Kootenay Mountain Tour

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Thursday, May 21, 2009 - Thursday, June 25, 2009
June 25th, 2009
Kootenay Mountain Comes to a Close
 
As the Kootenay Mountain 2009 tour draws to a close, the insipred and imaginative team members prepare to travel off into their new corners of the country and world.  Meanwhile, we here at the Otesha office file our papers and collect our information about the tour from beginning to end.  We realized that there were a few questions we were missing the answers to... mainly:
 
If your tour had been a TV show, what would some of the best episodes have been?
That's what they were asked, and here's what they answered...
 
The Journey to Meet the Cows
Upon entering the cattle country of Southern Alberta, KMT took initiative to do some first-hand research. In true Otesha fashion, the idea to visit a cattle ranch transformed into reality the very next day. Arranged with the help of the Chamber of Commerce, we toured a local ranch replete with on-site slaughterhouse. While we were able to see both positives and negatives at the multi-generation small family ranch we visited, we decided to reinstate the cattle scene of the play (which had been previously removed) with greater detail of the challenges posed by such systems of food production.
 
Sailing Down from Anarchist Summit
From Johnstone Creek Provincial Park, we rode up the hilly mountain roads to Anarchist Summit. Despite the intimidating name, the climb turned out to be one of the lesser summits – both in terms of riding and elevation. However, once past the summit, we were surprised to find a number of challenging uphills before we plunged rapidly into the warm desert valley of Osoyoos. Riding down one 8% grade switchback after another reminded us why riding a bike is next only to skydiving in terms of thrill and fun!
 
The Mixed Blessing of yer Mornin’ Oats
After 7 weeks of touring together, there is not a more blasphemous and blessed word than oatmeal. The ancient Scottish breakfast provides warm filling nourishment for the crucial morning hours on your bike. However, for many Oteshites accustomed to a more diverse breakfast menu, oats became reviled as much as revered. Kootenay Mountain Tour succeeded in setting new records for ways to cook the morning breakfast while Lucy became revered for her faithful commitment to consume the leftovers of that day’s first meal.
 
Thanks for watching folks,
Signing off for the Kootenay Team.
Seth and Rozzy
 
***
 
June 8th, 2009
We are so over Anarchist Summit!
 
Sarah and the Kootenay Mountain Team take on Osoyoos BC!
 
 Sarah here, writing to you from Osoyoos, BC - a place that claims to be the hottest location in Canada! I believe it too - it is the only natural desert we have in this country, and I can tell that they get some pretty ridiculous heat spells, as it's only the beginning of June and the temperature has already hit the 40 celcius mark!
 
But let me backtrack first... After Cranbrook, we had a fantastic stay at the Katimavik house in Nelson!  Since we had some time off, we were able to take part in a hike, visit Oso Negro - a delicious coffee shop - and share our presentation with a couple of the Katimavik groups in the area, including our hosts!  Sylvie Anne, a past Otesha tour member, was a fantastic liaison, and recommended a lot of great things to do in town.  We also had some great performances as Nelson is pretty environmentally friendly.  We got some great feedback that only bolstered our high spirits!
 
At the end of our stay in Nelson, we were all really sad to be leaving, but the ride from Nelson to Castlegar was an easy one, which made the situation a little better! I was partnered up with Lucy, and we managed to stop at two roadside waterfalls to cool off along the way! At the second waterfall stop, we became surrounded by millions of little white fluffs, presumably from a cottonwood tree, and it almost looked like there was snow falling out of a 35 degree, perfectly sunny sky!
 
We only stayed one night in Castlegar at a local church/community centre before setting out the next day on a 100 km arduous trek through the Bonanza Pass, with a climb up and over Paulson Summit along the way. We spent a good chunk of the day just grinding slowly up a gradual hill - after 5 hours, we made it to the top! We were so excited we all stopped and hugged and snapped some great pictures of us under the summit sign. We couldn't believe we'd biked up a summit more than 5000 ft high! The ride back down the other side was a cinch after that - we got up to speeds of 55 km per hour, and we hit the bottom after about 40 minutes! We had only gotten as far as Christina Lake, however, and still had another 20 km to go before our final destination. We decided a good swim in the lake was in order, and some ice cream too!
 
Finally we made it to Grand Forks, where we all collapsed in exhaustion for the night at the wildlife centre. We had some deer visit with us while we were there - the wildlife in the area were very comfortable with humans (due to hunting restrictions) so they walked right up to us without a second thought! We only spent one night at the centre before heading out to Mihaela Yeung's organic farm for our Mid-Tour Retreat - 2 days where we were given the opportunity to work on our group dynamics, our play, and to get the chance to take part in a work-share on the farm.
 
