Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eight Days to Calgary

Ten years ago this very day, Cuppa and AC set off on a very long drive. We were heading off for a month-long trip from Sarnia to Calgary and beyond. These two fifty-plus bods did a lot of camping in a lot of places and had quite an adventure. I put my journal online back then before blogs existed, or at least several years before I knew they existed. Here are some excerpts from the part of the journal that covered the trip out. Perhaps I will eventually add other excerpts from the rest of the trip.




In July 2000, we packed our little, old Corolla to the hilt and rode it mercilessly on a 30-day drive that took us more than 12 000 kilometres through several major geographic regions of Canada. We journeyed from the flat lands of southwestern Ontario, through the rugged Canadian Shield north of Lake Superior, across the gently rolling Prairie, to the majestic Rocky Mountains.

As the more youthful among you might say, "I totally loved this trip. It was like awesome!" Canada truly is an incredibly diverse and glorious land. I loved every part of the journey, but let me confess that The Rocky Mountains magnetized my spirit like a primal force field. Such was their appeal that I dreamt of them reverentially every single night from my first sighting until a month after we got back home.

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Here I sit, bug-swarmed and hot in the forests north of Lake Superior. It is 9:00 p.m., and I am now well-swaddled in clothing in order to minimize skin exposure to the teeming mosquitoes. We tried our best to wash and brush at an outdoor sink earlier, and we learned that we were easy prey for the hungry hordes. My few exposed, fleshly parts have now been liberally applicated with Deep Woods Off. So, maybe I will be able to write a little. There is also a citronella candle/pot burning about one foot from my head.

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I am sitting at a picnic table at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, about 30 km past Thunder Bay. It felt like we were still driving west when we passed Thunder Bay, but it’s probably more north of the city. It’s 10:00 p.m., but I still have enough light by which to see the mosquitoes that land on my bare arms. We are almost in the next time zone, so it is really closer to 9:00 or 9:30 sun time, 8 to 8:30 adjusting for daylight savings.

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In all we drove about 587 km today and about 1377 km in the past two. It seemed like a long way, but I’m not sure why as the scenery was fantastic for the most part. You would like to take a picture at every bend in the road, but since you’re on the Trans Canada Highway, it is almost impossible to take any at all. Stopping is too problematic.

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What a huge province and country! Behold, we have now driven just over 2000 km, and we only arrived in Manitoba, the next province, in the past hour and a half or so. We drove 726 km today and are now in Winnipeg.

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I guess you have to drive through Northern Ontario to appreciate the immensity and the isolation. Towns are so small and so far apart that there was a sign telling us that it was only 3 hours to Dryden. When we got there, it was a settlement of less than 8000 people.

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We resumed our westward trek, and past Brandon, the Trans Canada dwindled to two-lanes and stayed that way until the outskirts of Regina. The other thing that I should mention is the westward incline. For probably 80 to 90 percent of the time, the road grade inclines noticeably to the west. You notice this most when you look in the rear-view mirror, and you can see that the land slopes down behind you.

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The highlight of the day, I think for both of us, was a detour we made into the Qu’Appelle Valley. On a whim I followed a sign that told of a Scenic Qu’Appelle drive after 33 km. So, we took the path less travelled and, eventually, after some panic from Cuppa, who couldn’t find our road on the map, came upon the Qu’Appelle Valley. It was quite a sight to behold. Sometimes, it’s well worth leaving the beaten path.

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It is especially rolling, almost rugged, down here in the extreme southwest of Saskatchewan where we are now camping. We are at Cypress Hill Provincial Park, and the local area is, indeed, hilly. It is quite a nice park, with lots of amenities, such as a Subway restaurant where we had a late supper ... From Shaunavon, we followed "The Red Coat Trail" (#13) that the RCMP took westward from Gull Lake . Once again, the country was very rolling, but it was getting more desiccated. The road was a bit rough, and our little Corolla bottomed out a few times.

