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1983 year Vancouver, In search of JF

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This version for the 1983 year began simply as a picture collection. Diary segments were added later. Since then I've been trying to decide which is best: a photo diary with limited textual commentary or a full diary with inserted pctures. Or perhaps they both converge toward to the same thing.

- Wreck Beach

83-06-04 - Vancouver. Wreck Beach

The Learned Societies diary segments result from a trip with Merle to a conference in Vancouver. The connection with James Fielding, in my novel, "The Scarlet Thread", is based on a second novel, "Premonitions of the Past", which is about the adventures of an alter ego, Richard Peters, the writer of "The Scarlet Thread".

The motor trip segment is an account of an actual research trip by car, west and along the 49th parallel, to gather impressions for "The Scarlet Thread". This novel had already been through several drafts, but was still in the process of revision.

The main character of the novel is young James Fielding (referred to as JF) who is a member of a British expedition in 1816 charged with gathering intelligence on the vaguely defined frontier area between British and US territory. Part of their mission is to shadow the route of a similar American expedition whose real purpose is to provide support for Jeffersonian expansionism in the Northwest.

The Scarlet Thread, the novel

Year summary 1983 .
* Learned Societies conf., Vancouver .
* Motor to BC, "In search of JF."

Vancouver segment, June 4-10, 1983.

* Merle and Derek fly to the Learned Societies conference Vancouver.

* Derek explores UBC, Vancouver, Wreck Beach, Grouse Mountain.

* Side trip to Butchardt Gardens, Victoria, Merle and Derek.


1983-06-04 - Vancouver, for the Learneds.

UBC Anthropology Museum.

83-06-04 - Bill Reid sculpture.

83-06-04 -

s09-05-12 - Bill Reid, the sculptor.

Vancouver. UBC Anthropology Museum.

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 - In the museum's backyard.

UBC gardens

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 - Bonsai.

83-06-04 - Overview of the garden

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 - Trees growing on trees.

83-06-04 - Hard to distinguish ...
between life and death in the forest. Is there a moral to be drawn here? Web-of-life-embracing-even-death, and all that bioporn stuff? Probably not.

83-06-04 - Giant rhubarb.
An herbaceous perennial. Leaves big as umbrellas. A specimen also at Butchart Gardens. Saw this same plant years later in Ireland. Gunera Manicata?

88-08-26 - Butchart Gardens fountain.

99-07 - Our lady of the leaves, Kerry Way.

83-06-04 - Wreck Beach. No nudists today?

83-06-04 - Surf stalker heron.
Just beyond the rocks. Oddly enough, this same bird was mentioned in my novel, "Premonitions of the Past".

83-06-04 - Richard Peters' refuge.
But to clarify would require a long digression.

Merle and Derek walkabout in Vancouver.

83-06-04 - Stanley Park.

83-06-04 - The yacht club

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 - Steam-powered clock, Gastown.

83-06-04 - Cap. John Deighton.
Standing on a whiskey barrel. Wikipedia: Deighton was called Gassy Jack because of his penchant for storytelling and chattyness.

83-06-04 - Waterfront sculpture

83-06-04 -

DR Bike ride round Stanley Park. June 6, 1983. Monday

83-06-04 - The Little Mermaid.
I rent a 3-speed bike ($3 per hour). Good track along the breakwater round the park. One minor problem: avoiding walkers and other cyclists. You can't always rely on keeping to the right. You risk an "after-you-Alphonse" incident. (First bike ride in decades.)

Every few hundred yards, a fresh visual surprise. Going counter-clockwise, the Vancouver skyline on the right, and shortly after, the yacht club. Swinging round to the north, you can see all the way up the harbour to Burnaby. Then, on the far side, the docks of North Vancouver come into view, with tier upon tier of suburbs sprawling up the mountainside beyond.

Visual excitement builds to a climax gliding under Lion's Gate Bridge, alongside some steep cliffs on the inland side. West of the bridge, the open harbour. Today, a line of ships is anchored far out, and in the distance, islands are visible on the horizon. Passing a succession of enticing beaches, a return to the city at English Bay with its sunbathers and backdrop of apartment buildings.

From English Bay I turn back to the inland paths and, in Stanley Park again, pump the bike up hill to have lunch at the Prospect Point Restaurant. This is just under the Vancouver end of the Lion's Gate Bridge. A lookout provides a good view of North Vancouver and the structure of the bridge itself.

Misfortune strikes: I wreck a 36-exposure roll of film due to setting the film speed improperly. There's much to be said for sticking to one type of film. An 100 ASA film speed rating would be best; 25 ASA Kodachrome is not fast enough for easy woodland picture-taking, especially on cloudy days.

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 - Lion's Gate bridge.

83-06-04 - North Van.

83-06-04 - Siwash Rock, with seagulls.

83-06-04 - Outer harbour. The fleet's in.

83-06-04 - English Bay.

Repeat visit to Stanley Park.

83-06-04 - An ancient hulk.

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 -

Marine Museum.

83-06-04 - The museum. Roof like a hat. Coastal native head dress?

The R.C.M.P. vessel, St. Roch, is housed within and the guided tour takes you into every nook, cranny and footlocker of the ship. The deck is arranged to resemble conditions in the Arctic with tents, equipment and stuffed sled dogs, very lifelike.

Among the lesser exhibits, a world map by J.W. Norie, 1829, showing the B.N.A./U.S. border going north from 49 degrees latitude, along the height of land in the Rockies, to the turn of the Columbia, then down the river to Puget's Sound. Combined with a line along the northern watershed of the Missouri, this might have been a sensible border. We would have lost some of Alberta and Saskatchewan and gained Washington State. But would Admiral Fisher have approved? It could have interfered with his plan for a secure and direct corridor from sea to sea.

83-06-04 - The complete ship, inside the building.
In 1950 the St Roch was the first ship to go round North America, including the North-West Passage.

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 - Stuffed walrus and sled dogs.

Vancouver from our UBC residence window.

83-06-04 - Pan left.

83-06-04 - Pan right.

Downtown Vancouver.

83-06-04 - Law courts. Robson Square.

15-11-05: I hadn't recorded the name or purpose of this building in 1983. But remembered that it was within walking distance from the Vancouver Art Gallery (0215-09 below). Consulted Google satellite maps showing the gallery location, but was only able to identify a very large rectangular structure that looked more like a railway station from the air.

Finally solved the problem with Google Street View. A tour at Ground level round the above structure, dodging virtual traffic, finally showed a flying buttress as in the pic below. Digitally zooming-in on a pedestrian entrance to this building actually revealed a readable name plaque.

83-06-04 - Flying buttress.

83-06-04 - Vancouver Art Gallery

83-06-04 - Hanging gardens. Of Babylon-on-the-Fraser-River.

83-06-04 - This alley is way too clean.

Derek to Grouse Mountain.

83-06-04 - Ferry ride to North Van.

Merle is busy again with conference matters, so I decide to check out the aerial tram up Grouse Mountain, and to get there by transit, if possible. First, the bus from U.B.C. to the Seabus terminal (no additional fare to go on board). We skim across the harbour, then another couple of buses along the back streets of North Vancouver to the foot of Grouse Mountain. 75 cents from U.B.C.: transit drivers issue transfers that are good on any route, coming and going, within a generous time period.

The first driver on the north side is an Australian woman, very friendly and talkative. She readily enters into the spirit of my excursion and provides all sorts of free advice on things like: which bus to catch next and where, the state of world travel, the British Columbia economy, and the local real estate market which she is heavily involved in.

83-06-04 - Up, up and away! $6 for standing room on the aerial tramcar.

This is a plush Euro job with lots of windows to give you vertigo. The door shuts; the ground falls away and we're hoisted, near vertically it seems, into the blue sky. More and more of North Vancouver comes into view, then the harbour, then Vancouver itself across the water. At intervals, you feel a catch in the smooth upward movement as the car passes the pylons that support the cables. These flimsy-looking structures loom overhead, then you swoop past with a momentary dip, briefly skimming the tree tops.

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 - Summit of Grouse Mountain

83-06-04 - The ski chalet at the top of the tramway is the normal terminus in summer.

Let's go one better and walk to the very peak of the mountain. At this height, there's still a heavy snow pack. I reach the top and "ski" in summer shoes several hundred feet down the drifts on the north side. The sun is hot; the snow is melting; there's a shady, isolated spot in the woods to sit and meditate while overlooking the mountains to the northeast.

83-06-04 - In still air, a special kind of quiet blankets mountain tops.

Not the silence of the forest or of a suburban bedroom at midnight. More like the quiet experienced by a balloonist. All around, a great void and none of that reverberation and indefinable "presence" of a narrow space. The buzzing of a few early insects sounds faint but clear against the distance. The small sounds of things close by stand out against a background that is felt as much as heard. Distant bird calls, way down the mountainside, have a precise location in time and space.

A river tumbles in the ravine far below, a sound not noticeable at first. Climb down for a look? Not in these shoes. Best stay up here and watch the buds swelling. A spruce scent hangs in the air, opiate of the hiking class. The lower branches of the trees are hung with pale green seaweed-moss, left hanging after winter's high tide. In the distance, snow-clad peaks, stack up in ranges, one behind the other. The nearer mountains are probably not high enough to retain snow all summer. A pity, since the icing would be so much more decorative.

83-06-04 - Summit, Grouse Mountain. Something flings a handful of melting snow at me.

I twist round, privacy invaded, but no person, no animal is in sight. Back into a doze, eyes closing, then it happens again. Another handful of snow flicks spontaneously into the air. But this time the cause is clear. Every few minutes, as the snow melts, a sapling snaps up and out of the drifts, finally released from a winter-long sleep by the sun, to kick aside the blanket of ice crystals.

Writer's crisis: How to convey this moment before the ardour for scenery cools? How to make verbal landscapes interesting to the reader who has learned to crave fast-breaking action, or who dotes on the endless soap-opera episodes of human conflict. Put in avalanches? Thunderstorms? Mountain climbers dangling above the abyss, shrieking imprecations while they saw feverishly at each other's ropes with oversize bowie knives? I actually remember a Canlit story that went much like that.

And what if boredom should set in at the sight of too many pine trees, surfeits of jagged rocks, excess fluffy clouds? You might begin to ask: what's the point of coming here? To do what? ... To gaze at distant peaks, misty valleys, over and over again, to spy out yet another route to a horizon that you'll never reach, to keep moving restlessly on. After all, there could be another prospect, even more magnificent than this, tomorrow. So why hang around?

83-06-04 - Visitors from away.

On the way back down to the cable car station, I meet two German women and their children. They're enjoying lunch at the top of the hill.

The view extends all the way to the Olympic Mountains in Washinton State. These are the only other hikers who have ventured this far from the top of the tramway. While cheerful youngsters clamber over the rocks, their mothers share a part of their lunch with me. The children have obviously not been warned beforehand that it's dangerous to clamber up steep rocks and melting snowbanks and they bound over the slopes with ease.

Digression: West Germany, 1950s

54-to-58 - DR pic. Zugspitze, summit observatory.

I remember a sunny morning, at this same season, 30 years ago, in the 1950s, at the very top of the Zugspitze, in southern Germany. We'd reached the summit via cog railway. On that day, I took pictures of a pair of German women on holiday and promised to send copies.

