Earth and Ice

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Earth and Ice

If you see a house-sized rock in the middle of a prairie field, you might be near Okotoks, AB. You might see a bunch of people ignoring the fence around it. You might even see someone bouldering on it.

I don't have anything else exciting to add. I mean, sure, it's neat that the rock used to live in Jasper, and a glacier deposited it there, but geology has always been on too long of a timeframe for me to really appreciate.  If you're into that sort of thing, though, you should totally check out the Okotoks Erratic.

And if you're not, you can at least marvel at a giant rock in the middle of an otherwise empty field.

Nobody wants to camp in April, apparently. At least not in Kananaskis country. If you're looking to camp for free on Crown Land (In Alberta, a PLUZ - Public Land Use Zone), you have some limitations. Many of the roads are closed due to the time of year, so if you want to camp in the Cataract PLUZ or the southern Kananasis PLUZ you are mostly forced to abandon your car on the shoulder of the highway and hike into the hills. We managed to track down one spot in Cataract, but I’m pretty sure that we weren’t supposed to be there. McLean PLUZ was a better option. We ended up paying ($26) to be in an otherwise empty campground, but there were launch points where we could have at least gotten the car off the road.


It’s early days for the trip. We left late and I just wanted a place where I could be a bit comfortable. But it’s empty. No water access at this campground, so it would be down to filtering runoff or melting snow if we needed it.

It was cold. Below freezing overnight. Our sleeping gear was still comfortable, though, so we've got that going for us. It rained one night. The rainfly was covered with thousands of tiny, frozen raindrops in the morning.

This isn't the best time of the year for this.

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Storytime

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Storytime

I missed driving. That's what it comes down to. I grew up in a small town in the East Kootenays, and like a lot of people, spent a lot of time driving on the highways. At one point, I had a job that involved driving rental cars back and forth -- 20 minutes there, 20 minutes back. Mostly after dark.

I loved it. It was a nothing job, and I would have hated myself for staying there, but there's just something about driving. The road isn't quite the same from day to day. The rental cars were all makes and models and handled differently. Some days you'd have rain. Some you'd see fog. Some you'd have a deer jump onto the road and take off its invisibility cloak and you'd have to reef on the e-brake and cut the wheel and hope you don't drive the car over a cliff. You could never get too comfortable.

It was calm. Soothing. Toss your favorite rainy night CD in the car, get a feel for that particular wheel, and find your center.

When I started planning this trip I mostly just wanted to finally get in a car and drive cross-country. A lot of people ask me “Why not a motorbike?” and honestly, it’s just not my thing. Give me something with a V8 made before 1980 and I’ll just cruise on my bench seat with my 4x100 air conditioning.

But life gets in the way. And money. Gas is expensive.  It didn’t take long for that plan to change.

At one point the trip was going to be some combination of bus, bicycle, kayak, on foot, and hitching. That would have involved a really stripped-down amount of gear, and I’m not sure if I could have pulled it off. I decided that I was going to finance the trip by selling drawings and paintings and photos along the way, along with some digital freelance art. That equipment runs about 15lbs and is really hard to cut down further.

As luck would have it, I found a traveling partner, and she already has a car. It’s not at all the ideal road-trip car, and packing everything into it is a bit of a challenge, but it drives well and is good on gas. I don’t have my homemade kayak and I’m not bringing a bike along, and some of my early trip-related purchases have been shown to be spectacularly useless to us, but it could have been much worse. I planned to do this as inexpensively as possible, and it still is, but the gear ended up costing more than I was expecting.

Barring major complications, we leave tomorrow. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m scrambling to find Crown Land maps and hoping that I can find WiFi reliably enough to back up the video I’m going to shoot. Where will the video go? I have no idea. Will I have a cell signal on most roads? Will I actually use my monocular, or will I just use my camera instead? I don’t know what I’m doing so I’m going to try doing everything and maybe, at some point, I figure out what the story is.

It’s human nature, right? It’s always about finding the story. Creating the story. In a photo or in text. In video or audio. In the smell of grass in a meadow just after a light rain or the atmosphere of a Mom & Pop diner. There’s always a story.

And this story starts with two shaven heads and a car packed with gear.

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