2008-08-21 55 -114
While not necessarily doable, this is most certainly an attemptable geohash location for Slave Lake. It's only about 7 km from town as the crow flies, on what may be Sawridge reservation land, but there are no "No Trespassing" signs and all the locals I met on my previous excursion were friendly. There are quite a few roads in the area. The colour in the satellite image corresponds to what I have previously found to be swamp, but it is much closer to the road, perhaps 50 metres rather than 500, and now I know that swamp-wading is the sort of thing I have to do to make this graticule my bitch. I'll bring a change of socks.
The geohash is not far from the same good dirt road that led most of the way to a previous geohash but it is on the other side of the river, and bridges are not evident in the satellite view. (Local maps do not show these roads). One would assume that a road that led straight to the side of a river and matched up in width and direction with a road leading from the other side would have a bridge, but the one assuming that would not be from Slave Lake.
The most direct line from town to the geohash is actually the railroad tracks, and I believe they are fenced off as well as not the most suitable surface for cycling. Another road-coloured line goes right by the geohash, but there's something not quite right about the density of that line. It may turn out to be a powerline right-of-way instead. But I'll try it.
Plan #1 - Take the main dirt road that I took before until I reach the slightly fuzzy road turnoff, and see if there is a bridge there. If so, it takes me almost directly to the geohash.
Plan #2 - If there is no bridge there and/or the road-coloured thing is not a road, I continue further looking for a bridge. There is definitely a bridge about 7 km past there, and that road will also get me quite close to the geohash.
Plan #3 - Run naked and screaming in the direction of the arrow on my GPS until I finally get to a geohash in this graticule.
Robyn and an incredibly crappy $100 Wal-Mart bicycle
After all that planning I selected another route. About five km out of town on highway 2 there is a turn-off which also happened to be a good paved road and I followed it to the spot that I had identified from satellite views as the beginning of a possible access road. The turnoff was choked with about twelve pickups and some heavy equipment, as the raison d'être of the road seems to be construction access for a pipeline. There were no "No Entry" signs and there was room for me to go by all the construction vehicles, so I did, onto a good dirt road.
The interesting thing about dirt roads is that as soon as it rains, as it was very lightly today, they become not so good mud roads. See the first picture in the gallery for evidence of what that did to my bicycle. It was very hard going, but at least this time when it felt like my tire was sinking into something soft it was, and wasn't a flat. Some of the construction trucks passed me along the road, making it even muckier. I smiled and waved cheerfully at the drivers, in an attempt to distract them from wondering what the heck I was doing here.
The road continued to approach the geohash until the GPS read 0.06 nm. With 6000' in a nm that's a mere 360', about 100 m away. I knew Slave Lake was going to make me work for every centimetre, but I wasn't going to let her beat me today. I took a compass bearing to match the GPS bearing, left the bike by the side of the road and headed straight into the weeds. The first layer was just tall grass with uneven footing. There was no ditch behind it, but the weeds got taller and the ground seemed to consist entirely of clumps and hollows, like a Dr. Seuss landscape, but completely obscured by weeds. I could see bullrushes ahead of me, which I knew could herald a deep swamp, but I had dry socks in my knapsack and nothing was going to stop me today. The second picture is the bullrushes, those weeds that look like they are growing hot dog wieners. Not much perspective there, but that's what it's like wandering around in head-high vegetation. The bullrushes were rooted in water, but bullrushes are very strong and dense and as I pushed them and other vegetation down ahead of me, they piled up enough to form a bridge across the wettest part, and I didn't even get my feet wet.
If you look carefully at the picture of the bullrushes, you can see the tops of some trees in the distance. After the bullrushes, there was what seemed like a couple of hundred metres of bushwhacking and then I entered the trees. They had the most treacherous footing of all, with big water holes underneath them and more Dr. Seusslike miniature mossy hillocks to stand on and try not to slip off of as I made my way through the trees, watching the distance on the GPS finally count down to 0.00 nm. I did it!
I was going to walk on my hands to demonstrate circus skills at this geohash, but I could barely walk on my feet given the terrain, so I'll settle for taking the graticule's virginity (at last!) and for documenting the coldest geohash to date, and what I've just been told is the 10th most northerly. If it had been closer to the road I would have invited one of the passing construction workers to share in the triumph, but instead I celebrated alone. Although there was a mosquito on the camera as I took my photo with the GPS.