A certain rapture of the heights, a curious bonnehommie, afflicts even those cautious climbers who make their ascents by cog railway or cable car. But people hardly ever get round to writing or sending the promised pictures.

54-to-58 - Summit companions
Eric Richards and I, Derek, on the right. Pretty sure I DID send a copy of these pics to somebody back then.

54-to-58 - No idea who.

Dad was always encouraging me to take more of an interest in girls, however impractical. I must have struck him as backward in that respect. Odd, from inside, looking outward, the problem had more to do with no money, no car, no real independence at that age.

54-to-58 -

End of digression


83-06-04 - Returning to the cable car. Pan 1.

83-06-04 - A last look. Pan 2. Ski-lift on the right.

Something is wrong with the cable car machinery and the operator sends us down by means of a technique described on the cable car's control panel as "autodescent". Hope this isn't a euphemism for free-fall.

83-06-04 - Capilano reservoir, below Grouse Mtn. Arrived at the bottom safely.

83-06-04 - The Sisters.

83-06-04 - Down into the canyon.

I stroll into Capilano Canyon, starting at the Cleveland Dam. This is a paradise of rocky gorges, huge trees, mossy rocks and winding paths. But this sort of beauty has to be taken in small doses, since I've already done too much Zen meditation up top. Don't want to OD on scenery. You have to sit on a bench and pretend to read the Globe and Mail financial page. And only look up now and then to let a little gorgeousness creep in around the edges.

83-06-04 -

Consulting the map, I decide to go for a refreshing swim. On the map, a small beach is shown at the bottom of the canyon. The pathway down leaps from one fern-brake to the next, dodging between the trunks of enormous cedars. I bound out of the bushes onto the beach and suprise a couple of skinny dippers down at the other end enjoying their solitude.

At the far end of the sandbar that forms the beach, a miniature waterfall drops directly over the cliff and into the river. The girl floats on her back, supported on an innertube with the water splashing down on her ... belly. Emerging from the water, she stretches out on the sand pretending to ignore me. Her boyfriend turns discreetly over on his stomach. But while I prepare for swimming, the two of them are surrepticiously pulling up their modesty and contriving to remain lying down at the same time.

This puts me in somewhat of a quandry, being by this time nearly ready for a cooling dip myself. I'm on the point of waving cheerily and urging them to get naked again, as a gesture of re-affirmation toward Mother Nature, but think better of it and temporarily re-establish my own modesty, all the while pretending to inspect the bushes in the opposite direction for interesting bird life.

The water turns out to be very refreshing, even without members of the cast of "The Age of Aquarius" as companions. And then back on the road again, via a bus downtown over the Lion's Gate Bridge. In Vancouver for dinner, I meet Merle and we go to a Mexican restaurant for red snapper and guacamole. How was the conference today, dear?

Oh, boring stuff as usual. How was YOUR day?

Back to Wreck Beach with Merle.

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 - Seaweed, barnacles and cut feet.

83-06-04 - Closer look at WW2 bunker

83-06-04 -

Merle and Derek bike Stanley Park.

83-06-04 - Irony.
This could be the start of a series. A rock poised on the brink of Ball's Falls. A dead branch on MY tree about to take out my NEIGHBOUR'S eavestrough. A seagull about to poop on the artwork, ABOVE.

83-06-04 -

14-10-22 - Figurehead of a CPR ship.
The RMS Empress of Japan. Same place, on a more recent visit with Miriam and Adoni. 2014.

83-06-04 -

Vanc. Is., Butchardt Gardens.

83-06-04 - Ships that pass in the ... daytime.
Passed by a ferry going back to the mainland. Looks like we won't get stranded on Vancouver Island. Wait a min. Do we really want to NOT get stranded? According to some reports ...

83-06-04 - The Gardens.

83-06-04 - Foxglove. Makes the heart go (grow?) ... faster.

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 - Stairway to botanical paradise?

83-06-04 - Monkey puzzle tree.

83-06-04 - Delphiniums.
Ours, at Woodside Drive, once grew 4 feet tall. But these are 6 footers. What is it? Water? Fertilizer? West Coast magic?

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 -

83-06-04 - Boar's snout polished from patting.


83-06-04 - The inner harbour.

83-06-04 - Escape? Via the Seattle ferry.

83-06-04 - The Gov't and Queen Vicky.

83-06-04 - Victoria landmark.

83-06-04 - Didn't visit the palm court today. Pity.

83-06-04 - Heading back to the mainland. Regretfully?

Derek takes Merle to Wreck Beach.

83-06-04 - Down, down to bottomless perdition.

83-06-04 - And sometimes topless perdition.

83-06-04 - But not today.

83-06-04 - A stroll in Richard Peters land.

83-06-04 - Wreck Beach.
Where Richard Peters went for a nude swim. And got shot, and lost his clothes, and met a nude vegetarian wearing only a cute red backpack. And shared her lunch, and stole her towel ... (Sorry, I've probably told you too much already.)
Wreck Beach Revelations. fiction

The above excerpt is from my second novel: "Premonitions of the Past". This chapter is an impressionistic adaptation of an actual nude swim on Wreck Beach. The novel is an (almost fictional) account of the peregrinations, marital and geographical, of the writer of "The Scarlet Thread."

Motor trip to BC, Aug. 1983.

83-08-17 -

In search of James Fielding, hero of Derek's novel: "The Scarlet Thread."

Following Fielding's route: Ft. William, Red River, Ft. Mandan on the Missouri, Alberta Foothills, and finally, the Rockies.

This is a second westward trip this year, not to be confused with our earlier trip to Vancouver by air.

In 1816, an unlikely expedition led by Captain Jonah Ames, R.N., explored the future boundary area of British North America, moving west from the Red River along the 49th parallel to the Rockies and beyond. This is the record of a 1983 motor trip which followed the track of that expedition.

Note: Diary dates should be prefered over picture dates. These were written down at the time in a notebook. The picture dates were estimated long after the fact, during the 35mm scanning process, sometimes without reference to notes. In those days 35mm slides, unlike digital images, had only the much later processing date printed on the mount.

August 17 - Wednesday
Odometer: 132776.
Depart: 10:21 from St. Catharines.
Arrive : 19:46 at Chutes P.P., Ontario.
St. Catharines to Tobermory in 4:33 hrs.

A squeaky beginning. We park the car and dawdle in the gift shops of Tobermory, nearly losing our place in line for the ferry. We sprint the last hundred yards and roar on board the Chi-Chi-Maun, Big Fire Canoe. The deckhands divert us up some impossible gangway leading to the ceiling of the hold. The hood of the car points at a maze of pipes and wires in the roof; I can't see if I'm driving into the car ahead of me. A hydraulic mechanism hoists the whole gangway into the air with us and the car on it. We make our escape to the upper decks.

The weather is cold and foggy; we huddle in the lounge on the way across eating sandwiches, and drinking coffee. We compare the service to the B.C. ferry system (favourably) and discuss personal origins (mine - less favourably). Egotistical, but appropriate, since James Fielding is a creature of MY ego and we are supposed to be tracing HIS origins. Or is it OUR origins, and that raises the question of whether every journey eventually becomes an inner journey. At this point, my alter ego and I are still not completely convinced we'll succeed in reaching our destination, the distances are so great. He faces months of canoeing and riding; I face the miles behind the wheel of an ageing station wagon. At times, I wonder if Fielding and his friends have begun to take on a life of their own, luring their creator to his ruin. And then we enter harbour at South Baymouth and all the passengers make a rush for their cars.

At one leap, we've taken off from Upper Canada and landed on the frontier. Driving north across the island, we reach the sheltered North Channel, the old canoe route running east and west between the mainland and Manitoulin Island. Immediately following the war, in 1815 and after, the North Channel was the subject of intensive marine surveys by Owen, Bayfield and others. To the young Fielding, these men were heroes, braving the elements to produce reliable charts and shoreline sketches. They mapped a route that extended from the mouth of the French River to the Falls of St. Mary's, present day Sault Ste. Marie.

We camp at Chutes Provincial Park.

August 18 - Thursday
Odometer: 133090
Depart: 7:40
Arrive : 19:20 at Sibley P.P., Ont.

We spend the day making milage past Sault Ste. Marie and along the north shore of Lake Superior. A pause in Marathon to replenish fuel and groceries and to recall our hike on the Pukasaw Trail in 1981. On that trip, we discovered the scene of the confrontation between James, Mrs Maidstone and Mr Maidstone which resulted in James having to remove a pistol ball from Maidstone's shoulder by the light of a campfire.

See the following chapter of The Scarlet Thread. However. I must admit that this chapter was written, or at least elaborated, after camping on a certain secluded beach on the Lake Superior shore. The previous paragraph might better have said that we discovered the location "that was to become the scene of the confrontation." See also the Pukasaw hike web page.
The Scarlet Thread: Reluctant Surgeon

The road to the north of Lake Superior is a driver's dream. But you need quick reflexes and a sharp eye for scenic stopping places, or you won't get any pictures. You'll be relentlessly pursued by leadfooted drivers who will stop at nothing to pass in the teeth of oncoming traffic. There's frequently a real problem of how to pull over safely or to cross to a parking area on the opposite side of the highway without risking an accident.

The park at Sibley is 30 kilometres from Hwy 17 and down a winding sideroad. We have a swim after supper at dusk, off a fine, sandy beach where the water is warm and clear. Heavy rain and an electrical storm liven up the night. We're +beginning to notice things forgotten in the rush to get away: matches, can and bottle openers, pocket knife.

August 19 - Friday
Odometer: 133656
Depart: 8:45
Arrive : 19:30 at Rushing River P.P., Ont.
Add 1 hour to elapsed time for crossing a time zone.

Before leaving Sibley, we drive to the end of the peninsula. Opposite Silver Island is a historic site, something about a silver mine, which makes sense. But the fog is thick and time is short so we decide against a hike to Thunder Cape and the Sleeping Giant. It was while rounding this cape that Mrs Maidstone and James said what they thought were their final goodbyes. It was here that she gave him that handkerchief embroidered with a rose done in scarlet thread which was to have such fatal consequences in the months ahead.
The Scarlet Thread: Fort William

Fort William re-creation.

83-08-17 -

In Thunder Bay we seek out Old Fort William. The re-creation is elaborate and well done; the period represented is exactly coincident with the date the Ames Expedition would have passed through (c1816, just before the unpleasantness with Lord Selkirk). Staff people are got up in costume to represent individuals of the period. I chat with "Mr. McGillveray" in the Great Hall about the fortunes of the fur trade; hobnob with armourers and canoe-makers.

83-08-17 -

83-08-17 -

83-08-17 -

83-08-17 - Fur-trade tycoons.

83-08-17 - Down to the fort's canoe dock.

83-08-17 -

Along the waterfront, is a voyageur encampment with a schooner tied up at the quayside. We watch "Simon Fraser" depart from the dock amid the firing of cannons, to be paddled in state down the river. Off to the side of the fort, is an Indian camp with demonstrations of crafts and cooking.

We stay from 10:30 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon, about 4 hours before we come to our senses again in the twentieth century. It takes this long to do the displays justice. A boat trip leaves from the river bank, and if you take this as well as seeing all the buildings in the fort, the visit will become an all day excursion.