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Life isn’t perfect, and neither is today. I guess that riding the back roads last night was not the best of ideas. Afterward, the car started to become noisy. So, we drove it to Medicine Hat today and took it to Canadian Tire. We need a new front wheel bearing, which has to come from Calgary – tomorrow!!

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We were able to pick up the car and leave “The Hat” around 11:00 o’clock this morning, and we were in Calgary by about 3:00 p.m. Praise be! The car is running well, and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg to fix — just two fingers and one toe.

The land west of The Hat is really dry and quite treeless. It is mostly pasture land except where they irrigate, and they do quite a bit of that. The terrain continued to roll, even more so as we approached Calgary. It also started to green up. It was odd to see 5 small deer grazing by the side of the Trans Canada Highway in an environment devoid of trees. How did they get there and why?

The trip now totals 3597 kilometres, but we are only 2550 klicks from Sarnia if you can fly like a crow. We’ve come a long way in eight days, but they have been thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a marvellous land, this Canada of ours.

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12 comments:

Diana said...

What a great experience AC. We too had a corolla for many years. It had over 200,000 miles on it before we sold it.
Back in my camping days, Canada was always a dream of mine. We both sort of grew out of the camping mood. However our son who has a pop up that we have borrowed in the past, is considering a newer bigger camper. Maybe then we'll reconsider! LOL!
Would you do it again now?
Love Di ♥

Anvilcloud said...

Diana: the last camping trip -- seven years ago -- was in the rain. I think it did us in. :( It was great experience, though.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

So does this experience and the one in the rain 7 years ago mean your (outdoor) camping days are done? We camped, but in cabins, at several places last spring-fall, and may do that again this fall. I have never wanted to rent or own our own campter, although Grenville has owned a pop-up camper and mentioned getting a small tow-behind. But when not in use, it would sit in the backyard - next to the deck boat he thought we needed a couple of years ago..and that he's looking to sell. Hmmm maybe work a trade? boat for cample...on second thought, not!

Mara said...

If you were to publish this in bookform, together with photos of this trip (which I am sure you and Cuppa haven taken), I would buy it! Because the snippets you fed us now are nowhere near enough!

Queenmothermamaw said...

Quite interesting reading and of course, well written. I am glad it was you and not me. Cannot stand mosquitoes. We bought a Corolla in 82 and put about 200,000 miles on it. Loved it.
QMM

simplycol.com said...

Now that I am retired, Roland and I have been tossing around the idea of doing a similar trip. Canada is such a diverse, rugged land.. so much to see and experience .. right at our fingertips.. add or subtract a few miles :-)

Ginnie said...

You whet my appetite for travel, AC, but I agree that it was much easier in 2000 than would be now.
Also, your very descriptive prose of being devoured by mosquitoes is a turnoff !!

Kila said...

I would love a road trip through Canada (minus the vehicle problems) during the summer months. Maybe in the fall after a mosquito-killing-freeze would be best.

I know, a fall trip via train.

Anvilcloud said...

That VIA train is verrry expensive, but it would be grand.

Just so everybody knows, this was camping as in a tent. Making and breaking camp almost daily was a wee bit of a chore. But I wouldn't trade the experience, even though we're not up to repeating it.

Donna said...

It's always fun to look back at what we wrote...You haven't change one bit!
Sounded like a wonderful trip!
hughugs

Lorna said...

As soon as I saw the word "camping", I knew I'd be itchy and tired, and probably hungry, just reading. And so it was.

Bernie said...

A/C my late husband was in the airforce and we were posted from NS (Greenwood) to Alberta.....we travelled the same trip as you and cuppa and then were blessed enough to do it all over again when we were posted back to Halifax.
I have always found the Prairies very flat and barren but like you we were drawn to the mountains like a magnet. I still am. I remember how I felt when I realized that the trees out here were nothing like down home and I missed them. We do live in a beautiful country and I am so looking forward to moving back to NB in two years......:-) Hugs