Window-Gazing Across Canada

Even though passenger jets have been around for over 50 years, they  never ceases to amaze me.

It wasn’t too long ago (1885) that the Transcontinental Railroad was built.   Before that, there were no road and very few towns.   It took months to cross the prairies, let alone the continent.

Today, we sit in a chair in the sky, traveling 8 miles a minute.   The time it takes us to read a few chapters of a book and eat a salty snack, we’ve crossed the Great Lakes, the seemingly endless prairie provinces, and we’re already on the other side of the Rocky Mountains.

When I fly, I can stare out the window for hours, looking at the landscape slowly passing below.  I like to bring an Altas to find out exactly where I am.

Sure,  I can easily see the same thing (and in more detail) using Google Earth.

But there’s something inherently satisfying in holding a map in your hands, and tracking your progress in real-time.

This was on my last flight, leaving from Toronto to British Columbia.

Here’s the Tobermory and Cove Island, on the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron.

Next, is Manitoulin Island off the North Shore of Lake Huron.

A bit of trivia here.  Manitoulin is the world’s largest island within a freshwater lake.  In the center of the photo is lake Manitou, which is the world’s largest lake within a freshwater island.


This is somewhere over Northern Ontario, past Lake Superior.  (I’m guessing around Quetico Park).     Northern Ontario has tens of thousands of lakes like this.    The area here seems to be a relatively pristine, without any logging roads or clear-cuts (which is pretty rare these days).


Ontario is one big province. Two hours into the flight, and we’re still over it, near Kenora.

Kenora is in the center, with Sand lake is clearly visible under the wing-tip, in the upper left.


Next, is just north of the City of Winnipeg, with Lake Winnipeg in the distance.

Lake Winnipeg is huge, about 400 kilometers long.  This is just the southern tip.   But from an altitude of 40,000 feet, it’s amazing how far you can see.  In the distance are Hecla and Black Islands, about 120 km away.

The east (right) of Lake Winnipeg appears dark blue, due to the boreal forest.   To the west (left),  the forest disappears and the farmland starts.   From this altitude, you can see the abrupt transition between forest and prairie.

Another interesting thing to note is the Red River Floodway rejoining the Red River, at the bottom-center of the photo.

The Red River is especially prone to serious flooding because it drains to the north.

During spring thaw, the downstream parts can still be iced up, unable to accommodate the melted icewater from the south.  Everything backs up and the river overflows its banks for miles.

The 43-kilometer Floodway was built in 1968, to divert the Red River around Winnipeg in case of such flooding.   It’s quite interesting to see this man-made ditch that goes on for miles.

It’s been used 20 times so far and has prevented billions of dollars of flood damage.


Next is Riding Mountain National Park.   This park is located on an escarpment and is a virtual island of forest surrounded by a sea of prairie.

The park is roughly 100 km by 30 km.    It’s amazing that you can see it in its entirety out the window, with Clear Lake in the center.

The park boundaries are quite abrupt, where the farmland meets the forest.  The outline actually does look like the green spot on the map


The next hour of the flight isn’t as exciting.    Small-town Saskatchewan and Alberta…in JANUARY.

(Does it get any better than this?)

Wouldn’t you LOVE to live there?

It was so flat and boring, I lost track of where we were.


And finally….after anxiously waiting all those hours, I was waiting for the icing on the cake, the ultimate reward… see the Rocky Mountains in all their glory!

And of course, they were all clouded in.

I swear, this happens EVERY time I fly out west.   Hours and hours of clear skies…and the clouds just HAPPEN to appear at the most scenic part of the flight.

Oh well….at least I got a few teasing glimpses now and then…which was all right.

And finally,there’s  landing in Kelowna, where suddenly the snow’s all gone, and it feels like springtime 2 months ahead of schedule…

(Is it any wonder that everyone wants to move out to BC?)

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24 Comments on “Window-Gazing Across Canada”

  1. Eyeteaguy Says:


    And that was one damned cool post.