The present day re-created site is far upriver from the original location of the fort, and so it's impossible to tell if Cape Thunder or the Sleeping Giant might have been visible from the original dock. I'm making a mental note to check the waterfront area downtown on the way back home. This is something mentioned in the novel.

Kakabeka Falls.

83-08-17 - A wedding party in their finery. Photographs at the viewing platform overlooking the falls. The bridemaids' flowers are plastic, the better to resist the ravages of time.

83-08-17 - The voyageur route west. Is there enough water to float a canoe?

August 20 - Saturday
Odometer: 134017
Depart: 8:25
Arrive : 18:30 at Turtle Mountain P.P., Manitoba

Entering Manitoba, the transition between woods and grasslands is a genuine surprise to the Ontario resident. We're driving through forested country while I look down to study the map. (Merle driving.) Looking up again, the land is level to the horizon, dotted only with clusters of aspen surrounding distant farmsteads.

We skirt Winnipeg, towering in the distance, via a network of convenient bypass roads. The site where the Ames Expedition camped, on the west bank of the Red River, near old Fort Douglas and the junction of the Assiniboine, is buried deep under urban renewal.

Heading down the Red River, a margin of trees lines its bank, with willows common, today a dark, wet green, contrasting with the harvested grain fields. Crossing over to the east bank: stubble to the horizon, a thin line of distant trees, drizzle and grey overcast. A few fields of sunflowers impersonate the proverbial huddled masses of marxist theory; their yellow petals are fallen; they stand shoulder to shoulder, eyeless faces all staring after some invisible leader.

A stop on the banks of the Red River to reconnoitre those scenes where Fielding and Harris followed the track of Mr. Maidstone. Crossing a harvested field for a better look at the river, I discover the incredible black soil of the area. It cakes onto my sandals to form a pair of overshoes made of thick mud. This is the same soil the fur traders swore up and down was no good for agriculture. On the river bank, is a vine with pointed leaves and bunches of pink flowerlets on a stem. I'm sure that somewhere James Fielding made a note of it in his diary for later identification. In 1816, he was a better botanist than I, who in 1983 has all the resources of "A Field Guide to Wildflowers" at my disposal.

Red River, Manitoba.

83-08-17 -

83-08-17 -

It's hardly the place to discuss mystical transports. But this non-descript river bank is the site of one of the strongest experiences of my all-too inconclusive career as a fiction writer. I'd set important scenes of "The Scarlet Thread" on this very site, which I'd never previously visited, or even seen pictures of. Imagination had constructed an environment of low, muddy banks, with tree-lined banks and floodplain prairie fields in back. A horse and rider could enter the water and swim across fairly safely here. To encounter a nearly identical situation on this visit seemed almost uncanny.


83-08-17 - Historical site. The novel posits a cabin located here, observed by young Fielding as they searched for the Americans.

83-08-17 -

Somewhere along the right bank Colonel Enright made his camp. A very damp Ensign Fielding and Midshipman Harris spied on them from the marshy, bushy banks you see above.

A few drops of rain plop into the water, interrupting my muddy reverie. Some more pictures and we drive on.

Passing through Pembina on the U.S. border, we inspect the junction of the Pembina River and the Red. The muddy banks are backed up with modern levees to restrain the floodwaters. At the forks is a half-hearted historical display and a log house in the park. The setting is nondescript but it's odd how the terrain and the weather are largely as I'd imagined. Fielding and Harris would have ridden along behind a screen of riverbank trees, attempting to keep an eye on Maidstone. They would have been compelled to ford a river that was higher in June than in August, but the same muddy banks and murky water that disgusted the fastidious Harris are visible today. I feel close to my characters in this unlikely place.

We drive west to where the banks of the Pembina, not much more than a pastoral stream in its upper reaches, would have provided that meadow where Col. Enright made his stop. There he laid his plans with Maidstone and waited for the advantageous moment to move out across the prairie to intercept the track of Captain Ames's British party, soon to depart from the vicinity of old Fort Douglas, near the centre of present-day Winnipeg.

Pembina to the Turtle Hills.

83-08-17 - Haystacks like barns.

83-08-17 - Prairie driving at its best. Keep to the left, briefly, if you want to.

83-08-17 -

83-08-17 - A likely site for the death of Maidstone.
That eroded bank on the right (or something like it) figures in the novel.

Turning north we re-enter Manitoba, crossing the upper tributaries of the Assiniboine River system. Here are those wide, smiling valleys beloved of the Metis buffalo hunters. It was somewhere near this point, or a little to the southwest, that Fielding and Harris had their brush with the Sioux and where they witnessed that skirmish which led to the death of Maidstone.

83-08-17 - Our car in the distance.

At Turtle Mountain Park we make camp. The Turtle Mountains are an islolated area of hills and lakes in the south-west corner of Manitoba, near the U.S. border. The many ponds have a numerous population of turtles and this is how the region got its name. At one time, the area supported a haying industry on the rich meadows within the forest.

The park doesn't have many patrons this season and we have a wide choice of campsites. Smearing ourselves generously with insect repellent, we walk along an excercise trail and end up at a marshy lake where there's a dammed-up section for swimming, a playground and a change room. It's cloudy and cool and we nearly freeze while swimming.

August 21 - Sunday
Odometer: 134411
Depart: 8:25
Arrive : 21:00 at Lewis and Clark State Park, North Dakota

Leaving Turtle Mountain park, we vist the International Peace Garden straddling the border. This is filled with scenic drives, spacious gardens and a soaring monument in the centre, which has, for me, strange echoes of Vimy Ridge. A long drive in, and then a long drive out. Much ado about what?

The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men.
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

What is the real purpose of this place? There seems to be nothing to "do" here. It lies on a road between Outer Manitoba and Inner North Dakota which must see very little except local traffic. You would think the people who live nearby would have more practical things on their minds. Perhaps tourists go out of their way to come here. If so, there must be something everybody knows but me. The main reason we stopped in the neighbourhood was to camp in the provincial park next door and to view the Turtle Hills themselves.

Perhaps this park is the "floral clock" of Manitoba. Every day, in the tourist season near Niagara Falls, you see tour buses and crowds congregating at the floral clock on the Niagara Parkway. In the throng are quite a few foreigners. But you might wonder why someone would come all the way from Yokahama to make a point of posing his family in front of a raised flower bed laid out in the shape of a clock face. Somehow, certain items on the tourist itinerary become "hardwired" into the guidebook program; no one knows why they're there any more, but you're not allowed to push the "stop" button till you've completed the entire list.

Speaking of practical matters: today is Sunday; we have to cross the border; the local gas station is closed and we're nearly empty. The range of our behemoth station wagon, even at a modest cruising speed, leaves much to be desired. I estimate it will do about 320 miles on a tankful, but this isn't quite far-ranging enough for touring off the arterial roads, especially if you allow for going short early on a Sunday morning. Nevertheless, we press on across the border and soon find gasoline on the other side of the hills, somewhere in North Dakota.

The Turtle Hills extend over the border. Going south, you find yourself on a height of land overlooking the approaches to the Missouri country. When you get down onto the plains and look back, you can still glimpse that blue ridge of wet hills in the north which heralds the 49th parallel. In historical times, this was recognised as the threshold of British North America. A subtle transition nudges you into a sense of anticipation: colours are now beginning to shift from blue-green to brown, but it's still not clear what changes in the landscape are in store for the south- and west-bound traveller.
The Turtle Hills, fictional excerpt

83-08-17 - In the Turtle Hills. At a gas station we find a marvelous junk sculpture.

Automobile wheel rims welded into the shape of a turtle. The head looks back at the Turtle Hills, bobbing contentedly to the whirr of intestinal machinery, quietly digesting old rubber tires.

We reach the valley of the Missouri. But before we can see the river itself, a subtle impression of greater visibility to the south, of the land sloping down to some basin beyond the line of sight. Then the lake formed by the Garrison Dam comes into view. We drive alongside the lake for a bit. Above the dam, Lake Sakakawea innundates the valley up to the level of the surrounding tableland. But further west, and now down below us, is the great river celebrated by balladeers and story-tellers: majestic bluffs on either side, rich bottom land, a massive flow of water between banks lined with cottonwood and willow.

Fort Mandan, Missouri north bank.

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This is a re-creation of the original fort erected by the Lewis and Clark expedition in the winter of 1804-5.

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The river bank has been lately graded and reinforced at this point, compromising authenticity, but in the distance on the opposite side and upstream, I think I can see the bluff on which the Mandan village once stood.

websrch:fort mandan

Missouri R.

83-08-17 - Across the wide Missouri.

83-08-17 - On the north bank, looking upstream.
Now we need to get to the site of the Mandan village on the opposite south shore.

Crossing over via the Garrison Dam, we follow the rolling bluffs of the old river bank west, and eventually find a modest signpost pointing to a very ordinary-looking bit of pasturage. Beside the entrance to this property, is a mobile home which is the headquarters of the attendant. We drive along a track through the grass and come to the edge of the bank where we park at an interpretive booth. There appears to be very little to see.

Mandan village site and environs.

83-08-17 - Not a very impressive site.
On the handout map, circles are marked representing the remains of Mandan lodges. But at first we can't find anything.

83-08-17 - Only a few pathetic remains.
We examine the ground. Here and there are small piles of bleached bones, whether gathered by treasure-hunters, rodents or archaeologists, you can't tell; the soil is rich with fragments of white, the substance of generations of animals and men -- the ribs and vertebrae of those forgotten predecessors who have left no known descendants. The buffalo are gone, the raised burial platforms of the Indians are gone; the Mandans are gone, exterminated by disease, some of their last tribal lands innundated under the headpond of the Garrison dam.

We chat with the young man who maintains the site. He provides useful bibliographical references and the suggestion that we visit other sites in the vicinity. Further north along the riverbank, at Cut Knife Creek, is the site of a Hidatsa village, another tribe of the region, also dwelling in earth lodges. Here there's an interpretive centre and an earth lodge recreated to scale. In the yard of the interpretive centre, members of the buckskin fraternity will demonstrate the frontier crafts of leather tanning, black powder shootin' while dressed in period costume. Can hardly wait.

83-08-17 - On the old bank of the Missouri.

83-08-17 - The river has changed course.

83-08-17 - Down the bank.
The relentless flood that would have passed this point in historical times has long receded. Today the actual riverbank is a half mile distant; below me is a boggy mass of reeds and a few sluggish streams. The river lies hidden beyond a line of distant cottonwoods.

I look for recognisable features. The bank comes to a point, jutting out over the damp thickets below. Scrambling down into the underbrush and struggling out into the open, I can now see the bank in profile. It's an effort to imagine the underbrush stripped away, and the Missouri rolling past the high bluff where I stood a moment before.


- A Bodmer painting
A certain iconic image comes to mind. Two Mandan women are launching skin boats immediately below a steep promontory. At the top is a sizeable group of domed earth lodges.

I can hear the whispering of those ghosts of a past that I've spent so long recreating in imagination. I can almost see the sweat lodge on the shore, hear the sounds of a numerous population above.

83-08-17 - Mandan earth lodge, small size.

83-08-17 - Contrast a Sioux teepee.
This is the dwelling we usually imagine for prairie natives.

