The semis roll through
Like stainless steel stallions
Goin’ hard, goin’ fast, goin’ wild
Rollin’ hard, rollin’ fast, rollin’ by
Robert Earl Keen
Kodak Panatomic-X 35mm film
Working on assignments for my college photography courses was a great excuse to tour the country roads and small towns of southern Indiana in my ’57 Ford Fairlane. I shot plenty of Kodak Tri-X in the process—the first rolls of film I ever developed by hand.
Not long ago, while viewing those contact sheets for the first time in many years, I was trying to determine exactly which towns I had photographed, as I had made no notes. In one frame, I found signs containing the name Gosport; after that, shots of a bridge and a river. Moving chronologically through the roll, and with the help of Google Maps, I learned that I had gone south out of Gosport and the next town I came to was Stinesville. Google Street View confirmed it.
For decades, these photos existed only on the contact sheet. Recently, I ran some of the old negatives through my film scanner, and after enlarging the images on my monitor, I found details that I had never noticed before, such as the dog starting across the street at the bottom of the hill in the photo above.
The old buildings on Main Street are still standing, although the cars in the Google imagery are certainly different from the ones seen here.
If you look at Railroad Street (below) in Stinesville today, you’ll notice that the train tracks and telegraph poles have all been removed…
Another detail that I had never noticed prior to scanning the negatives: two kids walking near the base of the pine tree by the Stinesville Baptist Church. Neither the church nor the tree are standing there today…
(Click on any photo to bring up a larger version in a new tab.)
Kodak Tri-X 35mm film
That didn’t take long. Today’s post includes the last few photographs I have to share from my recent excursion through eastern Canada. This trip generated far fewer images than past adventures of similar distance or duration. There’s a reason for that…
On most road trips, I’m winding my way across the wide-open prairies, deserts, badlands and high country of the American West. Roaming under the Big Sky is, photographically, very stimulating; each turn of the road or the trail presents a new look at the marriage of land and sky. I return from every western journey with hundreds of photos.
Driving or hiking through heavily forested regions is different; though still quite satisfying, it’s more of a relaxing, contemplative experience rather than a photo opportunity. When I’m immersed in the forest, I don’t reach for the camera nearly as often.
Am I anti-tree? Certainly not. I greatly enjoy hiking in the woods during fall and winter, as well as taking long drives through Canada’s vast boreal forest. However, to me, nothing is more enjoyable than watching the sky. When I’m boxed in by a multitude of trees (or hills or mountains, for that matter), I’m missing out on sunrises, sunsets, moonrises, moonsets, interesting clouds, soaring birds, approaching storms, the beautiful colors of twilight. Having an unobstructed view of the horizon is something that I treasure. My preference is to appreciate trees in smaller doses—a stand of aspens marking the path of a stream that snakes across a broad Colorado valley, for example. A solitary tree standing guard on the prairie is one of my favorite sights; on many occasions, I have visited this lonely old cottonwood that lives on a South Dakota ranch…
I find that spending time with a single tree, or with a small grove, is more rewarding than a journey among countless thousands of trees. Even so, the larger forests do have their charms, and I’ll keep on driving through the wilds of Canada, hiking in silent woods carpeted with freshly fallen snow, and visiting all of my favorite trees. As for day-to-day living, I hope to be doing that on the Great Plains someday…preferably, on a piece of land that has one tree within hiking distance.
I have just completed a major update to my road trip photo album, viewable at places.ridingwithcarl.com. The album now contains 63 photos of the states, provinces and other points of interest that the Pontiac and I have visited over the past 29 years.
This most recent journey—covering more than 6400 miles—added 17 new photos to the collection, including five provinces that I experienced for the very first time. Also in the album are shots of my US and Canada wall maps, updated to include last month’s route.
There are only three jurisdictions remaining on the Pontiac’s to-do list: Newfoundland & Labrador, Yukon and Alaska. Note that there are 13 states/provinces currently omitted from this album; I plan to revisit those places in order to get new photos with the convertible top down, replacing the old, inferior top-up images captured on rainy days.
