Sunday, August 21, 2016

Along the Rest of the Trail and Back to Lethbridge

After we left the Museum, we took the long way along the North Dinosaur Trail (Hwy 838) to get to Drumheller. We just needed to see one more Canyon and, of course, the Bleriot Cable Ferry that crossed the Red Deer River.
Bleriot Ferry: You would think that after spending seven years taking the cable ferry back and forth to work at Little Narrows (Cape Breton), another cable ferry would be the last thing we wanted to ride on. Not so. A little secret? I was really looking forward to it. 

 “Nobody’s going to take the ferry when there’s a bridge nearby,” explains Danis, (Gilles Danis of the Homestead Museum) “except if there is historical significance, like the Bleriot Ferry.”
Because of the few families in the area, the government of the day could not see their way to construct bridges across the Red Deer River so the local people generally forded the river or crossed on rafts. The Munson Ferry started running over a century ago and in 1955 was renamed the Bleriot Ferry in honour of its first ferry Captain, Andre Bleriot.
Today 90% of the traffic is tourists but many of the locals still use the ferry to cross the river.
Neither the Ferry nor the channel is as big as Little Narrows but I enjoyed the crossing anyway.
The Horsethief Canyon
Legend has it that thousands of horses belonging to various ranchers roamed freely in the Valley. They would enter the canyon and would return carrying a different ranch brand . . . hence the name Horsethief Canyon.
Other stories claim that thieves once used the tucked-away area to hide stolen livestock.
There have been over 35 dinosaur discoveries recorded in the region uncovering fossils dating as far back as 70 million years ago. Today, even though it is off the beaten track and not as popular, the Horsethief Canyon is an extension of the same formation as the Horseshoe Canyon and offers very popular hiking trails.

We arrived at Drumheller on a Monday evening. “A Ghost Town in the making". Our motel was downtown and we assumed that it would be easy to find a place for supper within walking distance.  You know that assumptions never work? 
Right – there were no restaurants around that were open on Mondays!  Really!  Yup – we did walk to a place and were amazed to find more empty store fronts than there were businesses. Maybe we missed something!

When we got up the next day, it was dull with on and off rain showers so we didn’t spend much time wandering around the town. 
Drumheller Valley was founded on the discovery of coal. Coal mines dotted the Valley. Because coal is no longer a viable product, they have turn many of the mining areas into historic tourist attractions.
 The Star Mine was one such place. They have reconstructed the Suspension Bridge that replaced the row boats that took the miners to work across the Red Deer River.

We stopped by the Atlas Mine Site and were going to explore the hoodoos but the rain came belting down so we just stopped briefly to look at them.

Brooks Aqueduct (Provincial and National) Historic Site
And how long have we lived here in Southern Alberta? We had never heard of the Brooks Aqueduct before (and we had even lived in Brooks for a couple of months). So this became the last stop on this leg of our tour. We’re always curious to check out a place we had never heard of before. Unfortunately, we discovered that the Aqueduct was not open to the public on Tuesdays. 
And what day were we there? Tuesday, of course. BUT . . .
We wandered around anyway. The CPR had constructed the Aqueduct in early 1900’s.
My first thought was why would the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) construct an aqueduct? When it came right down to it, the settlers needed water in order to survive the dry parched area of Southern Alberta and the Railway needed settlers in order to sustain their business.
Construction of the Aqueduct started in 1912 and began delivering water by 1915. Three hundred plus workers and 38 construction crews built 3-kilometres of an elevated trough of 19,000 cubic meters of steel enforced concrete capable of delivering 70 cubic meters of water per second. It is most impressive.
The Aqueduct remained functional until 1979.

This is one attraction we will come back to!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Along the Dinosaur Trail

The next leg in our Historic Alberta Venture was north-east of Calgary into the Alberta Badlands.
We took the same old route from Lethbridge, past our favourite RV Park – Aspen Crossing - through Vulcan to the Trans Canada Highway. Then we went over to Highway #9 and off north towards Drumheller – destination – the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. Little did we know about all the interesting places we would find along the way.
 Horseshoe Canyon
Our first stop was Horseshoe Canyon – just before Drumheller – so unexpected. Driving through the rocky, barren Badlands is something like driving through a lunar moonscape. And then out of nowhere the ground opens up to reveal layer upon layer of the ancient history of millions of years of climate and environmental change.
this magnificent Horseshoe shaped Canyon is spectacular and offers paths to hike down and explore the valley or take a helicopter ride along the 5 kms of the trench carved by powerful glaciers.

Royal Tyrrell Museum
As you approach the Museum, the contrast between the building and its contents is striking. Even though the outside has statues of prehistoric animals, the building is streamline and modern while inside visitors walk into worlds that carry you through millions of years of development and dinosaurs.

