10-Apr-2005 -- Guy: David Wasserman is not the type of confluence
hunter with a deep devotion to the sport. You will never see him as the lead in
a Discovery Channel feature called
"Mystery Hunters: Degree Confluences". I know this because I know enough about
David that had he invested as much zeal and precision into visiting confluences
as he does in his other life pursuits, he would have had much of the province
of Alberta covered by now. He remains more of a dilettante - but a good one at
that! So when he asked me, out of the blue, back in February 2005 whether I had
ever been to Calling Lake, I knew
that he was really asking if I wanted to visit
David: Guy Germain is known for an imaginative streak that puts Walter Mitty to shame. He needs the stabilizing influence of an older, wiser person to keep his feet on the ground and channel his energies. I have taken that task on myself. As you can see from his words
above, his main source of exercise (aside from roller-blading to work) is leaping to conclusions. When I asked him if he had ever been to Calling Lake, an isolated community in north-central Alberta, it was because I knew he was born and raised in Plamondon, not too distant from Calling Lake, and I had heard that Peter, my first cousin once removed (on his father’s side), was coming to Canada from the Netherlands for an extended visit with his cousin on his mother’s side, who lived in Calling Lake. I had completely forgotten that Guy had proposed years ago that we visit 55N 113W, which, coincidentally, is near the midpoint on a straight line between Plamondon and Calling Lake. But when Guy suggested he come along when I drove Peter back to Calling Lake after he spent a few days with my wife and me in Edmonton, and take the opportunity to visit the confluence, I was prepared to indulge him in return for his company on the trip.
Guy: Correction #1, David, the proper term is
'in-line skating,' NOT 'roller-blading.' That's what they did in the 1970s (remember Roller Derby?). Correction #2, thanks for telling readers that I was NOT imagining things. It’s not MY fault that your memory fails you, and that you had completely forgotten that I had proposed visiting 55N 113W. What other mental connection was I supposed to make when you asked me if I had ever been to Calling Lake? Correction #3, while Calling Lake certainly is isolated, I would not leave the impression that it's anywhere near Plamondon. It might LOOK close in a straight-line distance, but people from the area will know that since the mighty Athabasca lies between the two, it’s still a long drive to get to Calling Lake from
David: Correction to your correction #1: many current sources use the terms in-line
skating and roller-blading interchangeably; the main objections come from the people who have the trademark on Rollerblades(TM), and you can regard my use of the term either as a blow for freedom of speech or an attack on intellectual property rights. And your second "correction" is not a correction at all. And correction #3 is a quibble; confluence hunters think in great circle distances.
Guy: Actually, this is a good segue into today’s
topic of the relation between geography, specifically terrain, and confluences. Within three months of one another in 2001, David and I visited the two neighbouring confluences to 55N 113W: 55N 114W lies directly to the West of the Calling Lake confluence (visited by David), and 55N 115W lies directly to the East (visited by Guy). Go anywhere south of 55 degrees N in Alberta, and visiting multiple confluences along an East-West latitude will be
relatively easy. Here, you will be in the ‘habitable’ part of Alberta, its ecumene, [David: Besides exercising
his imagination, Guy likes to take his vocabulary out for a run: "ecumene" is a fancy geographer’s term simply meaning inhabited area] where roads criss-cross the terrain. Go north of 55 degrees, however, and you begin your foray into Alberta’s dense and dark boreal forest,
inhabited by grizzlies and logging trucks (both of which you will want to stay away from, though I would probably rather take my chances with the bear). In Alberta’s North, road access becomes much more haphazard, and hopping from one confluence to another East to West becomes
much more time consuming and challenging.
With this preliminary aside, since we were on our way to Calling Lake, our necessary access to the confluence was via Highway 813, North of Athabasca. There is another access via Highway 55, East of Athabasca and then across the Athabasca River, well described in the story accompanying the first visit. From Highway 813, you must make your way East via a number of township and range roads. There are several options along the way, but generally, you will travel past, through or maybe even around (depending where the ‘localities’ begin and end) the Locality of Big Coulee (originally established as a post office in 1946), the Locality of Richmond Park (originally established as a post office in 1935), the
Locality of Deep Creek (originally established as a post office in 1935, named for its proximity to the feature), and the Locality of Pleasant View (established as a post office in 1951, the name being descriptive).