    Damned cool.


  2. Donald Mills Says:

    Great post, Friar.

    I drove from Winnipeg to Calgary once and can attest to the fact that it is certainly flat and boring. I felt like I was in a flintstone cartoon – with the same two frames of background animation (rock, cow, rock, cow, rock, cow) playing all the way through.


  3. Friar Says:


    Glad you liked it.

    Well, I figured I needed to make up for it, after my last lame-ass blueberry post.

    PS. Congratulations. You win. Again.


    It’s a rite of passsage. I think everyone should drive across the prairies…at least once in their lives. (Call it a learning experience).

    What’s interesting, is that parts of Saskatchewan can make North Dakota seem CROWDED by comparison.

    Always glad to have you drop by.

  4. Karen JL Says:

    That *was* a cool post. Nice shtuff.

    And I’m very grateful to be able to look out my window and see those mountains. 🙂

  5. Friar Says:


    Too bad you couldn’t give us ONE of those mountains to take back to Ontario.

    Even a teensy-weensy one. You guys wouldn’t miss it…but we’d sure appreciate it.

  6. Friar's Mom Says:

    @ Don Mills,

    This is my ninth winter of driving across Canada. I love the Prairies. They have a unique ever-changing personality of their own. It’s refreshing for a city person to experience the beauty of vast open space, fluffy clouds in a big blue sky, distant thunder storms. I love cattle, I grew up with them.

    Have you ever watched a thunderstorm in the Prairies a hundred miles away? Nature puts on a brilliant explosive show. Lighting flashes illuminate a sky filled with huge white thunder clouds, and there is no sound.

    If you think the Prairies are boring, you haven’t driven through the sparse burned out forests of northern Ontario.

  7. Donald Mills Says:

    @Friar’s Mom.

    I was likely too harsh in my description but part of that was coloured by the fact that 4 of us drove from Winnipeg to Calgary non-stop in a 2 door economy car with about 400 lbs of luggage.

    I didn’t see a thunderstorm but I do remember stepping out of the car (when we were being ticketed for excessive speed) and really being quite awestruck at just how expansive the horizon was. Then it was back into the damned pinto and cow/rock, cow/rock…

    I don’t regret the drive. I’m glad to have experienced it. In fact, it was a small part of one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.

  8. Seestor Says:

    Great post brother Fry. Very cool.

    I drove two solid days with mother Fry this Christmas to help her get out West and she still had HOURS of Ontario ahead of her when we parted ways. It’s a big big province.

  9. Friar's Mom Says:

    @ Don Mills,

    Your expression of Cow/Rock, Cow/Rock reminds me of a song about Canada by the Arrogant Worms called Rocks and Trees

    Give it a listen. Hope you enjoy it.

  10. Davina Says:

    So cool to compare the real thing against the maps Friar. Real cool! I’ve flown across Canada a few times and can never get enough of the view; especially the meandering rivers and the cloud formations. You gotta have a window seat, otherwise it’s a long flight. On one flight the Concorde passed — a silver streak that just whizzed by.

    My least favourite part of the flight is over the Great Lakes because of the turbulence. Most favourite part, aside from being thrust back into the seat on takeoff… seeing the tip of Mt. Baker rising above the clouds, just before the plane is swallowed up in the descent.

  11. Brett Legree Says:

    I always get a sore neck looking out the window 🙂

    But yes, very interesting post. I like it when you’re on one of the planes that has the live updated map on the display in front of you.

  12. XUP Says:

    I hate to say this, but I agree with Eyeteaguy. I promise I’ll never say that again. I also wanted to add that flying to Europe, oddly enough, isn’t very interesting at all

  13. Linda Says:

    Wonderful photos. I hope to see the Rockies some day. Would love to do the trans-Canada train ride.

  14. dave1949 Says:

    For any of you that think driving or flying across the prairies is boring you should try it by bicycle.
    There is a whole lotta wheat out there to look at at 25 km an hour.

