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.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Touring Southern Alberta - 3. Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump

A day of rest (and cards, of course) and off again.
Women were not allowed in the Beer Parlours without an escort,
Indians were not allowed in the Beer Parlours at all.
I was raised in Southern Alberta and was oblivious to most of the Native peoples around me. I knew there was a reserve around Pincher Creek and another around Cardston but not much else. That was all before I started working with First Nations People both here and in Cape Breton.

Gradually over the years the Native Peoples have come into their own. The indigenous cultures have become an important and integral part of the culture in Southern Alberta  – although there are still patches of non-acceptance on both sides.

The Blackfoot Confederation is an interesting phenomenon. It is made up of three tribes — the Blackfoot proper (Siksika), the Bloods (Kainai), and the Peigan (Pekuni). Each tribe was independent, but they all spoke the same language and regarded themselves as allies.
They were a nomadic people and their movements were governed by the location of the buffalo, along with the weather and the season.

Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump has been constructed to remember and celebrate the history and traditions of the Prairie People. It was designated a National Historic Site in 1968, a Provincial Historic Site in 1979, and a finally a World Heritage Site in 1981 for its testimony of prehistoric life and the customs of aboriginal people.

The Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump has long been a sacred place for the Blackfoot tribes of Southern Alberta as has Writing-on-Stone. More than sacred places, Buffalo Jumps were critical to the survival of their people.

The ever-present winds creates waves through the prairie grass that lead to the imposing Rocky Mountains to the South and the sacred Vision Quest Hill to the North. 

The winds and dark, cool weather soon drove us inside the building. The passageway through the Centre unveils the environmental condition that enveloped the era of the buffalo hunt; the life-style of the indigenous peoples; the buffalo hunt itself and the consequence of Europeans migration.

Inside, you will discover five levels of exhibits that explore: buffalo hunting culture, the art of driving the great herds from the cliff, the eventual demise of the buffalo hunting culture, and the work of archaeologists at Head-Smashed-In.
I was most taken with the depictions of the Buffalo Hunt – the most vital aspect of their lives.


I felt like we just scratched the surface of all there was to see and do. We’ll need to go back again.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Almost Summer – Touring Southern Alberta

Travelling with Chuck and Sheila again is terrific – it’s been a while.

Our plan was to tour every other day and use the other days for other things – like solving all the problems of the world or catching up on the card games we have been missing.

First Day Out

1. Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

There in the middle of the prairies just north of the Montana border is the Milk River. 
 It carves a path coming up from Montana - meanders along for a few miles - and then wanders back into Montana.  The river offers a fascinating canoeing pathway or an inviting swimming hole!  The banks are steep cliffs and eons of climatic change and erosion have created a landscape unique to the valley.
As you follow Hwy 501 east from the Town of Milk River (on Hwy 4 – the main highway that goes from the Canadian/USA border crossing at Coutts to Lethbridge), you find yourself travelling along a flat, straight road through farm fields and grazing cattle.  About 30 km down the road, a rather innocuous Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park sign directs you off to your right and into a field of wild prairie grass. 

At the top of an incline, there is a fork in the road.  One road leads down into the Milk River Valley and an eclectic campground that offers everything from primitive, dry camping to fully serviced sites.  It lies in and amongst the trees along the Milk River.  The second road goes further up the hill to an impressive new Interpretation Centre that overlooks the valley, the river, and the unique rock formations.  From there you can see the Sweet Grass Hills that are in Montana on the other side of the river.  The entire park covers over 4000 acres and the river forms the boundary between Alberta and Montana. 
 This area was a traditional native camping spot with the abundance of water and food but most of all the protection it offered. 

To the Blackfoot people, Writing-on-Stone has long been a sacred place.  Oddly shaped rock formations (Hoodoos) erupt out of a sandstone foundation.  Millions and millions of years of flooding, winds, freezing and thawing has worked its magic to create a ghostly atmosphere where these tall narrow constructs reach majestically to the sky.  There they stand – a hard layered caprock that protects the softer stem with holes where the harder ironstone has fallen out.

I can just visualize the hunters etching "messages" – in the form of carvings (petroglyphs) and painting (pictographs) – to those who followed after them about their successful hunt or where others could find game. 
Today this delicate rock art is carefully preserved and protected.  Visitors must be accompanied by a guide.  In the 1880’s the North West Mounted Police established a presence in the Valley.  Their job was to be a resource for the incoming settlers and keep out the whisky runners but it was a lonely, debilitation experience for them and many deserted or were dispersed to other assignments.  At its height the Post housed 12 horses, 5 Mounties and 2 hired range riders but it burned down shortly after it was closed down in 1918.  After an archaeological excavation (in 1975) the buildings were rebuilt and then refurnished to recreate the year 1897.

2. The Etzikom Museum and the Canadian Historic Windpower Interpretive Centre
 Now this was a real hidden treasure. We only found out about it from the fellow at the Interpretive Centre at Writing-on-Stone. The Museum took over the Etzikom School when it closed down and the Windmill site sits next to it. 
 The 4 acres windmills ranging from a Holland-looking mill to the water pumping windmills that dot the landscape throughout the south.

