Monday, August 11, 2008

Day 19: Man make fire

The South Saskatchewan River changes character considerably after joining with the Red Deer. I have always wondered about how names are chosen for rivers, and am almost glad that the process seems to be almost entirely arbitrary. The entire stretch of the South Saskatchewan and Bow Rivers was apparently once known as the Bad River, before becoming the Bow,and finally being broken up into the current design, where the Bow and Oldman rivers join forces to become the South Saskatchewan, which eventually joins the North Saskatchewan to become, simply, the Saskatchewan River. This situation seems like a mess to me, but I doubt mapmakers will agree with my naming ideas, so there is stands.

In any case, the Red Deer has a greater force of will, although not water, than the South Saskatchewan, so its personality overshadows the other when they merge. The river becomes a braid of channels running about sandy islands which flicker in and out of existence as the latest philosophy dictates. I spent a good portion of the day wandering around in these channels, but finally found a long long sandbar which seemed a good place to stop.

There was driftwood here, entire trees of driftwood. I realized one thing I had not done yet on this trip was build a fire. Here, any wood I claimed for my small cooking fire is not going to have a profound ecological impact, and the beach here is so large that even with the prairie wind continuing into the evening, there is no danger of starting a forest fire.

I collected branches and twigs and windblown dry mats of grasses, arranged it all into an imitation bird's nest with extra material on hand, in case of need. Stuck my lighter to it, and it went up fast. Easiest fire I ever started.

I cooked my meal on it and nearly wept at the new culinary possibilities. Eggs every morning! Baked potatoes! Well, I suppose my desires did not go far. But I resolved myself to build a fire anytime the opportunity arose.

There is something very fulfilling about a fire. About building one, cooking at one, sitting at one, staring at one. I suppose you are suddenly in touch with thousands of years of human history that your little alcohol stove had shielded you from until now.

Day 19 ended: 50*56.493N, 109*45.173W

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