Stay tuned for more uploads after next year’s adventures!
Greetings from the northern tip of Nova Scotia, home to the hamlet of Meat Cove, which sits at the end of a 13 km gravel road that hugs the steep coastline; a short but very rough road, featuring hills, switchbacks, big muddy holes and washboard ruts. This is Nova Scotia’s northern driving limit.
Actually, I captured the above photo a short distance back down the road from the settlement, just to get a little privacy and a better background view. On my arrival in Meat Cove, I was dismayed to find no available scenic parking space, due to a large gathering of RVs, SUVs and vans…
No Soup for You: The Chowder Hut was closed on the day of my visit…
This was my first visit—and the Pontiac’s first visit—to The Maritimes. I’d say that Cape Breton Island is my favorite part of the area; lots of rugged beauty there and plenty of hiking opportunities, which I hope to experience on a future journey.
After leaving Meat Cove, I made my way down the western shore of the island. I was quite happy to find a campsite perched above the pounding surf, with a nice view of the setting sun…
Below, the campsite view just before sunrise. The constant hum of the crashing waves made for a good night’s sleep…
A nomad’s life must have great charm. And though we rate the nomad low in the scale of social progress, his life, for all we know, may be the richest in contentment. His moving is at once the reflex and the cure of discontent. Home being always where he has chosen it to be, he’ll always love his home.
~ Rockwell Kent, from the book Salamina
Stone of the Canadian Shield, visible above and below the cool, clear waters of James Bay. This is the view from the end of Longue Pointe Road, north of Chisasibi. Here, the Pontiac sits at 53.974089° N 79.078265° W—the northernmost drivable point* in Quebec—parked among the boats of local residents and outfitters…
Actually, it is possible to drive farther north in Quebec, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so in a vintage Pontiac.
As I’ve stated in prior posts about trips to the northern limit of a provincial road system, my use of the phrase “northernmost drivable point” pertains to roads that (1) are connected to the rest of the North American highway system, (2) are open to the public, (3) can be used in all seasons, and (4) are suitable for passenger cars with low ground clearance.
Less than an hour south of the town of Radisson, a gravel road leads northeasterly off of the James Bay Road and takes you 414 miles (666 km) deep into the heart of Quebec’s vast boreal wilderness. This is the Trans-Taiga Road, and at it’s terminus you would be 59 miles closer to the North Pole than the spot where I am parked in the photo above.
This extremely remote road is open to the public, but it was constructed to service the area’s massive hydroelectric industry. It is mainly used by trucks, usually moving at high speed. There are no towns along the Trans-Taiga; access to fuel and food is very limited. Also, this road has a reputation for eating tires and windshields. Learn more about the hazards of driving the Trans-Taiga Road through this link.
(Below, a look at the first kilometer of the Trans-Taiga Road. This is as far as went went…just wanted a taste. Farther on, the road becomes narrower and rougher.)
I couldn’t justify the risk of damage to the Pontiac simply to get that extra 59 miles of latitude, so I passed on the Trans-Taiga. Additionally, I suspected that using the end of that road as a northern benchmark would have been anticlimactic; the thought of making that very long and difficult drive, only to arrive at a gated industrial complex in the middle of the forest, just didn’t thrill me. But conquering the full length of the James Bay Road and reaching the boat landing on Longue Pointe, overlooking the crystal-blue waters of James Bay…that felt right. To me, that spot does a great job of capturing that “end of the road” flavor.
I may drive the Trans-Taiga Road someday, but only in a 4WD vehicle that is outfitted for camping. Driving up Route de la Baie-James in the Pontiac was a great experience; I enjoyed the scenery and the friendly people I met along the way. If you’re interested in traveling either of these roads, I encourage you to make it happen. But take the time to research the trip before leaving home, and make sure your vehicle is thoroughly ready for the journey.
