British Columbia, Crow’s Nest Pass to Ainsworth Hot Springs, August 27-28, 2008

29 12 2011

Step Aside an Even Bigger Monster Truck

Looks Like BC

Next we drove through the Crows Nest Pass, and it instantly looked like BC, with misty mountains and really big trees. I felt like we were home already, even though we live on the other side of the province. In Sparwood we saw a truck that was way bigger than the one we saw in Fermont, which I wouldn’t have believed possible if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. The Titan 39-19 is the size of a small apartment block, and can hold 2,000,000 golf balls! I don’t think that’s what it was built for, though, but they do advertise that detail on the plaque in front of it.

A Meal Made for Us

We were excited to reach Fernie because we anticipated delicious Hippie Food and went straight to the Good Earth health food store for a restaurant recommendation. We were floored when the clerk condescendingly suggested we buy our own food and cook it ourselves! Hello, we are enroute and living in a camper van—it takes us 3 hours to make lunch! So we thought that was rude. Other vendors in Fernie turned out to be much nicer, though, and the girls at Fresh, where we stopped for coffee, suggested we try Curry Bowl and that worked out well for us, with some nice fresh vegetables on rice. Also, when we asked the fellow at the gas station if we could fill our water tank, he told us how to get to the spring all the locals use to get water, so we were able to get real mountain spring water for free. I heart BC!

Free Water!!!!!!!!!

Not Mo's Yard

We planned to camp in the yard of our friend Mo, who owned an A-Frame near Kootenay Lake, and we got there after dark (Mo wasn’t there at the time). Her place is kind of on the side of a small mountain and there’s a really rough dirt drive going to it that has multiple switchbacks and it must have rained recently because parts of it were muddy and the mud was really slidey. The Boogie Bus isn’t a 4 wheel drive or anything, and we got stuck maybe 2/3 of the way up. We couldn’t go any further so the only direction to go was back down, and we couldn’t even turn around so we had to do it in reverse. It was a treacherous situation! Linda and I were outside guiding Step to not fall off the road and I was making a lot of noise to ward off any nocturnal bears. My heart was in my throat and I was unreasonably cursing Mo’s generousity under my breath the whole time.
By the time we finally made it back to the road no bear attack had occurred, but the Boogie Bus had lost a couple running lights, the bike strap was broken, and my adrenals were exhausted.

Toe Warming

We ended up going to a small provincial campground nearby, Lockhart Creek in Boswell, and it was busy so we were lucky to get a site. We had a few drinks and were disturbed by all the ATVs that kept roaring by in the dark. (When we awoke the next morning, we discovered our site was right next to the highway and the “ATVs” were actually ordinary traffic going by. It just goes to show how disorientating stress can be). It was almost September so the night was chilly and my toes were cold. Suddenly, I remembered the fleece lined Crocs I had purchased in Quebec City. I put them on and they were like little fur coats for my feet—very nice!

Leaving the Black Salt Cafe

Boswell is on Kootenay Lake, which is a long narrow lake with small communities on it. It has a provincial ferry that goes back and forth all day, connecting the highway, and it’s free! Before we got onto the ferry we stopped for lunch at a place Linda likes, the Black Salt Cafe. Lunch was Hippilicious, just like we always wanted, and they did all the shopping and cooking for us so we didn’t have to.

Ainsworth Hot Springs

Image from AHS Web Site

Instead of heading straight for Nelson when we got off the ferry, we made a short northern detour to Ainsworth Hot Springs. Having never been there before, I was imagining the hotsprings to be more like Liard Hot Springs, or Meager Creek (not featured on this blog), but Ainsworth was completely built up with a concrete pool. It was pretty all right, as far as crowded, commercial hot springs go. The worst thing about it was you weren’t allowed to wear any crocs or flip flops into the pool. I have a medical reason that this hurts my feet (actually, when I explained that to them, they allowed me to use my crocs, so points to Ainsworth Hot Springs) and Linda is afeared of foot fungus (not a good enough reason to be allowed flip flops according to AHS). The best thing was a crazy, artificial underground grotto that is off one side of the pool. The other best thing was on the list of posted rules was moaning or chanting are not permitted in the cave. WTF? Only in the Kootenays. Ainsworth Hot Springs was fun! But like I said, really crowded.

One shower and hitchhiker later, it was still fairly early in the day when we made it into Nelson, the most Hippie town in BC, and maybe even the world.

Hot Wheels

Alberta, Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, August 26, 2008

19 09 2011

Tipis of the Albertan Plains

I took this photo in the Yukon, not Alberta, but it is a Wild Buffalo

Okay, so it used to be that there were a kabillion buffalos roaming the prairies, so many that when the Europeans immigrated they would just use the choice hump of the buffalo and leave the rest to rot. But the native people never did that—they respected the buffalo! For thousands of years the Blackfoot people conducted a killing spree called “Buffalo Jump”, but not every year, only years where the buffalo were particularly abundant. Then that year they would have plenty of everything and life would be leisurely.

How they did this was by making a herd of buffalo jump off a cliff at this one spot where the Rocky Mountains meet the plains of Alberta. They would spend weeks lining a sort of diminishing path with fence and then dress up like wolves and stuff and scare the buffalo into stampeding down this corridor. The path would become increasingly narrow, and by the time the buffalo realised they were about to go off a cliff they had so much momentum and so many buffalo pushing behind them they would just go over, either dying on impact or breaking their legs so the Blackfoots could easily kill them later. The people had a nearby camp where they would party and process this amazing heap of buffalo into skins and pemmican and tools. They used all the buffalo, not just the hump, but there were lots of bones left over and they are about 12 feet deep below Head Smashed In. (All other known buffalo jump sites have been destroyed, because buffalo bones have a lot of phosphorous in them, and the bones were mined during the 19th century to make fertiliser, and later to make ammunition. Head Smashed In had not been discovered yet, so that is how it survived).

One year, a teenage boy decided he wanted to see the buffalos jump from below, and he was later discovered dead under a mountain of buffalo, with his head smashed in. So that’s where the name came from.

Robin in Front of the Cliff Where the Head got Smashed In

The Interpretive Centre was almost comical in it’s depiction of the traditional life of the Blackfoot, but maybe only because today’s stereotypical depiction of their ancient lifestyle is accurate? (I hope that is the reason). As you drive up you see Tipi’s on the plains, and indigenous people are banging on drums and stuff. The centre was really interesting. I particularly enjoyed an accounting book in the room dedicated to the time when the European settlers’ and the native peoples’ culture collided. Unlike Leonard, who we had met at the Nisga Lava Beds, and who’s Indian name meant “Wolf on Ice”,  the names of the natives in this account book included ones like “Really Slow Runner” and “Never Pays His Bills”. It was like Looney Tunes meets History. I wish I had had the wherewithal to take a picture of this book, because those aren’t the actual names, they are just approximations (I don’t have a razor sharp memory and it’s taking me so long to write this blog it was now a while back).

Judy Garland in Annie Get Your Gun

When we left I made Step and Linda listen to Ethel Merman sing “I’m an Indian, Too”—twice— which was a racially charged song from Annie Get Your Gun that isn’t included in modern productions. It just seemed to go really well with Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump. Click the link and listen for yourself.

The plains of Alberta are super windy and we saw a lot of wind farms from Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump to Pincher Creek, where we stopped for provisions, and the wind followed us to Beauvais Lake Provincial Park, where, after changing sites several times (Linda didn’t want to be in a site with a tree stump in it. ???) we spent the night.

How the Wind Blows