Fort St. John, Alaska Highway, British Columbia – Endless distances, grazing bears and bison steaks

Udo and Ursel from Germany breed cattle in a settlement area that is fittingly called Bonanza. They’ve discovered us yesterday night at the river and invited us to visit their ranch. They came in 1986 to have a big farm. Nowadays they own about 120 cows, nearly the same number of calves, and a couple of bulls. They diminished the amount of cattle after their children left the house and only the two of them run the farm. They don’t officially produce “organic” beef, but they run the farm ecologically. It works without spray and fertilizer, they mean. Only the grasshoppers cause them problems. They eat so much grass there’s nothing left for the cattle. But against the locust that show up every few years there is not much to do. A main problem in this area is lack of water. This is nearly unthinkable in the land of two million lakes. There a few swamps on the plot, but all what is not swampy quickly dries out. The harvest yield is bad, sometimes there isn’t even enough for the cows. Rainfall is weak in summer, there is nearly no ground water and therefore no wells. A cow drinks 70 to 80 litres of water per day, on warm days or in winter when she eats hay even more. Water has to be collected from thaw in artificial ponds. When there is enough precipitation cattle has to eat snow in winter. Ursel and Udo don’t want to let us go without lunch. They have homemade game salami and game liver sausage as well as home-baked bread.

Then we finally leave Alberta and ride for a couple of hundreds if kilometres in British Columbia, Canada’s most western province. A small but sturdy tornado is sucking dust from the ditch and shaking Arminius. In Dawson Creek the legendary Alaska Highway begins. The starting point, Mile Zero, is marked by a monument. The road was built in 1942 in only six months due to strategic reasons; later on it was redeveloped several times and even partially moved what caused abridging. Today the track is completely paved and isn’t even a challenge for the numerous motorhomes in summer. Alaska Highway is today only 2230 km instead of 2288 km long. For the moment we will just join a part of it and the rest later respectively on our way back from Alaska to the south. We go first to the north of Canada to Inuvik.

A black bear is eating fervently clover in the ditch. There is nothing to disturb it: No trucks, no squealing brakes, nor clattering car doors, not even a curious human couple making pictures in front of its nose. The bear is grazing like a hungry cow that didn’t get food for three days. It looks very healthy; its black fur is shining. The following moose, the foxes and the deer don’t look worse, as well as the next two black bears that only get a stroke in our statistics.

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