My posts got a little out of order after the surprise occurrence of finding Will & Kate visiting Slave Lake. Then of course I got busy with lots of other things, and the blog keeps getting the back seat.
Approaching Slave Lake along highway 2 from Athabasca, there is ample evidence of historic fires. In one area there were likely hundreds of square miles of old fire sign from decades past. But it was not until I was almost in the town that I started to see evidence of the recent fire in the burned bush.
Then, after running into the parade with Will and Kate etc (previous posts), I started to drive around the town, looking for the reported 1/3 of of the town that had burned. Amazingly, I drove about 3/4 of the way around before seeing any evidence of the fire at all – which was a good thing. Many or most businesses were up and running, just like nothing had happened. But then I did finally locate the burned areas of town. All these areas were completely fenced off, and in many cases there were excavators and other heavy machinery cleaning up and hauling away what was left. There were blocks and blocks of what must have been residential housing completely levelled. Then, there were some very large structures including the town hall, car dealerships, etc where some parts were still standing behind the fences.
In vacant areas just outside town, I discovered ‘graveyards’ of burned out autos and other fire debris stockpiled for disposal.
I took a drive along the north side of the lake and checked out the beaches at Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park. The lake levels were very high, so there was not much exposed beach in most places.From there it was a drive up to Marten Mountain lookout, where there is a fire lookout tower and a cluster of radio towers, as well as a viewpoint overlooking the lake.
The next day I toured out on the south shore of the lake, through the communities of Canyon Creek, Wagner, Widewater, Kinuso, Faust, Driftpile, and Joussard. Much of the bush here had burned, and there were many beautiful homes standing untouched. But at regular intervals were stretches of orange fencing around other homes and cottages that had not been so lucky. Here, the destruction certainly had a random look to it. Beautiful places interspersed with charred foundations.
As if the town had not suffered enough at the hands of the huge fires earlier this summer, when I was preparing to leave the area heavy rains were now causing floods and closing parts of the town and highways. I had to pass through the town to get out of the area, but highways in all three directions had already been closed or were expected to close as water covered the highways and bridges were in danger of washing out. As I approached from the west, heavy equipment was being used to keep logs from jamming up the bridge at Mooney Creek, but the road had not yet closed.
As I drove around town, streets were filling with water and crews were busy barricading the worst ones.
When I attempted to leave town to the east, the road was closed and blocked and traffic was turned north on highway 88. That road too was blocked, and traffic had to detour back into town. Eventually, I made it back on the highway north, then found a road in my backroads map book that took me east around the highway closure.
It was a very soft road of mud and some gravel, rapidly getting pounded out by all the increased traffic. After about 20km, I made it back onto pavement and headed generally for home again! Another adventure in the bag!