Travels with Dr Fox – Day 15

Day 13 was a combination of Days 13 and 14. We stayed over at the Super 8 in Prince George, in, as it happens, the same room we’d had before. We started out early-ish this morning and drove to Wembley, Alberta, the site of the Philip J Currie Dinosaur Museum. It was closed by the time we got there, because we had made stops to look for fossils by the roadside, and to have lunch in Chetwynd, and then to photograph some of the chainsaw sculpture that is everywhere in the town. Some amazing pieces, which I will share in another post.

The sad part was that we had to say goodbye to the Rocky Mountains. I took a few last pictures. I love the Rockies, and I’ll miss them a lot!

goodbye to the rockies

We came to the point where the watersheds divide three ways – to the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Later, in Dawson Creek, B.C., we found the sign for Mile 0 of the Alcan (Alaska-Canada) Highway. The modern highway was built in 9 months in 1942, using the traditional route.

Later still we came to Beaverwood, where we really had to see the giant beaver attraction (as it was billed on the sign).  I’m pretty sure this is the largest beaver anywhere since the extinction of the Ice Age megafauna. Just sayin’.

fox & beaver

Tonight we are chillin’ in our room again. Tomorrow we will be spending the day at the museum, then driving to Edmonton for the night.

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Travels with Dr Fox – Day 13

I couldn’t get a reliable internet connection to post last night’s blog, so here it is, somewhat late.

We stayed in Smithers two nights. It’s a lovely little town, which bills itself as Canada’s Little Switzerland. The view out of our bedroom window was of Hudson Bay Mountain.

Hudson bay mtn

On the main street of Smithers is a wooden sculpture called The Alpenman, or Alpine Al.

Alpenman

The Chamber of Commerce has made a ruling that any new buildings in the downtown have to be built in a Swiss Alpine style. David and I made irreverent references to “Hot Fuzz” and “the greater good”, but the truth is that Smithers is a pretty little town, and everyone we met there was friendly and pleasant, despite the rigors of a boil-water advisory, which is now in its third week.

The day after we arrived, we drove out to Driftwood Canyon Park. The land for the park was donated by Gordon Harvey, on the condition that people be allowed to collect fossils there. The site contains fossils of plants, birds, insects and fish in a bed of thin layers of pale-brown shale. In the last five years the park has closed down fossil collecting due to risk of injury to visitors. The shale cliffs that hold the fossils are up a very steep and rather slippery slope, so I had to understand their reasons, even while I pouted about not being able to collect fossils. There is, however, no law against collecting photographs, which we did.

fossil bed

Dr Fox accompanied us, as usual. Here he is with the fossil beds behind him. He is looking out for bears, as David saw some evidence of their presence.

fox and fossil bed

In addition to the fossil beds, there were lots of interesting plants to photograph. This one is lungwort, growing all over the trees in bright green ruffles.

lungwort

We spent several hours at Driftwood, then came back to town and did a load of laundry in the local “Wash the Works”, which offered RV and transport washes, car washes, laundry (either drop off or self serve) and showers. Truly, wash the works! David prowled the local plant emporia for succulents and tillandsia. We also repacked everything and rearranged the car. No matter how you try, after a couple of weeks of travel, things migrate around!

This morning we set off again, back to Prince George. We took the drive at an easy pace and stopped whenever our fancy took us. One stop was a family-run highwayside antique shop, which carried an  enormous variety of very cool things. They actually had a working spinning wheel, an antique, which I did not even price because 1) I have four wheels already, including an antique, 2) I probably couldn’t justify the money and 3) it wasn’t going to fit into the Yaris anyway! That last kept us safe from a number of fascinating items; a cream separator, a horse-drawn hearse, a set of connected school seats with attached desks, a beautiful rocking chair – you get the picture! We escaped relatively unscathed, although I did succumb to a blue Delft creamer shaped like a seated cow. I have a pitcher collection . I am allowed.