Time to press through the reeds and struggle back up the bank, up a certain cleft in the old shoreline that seems oddly familiar. On an open field where the grass has been mowed, Merle and I trace out the circular depressions of vanished lodges. It was on the roofs of these vanished lodges that the visiting white men sat on the first day of their visit as they looked out over the village, meditating on the amazing scene about them.

83-08-17 - The village plaza again.
In the centre of a cluster of these circular depressions is an open space; near its edge is one particular circle, perhaps a little larger than the others. So it was here, I imagine, that James Fielding witnessed the initiation rituals of the Okipa. The sun-dance.

In an earth lodge on this circle where I now stand, the youths were hoisted skyward, toward the roof opening, by ropes attached to skewers piercing the flesh of their pectoral muscles.

83-08-17 - The hills, whence cometh Lone Man.

And beyond the expanse of grass, past a long ditch that must once have been the village palisade and moat, lie the bluffs. From somewhere up there, in the territory of the buffalo, Lone Man would have appeared to make his way down to the village at the start of the Okipa ritual.

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James Fielding once crouched low in the grasses out there, searching for the Medicine Man's son after the torture of the youths was over. In the distance is a patch of trees that might once have been a slough. It could have been there that he located the exhausted boy and protected him from those who threatened harm.
The Scarlet Thread: Initiation

83-08-17 - Nearby site of Fort Clark.
End of Mandan location pics.

Garrison Dam, Missouri R.

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83-08-17 - Water diversion.
Late in the afternoon, we drive to the south end of the Garrison dam and cross northward. Taking the Lewis and Clark Route west, Highway 1804, we seek out a campsite for the night among the badlands on the north shore of Lake Sakakawea.

Our way back toward British territory takes us on Route 1804, the Lewis and Clark Route, along the north side of Lake Sakakawea. Soon, we see the badlands of those streams that feed the Missouri from the north. The lake didn't exist in historical times; it is entirely a creation of the Garrison Dam. The typical prospect in those days would have been a wide valley with high bluffs; down whose centre the river once flowed, rolling past groves of willow. In the far distance, to the south and southwest, we see a few of those flat-topped buttes which give such a characteristic profile to wild-west horizons.

Missouri badlands.

83-08-17 - Our campsite on the Missouri R.
Arriving at Lewis and Clark State Park near dusk, we're unable to decipher the complex instructions at the self-service entrance, and in desperation, we move right in and made ourselves at home.

Eventually a ranger comes to collect the fee and sell firewood. The park also seems to be a centre for boating on Lake Sakakawea. We hear the sounds of revelry in a small craft anchored off shore. This is not a native craft, Merle reminds me, harkening back to an inadvertant craft show pun I may never live down.

A full moon hangs over the badlands on the opposite shore; we make our fire on the ground, cowboy style, in a circular firepit. This is one of the few places that doesn't have the elaborate and self-consciously rustic fireplaces usually favoured in woodland campsites.

Today we've made a definite transition, and I suspect that Fielding, Harris and the others would have sensed the same thing on their way past this point in 1816. You do get an impression of "the plains" as soon as you leave behind the forests of the Laurentian Shield in eastern Manitoba, but you have to come this far to encounter that peculiarly "western" combination of dryland prairie, badlands and rolling plains. Farms become ranches; green pastures and cultivated fields merge into rangeland; valleys become gulleys. It is the edge of a new kind of landscape extending all the way south to the cactus country and beyond into Mexico.

August 22 - Monday
Odometer: 134778
Depart: 8:30
Arrive : 18:15 at Cypress Hills P.P., Saskatchewan
Add one hour due to crossing a time zone.

Today we leave the Missouri, driving north through Williston and Plentywood and up Big Muddy Creek. This was the probable route of the Ames Expedition as they made their way toward the height of land between the Missouri and the South Saskatchewan Rivers. The valley floor is wide and level; there would have been sufficient water and pasturage for horses. On either side, we see the eroded bluffs mentioned in the expedition's log. At the entrance to one of those valleys, over on the right, lies the spot where James Fielding found signs of Colonel Enright's passage and made the gruesome discovery of a victim of "frontier justice".

Just north of the 49th parallel, we turn west through the wheat farms. Finding water would have been the main problem for an overland trek along the border. Although there is some drainage going south to the Missouri, the creeks at their headwaters are sluggish, particularly in high summer. A westering party of horsemen might have to carry sufficient drinking water for several days. But, at least, the badlands are not extensive enough to present any serious obstacle to movement. Our chosen road climbs a succession of ridges separating the basin of one stream from another and then drops down again into the next valley, revealing long views of wheat fields mixed with rangeland in the rougher areas. To the south, across the width of a single farm, lies the international border.

It rains in the early afternoon and we have lunch at the side of the road, dining on our usual picnic of sliced meat, lettuce, tomatoes and chunks of cheese. Merle says it makes her feel deliciously guilty for not stopping to prepare a "proper" meal. And all the while, I thought we were eating proper meals.

The Cypress Hills are a forested area straddling the Saskatchewan-Alberta border and lie some miles north of the 49th parallel. An overland exploring party moving west could have stopped here to hunt, to find good water and pasturage, and to overlook the surrounding plains. The Ames Expedition had the special task of evaluating the military potential of any prominent natural features. These hills could have played an important role as a staging point or a secure rallying place in the advent of further hostilities with the Americans. Whoever controlled these hills would probably also control the South Saskatchewan River. But there was another over-riding reason for being there: the Enright Overland Expedition was also in the area and preparing to enter Blackfoot country. The Colonel had ventured considerably above the 49th parallel, to sniff out the territory north of the Missouri basin in the interests of an ambitious Jeffersonian continentalism. A policy that might have led to the whole Northwest becoming part of the USA.

Neither group, as yet, had any reason to regard the 49th parallel as a forgone conclusion. You may recall that the Ames Expedition was none too reticent about crossing the line in the opposite direction, in order to visit the Mandan villages, and these were situated on the banks of the Missouri itself, but had traditionally been serviced by traders from the north.

From a certain, more forward, British point of view, the American Louisiana Purchase comprised only the basin of the Mississippi River, excluding the Missouri. A piece of wishful thinking, which, if successful, might have eventually made the Missouri country, as well as the entire Pacific Northwest, a British possession. However, to claim a territory on the basis of obscure legality and fuzzy geography is one thing; to possess it quite another. This was a point well-understood by the elder Captain Fielding and the astute Admiral Fisher. To possess a territory you must, at the very least, enter it, traverse it, drive your tent pegs into its soil.

Missouri to S. Saskatchewan, Canada.
Back to Canada again (as we know it today.)

83-08-17 - Sic transit ... Picture taken while standing on the hood of the car.

83-08-17 - Nearing one.

83-08-17 - Prairie highrise.

Cypress Hills, Sask.

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We make camp in Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan, and that evening set out to explore. At dusk, from a lookout on a high mound, we see orange light outlining badlands and hills far away to the west and north. The hill we stand on is built entirely of pebbles and, in fact, the entire range consists of an enormous gravel deposit laid down in glacial times.

Inching along the dusty park roads in the dark, we encounter our first "texas gate" - a sort of cattle barrier in the road, a culvert bridged over with spaced iron pipes. A car can be driven slowly across this contraption, but cattle avoid it for fear of putting their feet down the slots.

Our headlights pick out a sign showing access to the back road to Fort Walsh; the road is described as dangerous, passable only in good weather; we're intrigued. Can this aging station wagon aspire to high adventure and find a new life for itself as a Land-Rover? That night, to be sure of an early start, we fill up with gas at a station in the park and are informed by the attendant, "Some guys I knew went in there once (knew, past tense, ominous pause). Yup. Had to haul 'em out with a four-wheel drive - broken axle (sigh). Need yer oil checked?"

August 23 - Tuesday
Odometer: 135293
Depart: 8:26
Arrive : 20:00 at Waterton Townsite Campground, Alberta

83-08-17 - Next day: Hours of gorgeous bad road.
This is one of the few times in my life that I've actually enjoyed (not just endured or tolerated, but ENJOYED) driving. We drive slowly, with the windows open. Birds perched on the fences sing. Distant cattle munch. We'd been warned that this road was 50 kilometers of unimprovement, with no service facilities or tow-trucks. We continue onward.

83-08-17 - The pole, from a defunct phone line?

83-08-17 - Prairie puffball.

83-08-17 - Down to landscape basics here.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The road to Fort Walsh is paved with little else, but it's well worth the boneshaking ride. From the heights within the park boundary we've descended out of an early mist through ranchland that gives the illusion of original prairie. We linger to ogle flowers and stroll by the roadside.

83-08-17 - Prairie rose.

83-08-17 - The cattle are standing like statues. I almost feel like breaking out into song. (The musical "Oklahoma"?)

83-08-17 - Hawks keep watch.
A hawk on a fence post takes flight and hovers over my scalp, trying to intimidate the intruder with its piercing shriek. In the dry grass underfoot, nestle cactus, huge puffballs. Cattle graze in the distance and we can almost imagine they are buffalo.

The sloughs are fringed with green bushes, contrasting with the dry prairie and filled with reeds and ducks. As the trail drops down from the eastern range of the hills, we have another long view to the west and south-west. I strain at the horizon for a glimpse of the distant peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Not yet.

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83-08-17 - A road junction See what the map says, will you, Merle?

83-08-17 - Aha, signs of signs ahead.

Fort Walsh, RNWMP post.

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We reach Fort Walsh without mishap to the car. This lies in the western range of the Cypress Hills and Parks Canada has done a reconstruction of the old R.N.W.M.P. post on its original site. The fort is a palisaded collection of whitewashed log buildings, without too much in the way of furniture, but it's the natural setting that is most intoxicating.

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83-08-17 - Surprisingly few visitors. We have the place almost to ourselves.

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Farwell's Post
A shuttle bus takes us to Farwell's Post down the valley, a convincing recreation of a frontier trading post, complete with tour guides dressed up in period costume. The buildings and sheds look lived-in and are chock full of supplies and authentic-looking personal bric-a-brac. I'm convinced that someone has actually been sleeping in that bed over by the wall. The crumbs of a meal are still visible on the table.

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83-08-17 - Some rough-looking characters ...

83-08-17 - ... hang out in these parts.

83-08-17 - A new recruit to the gang.

83-08-17 - The vicinity of the post.
Near this site, Indians were massacred by white riff-raff in frontier days. We stroll over to the scene of the murder. I can hardly stop asking questions and we stay on through the arrival and departure of several additional busloads of tourists.

We decide to walk back to Fort Walsh through the hills, strolling along the bank of the stream that connects the two locations. We've come to Farwell's Post by shuttle and our car waits for us back at the fort. It's a perfect day of deep blue sky and warm breezes.

83-08-17 - No place for sandals.
The ground on the hillsides crackles underfoot; the plants of the open range are low and adapted to living with little water; I almost step on a ground-hugging cactus that looks like a diminutive version of the prickly pear. Below the hillside path, the river winds in and out of lush thickets of willow. On the opposite side of the valley, rise undulating hills, one beyond the other, with open meadows of sun-baked grass and patches of trees, inviting the hiker or the trail-rider to explore.

Oh, to stay here for a few days, to savour every moment the unfamiliar privilege of seeing freely in all directions, to experience the joy of spying out at a glance the day's march to some distant goal, far ahead on the horizon.

