Thursday, 13 November 2014

Adventure, Trauma and Excitement

     I have to blame Wifey for my latest mishap. It all started off innocently enough with a visit to the dentist a couple weeks ago, which she insisted I do. He filled one and extracted one baby tooth that should have come out when I was in my teens. The bad part about it was that that tooth was one of the anchors for a partial bridge on my lower jaw. Now, with nothing to clamp onto, that clasp is just hanging there, in mid air, or, mid mouth, like a fishhook waiting for an unsuspecting, innocent fish to come by.
      Early Saturday morning, in the first snow fall, I am headed to Nordegg to do a presentation for the Junior Forest Wardens who are on a weekend camp out at wilderness camp Alexo. I had been asked by my daughter-in-law to do a show about my experience with salmon and bears. The JFWs are planning a trip on the West Coast Trail in August of 2016 so would like to be aware of some of the sights they may come across. I was happy to do it as I get to go to the west central region of Alberta for some much needed mountain time. I stopped for gas and snacks at Rocky Mtn. House before heading west toward my destination. One of the snacks I purchased was a bag of Cracker Jack which I would never do if Wifey was there to keep me on my sugar free, junk food free diet.
      “My, ain’t this real pretty” I am thinking as I am quietly driving along the empty highway, listening to staticky CFCW country radio as I motored further from its home base in Camrose.  I am watching for critters and scenery while munching away at my bag of Cracker Jack when a sudden and piercing pain struck my tongue. All chewing came to a halt. I gagged and tried to spit the half chewed Cracker Jack into my hand but my tongue won’t move. It has been impaled by the sharp bridge clasp. Talk about distracted driving for a second while I direct the car to the edge of the highway.
     I don’t know which way to take my tongue off the offending hook. I try to remember which way it curved so I could gently withdraw it from the metal trap. I can feel blood mixing into the half masticated popcorn, peanuts, candy and corn hulls. The bridge is now flopping about on my tongue mixing the mouthy mess into drool dripping from half open jaws. I get a grip on the steel bridge and attempt to empty my mouth without causing any more damage to poor tongue.
     “How come does this happen to me? Am I being punished for cheating on my diet?”
     Finally, after at least several minutes of struggle, it seems, I am finally able to free my tongue, rescue my teeth and clear my mouth of all debris. I can breathe without panic or further damage to painful tongue!
     It is Wifey’s fault, obvious as can be.
     I made it in plenty of time to find the remote camp and do some exploration before the show. I find the long abandoned town of Saunders after a quick visit to the turquoise coloured North Saskatchewan River. I enjoy my lunch while sitting alone on the bank watching the cold water flow quietly but insistently downstream. A river bank, wherever it is, is one of my favourite sit spots. I think it fuels my own envious wanderlust as I am a wanderer too. I am most happy, like the river, on the move, enjoying the journey more so than the destination, by far.
     The town was a coal mining town that was quite the happening place for several years. Now the only reminder of a town is a stone monument and a glass encased map of what it looked like. Even the railroad is gone except for the right-of-way and over-growing grade. I have to wonder how someone found the coal seam in this vast area. What if the seam had been half a mile up hill, would that wandering prospector still have found it?
Map of the coal mining ghost town of Saunders, Alberta
     There are about 80 or 90 parents, leaders and children of all ages at the presentation. This is a very involved group of people who enjoy the wilds of Alberta year around. It is not a babysitting service where you can just drop your kids off for the weekend. In this Junior Forest Wardens group, all parents are involved and helping the leaders teach valuable outdoor skills to interested youth. There are many games played, fires built, knives sharpened, scavenger hunts, meals cooked and cleaned up, wood to gather along with new friends made and respect for the environment gleaned. What a great opportunity this is for these young people away from city distractions. There are no computers, Internet or TV. Here, there is only fresh air, exercise, wilderness challenges and a badly needed Nature re-connection.
Ruffed Grouse, Not Our Dinner Today
     After a great meal of roast chicken, veggies and spuds topped off by wild berry crisp and ice cream we all went outside in the dark and drizzling rain to build a campfire. It doesn't take too long before the whole crew crowds around the blazing fire singing songs and enjoying the night. What a fantastic evening to take part in. After my presentation, I left in a heavy snow storm. I felt a bit guilty to be heading to a nice warm, dry motel room while most of the crew would be sleeping in smokey teepee's.
     The next morning I woke up and looked out to about 4 inches of fresh snow. I heard about it later from my son. Everyone survived, albeit a bit damp, smoked and chilly. Memories and adventure for all.
     The snow was not Wifey's fault!

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