Life Won't Wait
I spent my last week and a half in Canada checking out parks, visiting friends and trying to avoid the fires the had overtaken a good portion of British Columbia.
My first stop was in Abbotsford, where I met Dale, Diana and Stella (Diana’s mother) for breakfast. Dale, who speaks fluent Canadian, translated the menu and ordered a delicious breakfast for me. The breakfast tasted even better after Dale offered to pick up the check. Good friends and a free breakfast, life does not get much better than that.
During my travels, there was one of the thing I relied on to lift my spirits and keep me sane. Each morning I checked my email inbox for Dale’s “laugh of the day” that he sent to Alena and me. Alena, a good friend of mine, was also on a travel adventure exploring lands just south of the Canadian border in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. If Dale was late, Alena and I immediately went into a state of deep depression waiting on his update. Below is just a sample of his daily masterpieces.
A man walks into a bar with a paper bag. He sits down and places the bag on the counter. The bartender walks up and asks, "What's in the bag?"
The man reaches into the bag and pulls out a little man, about 12 inches tall, and sets him on the counter. He reaches back into the bag and pulls out a tiny piano, setting it on the counter as well. He reaches into the bag again and pulls out a tiny piano bench. The little man sits down at the piano and starts playing a Mozart piano concerto.
"Where on earth did you get that?" asked the surprised bartender.
The man responds by reaching into the paper bag. This time he pulls out a magic lamp. He hands it to the bartender and says, "Here - Rub it."
So the bartender rubs the lamp, and suddenly there's a gust of smoke and a beautiful genie is standing before him. "I will grant you one wish – just one," said the genie. The bartender gets excited and, without hesitating, he says, "I want a million bucks!" A few moments later a duck walks into the bar. Another duck, then another soon follow it. Pretty soon, the entire bar is filled with ducks and they keep coming!
The bartender turns to the man and says, "You know, I think your genie's a little deaf. I asked for a million bucks, not a million ducks."
The man replies, "Do you really think I asked for a 12 inch pianist?"
Manning Territorial Park was a place I specifically wanted to check out before returning to the States. Manning is the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail, which I plan to hike next year. The PCT is a 2,650-mile wilderness trail that goes from the Mexican border through the Sierra Nevada range to Canada. While I was in Manning I wanted to find the trailhead, take a few photos, and hike the first mile or so of it.
Even before reaching Manning Territorial Park, I encountered the first obvious signs of the big fires that had been plaguing BC all summer. For the remainder of my time in Canada and all the way to Karie and Omar’s home in Portland, smoke from the fires followed me everywhere I went. Smoke covered the mountains, filled the valleys, and obscured the views along the scenic routes I travelled. It was like riding in fog for hundreds of miles. Even though the smoke was my constant companion, I still attempted to see as much of Canada as I could in the time I had left.
Okanagan Lake and the surrounding area was a very interesting region I travelled through. This area reminded me of California with its numerous vineyards and orchards. The lake itself was filled with deep blue water surrounded by low granite mountains. According to the thermometer on my motorcycle the temperatures in the valley were in the high 90’s and even reached 100 degrees at one point.
As I rode into the campgrounds in Canada’s Glacier National Park, I had a particularly exhilarating experience. About two hundred feet in front of me a medium sized grizzly bear walked out of the bush on the right side of the road, stopped and stared directly at me. Needless to say, I came to an abrupt halt. The bear continued to stare directly at me for the longest time, not moving an inch even when I honked the horn and waved my arms. He remained motionless until I began to move my motorcycle forward. Suddenly he turned his head and sprinted into the bush on the other side of the road. In hindsight, I know I should have handled the situation differently. If the grizzly had decided to charge, I could not have turned my bike around fast enough to avoid the attack. Even though the whole encounter only lasted a few seconds, it left a lasting memory. Afterwards I couldn’t help thinking, “Did that really happen?”
At the Lake Louise, my encounters were of the human kind: lots and lots of people. There were so many people that the parking lots were completely filled. No one was allowed into an area until someone left. To make matters worse, traffic control personnel didn’t seem to know what they were doing. They were giving all kinds of confusing signals that drivers simply didn’t understand. Canadian civility soon broke down and a few drivers resorted to giving hand jesters of their own to express their frustration. Smoke, crowds and wagging middle fingers made it easy for me to decide to head on down the road.
Eventually, I made it to Fernie in the Southern Canadian Rockies. Fernie is a neat little resort town that is known for magnificent mountains, excellent skiing, fast flowing rivers, and beautiful lakes. In a place like Fernie hiking would have normally been my first choice for something to do, but the dense smoke made me think that that wasn’t such a good idea. Instead, my friend Denise and her daughter Danielle suggested I join them at the Demolition Derby being held in Fernie that weekend. Since “Mad Max” was a favorite movie of mine, I immediately accepted their invite. Bedlam, mayhem, chaos and a total breakdown of societal norms were the thoughts that came to mind as I witnessed everyone intentionally crashing into everyone. An afternoon of vehicular carnage was just what I needed to lift my spirits and forget about the fires and smoke.
The morning I left Fernie the skies were unexpectedly clear, but that didn’t last long. Within a few miles of the town dense smoke returned and followed me all the way to my next stop in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. When I passed Moyie Lake, which is just north of the border, I could see a dozen fires burning on the mountain slopes on the opposite side of the lake. That night my Airbnb hostess in Coeur D’Alene told me about the massive wildfires that had been burning in the Northwest. She said that in Montana alone over 5,000,000 acres had already been consumed.
It was more of the same the next day as I rode from Coeur D’Alene to Portland. Just outside of Portland another big wildfire was burning, which had forced the closure of Interstate 84. As a result of the closure, I had to take a detour to the south around Mount Hood to Gresham, Oregon where Omar and I began our travels almost one year ago.
I arrived at Karie and Omar’s home smelling somewhat like a giant smoked sausage ready for the barbeque. Fortunately, they didn’t throw me on the grill, but pointed me to a shower instead.