In September my mom and I took to the road and drove from the southeast end of the Great Plains to Okanagan Valley, the land between the Coastal and Rocky Mountains in the Pacific Northwest. That is a lot of driving and we couldn’t spend more than 11 days total when visiting my grandmother, but at least it provides opportunities for different subject matter, and it’s more fun than flying.
Day One: Kansas. When you grow up in Colorado and have family in British Columbia but you live in Arkansas, you spend a LOT of time crossing the Great Plains. Do you take the Oklahoma route, the Kansas route, Nebraska, or South Dakota? At some point you pick the one you haven’t taken in a while, so we crossed in Kansas. Somewhere in the middle of the state along I-70 there is a rest area with no facilities left…save for a bench and a “caution” tape-wrapped booth that probably had soda machines once upon a time. Normally we listen to music on drives, but for the first time we tried some audio books from the library. Today we listened to Grave Secrets by one of my mom’s favorite mystery writers, Kathy Reichs.
Day Two: Wyoming. The understated state. We’ve cross the top of the state and the bottom, but this was the first time driving along the entire front range. Like in Kansas, the most interesting interstate rest area happened to be almost evenly between neighboring state borders. This little guy met my eyes and jollily marched to me. The horses didn’t care. But THIS guy, very fat (I suppose that’s allowed when you have to live through Wyoming winters), wanted pets and treats. Another traveler came up and offered alfalfa growing on our side of the fence. It was never enough. Audio book: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Day Three: Washington. Eastern Washington is also understated. The rolling farm land, volcanic rock fields, pine forests, and high desert. We drove north from Spokane to Grand Coulee Dam along the Columbia River. Considering how many dams in the state have been demolished and ecologically restored, I suppose the dam may not be around for too much longer. Audio book: The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux.
Day Four: British Columbia. This is Okanagan Lake in the south-central of the province and a LOT of vineyards hug its banks. This one is Summerhill Pyramid Winery near Kelowna. While my family was wine tasting and buying, I hung out with the Oriental tour bus. I cannot tell you how hard it was to not photo bomb the dozens of others taking pictures. I almost didn’t bother myself and just enjoyed the gardens and scenery, but the giant wine bottle and chalice said otherwise.
Day Five: British Columbia. Kelowna has a lot of walking and biking trails. This one followed the lake shore north from downtown. It passes the boat docks, restaurants, apartments, but eventually it enters conserved wetlands. Some photographers set their chairs on the boardwalk, tripod holding the camera toward a man-facilitated nest, waiting for the ospreys to show. I admire their patience. Since this was taken with my phone it is hard to tell that the yellow parachute behind a speedboat has a smiley face.
Day Six: British Columbia. Today we took some time to go hiking. Essentially on the right side of the far shore in the last photo is where this trail was. Bear Creek looped like a sine wave: up the fire-swept mountain, down to the creek where I stayed with an absent mind listening to nature for a good 20 minutes, up the other side of the canyon, and back down to the quaint parking lot. Beautiful place and there is nothing like fresh, arid mountain air to make you want to run.
Day Seven: British Columbia. Along Highway 3, a road the sweeps the most southern route in the province, is a gorgeous moderate trail with a vista of the Columbia river and birch groves. Near the beginning of the trail you can look at one of my favorite valley towns, Castlegar. Audio book: continuation of The Mosquito Coast.
Day Eight: Alberta. Welcome to Waterton Lakes National Park, the Canadian constituent of Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park. It’s post-tourist season so it was more like visiting a quiet mountain town that happened to have a lot of campgrounds. This photo faces south along Upper Waterton Late and into the montane habitat, but if you face north it’s all wetlands and colorful prairie. As much as I love mountains, I found the wetland to have more ambiance and personality. It was also the perfect time of the year to see the most color in the grasses, red and gold, with blue mountains cast behind them. But heck, this one represents the park better so it’s in the Project.
Day Nine: Saskatchewan. After visiting the bootlegging tunnels in Moose Jaw, we swept southeast on Highway 39 to head back to the States (Manitoba, my last province to visit, must wait until another trip). We tend to drive longer stints on the way back home, so iPhone photography from a moving car it is. Hello granaries (the myriads of trains on the route didn’t work frame well). Audio book: Dune by Frank Herbert.
Day Ten: Saskatchewan. Shy of the U.S. border we found a place to get out, stretch our legs and breathe fresh air. This area has a lot of mines and many of the hills are man-made, but they made for interesting human and natural history stops. In front is the highway shy of the last major town in Canada and behind the trail led to a marsh. Audio book: continuation of Dune.
Day Eleven: South Dakota. Perhaps this counts as an anti-climatic final photo-stop, but it was what it was. We were determined to drive from the northeast corner of the state all the way home to northwest Arkansas, so here’s a tree with metaphorical roots to the underworld illustrated by it’s morning shadow. Audio book: we finished Dune just in time. Overall there is something simply awesome about “reading” four books in eleven days and all were unique and enjoyable.