Inside, there is over 11 000 square feet of indoor display space. My favourite display is the dolls (and I thought I had a lot of dolls).
 The Youtube video ( shows just how extensive and well displayed this local museum is.
The next tour was to Smashed-in Buffalo Jump.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Quick Catch-up

OMG – it’s past the middle of May; we have been home for over two months; every-day life things have taken over our day-to-day lives – life has devolved into a routine.
Just a quick catch-up here.
We did spend a few days with friends in Langley on our way home and also had great visit with my sister. Then we just booted it home with no further drama.
It's been a whirlwind around here since we got back. I must say this past winter was exceptionally different from the past 15, but we did enjoy it: nice place to stay; good people; and lots of new things to see and do. 
Reflecting on our winter get-aways, this year certainly was different! . . . so different that there really is no way of comparing the previous trips with this year.
BTW – We enjoyed our time on Vancouver Island winter get-away so much that we have reserved our spot at the Buena Vista by the Sea again for next season.
 Back atw home . . . e are following up on some medical stuff - eye cataract surgeries; replacing our defunct dishwasher, etc, etc, etc . . . And life goes on.
Our project has been to clear out and rearrange all the stuff we have collected over the years – Garbage; Thrift Store; Kijiji; etc
Our routine was pleasantly broken with a trip up to visit Chuck and Sheila about 5 hour north of here.
We contributed to their Yard Sale; shopped for bedding out plants with Sheila; played cards and generally enjoyed our time for a few days. 
Sheila plied me with all sorts of plants to take home. I’m trying very hard NOT to kill them as they sit out on the deck through the crazy weather we've had - hot to cold and everything in between. As usual, Fred and I cannot agree on how to water or care for them, so continue our normal banter routine – I just hope the plants survive.
Had the first cataract done. This is so weird - my "new eye" sees so clear - it's unbelievable . . . BUT . . . if I use two eyes, I see double so I can cover the "old eye" and not have my glasses on and see oh, so clear.
So I can either use my glasses and not see double (because they have the right strength of prisms) but blurry or cover my one eye and see very clear and bright but I would need to keep that eye covered because of the prisms I need to not see double. - a pain. So-o-o I will see blurry for a while til the other eye gets done – May 31. It could be a while before I get my new prescription though.
But then, I've been so used to blurry for so long it is not a big leap. Does this make any sense?
Plans are to do a Southern Alberta tour . . . it’s been years since we explored our own backyard and there is so much to see.
Chuck and Sheila will join us mid-Junish.
I hope I can see straight by then . . . I may even try to take some pictures.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Finding Highway 4 Gems

You have to take Highway 4 to get to Tofino and Ulculet on the west side of the Island. Highway 4 actually starts at the Oceanside Route (19A) near Parksville but there is a connecter road from Qualicum Beach. We are usually so anxious to get over to the other coast that we don’t take time to explore along the way. So exploring Highway 4 has become an on-going challenge.

Although interesting, Coombs is a bit overrun with tourists now. That’s the place that has the goats up on the sod roof on the store. There are a number of artists around but it is always so crowded that we don’t stop there.

Up the road from there is the Thai Smile restaurant – a little off the road place recommended by friends. The Thai food is prepared and served by a family from Chiang Mai, Thailand and is superb.

Cathedral Grove


Big attraction along here is Cathedral Grove. Cathedral Grove is one of the few remaining remnants of an old growth rainforest. Paths wander in and among sacred ancient Douglas Fir and Red Cedar that have stood for over 800 years.




As it was so eloquently put, the giant mossy trees glowing like stained glass in nature’s cathedral. Even with your eyes closed there is a humid, fragrant coolness that enables the mosses and lichens clinging to the tree branches to grow.

Multiple canopy layers, forest openings with remnants of human infiltration mingled with, dead standing trees with holes for owls, bats, squirrels, and birds are just a few of the highlights.

To the Natives the Cedar was the Tree of Life and provided them with materials for canoes, totem poles mats, baskets, ropes, etc.


See those holes in the trunk of this old tree? Well, apparently the old lumber jacks would make those holes to hold planks that they stood on to cut down the tree.



North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre

The North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre is off the beaten track at Errington, between Coombs and Parksville. Whether it was because we were there so early in the season or that we had had such awesome experiences of the Desert Museum in Tucson but we came away very disappointed in what we saw and experienced.

There was an abundance of taxidermy and very few live exhibits (except for a few birds). We did expect to be able to see the bear cubs they rescued but were only able to view a video.

He is looking for his mate:clip_image016[1]



Other Nature Crafts:





The Deep Bay Marine Field Station (



The Deep Bay Marine Field Station was a treasure we came across quite by accident. Deep Bay was a place close by that we had not explored - so off we went.


What a pleasant surprise.

clip_image032Hm-m-m Marine life needs a lot more exploring - maybe next year!



Qualicum Trading Post (

A funky little place



with some authentic treasures!


Where I finally got a pair of rubber boots! Maybe next year I’ll manage to wear them!