Friday, May 29, 2009

15-2009 Albert Canada

Alberta Canada

Campground: Writing on Stone Provincial Park, $20c primitive. Beautiful campsites on the Milk river valley. Most all of the trees have a crown of fresh spring leaves and the grass is knee high between each campsite. Site with elec. $28c c=Canadian prices

Campground: 8 Flags Campground.
$20c, full hookups. This area near the U.S. Canadian boarder was once under 8 different nations.

Campground: Bridge View Rv Park, Lethbridge. $24c Passport ½ price. Full Hookups, beautifully maintained park with swimming pool and all the extras.

Campground: Oldman River Provincial Park. $10c no hookups. Dump station available. Outside of Fort Macloud on the river. More of a derelict site. Half the picnic tables and grills are damaged. Looks more like what you’d expect the homeless to frequent… though I haven’t seen any in the immediate area.

I’m having a minor delay as I woke up to a rainy day here in Shelby Montana. I don’t travel on rainy days if I don’t have too, so I’ll stay at least one more day till it clears up. I’ve done my research and will be seeing some neat things as I enter Canada. Yesterday, I finally completed my trip ticketing for a Ferry ride from Skagway Alaska to Prince Rupert Canada in late July early August. With a couple stop overs along the way, it should be a fun trip.

I was talking to my Canadian neighbor who’s a heavy machine operator on road construction jobs in Alberta Canada. Told me about how the unions have everything tied up in Canada and can slow down a job horribly. We of course discussed health care and said watch out if Obama gets a health plan similar to the Canadian plan. Albert spends almost 50% of their GDP on health care. He said one of the reasons is that many people will go in for the most minor thing like a cold. Said if they charged at least a $20 co-pay it might stop some of these very expensive health care practices. They’ve had a late spring and farmers are eager to plant their

By 3 o’clock the weather had turned beautiful. I looked around and thought, well, it’s only 38 miles to the boarder and I want to get to the “Writing on Stone Provincial Park” about another 30 miles. Should take less than an hour. Took me all of 15 minutes to pack up and be on my way. The last 38 miles of Montana was stunning plains scenery. A freight train from Canada was winding it’s way through the prairie landscape covered in green which included a number of oil wells near the boarder. You know those one arm pumps that gradually swing up and down.

Well when I reached the boarder, there was a line of about 20 cars and I thought, this won’t be too bad. Over an hour later, I finally got through the line. Only one lane was open for cars and one for commercial trucks. I got busted by admitting I had a can of Mace. It’s illegal to carry mace which would be used on humans in Canada, but you can buy the more potent and longer range bear pepper spray. Hmmmm. I will get some as I like to have it for protection whether it’s used on humans or bears.

All in all it was exciting to cross over into Alberta Canada. The road quickly narrows from a four lane divided highway back to a two lane country road. It‘s being expanded to 4 lanes and looks to be only about a 10 mile stretch. I took the right hand turn onto a truly country farm road which led me to the Provincial park. Found out they only have one tour a day this time of year at 2pm. Luckily check out time is 2pm in the campground as well, so I’ll do that, take in the tour and do a bit of late afternoon driving with the camper in tow onto my next destination.

The first of the Petroglyphs I’ll see is a battle scene that took place in 1866. This would most likely be one of the last Petroglyphs created by the South Peigan or Blackfeet tribe. It depicts horses and guns which were first introduced in the Northwestern Plains around 1730. The Blackfeet defeated a combined war party of Gros Ventre, Crow and Plains Cree with over 300 warriors being killed.

The tour. In the morning, I took the hike to the battle scene. A wonderful hike through hoodoo’s and along the Milk river. A pleasant surprise, the weather is holding up and it’s a very comfortable mid 70’s. Picked up one of the descriptive booklets for the hike and thoroughly enjoyed the hike. Black and white Magpies flew overhead and along the river bank. Blue Pod Lupine and yellow Buffalo Bean wildflowers dotted the hoodoo and river trail landscape. Magical.

