the huge ice fields hidden from view.
If you look closely in this photo you can see an inukshuk in the bottom middle.

The ice in glaciers always flow forwards, as ice accumulating at the top flows down toward the toe. However, during warmer periods, the rate of melting at the toe may exceed the rate of accumulation at the source causing a glacier to retreat. 

Butt Eating Beavers?
When my sisters and I were younger, we did a lot of travelling from Southern Ontario to visit family in Northern Ontario. If we had to go to the washroom a long the way, the only option was an out house. If you've ever used an outhouse, you know that the size of the hole in the ground is pretty big (admit it, you've looked in before). Big enough to fit a bear one would say.

My sisters and I use to go to the bathroom as fast as we could because we swear there was a bear in there just waiting to bite my bum.

So when I saw this today, I couldn't help but take a photo. 

Caution, Butt Eating Beaver.
Incidentally, Shelley wondered why I was taking so long in the bathroom. Really it's because I was giggling so much at the though and taking a photo (the first one turned out blurry so I had to delete it and try again)

Sunwapta Falls

Unsurprisingly these falls are located in the Sunwapta River
And I'm happy to be here.

I'm now officially further north than I've ever been in my life (technically that was Drumheller yesterday too, but now I'm even further north).
Tomorrow I'm going to be entering British Columbia for the first time in my life. We will go through some more mountains but I don't think they will be as stunning as the ones we saw today.

Day 4 - Moose Jaw, SK to Calgary, AB

Okay so I didn't blog yesterday, I stayed at relatives in Calgary, had delicious food from them and went out for a tour of Calgary and a drink with my friend Doug. So sorry, they were more important than me blogging the actual day of.

On with the show.

View Day 4 - Moose Jaw to Calgary in a larger map

Finally sun! It had been so long. And with the sun came a slew of animal sightings. I learned that prairie dogs are smaller than our black squirrels, and that Canada has antelope!!!  I don't know why I never realized it before but it makes sense if you sing "Home on the Range". I'm certain it's a reasonable source material right? Oh and coyotes apparently live IN Calgary.

Off-Roading in a Ford Fusion in Waterlogged Saskatchewan

Certainly not one of my brightest ideas, but I had goals to fulfill while driving though the prairies.

I wanted to take a photo of an abandoned homestead that wasn't from a shaky car...

Check, plus bonus debilitated barn.

I needed to frolic in the prairie grass...

Shelley also thought this was definite to do.

I also needed to see a prairie dog...

and at the time, Dante was my only luck.

I also really really wanted to climb on a hay bail. I mean, who wouldn't want to climb a hay bail in the prairies.

I also took a bonus shot of me and my friend Moldy Hay a la facebook/myspace profile style. 
Hand sanitizer required
The great thing about Saskatchewan is that there is a lot of unattended, old hay that is easily accessible, well as long as you drive down a side road.  Doesn't look that threatening does it?

However, there is a reason the locals drive big trucks, especially after days upon days of rain. We almost ditched Shelley's car in the process and after a few close calls of being trapped in the deep mud (Shelley used the rocking technique as if we were stuck in snow - it worked well), we persevered and all goals were achieved.

In the end, we blended with the locals better, mud chunks in door handles and all. At the Welcome Centre in Alberta we kicked mud off the wheel wells as one would kick off slush in the winter. (you will notice some mud splatters through the window of some of the following photos due to our off-road prairie adventure.)

Prairie Lakes and Saskatchewan Boarder

A lake in the prairies wasn't nearly as scenic or exciting as one in Ontario or Manitoba. But I thought I should document it regardless.
This is Reed Lake
 To me it looks like a flooded field.

Saskatchewan morphed into some rolling hills as we entered Alberta.

It really made me crave riding a horse at insane speeds.

Alberta Loves It's Oil
 We entered Alberta at 11:30 AM, it was rolling hills, with huge cattle fields, and in some cattle fields were these oil pumps that I learned later from Doug are called Pumpjacks.

Slightly Naughty Lands

When we were planning the route of our trip we could not resist driving up through The Badlands, well to what we thought were known as The Badlands. You know, the place they find dinosaur bones? Well apparently The Badlands begin at Medicine Hat. But there was nothing really "Badland" about them. They were farmer's fields. 

They grew wheat. 
 Now for me, wheat is bad but I don't think that's what they mean.

We unanimously decided that these are not "The Badlands" at all, especially not with a "The" in front of it's name. No, we renamed them "The Slightly Naughty Lands"

While attempting to find the real Badlands, I made my first navigator's error so far on our route. I had us turn a road too early and we became trapped on a dry, dusty, sparsely populated, and surrounded by "Slightly Naughty Lands" road.  We started to despair we would never find the true Badlands, and I craved Hoo Doos (located in the real Badlands).  We took a scary steep turn on a hill...

and as we rounded the corner look what we found

Now these lands are so naughty, one can't help but to call them bad.
 We had found the Hoo Doo Trail!

The Badlands
When I think of The Badlands of Alberta I think of what we found in the Red Deer River Valley. This valley formed as glaciers melted rapidly at the end of the last ice age 10,000 -15,000 years ago.

 Each layer of rock in the valley walls is a page in the geological story of the region. 

The bands of black seen in the valley walls are coal seems. This region was a major coal producer in the early to mid 20th century.

Hoodoo? - You do!
This is a Hoodoo.

Hoodoos  are eroded pillars of soft sandstone rock, topped with a resilient cap stone.  The cap protects the softer rock underneath from eroding as quickly as the surrounding rock. Once the cap deteriorates, the pillar rapidly deteriorates.

Hence why the Hoodoos are fenced off and protected from people looking to touch and climb them. Knock off the cap stone and you've destroyed my beautiful Hoodoos.

Me and my little baby Hoodoo friends still not yet formed. 

 The word "Hoodoo" is from the Haus (a West African) language meaning "arouse resentment, produce retribution" Hoodoo, a magic practice not to be confused with Voodoo was introduced to North America in the 18th century.
 Some believed Hoodoos were giants turned to stone by the Great Spirit due to their evil deeds.

I love my Hoodoos and was excited about them our whole trip.

Wayne - The Not-So Ghost Town
Wayne, Alberta is south of Drumheller and is coined a "real ghost town" so Shelley and I were excited to do some Wild West theme adventures in it. It turned out to be a terrible disappointment and tourist trap.

But I did escape with a beautiful photo.
I managed to take the shot without the very lived in, modern, non-ghost town house appearing in it.

Bunking in Calgary with Relatives
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I did not blog last night because Shelley and I stayed at our relative's house in Calgary. We were served deliciously epic food that meets my dietary needs (and I'm not just saying that because they read this blog). Breakfast this morning was just as epic. 

Thanks for the great company, beds, and gypsy loot!