Tomorrow we leave the Rockies, alas, and head east again. Our first stop is the Philip Currie Museum in Wembley, Alberta.

 

 

 

 

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Travels with Dr Fox – Day 12

Last night we stayed at the Super 8 in Prince George B.C. I can recommend it – the bed was comfortable, there was lots of hot water, and the rooms were around a beautiful indoor courtyard with plants and water features. Breakfast was a hot and cold buffet with pancakes, eggs, homefries, sausages, and cereal, fruit salad, yoghurt and fresh fruit. They even had bananas a tad on the green side, which is how I like them!

Dr Fox had a restful night after a long day of travel, and enjoyed sitting by one of the ponds this morning.

fox at esthers

The drive to Smithers was only five hours, so we took it easy and enjoyed the scenery.

fox and scenery

There were lots of wildlife warning signs, but nary a speck of wildlife to be seen.

wildlife corridor

If this state of affairs continues, I will have to write a strongly-worded letter to the B.C. Ministry of Tourism. You can’t keep telling people to watch out for bears/moose/deer/elk/bighorn sheep and not produce one once in a while! It’s false advertising, that’s what!

The weather was cool and partly cloudy for most of the drive, and then about halfway along we drove through some quite heavy rain. It cleared off quickly, but ahead of us we could see that Smithers was having some weather. By the time we got there, it was partly cloudy and dry there, too, but the mountain still had its head in the clouds.

smithers

We will be here tonight and tomorrow night. We had a lovely dinner at the Alpenhorn and are taking an evening to relax. Tomorrow we are going to Driftwood Canyon to look at the fossil beds there. I will be taking my crayons and some tracing paper and trying to get rubbings of some of the fossils.

 

 

 

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Travels with Dr Fox – Day 11

Today was a travel day. We woke up at Auberge Kicking Horse B&B, and our host, Marie-France Lessor, was making us an incredible breakfast. We had homemade granola with yogurt and fresh fruit salad, blueberry-oat muffins, fresh sourdough bread from a local bakery and a hot-from-the-oven dish of eggs, herbs and cheese. And some very, very good coffee, I may add. We left fortified for the day.

fox and Marie-France

Marie-France was happy to have her picture taken with Dr Fox before we left!

The weather was mainly sunny and cool – it’s beginning to go down to single digits at night, and we’ve had frost on the car a day or two. We stopped at several places to photograph plants, water, glaciers and border markers. Here is the Crowfoot Glacier.

crowsfoot

You can see how it got its name. Later on we stopped to see Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Apparently the Rocky Mountains south of the border are higher, because they didn’t have to put up with as much glaciation. We didn’t see all of Mount Robson, because the peak was covered with clouds.

mt robson

Once again Dr Fox did time travel when we crossed into the Pacific time zone.

fox BC

An hour or so before we reached Prince George, it began to rain. That will certainly help the wildfire situation, which has been on everyone’s mind.

Tomorrow, off to Driftwood Canyon Park near Smithers, B.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Travels with Dr Fox – Day 10

We made it to Field in lots of time for David’s hike up Mt. Stephen. Just looking up at the mountain I could see that there was no way on God’s green earth that I would be able to do that climb!

dot marks the spot

 

The red dot marks where the fossil beds are – above the treeline! I was content to stay in Field and draw, paint and write. The programme to excavate a fossil ended on the Labour Day weekend, so I couldn’t do that, but there were lots of fossils to see in the visitors’ centre, and lots of things to draw.

This is David’s group – five fearless and mostly older souls ready to tackle the rigors of the climb!

trek group

 

 

 

From the left: Craig and Mary, both professional hard rock geologists; Tom, the Fearless Leader, with Dr Fox; David; Jenny, also with a background in paleontology and Sarka (pronounced roughly “Sharka”),who came all the way from the Czech Republic and has always loved trilobites. Dr Fox did not go up the mountain, but he did want his picture taken with the team.

The climb started at 9:00, and they didn’t come back down until just after 6:00. David was ravenous, so we drove to Golden, where we had a B&B booked, and got some supper.

