Day 39: Glacial Milk and Flour

My fascination with glaciers started during my summit of Chimborazo, a 20,000 some foot mountain in Ecuador, in 1991.  I’ll never forget how intrigued I was with the ice formations that stool higher than my head and the wide gaping crevices.

Click here to read more about this mountain

Due to it’s position on the equatorial bulge, Chimborazo is the highest peak if measured from the center of the earth.

After that climb I began reading all that i could about glaciers; their formation, history and personalities.  Yes, Glaciers are fascinating characters.

Here’s a great site to learn a little more about these beasties:

Click here to learn more about Glaciers

Click here to learn more about Glaciers


In the mean time here are a few tidbits:

1.  Largest glacier in the world


Courtesy of Click to read more about this glacier.

The Lambert-Fisher Glacier in Antarctica, is 250 miles long and approximately 60 miles wide (roughly the size of Rhode Island). It’s a whopping 8202 feet deep (roughly the height of Mount Shasta) and drains 8% of the Antarctic ice sheet.

2.  Some glaciers “Gallop.”


Click here to read a famous story about a Galloping Glacier.

A galloping glacier can advance many feet a day.  The Hubbard Glacier (in Alaska) once moved at a rate of 32 feet a day for months.  You can witness movement when a glacier “calves.”

3.  Glaciers are retreating; a worrisome sign for scientists.

Image provided by Jeffrey Kargel, USGS/NASA JPL/AGU, through the NASA Earth Observatory.

Click for a great article on glaciers and global warming. Image provided by Jeffrey Kargel, USGS/NASA JPL/AGU, through the NASA Earth Observatory.

4.  Some glaciers “Calve.”


Click here to see a calving in action

This is how icebergs are born. It’s the process of ice breaking off the terminus of a glacier into a body of water.

5.  Some glaciers “Hang.”

Click to learn more about Hanging Glaciers. Photo by Mierk Schwab

Click to learn more about Hanging Glaciers. Thank you Mierk Schwabe for the use of your photo.

Click here to check out more   Mirk Schwabe  photos. 

These are seen in alpine areas and result due to the angle of the mountainside.  As the glacier moves it cascades down as avalanches and icefalls.

6.  Glaciers have Ice Worms.


Picture courtesy of Seattle Times. Click on image to read story.

  Surprisingly, there are worms that live in the depths and surfaces of glaciers.  You wouldn’t think anything could grow in such a harsh and desolate climate.

7.  Glaciers make MILK and FLOUR.


Glacier flour. Click here to see a quick video.

A very fine sediment created by the grinding of glacial ice against rock flows from the glacier.  It’s a powder as fine as chalk and it stays suspended in the run off water as it travels from the foot of the glacier all the way down rivers and into lakes.  The Milk gives the water a, well, milky appearance and in lakes it can create a soft turquoise color.

The Poodles and I had a great time hiking along a milk and flour filled river.  It was fascinating to see the clear streams entering the main milky river and how the confluences mixed.

river milk


Photo Assignment what is Solitude

I find it interesting that I’ve chosen the tundra to represent Solitude, having just used a similar picture for ‘Bliss.’  You’d think that the two aren’t compatible. Isn’t the first impression of solitude isolation and loneliness?

The tundra is a place so silent your ears ring.  There’s no rustle of leaves on a tree; no trees.  No grinding crush of car tires on gravel; no cars.  No almost audible rumble of a far off plane; no planes. With this silence comes a spiritual peace of mind.

Silence can be an aspect of solitude.

Eureka on Tundra


There’s silent on the tundra because no one’s here.  My dogs and I are 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle and a two-hour hike off a 457 miles long gravel road.

There are few people in this area. Ironically, there are hundreds of bears and moose and caribou, but the animals won’t let themselves be seen.  Here on this chain of mountain tops you can wander for days and see little wildlife.  Don’t kid yourself, though, they are there.

We scan the distance trying to see a glimpse of movement but we see nothing.  The dug up dirt, the fresh scat, and the newly laid foot print tell a different story, but we’ll play along and pretend that we are alone.

You don’t have to be alone to know solitude. 