In the afternoon, I took the
Petroglyph tour, $8.00c, led by a Blackfoot Indian by the name of Jeannine. The tour lasted over 3 hours and included an astonishing amount of insight into the Blackfoot Nation. The Petroglyphs being merely a backdrop to the telling of their story. Stories of the Table Rock formation on the other side of the river and how it was used by the native Indians as a place for fasting and seeking Vision Quests. These would often then be etched into the sandstone walls along the river. How the coulees (ravines leading into the main river) were used during winter months as Indian camps. Tipis lined up and down the coulees for protection against the winter storms. We learned that spirits were given faces on the Petroglyphs and that regular humans always had a blank face. Over 50 sites each with over 1,000 images are now protected at Writing on Stone Provincial Park. One of the last etchings to be done was by Bird Rattle. He had not been to the Petroglyphs site in many years and after visiting it, he drew two Model T-Fords to commemorate that visit. That was in 1924, but many of the Petroglyphs go back possibly 900 to 1,000 years ago. And the land in this area has been inhabited by Native Indians for as long as 9,000 years. No wonder they consider it such a sacred place. Did you know that they also used domesticated dogs to help carry and transport goods from one encampment to another? Janetta our guide finally told us how many in her tribe were at one time over seven feet tall. And today, many of the men are well over the six feet height. And finally the discrimination she still feels today, much of it derived from members of her clan who are burdened with alcohol abuse, drugs and crime c
ausing other to lump them all together. And how the charter schools tried so very hard until recently to erase their heritage from the children going to those schools.

These were only some of the stories she told us including a long description of the creation of earth and it’s inhabitants. Much too long to share with you in this report, but something I will keep close to me for many years to come.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to actually be in Canada. The subtleties of being in a foreign country and the discoveries of the littlest differences are even though we have many things in common including language, eh.

Traveling along the Queens Highway 2 (someone correct me if I have the name wrong), I’m heading towards Banff Alberta. My first stop will be Lethbridge. The third largest city in Alberta. Although the city was started back in 1885, it looks to be almost a completely new city. The main draw being the Lethbridge itself. The largest bridge of it’s kind in the world. With a length of one mile and 47 feet and a height of 314 feet. This rail bridge is big and impressive. Crossing the deep Oldman River gorge. I had a chance to visit the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden as well. $7c Many of the flowering trees were in bloom including the crab apple with it’s stunning pinkish red blossoms and my favorite lilacs. They sure bring back memories of my youth growing up in Northern Michigan.

I was even going to do some shopping as they have all the big department stores including what else, Wal-Marts but to tell the truth, I didn’t need anything and just decided to forgo the “shopping experience”. I’m sure in a couple more weeks, I’ll remember that when I’m traveling in the boonies further north of here. But I will tell you I did stop at a Tim Horton’s for their great coffee and yes I even had a cinnamon roll. Life is good with even the simplest pleasures. Eh Chip?

I did go to a Safeway and got a few groceries, tried to use my debt card, but would work only as a visa charge card and they wouldn’t let me get any cash back. May try an ATM later.

Now I apologize if this becomes a bit rambling, but I want to have a record of some of the things I’ve done and seen. Like the prairie dogs that are found skirting in and out of traffic on the highway. Or at my current campsite. I have to watch where I walk because there are so many holes in the ground. Oh and speaking of highways, they are not “limited access” as in the states. Roads and railroads cross just about anywhere they’re needed, so one does have to watch out for vehicles and trucks crossing or entering the highway from these side roads. Even saw a brown fox run across the highway the other day.

