Posts Tagged 'British Columbia'

Road Trip

Duffey Lake, Sea to Sky Highway, between Lillooet and Pemberton, BC

Duffey Lake, Sea to Sky Highway, between Lillooet and Pemberton, BC

Listening to the news or hearing the weather reports on CBC radio always brings me face-to-face with my ignorance of the geography of British Columbia (and of the rest of Canada, for that matter).

“A 33-year-old man has been identified as the victim of Wednesday’s fatal shooting in Chilliwack…”

“Rain forecast for the Peace…

“The Peace”  –  what or where is that?  Chilliwack?  (Love that name!) “Where the heck is Salmon Arm?” I ask.  Mark shrugs and says, with a guilty look on his face:  “we really need to explore BC.”

So, when a friend from Burnaby (the neighboring town to the east of Vancouver, and part of the Greater Vancouver Regional District, or Metro Vancouver) brought us two maps from AAA, one of “Greater Vancouver” and one of “Alberta/British Columbia”, we decided to drive to a conference that Mark was contemplating attending in Edmonton, Alberta (the neighboring province), stopping for reconnaissance visits to Jasper and Banff National Parks.

Our route:

Day One, 1:30pm.  We got onto the Trans Canada Highway (Hwy. 1) at Burnaby and traveled west, through the other Vancouver suburbs of Coquitlam, Surrey, Langley, and Abbotsford, and past the city of Chilliwack(!), to Hope (population 6,667).

From Hope, we veered northwest on the Coquihalla Highway (Hwy. 5), which follows the Coquihalla River, passing the “town” of Merritt to Kamloops, an ugly, industrial “city” (population 79,000 – 10 times the size of Merritt (population 7,595) and just slightly larger than Chilliwack) located in a beautiful setting surrounded by rivers (the confluence of the North and South Thompson Rivers, lakes (Kamloops Lake) and mountains.  (Most of our route followed river valleys dotted with lakes.)

From Kamloops, we headed west again on the Trans Canada Highway, passing Chase, Sorrento, Salmon Arm(!), and Sicamous (houseboat capital of Canada), stopping for the night at the beautiful  town of Revelstoke, in Mount Revelstoke National Park.

Revelstoke, Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC

Revelstoke, Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC

Day Two.  After breakfast at the Modern Cafe in Revelstoke, we continued on the Trans Canada Highway, through Glacier National Park, passing Golden and Field (in Yoho National Park), and crossed the border into the prairie province of Alberta (“Wild Rose Country”), stopping for a look-see and late lunch at Chaya, a mom & pop Japanese noodle joint in the town of Banff, in Banff National Park.  Moving on, we passed the town of Canmore on our way to Calgary (the largest city in the province of Alberta and home of the Calgary Stampede).

Buses in Banff, Banff National Park, AL

Buses in Banff, Banff National Park, AL

From Calgary (without stopping), we took the Queen Elizabeth II Highway (Alberta Hwy. 2), passing the town of Red Deer (where Tib, in his younger days, shot his first moose), to Edmonton, where we spent the second night.  From our hotel room in downtown Edmonton (the only night we did not sleep in our rented KIA Rio), we could see the night lights of the oil refineries across the North Saskatchewan River.

Day Three, 5:30pm.  After the conference, we left Edmonton via the Yellowhead Trail (Alberta Hwy. 16), past vast stretches of forests and farmland (mostly hay) and the town of Edson to Hinton, where we stopped for our third night.  Had dinner at the cute-looking Olympia Greek Restaurant, where, alas, our meals tasted like airplane food.

Day Four. Foregoing another meal in Hinton, we entered Jasper National Park around 10am and went in search breakfast in the town of Jasper. Sadly, the sweet and savory goods at the Bear Paw Bakery did not measure up to what you can get at the bakeries we frequent in Vancouver. Got some maps of hiking trails around Jasper from the historic Jasper Information Center and decided to do a short hike to Patricia Lake, via Cottonwood Slough.  Took a quick swim in the buff in Patricia Lake before heading back to town and hitting the road.