"... She lingers behind on the trail, intent on a meadowlark singing in a bush. No one else, nothing but the hills, the valley, the sky, space, us. I spy a secret place on a hillside, miles away; we are there, making camp for the thousandth time, eternally the same ritual, but eternally new. She's far behind me now, stopping to look for berries; I sit on the hillside alone to wait, but still very close beside her."

Nearing the fort, we glimpse a fox or coyote-like animal hunting in the thickets by the stream. It sees us and repeats its high-pitched cry of yip-yip-yip-aroooo.

In an overgrown meadow below the fort, an old antler. Most likely, the remains of a deer shot by Subinspector Steele, R.N.W.M.P. in 1879. On the strength of my artistic licence, and the heightened awareness brought on by scenic intoxication, I feel confident in making a positive identification.

83-08-17 - The beauty of parkland.
Walking through this environment is something like the experience you can get on top of high mountains. Your surroundings come to stand for a wider reality. A "Travellers on the Path of Life", sort of metaphor. I've heard it argued that parkland itself is genetically coded into human preferences, perhaps from our primordial days in East Africa. Broad, open, rolling spaces, punctated by patches of woodland, threaded by lakes and rivers, roamed by animals. People were asked in a survey what sort of landscape they preferred: desert, shoreline, forest, mountains, flat plains, ice and snow. Many, a majority possibly, apparently showed a preference for just the sort of landscape we see today.

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Driving west through the Cypress Hills, we reach the highest point in the whole region. It looks out on a stunning prospect over the plains to the north and west, all the way to the South Saskatchewan River. Still no sight of the Rockies.

This leg of the Ames Expedition's journey, dropping down out of the hills toward the valley of the river, was the occasion of the death of the interpreter Bonnechance. After this incident, the expedition members looked toward the plains with increased trepidation, knowing they had to traverse the whole territory of the Blackfoot and Blood Nations. We drive north-west to Medicine Hat, a far less intimidating prospect.

The site of the expedition's encounter with the Blood Indians is likely around here. According to the "historical record", (my novel) the incident took place some half-day's ride south of the river, in a shallow ravine off a minor tributary of the South Saskatchewan. Along the south side of the valley near Medicine Hat, there is a bluff, something like the one on the Missouri at the Mandan village. Could this be it?

Driving southwest again from Medicine Hat toward Lethbridge, the land rises gradually, but we cross few ravines suggesting the siege that consumed the bulk of the expedition's black powder and nearly resulted in a massacre. One can only hope that some local historian will have the initiative to better scout out the area until the exact location is found.
The Scarlet Thread: Smoke and Mirrors

Big Muddy R.

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83-08-17 - It rains in late afternoon.
We watch a column of water falling out of a black cloud base, visible from a great distance. Back home you seldom get the chance to see a complete storm in progress.

South of Lethbridge, the land continues flat until the foothills. Again, as the vantage points get higher, splendid rolling vistas appear, culminating in Cardston and the approaches to Waterton. Here, at last, the mountains leap from the plain into full view; we enter the portals of the Rockies and are immediately surrounded by peaks. In historical times these were the Stoney Mountains. Either name is appropriate, impressions of rock and stone overwhelm us from above, sharp-edged crags, swept bare of soil; to the easterner, a new revelation of geology. Remember, we've hardly seen a stone bigger than your fist since the Ontario border and even the badlands of the Missouri had more the character of eroded earth.

Alberta Foothills.

Waterton, Alberta.

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Arriving late, only one or two campsites are still left, on an area of wet, recently-watered green lawn. This is Euro-style camping with everyone packed close together and the town only a short walk outside the campground.

83-08-17 - Prince of Wales Hotel.
This major local landmark has a Neuschwanstein quality, but seems to be of timber construction. I can almost imagine The Prince rubbing his hands together and saying: "And now for my next weektim."

Waterton is a Parks Canada townsite smugly situated at the head of Waterton Lake and surrounded by more than a fair share of heroic scenery. After making camp and scouting around town for a post office, we visit the Prince of Wales Hotel. It's at the edge of town on a natural dam overlooking the outlet of the lake. Try to imagine a kind of Bavarian hunting lodge with soaring roofs, vaguely reminiscent of the Chateau school of architecture sometimes seen in Canadian railway stations and CPR hotels. But the general conception reminds me of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. Built by some mad King Ludwig of the hostelry business, it towers over the lake and town below, challenging even the mountains with its audacity.

August 24 - Wednesday
Odometer: 135557
Depart: 8:30 Waterton campsite
Arrive : 18:30 at Mount Fernie P.P., B.C.

83-08-17 - Bear's Rump, today's hike destination.
Next morning, we hike up Bear's Rump trail which overlooks the hotel. It takes only half an hour to get up to the lookout and so we continue on up the ridge, hoping for an even better view.

Here's a level of difficulty we've never encountered before. The slope isn't quite steep enough to require ropes, but those gulfs of yawning space are much closer now. This is no longer an ordinary hiking trail and every yard of ascent involves strenuous clambering. The sky overhead is clear but blustery; ragged clouds are forming behind the ridge and threatening to swoop down on us. After resting awhile near the treeline, we prudently turn back.

83-08-17 - From the Rump.

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83-08-17 - Our campside, on the shore behind Merle.

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Buffalo Pound, departing Waterton.

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A drive to Red Rock Canyon and Blakiston Falls. But first, a tour round the Buffalo Pound to see those majestic cattle in a facsimile of their natural habitat.

Leaving the area we drive north to Pincher Creek and the Crow's Nest Pass. In the pass is the Leitch Colliery historical site at Police Flats; workmen are just finishing the installation of interpretive exhibits as we arrive.

Foothills to Crow's Nest Pass.

Frank Slide.

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At Frank Slide, evidence of the rockfall that wiped out a village is overwhelming; the brow of the cliff still dominates the valley, still meditating ruin.

At the top of the pass is the site of a recent forest fire, with interpretive trails providing a cautionary lesson to the visitor. The pass itself is disappointing: too low and too easy to have been the one taken by the Ames Expedition. I'm surprised by the continuous settlement and industry on the way through; it's an old-established coal-mining area. With all the historical fuss over Crow's Nest Pass freight rates, you might expect a tortuous ascent in low gear up steep winding roads and through dank tunnels. But instead of a route built at an untold cost in lives and treasure, you have a broad corridor providing an easy path to the B.C. interior with, on the road at least, only very modest grades.

Had it not been for Colonel Enright's navigation error, following the interception of that spurious heliograph message, supposedly from Maidstone, the pass would have been put on the map in 1816. As it was, this had to wait until railroad construction days. The peculiar thing is, that the discovery of the pass should have come so late, particularly since the local Indians are supposed to have known of it.

On the western slope of the great divide, we camp at Fernie, B.C. Here is a lush growth of forest; the area just west of the divide snags clouds going east; a heavy rain has just fallen and the trees are still wet. Our campsite has a picnic table whose top consists of one massive piece of wood, covered with some deep varnish - the most luxurious we've ever seen at any campsite so far.

August 25 - Wednesday
Odometer: 135722
Depart: 8:42
Arrive : 17:00 At Castle Mountain C.G. near Banff, Alberta

Reaching the Kootenay river we turn north. The road skirts long smooth stretches of green water. We learn that steamboats once plied this river, coming from as far south as Montana. At the head of the river is a marshy lake which is connected to the river by a channel known as McGillivray's Portage[?]. At one time a steamboat was able to get through here but the route was scuttled by international disagreement on water levels. The lake also drains north into the Columbia, and since the Kootenay is a tributary of the Columbia, this means that a vast tract of interior B.C. and the adjoining American state is, in effect, an island in the Columbia River.

Somewhere to the west, lies that high pass which both the Enright Overland Expedition and the Ames Expedition crossed to reach the interior. Somewhere on the shores of this lake lies the ruin of that fort temporarily occuppied by Colonel Enright following his desperate escape across the mountains. The exact locations of the Colonel's grave and the rickety palisade which he attempted to defend against the attack of disgruntled Kootenay Indians have not yet been discovered. It was here that James Fielding was nearly lynched by Enright's desperate men and where, by the intervention of Catherine Maidstone (nee Montague), the execution was stayed and the victim launched on an extraordinary career as an American popular hero.
The Scarlet Thread: On a Clear Day

Frank Slide to Fort Steele.

Fort Steele re-creation, B.C.

83-08-17 - Looks barrack-like. RNWMP?

83-08-17 - Schoolhouse?

83-08-17 - Surely a hotel or saloon.

83-08-17 - Get your chicken at the station ...?
on the Rock Island Line. A Covert reference to Stan Freberg's demolition of the popular song: "The Yellow Rose of Texas."

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We visit Fort Steele, a recreation of the frontier town. I hear German spoken by numerous tourists and a guide who greets visitors in that language.

The town is laid out with streets arranged in a square round a central common. Inside the buildings, rooms are furnished and decorated in period style. In the yards, vegetable and flower gardens flourish.

Strolling down the street I spy a carpenter on a roof, hammering down cedar shingles. For a moment as the echoes die away, the illusion is nearly perfect and I'm carried back to similar sights and sounds from my own youth in a village in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Then a stage-coach rattles past, giving rides to the kiddies. The illusion evaporates; memory won't reach back quite that far.

Outside the gate, a steam locomotive waits in the station for passengers. That I do remember from regular trips by steam train in the 1940s. This engine has a unique propulsion system with the crankshaft running lengthwise under the boiler and geared to the wheels.

Fort Steele to Lake Louise.

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Over the Vermillion Pass today.

This is low with gradual approaches, no more suitable than the Crow's Nest Pass as a model for the site of Col. Enright's disastrous encounter with the Piegan Indians.

A campsite outside Banff - another delightful Parks Canada tourist trap. We walk down the main drag to the Banff Springs Hotel: an attractive building in the Neuschwanstein style, busy and prosperous. The hotel looks down across its terrace to an opening in the mountains where the Bow [?] River flows out to the foothills. The location is almost too good to be true; below the terrace is a waterfall; above it looms the long, even flank of Mt. Rundle, an upraised slab of rock, terminating in a sheer drop. You can watch climbing adventures (or tragedies) from your hotel room window. Mt. Rundle is the very model of the type of peak scaled by Fielding and Harris when they sighted Col. Enright's camp in the interior. That evening we decide to splurge on steaks at "Drifter's" Restaurant.

August 26 - Friday
Odometer: 135974
Depart: 8:30
Arrive : 20:15 at Glacier Camp, Sunwapta Pass, Alberta
Early morning at Lake Louise, finds the lawns beside the lake crowded with Japanese tourists pointing Nikons at the famous view.

Unfortunately, the famous view is covered with mist; they've come all that distance, only to be defeated by the weather. Taking pictures of each other and us against a backdrop of fog, they climb on their tour bus and roar off to the next stop on the itinerary.

We hang about waiting for the fog to clear and pass the time strolling by the lake. It can't hurt to stretch our legs, and a sign says encouraging things about a tea house not far ahead.

83-08-17 - Glacier water enters the lake here.
Halfway down the lake, the clouds begin to lift, revealing tantalising glimpses of the lower flanks of the surrounding peaks.

