Traveling Through Canada

After spending a brief evening in Seattle where we ate at a good Thai restaurant we crossed the border into Canada through Sumas, Washington. The customs officials were polite and professional but convinced that I was carrying a weapon because I had Texas plates. This was the first time that I was ever called a “Texan” and growing up a New York “Yankee” I found this a little insulting. Once our car was searched, and it was confirmed that not all people coming from Texas carry a gun, we were permitted to cross the border.

The drizzle and cloud cover continued on for the third day in a row, what was charming in Oregon and Seattle was irritating in South Western Canada. The low clouds restricted most of the view as we drove through a valley and looked upon the grey roots of what must have been spectacular mountains. Farther north the drizzle turned into a steady snow, which restricted travel speed but never grew threatening. The snow from the winter had now melted away and the fresh April snow began a new cover. This we drove out of to our relief. Despite traveling farther north, we left the bad weather behind us for the rest of the journey. We stopped at Burns Lake, British Colombia the first night and Dease Lake, British Colombia the second. There were plenty of small towns along the road, perhaps every half an hour, and the gas tank rarely fell below three quarters of a tank. The mountains largely disappeared and where replaced by rolling hills, pine forests, and some farmland.

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After our first night in Canada we woke up to a fresh coat of snow on the ground outside our motel. 

On the second morning in Canada we crossed the border into Yukon, this was an exciting moment for us because it acted as a benchmark for how far north we had driven. The day was clear and sunny and after a time we began to near some significant mountain ranges to our left which acted as a barrier to the Canadian Pacific coastline.

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Some of Canada’s spectacular mountains.

I noted that there were very few if any roads through those mountains capable of reaching the coast on the map. In general we left civilization behind but there was still the small town here and there. We also drove through Whitehorse which is the capitol of the Yukon and is essentially a town that has some facilities normally attributed to a city, such as an airport. Originally we planned to stop in Whitehorse but the journey had been easy and we also observed a remarkable difference in daylight hours this far north. The sun did not set until well after 8 o’clock so we could extend the miles we covered easily. We pushed onward to a lodge just north of Haines Junction.

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The lakes were still frozen when we traveled through the Yukon in April. 

The lodge was a neat little place with a great view of the mountains. The owner informed us that a crew from BBC had just finished staying in the lodge which they used as a starting point to go out and film for a new Planet Earth series. The lodge was very pleasant and definitely built for the more socially minded, the owner informed us that usually his American customers did not understand the perks of his lodge and were generally rude. We enjoyed our stay there and would return again if we pass through Haines Junction again.

On the third morning in Canada we drove a few more hours through the Yukon looking upon snow-capped mountain after snow-capped mountain. After several hours we crossed the border into Alaska, finally nearing the end of our journey.

The Redwoods and the Emerald Coast

The primary reason for visiting the California coast before trekking north was to see the Giant Sequoias in the Jedidiah Smith Redwood State Park. Only about 15 minutes from Crescent City, California it was a short drive in the morning to the state park. There was a steady light rain and complete cloud cover for the duration of the day. We ran into initial trouble finding trails to walk through the forest but after consulting one of the employees at the information center we set out in the right direction. We drove along a dirt road full of puddles and pot holes for about 15 minutes and then hiked along Boy Scout Trail which promised many of the giant trees. Part of the trail was closed due to a downed tree but the first mile and a half was open. Along the trail on either side the massive trees could be seen, touched, and admired.

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One of the Giant Sequoias

We walked for about an hour through the forest, silent and dripping from the rain. A mist settled in the higher canopy of the evergreens and moss clung to the bark and branches of the smaller trees.

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Walking along Boy Scout Trail

It was worth visiting this forest out of season because it seemed that we had the entire forest to ourselves. We took our time along the trail and only covered about three miles but we soon had to hit the road because we had another part of our journey to look forward to that afternoon.

When we discussed some of our travel plans with a relative they highly recommended taking route 101 along the Oregon Coast as we traveled north. The scenic view followed the Pacific shore offering views of the cliffs, rocks, dunes, and beaches found along the way.

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The sand dunes along the Oregon Coast

The route also went through a handful of coastal towns with quaint restaurants and many cottages. The cool rain we experienced in the redwoods continued in the afternoon was cool but this did not detract from the view, in fact, the rain and mist seemed fitting for the Oregon Coast. There were plenty of places to pull off and take pictures along the route. We stopped to climb on massive sand dunes that could be found for a good stretch along the shore. We also stopped at Cannon Beach, famous for its use in the classic movie The Goonies.

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Canon Beach

Every turn in the road seemed to offer a new scene of evergreens, cliffs, and ocean. We drove for about 350 miles up the coast, we could have spent two or three more weeks along this part of the drive just to take in everything that the Emerald Coast has to offer.

Farther West

The second part of our journey took us through Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, and finally California. This part of the passage took two days, one of which my wife and I drove for 900 miles on route 80. The views were spectacular and worth the agonizing hours stuck in the car. Traveling through these states mid-April offers a unique change in temperature, habitat, and scenery in just a short period of time. In Nebraska we experienced a sunny mild day, in Wyoming we ran into wind gust over 50 mph and light snow only to have it clear up to a sunny day again. The terrain changed from vast flat lands to dominant snow covered mountains. These changes became fun to observe throughout the journey.

