Moving from fall into winter’s weather the world becomes wet and grey and bleak, weather similar to that which you’ll find on the leeward side of mountains at altitude with its drizzle and snow. For many, the sensible thing is to remain indoors. But, others find it difficult to sit still and you’ll find them active within our northern environment, beyond road’s end carving paths with tow ropes and winches through mud and water, a texture not of soup, but stew, in a vehicle set up for the activity of ‘mud-bogging.’ Here, a seventies Toyota Land Cruiser has in its customization been lifted and engineered by ATS Customs – a vehicle set up for mud-bogging. Had I had this vehicle in Wood Buffalo National park (years ago), the weekly grocery runs in June and September would have been more expedient … accomplishing the two-hundred kilometre trek in several instances took more than eight hours one way; in one trek we needed to create our own bridge over a culvert that had washed out.
Listening to – Dar William’s ‘The Beauty of the Rain’ and ‘Let’s Go Fishing in the Morning.’
Quote to Inspire – “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” – Garry Winogrand
Two bridges have been built to cross the Peace River in northwestern Alberta, one at Dunvegan and another at Fort Vermilion. In our region, wood chips used for making strand board are transported from mills in and around La Crete, a Mennonite settlement in the region, to a strand board plant north of the town of Peace River. Rather than follow a circuitous route back through Fort Vermilion, then High Level and down to Peace River, a road has been carved through the Blue Hills forest and farming community to a place on the river called Tompkins landing. Here, a ferry runs through most of the year, night and day to keep the chip trucks moving and to provide travelers from La Crete access to the highway taking them south to Peace River, Grande Prairie or Edmonton; in size, the ferry can hold four chip trucks in one go across the river.
In late November or early December, with colder temperatures the ferry is pulled from the river and ice clusters. A few brave souls who have the knack for it create a pathway across the ice, watering it daily just as you would an ice rink in your back yard. An old red, seventies three-ton GMC grain truck holds a portable cistern – each day, morning and night someone pumps river water into the cistern and then drives the grain truck across the ice bridge spreading water on the ice surface. The mass of ice increases on top and from the bottom until with sustained colder temperature -20C to -30C, the ice bridge that is formed is four feet thick, able to hold the weight of a chip truck crossing the kilometre wide path. Ice bridge creation is a practice repeated two hundred kilometres further up the river at Fox Lake, on the edge of Wood Buffalo National Park.
The photographs here present the ice bridge somewhat compressed with a zoom lens; the actual distance across the river is more than a kilometre. Those driving across the bridge need to travel at a speed of 10 km/h. The photographs also present a look at a dry-docked ferry.
Listening to Radiohead’s There, There from the Best of Radiohead; other songs have been Unknown Caller from U2’s No Line on the Horizon and finally there’s been Over the Rhine’s Born from Drunkard’s Prayer.
Quote to Inspire – “Different levels of photography require different levels of understanding and skill. A ‘press the button, let George do the rest’ photographer needs little or no technical knowledge of photography. A zone system photographer takes more responsibility. He visualizes before he presses the button, and afterwards calibrates for predictable print values.” – Minor White – [Minor White, Richard Zakia, Peter Lorenz The New Zone System Manual, Morgan & Morgan, Inc., Dobbs Ferry, New York 1978 (Fourth printing), p. 93]
Thursday was a photographer’s morning. A warm change in weather brought colourful, early morning, sustained, sky drama of first light reflected earthward among clouds. Entering school, I set-up my camera, deposited my camera bag and moved out our east doors to click and capture the following images.
Today, being considered is a newer used vehicle. With one household vehicle being all-wheel drive, a fuel-efficient car might be smart (perhaps a VW Golf or Passat). Another consideration would involve spending a minimum of money on a vehicle that is 4×4 and wouldn’t be too much of a loss if it were to break down; here, I’ve owned three early 90s Nissan Pathfinders and they worked for me along the corduroy roads in and out of Wood Buffalo National Park through six years. And, in the back of my mind is the surety I encountered driving a Chevrolet, 2500 series, manual transmission with 4×4 in a snow storm travelling down Alberta Highway 63 from Fort McMurray to Edmonton early-on in the 90s. The overall sensible choice may be a 1999 Toyota 4 Runner with 309000 km that should run for a few more 100000km and can be purchased in a private sale in Peace River. This vehicle should provide safe travel in and out of 4×4 throughout all seasons, no matter who was driving it. It would hold the road well.
Listening to Canadian Melissa McClelland sing Victoria Day (April Showers and May Flowers) from her album of the same name. Other songs standing out this morning have been Snow Patrol’s Lifeboats, Ray Lamontagne’s I Still Care for You and For the Summer. Jack White has featured among the Raconteurs in Steady as She Goes.
Quote to Inspire – “Light glorifies everything. It transforms and ennobles the most commonplace and ordinary subjects. The object is nothing, light is everything.” — Leonard Missone
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