A Canadian Love Affair: British Columbia and Alberta Mountains (draft)(prairies soon)

We met Tom, a cyclist from Australia outside the restaurant and picked his brain about riding in his country. Someday. Very nice bloke, he was, new ringer for sure, and we got his address. He’s headed east around the world, planning to work for the winter in London before going on.

(We connected with Tom in Melbourne, Australia on our trip around that continent)

After 5 hrs. 48 min. pedaling time, 108.8k, with 1200 meters climbing, we found a little hidie-hole along the road among the spruces for our tent. We had a icy bath in a stream, then tortillas, Boston baked beans from a can, squeeze cheese, carrots, green peas, cabbage, granola bar, for dinner. We hung the balance of our food in a willow by bending it over, attaching our food bag and allowing it to spring upright. Hoped bears couldn’t figure it out.

After we were well settled into our bags, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) highway patrol stopped to check us out and tell us about all the bears and cougars in the area. We will be in bear and cougar country for the next two months, so we are taking all the precautions: eating far from our tent, taking care not to get food scent on our clothes, hanging food and making lots of noise. “Hi bear! Nice bear. Sweet bear. Hello bear. Be nice bear.” Bear’s are all of very little brain, like Winnie the Pooh, but not all bears are of such sweet disposition.

In the morning I watched a spider in a small red huckleberry bush going about his business, and for all I could tell, not being aware of my huge presence a scant meter from him. I wondered how big his world, his bush, his small bit of roadside meadow, seems to him, and if he ever wonders what is beyond it? Of course he doesn’t, but I speculate anyway. I also wonder what is beyond our known human universe. We expand it exponentially it seems now, not to discover an end to it, but because we must know what is around the next celestial corner, what new mystery will be discovered. Could we be seeing just short of some intelligence as large as I was to that spider?

June 2021: Throughout Covid I’ve been reading books on astrophysics. We can now “see” to our universal horizon, ie the distance beyond which light from one of the billions (yes billions) of galaxies will never reach us because the fabric of space is expanding faster than the speed of light due to the distance. I must have been just beyond that spider’s horizon.

Getting into high mountains now, snow capped rocky pinnacles show over soft green of endless trees. I can see how Canadians feel their fiber resource is endless. Not all do, of course. There have been a number of blockades of logging roads up-island recently, and we hear about it. I asked why so many people were working on a Sunday. A store clerk told us most companies were working round the clock, and the week, trying to beat the environmental radicals to the wood, while the current court orders hold.

Recently a number of people chained themselves to trees to attempt to stop the cutting of certain old-growth, and were arrested. Back in Chemainus the newspaper had a cartoon of two “hippie environmentalists” chained to an old growth fir. A bear is about to attack them. One looks at the other and says, “Key? I thought you brought the key!”

In Port McNeill, Tom the Aussie showed up at the campground just as we were trying to cheer up Fred, with toasted marshmallows and chocolate. Fred is something over 60 and cycled from Nanaimo to Port Hardy to catch the ferry to Prince Rupert. Several days of rain, the ones we have also endured, and some mechanical problems he’s not comfortable with, and too many hills, is sending him back south, defeated. His wife thinks he’s crazy for doing this, and this week has convinced him she’s right. He had a wonderful tour last August, but this June rain was too much for him.

If the marshmallows didn’t cheer him up, Tom’s bear get-up did. To let bears know he is coming, Tom wears bracelets of huge jingle-bells around his wrists and ankles and a large pepper spray in a holster, gunfighter style. He’s a very funny guy, though the pepper spray might be a good idea.