I’m not that keen on being hauled to a destination by plane or by boat; I prefer to get there on my own, either by driving or by walking. As for visiting the territory of Nunavut, boats and planes are, very nearly, the only options.
Nunavut is Canada’s newest and largest territory, created April 1, 1999 from the eastern and northern portions of the Northwest Territories. It is a gigantic and sparsely populated wilderness, and there are no roads leading to Nunavut from the rest of North America.
The boundaries of Canada’s provinces and territories have undergone many changes since 1867; don’t be surprised if these adjustments continue. For reasons unclear (as noted in this article), Quebec’s territory stops at the shoreline. All of the islands in James Bay and Hudson Bay—even those within throwing distance—belong to Nunavut.
However, there are several spots along these northern shores where Nunavut and Quebec share short land borders. These exist in certain places where land sits below the high tide line…even though that land may appear to be dry and verdant. Edward Bearskin, the Tourism Coordinator in Chisasibi, informed me that there is one such area west of town, just north of the end of the James Bay Road…
I was quite happy to learn about this location, as I would no longer need to charter a boat to one of the nearby islands in order to visit Nunavut. Edward told me that there are no trails leading into this acreage, no signage marking the boundary…just raw coastal wilderness. Fine with me; it would add a little pioneering spirit to the hike as I forged my own trail.
Of course, the car would have to stay behind in Quebec. After coming so close, it seemed only fair to carry a photo of the Pontiac into Nunavut, just to complete its journey.
(Ocean in View: Below, the Pontiac’s first look at northern seawater. We reached the shore of James Bay after driving all 434 miles (699 km) of Route de la Baie-James. This is as near to Nunavut as the Pontiac will ever be, parked just above the territorial boundary of the high tide line.)
Stepping off the road and into the wild, I worked my way northward. Though not a long hike in terms of distance, it was no easy stroll; the brush was often tall, tangled and quite dense, sometimes hiding deep holes. I made several detours, and occasionally had to crawl under some of these thick shrubs. Other areas consisted of soft, wet muskeg. By the time I had reached the open air again, I had a few cuts and scrapes, and two very soggy boots.
After walking across a low, marshy area, I was standing on broad slabs of granite surrounded by shorter brush, and I could see the waters of James Bay. It appeared that I had reached my destination…
The GPS locator on my phone told me that I had indeed crossed the “border.” Welcome to Nunavut…
(Phone screenshot, captured 1309 EDT, September 16, 2019.)
From there, I continued walking northward to the shore, where I spent some time playing on the large, colorful rocks awash in the calm sea. I also enjoyed a sip of Nunavut’s cool, clear water (yeah, yeah…it was fine; so many rivers empty into James Bay that its salinity is very low).
(Give a Hoot: This card was not left on the stone; it’s back in my wallet.)
Not exactly a proper visit to Nunavut, but it will do for now. I expect to return someday, as there’s enough wild beauty up there to get me on an airplane; Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island are on my list.
Gotta breathe some air again
That ain’t been breathed before
Driving season has arrived. After a wonderful May excursion through the Great Plains, the southern Rocky Mountains and the desert, it’s now time to roll in a different direction and return to the land of the lynx, the wolf, the bear and the aurora.
During that May trip, I experimented with limiting the time I spent online and the time I spent editing photos. It was a great success and I enjoyed the trip much more as a result. The laptop is staying at home from now on, and this blog will be dark while I’m traveling; I’ll post the accumulated photos and stories upon my return. The easiest, quickest way to share images from the road is to post them to Instagram straight from my phone. So, for those who want to follow this upcoming adventure in real time (or as close to real time as wilderness cellular connectivity allows), visit my Instagram account here: instagram.com/ridingwithcarl.
Thanks! Enjoy your September.
“Restless Kid” by Johnny Cash
(This print and many others may be purchased at gallery.ridingwithcarl.com.)