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Western Canada - Part 3 - August 2017 - Alberta

Edmonton – Dinosaur Provincial Park – Waterton Lakes National Park – Canmore – Revelstoke - Vancouver

sunny 30 °C

We had a nice hotel in Edmonton; so on the first day of our two-day stay, we took the opportunity to catch up on a few bits of admin. But on the second day we got out to see the city. Edmonton has the largest urban park in North America, so that was our destination. We explored the MacKinnon Ravine Park section, which gave us good views of downtown Edmonton as well as a walk along the North Saskatchewan River.

From Edmonton we drove southwest through Alberta, and witnessed the most dramatic change in scenery of the whole trip. Southwest Alberta is home to the most northerly reaches of North America’s great prairies. Instead of forests and mountains, it was flat grassland as far as the eye could see, some cultivated and some not. Not the most awe-inspiring view, but we were here for a reason. We were here to visit the Badlands and in particular the Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Our base was in a motel in the small farming town of Brooks, and only 48km from the park.
The Badlands are a unique (for Canada) geological formation of strange shaped rocks lining the Red Deer River, and are in total contrast to the prairies that surround them. They got their name from the first Fur Traders to arrive in the area, who found no Beavers to hunt, so considered the land to be bad.
Originally formed from the sediment left by retreating glaciers during the last ice age, and then shaped by wind and water over millions of years. They are a mix of Sandstone, Mudstone and Ironstone, each eroding at a different rate, consequently forming the strange shapes we see today.

But where do the Dinosaurs come into all this, I here you say. Well, because of the mix of rock types and the actions of the Red Deer River. The area became an ideal home to preserve the bones of the Dinosaurs that once roamed here, and has since become a palaeontologist dream playground. However, the modern palaeontologist weren’t the first to discover the fossils, the Blackfoot (local First Nation inhabitants) new of them hundreds of years earlier and used them as lucky charms.
We spent two days exploring the Dinosaur Provincial Park, to really appreciate and understand what the Badlands were all about. Seeing the rock structures from all angles and even a few fossilised remains as well.

From Brooks we headed further south, almost to the US border, to our new abode in a little town called Hill Spring (population 129). Our journey took us through the land of endless fields of crops, combine harvesters and other farming paraphernalia. But before arriving at Hill Spring we called into Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to protect and commemorate the history of the interaction between the Blackfoot First Nation people and the Buffalo that once roamed these plains.
Before I continue, I know there has never been any Buffalo in North America, they are Bison, but the mistake of the early settlers still continues today, so I will run with it.
Before the 19th Century, the Blackfoot did not have fast horses or guns, so they had to catch their Buffalo by other means. One such method was to force the Buffalo over a cliff edge to their death below, hence the Buffalo jump. Very few sites like this, with such good archaeological evidence, still exist, hence its protection. The Blackfoot relied on the Buffalo for almost everything, food, shelter, cloths, tools, etc. and were very careful to manage this resource, as their survival depended on it. All this changed of course, when the European invaders arrived and almost hunted the Buffalo to extinction, and with it, destroyed a way of life that had lasted for more than six thousand years.
But you might be wondering where the Head-Smashed-In bit comes from. Well the legend goes that a young Brave wanted to view the Buffalo fall from the bottom of the cliff, but he got to close and got his head smashed in by falling Buffalo.

After a very interesting afternoon at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, we continued our journey to Hill Spring. This is a Mormon town, so they don’t sale alcohol or drink tea or coffee. No problem, we went to the liquor store before we left Brooks.

The main reason to be in this part of Canada is to visit the Waterton National Park. The park is in the Rocky Mountains and right on the border with Montana in the USA. In fact it forms the northern part of an International Peace Park, with Montana’s Glacier National Park to the south. It is a beautiful park, and we had three days of hiking along some of the nicest trails we have experienced in Canada. It is also well stocked with wildlife, we saw Black Bears on two of our three visits.

From as far south as you can go, before entering USA, our journey had to take us north to our next location of Canmore. I know we have seen beautiful scenery on our drives, but the one from Hill Spring to Canmore [via Hwy’s 22 & 40] has to be amongst the best. Driving off the prairies and up into the Rocky Mountains was awesome, plus we saw some Bighorn Sheep on route. Canmore is a special place for us, Anne lived there for a year, it was the place that we met and our good friends Brenda and Stephen live there. In fact it was Brenda and Stephen who had kindly offered us accommodation for our stay, so it was to their place we went first. Our four days in Canmore were very hot so we restricted our activities to a few short walks, relaxing in our very comfortable accommodation and socialising with Brenda and Stephen (plus Ruby the dog and Farley the cat). A very enjoyable few days.

It was then time to continue our journey west, to Vancouver and the last leg of Western Canada, Vancouver Island. But Canmore to Vancouver is a long way, so we decided to break our journey in Revelstoke.
Revelstoke is a small town on the banks of the Columbia River, with the Mount Revelstoke National Park towering over it. We stayed two nights in Revelstoke, which meant we could spend a day in the National Park. We took the summit road up to the beautiful alpine meadows, almost 2000m above the town. The views were spectacular, or it would have been if not for the white smog that hung in all the trees, the result of the forest fires that still burn throughout British Columbia and parts of Alberta (see note in personal observations below for more details).

Next stop Vancouver Island.

Personal Observations

On a number of occasions our host have been surprised by our next location. One such occasion was when we left the idyllic Tetsa River Lodge, bound for business town of Fort St John. Our host, a very forthright individual, said, “Why on earth do you want to go there, there’s bugger all to do”. We explained it was only to break the journey to Edmonton, to which she could see the sense. What we didn’t tell her was that we were staying two nights. Some times we need to stop and take care of the every-day chores, as these don’t go away when you travel like us – paying credit card bills, planning future travels, dealing with UK medical appointments, etc. plus the more enjoyable tasks of keeping in touch with friends and family. So if we expect a comfortable room and good Wi-Fi, we take advantage of it.

BC Wildfires
More than one million hectares (10,000 square km) have burned in the province this wildfire season, making it the worst in BC's recorded history. There are over 150 wildfires currently burning across the western province, as of the 28th August.
A state of emergency declared in the province on 7 July was recently extended to 1 September.
About 3,500 people in BC are currently under evacuation order and some 12,000 are under evacuation alert, which warns residents of impending danger.
BC has spent over C$375m ($295m; £230m) so far this season to fight the fires.
Some 3,800 provincial personnel, including frontline fire fighters and support staff, are helping battle the blazes.
Another 600 out-of province personnel and 1,500 contractors from the BC forest industry are helping fire-suppression efforts.
According to Nasa, the smoke plumes caused by the BC fires and captured by the space agency's satellites "were thick enough and high enough in the atmosphere to break records".
There are currently no hard numbers when it comes to property and infrastructure damage caused by the fires. But the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, which provides car insurance to the province's motorists, said on 23 August it had received 124 claims so far.
On 1 August, officials said some 300 buildings had been destroyed.
The fires have also affected wildlife. Images released online and to the media by the Tsilhqot'in National Government, which represents six First Nations communities in BC's central interior, show the charred remains of wild horses in the Chilcotin Forest.
BC experiences up to 2,000 wildfires a year but the majority are contained within 24 hours.

Posted by MAd4travel 17:18 Archived in Canada

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I love all of your photos and commentary! We have only been to Victoria, Vancouver, and Squamish, so you are doing a lot of research and reports that Stan and I will use later to travel there more. School has started back, so we are on hold for 9 months! Take care. Keep posting!!

by NRayMitch

Great stuff. See you in South Africa!

by capetocape2017

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