Veggie Voyagers

Couple travelled 30 states and 3 Canadian provinces between 7/07 and 5/08 running their 1987 Ford truck on straight veggie oil. The blog continues with a focus on the natural world and energy politics from a personal perspective

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Buffalo Jumping

 We left the lot behind the Petrol Canada in Crowsnest after a restless night. This is the only section of road we had traveled five years ago during the original "veggie voyage" (see archives) except we made a foray off the road to meet the Old Man River at these falls and then skirted the Old Man Reservoir to our destination seeing this leaning house and barn telling the story of the relentless prairie winds and the fragility of man made things.
... If we hadn't been able to tell about the winds from the untold hundreds of wind turbines stretched along the skylines and in linear groups like this. The sound of their static whirr wasn't so bad today as I appreciated again the sweet smell of the open rural land.
 But we met cousins Tobias and Celeste who are Peigan (of the Blackfoot Confederacy and deeply rooted in the history, geography and politics of the region and geo-politics, in general.) We learned about the water shortages in this section of Alberta (which leans heavily on the Old Man River system) and about how much the First Nations have not been in consultation or leadership roles in the development of the wind industry or the tourism business built on the Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, where we met them today. We took in a lot of information today but for me, already with a "beef" about the Alberta government.. the reality that local First Nations do not administer this 12 million dollar tourist stop is almost as important as the history and knowledge of all the oral history, artifacts and what the archeologists had to say. (Deep honor to these creatures -below- and all who have gone before.)
 We are in Fort Macleod, at a Tim Horton's (a Canadian institution that is sort of like every person's Starbucks.) It's getting dark. We don't know where we will spend the night but I did darken up the lines on the map for you because tomorrow we head back into the country where we were born, which claims our allegiance even when we don't really feel it..our cultural identifier. We leave behind the Canada we Love and Care for and send out a huge wish for her People--- Be Good to the Earth. Pay attention to all you are losing to the extractive industries and to the greed of the wealthy who are exploiting the future of the land and your children. Work together. As First Nations, as environmentalists, as workers and outdoors enthusiasts to save habitat and species and not go down the path of further money grubbing in the name of "jobs." It is a false promise and a false future and only fattens the pockets of the filthy rich.
So, tell us Chris, what do you really think? Goodnight from one who loves you all and needs a place to park a veggie powered truck for the night. (Click on the map to see it better. Thanks.)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kananaskis Country

 For the full Harvest Moon we perched at Highwood Pass, the highest drive able pass in Canada at 2,203 meters (about seven thousand feet.) The morning dawned misty and threatening rain but we went for a little walk to read interpretative signs and stretch our legs.
 We'd had one of our unforgettable paddles on Upper Kananaskis Lake (excuse my back again.) The little island of golden aspen was so beautiful against the sheer peaks and small glaciers in the saddle. We were able to paddle to a lovely little hike to a falls on a feeder creek. The day before we'd hiked along a series of lakes. During our stay we saw more moose, a coyote, a wolf, a solo baby deer...

 We spent two days doing errands in Canmore, a beautiful but wealthy city in the Bow Valley, just south of Banff. The road out to the Kananaskis Valley is surprisingly rough but what I wanted to show here are all Michael's repairs... our bikes are whole again, the ladder is put away and we have a new bike rack that is much more convenient... still a bit of duct tape on the lights, but so much for aesthetics...
Speaking of which. How can you go wrong on that in such glorious country?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dusty 734

 Catching up now after our four days on the dusty but reliable 734 road... This first photo was from our night spot along the North Saskatchewan River looking west to that elusive spine of Rockies and the sun perfectly balanced in the hazy sky. The southern portion of the road was less distressing than the last post. Miles and miles of forest, frequent clear cuts and what the foresters call "even aged trees" but also beautiful meadows and yellow aspen.
 Our daily routines take on a comfortable regularity. Sasha is too old to leap into the cab so she and Michael have a little cuddle each time she loads up. Her face always looks a bit embarrassed but you can tell she is glad to have him properly trained in the best way to lift her.
 We saw lots of free range animals. Besides the sheep there were lots of horses and cattle along this section. Perhaps the most scenic sight was Ram Falls.
 My most leisurely day though... as Michael spent the day working was along the Clearwater River. He processed 33 gallons of veggie oil and patched the places the ladder had pulled loose and other gashes from our accident. I collected garbage, meditated, messed with my photos and read...all on a lovely warm day.
I now have what he jokes is post traumatic rolling disorder... I'm quite anxious to have the brake on and chocks on all four tires but have been appreciative that all our stops, including last night on a "poison gas pipeline" were fundamentally flat.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall in Alberta

