Well what do you do with 24 hours off when you’ve worked for the last 13 days? Hopefully you choose to go on an adventure! At least that’s what I did.
I had decided that I wanted to try and hit 3 of these Top 10 places to visit in Alberta, that I hadn’t visited before. I’m proud to say that I’ve now visited 9 of the 10. I wonder how I’d measure up in other provinces. Something I’ll have to look into.
Anyways this adventure meant 1200 km of travel (roundtrip), but was so worth it.
First stop was to overnight in Milk River. I did not take time to look around and see what all was there.
I was surprised on my drive south how great the mountain range to the west was. I knew I could see mountains when in Calgary in the past; But did not expect to see them as I continued further south for some reason.
I was amazed at the bridge in Lethbridge, but did not stop to take a picture. I’m sure you could google that if you are interested.
As I got closer to Milk River, I noticed two mountains to the east. Little did I know, that tomorrow I would be heading towards the foot of these mountains.
Morning came early, after all, I had some lofty goals. It was a 42 km drive to my first destination Writing-On-Stones Provincial Park. As I drove, I could see signs indicating different bridges, off the main road that crossed the river I was following. I could also see that I was getting closer to the mountains, I had seen the night before. I really have no idea how close I got.
As I got closer to the park, I saw a number of ‘Campground Full’ signs, and thought ‘oh, gee, it is going to be busy’. However, I did not see any people on the main trail while hiking, the silly people had no idea what they were missing. Maybe it was because I started out on the trail at 7:30am, but maybe not.
The park is a special place, like all parks should be. It is a partnership between the Alberta Government and the First Nation people of the area protecting not only a geologically unique and diverse area, but also a place of cultural importance to the First Nation people. The blackfoot people had been visiting and using the area for thousands of years. It is a place of spiritual importance to them. Also as the name indicates has some of the finest petroglyphs in North America.
The 5 km hike (2.5 there, and then back along the same trail) was not a quick hike and took me close to 90 minutes. Although not technically difficult, it is a challenging hike due to the rock formations that you are walking through and around. I had also heard of the prairie rattle snakes that are in the area, so was being a little extra cautious, although I never did see/hear one.
More than a few times in my life, I have found myself truly appreciating geography, geology, and earth sciences, which I think was one of the few things drawing me to this unique destination. Last year, I really enjoyed the hoodoo’s that I visited near Drumheller. When I heard there were hoodoo’s here as well, I wanted to explore.
I really enjoyed meandering in and around the hoodoo’s. The landscape, and rock formations were beautiful, inspiring, and I tried to capture some of it’s beauty. I’ve said this before that the human eye is an incredible invention, and a camera, cannot capture the true beauty that our eye takes in. So as you enjoy these pictures, think about what the camera didn’t capture, take time to zoom in on some pictures, as it really was something else to behold. Don’t just think of yourself as looking at pictures, but instead joining me on this adventure, walking in, through and around these great structures.
Although I didn’t see any rattle snakes, I did see lots of fauna. I saw a total of about 10 mule deer. This one, although a little far away and across the river, was just smiling and chilling, grazing on some of that great prairie grass. I did come up on a number of other deer, but they bounded away too quickly for my camera. I also saw a number of rabbits, and tonnes of birds.
And you should have known I’d have some flower shots. I even got to see some prickly pear cacti, but they weren’t too impressive to capture, but I was excited to see some cacti way up here in Canada, EH?
It was the thistles that I was most excited for. I think I may have even taken some of my best thistle shots. I’m not sure where my fascination for this plant comes from, but I like buying thistle souvenirs for some odd reason; Pictures, cufflinks, and I’m sure the list goes on.
This valley would not be here if it wasn’t for the river that flows through it. The river I’m sure helped in depositing some of the materials needed to create the geological features, as well carving out the valley. The park is well known for a number of it’s Cooley’s, which would have also been formed by a number of tributary streams, creeks, and rivers. Some of which can be explored with day use ‘back country’ hiking by wading across the river. Maybe one day it means a return trip. But the river was great, and provided some beautiful scenery. Water truly is important, and I think too often we take it for granted. I did not take time to step into the water, as I wanted to keep moving along the trail of this adventure.
And we need to talk about the name of the park. The first stone carving I saw was a medicine wheel with buffalo horns coming off of it. I’m not sure about the authenticity of this carving and was wondering if it is modern day graffiti, which is illegal in the park (and I must say there was very little of).