As we reach the far end of the lake, the tops of these peaks begin to peep out through tatters of cloud, so we continue walking. So far, the path has been wide and smooth; beyond this, it climbs upward, following the valley of that glacial brook which feeds Lake Louise.

The teahouse, apparently, is still miles ahead, but we're wearing hiking boots and soon outdistance the more bourgeois pedestrians keeping to the path beside the lake. You think of a tea house as a place frequented by aunties with blue veins on the backs of their hands, and the bouquet on the tea table would be woodland violets, not edelweiss. But the path climbs higher and higher through woods and up along the side of the valley.

Down in its ravine, the placid brook now foams its way to Lake Louise between high banks of piled stone, the ruins of glacial moraines and ancient rockfalls. Far ahead, the highest icefields glitter, now exposed to view as the last banners of cloud are torn loose by the breeze. A distant crash stops us in our tracks. We're unable to place the exact origin of the sound: blasting operations? a sonic boom, perhaps.

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83-08-17 - Old iron-bound wooden water pipe.

83-08-17 - The prospect begins to open up.

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83-08-17 - The snout of the glacier below us.

83-08-17 - We continue up the track.
In the valley to our left, the brook is now flanked by two steep ridges of glacial debris, lateral moraines, thrust aside by the glacier hundreds or thousands of years ago and, today, still clear of any vegetation. Leaving the trail, I'm able to get down to the nearer ridge and tramp along the knife-edge where there's a path of sorts. Merle continues on up the approved route to the tea house with a party of other hikers.

My own path leads up the valley past fields of stony debris toward the edge of the glacier. The transition from gravel to ice is gradual. On my left, the snout of the nearest glacier is so melted and covered with debris as to seem a part of the valley floor. I scramble up the razor-back of the moraine to a point where I can look down into a giant fissure. In the depths of the glacier, the ice shines blue-green.

83-08-17 - Telephoto view back to Lake Louise

83-08-17 - A side pass with glacier.

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83-08-17 - I'm walking on the moraine's edge.
At the highest point on the moraine, Lake Louise is still visible, way back down the valley.

The hotel can just barely be picked out on the opposite side of the lake. Here the spine of the moraine is quite sharp, and while shakily replacing the film in my camera, I'm aware there's a non-zero risk of plummeting down the gravel bank onto the glacier below. Next, a very careful turn-around, arms at the ready for balance. At my back, the valley expands into a wide cirque where 5 (count them, 5) glaciers can be seen at once.

Time to leave the moraine to rejoin Merle at the tea house. This must be somewhere above me, one would think, above the trees on the side of the valley. Fighting up through dense thickets of waist-high spruce bushes, and reaching a vantage point, I cast about for signs of civilization. The gound is running with tiny streams; everywhere there's a gurgle of decending rivulets among the stones. Hmmm, a nice pot of tea, brewed from the water of some sparkling mountain freshet, would be about right just now. But where's the tea house? A moment's confusion, not quite panic.

Finally, a vestigial trail leading ever higher up into the mountains. No tea house. A few more moment's unease. What would Baden-Powell do, lost in the mountains, no tea and no wife to wescue him. Then I realize that I've overshot, in my moraine exploration, that paths are bidirectional things, to be wisely followed backward, down to the highest patch of forest on the shoulder of the valley. Here the tea house is conveniently located, amid sheltering trees, and there's Merle waiting at the end of the trail that comes up from the lake.

83-08-17 - The high-level teahouse.

It's an alpine-style stone building with an overhanging balcony on the second floor.

We find a table on the balcony and order soup, sandwiches and tea. Then, feast our eyes on the view, our stomachs on the food. You meet quite a variety of interesting people in this sort of place; the challenge and the scenery seem to bring out a slightly eccentric and good-natured kind of individual. Or is this simply a case of "rapture of the heights", a condition that sometimes afflicts perfectly normal, surly individuals? The first symptom is that you begin to say "howdy" or "g'day mate" a lot, and experience little difficulty in speaking to strangers. Then you start grinning idiotically and begin to feel you're partners with everyone you meet, in some splendid mountaineering enterprise. Another thing: everyone seems to come from some obscure and far-away place. But this is obviously a delusion, since the odds against meeting two people on a mountain top, from Melbourne and Semipalatinsk at the same time, are one in 8.26 times 10 to the 7th power.

Over lunch, someone reveals that the trail continues further up the valley to an even higher vantage point. Full of glycogen, we decide to follow it.

83-08-17 - Marmot.
After lunch, you have to toss a few crumbs to the marmot sitting on a rock outside the tea house.
He's the local toll-booth keeper, collecting scraps of food from hikers. Marmots have a whistling call that you can't mistake for any other animal.

The trail is now well above the treeline and all that remains of the forest are stands of low bushes in a few protected locations. We pass an area where the scrub trees beside the trail have been stripped of bark and foliage; the peeled stems pointing downward into the ravine. I begin to understand the origin of those mysterious rumblings and distant crashes we have been hearing all morning. Slicing downward, an avalanche must had passed by here last winter at just about our present head level.

83-08-17 - Gravel and glacial ice beneath.

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83-08-17 - We continue upward.

83-08-17 - The glacier takes a turn ... round that corner cliff on the left.

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83-08-17 - We can now see up Abbott Pass.

83-08-17 - Highest point on the trail.

83-08-17 - Tickled pink.

83-08-17 - Abbott Pass hut, Alpine Club of Can.

83-08-17 - Man(woman)-eating crevasses.
Continuing the ascent up another long moraine at the side of the glacier, the path eventually hits a sheer mountain wall. This is the top end of the trail, you have to quit now or become a technical climber from here onward.

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83-08-17 - Derek, danger-boy.
Resting under the cliff, we're a little awestruck by the view, and stare up at the glacier hanging down from Abbott Pass. Visible at the top, is a hut maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada and normally reached from the opposite side. Beside this hut is the highest privy in Canada. Since it rests on the Great Divide, you have the honour of knowing, when you use it, that you've contributed to the enrichment of the both the Pacific and Arctic Oceans.

On the right and towering overhead is a sheer cliff topped by a glacier. In places, ice hangs over the edge. A startling concussion rivets our attention. Somewhere above, the icefield fractures in the heat of noonday and a cloud of fragments rattles down the cliff face a few hundred yards away. In the background, a continuous rush of falling water. Behind us and up a slope of loose rock, a waterfall is fed by the same ice field, plunging off the top of the cliff and rushing down the side of the moraine. We climb to the base of the waterfall, selecting every toehold with care and taking extra precautions not to dislodge stones. I'm conscious that we've attained the modest limit of our climbing experience and can go no further. Reaching the cascade, we satisfy our thirst by drinking melt water running directly out of the glacier and into our mouths.

83-08-17 - Return to lower altitudes.

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83-08-17 - Last looks.

83-08-17 - Alpine pastures.

83-08-17 - Lake Louise again.


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The highway up the Sunwapta Pass provides the most exciting piece of automotive mountain climbing we've done to date. Plenty of switchbacks to provide a challenge to the car's cooling system and lookouts where you can park and peer over the edge to exclaim, "Did we really come from way down there?". The top is well above the treeline and serves as a jumping-off point to hikes on the high alpine meadows. At last, we may have found a model for that pass over which Colonel Enright was compelled by bad weather and hostile Natives to flee in disarray.

The Columbia Icefield.{#1}

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Arriving at Glacier Camp, which is just the other side of the pass, and opposite the icefield, we pitch our tent.

Right away, you can tell this is a camping spot of a different sort: lots of low-slung, alpine tents, women with braids, men with checked flannel shirts, beards and great knobbly boots. As they unpack their gear I can see long coils of nylon kernmantel rope and hear the clink of climbing iron-mongery.

Standing around the campfire in a drizzle, we discuss the prospects with our fellow mountaineers. Nothing can depress me in a place like this. No longer hemmed-in by mountains, we're up among the summits on a footing of equality with the high peaks. This is the base camp of a march into a new and unfamiliar territory.

We meet a student from Switzerland on vacation. What else would a Swiss on vacation do but go and look at somebody else's alps? He's hitched a ride from California with an American and they've just arrived by motorcycle, shortly after we've taken the last campsite. Never mind, always room for another member of the brotherhood. The motorcyclist has ideas about doing a little climbing in the morning and soon joins forces with our neighbour in the adjoining campsite. They huddle around the campfire and plan an early morning assault on Mt. Athabaska. Out of self-defense, I'm forced to discuss computers, reverting to my backup identity. Just before turning in, I happen to look up into the drizzle and notice a single star, directly overhead.

August 27 - Saturday
Odometer: 136085
Depart: 8:45
Arrive : 19:15 at Pembina River, near Edmonton, Alberta

We have trouble sleeping when the temperature dips to the freezing point. The tents are pitched on wooden platforms to compensate for irregularities in the site. I toss and turn, having grown used to a mattress of springy turf or pine needles. The campsite is in deep shadow in the morning. On looking out of the tent, the sky is blue and nearly cloudless, inviting a stroll round the campsite. Mt. Athabaska, is visible in the distance behind an intervening ridge; a dazzling light reflected from its icefields. A bottle of water left outdoors last night is partially frozen and one of the picnic tables is covered with a sheet of glare ice.

83-08-17 - Climbing the moraine.
Roger and Mike, the two climbers from the next campsite, invite us to hike up to the Athabaska Glacier with them. .. This is the point where they'll set out on the final leg of their climb. We wolf down granola in the frosty air, pack our gear and set out. The approach to the mountain is located up a side road not far from the point where the glacier tours set out. We park the cars down in the flats below the glacier (still far above the treeline) and set out through meadows of Alpine flowers. The climbers' access path soon strikes off the road and wanders up a lateral moraine leading to the foot of the glacier. As we ascend, pausing frequently to get our wind, the whole valley begins to open up and the parking lot shrinks to the point where we have to use binoculars to see the car.

83-08-17 - Our two fellow campers up ahead.
And then the path gets even rougher.

After an hour of steep uphill walking, we're faced with an energetic scramble up a slope of earthy debris guarded at the top by a bristling protrusion of the underlying rock. We pass this obstruction using whatever chancy holds we can find on the rotten cliff, taking care not to start an avalanche. Past the barrier, we continue up the moraine to the edge of the glacier where it meets the solid flank of the mountain. Behind us, in case you weren't noticing, Merle, the view has grown more stunning with every foot of altitude gained. Now you can focus your eagle's eyes far across the valley to that high, distant pass, hidden from ordinary birds down below, and there will we build our aerie.

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83-08-17 - Our friends strap on equipment...

83-08-17 - ... and continue up the glacier.
At the top of the moraine, we say goodbye.

They gallop down the other side and begin to organize equipment at the foot of the glacier. Breaking the ice of a pool of melt water, they fill canteens while we sit and watch. The preparations seem to take a long time, to carefully adjust straps, repack rucksacks and put on down vests. At length everything is ready. Standing in deep shadow, they face a steep wall of melting ice before they can even reach the surface of the glacier. Tiptoeing up the wall on the points of crampons, they hack footsteps as they go. At the top, a pause to wave good bye, on a level again with our own position as we sit opposite them on the top of the moraine. Their climb well-begun, they set off across a mile-wide sheet of hard ice, probing the surface with ice axes. On the far side the surface slopes more steeply upward, providing a ramp that will give access to the summit of the mountain.