Jasper Information Center Historic Site, Jasper, AL

Jasper Information Center Historic Site, Jasper, AL

Patricia Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Patricia Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

From Jasper, we took Icefields Parkway (Hwy. 93) south along the Athabasca River, stopping to see Athabasca Falls and past the Columbia Icefields, into Banff National Park.  In Banff National Park, we stopped at Bow Pass (the highest road pass in the four mountain parks) for a brief hike up to view glacier-fed Peyto Lake before stopping at the fabled Lake Louise.

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

From Lake Louise, we picked up the Trans Canada Highway again and headed back to Revelstoke for dinner.  Another disappointing meal, this time at Nomad Cafe, recommended for its “fresh” food.  Instead of spending another night in Revelstoke, we decided to continue driving, past towns we had already seen in the daytime, to Kamloops.  From Kamloops, we headed north on the Cariboo Highway (Hwy. 97), skirting Kamloops Lake, stopping at the intersection of the roads to the Savona Dump and the Savona Cemetary for the night.

Savona, BC

Savona, BC

Day Five.  From Savona, we continued on the Cariboo Highway, passed dry brush and sage bushes, to just north of Cache Creek, where we picked up the Sea to Sky Highway (Hwy. 99), heading south.  Instead of stopping at Lillooet for breakfast, we pushed on to Pemberton, where we had yet another disappointing meal at the Pony Espresso. Another stop in Whistler Village, where we watched the charming and amazingly talented trial rider, Ryan Leech, give a demonstration of his skills as part of the Crankworx mountain bike festival.  Then down through Squamish and the breathtaking views of Howe Sound, through North Vancouver, across the Lions Gate Bridge, and back home by early afternoon.

All in all, a spectacular drive.  You can skip Calgary and Edmonton and go as far as the Canadian Rocky Mountain parks on the Continental Divide just past the border of British Columbia into Alberta – a network of national and provincial parks that are listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.  Most of the highways follow river valleys, from which you are rewarded with views of pristine rivers and lakes.  There are lots of well-documented sites where you can stop along the way to learn about the regional geography, flora and fauna.

Big Horn Sheep, Icefields Parkway, Alberta

Big Horn Sheep, Icefields Parkway, Alberta

We were lucky enough to see some big horn sheep and mountain goats (all without their winter coats) along the Icefields Parkway, and just missed a siting of a black bear cub near Jasper (eager and foolish tourists chased the cub away from the road).  Along the Trans Canada Highway, I saw one white-tail and one mule deer.

Mountain pine beetle damage, British Columbia

Mountain pine beetle damage, British Columbia

One sight that stayed with us throughout British Columbia was forest upon forest of brown trees, devasted by the infestation of mountain pine beetle.

Other points of interest?  Radio stations and their frequencies are listed as you approach towns on the Trans Canada Highway.  All garbage and recycling containers are bear-proof, and bear warnings abound. And Revelstoke, Jasper and Lake Louise have excellent public toilets located in the center of town.

So now, I know where Chilliwack and Salmon Arm are.

“The Peace?”  The Peace River Regional District is an area in northeastern British Columbia, closer to Alaska than it is to Vancouver.


Random Acts of (Climate Action) Rebate

On July 1, 2008, subject to approval by the legislature, British Columbia will begin to phase in a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

The purpose of the carbon tax is to encourage individuals and businesses to make more environmentally responsible choices, reducing their use of fossil fuels and related emissions. The tax has the advantage of providing an incentive without favouring one way to reduce emissions over another. Business and individuals can choose to avoid it by reducing usage, increasing efficiency, changing fuels, adopting new technology or any combination of these approaches. BC Climate Action Secretariat

In addition to and separate from the carbon tax, every resident of British Columbia will receive a Climate Action Dividend of CD$ 100 in June to facilitate their transition to a “greener” lifestyle.

It is the government’s hope that British Columbians will apply the funds toward purchases that can help reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and, by doing so, also reduce the amount of carbon tax they would otherwise pay.

Polls indicate that most British Columbians will use their dividends for beer or gas. However, members gathered at a Victoria Sierra Club Cooling Party saw more potential in the hundred bucks. They have decided to pool their funds to perform “Random Acts of Rebate” for households that may not have the resources to reduce their carbon footprint. So, they are offering The Great Rebate Ecochallenge and inviting people to contribute their dividends to a Climate Action Fund that would go to the Random Acts of Rebate.

