Saturday 12 January 2013

Winter Drive to Prince George

     Driving the 135 miles (217 km) to Prince George in the winter, is not something that I enjoy.  The days are short, and we usually like to leave at 7:00 which means, that the first part of the trip has to be done in the dark.
     So right away you are faced with two hazards:  night driving and winter road conditions.  Night driving intensifies the possibility of animal collisions, so you have to continually monitor the side of the road looking for the reflection of animal eyes, to help you prepare, in case one suddenly comes out in front of you.  In the winter, Highway 16 is almost always covered with hard packed snow with "slippery conditions".  
    We had originally planned to go to Prince George earlier in the week, but we postponed until after the highway crews had a chance to plow away most of the snow.  Yesterday, all of the fresh snow had been plowed to the sides of the road, leaving only the hard packed ice on the highway's surface.
    Our car has an outdoor temperature reading on the dash, and I always find it interesting to discover how much the temperature changes along the deep valleys and hills that we snake along on our way to Prince.  When we started out, the temperature in McBride was -16C (+3F), along the drive it climbed to -14C (+7), then dipped to -22C (-8F), then in Prince George it was -17C (+1F).
     We did see some wildlife along the way, fortunately, the 4 moose we saw on the way up to PG, all stayed on the side of the road.  The only other wildlife was the birds.  We saw a great gray owl sitting on a power line, a raven, successfully begging for food at the Slim Creek rest area, and of course lots of "suicide" birds.
     "Suicide birds" is the term I use for the small flocks of birds that gather on the highway to eat the sand that has been put down to give traction to drivers.  Birds need to swallow small rock particles so they can grind up their food.  During the winter, just about all the sand is covered with snow, except for that spread on the highways, so they congregate there.  Usually, they fly away shortly before the vehicles get to them, but it is not unusual for a few of the late flyers to get hit.  I usually try to flash my lights or honk my horn, but that doesn't always get them going.  Fortunately, I don't think I hit any yesterday.
     The top photo shows the sunshine just starting to hit the peak of one of the hills on our way up to Prince George.  I took the bottom photo on our drive back to McBride.

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