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Because we were doing a loop through the western provinces, Alberta got broken into two sections for the purposes of this web page. Part 1 takes us as far south as Edmonton, after which we head east into Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Part 2 covers our return trip through southern Alberta.
Part 1: July 22 - July 27, 2004
July 22 2004, to Lesser Slave Lake:
July 22 was a long days drive from the NWT/Alberta border but boy were we excited... paved roads!! So often taken for granted but what a pleasure - even if they are perfectly straight, flat and boring as is northern Alberta's Highway 35. The most wonderful thing about paved roads is that when it rains, your vehicle actually gets cleaner the farther you drive. A great thing indeed... but boy were these ones flat... and long... 800 km of this was deadly... where was that gravel...
July 22 2004, Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park:
We camped the night at Lesser Slave and, after weeks in the Yukon and the NWT, what a shock! There were people. Lots of them! The Alaska Highway and the like in the Yukon were very busy with fifth wheels, RVs and buses, but head off the beaten path and we were alone... Really alone - like entire campgrounds to ourselves alone. Alberta wasn't like that. They had pavement and they had people. The Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park was nice and much like the ones we were used to from Ontario. We were also really really happy that it got dark at night! No more trying to sleep with the lights on!
July 23-26 2004, Edmonton:
Ahhh! Civilization! Carol and I really enjoyed our stay in Edmonton! This was in large part due to the fact that we stayed with my Aunt Joan and Uncle Kenn. For the second time in less than a year they have very generously shown us around town and let us have the run of their house (and their vacuum, washing machine and showers). In three short days we did a lot: attended a Celiac's breakfast, had a family dinner, got the trucked cleaned/serviced, stocked up on supplies and updated our web page with Joan and Kenn's high speed connection. HIGH speed... did we ever miss that when we didn't have it. Traveling, I suppose, used to be simpler... now we had a digital camera, a laptop and yearned for a high speed connection! Anyhow, thanks to Aunt Joan and Uncle Kenn for providing us a base to regroup after our dusty and dirty Yukon excursion.
We headed off to Saskatchewan and then Manitoba. We didn't spend a lot of time in northern Alberta as we had a date to meet Carol's cousins (Bill and Linda) in Manitoba. As well, northern Alberta struck us as a bit flat and non-descript. We hoped to spend a little more time on our way through the southern half of this province. At this point in our travels we crossed into Saskatchewan. If you are following chronologically you might wish to link to the Saskatchewan page.
Part 2: August 28 - September 5, 2004
August 28 2004, Hwy 501 - South-East corner of Alberta:
Coming into Alberta from the south-eastern most corner was worth doing. We watched as thunderheads pushed across the country-side and saw land so flat it was unlike anything we had seen before. Unbelievably flat! Far off in the distance, a group of horses were galloping along. They tried to head us off but we speed up and were pleased to watch them gallop along beside us.
August 28 - August 29 2004, Cypress Hills Provincial Park:
Poor Carol... "When am I going to be treated like the Princess I am"? She had wanted to rent a cabin. I had said the weather was going to get better. We went to watch an outdoor movie at the park. It poured on us. Carol had wanted to bypass this part of Saskatchewan/Alberta. I had wanted to come as I thought it would be some kind of fascinating prairie. It turned out to be some hills with trees on them. Geographically significant to be sure (they are the highest point between the Rockies and the Torngate mountains in Labrador), but still just hills with trees. Anyhow, we did manage to dry out a bit despite the cool temperatures and cloud cover. Some great news... Shawn and Laura found us a house to rent in Williams Lake. Although Williams Lake has a lot of rental properties, it doesn't have a lot that you would want to rent. It is a lot of work to find a place and as we arrive back in town on a Sunday, and Carol starts work on the Monday, we really appreciate the work. Thanks guys.
August 30 - August 31 2004, Dinosaur Provincial Park:
Wow... we woke to a warm breeze, no clouds and no condensation in the tent. To top it off, we were in one of the neatest places we had ever been. This spot is fascinating on so many levels: dinosaur bones, glaciers, sandstone and mudstone land formations, historical geography. The most interesting part for me was to learn that the eastern edge of Alberta was once the shore of a vast inland sea running from the present arctic all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. The land between the mountains and this shore was rich in plant life, dinosaurs and rivers. It all got buried and we ended up with oil and fossils, the latter of which have been exposed by glacial action in areas such as the badlands. Amazing what a few million years will do! This place was well worth the visit. The geography is both so ancient and so recent it helped put things in perspective.
September 1 2004, Drumheller (Royal Tyrrell Museum):
We stopped in at the Royal Tyrrell Museum on our way to Kananaskis. An excellent job has been done of the museum and it is worth the stop. The badlands in the Drumheller area, however, are not nearly as impressive as those at Dinosaur Provincial Park so we'd recommend visiting the museum in Drumheller but staying, hiking and exploring the badlands in Dinosaur Provincial Park. And... for once... we had two days of sunny and hot weather.
September 1 - September 2 2004, Bow Valley Provincial Park, Kananaskis and Calgary:
You could spend months exploring this country but we unfortunately only had a couple of days. We decided to set up camp in Bow Valley Provincial Park and use it as a base camp. No sooner did we have the tent and tarp set up, then the rains came again... at least it waited. We spent a day in Calgary, first meeting with Carol's cousin David and then staying with my cousin Charlie and partner Pat for dinner and the night. Initially we hadn't planned to stay at Charlie's due to limited space, but he and Pat had just purchased a new bed for guests which was delivered when we were having dinner so we had to try it out! We had an excellent stay in the city - it is easy to get around both by car and by foot and has an excellent indoor walkway system.
September 3 2004, South Kananaskis Country:
Despite the cold, rainy and dismal morning, the day turned out remarkably well and started with an amazing breakfast that Pat cooked up. Although Calgary is described as "an outdoor town with mountains in the backyard", it really isn't; our goal for the day was to find out just how far away the outdoor stuff actually was. We drove south-west to Turner Valley, poked along Sheep River and then headed north to check out the Elbow River. We were looking for potential play spots for canoeing and these rivers look like a lot of fun and were reasonably close. From Elbow River we continued north on an excellent dirt road, hit highway 40 and ended our day's explorations with delicious pizza in the warm house of Carol's cousin David and his wife Carol. Conclusion: Calgary is located in the prairie about an hour from the mountains but offers reasonably quick access to relatively populated adventure. It certainly isn't in your backyard and you have to drive everywhere but, for a city of its size, it isn't bad.
September 4 2004, Banff Corridor:
Carol wanted to see Banff and Lake Louise in the summer having had been through the area several times in the winter for skiing. This place was a mess. People and cars were everywhere along with all kinds of shops peddling the latest fashions. Who comes to the mountains to shop? Maybe its the same people who buy expensive mountain properties with a view only to sit in front of the TV all day. Anyway, it was not our favorite place but we bet that 95% of the people don't get off the main street. Talking to an older semi-local, he said the back-country has the same number of people in it that it did 15 years ago!
How were the locations of prairie towns and cities established? We could drive along for miles and miles with nothing and then, seemingly at some random spot, a town or city had been plopped down. There often appeared to be no obvious historical or geographic reason for a town's location (i.e. river confluences, valleys, sheltered harbours, mineral deposits) - they were just there... even cities as large as Edmonton. We saw a map from 1905 and there was Edmonton... plopped in the middle of the prairies alongside the North Saskatchewan River. Why not 50 km further upstream or downstream of this point? I am sure there was a reason but it is not obvious.
After 18 months we are on the final leg of our adventure and are at this point are crossing into southern British Columbia. If you are following chronologically you might wish to link to the second half of the British Columbia page.
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