Utah is one of the prettiest and varied states in the U.S. The northern part of the state offers extensive mountains and salt flats. We also witnessed the reemergence of trees which had disappeared at some point in Wyoming. From Coalvile to Salt Lake City the views are fantastic.

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Driving through a rural town in Utah

The mountains still had snow on them but the grass in the valleys was green and some of the deciduous trees just beginning to bud. The evergreens where far greater in number and covered many of the slopes that were very obviously used for skiing and snowboarding. After Salt Lake City we passed The Great Salt Lake and then the salt flats that stretch for more than a hundred miles.

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Another part of Utah

The mountains on almost all sides were ever looming in the far distance. Knowing that Utah shares a border with Arizona in the south including part of The Grand Canyon, I know that Utah has much more to offer and I would love to return and explore a little more.

The other notable region of our trip was California and Oregon. Our route took us from California, north into part of Oregon, and then back south into California once more on route 199. In California we watched as the barren mountains of the Sierra Nevada turned from brown to green. Our road brought us up amidst snowy peaks and we were soon surrounded by pines with snow still heavy on the ground. Reservoirs passed occasionally by, one of which was still partially covered in ice.

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Mount Shasta

In other parts of the mountains the snow had melted leaving fields of scattered pines and marshland. When we passed into Oregon we stayed in the mountains but the vegetation changed significantly and became more broad-leafed. The snow was completely left behind and spring dominated southern Oregon. Daffodils could be viewed along with budding and leaves on the trees. Turning southward for California again we began a rather precipitous decent. Eventually we found ourselves winding slowly through a mossy pine forest with a blue-green river to the side of the route. The trees grew taller and wider until we saw some of the redwoods so famous for their enormous height and girth. The forest had a mysterious appeal to it, being dark green and mossy as if its sylvan depths hid some enchantment within. We hope to explore the redwoods in greater detail in the near future.

The final chapter to this part of our journey came with our arrival in Crescent City, California a coastal town where we hoped to find a good view of the Pacific Ocean. We were not disappointed and explored the rocky beach in the town, climbing on the black rocks, watching the waves crash upon them, and investigating the various shore plants scattered about at low tide.

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The Pacific shore in Crescent City, California

I felt a sense of accomplishment and completion looking out on the Pacific Ocean after driving so many miles from Bennington, Vermont to Crescent City, California and for the first time saw the sun set on an ocean.

The Midwest

This article covers two days of travelling between central upstate New York and Ogallala, Nebraska. My thoughts are brief because they summarize roughly 22 hours of insignificant highway travel. Between New York and Nebraska my wife and I passed through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa from east to west. The first four of states the kept continual toll fees that totaled roughly $25 along the way.

On the first day of travel a light rain turned into sleet and snow as we moved west across New York. Between Rochester and Buffalo enough snow had fallen in the night and morning to accumulate to about 4 inches and covered the ground and trees. The snow didn’t pose a threat to our travels, seeming to melt as quickly as it fell, so we pushed westward.

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Snow in western New York (April 2017)

In Pennsylvania the rain and snow cleared up and we had sun for the rest of the day.

As we traveled along route 90, we had a steady dose of rolling hills and farmland. Just before driving into Cleveland we got a look at Lake Erie’s rocky shore with the interspersion of industrial docks. In western Ohio we began to witness flat terrain and large farms. From my observation western Ohio was more flat than most of Indiana which had more rolling hills. Little changed through Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska.

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Somewhere in Iowa

We passed through Omaha, Nebraska a dirty city that seemed to be undergoing significant construction on both the roads and the facilities.

Driving west along route 80, the terrain became once more significantly flat and the trees more sparse, though far from absent from the landscape. Paralleling the highway, perhaps a half-mile distance, curious small hills dominated the horizon. The hills had no vegetation aside from a low brown-green grass. In many ways the scenery in western Nebraska reminded me of west Texas before entering the Chihuahua Desert.
Although clearly a productive and important piece of the United States, the Heartland has little to offer the traveler aside from a place to sleep and eat while passing through.

From South to North

At the end of March 2017, my wife and I began our journey from Augusta, Georgia to Anchorage, Alaska. We decided to use the opportunity to both visit family and tour the countryside. Having finished the initial leg of the journey I have paused to record some of my observations.

The first stop of our trip was in Lynchburg, Virginia so that we might visit with old friends and see the campus of our Alma Mater Liberty University. It had been five years since visiting Lynchburg and three years since I had seen some of my friends that I had grown up and attended college with. I was delighted to see the significant alteration of the campus which had rapidly grown since I left. A new library, science hall, music hall, student center, and dorms were just some of the modern facilities that have been constructed since my graduation. The buildings were beautiful and buzzed with the academic and social activity of youth and inquiry.

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Liberty University Campus

With old friends, my wife and I, shared old memories, new experiences, and dreams over warm meals and cool drinks. Before setting off on the road once more, my wife and I had breakfast with my sister and then parted ways.

