Day 2: Chateh, AB (A noble quest towards bison discovery, and why road kill sucks)

It seems we were lucky enough to arrive in High Level just in time to kick off its 50th birthday celebrations! This morning we headed to a pancake (and sausages, truly the best breakfast meat) breakfast at one of the schools in High Level. It was the first of many ceremonies this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of High Level and the people who call it home. It was a great time to meet new people, learn more about the town, and even get our very first photo-op in High Level as part of a video they were filming. We were the first to talk about our experiences in High Level, which we thought was rather humorous as we had arrived the day prior. Therefore we talked about our expectations, and what we had thought so far.

After fueling up, collecting some food from the grocery to take along, and going on the obligatory and ever-so-Canadian Tim Horton’s run, we were off. Out over the high way to Fort Vermilion where we would pick up the dogs (two sweet pups, one is Andrews and the other a friends). It was an hours drive spent gazing out the window and still gawking at how flat everything is.

My first time in Alberta was last May. Coming from a province that consists of endless hills and curves in the road, I was blown away with how straight and flat everything was. I had believed that up north would be different, filled with mountains and snowy peaks. I realized as we drove along that that was the complete and total opposite of northern Alberta. I got to see the Peace River, lots of giant, metal bridges, yet sadly…no bison. For those of you who are not familiar with my quest to see a real, living, breathing, wild bison, here it is. As a nature and animal lover, I have always been perplexed by animals that are not native to Newfoundland. Back home, we have moose and the scattered whale or two, but I had become quite well-acquainted with the furry (and not so furry) inhabitants of Newfoundland in my 20-something years on the island. Therefore when I was driving across the country last May with my good friends Heather and Sara (not to mention Kita, best dog ever), I made it my mission to see as many wild animals as I could along the way.

We don’t have porcupines, raccoons or even deer back home. So it took no time at all to see all the animals I had hoped for while driving across the Trans Canada Highway. Unfortunately many of them were not living, and most certainly not breathing. It turns out the TCH from Edmonton to the ferry in Nova Scotia is the home to many creatures, 99.9% which have been run over and left for families and innocent, young students like myself to witness (in all of its horror). Road kill sucks, end of story. While driving past a fenced in area of the prairies, I laid eyes upon a fluffy, brown dot in the distance. Heather remarked that it could be a herd of bison. Long story short, this began my obsession with perhaps seeing this massive, fluffy beast in person and up close for myself. Even though there were various signs (Bison Next 30km, Caution: Bison on road) I have yet to see a bison, but I have until April so let us hope for the best!

Once we had the dogs we headed to Chateh where we are spending the night. Andrew’s fiancee teaches in Chetah so I was lucky enough to get to spend the night here and see the sights. I got to see the school, which has an amazing meeting area and beautiful artwork throughout. The town of Chetah, about an hour outside of High Level, is pretty breath taking, especially as the sun is setting. There is wildlife everywhere and the buildings are neatly placed and tended to with care. There are pieces of the culture and language of the Dene Tha First Nations people everywhere, and it has been extraordinary to get to see some up close.  (For more information, I stumbled upon this wonderful blog about Chateh while researching, check it out! http://kwetoday.com/2013/07/10/chateh-alberta/)

Overall today was hectic, so I think tomorrow will be a day to sleep in and perhaps even relax. Monday and Tuesday we have professional development days, and Wednesday we begin at our respective schools. Here’s to an extraordinary beginning, here’s to whatever comes next!

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