Two weeks later we’re in the Northwest Territories, 50 miles up another dirt highway.  We set up camp down a winding dirt road knowing that no one will be passing by.  Night is settling in and a light breeze gently rattles the camper’s windows.  We feel safe and serene in our little home.

Being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. 

Oso alone

Solitude can be bliss

Day 35 Dancing in the Moonlight

Our day began by passing through more herds of bison.  Eureka decided this is the favorite part of the entire trip.  She’s even displaced TinTin by riding shotgun and scanning the horizon for beasties.

Leaving the burn area behind us, it was a relief to see the green of the pines again.  The road here follows the Liard River which is a tributary to the Mackenzie River.

We arrived in Port Providence, a quiet Dehcho First Nation village.  There was evidence of buffalo even along the sidewalks running up to the library.  The campground here is fenced by heavy wire and wood construction.


Two things to note about this video.  1.  The Flies, Wow were they bad!  The bison were tormented by them!  and 2.  The barking Poodles,  Wow were they bad!  The bison I was tormented by them!


From the car these bison may look nonthreatening and small,  but check this out!

Do you think this might be hint to their  their size……?


Yeah…. more poo….

I decided not to continue on to Yellowknife.  I started to feel the draw of Central and South America calling.  I decided to continue along the Deh Cho Highway Eastward and then south into Alberta, through Glacier National Park in Montana and back to Seattle.  The thought of more hundreds of acres of burned forest between Fort Providence and Yellowknife and driving through more groups of bison (with the dogs over the top excitement) was enough to convince me to head south.

After a quiet night in Fort Providence’s provincial campground we headed back down the Makenzie Highway and east.  We pulled onto a narrow dirt road for camping.  It ended at a small rocky field where we settled down for the night.

I had been told that The Northern Lights could be seen this time of the year so I’d been getting up around 2 and 3am to look at the sky.  Unfortunately, the nights had been over cast and obliterating any chance of seeing them.  This night was crystal clear and the stars were thick but everything was obscured by the Full Moon.  Walking out onto the slabs of rocks and large patches of gravel I noticed that the Poodles and I cast strong shadow.  What better than to be…..

Dancing in the Moonlight


and making Shadow art

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Of course you’ve already seen the Poodle Petroglyphs, Sand Art and Block Prints.  It was this evening that started the whole show.

Day 36 & 37 Muskrat and Waterfalls

These two days fit perfectly into my blog photo lesson “Water”:

“A source of life. A place of recreation. A calming presence, but also a destructive force…We have different relationships to and stories about water: how it has saved or defeated us. How it reminds us of family vacations, outdoor adventures, or the hot summers of our childhood. How it might also symbolize a place we’ve left behind, or a location we dream to go….How will you interpret this theme? How can you tell a story with water?”

My story today is about the waterfalls of the Deh Cho Route (Dehcho mean’s Waterfall in the  Dene (South Slavey people) and Métis language) .  Along this route here are numerous places to pull of and find these magnificent falls. I never expected to see canyons in this area.

Sambaa Deh Falls


Viewpoint from the Truck


I was taken by the beautiful sights but the dogs kept themselves busy sniffing and exploring.   I should have predicted that Nickel would find dead vermin to entertain herself.  She was determined to tease Eureka and TinTin with it.



 I think it was a muskrat.


This photo was taken from the web

The next day we came across an even larger fall.  It was quite spectacular.  Some of the Poodle Petroglyphs were taken here.


Mossy water along the river’s shore. It reminded me of a reverse moonscape

 Lady Evelyn Falls


Lady Evelyn Falls  Click the Photo to learn more

can you find the Poodles below?


Lady and the Poodles



Evidence of a variety of wildlife living on the river.  I couldn’t believe the teeny mouse tracks… followed by the fox tracks!


fox foot print













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 We found a way down to the river but the poodles decide that it was too steep and scary.  I think they read the signs.


You can see Eureka’s concern by her yawn… a typical sign of stress in a dog.



Steps to the river



IMG_4187 Why does this have to be spelled out to people?


Day 32 Still Traveling North

A rare bridge in these parts


 made almost entirely of wood


We’re now on the East-West Highway (Highway 1) that will bring us to YellowKnife.  This is a part of the loop that joins the Liard and Mackenzie Highways.