Next we spent several days in Rising Sun, Maryland a rural town in the northern corner of the state close to the Pennsylvania border. We spent several days with family and perused bookstores. Whereas the temperature in Georgia had been comfortable in the mid-70s, there was faint hints of snow left from a storm the previous week in Maryland. The snow was only in small patches left over in the shelter of trees and ditches hidden from warmth of the midday sun. While in Rising Sun, we made a morning trip into Lancaster, Pennsylvania the countryside famous for its pastoral landscape and Amish culture. Sadly residential communities had infiltrated the simple land and a good portion of the town clearly thrived on tourism. However, much of the countryside still possessed the charm of rolling hills, with fields and fences containing crops and livestock. I have heard that many of the Amish have moved from Lancaster to up to central New York to escape the encroachment of modern life. Driving through this land one must be patient with the horse drawn buggies that clop slowly down the road. These visits are enjoyable and educational but give one the sense of an invading alien polluting a pristine culture.

Then next part of our journey took us to Bennington, Vermont were we drove on the backroads of Pennsylvania and New York to avoid the exorbitant tolls and ferocious traffic of the areas surrounding New York City. To the right and left of the road, for most of the journey there were numerous small farms and woodlands in Pennsylvania, New York, and Vermont. Bennington is a pleasant but dying town, rich in history that threatens to be forgotten. There was one peculiar building positioned on one of the winding roads leading into the town where a dilapidated building stood. It was several stories high and large in proportion. On inquiry we were informed that the building hailed from the colonial era that through time served as a stage coach stop, an inn, and a brothel. Evidently a descendant of the historic owner still lives in a part of the building and the truth of this we saw each night as we drove by and saw one light of the immense building lit. One of the days in Bennington we drove up Hogback Mountain which offered a spectacular view of the woods, snow, valleys, and mountains.

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The view from Hogback Mountain, Vermont

Later that day we visited the Hildene home, a mansion tucked away in the mountains of Vermont. This estate was owned for many years by one of the decedents of Abraham Lincoln. The house was well preserved and several informed staff were present to answer questions.

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The Hildene Home or the Lincoln Family Home.

Having completed the eastern-most portion of our journey in Bennington we began our journey west to the rural area of central New York.

Once again we made use of the settings in Google Maps to avoid toll roads which resulted in a slower but more scenic route through eastern New York. The largest community that we drove through was Utica which was more of a town than a city. In driving these roads one becomes aware of how large and rural most of New York really is. We arrived in the afternoon to the last homely house in our journey to visit family and rest before heading westward and farther north.

Morris Museum of Art

I have lived now over a year in Augusta, Georgia and it wasn’t until my sister visited that I learned of  a worthy art museum in town. Within a few days of discovery, my wife and I made time to visit on a Saturday. It wasn’t until we were already at the front desk that we were informed that Sundays are free, however, the entrance fee was well worth the money.

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The Price of Blood (1868) by T.S. Noble. The artist was an abolitionist who fought for the south during the Civil War. After the war, he painted depictions of the maltreatment of African Americans. This painting shows a gentleman farmer selling his bi-racial son.

Most of the artwork in the museum is traditional, dating from the 19th and early 20th century. The subject of the majority of the works are naturally focused on the deep south. There are exhibitions dedicated to Nineteenth-Century Portraits, The Civil War, Southern Stories, and Southerners at Play. I was most impressed with The Southern Landscape exhibition which contained works representing bayous, moss draped trees, waterfalls, and exotic palms. I have visited New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah and I could see the character of each of those places represented in the paintings. Looking on the antiquated paintings I had a sense that our modern world is now missing a silence and freedom that once existed. It made me long for languid summer days rid of the incessant whir of traffic. Many of the works also seemed to capture a haunting mystery, reminding me that in those days there was still uncharted land and mystery.IMG_87oqq8 I enjoyed The Southern Landscape hall more than most displays I have seen in the various art exhibitions I have visited.

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Two of the rooms in the Morris Museum of Art were dedicated to a temporary exhibition of a modern artist, James Michalopoulos. Michalopoulos’ paintings were vibrant, moderately distorted, and intelligent. The style is not one that I normally appreciate but I enjoyed this artists work and appreciated what he had captured in them. Many of the titles the artist chose for his works revealed a little more of the painting but not enough to ruin the interpretive mystery. The subjects of his paintings on display were often town houses and vehicles parked in the street. The few paintings that did portray people were very close and you could see the personality of the individual depicted. Michalopoulos’ works are on display at the Morris Museum of Art from February 18th to May 14th, 2017.

The Morris Museum of Art is not extensive but will take an interested viewer perhaps 40 minutes to walk through. With some time left to spare, my wife and I walked along Augusta’s river walk just outside the museum. Large beautiful homes line the opposite side of the canal and the river walk is well kept. IMG_20170318_142952A number of picnic tables where placed along the way, which seemed like a perfect place for an afternoon picnic. Despite it being a Saturday afternoon the walkway was relatively empty. For those passing through Augusta, Georgia I recommend visiting the Morris Museum of Art and leaving some extra time afterward to walk along the river.