 
After that, it was back to Grand Forks for one more night at the wildlife centre, and a performance at the local high school. This was our chance to test out the changes we made on the play while on our Mid-Tour Retreat. We had developed a great introduction for our play that took the form of a game show that got a few audience members involved! We were nervous about how the game show idea would pan out, but we had a great audience for our first test performance, and it seemed to go off without a hitch!
 
 
 
 
 
From Grand Forks it was on to Johnstone Creek Provincial Park, which involved a few hill climbs and a small summit - this time only about 1000 ft - easy!  We sat around the campfire that night singing songs and laughing.  The next day, Catherine and I were in the car for the ride day where we would finally be heading up and over Anarchist Summit.
 
We were both pretty sad about not getting the chance to conquer this one on our bikes, so we decided to make the most of it while we were in the car! While the rest of the team was biking gradually up to the steep and winding way down the summit, we were dancing up a storm with the music turned up as loud as it would go!  The drive down the summit was pretty scary in the car, let alone on a bike, so Catherine and I decided to pull over at a lookout and scribble some friendly chalk messages on the ground for our hard-working teammates to see!  Despite the steep grades and sheer edges, the view was absolutely breathtaking.
 
This brings me to our current location here in Osoyoos!  We are staying at the Sonora Community Centre, where we finally got to take showers! Yes, up until this morning, I hadn't showered for a full week. Urgh. Yesterday afternoon and this morning were free time for the group, so I spent a good chunk of time at the beach (trying to even out my ridiculous bicycle shorts tan) and a couple of us grabbed some pizza at a local restaurant this afternoon. So good!  Some of the others went for walks, checked out the local bike shop and health food stores, and painted bicycles with donated paint from the bottle depot!
 
Now it is off to bed, as we have another long and most likely sweltering ride ahead of us!  Did I mention it was 40 degrees celcius yet?  But before we kick off on the journey tomorrow, we are invited to visit the Osoyoos Desert Museum to learn a little bit about this amazing habitat that does not seem to fit into the "typical" Canadian landscape.  After spending a couple boiling hot days here, I'm definitely ready to learn more about this awe-inspiring desert nestled in the lush Okanagan Valley.  Until next time...
 
***
 
May 24th, 2009
Mountains, Borders and Bike Rides!

Katryna van Vliet writes from Cranbrook, BC.

Arriving in Fernie was definitely a highlight of my trip thus far. This was our first day in BC, and crossing the border into a much greener area was amazing. We hung out at the local organic market/cafe with a beautiful view of Mount Fernie. Later on, a couple of us went down to the river, and brave Seth took a very, very chilly dip. When we finally got into the Lutheran church, we had dinner on the front lawn, it was beautiful!

For me, it was love at first sight in this beautiful little town. Everyone says hi on the street, and coming from a big city like Montreal I found this particularly nice. There are always people out and about, and there is access to the river at the end of every street. 

The next day, we performed at an elementary school and later in a middle school, in the cafeteria at lunchtime. We laughed a lot and had a good time thinking of innovative ways to engage the crowd, such as having the zombies chase Billy into the crowd. Later that day we volunteered at Fernie's community garden, where we pulled weeds, planted some peas and took down an old fence. All day, the mountains in the background made everything that much more beautiful. It was VERY difficult to leave, especially because it was 106 km to the next town... (eep!)

...but we made it to Cranbrook in good spirits after a day of a little rain and lunch overlooking a valley. And so it continues! Onwards and Westwards!

***

Catherine Brennan takes on recording the ride to Crowsnest Past!

May 22nd, 2009
The places we go and the people we meet

I'm writing this now from the Crowsnest Pass, our last stop in Alberta before we move on to BC. This journey is moving forward at ridiculous speeds. Since Okotoks: we biked to the quiet town of Nanton, where we stayed camped out at the home of two young writers and enjoyed campfires and chili. We travelled on to Fort MacLeod, one of our last flat prarie rides. The next bike ride to Pincher Creek was a first taste for the team of the challenging roads ahead- intense headwinds, small shoulders, long distances. But the beauty of the mountains ahead are always enough to keep us going. (And no one can deny that the emergence of new leg muscles is quite a nice perk).
 