 Happy Fall! I can't tell you how great it was to have a flat night last night despite frequent dusty hunters on ATVs... After we left Hinton's car part stores last evening we made it further down the gravel road (#40) that we continued on today.
The road parallels the great Rocky Mountains but it is what is called "the coal patch"  here... all the hills and mountains are either laid open or covered with a fine struggling grass which is the official remediation after the coal is exhausted. Below is an unfenced run-off pond. You can see the white tail deer in the photo above but not the big horn sheep grazing up the ridge off to the right on this photo.
 The air was filled with dust throughout the area and this processing area was like Mordor, a grim gray place. (What is funny is that this morning the CBC News from Edmonton was about 'cap and trade' and the argument was whether costs would be passed on to consumers. Perhaps if consumers could see the true costs of these industries they'd demand far more of themselves and industry and the fat cats who profit.)
 So we went down 40 until it became 734 and we will continue down it tomorrow after this brief stop in the historic mining town of Nordegg. What I wanted to say was after the coal there were miles and miles of oil and gas land and then into massive clear cuts. The entire corridor has been a sacrifice zone and is completely unsustainable.
While the weather holds Michael will do repairs and VV oil processing tomorrow so we can continue south. Peaceful Equinox to you.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Almost a Disaster

 We are back in Hinton. Yesterday we left after Michael spent an exhausting day working on the brakes and I hung out at the library which looks out on this skate park and the pulp mill beyond.
We left town as dark was closing in and were happy with our spot on a forest service road until the truck rolled about 50 feet down an embankment. It was a very scary experience for me. Luckily I was able to brace in the little sink area as my computer, purse, the recycling all traveled toward the open door where could be seen trees breaking off and shattering parts of the back of the cab-over. We came to rest with a quiet thud against three young trees and were at about a 30 degree angle, unable to get out. We made the best of a cold dinner eaten from the sink, so it wouldn't slide away, and a long sleepless night held in our crib by canoe paddles placed to keep the mattress and us from sliding onto the floor.
 In the morning Michael industriously cut away all the trees, dug roots and boulders and we tried again to get up the bank but couldn't. We luckily were still in range of Hinton and so were eventually able to get a tow truck to come rescue us.
There is some structural damage and our bikes are messed up but everything else is running well.
 I'm just grateful to be alive. Grateful to realize yet again how precious good health and easy routines and good shelter are when something disastrous like this happens. We'll be leaving Hinton again in a few minutes... Good World Peace Day to you all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Maligne Canyon and Lake

 Treasures of nature! We visited Maligne Canyon which is an unroofed cavern bringing water from Medicine Lake via underground rivers and streams. The water surges along the deep narrow canyon but also in unlikely plumes from within the adjoining hillside.
 We got low-light un-flashed photos of both bull elk and big horned sheep from the last two evenings. Last evening coming back from Maligne Lake we were mobbed by about a dozen sheep who were fascinated by the truck tires. (Some nutrient?) We were able to see them from the truck very up close--as in, could have touched them but wouldn't have.
The iconic Jasper elk are about to enter rut... that should be something to hear. As it is, the call sound the bull elk make is very high, a bugle quiver that is shivering in it's wildness.
 We finally saw moose yesterday on our paddle on Maligne (Ma-leen) Lake. A family of three and this couple-- bull to the right and cow to the left. I'm sorry for my back but this is the only shot where we got both in the same frame. We have been looking and looking for moose and were so excited to finally get good views of these gigantic and odd looking creatures. (They could say the same about me, I suppose.)
 Maligne Lake itself was incredibly beautiful with the high peaks of the Rockies, glaciers, fall colors, "spirit" rocks and a stiff wind to paddle back through in the fading afternoon. All the days of this trip tumble together but I think yesterday is right up there for "Best of Canada" status despite my numb hands from paddle gripping.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Magnificent Robson

 We're in Jasper after warm sunny days and chilly nights in McBride and Robson Park. We had great luck in meeting Seth MacDonald of Robson Valley Bio-diesel in Dunster, a one store wonder of a community. After buying some bio-diesel we took the backroad to Tete Jaune Cache and on into majestic Robson and picked up veggie oil at the cafe at the base of the mountain.
 We hiked the baby-steps (5-6 miles RT) to Kinney Lake (below.) From here the trail climbs steeply around Mt. Robson to Berg Lake and that's where I couldn't make it. Still, this was magical. Everyone else had gone down and we were alone as the chill deepened and the sun crept up the mountain.
 That night we found an elegant camping area and Michael processed the veggie oil from Seth the next day. This is my dawn shot of Robson and Resplendent as we woke to our first frost of the journey.
 I rushed outside to document the fine etching that melted back to another warm day.
It is amazing to have such warm sunny days so we won't take advantage of Jasper's allures. We rather go take advantage of the weather god's gifts. Please go back to our archives from five years ago (8/07) though-- when we thought Jasper was so far north!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Robson Valley Inland Rainforest

