The road to California – Part 1: Prairie.

This past spring, Adrienne and I embarked on a road trip to California.  We took 38 days to cover a meandering path of asphalt, gravel, and dirt, finding freedom in simply pitching a tent when and where we needed.  Our route took us from prairies to mountains.  Then deserts, the coast, and even a couple bustling cities.  We saw and experienced a lot, but still only scratched the surface of what these places have to offer.

Routinely we would drive a lot in a single day, then set up a base camp and explore outside of the car for a few days.  This balance ensured that we kept our sanity and found time to get off the beaten path a bit, while still making miles towards our distant goal of California.  Admittedly this is the routine of how I love to travel in general.

If you can manage the time I think that doing a trip by car is a very special thing.  Canada and the United States are vast, and when flying from one destination to another you miss all the beautiful transitions and in-betweens.  Driving you get to see the landscape, people, and culture change dramatically every few hours.  It instills a deeper understanding of how all of these things are connected, and of one’s place amidst it all.

Day 0: Preparations.

Day 0: Last minute preparations before hitting the road.  We’re traveling low tech with paper maps, but that doesn’t stop us from doing a bit of research ahead of time for the first leg of the trip.  Spring comes a little later to the alpine regions of the Canadian Rockies, and at this point we were trying to figure out what the snow melt was like so as to choose feasible hikes and even roads.

Our noble steed: the Corolla.

Our noble steed for the trip.  We nicknamed her Mary Ann after the lady at the car rental desk.

The prairie road.

The prairie road.  I love the prairie, but for this trip it was more of an obstacle to overcome than a destination.  A couple long drives started out the trip.

A cow grazing on the horizon.

A cow grazing on the horizon near the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border.

Moose Jaw Campground

Moose Jaw’s River Park Campground during the shoulder season.  It was quiet and the office had a “be back at 6pm” sign hung in the window.  No one came back though, so we helped ourselves to a campsite for the night.

Hiking the Moose Jaw River

Our first hike, at dusk alongside the Moose Jaw River.  A fox followed us along the trail, poking his head over the eroded hill to our left every once in a while to bark at us.  Otherwise it was just us and the ducks.

Windy day for driving on the prairie.

Back on the road, driving against a strong west wind.  This was a bit of a trend over the entire trip; the wind always seemed to blowing strongly against us.

Distant train on the prairie.

Common things seen out the window when driving across the prairie: grain elevators, trains, power lines, picket fences, fields, and lots of sky.

The foothills.

As we enter the Albertan foothills the landscape begins to change…

This was a long trip and even if I posted just one photo for each day it would quickly turn into a really long post.  Instead I have decided to split it up into a few posts; this being the first and more to come in the next week or so.

Next up: Part 2: Mountains.