In Pincher Creek: awesome performances to a school and a Rotary Centre, quite the diverse crowd. A beautiful home to stay in, complete with roaming deer in the backyard. We also had two learning opportunities planned, above and beyond all of the knowledge and skill sharing already going on in our amazing group. One was to a cattle ranch, typical to the area, where we were given a tour and learned much: about the huge use of land that the cattle take up, the use of growth hormones, the feed lots they are raised on, the breeding and eventual culling methods of the cattle. We were very much in the heart of conservative, cattle-raising Alberta. The other was to a wind farm, where we witnessed the sheer power of huge wind turbines, a fast-growing industry in the area, spinning energy and hope. Of course, the very existence of such wind farms confirms that the area is indeed windy, and so we prepared ourselves for the journey ahead.
 
The next ride found us biking our little legs off through a tunnel of wind into the Crowsnest pass, across the Continental Divide of the Rockies. The sun was out, spirits were high, and there was so much to see in every direction as we cycled by. We stayed in Blairmore but performed one town over in Coleman at the Blackbird cafe, a very funky little coffee shop in an old converted church. And it was Caili's birthday! So we all went out on the town and experienced some small town saloons. The next day we performed at Frank Slide interpretive Centre, where a natural rock slide in 1903 buried the small town of Frank, killing 70 of its members.
 
So that catches us up to where we are now. Next step: Fernie, B.C. But the biggest part of the adventure, as always, is the people. 

The people you meet and the connections you make, the people you share with, explore with, dream with. The ideas that emerge. That's what it is all about, what so much of travel is for me. Our little team of ten former strangers has really merged into a big family at this point, with each member vibrant and unique and integral. And the people we have met along the way and the outpouring of generosity we have received from them is astounding- from kind ranchers and farmers who share knowledge to warm house owners who share their space, from new friends who bake us warm carrot cake to old Otesha friends who plan us shows and hikes and pass along their wisdom. Energy and inspiration abounds everywhere we go. Needless to say, the Kootenay Mountain Tour is feeling the love!

***

The Kootenay Mountain Tour is made up of 10 incredible individuals, who have decided to each take on the challenge of recounting portions of their journey through their own words. 
 
 
Check out this first entry from Cali Steele as the team rolls from Calgary up to Okotoks.
 
***
May 21st, 2009
Damp Days, but Sunny Spirits

 

On the first official day of the Kootenay Mountain Tour 2009 (KMT) I found myself cruising solo over rolling hills and gliding across prairie flatlands. My bike buddy was never far in the distance as I spontaneously changed the lyrics of a certain Anne of Green Gables song from “Ice cream, is anything more delectable” to “Bike butt, is anything less delectable.” It’s not that I was actually experiencing this “bike butt” that we’d been forewarned about, it’s just what happened to come into my head as I hooted and hollered my way down hills in the bright sunshine.
 
After a wonderful training week at Kamp Kiwanis filled with theatre games, camping excursions, talks about our fears and excitements, play rehearsal and delicious grub, the 10 KMT members, all women plus one wonderful man, set out on our much anticipated journey.
 
The next leg of the trip was to Okotoks. As soon as Natalie and I stepped outside to set off for the rest of the day, the skies opened. Boy, oh boy, did it rain. So hard! I had worried that being wet and cold would quickly dampen (haha…no pun intended) my spirits, but instead I felt more encouraged and motivated. We were soaked by the time we reached Fish Creek Provincial Park.  We were on a busy highway and kept getting splashed, but our spirits were high because it was nice to be moving. As we started to leave the city behind us, the sun came out!!! Hooray!
 
But then…..my bike trip ended for the day when my pedal fell off!
 
The threading of my crank was completely stripped and I couldn’t reattach it. Darn! Natalie and I pulled off to the side of the road to make a phone call to our much appreciated support car to come and pick me up. Quinn and I made an emergency trip back into Calgary to get me a new crank. Those folks at the Good Life sure saved my butt!
We arrived in at the Okotoks United Church at about 7:30pm that evening by the wonderful smiling faces of our teammates and by our hosts. Doug is the Reverend of the church and Elizabeth is one of our billets. They had prepared a delicious hot meal of chickpea curry and buns. There were also cupcakes! We are in Okotoks for the weekend and will do our first official KMT performance on Sunday morning at the United Church Service. We are all super stoked! Today we had a tour of the local recycling depot which is doing some really great work in this community! The idea of sustainability seems to be catching on really well with a lot of folks. It’s so nice to see that there really is hope! And as long as people continue to believe in themselves and in others that hope will only keep growing.