Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
CANADA OR BUST, CHAPTER 15: IN WHICH *COUGH*COUGH*COUGH*
Day 18: Canmore, AB to Kalispell, MT. A little cranky about casting off from our cozy, comfy Canadian condo, we cached our cargo in the car and prepared to bid bye-bye to our northerly neighbor. Google Maps advocated a route on BC-93 through British Columbia to reach Kalispell—just west of Montana's Glacier National Park—but our car GPS routed us southeast through Calgary. Even though we've been hearing reports of Calgary's struggle with smoke from the Washington state forest fires, we decided to go that way to allow us to drive through Glacier on the way to our hotel in Kalispell.
|Beautiful mountains near Canmore...if only we could see them|
Within an hour, though we were only 40 miles from Canmore, we were out of the Rockies—as near as we could tell, for the smoke was ever present. Land adjacent to the highway was more agricultural with herds of cattle grazing and fields dotted with round bales of hay.
|The letterbox stamp was an image of the Avro Lancaster.|
Half an hour south of Nanton, a noxious stench began to invade our car, even though our AC was set to recirculate air already in the passenger compartment. We were driving through southern Alberta's notorious "feedlot alley" with the highest concentration of intensive livestock operations in all of Canada. In the past, the area has been the target of national attention due to its toxic water quality blamed on the huge amounts of manure produced each year by the millions of cattle, hogs, and chickens raised there. Even horses are not immune to slaughter in feedlot alley, where they are fattened and slaughtered in immense facilities that export million of pounds of horse meat to the European Union annually.
|Head Smashed In museum built into the cliff|
Hunters chased bison from their prairie grazing ground, funneling them into the drive lane. As the herd unknowingly neared the precipice at the end of the lane, young men, known as "buffalo runners" and dressed as wolves and coyotes, triggered a stampede, sending the bison into a 60-ft freefall over the edge at full gallop.
|The cliff is currently only 30 feet tall, but has been estimated to be 60 ft at the time of buffalo jumps here.|
The location was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 due to the archaeological evidence of human activity in the area for at least 11,000 years. A 39-ft deep deposit of bison bones found at the site indicated that this buffalo jump was in use for nearly 6,000 years.
|The cliff was once sheer like this model in the museum.|
|Winter count robe|
|The combine waltz, orchestrated by GPS programmed in each machine.|
After we moved to permit the truck's entry, we enjoyed a conversation with truck driver Jakob. He was waiting for the previous truck to fill and take off for the grain elevator before he needed to pull into place.
Jakob and others working the field are members of the East Cardston Colony of Hutterites, a communal religious group that migrated to the U.S. and Canadian prairies from Ukraine in the late 1800s. The group shares some common ancestry—and common beliefs—with Mennonites and Amish, including modesty in appearance and an agrarian lifestyle. Hutterites believe in a community of goods, in which all material goods are held in common by all members of the colony. Several colonies reside in Cardston County and, in common, hold substantial stretches of farm land.
Continuing south, we shortly crossed into the U.S. with a minimum of fuss at border control and drove on toward Glacier National Park. About 4:30, we entered the park at St. Mary on the Going to the Sun Road. Often hailed as an engineering marvel, the 53-mile road was completed in 1932 and traverses the entire park from east to west, crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass (6,646 ft). Like the entire northwest area along the U.S.-Canada border, the air in the park was thick with a smoky haze. We were able to see only vague outlines of what are no doubt spectacular mountains.
|Going to the Sun Road (mountains missing)|
|Fire has been at work in Glacier National Park.|
|Guardrails along the Going to the Sun Road cannot be sustained due to frequent avalanches and rock slides.|
TUESDAY, 25 AUGUST 2015
- Miles driven: 368
- Miles walked: 3
- Weather: 41° to 78°, cloudy and hazy
- Gas: $3.85 in Canmore, $3.50 in Calgary
- Swainson's hawks on utility poles: 183
- Burned trees in Glacier National Park: 64,217
- Buffalo bones: 269,420