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Canada 150: Tsiigehtchic

This photo is of Tsiigehtchic, which is where the Mackenzie River meets the Arctic Red River, and where the Dempster Highway crosses the Mackenzie River. Vehicles cross by ferry in the summer. In the winter, there is an ice crossing.

Tsiigehtchic is the Gwich’in word for “mouth of the iron river.” Iron river (Tsiigehnjik) is their name for the Arctic Red River.

Nagwichoonjik, or “river flowing through a big country,” is what the Gwich’in call the Mackenzie River. The Dene call it Deh Cho, which means “big river.” And its Inuvialuktun name is Kuukpak, which means “great river.”

In case there is any doubt, the Mackenzie is a big river. At 4241 km long, it’s the largest and longest river in Canada, and the second largest and longest in North America. (Only the Mississippi is longer.) The Mackenzie River’s watershed covers one-fifth of Canada’s land mass.

The river got its English name from Alexander Mackenzie, who followed its length to the Arctic Ocean in 1789. He hoped the river would empty into the Pacific Ocean. When he realized it did not, he is said to have named it Disappointment River.

That’s an awful lot of names for one river. Whatever you call it, it’s worth crossing.

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.

Through My Lens: Float Planes

Float Planes

There was a wee bit of excitement in Vancouver today about a couple of visitors. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are in British Columbia for an eight-day visit and today was their whistle-stop tour of Vancouver.

What I find amusing about the media coverage of the Royal Tour is how every story highlights that the Royals are being flown around the province by float plane. Float planes are, to put it mildly, a way of life in coastal BC. For some communities, it’s the only way in or out.

I took this photo of the planes docked at the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre (aka Downtown Vancouver’s seaplane terminal) last summer. The Duke and Duchess arrived here from Victoria this morning ― by float plane.

Road Trip: Crowsnest Highway

I’ve written before how my road trips are few and far between, but that every once in a while I do switch it up and get behind the wheel of a rental car to admire the scenery through a windshield. Such was the case last summer when I chose to drive from Vancouver to Alberta and back. There were a number of reasons why I decided to drive, but not the least of which was that I’ve never driven the Crowsnest Highway. I was eager to explore a new corner of my home province.

And you know what? The Crowsnest Highway is unbelievably beautiful. Totally. Blew. My. Mind.

When I have an experience like that in my own backyard, I always have to ask myself: why ever do I travel outside of Canada when there is so much beauty right here?

Rhetorical question, people. Moving right along …

The Crowsnest Highway takes its name from the Crowsnest Pass, which is a valley that crosses the Rockies just north of the US–Canada border. The pass got its name from Crowsnest Mountain, which the Plains Cree named after the many large black birds nesting in the area. They were likely ravens, though, not crows.

The Crowsnest Highway is also known as Highway 3. Back in the nineteenth century, there was a gold rush trail through the Kootenay Mountains and a highway ― the Crowsnest ― was built along the remnants of that trail in 1932.

I got on the Crowsnest Highway near Pincher Creek, Alberta, after my visit to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, and I followed it, mouth agape in a state of constant awe, all the way west to Osoyoos, British Columbia. Here is a quick photo tour. (Click on the first photo at top left to open the slide show.)

Most folks, including myself, usually take the Trans-Canada Highway from Calgary to Vancouver. It, too, is a scenic drive ― one of the best on the planet, in my humble opinion. But if you have the time and the inclination to go slow,* check out the Crowsnest Highway. It’s well worth a look.

*The Crowsnest is about 250 km longer than the Trans-Canada, and, unlike the Trans-Canada, is not twinned, so it is a longer and slower route.

Through My Lens: Père Lachaise Métro Station


No sense fighting it. I’ve got Paris on my brain this week. So here’s another photo from the City of Light.

This was taken by the entrance to the Paris Métro at Père Lachaise.

Freighters in English Bay

English Bay (aka the waiting room to Canada’s largest and busiest port) always has a dozen or more freighters anchored in it. The ships wait there, sometimes for days, until it’s their turn to load or unload their cargo.

Because they are always there, I think of the freighters in English Bay as part of my landscape. I don’t pay much attention to them other than sometimes using them to add interest to a photo.

Until this week. On Wednesday night the M/V Marthassa, a Greek-owned bulk carrier on its maiden voyage from Korea, was anchored in the bay waiting to take on a load of grain when it began leaking bunker fuel. More than two tonnes of the stuff would go into the water before the leak was stopped. Within hours, some of that oil had reached the beaches.

I took a long walk along those beaches today to get a closer look at what was going on and to reassure myself that everything was all right.

It’s not.

But it will be.

This week was a wake-up call for me. I will never again take my beach and my bay ― or the freighters in the bay ― for granted.

English Bay Freighters Sunset

Through My Lens: Departure Bay

Here’s one last photo before we leave Vancouver Island. This is what you see from the ferry as it leaves Departure Bay on the Island for Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.

I never get tired of this view.

Departure Bay

Through My Lens: Jets on the Taxiway

Heathrow Jets

Eventually, and usually inevitably, the European vacation comes to an end ― and we come home.

The long journey goes much quicker if you can find something to amuse yourself with en route. Like I was here. I took this photo of jets lined up on the taxiway at London’s Heathrow Airport in March 2011.

Through My Lens: De Fiets

Fiets is Dutch for “bike.” In the Netherlands, there are almost as many bikes as there are people.

Here’s one of them.

Dutch Bike

Through My Lens: Burrard Inlet

Burrard Inlet Freighter

There’s always lots going on in Burrard Inlet. Not surprising, since it’s the location of Canada’s largest and busiest sea port.

In this photo, you can see one of those freighters that keep the port hopping. Behind the freighter, to the left, you can just make out three cruise ships docked at Canada Place. And playing chicken with the freighter is the SeaBus ― a passenger-only ferry that plies back and forth across the inlet carrying commuters from the North Shore to downtown Vancouver.

Like I said, lots going on.