From Here To Drumheller

Posted August 20, 2018 – Narrated by Carmen
To listen to the podcast, click the play button
 "Praise crazy.
     Praise sad.
        Praise the path on which we're led."
          - Joy Harjo, Poet

In the four hundred miles between Jasper and Drumheller, the land speaks every language under the sun – sand dunes slithering with lizards, vineyards that look like Northern Italy, high desert oozing with hoodoos, brooks gurgling through alpine meadows and goats frolicking upon hillsides.

We even spent a night at a dairy that reminded us of Holland.

Filmmakers love Alberta because it only takes about two hours to get from Arizona to Switzerland.

We’d never heard of Drumheller or The Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology

… but friends and acquaintances in Black Diamond – three separate locals in three different places on three consecutive days – advised us to go if we had the time.

Not keen to offend the gods, we activated our “two-week pass” – a period of time we left open in this four-month tour of Canada.

The 85-mile north-east diversion – a modest adjustment to our working itinerary – gave us the opportunity to visit Edmonton, Alberta’s capital, as well.

Raaah!!! We were on our way for a three-day immersion into The Land Of Dinosaurs.

Our friends describing the drive into Drumheller made it sound more like a dive into a Paleolithic landscape.

How to explain that steep drop into Dinosaur Provincial Park. …? It’s kind of like you’re driving through the set of The Wizard of Oz …

and suddenly free-fall into Shanghai Noon.

But let’s go back to the beginning.

As we were setting out for Drumheller, Jim – ever the faithful Trekkie – talked me into a full day of Weird Alberta with an additional 60-mile side-trip to The Vulcan Tourism and Trek Station!

… but, it was closed.

Jim took the disappointment like a true Vulcan and we set out for Drumheller …

… where we heard there was another Trekkie museum, but …

Drumheller’s Star Trek Museum was also closed

Oh well, at least the bar is open. Live long and prosper!

Observing extremes in the Albertan landscape is delightful, but the weather can be hazardous. Maybe that’s why Albertans are so even-tempered, the contrast of opposite attitudes …

At least that’s what I was thinking while we were being lacerated by hail and pummelled by 70 mph winds for half an hour.

Oh, we’d been cautioned aplenty, but, still, our pleasant mid-summer bike ride along the Red Deer river under beautiful blue skies changed into a thunderstorm with very frequent and close lightning strikes.

When we finally got home, we were a shivering soaked mess, but alive. We kissed our tires. Beauty never looked so good!

Things change fast here and now, we’re hoping a huge thunderstorm will work in our favor.

We’re safe, but for the past week, we’ve been in the midst of the Great Western Wildfire Plume of 2018. The choking smell of smoke has been with us for a week now.

We could leave, but where to?

We hear the smoke is thick in the places we came from, like Calgary – and even thicker where we plan to go.

Some WBCCI Airstreamers arrived here yesterday from Banff looking for relief. A good rain could release us.

The photos below will help explain. This is Whistler’s Summit, famous for the most spectacular views and iconic mountain peaks in North America.

We didn’t see any mountains at all, but at the summit marker, we spied a young raptor drinking from a mud puddle. He seemed confused, probably dehydrated and abandoned. Most likely its parents were lost in the smoke trying to hunt for food – so the youngster had to go looking for nourishment.

Most days are too smoky to venture far from the campground.

We’re dry camping with no electrical hook-ups, but we run the air-conditioner once or twice a day to make the air more breathable inside the trailer. We’re using generator power rather than solar because the smoke blocks the sunlight.

But, oh, how we love the little mercies …

Most days the sun will break through with a bit of bright hazy light and, once or twice we had fleeting glimpses of clear blue sky.

These moments we treasure for a walk beside the lake …

or a glacier tour…

Or a walk in the forest, where every fractured beam of wayward light receives a loving embrace.

It’s hard to accept that these fires are a cleansing.

Annie Dillard wrote: “Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back.” I know that’s true because I read it on the wall of Folding Mountain Brewery.

Whenever it clears enough to see the prominent features of a mountain behind a veil of smoke, I feel like an opportunistic voyeur.

Natures power and fury must be respected.

She has every capacity to be unpredictable and frustrating, radiant and terrifying, or to slam the door shut and fume.

Columbia Icefields

We left California during the Heat Dome of 2016 … and we’ve felt like a climate probe ever since with a hail episode in South Dakota, a crazy sandstorm in New Mexico, two hurricanes in the Carolinas, the Arctic Blast in Marathon, Florida …

Shoot, we were in Gatlinburg the day of the fire! Kansas was the only state that behaved as expected – a tornado chased us from west to east on the very day we arrived.

LIB is no lightning rod. We’re all experiencing these radical changes, shifts, and imbalances – hearing the message and seeing the smoke signals that our world is alive. Maybe she is more alive than we will ever know.

What a hoot to watch two women cavort on Athabasca Glacier – singing and dancing like Julie Andrews! It really cheered me up and got me thinking that sometimes The Hills Are Alive like Marge Gunderson in Fargo, barfing on the side of the road, nauseated with pregnancy, but still on the job, you betcha.

Right now, I’m considering that Earth is alive like The Cumaean Sibyl burning the nine Sibylline Books three at a time until King Tarquin pays her a stiff price for the tome – she’s nobody’s concubine, nobody’s doormat.

Cumaean Sibyl on the Sistine Chapel ceiling’ by Michelangelo

The foolish king mocks her while she drives a hard bargain and wins. And, for taking his precious time, not trusting her strength or respecting her position, he got what he bargained for: one-third of the goods for the full price.

It’s a true story. I saw it on The Sopranos.

And to this day, the Cumaean Sibyl is a major roadside attraction in Rome -featured prominently on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican for her contributions to Christological prophecy.

But when in Rome, don’t knock yourself out trying to find a monument to King Tarquin, the last ruler of the Roman dynasty. He’s just a silly ol’ dinosaur.