Click the map

The red lines above represent the connecting roads that make up some of the Deh Cho Route.  I ended up traveling the entire loop minus the Alaska Highway portion between Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson (which was also the only section of the Alaska Highway that I haven’t traveled).  The upper portion is the last of this loop that isn’t paved.

If you’re interested in traveling this gravel section of the Deh Cho Route you’d better do it soon. As we speak, they are paving the road. I’m sure it’s great for the truckers and locals who come through here, but I find the pavement worse to drive than the gravel and much less interesting.

Road work




IMG_3927 IMG_3926IMG_3927Notice the caked mud on the back of the car in front of me.  The roads are covered with a calcium carbonate mixture to help keep down the dust.  It turns into hard crust on the vehicles.


Due to all the freezing and thawing

the paved roads are a series of bumps, jumps and undulating rolls.


At the northern intersection of highway 1 and the Liard Trail I had the choice of either heading west (60 miles out of my way) toward Fort Simpson or head East toward my objective.  It might seem like a no-brainer, but I KNEW there was gas in Fort Simpson and not sure if the only town en route eastward would.  This has been a concern in other areas of Northern Canada.   I’ve made an effort to fill at every opportunity and I’ve still had a few close calls despite getting about 300 miles to a tank. So here I sat trying to decide what to do.  I’d only travelled about 50 miles since my last fill up, but how far would the next station be?  According to my map, there is a small town another 30 miles east (going in the direction I want to go) and I assume there will be gas there.

I decide to skip Fort Simpston and continue on my way. Little did I know that the ‘Little Town” marked on the map was an ancient and CLOSED gas station.


Last year multiple large fires swept through this area.  One was so fierce it was able to jump the 3 mile wide Mackenzie River.  Here are a few pictures of what this area looked like ablaze.BsrfATrCMAIswY8 jul1_13fir The devastation was obvious as we traveled the road.  There wasn’t a bit of green on the trees and the area was void of wildlife.adventure-journal-nwt-fire-01

The poodles and I decided that 4 hours on the Liard Bump and Grind was plenty so we called it quits for the day.  We stopped for the night in a burned clearing.   Of course we didn’t get to bed without a good hike in the ‘woods.’


To Be Continued…

Day 31 The Liard Highway

The Liard Trail = 237 miles of gravel road

“The Liard Trail is an all-weather gravel road (392km/ 236miles) maintained by the Government of the North West Territories. Services are limited: carry extra fuel and supplies, make sure tires and equipment are in good condition.”


During the last section of the Alaska Highway, before the turn off to the Liard, I finally saw a small herd of caribou.  I don’t know what makes them so special to me except maybe some of the encounters I’ve had with them in Alaska.  On one trip Phil and I took to the Wrangle mountains we were lucky enough to share some time and space with a few small herds.  We were there to attempt a first route on Mount Drum and the trip began with a unique plane drop off.  We had hired a bush plane to bring us to the base of the mountain where we’d begin our multi day hike to the beginning of the climbing route.  The drop off point was about 100 miles in the middle of no where and the pilot wasn’t exactly sure which gravel bar he’d use for landing.   He explained to us further that, between the weight of Phil and me and all of our climbing equipment he’d have to make multiple trips, taking one of us at a time. a  I decided to be the lucky first.  I repacked our camping equipment into my backpack and left the climbing gear with Phil.  This way if the pilot couldn’t make it back that day I’d have everything needed for an overnight stay and since weather was questionable it was a real possibility.  It didn’t seem odd to me as I loaded my pack and myself into the small bush plane nor during the 45 minute flight over vast wilderness toward a destination in remote Alaska.  I did start to question the decision as I stood watching the plane turn into a small toy in the sky, then a tiny dot and finally disappearing with a wink.  Sitting down on my backpack holding a large can of bear spray in one hand and a tiny bear bell in the other I suddenly feeling very alone and very vulnerable.  This was back in the day before cell phones so there was no way to know if Phil would be meeting me there that day until I saw that plane 2 hours later in the distance heading my way.   Needless to say, it all worked out because here I am, 25 years later, writing about it.