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83-08-17 - We stop at base camp.

83-08-17 - Making snow angels at the glacier edge.
We turn to explore the moraine. Around us is a collection of tent platforms built out of stones.

These have been constructed by climbers, hoping, no doubt, to arrive late in the day and get an early start the next morning. Some have waist-high walls to keep off the wind, painstakingly constructed of flat rocks. We eat lunch in a miniature fortification where we could have kept off an army, if we had been Afghan rebels. ... Well, if we can be eagles, we certainly should have no trouble becoming Afghan rebels.

In a low spot near the top of the moraine, is an island of ice with a pool in the middle about forty feet across. In the pool, rocks are floating. Closer, we discover that the floating rocks are embedded in clear ice and covered with a thin layer of melt water. A brief snowball fight before lying down to make snow "angels" on the banks surrounding the pool.

83-08-17 - Icefield tourists down below.

83-08-17 - Highway on the right.
We decide to take a different route down so we can explore a rampart that overhangs the main glacier.

I edge my way up the cliff overlooking a gulf of empty space on one side and finally reach a point where my desire to see over the edge is just barely balanced by my fear of falling two thousand feet straight down. Below is the main glacier. Buses with caterpillar tracks crawl across the surface taking tourists out onto the icesheet. A view like this confers a feeling of privilege - seeing from a great height without being seen - the affairs of ordinary citizens laid out for critical inspection.

On the opposite side of the valley, we spy out routes for future hikes. A certain high pass, saddle-shaped, is almost a model for the pass where the Ames Expedition camped while following the track of Colonel Enright over the Great Divide. There's even a peak which overlooks the pass on one side and the main valley on the other. It was from such a peak that James and Harris saw through their telescope the Stars and Stripes flying over the Colonel's camp near the headwaters of the Columbia.

83-08-17 - Something hardy.

83-08-17 - Surroundings.

83-08-17 - Back at the trailhead.

From the parking lot at the bottom, I train my binoculars on the glacier for the last time. Far above the highest point that we reached, I glimpse two figures near the top of the Athabaska icefield and moving steadily upward.

Our companions have reached a position that will give them access to the summit via the highest ridges of the peak. A plume of drifting snow sweeps past them, but they continue steadily upward. Down in the parking lot, it's beginning to get hot and the eyepieces of my binoculars fog up, still chilled, I suppose, from the cold of the glacier. I look again, but the two figures have vanished into a world of their own.

On to Jasper. I discover while mailing film that I've overexposed the last two rolls with the camera set at the wrong film speed; this as the result of being sold Kodachrome 64 instead of Kodachrome 25 in Banff. And not noticing it because the boxes look similar. For the rest of the day, I'm too depressed to take a serious interest in photography.

Editor's note: most of the damage to these pictures has turned out to be repairable thanks to digital scanning, decades later, plus intensive PhotoShop treatment.

Rounding Jasper Lake, we notice how the scenery has changed. The grey peaks have shoulders that seem more rounded; the spruce trees in the wide valleys have a certain uniform, grey-green quality that seems less alpine. Miette's Rock, almost the last peak before going out onto the foothills, is mentioned in Paul Kane's account. Here, a certain voyageur named Miette is supposed to have climbed up on a dare, to sit with his legs dangling over the edge.

We drive through Edmonton and continue past to a campsite at Pembina River. There, we heat water over the campfire for sponge baths in the privacy of our tent.

August 28 - Sunday
Odometer: 136318
Depart: 8:13
Arrive : 18:45 at Manitou Lake, Saskatchewan

Past Edmonton and heading east, the countryside is very gently rolling with few vistas. At first, forest and a few farms, and then, further east, more farms and islands of trees, mostly aspen. The holdings look smaller, more confined than the spacious ranches and grain farms of the south and west. The soil is black and the sloughs have a margin of very dark, almost black reeds. The light itself seems to have a different quality; the sky is bright overhead, but the colours of the land are subdued. This is the kind of terrain that reminds me of our kinship with the Russians. I slump down in the car seat and do a Slavic brood on my two lost rolls of film.

Onward through Saskatchewan.

Saskatoon RCAF base?

83-08-17 - Eric Richards was stationed here, WW2

83-08-17 - The same kind of hangars as St. Hubert.

R'n'R at Manitou Lake, Sask.

83-08-17 - Relaxation.

83-08-17 - Check fingernails.

83-08-17 - Looking good.

83-08-17 - Rest content.

83-08-17 - Rinse off thoroughly (salt).

A turn south off the main highway to Manitou Lake in search of a campsite. When I was a child, my father told me wondrous tales of swimming in a salt lake somewhere on the prairies near where he was stationed during the war.

Then, more recently, I read a newspaper article about Manitou Lake and determine to see it for myself. The town is a seedy remnant of a once popular resort. Undeterred, we head for the municipal beach to try out the water. Amazingly buoyant, especially to someone used to struggling just to stay afloat in fresh water; you bob high above the surface without the least effort. But after paddling around wide-eyed for a few moments, you begin wondering what to do next. This is a novelty, for sure, but not a very rich one; the attention wanders.

"I wonder what things were like in the old days," says Merle. "Aunt Pearl talks about the place in disgust."

"Well," say I, "at one time, there was a brine shrimp fishery on the lake. Quite buoyant too, until the competition put them under."

Back on shore, a shower operates from a tank of cold, fresh water. We shoo away the children who are trying to drain it dry for the sheer joy of seeing the water flow. I flush out the salty water Merle has splashed in my eyes. Rinsed clean of mineral deposits, we return to our campsite.

August 29 - Monday
Odometer: 136823
depart: 8:40
arrive : 16:10 at Lynch's Point, Manitoba Lost an hour. Time zone.

Before dawn, the cooing of doves. Then the sun streams into our tent. Roosters crow on the neighbouring farms. Breakfast free-association: the water at this campsite is cloudy; the sky too is cloudy, with a high cirrus, but the coffee is not cloudy today. Home, home on the range, where the ...

Lunch at Saltcoats, Sask., in the village park beside a small lake. Sitting at a shady picnic table we watch two young mothers watching a couple of children play on the swings. Will little Darlene and young Robert someday be mommies and daddies who also will sit on a park bench in Saltcoats, Sask. and watch people watching children play on the swings?

Biblical Interlude: The clouds gather, rain falls and the drops thereof agglomerate into streams; the streams make their way down, down from the everlasting hills unto which I lift mine everlovin' eyes; the rivers run into the sea and the sea doth not runneth over; and from thence the waters return by sweaty evaporation to the heavens from whence they came. Amen.

The park at Lynch's Point is at the end of 15 kilometers of gravel road and nearly deserted. Only 13 campsites are occuppied out of 100. But it has beautiful lawns and a narrow sandy shore, shelving gradually out beyond the reeds. Foam edges the beach (the natural kind) and we lie in the shallows revelling in the warm water.

Then a walk out into the marsh where a canal for launching pleasure boats had been cut through the jungle of reeds. Extensive hay fields on the landward side, a few mosquitoes, and a distant gunshot-like report every few minutes from some bird-scaring device. Out on the lake: no land is visible, no sign of the opposite side, not a sail to be seen, low, receding shores, green on either hand. This is the wet prairie, far from the gullies and sagebrush of the Missouri.

Sitting round the campfire that evening (still burning Parks Canada firewood from Glacier Camp, Alberta), a seranade by the most incredible whine of insects in the bushes. At first we try putting fingers in our ears and swallowing hard in case the sensation is purely internal, a kind of camping tinnitus. But the sound of the humming occasionally rises and falls in pitch like a sort of hiccup. Somethimes I can actually trigger this effect by clapping hands. It challenges the imagination to speculate how these insects can all hiccup simultaneously. As it gets dark, we prepare for sleep and the noise outside the tent seems to grow even louder; difficult to believe the sound isn't coming from traffic on some busy highway, but we're miles from the nearest major road. In spite of the din, we get to sleep and receive only a few bites.

August 30 - Tuesday
Odometer: 137208
Depart: 8:13
Arrive : 17:58 at Inwood P.P., Ontario

We awake to the cooing of doves - a vapid, pallid sort of music. Why the dove should have been chosen to represent Peace is beyond me; the sound is soothing but characterless and verges on the idiotic. How about the tweeting of the Dickey Bird instead? Now that is sweet. It reminds you of apple-cheeked girls with pig-tails, gathering flowers and spreading gingham table cloths for a picnic in the meadow.

The sun rises above the trees and strikes the dewy grass. A yellow flower we picked last night on the marsh is still fresh. We're the first campsite up and about.

The water is so hard at Lynch's Point that a maelstrom of chemical reactions erupts in my coffee cup. The creamer precipitates out in a vortex, swirling downward to lie at the bottom of the cup in a disgusting residue.

The humming of the insect choirs that lulled us to sleep is gone. Merle dreamed last night that she begot a tiny, wee baby girl and couldn't remember how to nurse it. And remembering last night, she couldn't recall when she'd ever heard insects ROAR.

We load up with supplies in west-suburban Winnipeg, and after failing to make contact with friends and relatives, skirt the city via ring roads and head east. I'm consistently driving too fast for road conditions and the local speed limits, e.g. 110 when the limit is 90. But when you have these enormous milages to cover, the temptation is there; the roads are good and the traffic is light.

Inwood is an older park and, like many others, not too heavily used this year. Some of the campsites are very generous in size, laid out in a helter-skelter arrangement around a lake. The setting is attractive. Good swimming from a pier and a sandy beach. During the evening a loon seranades us from out on the lake.

August 31 - Wednesday
Odometer: 137654
Depart: 8:54
Arrive : 19:00 at Agawa Bay Campground, Ontario

Back in Thunder Bay again, a brief stop to look for the original site of Fort William. We locate a plaque about 1.2 Km up the river from its mouth. The approach of canoes coming from the east across the lake would not have been visible to someone standing on the boat landing. We drive out to a point at the mouth of the Kaministiquia River, but Thunder Cape is not quite visible. From the tip of the breakwater on the left bank, the belly of the "Sleeping Giant" bears east. From the harbourfront park in the northern part of the city, Thunder Cape bears almost due south.

The Lakehead, old Fort William.

83-08-17 - Sleeping Giant across Lakehead Hbr

Camping, Pancake Bay?

83-08-17 - The wine-dark sea. (Lake Superior).
Derek self-baptises for the good of his creative soul.

83-08-17 - Beach walk, going.

83-08-17 - Beach walk, Coming back.
We camp that night at Agawa Bay. The campground is on a long, curving shingle beach.

You have to arrive early in the day to get the best campsites which are just back of the beach. In fact, it might be worthwhile to come for several days and then move to a better campsite on the morning of the second day, after the exodus has begun and before the afternoon arrivals. After supper, we go swimming in Lake Superior; the water is quite comfortable, compared to our Pukasaw trip when it was freezing.

The evening's interpretive program, consists of a slide show and the film: "Song of the Paddle" (NFB). This is about a family canoe trip down river to Lake Superior and along the shore. The film is roughly done, but amusing; almost a home movie. A middle-aged, grey-bearded dad likes rough water and going out on the lake in storms. Luckily, his kids are highly skilled at navigating rapids and the waves of Lake Superior. They lash together two canoes to make a catamaran and hoist a big spinnaker sail out front. On shore again, they make camp and prepare their food amid drenching downpours and buffeting wind.

