Taber, Canada - Polarsteps
It has been a while since I've made an entry; we spent two very full weeks in Lethbridge. Between spending time with family and friends, visiting the Royal Tyrrell Muesem and Waterton Lakes National Park and getting the bikes tuned up for the next portion of the trip we have been very busy. I have been very busy and did not prioritize writing entries for the blog.
Where to start and how far to travel back? It was such a treat to spend so much time with people we know in the B.C. interior; Grace, Julie, Dylan, Danielle, Gideon, Noreen, Jim, and Angie thank you all so much for having us and being such wonderful human beings. You folks are the reason why such a trip feels so full and warm; the people one spends time with make all the difference in the world.
The remainder of B.C. is sort of a blur; we took the ferry over Kootenay Lake, rode down the east side of said lake while it rained cats and dogs, camped at Yahk, then Moyie Lake and then Fernie. Fernie was the first place that had bear lockers this entire trip. We then stopped at a childhood spot, "The Biggest Truck in the World" in Sparwood. We ended up sneaky camping up a logging road that night, not far from the highway. Things felt off here from the get-go; first we endured a downpour and thunderstorm on our way up the logging road, then I got a flat, we weren't able to hang our food , so we wrapped it in tarps and stowed it away from the tent (I do not like this, it makes me super nervous). The thunderstorm picked up again in the night and with heavy rain it is hard to tell what is the sound of rain and what may be other sounds. At one point both Sara and I thought we heard something outisde, so I blew our air horn. About 15 seconds later we heard this .... scream-like sound coming from the trees NW of us; it happened a few times and sounded like it was moving away. I thought it was a bird, Sara felt it was more feline. Needless to say, neither of us slept well that night. I had my tiny fishing knife (like that will do much, it gives me the illusion of safety though) and bear spray close at hand. We made it to the next day fine, obviously, but it was the worst night thus far. Worse than Silver Skagit. About a week later I was showing Sara a pamphlet on cougars when she realized she is pretty sure she saw large cat tracks on the muddy road we took to our stealth camp spot that night (she had thought it was just dog prints initially). We also youtubed some cougar calls and yup, you guessed it, sounds like someone screaming. Yay!
I was super excited to cross over into Alberta and to one of my favourite places, the Crowsnest Pass. I love how wild and haunted this place feels. I also had a few very rich memories from spending a handful of summer weekends here during my adolescence; tubing the river, jumping off cliffs into the water, paint balling, taking in the mountains, exploring the trails, going to Thunder in the Valley (it was a weeked of mud bogging, beer and fireworks. Turns out the fireworks were super harmful to wildlife and stopped in 2010. Good.) We had been given the tip that there was a community trail that took us off the highway and through the towns. It was stellar. I love when places are able to have such trails, it makes the experience so much nicer and we get to see more than just the views from the side of a highway. I have travelled this stretch of highway so many times and never tire of how amazing it is to see and feel the landscape changing as drastically as it does here.
We spent the night a Lundbreck Falls and very quickly, with the help of flat landscape and tail winds, made our way to Fort MacLeod where we stayed with a childhood friend of mine, Alycia. From there we made our way to Orosz Family Farm; this is where I grew up. This place is like a time capsule, there are eras within these walls. It was wonderful seeing my siblings Juli, Sierra and Jordan and my cousin Robyn (great restaurant recommendation!). I also spent time with my dad, mom, aunts, uncle and grandpa. My grandpa is eighty and has some pretty good one liners. We slept in a trailer where we could feel the cool breeze, see the gorgeous sunsets, hear the owls and coyotes at night, see the stars and sleep next to cows in a pasture just beside us (I can easily see why cows are sacred in Hinduism; they are so gentle and calm to observe). I love the silence and darkness of the countryside at night. It is a trip sitting in the house I grew up in; there is such a thin veil between the past and present here. I look around and memories just seem to be plucked out of thin air. It's wild how the only constant in this life is change and even though this house is the same structure as it was when built fifty years ago so much has happened and shifted within its walls. My grandma passed away suddenly last fall and she is missed by everyone deeply. Her presence is still very strong in this home and the foundation on which it stands.
It felt really hard and sad to leave the farm; it is really easy being here and I will miss everyone so much. We took a route through my hometown of Picture Butte, to Coaldale and onward east on Highway #3. I am not particulary fond of or connected to Butte but there are again so many wonderful memories here from my childhood; the skating rink, the pool, walking to get apple fritters from Kosters, hanging out at friends' houses, the schools I went to, etc. It was a very big world in that town to me for such a long time (even though it never stopped being big to certain people i knew growing up and frankly, most of said people are still assholes, still wearing Quicksilver, Billibong and Roxy but are in an adult form now). My theme song for Butte is Lou Reed's "Small Town", it is the only song about a small town I have ever liked. Still, regardless of this I was so stoked to give Sara a personalized tour of the town and my childhood memories. What made me cry a bit was going to my old high school and seeing that they have a LGBTQ club for queer kids and allies. Even in small places, under a Jason Kenney conservative government shifts are slowly happening; I had a gf my senior year and did not feel like I could be out (I would have loved to have taken her to grad). After Butte we rolled towards Coaldale over the Oldman River/Nolan Bridge; Sara was taken away by the coulees here and how amazing/striking the Alberta landscape and geography are. I was so fortunate to grow up with so much beauty surrounding me.
All of Canada has been built on stolen indigenous land; I especially feel this fact when on the stretches of land between Lethbridge (or Calgary) and the mountains. I think having grown up here and having such a strong connection to this landscape heightens these facts and feelings. As does the fact there are so many reserves throughout Southern Alberta and so much racism embedded our settler/white culture. On these open landscapes it isn't hard to imagine bison roaming or understand why certain places and formations are sacred. I had limited exposure to Blackfoot culture growing up but what I did really made an impact on me; one subsitute teacher in the eighth grade was by far the strongest influence. You'll probably never see this but thank you so much, Mr. Weaselhead. The land our feet stand upon is indigenous and in my opinion indigenous sovereignity needs to be respected and land returned. Especially with climate change well underway; the leadership of indigenous youth and indigenous teaching is the only way we are going to get through.
-A couple from the farm-- the live cow field, the dead cow pile.
-We road-tripped to Calgary to pick up Julie and Grant and Baby Juniper from Julie's parents' house (now Ottawa-dwelling friends who have been with me since Sackville, New Brunswick 1 million years ago; we'll get to meet up again much further down the road); we drove to Drumheller listening to Kini's grandma's old mixtapes of country/trucker songs, then spent an afternoon at the Royal Tyrrell Museum looking at awesome dinosaur fossils.
-Visiting with Chelsey! We came for breakfast and stayed all day.
-Stopped in Cardston and got subs on the way to Waterton; ended up eating them in front of the Mormon temple.
-Waterton! Everything about this place was amazing. The bison paddocks were a highlight.
-The Okotoks Erratic: a bit of the Rockies that rode a glacier to the middle of the prairies and stayed there.
-Hitting Picture Butte on the way out of town, including Kini's Catholic elementary/junior high school.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