Archive | February 2017

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

I took this photo of an Anna’s Hummingbird a few weeks ago during our last snowstorm. I was housebound during that storm because I was hanging out in Solo. If you look closely, you can see that the water in the feeder is almost frozen solid. I’m sure that hummingbird was as confused as I was by the cold weather.

Why am I posting this photo today? Because this morning I spent nearly an hour watching big fat snowflakes fall from the sky.

C’mon. It’s almost March. More snow??

Vancouver has had twice as much snow this winter as Edmonton where it’s winter seven months of the year. (I can say that because I grew up in Edmonton. I know winter. Er … I used to know winter.)

Anna’s Hummingbirds do not migrate south from Vancouver for the winter, thanks to the proliferation of backyard feeders like this one. I still can’t get my head around the fact that hummingbirds are here year-round.

I just hope all that hovering they do kept those tiny birds warm this winter.

Canada 150: Dempster Highway

Dempster Highway

If you’ve already driven some 2500 kilometres to get from Edmonton to Dawson City, what’s another 800 klicks to go to Inuvik for lunch?

That’s what we thought.

The above photo is of the Dempster Highway, the only road from Dawson to Inuvik. It’s also the only all-weather road in Canada to cross the Arctic Circle. Because of the permafrost, it is surfaced with gravel. When we returned to Dawson City, we were surprised to learn it was rare not to pop a tire or two driving the Dempster Highway to Inuvik and back.

I guess we got lucky.

There’s one place to stop for service along the Dempster Highway and that’s at Eagle Plains, which is the halfway point between Dawson and Inuvik. We filled up with gas there, but camped overnight closer to Inuvik simply by pitching our tents on the shoulder of the highway.

It wasn’t like there was much traffic to keep us awake.

Canada 150: Dawson City

On leg three of my cross-Canada road trip, I drove from Edmonton to Dawson City with a friend. And it was on this trip that I learned a valuable lesson about travelling that has stuck with me ever since.

Always (always, always!!) do your research before you leave home.

My friend and I, both living in Toronto at the time, decided to drive to Dawson City from Edmonton instead of Whitehorse because we both had people we wanted to visit in Edmonton. We flew separately, a few days apart, and I booked us a rental car at the Edmonton International Airport where I would meet her.

I still remember the exact moment the sinking feeling formed in the pit of my stomach. Spread out on the floor of my brother’s living room was a road map that I had been using to calculate how long it would take us to drive to Dawson City. (This was back in the olden days, folks, long before Google Maps.) I started at it in disbelief. Turns out that, even after flying across four provinces, my friend and I were only halfway to the Yukon from Toronto. We had a 36-hour drive ahead of us.

Oops.

But you know what? It was a stunning road trip. We spent our first night with an aunt of mine who lived on a farm in northern Alberta, stopped for a minute the next day in Dawson Creek, BC, to take our obligatory photos at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway, and camped that night near the BC–Yukon border where we soaked our weary bodies in Canada’s second-largest hot springs at Liard River.

On our third day, we pushed on until we finally arrived at Dawson City around 1 a.m. My sister, who was working in Dawson for the summer, was up and waiting for us.

I was running on adrenalin by that point and nowhere near ready for bed, so my sister took me to the top of Midnight Dome for my first view of the town. It was early July and at that hour it was dusky, but light enough to understand why they call it Land of the Midnight Sun. I took this photo of the view of Dawson City and the Yukon River from Midnight Dome the next day.

Dawson City

Dawson City was the epicentre of the Klondike Gold Rush. After gold was discovered in 1896, an estimated 100,000 people poured into the area, hoping to make their fortune. Almost overnight, Dawson became the largest city west of Winnipeg and north of Seattle.

It was over as quickly as it started. The miners moved on to Alaska after gold was discovered there in 1899. Gold mining still goes on in Dawson today, but most of the town’s economy is based on tourism, which celebrates its Klondike past.

The Klondike Gold Rush transformed all of Western Canada, however. The population of Vancouver doubled and Edmonton’s tripled in those few short years as both cities served as gateways to the Klondike.

Just as Edmonton did for my friend and I.

Happy Arizona Statehood Day!

Yup, it’s that day again. The day we celebrate all things Arizona.

But you knew that, right?

Exactly 105 years ago today, Arizona became the 48th state of the United States of America. And so, to celebrate, here is a photo of Arizona’s Painted Desert. I took this in late 2006 while on a short road trip through the northeastern part of the state.

Stunning country, isn’t it?

Painted Desert

Happy Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder!

This week was the 150th anniversary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birth on February 7, 1867, and the 60th anniversary of her death on February 10, 1957. I’m a few days late, but I couldn’t let both dates pass by without acknowledging them.

That’s because I owe Laura Ingalls Wilder an enormous debt of gratitude. She is the author of the Little House books that I devoured as a child and that had a lot to do with shaping who I am today.

But this is not a book blog. It’s a travel blog, and you would do well to wonder what the connection is between the books I read as a little girl and the travelling I do today. It’s quite simple, really. The Little House books ignited my fascination with the past and made me the history geek that I am today. And I think I’ve mentioned once or twice on this blog how it is my interest in history that often dictates where I go or what I’m interested in seeing when I’m off on walkabout.

So that’s the connection. Like I said: simple.

I was introduced to the Little House books by family friends from Iowa. (Like Laura, I also spent part of my childhood living in the American Midwest.) For the first few years after our move to Canada, these friends would send my sisters and me a birthday box. (My two sisters and I share a birth month.) Inside that box one year, along with socks that were far too small, were two books: Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie. I claimed one, my sister took the other, and my future as a lifelong booklover and history geek was sealed.

My mother used to tell us how, when we lived in Iowa, she could feed us kids platefuls of buttered corn on the cob for dinner and nothing but and we would eat it all. Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family lived in Iowa for a short time and so, based on that shared connection, here is a photo of Iowa corn, taken on the same farm where the family who introduced me to her books lived. I visited those friends with my parents some years ago, giving me the unique opportunity to reflect as an adult on what living in that community must have been like for my Canadian parents.

For the record: those stalks of corn are almost half as tall as me again. Which puts them at about ten feet high.

Now that’s fertile country. Corn Belt, indeed.

Iowa Corn

Snow Day in Vancouver

Wait, what?

Yup. Snow Day in Vancouver. Normally in February, I’m posting photos of crocuses. Or gloating about how spring is right around the corner.

Not this year. We’ve had one of the snowiest, coldest winters I can remember, and I’ve lived here off and on for a good chunk of my life. This winter we had a white Christmas for the first time in almost a decade, and for the first time ever in my memory, the snow stuck around for an entire month. It arrived in early December and it didn’t leave until after New Year’s when the temperature finally warmed up and the rain washed it all away.

I expected we would have a normal winter going forward. But no.

We got another record dump of the white stuff this past weekend. Because we don’t usually get snow, what most Canadians take for granted, like snow plows and snow tires, we do not have enough of. And without plowed roads or snow tires, you are not going to get very far. Ever been in an articulated bus that was sliding backwards down a hill? I have. It was not pleasant.

So today was a snow day for a lot of people in this town.

And there is more snow in the forecast.

English Bay Snowman