What does this have to do with Caribou?   It was during that same trip we had numerous caribou following us along the rivers.  Since we were very in a remote and protected area the caribou had no reason to be weary of people.  As far as these animals were concerned we weren’t a threat and blended into their environment.  One young bull in particular seemed enamored with Phil and without fear followed him for miles.  I think the ski poles sticking out of his backpack looked like a grand set of antlers and the caribou was convinced that Phil was a mating prospect.  Phil was constantly shooing him away.  Others simply migrated around us, clomping along in the goofy cartoonish way Caribou move.  They have a gentle way about them although if push came to shove they could be as dangerous as any cloven ungulate.

Perhaps it’s the early imprinting of Santa’s reindeer that draws me to them as well.

Unlike the caribou around Mount Drum,  the caribou here are extremely timid.  Even in the car it was impossible to get close enough to photograph them.  of course, with Eureka trumpeting her presence there was no sneaking up on them anyway.

They are prehistoric looking creatures, seemingly clumsy in their movement with feet look that look too big for their bodies.

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As far as road travel, caribou are easy.  They quickly leave the road and disappear out of sight, into their background.  Buffalo, however, move onto the road and stand there.  This gave the poodles time to build up into a frenzy of whines and barks.  What you don’t hear are the portions of the video where I’m loosing my mind and yelling at them to shut up.

bison-1 (dragged)

IMG_3915  IMG_3905

I thought Nickel was going to jump out the car window when she saw this small herd.  They were totally unconcerned about the Eureka’s and Nickel’s racket.  Standing  just a few feet away, they simply  glared back at the truck, daring us to pass.  There’s nothing to do but sit and endure the tin tabulations since I couldn’t move forward until the bison got off the road.  You can see that they are powerful animals just by their ease under the circumstance.  I can’t imagine what would happen if the dogs encountered one of these animals in person.

It was our first night on the Liard Trail and in Bison territory. I was more worried about encounters with bison than bears. The poodles seemed to have a respectful concern about the bears while their interest in the bison is pure prey drive. I found a pull out for the night and the were forced to remain inside the camper for the evening.

I found a quick pullout for the night.  It was a gravel patch large enough for the camper next to a meadow.  I cautiously released the poodles for their evening potty (before their night’s confinement) and I could tell that there was Bison musk all over the place.  I envisioned a beast charging out of the surrounding woods.


bison foot print


It was a quiet nondescript night but to my surprise we awoke to snow!

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I hadn’t even thought about the ramifications of heavy snow on the slide out and what damage the weight might do. There was at least 4 inches that I needed to clean off. The snow removal was a sloppy wet job but it certainly made for a gorgeous drive.

A reminder of the frigid winters and unstable ground for building.  There are very few bridges here and most river crossings in the summer are done by ferry and in winter over the frozen water.


Winter crossing of the Liard River


We seemed to leave the snow behind as we crossed the Liard River into the NWTs. Once again the weather here seems to be an enigma.




A Little About Wood Bison


The wood bison is considered by most a subspecies of the American plains bison, but some argue that they are a distinctly separate subspecies.  The two bison are somewhat different in appearance.  The wood bison is larger and has a slightly different body type then that of the plains .


The herd of wood bison I saw along the Alaska Highway was from the Norquist herd.  Here is a little history about them:

  • In the early 1800’s over 168,000 wood bison inhabited the forests of North West North America.
  • In the early 1900’s wood bison populations declined sharply due to over hunting.
  • In 1906 The last wood bison was shot in Northern British Columbia.
  • In 1959 an isolated northern population of about 200 relatively pure Wood Bison was confirmed.                                    (all other wood bison at that time were hybridized with American buffalo)
  • In 1985 wood bison were (and still are) classed as “Threatened” under the Species At Risk Act.
  • In 1995 49 wood bison were reintroduced to Nodquist area in British Columbia.
  • In 2007 the Nordquist herd population numbered about 100 animals.
  • In 2010 the roadside count was 108 animals.
  • Today it’s believed that the Nordquist group consists of three herds with a total population of approximately 200 animals.  There are several other groups which are reaching a target population of about 500.

The Nordquist herd territory can be seen in the map below:


The yellow line is the Liard Highway which branches off the Alaskan Highway at Fort Nelson.


I was happy to see these beasties along the Alaska and Liard Highways….

IMG_3760-1 (dragged)


IMG_3751Nickel and Eureka were even happier….