Posted by: Silver | June 9, 2011

Mayerthorpe to Whitecourt

Distance: 54 km
Ascent: 481 m
Cycling time: 4 hours, 5 minutes

Nothing seemed to be able to make up its mind on this occasion. The weather oscillated between beautiful sunshine and threatening clouds all morning, cleared up nicely while I was getting ready to leave, then started to rain the minute I started pedalling – literally. Fortunately, it was so exactly timed with my departure, and so obviously just a brief cloudburst, that I was able to scurry back to the shelter of my host’s barn until it passed, which, true to the pattern of the day, it did fairly quickly. It then very kindly remained dry for my whole ride, but did exchange wet for wind – a headwind, of course.

The scenery couldn’t quite decide what it was either: one minute I was in pastureland of mixed wood copses and dandelion-strewn fields, the next minute I was surrounded by boreal forest, and then it was back to the prairies for a while. As I approached Whitecourt, however, it finally seemed to settle on very attractive mixed woodland, which – combined with a very late but very welcome drop in the wind – made for an extremely pleasant final few kilometres up to my host’s house, despite the fact that the route itself became a little more ‘challenging’ (something I guess I should really have expected from the time my host gave me the direction to turn up Mountain Road).

Perhaps as a testament to the number of trees there are around this part of the province, Whitecourt is dominated by a large sawmill and, as my host happened to work there, I was privileged to get an insight into what goes on behind the piles of logs (and they certainly were very impressive piles of logs…). Aspen, apparently, is no good for anything other than pulping, whereas pine is cut into boards which are then kiln dried at a specific temperature for a specific time in order to kill any bugs or pathogens: an obligatory step if they want to be able to export the finished product. Coming into contact with so many diverse people with so many diverse jobs has turned out to be an unexpected but really interesting aspect of my journey: several of my hosts have given me a tour of their workplace, and, even if the occupation itself is not one I would necessarily consider following, the glimpses into ‘other worlds’ have been genuinely fascinating. For the briefest of moments, I actually reckoned I could hack being a member of the Royal Family: after all, I seem to be doing a lot of the requisite things already (meeting an endless stream of new people, touring factories, promoting charitable causes), but I’m not getting paid nearly so well…

Was I in an area of pastureland...?

... or was it boreal forest...?

... or prairie...?

...ah, no: it was mixed woodland!

Lots of logs! Apparently, the mill is currently at its peak of stocking, so I was lucky to be there when the piles were at their most impressive

Whoever thought that a sawmill sludge settling tank could be so interesting - or so strangely beautiful?!



  1. I guess you get to see first hand why they say “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it will change.”

    Regards, Chris

    BTW Hope your foot is getting better.

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