Tomorrow we drive to Prince George, through the mountains!

 

 

 

 

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Travels with Dr Fox – Day 9

We took a day to relax and visit with David’s brother Doug and his wife, Debra, in Cochrane, Alberta. It gave us time to take a break from driving, get some conversation with other people than each other and, perhaps most importantly, get the gumbo off our boots.

In Dinosaur Provincial Park we learned a new word – “smectites”. Smectites are what you get when tiny, dry globules of bentonite get just the slightest bit wet. They are little bubbles of slippery, slimy mud which will throw you on your face, or your butt, given the slightest chance. We got a lot of it caked on when we stopped to look at a roadside rock-cut. Neither of us got dumped, but the thing about gumbo is that it dries to concrete, so not easy to get off!

We visited a lovely little tea shop in Cochrane. The owner, Kelly, is clearly of a literary bent, and loves some of the same things we do. One of her tea blends is “Serenitea”, based on puer tea and intended to remind the drinker of the show “Firefly”. There is a Baker Street Blend as well, and others that I don’t remember. She takes these teas (including tins of “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot”) to comic cons and sells them to fans.

We also went to Mehtab, an Indian restaurant that Doug and Deb recommended. This is the second Indian restaurant we’ve eaten at on our trip. Mehtab, in Cochrane, has bright Indian decor and Indian music playing. The service is excellent, and the meal was very reasonably priced, and delicious. In fact, Deb remarked at one point that I was saying “mmm” every time I took a bite!

The other was The Highway Inn, in Herbert, Saskatchewan. This is a small, small-town cafe sort of place, where several groups were having coffee and conversation. Aswin, the owner, was both waiter and cook at that time of the day. I had a dish of spinach and homemade cheese curd, which was delicious and satisfying. Highly recommended.

And this morning we bade farewell to Doug and Deb and drove off to Field, B.C.. We watched the sun rise on the mountains as we drove in. I have no words for how beautiful it was.

sunrise rockies

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Travels with Dr Fox – Day 8

Up and at ’em for the Royal Tyrrell Museum! While we got breakfast at the hotel, I had a brief, pleasant chat with a man who was working in Drumheller temporarily. He said the Royal Tyrrell was “a nice little museum, not very big”.

A short drive through Dinosaur City – sorry, Drumheller – brought us to the museum. There were sculptures of Pachyrhinosaurus all down the path to the entrance, and Dr Fox had a nose-to-nose with a baby before we went in.

fox and pachy

Inside – well, to quote almost every character on “Dr Who”, “It’s bigger on the inside!” There is so much packed into this “little” museum that I’m glad we scheduled a second day on our way back. In addition to the fossils themselves – and there are a lot of them, although only a fraction of the collection is ever on display – there are beautiful clear captions, photos of finding and preparing the pieces, and a glass window onto the preparation room. You can actually watch people working on real fossils, skeletons of big dinosaurs.

One of the most spectacular displays is Black Beauty, a T. rex skeleton which is an uncharacteristic dark colour due to the minerals that penetrated the bones on fossilization. The actual skull is too heavy to mount in the position shown, so that’s a replica. The skull is on the floor in front of the mount – all behind glass, of course!

beauty

There weren’t just dinosaur fossils, but other critters, too. This ammonid shell is mounted so as to show you how the living creature looked.

ammonite

I can’t say enough about the staff, who were all helpful, friendly, knowledgeable and unbelievably enthusiastic about anything they might be doing, be it talking about an exhibit, or selling you a ticket for a tour.

Our day was done too soon, and we drove to Cochrane to stay with David’s brother Doug and his wife, Deb. We are taking a day to visit, reorganize the packing, write and catch our breath after what feels like a whirlwind trip. On Saturday we will leave early in the morning for Field, B.C., where David will hike up to the Mount Stephen fossil beds and I will explore the wonders of the interpretive center and get to excavate a trilobite.

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