A Map comes along with your admission ticket. There are 10 different areas on two levels with more than 110,000 specimens, including 35 full scale dinosaur skeletons. The exhibits and galleries take you through earth’s history.
Wandering through the inside of the museum is as complex and complicated as the Paleontological* eras it represents.
*(the study of fossils to determine the structure and evolution of extinct animals and plants and the age and conditions of deposition of the rock strata in which they are found -  

The museum was opened as a research and scientific facility dedicated to the study of palaeontology soon added a large public gallery and display area. The official opening announcement was made in and was given "Royal" status in 1990.

 Large windows allow for viewing into the preparation labs where you can watch scientists as skilfully and painstakingly scratch, blow and vacuum dirt from fossils. 

 They recommend 2-3 hours to go through the museum: not nearly enough but there is only so much you can take at one time.

useum.uld merely scratch the surface of the extensive

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Touring Southern Alberta – 5. Remington Carriage Museum

I never realized how much of a hub Lethbridge is - Highways 4, 3, and 5 all meet there and travel off into different directions.
Highway 4 (extends across the border from Interstate 15 in Montana) and led us to Writing-on-Stone; then we travelled Highway 3 to the Head Smashed-in Buffalo Jump; and then onto Highway 5 to Cardston and the Remington Carriage Museum. So, all and all, we covered a fair amount of Southern Alberta.
Cardston and the area around there, have a rather interesting history. In the late 1880’s, Cardston became the first LDS (Mormon) settlement in Canada. They say that the impetus to come north from Utah and Montana was to escape the American laws against polygamy. Polygamy was integral part of the Mormon religion and is still up-held by certain extremist Mormon groups in North America. 
The first Canadian Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) was completed within the first months of their arrival (in 1887) at Cardston at the base of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The Kainai First Nation’s (Blood Tribe) Reserve . . . one of the largest reserves in North America . . . stretches out to the north of the community and the Canada-USA border is less than 25 miles to the south. To this day, the Mormon Church wields a strong influence over the community.
The Remington Carriage Museum is a park unto itself. It is situated on 20 acres on south end the Main Street of Cardston and covers over 64,000 square feet (5,900 m2 ).
We have been here before, but I think you can go a dozen times and still not see it all.
Before you even get to the building itself, the entrance offers a bronzed statue of the typical Western Cowboy:
(Taken in 2002 with Fred and then this year)

 Once inside the main building, there are rooms and rooms and rooms of carriages, wagons and sleighs. The Museum has the greatest collection of horse-drawn vehicles in North America (over 300).


 Many displays in the museum are set up to show the horses and wagons in their original settings.

others give us a glimpse of the travel mode of the times:

 And still others show the shop fronts needed to support the horse and buggy trade:

There are other incredible sites we tended to brush over lightly . . . like . . . many of the video displays; the carriage factory; the restoration shop, the stable; a carriage ride. And not least of all the Carriage Preservation Workshop where visitors can watch expert technicians carry out the art of blacksmithing, wheelrighting, woodworking, metalworking and finishing.
BUT . . . darn it, we just got tired!!
This is a different way of touring and . . . well, maybe our maturity is catching up with us!!
Our next challenge was to do the Dinosaur Trail and the Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Touring Southern Alberta – 4. Frank Slide

We travel along Highway 3 west often.  At Fort McLeod, the road splits – Highway 2 goes north towards Calgary but Highway 3 is a major road to the mountains and beyond to British Columbia.
Every time we travel this, we see singular wind turbines sitting out there in the middle of the tranquil farm landscape and then we pass by the first wind farm built along the ridge.

I have always been fascinated by dead trees and the tree that marks the approach to the Crowsnest Pass is my favourite. 
They did threaten to remove it but the local folks protested and it now stands there rooted in concrete.

The Crowsnest Pass area was a magnet for immigrants – jobs abundant in the coal mines. 
Small mining towns sat along the track that carried the coal trains. The town of Frank sat at the base of the Turtle Mountain. Everyone knew the Mountain was unstable but it was rich in the coal that supported the company and, in turn, provided work for so many of the people who lived there.
In the early morning hours of April 29, 1903, the greatest landslide in North American history happened. Eighty-two million tonnes (90 million tons) of limestone - slid down the north slope of Turtle Mountain.

In 100 seconds: at least 76 people were buried alive under tons of massive limestone boulders; three-quarters of the homes in Frank were crushed like balsa wood; over a mile of the Canadian Pacific Railroad was completely destroyed; and a river became a lake.

Frank Slide Interpretive Centre does a good job of following the development of the coal communities in and around the Pass and the Frank Slide disaster.