Editor's note: Little did Derek know that he was to enjoy a similar experience, years later, on this same coastline. See next link.
2007 Lake Superior kayaking

September 1 - Thursday
Odometer: 138104 final: 138406
Depart: 8:20
Arrive : 16:08 at South Baymouth
Depart: 19:40 from Tobermory
Arrive : 24:06 at St. Catharines

A drive along the lower Mississagi River in the morning: a dark, smooth-flowing body of water; a Canadian Moldau, or so I imagine. Misty, then sunny, with a high, thin sheet of cirrus.

We stop for lunch and a swim at Chutes P.P., by this time, an old familiar stopping place on most trips to the North Shore.

The Manitoulin Island ferry trip is uneventful. After the remoteness of the west, Tobermory seems like a suburb of Toronto. It's dark by the time we get to Wiarton. My behind is achey-breaky. Merle wants to get home and drives relentlessly while I doze. We unload all our gear that night.

The North Channel, Ont.

83-08-17 - Cove Island Lighthouse, nr Tobermory.

Recap of the Trip


Used my 28 mm Vivitar wide-angle lens almost exclusively, with a few telephoto shots of special landscape features. It's really inconvenient having to change lenses on the run; you need a slave to hand you things. I seem to think most often in terms of relating elements of the scene together, rather than in isolating particular features. Perhaps a 35mm wide-angle would be better than a 28mm if it is to be the mainstay. On looking at the returned pictures, I'm not as impressed with the lens as I was when using it. The sharpness leaves something to be desired (I think) and I have too many shots with boring foregrounds.

The rigid camera bag is too clumsy, maybe something smaller, with slots for the lenses so things don't get tangled up. Used the blue Air Force bag, but it's still too clumsy. Used the tripod ONCE for setting up a time-delay shot so as to get into a picture with Merle.

Getting in and out of the car gracefully with a camera round the neck is a challenge. There's the problem of disentangling the seat belt and the camera straps.

Made a disastrous error mixing up Kodachrome 64 and Kodachrome II, forgetting to change the film speed setting. The cassettes don't look different enough when you're changing film in a hurry. The problem is partly one of using an unfamiliar camera, Nathan's Canon AT-1, and one I'm not really happy with. Some of my best pictures in past years were taken with my old Practica which had no internal metering.

Kodachrome II film is too slow for all-round use. On cloudy days or in shadowed locations, you're too often up against shutter speed limitations. I used the polarizing screen only once -- too much of a penalty in film speed for Kodachrome II. The pre-labelled and pre-numbered mailers are a good idea; they keep the films in order and mailing gets them out of the way. The first film was already back from processing by the time we arrived home in St. Catharines. Remember, if you mail films home over a very long trip, somebody has to pick up the mail, otherwise you'll have a pile of film out on the front porch when you return.

Dust is a problem on back roads. It infiltrates absolutely everthing. All sensitive equipment and materials must be stored in sealed plastic bags.

Need to develop a better way to coordinate notes and pictures. It proved really difficult to keep even a simple log going, let alone a description of every frame in 11 rolls of 36 exposure film. I found myself speculating about the possiblitiy of tape recording. This might be a real advantage in a moving car where writing is difficult at best for a passenger and impossible for the driver.

In retrospect, I'm most conscious of the pictures I failed to take. For instance, a series of banal shots of each campsite would have been useful, if only as a sort of framework to help identify and fix each day in the mind. But of course, only the spectacular campsites get photographed. Photographic opportunism becomes the order of the day and continuity suffers. This points up the need for a script, or, at least, some sort of organized plan. It could be a complete list of the pictures required to tell a story, or it might simply be a rough outline that could be augmented along the way with notes and references to the pictures already taken. It would then be clearer, while still in transit, what was missing from the skeleton narrative. Any glaring omissions could be remedied on the spot, instead of agonized over when it's too late to go back and do it over again.

All this points up the need for a production facility en route, or some firm committment to keeping a more elaborate note book, or, possibly, a portable typewriter to compose each day's rough draft. And, of course, to use a typewriter, even just to rewrite the day's experiences, would require the time and conditions to make a job of it: for instance, lighting, and a less cramped workplace than a backpacker's tent.


I wore about 3 or 4 shirts on the whole trip and one pair each of trousers and shorts. Sandals are airy and comfortable in a hot car, but far from sure-footed when you're dashing in and out and up and down roadside banks or glacier moraines to get pictures. Running shoes are the safest and most comfortable alternative but they stink.

We used our hiking boots, kangaroos and rain jackets for hiking and climbing, even brought along mitts. What you really need for climbing are close-fitting, leather-like gloves, buttoned at the wrist, tough but comfortable. After hours of clambering over rock, the hands get sore and lacerated, particularly in the nippy air above the tree line.

Packs, tents, equipment:

We often used the axe for splitting wood; the saw only once. The main source of firewood is park woodyards. The unsplit cordwood or sawmill scraps -- often all that is available -- are almost always too thick or too wet to burn, but they're usually cut into convenient lengths. So what you need is some way to split the stuff up thin enough to burn.

The tent was adequate for sleeping but we really lived out of the car. The foam mats are soft under the back but could be less bulky for easier stowage in transit. A plastic sheet inside the tent seems to keep the floor reasonably dry in case of rain or wet ground. However, there was condensation nearly every night in the sleeping bags and mats. This dried out in the car with a day's driving. Of course, if you use inflatable matresses or other impermeable mats, all the night's condensation will go into your sleeping bag. One way or another, every bit of moisture you exude from sweat or perspiration must either go outside, through the tent's ventilation (if any), or condense on the cooler surfaces inside.

The small rucksack was useful for hiking but still a bit too small. I must get a pair of light, internal-frame rucksacks for the more extended climbs and for those hikes which fall short of all-in, catch-as-catch-can backpacking.

We slathered ourselves with plenty of mosquito lotion in Manitoba and it was effective. Didn't use the first aid kit or the toolkit more than once or twice: popped a few aspirins and used the pliers to bend a wire in Merle's bra. My calculator/calendar/stopwatch was useful for milage calculations and keeping track of the date, but it is more vulnerable to dampness and physical damage than a mechanical watch.


Great! Ate out of brown bags and boxes; had sandwiches every day. It might be convenient to have a picnic hamper or plywood field kitchen which could be lifted out of the car and immediately placed on the picnic table. This would also help in keeping the rear of the car neater.

Planning, general conception:

The trip turned out fairly well for such an impromtu effort (read: no planning, we just got up and left). The station wagon is not the most comfortable vehicle for keeping papers and gear organized while motoring. Found myself hankering after a van with bucket seats. It did prove possible to see most of the locations we wanted and get most of the pictures needed, but it was very difficult to make notes or keep information organized.

Too much driving, not enough time to observe, make notes and consider. It should be possible to write up something like a finished draft en route while the facts are still fresh in the memory. This points up the need for a portable writing desk, a super briefcase, or a portable computer to help develop a narrative on the spot. (Thought I'd never get around to computers, eh?)


The station wagon has sufficient carrying capacity for two people, but there's a problem with not being able to stow things in the car for the duration of the trip and still get at them easily. Every day you have to do a fair bit of unpacking and repacking. The bucket seats of a van would make it easier to get at the things in back. It would also be nice if the vehicle contained a place to sit at a level surface to read, write or prepare food, especially when it was necessary to work inside in case of bad weather or other reason. A crie-de-coeur: the slick plastic seats of our station wagon are particularly ghastly in sweaty weather; we must cover them with something absorbent.

Plaudits, Accolades:

"Beauty Award" prize winner: Neepawa, Man. - tall, arched elms forming a stately avenue as you enter town.

"Cute Slogan" award: "Put Your Trash Into Orbit" - Manitoba roadside trash containers are spherical and look like space vehicles; they're announced by a countdown of signs along the roadside, proclaiming messages from mission control such as: "10 Seconds To Orbit ... 9 ... 8 ...."

Most odour-free privies: At Lynch's Point and Pembina they're made up to look like the "ordinary" washrooms of some urban park. This protects the camper from culture shock when faced with that old-fashioned, gaping hole-in-the-boards.

Cottage industry grant: Fireplaces vary greatly depending on the ingenuity of the staff at the local Department of Public Works. They're often quite original. Lewis and Clark State Park, N.D. had a section of metal pipe sunk in the ground to simulate a campfire on the priarie. In Manitoba we had square cookers with hinged grills. In Saskatchewan (or was it Alberta -- the provinces blur together) we excercised our wits by learning to use a model with fancy pivoted grid and a separate cooking surface, all mounted on a slice of metal culvert.

Complaint department: Remember to chide Aunty Pearl about how humid it is in the west, and inform her that the only deer we saw had no one to play with and looked at us with an air of puzzled abstaction.

Home, home on the range,/
Where the deer and the antelope play,/
Where never is heard a discouraging word,/
And the skies are not cloudy all day./

End of the search for JF.

Visit to MandA in Kingston, Oct. 1983

RMC, Kingston, Oct. 1983.{*}

83-10-10 -

83-10-10 -

83-10-10 -

Fort Henry.

83-10-10 -

83-10-10 -


83-10-10 - Our old residence, 2 Colborne St.

Our digs on the 2nd floor, back. The left window on the fire-escape balcony was our bedroom.

83-10-10 - City Hall, Kingston.

83-10-10 - The Prince George Hotel.

83-10-10 - Frontenac Cty. court house.

83-10-10 - Home again. Woodside.

83-10-10 - Let that be an end to it!


1983 individual camera card portfolios follow, but at present (15-10-26), these have no pictures selected in the HTML versions. Only the WWWB PTF browser has complete access to both selected and unselected pictures. Usually the individual camera card portfolios will have less up-to-date captioning than the collected year file. The advantage of the collected file is that the picture tags are easier to edit into a coherent account if they are copied to a single location, with no need to string together a series of confusing links to different camera card folders. The disadvantage is that two or more separate slide show scripts can exist containing the same pictures. This creates a situation where picture descriptions and textual commentary of the same subject can get out of coordination. Updating the one doesn't update the other.
0211 83-06-04a Vancouver
0212 83-06-04b Vancouver
0213 83-06-04c Merle and Derek Vancouver trip
0214 83-06-04d Merle and Derek Vancouver trip
0215 83-06-04e Merle and Derek Vancouver trip
0216 83-06-04f Merle and Derek Vancouver trip
0217 83-06-04g Merle and Derek Vancouver trip
0218 83-08 218 M+D,In search of JF, BC trip
0219 83-08 219 M+D,In search of JF, BC trip
0220 83-08 220 M+D,In search of JF, BC trip
0221 83-08 221 M+D,In search of JF, BC trip
0222 83-08 222 M+D,In search of JF, BC trip
0223 83-08 223 M+D,In search of JF, BC trip
0224 83-08 224 M+D,In search of JF, BC trip
0225 83-08 225 M+D,In search of JF, BC trip
0226 83-08 226 M+D,In search of JF, BC trip
0227 83-08 227 M+D,In search of JF, BC trip
0228 83-08 228 M+D,In search of JF, BC trip
0231 83-10-10 M+A, Kingston

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