    Oh and go west to east with the prevailing winds the other direction will just make you cry a lot.

  15. Friar Says:

    I can see how being crowded into the a car and driving straight through isn’t as much fun as it sounds.

    I did the same thing…We drove from Marathon, Ontario to Calgary, Non-stop, two of us in a Honda Civic. It was brutal.

    @Friar’s Mom
    Good song. Are you going to send that to your grandies?

    I You’re at the Lakehead, and you think you’re almost in Manitoba..and there’s another 5-6 hours of Ontario left! (And it’s nothing but boring forest….)

    Once I’m past Lake Superiour, Ontario can end. I’m done with the province at that point.

    Yeah, I’m alwayws amazed at how much of the map you can see from 40,000 feet.

    Mt. Baker…that woudl be SO cool! I’ve never seen it from a plane!

    Yep…I obsess with the Live-Map in front of me. I like to see our speed and altitude.

    The location is a bit general, though. The size of the plane on the map spans the entire province of Alberta, for example.

    I get a little bit alarmed, when you and Eyeteaguy start agreeing on my blog. Maybe I should stop writing posts like this.

    But I do agree with you about flying over water. I flew to Australia once….12 hours of nothing but cloud and water is quite painfully boring. ‘

    I’ve seen most of the Canada and the US, and I can honestly say the Canadian Rockies is one of the most beautiful spots on the continent. I totally freaked out the first time I saw them, in real life.

    You should definitely try to make the trip, one of these days.


    (Shhh….don’t give Friar’s Mom any ideas!)

    Did you do the trip? One of our neighbors did. He said the toughest part wasn’t the Rocky Mountains, but Northern Ontario (with all the steep up-and-down hills).

  16. Steph Says:

    Wow. This was cool! Do that every time you go somewhere so I can live vicariously!

    PS. Where was Bear in all this?

  17. Eyeteaguy Says:


    Cut that out, how am I supposed to be unique if everyone stats agreeing with me. Sheesh.

    Although my comment was positive and supportive, so quite out of character.

    Friar will have to post a painting of blueberries to compensate… oh wait, he already did.


  18. Friar Says:

    The Bear was in my knapsack at my feet. (I always have him travel with me and not with my luggage..I don’t trust airlines)

    The Bear was a bit shy, though, about coming out on the plane in front of all the people. So he stayed stowed away…

    You’ve set a dangerous precedent….this isn’t the first time you’ve given a positive comment to my blog.

    It’s starting to frighten me.

  19. Friar's Mom Says:

    @ Wee Friar,

    Aaaah! You were so focussed on skiing, you didn’t take any photos of Junior Bear while you were here. It would have been great to take a photo of him in the skiing enviroment. Junior bear sitting among/on snow ghosts would have been awesome.

    Ooooops! I forgot, you had 16 days of upper mountain fog. Maybe next year.

  20. Friar Says:

    @Friar’s Mom

    It’s a pain to get off and on the chairlift with a knapsack.

    Maybe next year, when Junior learns to ski.

  21. Friar's Mom Says:

    @Wee Friar,

    Next year, I can take him for a ski run in my zipped up nylon bag. You can take his photo. We can leave him at the ski school desk, or with my liftie friends, and pick him up at end of the day.

    This time you were too busy taking photos of Odin and ripened bananas.

  22. Steph Says:


    I’ll bet the liftie friends would love him!

  23. Friar Says:


    Oh, don’t get Friar’s Mom started on the lifties.

    She the Ski Resorts’ Den Mother. She hugs them and brings them candy and stuff…!!

  24. Friar's Mom Says:


    I ski with a pocket full of Werther’s butterscotch candies. If the lifties are friendly, polite, and work hard at their mundane job, I compliment them for doing a good job and toss them a candy. They work for minimum wage, and someone has to show them they’re appreciated.

    They know me by name and know that Friar is my son. Two weeks after he left, they were still asking about him.

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