Day 114 of our Journey

The further north we traveled on the MacKenzie Highway in Canada, the lone road that cuts up through northern Alberta and into the Northwest Territories, the more alone we felt. In a good way.

Deer check us out from deep inside a grain field in northern Alberta.

The way ahead is long and straight and, honestly, a bit monotonous. But there was something exciting about not seeing a town or a human (or any evidence of either) for hundreds of miles. No power lines. No signs. Not even a turnout. The only reminder of civilization was the road we were on.

We’re pretty sure this feeling could go from “alone” to “lonely” pretty quickly. But we were just passing through and the aloneness made us feel liberated like we could do anything we wanted to out here—drive 100 mph, camp wherever we felt like it, whatever—with no one to tell us otherwise. It was like being one of the pioneers, only our covered wagon had been upgraded to Chevy Silverado.

All the nothingness brought on an urge to hoard things as if we were never going to see water or chocolate chip cookies or toilet paper again. What we were seeing plenty of were birds—and not just the disturbingly oversized ravens that seem to be everywhere around here. We saw exciting birds like bald eagles, osprey, goshawks, and something fast and darty like a peregrine falcon crossed with a pheasant.

It must be said that the boreal forest here was not particularly beautiful, made up, as it was, of Aspens and some stick straight pines with a lot of standing water punctuated by stunted, bent, sad-looking spruce trees. The effect (picture a Tim Burton set) was not helped by the fact that the sun never rose in the sky any higher than shoulder level when we were there, casting a gloomy kind of tepidness on everything in its languid path.

Crossing the 60th parallel (60 degrees north latitude) and entering the Northwest Territories.

Suddenly, we crossed the 60th parallel and entered Canada’s Northwest Territories where we were immediately greeted by an adorable visitor center (all blue and white and dotted with flower-filled planters). Unfortunately, the best information they had was a map of Wood Buffalo National Park in French and a brochure for a lodge we’re interested in which contains rates from 1997.

One other Northwest Territories road trip tip: It’s not only illegal to use a radar detector in the province, it’s illegal to even possess one. In the parking lot of the visitor center we buried ours in the back of the Silverado, then headed back out on the road where a wolf promptly stepped onto the pavement a few hundred yards in front of us. The startlingly tall, lanky thing slowly sauntered across the road, shooting us a disdainful sidelong glance as if to say “you will be hitting those brakes.” We did.

Alexandra Falls at Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park.

We made it all the way to Enterprise before their tourist information center closed for the day and there we took advantage of their abundant information and free internet access.

Here’s more about travel in Canada


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