Part 1, Wandering through uncertainty.
He was a Native from Teslin, older than her. She was a wanderer. Raised in Vancouver, now wintering in Teslin. We were sharing a dinner table at the lodge and were all confused about what time it was. A small sign near the front door/front desk suggested that we had passed in to Mountain time zone…. I had neglected to realize this change as well. It did not really matter much, though it would set a certain stage for the day to come…. today that is.
That was all last night. Before the New Years midnight festivities. There was to be a bonfire, but the wind had come up, somewhat fiercely and so they substituted a small campfire, but went forward with the fireworks… which were quite nice actually. Unless you were a small dog that does not quite care for fireworks, in the cab of truck that you have spent far more time in than one might find acceptable. And the humans could not even find the decency to, earlier in the day, let one frolic with the bison. Sigh.
We slept then. Myself, better than I had any previous night for quite some time. We rose, had a fine breakfast, good coffee, and pleasant conversation with the proprietors. Should you find yourself in the vicinity of Muncho Lake, we highly recommend a stay at the Northern Rockies Lodge!
We packed up, and signed out, filling up our travel mugs with coffee for the road, and headed out under a sluggish dawn sky. As we wound along the shoreline of the lake we marveled at the inconsistent temperatures; it should not be 38 degrees above zero on the first of January, at 9ish in the AM, in this place. But it was. We began to be concerned about the contents of our freezer.
The going was slow. Mountain roads in an alarmingly slow sunrise, so covered with sand and gravel that we were not certain they were paved. Once past the lake, the winding went on, up and over ridge and down through hollow and glen. Past tumble down “services”, lodges and cafes and cabins that were clearly not historic and looked as if they would have been questionable in whatever heyday they might have had. A flurry of flash in the pan, roadside outfits, poorly begun and left unfinished.
And then a sign, half sticking out of a snow bank; “The cinnamon bun center of the galactic cluster.” A bold claim to be sure, but then after our previous attempt at testing the claim of cinnamon bun notoriety, we were not particularly surprised, that this place too, had folded.
We rolled on, through the Rocky Mountains, clearly, and yet it seemed as if we might have been suddenly teleported to somewhere in Colorado, or Montana; it seemed like the old west, not the far north. And then, out through the foothills, into what damn sure seemed like spring, in the midwest. And then a field full of ungulates; either cows pretending to be elk, or elk masquerading as cows… it was hard to be certain. Where were we? What day was it? What time? Whatever might come next?
Fort Nelson… the 5th. Look it up.
A sign said, “No dollying off trailer.” I still do not understand. On past, Dan’s Neighborhood Pub, where 5 out of 4 people eat… or so they claim.
Four hours left of the day to reach Fort St. Johns…or so they say.
Part 2, Fire, fire on the mountain.
At Fort Nelson, should one continue on the Alcan, one makes a turn to the south. It is neither as obvious and dramatic, nor quite as due south, as suggested by either the maps, or the road advice we had available to us. Either way, we were headed more south than any time previous on this trip.
The country betwixt this “Fort” and the next was, as we were to learn, oil and gas development country. I knew it was a long haul through, largely uninspiring country, but was not quite prepared for how it all played out.
We did not stop. Much to Little’s dismay, and it was rather disheartening to experience her sullen, yet palpable dismay.
The Rocky Mountains lay off that way, to the west. We would catch glimpses through the trees (which changes types again, more than once) as we rolled on. Then, after passing through Pink Mountain on our way towards Wonowon (not towns at all, but rather exploration outposts of particularly bleak countenance), the sun, as it insists on doing, began to set. I was already feeling a bit strung out and began to loath the idea of driving in the dark, especially on these roads. But the sunset was rather spectacular as it set those distant mountains aflame; a flame that lingered for much longer than expected.
And then there were genuine flames, spewing forth from tall pipes, jutting forth from the hills and ridgetops, amongst the trees. Gas wells, burning off excess, or whatever it is they do. A modern day Mordor, engines rumbling everywhere, new roads blazed haphazardly, the hills on fire. And the dark came on and our destination seemed to get further and further away.
I will not attempt to amuse you with details of our current evening’s lodgings. Tomorrow it is on into uncharted territory. Into Alberta and a place called Whitecourt.