I did make to the ‘Battle Scene’ carvings, which were remarkable. The Battle Scene depicts a great battle and you can see men, teepees, guns, and horses in the fading carving. According to Blackfoot tradition, it depicts a great battle that took place in 1866 and is believed to have been carved sometime in the late 1800s. It is comprised of over 250 characters and separate carvings. There are many more carvings in the park, but they are protected in restricted areas. You can go on tours of these restricted sites, but they take a lot of time, so maybe when I have more than 24 hours I’ll come back to take a tour of the other carvings.
One Last View of the park, and the rocks…
Next stop was the, The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. It was an hour and a half drive back to Lethbridge, so I was ready to stop when I got there. The Garden was not what I was expecting. It did not have the size, the wealth of plants, and generally was not grandiose. However, it was exactly what I needed. It wasn’t long after I stepped into the gate that I was reminded that often, peace is truly found in the most simple things. Although I could have powered through and seen everything in about 5 minutes, I decided to take my time, to slow down, and to enjoy life. Altogether I spent a little over 30 minutes here, listening to the babbling brooke, and enjoying the well-manicured trees. I also enjoyed taking time to ring the bronze Friendship Bell, which hangs in the bell tower, which was commissioned specifically for Nikka Yuko and cast in Kyoto, Japan. The bell’s deep tones ring a friendship call to all visitors. For me it also rang out peace. I have a hard time turning on the news this summer, and I think more than ever we need peace. Peace of mind, Peace of body, but also Peace for the world. There is a lot of turmoil in our world today, and I hope that people will stop and listen to the bells that ring and call for peace.
Back in the car and off to a UNESCO world heritage site. #3 off my list of the top 10 things to see in Alberta. The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump was also beautiful and humbling. I started my trip off with watching a short film that teaches about the buffalo hunt and re-enacts how important this was to the people. It also talked about how much work and preparation was needed to survive the harsh winters that made this buffalo hunt so important. At different times in my life I’ve enjoyed learning about TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge). In order to hunt a heard of buffalo’s without any weapons, the First Nation people must have understood a lot about the buffalo, and their way of knowledge. This TEK was passed down from generation to generation. It wasn’t written down, but instead was learnt through teachings and experiences. As we move forward with science it is important to remember that there is more knowledge out there than what science knows, and we should be consulting with those people that hold local and traditional knowledge. After the video, I went on top of the jump site. The hike is short, and the trail is paved. There were many people on top taking pictures. Back inside the impressive 7 story building built into the cliff, I quickly took in some of the exhibits but I wanted to get out on to the 1k trail below the jump site. Again for all the people on top and in the building the trail was not busy and was void of other people out for the hike. It was great to be on the ground and think about what life would have been like, oh so many moons ago; when this was a necessity, a way of life. The history of this site is well known, but what about others? The views of the prairies, the grasses and shrubs growing along the trail, the history beneath my toes, and the views of the ‘jump’ were all spectacular.
Well mission accomplished. 1:30pm and I’ve visited these three remarkable sites in Alberta, but I still had to make the drive back to Red Deer.
On the drive down the night before I had noticed the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, AB, and because I have made good timings so far today, decided that I would try to stop here as well. I’ve had a great year for aircrafts, including seeing a Halifax in Trenton, flying in a B-25 in Red Deer, and now, my other favourite bomber a Lancaster, which can be viewed at the museum. Thus, in the last 2 months I’ve seen 3 bombers and flown in one of them. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it wasn’t long into my stop that I realized that I could spend a few days here going through this small hanger. However, I was going to only spend about 15 minutes.
The Lanc was much larger than expected. What a monster of an aircraft, for a world war II bomber.
One of my favourite aircrafts (by name) is the DeHavilland Mosquito. I’ve never seen one and haven’t yet. But I was excited to learn that the City of Calgary owns a mosquito, and plans on restoring it with the help of the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton. I’m thinking I should become a member of the Calgary Mosquito Society to help support this project. http://calgarymosquitosociety.com/
In the museum they had a replica of nose artwork for the “F is for Freddie” DeHavilland Mosquito LR-503. The mosquito was unique because of it’s wooden frame, just like the picture of this replica nose artwork. “F is for Freddie” flew some 213 operations in WWII. It returned to Canada where it later crashed and burned in a display of it’s capabilities. There is a more complete history of “F is for Freddie” here; http://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/s,freddie.html
Well I made it back to work, and started working at 6:00 pm. What a great 24 hours, thanks for joining me…