Now sometimes while on the road things just don’t seem to be going your way and the last
couple of days have pretty much been like that for me. Little things like my first stop at the Japanese garden, they couldn’t break a hundred dollar bill so I had to come back later. Went to have lunch at a local “Humpy’s” restaurant. Now I should have known just by the name of the place, but it was by far the worst meal I’ve had in many months. Dump the Humpy. Got to the campground I’d decided to stay at and thought I’d read the requirements in my Passport America ½ price club book. But instead of two nights stay, it was limited to just one night. At $50 a night full price, I stayed just the one night at ½ off. The day continued in this not quite right mode, as I got lost on the circle routes throughout the city numerous times. Went to the Woop Up Fort for a tour,,,, it was closed till 1pm. Finally, when I headed out this morning from the Bridge View Rv Park, right next to the hwy 3 entrance, the entrance to the highway was barricaded. Construction. Ahghhhh.

But then the day just flows into a beautiful day on the highway heading towards Fort Macleod and all those little problems just melt away. The prairie is such a peaceful setting to be driving in. The gentle rolling landscape with the occasional deep ravine or coulee as they’re called out here and the miles and miles of grass lands that seem to go on forever are almost hypnotizing.

Now to be honest the tour of Fort Macleod, $8c was a bit disappointing. More for children as many of these museums are. They did tell a bit about the Mounted Police and the First Peoples museum was lacking in informative information as well.

Now for the BEST museum I’ve gone to in a long time, Head-Smashing-In Buffalo Jump. $9c. It’s just outside of Fort Macleod. It’s a Unesco World Heritage Site as well. From the very stunning 5 story building which is embedded into the side of the hill, to the unique displays, like messages from the Blackfeet Tribe projected onto large rocks, a couple of first class movies to tell the story of how the First People would heard the buffalo along runs that led over the edge of this cliff, killing hundreds if not more buffalo at a time, providing food and supplies to the tribes. This practice went on over 6,000 years, except for a period of a couple thousand years in between, when they stopped the practice. The last one occurring in the early 1800’s. With the advent of horses and guns, the Blackfoot no longer needed to kill as many buffalo at a time to survive. Wish I could give more details of this amazing archeological site, but it’s something you should experience for yourself.

Traveling tip: I’ve already experienced a bit of the Chinook winds which can reach 200kms/hr. I’ve found traveling throughout the west and now hear in Canada on the prairies, that traveling in the early morning can be a big advantage in getting to my next destination before the winds pick up too much. Why get crappy gas mileage driving into a heavy wind when you can avoid it most times. By the way, diesel is currently .79 cents a liter. Or approx. $3.16 a gallon.

Thursday and I’m heading out again through Calgary and into the Banff National Park. I decided to take hwy 2 to Calgary and then onto hwy 1 which leads right into Banff. Why not enjoy a good highway for part of the drive. Kind of interesting how the highway goes from open access to limited access the closer one get to the city, with overpasses etc. Then suddenly, I’m in the heart of the city and the hwy is now a regular city street which I wind my way through until I finally reach hwy 1 and head west. The prairie landscape quickly transforming into foothill landscape covered with evergreen and Aspen trees with their fresh spring growth of light shimmering green foliage.

BANFF NATIONAL PARK. The excitement of traveling towards this majestic Rocky Mountain Park looming ahead of me continues to build. These are huge mountains. So impressive that it almost takes my breath away. I drive up to the entrance to the park and pay for the yearly entrance pass, $67.50c. They do have a cheaper daily pass but since I’ll be in the area for approx. two weeks, it was better to get the yearly pass. It’s a short drive to the town of Banff where the park campgrounds sit on the outskirts of the town. Now we’re talking park setting here and even the town feels like it’s an integral part of the park. They have three park campgrounds, one for tents, one with electric only and the third is full hook-ups. I’m in the elec site at $32.30c per night. Awesome mountain views.

Well since this report is going on way too long, I’m going to report on Banff in the next report and send this out a bit early. Just know that my heart is soaring with excitement at having arrived in Banff.

With a huge smile on my face and joy in my heart, until the next episode… have an inspired day.

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