 We left Prince George after three days of (Michael's) work on the vehicle. Our 25 year old Veggie Voyager has now put in a more days on rough roads in the backcountry of the great Robson Valley Ancient Inland Rainforest. Above is the Hellroaring Falls which you reach through a fairyland of thick feather moss in a old growth Red Cedar/Hemlock forest. Below, Michael is in another Ancient Forest among trees as old as 2000 years.
 And the very young may not survive the winter. The nights are progressively colder and the understory is more and more dazed into yellowing and browning. Tonight should hit freezing where we are now, in McBride (a flat green valley in a corridor of stately mountains.)
 We have only seen the humble, small creatures but the areas we visited create a corridor for the seven large parks of the Robson Valley with Southern Canada's largest protected area network. We see the trails, scat and prints of the wild critters even if we haven't had good luck seeing them. It's hunting season now and on the Morkill Forest Service Road hunting is prohibited but not on the Walker FSR, which is the other one we travelled.
We rode our bikes to the McGregor River along the Walker FSR and saw these great peaks in the distance.
We really appreciated the small guide we used, Robson Valley Ecoguide, published by the Save the Cedar League and honor their work of protecting this rare and threatened habitat from clearcutting and other destructive practices, that have fragmented the natural coherence of the inland rainforest. The patchwork that remains is still glorious but they still need our help to permanently protect this great land.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Blow Out!

 It's our anniversary month and I'm filled with appreciation for Michael and awareness AGAIN of his incredible skills. Yesterday we'd done our "chores" in Chetwynd and were headed south. On a downhill curve we heard an incredible bang and it fell like the back end of the vehicle had hit the road. Michael valiantly controlled the skid, which was about 100 feet long and we came to rest on a slant over a ditch. The shredded tread had wrapped around the brake line and it clamped down the emergency brake... Whew!
 Michael spent the next three hours trying to get the tire jack and camper jacks to work so we could get the spare on and then we had a whole dilemma about how to get the camper lined up again as he could no longer lower it straight on the camper bed at the angle we were in. Many wonderful Canadians stopped to help. We really, really appreciate their kindness even though it was Michael who slowly, methodically got us out of there.
This morning he has identified a new tire and new rim and we have a new problem-- the glow plug relay isn't working so we are marooned in the IGA parking lot in Chetwynd until we get a new one.
 I just want to again recognize my valiant, brilliant husband and all the kind people who have given us support.
 Until we can properly celibrate...on the

Lake Country

 Got to hope I don't get punted off... third time is a charm... We have been at a series of lakes since last I wrote. We stayed first at Pine Pass where we had a spectacular view of the northern lights and more truck trouble. Then went on to Carp Lake which has never seen a Carp. Michael processed veggie oil and I rode my bike to Rainbow Lake for this Dragon display. The shot above is from War Falls which is located near Carp.... All these lakes are natural and from the glaciers that dragged across these lands.
 We were able to swim at both Carp and Amanita Lakes. I won't say it was warm but the days were.
 We did a loop trail along the Macleod River and harvested blueberries (huckleberries) for the next day's pancakes.
 We paddled as far as we could in one day among Carp Lakes myriad islands. We met up with some very territorial beaver. 14 year old Sasha held her own though. It's been a nice 5-6 days but now the rain and cool weather has returned and we are in Prince George, onto the next leg of the journey.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dinosaurs and beyond

 We hiked down to Flatbed from Tumbler Falls and saw dinosaur tracks in the irregular stone along the river... barely distinguishable, unmarked but definite. Somehow the knowledge that this ancient race of being had been here in this great inland and tropical place made me feel good about the evolution of our planet... maybe our carbon will form the energy source for some future coal and shale oil discoverers and maybe they'll make more prudent decisions... time stretches out beyond conception... maybe one of my bigfoot prints will amaze a future being as much as Ankylosaur touched me.
 From Tumbler Ridge we headed down to Monkman Provincial Park to see the Kinuseo Falls and this is the energetic top of that long falls but after that our thoughts turned to the Monkman Falls. We drove past the campground and out of the park to a vast clear cut rimmed by mountains with an endlessly entertaining weather scape above us. (The idea that you can clear cut your way out of pine bark beetle problems is ridiculous... the clear cuts all were ringed by dead trees...perhaps the thought is that by the time these trees mature the beetles will have run out of food source? )
 The elfin glow, the full moon, the glancing morning sun and rain squalls... we spent two days there, not just turning our heads to watch the constantly shifting clouds and shadows, but we hiked 9 km toward the falls (at 17 km-- which would have taken me two days at my old lady pace.) Our turn around was lunch on a glacier scraped rock outcropping looking out to Castle Mtn and the Shark Fins with small lakes below us... good enough, definitely good enough.
 And for that whole long walk and the next day's bike ride up the Imperial Canyon, passed by ATVs (on this Labor Day long weekend)  was the undeniable forest in cycle and browsing on wild blueberries and reading the ancient language like runes on the rocks.