Here’s what they are planning with the pooled funds:

Install clotheslines for 5 families, buy and distribute light bulbs, buy Gordon [ Cambell – Premier of British Columbia ] a vermicomposting bin
All of the above + car share co-op membership for one family
All of the above + compost pick up service for a school for one year
All of the above + electric bike, bicycle, large appliance, compost pick up service for a household
All of the above + organic food delivery for one year for 2 families in need
All of the above + a brand new hybrid car for a family in need

British Columbia’s 2008 budget focuses heavily on environmental issues. In addition the the carbon tax and dividend, it includes CD$ 1 billion in funding over 4 years for climate change initiatives, including funding technology and provide incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy use.

Even with these initiatives, most Canadians do not believe that BC will be able to meet its emission reduction goal to reduce carbon emissions by 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020.

However, BC is the only province that gives individuals the choice and means to reduce their personal carbon footprint.

Out of Storage

For weeks, we’d laughed about our decision to take the Greyhound bus to Vancouver, British Columbia, milking it for all the sympathy we might muster from our friends and family. (None was forthcoming.) As Canadian residents (we “landed” in October 2007), we can no longer drive a US-registered vehicle into Canada. What to do? Flying was too expensive, and the Amtrak train entailed a switch to a bus in Seattle and would take over 26 hours. So, the bus it would have to be. With a week’s advance purchase, our trip would cost $157 and would take 24 hours. Mark joked that we would have to take up smoking to have something to do at the rest stops along the way. Privately, we were both getting ready to blog about the experience.

The day before we needed to purchase our tickets, we decided to rent a U-Haul truck, empty out our storage locker in Alameda, and drive to Vancouver. “We’re driving to Beverly” we announced. But that image didn’t quite fit the U-Haul truck, even though we managed to fill the entire volume of the 14’ truck. We’d done the “Beverly Hillbillies” thing some years ago, when we borrowed a friend’s open-bed truck, propped the sides up with plywood, filled the truck up with junk, covered it up with tarp, and tied it down as best we could. The customs official on duty at 2am that rainy morning was not amused. “What do you have in there?” “Oh, we don’t really know – it’s just a lot of junk.” “Then why are you bringing it in?” “To store it at our house.” “You can’t just bring things into the country to store in your house!” “We can’t?” … But I digress…

Mark and I have had a personal storage unit since early 2003, when friends sold our house on Telegraph Hill and had the contents packed up and moved – lock, stock and 3,600 square feet barrel – into a fancy storage facility in San Francisco while we were in India. Most of the contents of those three containers stayed untouched during our couple-month stay with friends on Henry Street and 9-month stint on a houseboat and were only removed when we moved into our 2,500 square foot loft space on 10th Street in April 2004. A year and a bit later, we sold SomaSala, fostered our furniture, art and artifacts among friends and family as far away as Seattle, took up most of a friend’s garage and put the rest of our things into City Storage in San Francisco. Then when Betsy bought a house in Rockridge, Oakland, we moved in with her and Zing and moved our stuff into a smaller storage space at Public Storage in Alameda.

Why keep all this stuff? First and foremost, we are lazy. Getting rid of things properly takes more effort than keeping them. Second, ever since we’ve been “homeless” in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’ve entertained vague hopes of eventually having some kind of dwelling of our own again. And I guess we still do. (We must not be alone. According to a recent New York Times article, the self storage industry has grown from almost non-existent to over 51,000 facilities nationwide in 35 years, and is still booming despite the overall economic downturn.) “We’ll never be able to afford to replace the furniture we have,” we rationalized. But now, if we ever get a place, we’ll have to manage without the contents of our four previous kitchens.

It feels great not to have a storage locker any more. But that feeling is mitigated by the fact that we still have all this “stuff.” Even though we’ve meted out some of our plates and bowls we still have remnants of our First Sunday Soirees – china, cups, glasses and silverware for 50. The tens of boxes of files from my days of international development work will get recycled. Our clothes and coats will be donated. The books… I don’t know… hard to get rid of books…

We still have too much stuff – in four different households in three continents and two garages. Oh, and all the fostered furniture and art.


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