David: Right you are, Guy. And your navigation instructions through these barely perceptible named locations were flawless. It was only when we were
nearly at the confluence that we found ourselves at a newly paved road far superior to those we had been following. We turned left and followed the road for less than three kilometers to what appeared to be the same place from which the previous visitor had set off
on foot. In an effort to be original and to explore more fully the possibilities of a closer approach by vehicle, we
turned around at the pull-off that placed us within 1.2 kilometers of the point, and headed the other way on the paved road. We went more than four kilometers before finding any roads heading eastward toward our destination, and the muddy track with occasional large puddles seemed to me to show little promise of getting us any closer to 55N 113W. We parked and explored it on foot, confirming both its soft and muddy nature and its apparently inappropriate direction.
Guy: Finally! The chance I was waiting for to discuss just why the "muddy track with occasional large puddles seemed to me to show little promise
of getting us any closer." The reason we didn’t pursue the muddy track was because David refuses to use his Subaru Outback symmetrical AWD for the raison d’etre for which it was designed: off roading! We know what the
legacy of Subaru is, don’t we? You know, the Subaru World Rally Team, and all of that. I told David that we could have easily taken those teeny weeny mud holes. But noooooooo, not according to David. Conservative to the core, he is (and this from someone who loves to drive fast and is a racing expert). My closing advice, David: Subaru’s slogan is, ‘Think. Feel. Drive.’ You’re good on the thinking and feeling part, but you’ve got to work on the driving part!
So we found ourselves off the paved road, parked at a
gate. This is, we’re almost certain, the same departure point where Jeff found himself at in visit #1. We left the car at 12:25 p. m., and found ourselves at the confluence (elevation 590 m) at about 1:00 p. m. Departing the confluence at 1:20 p. m., we were back at the car at about 2:00 p. m. I’ll leave it to David to describe our (mostly uneventful) walk to and from the confluence.
David: Guy is fearless with someone else’s car. [Guy: Right you are, David!] Besides, I think secretly he wanted to get stuck, to add to the adventure. [Guy: OK, I’ll admit it - right again!] For
me, the risk-reward ratio was way out of whack. The chances of getting stuck were moderate, but the chances of
getting any closer to the confluence were miniscule. And the Subaru Legacy AWD, while a great bad-road car, is in no way intended to go off road.
The walk in to the confluence involved following an
east-west cutline for about 800 meters, and then veering off at an angle along another cutline that led to within about 20 meters of the confluence. That sounds easy enough, except that parts of both cutlines were swamps with tussocks of grass sticking out of puddles up
to two feet deep. Some of the tussocks would support a person’s weight, and others would sink. Guessing which was which was the skill of the day. Occasionally we veered off into the bush in the hope of finding more solid ground, but that route was nearly as wet with the added difficulty of bashing through thick brush. Other more shaded parts of the cutline were covered with ice.
When our GPS receivers told us we were near the confluence,
Peter pointed out a plastic baggie stuck on a bush. It proved to be the note left by the last visitor. We agreed on the location within 3 meters of him. The hole in the baggie that the twig holding it passed through had admitted sufficient water to dissolve part of the note; some of the water was ice. In accordance with project guidelines of leaving no trace, we removed the baggie and carried it out with us.
We did the dance, took the photos, and followed the same route back to the car, where we wrung out our socks (except for Peter, whose feet were dry in the rubber boots I had lent him). Then it was off to Calling Lake.
Guy: Had it not been for Peter, we would not have had to travel to Calling Lake. Then again, had it not been for Peter, we would probably have never visited this confluence in the first place! So off it was to Calling Lake. After taking a number of secondary township roads on the way there, we realized on the return journey that TWP Road 692 probably continued straight west to secondary highway 813 (not shown on our map). So off we traveled in a nearly straight westerly line, passing the Alberta Pacific Pulp Mill (ALPAC) off to the left in the distance in the only jog in the route. Perhaps the only claim to fame of this confluence, or its otherwise only notable feature, is its proximity to ALPAC, North America’s largest single line kraft pulp mill, budgeted to produce 560,000 air-dried metric tonnes (ADt) of kraft pulp per year. And the really interesting
question for visitors to this confluence is this: Does the confluence lie within or outside the boundaries of
ALPAC’s Forest Management Area (FMA)? One of the only available maps is this one we found on the ALPAC FMA website.
I say this much about ALPAC because I want to say as little
as possible about Calling Lake. There are an enormous variety of places in the world, as David will attest, that I bemoan not being able to visit or re-visit. Calling Lake, however, is not one of those places. Other than the gracious hospitality shown to us by Peter’s cousin, Michiel (many thanks for that cold beer!), the only other
notable feature in Calling Lake in our whirlwind tour is the Moosehorn Market. After a few
quick photos, and of course a purchase to assist the local economy, we were off back to Edmonton, another confluence having been successfully conquered.