Final Jasper Day: Mount Edith Cavell & Sunwapta Falls

It’s only 74 km (46 mi) from Whistlers Campground in Jasper to the Hinton-Jasper KOA Campground, so we had almost another full day to explore around Jasper on Day 42 of the trip – Saturday, June 4th. We wanted another shot at a good experience at Mount Edith Cavell, as we hadn’t seen much on our visit last September.

The 14-km climb from Highway 93a to Mount Edith Cavell is spectacular. There are several very tight switchbacks and steep climbs, so no motorhomes or trailers are supposed to be driven up it, though some small RVS make it. The mountain, 3,363 meters high (11,033 feet), is named after a British nurse executed during World War I for her part in helping Allied prisoners escape to the Netherlands from occupied Brussels.

Mount Edith Cavell, Alberta
There are some stunning views along the road.

Along the road to Mount Edith Cavell, Alberta
Conditions were near perfect for a hike with the dogs this time. The Path of the Glacier trail is the best one for great views. It’s just under a kilometer long, with a moderate climb. The upper few thousand feet of the mountain had gotten a dusting of snow the previous day.

Path of the Glacier trail, Mount Edith Cavell
The Angel Glacier, the most impressive of 3 glaciers seen from the trail.

Angel Glacier, Mount Edith Cavell
Looking down the valley from the trail. In August 2012, a large part of the Ghost Glacier fell about 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) into Cavell Pond, causing a flash flood that did a lot of damage to trails, the picnic site and the road.

The valley below Mount Edith Cavell
The Cavell Glacier at the base of the mountain. We saw a couple of avalanches come down – anybody who goes beyond the signs saying not to proceed is certainly risking their lives even on a beautiful day like this.

Cavell Glacier, Mount Edith Cavell
After spending a while at the viewpoint, Cathy took Bella and Tucker back to the car while I detoured up the Cavell Meadows trail to the right. No dogs are allowed on that trail because of possible wildlife conflicts.

Cavell Meadows trail, Mount Edith Cavell
I didn’t find the Cavell Meadows trail likely to be very rewarding in the time I had, so only hiked up a kilometer or so, and had already hit patches of deep snow. When I shot this photo back at the parking lot, we’d been at the base of the mountain for just over an hour.

Mount Edith Cavell
Back down on Highway 93a, we decided to follow it all the way south to Athabasca Falls. Here, the road crosses the Whirlpool River.

Whirlpool River, Jasper National Park
This was a nice quiet route that I’d never driven before, always having been stopped by snow on previous attempts.

A lake along Highway 93a in Jasper National Park
We didn’t stop at Athabasca Falls, deciding instead to drive about 20 km further south to see Sunwapta Falls, which neither of us had seen yet. This dramatic peak is along the Icefields Parkway on the way.

Sunwapta Falls above the footbridge…

Sunwapta Falls
…and the canyon below the bridge.

Sunwapta Falls canyon
At about 1:30, we left Sunwapta Falls and headed back to Jasper. We had moved the motorhome from the campground to the RV/bus parking lot in Jasper before starting out, so by 2:30 we were on Highway 16 headed for Hinton.

Highway 16 north of Jasper
A beautiful day for a drive along the Rockies.

Highway 16 north of Jasper
Some sheep on the road and not wanting to move off it, and climbing the cliffs beside the road, entertained us for a few minutes 🙂

Sheep on Highway 16 north of Jasper

Sheep on Highway 16 north of Jasper

Sheep beside Highway 16 north of Jasper

Sheep on Highway 16 north of Jasper
Soon we were set up at the KOA and had time for a refreshing beverage from The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company in Canmore before going in to town to see my son and his family.

The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company

We’d be in the Hinton area for 4 nights, but mostly at the provincial park to the north, not at the KOA.

Jasper Aerial Tram, and Hiking Whistlers Summit

The main adventure for our second full day in Jasper was riding the aerial tramway. Cathy’s not a big fan of getting into the air that way, but did want to see the view so agreed to come with me. This was Day 41 of the trip – Friday, June 3.

We could see the upper terminal of the tramway from our campsite at Whistlers, so it was hard to ignore. I’d ridden it once before, many years ago, but it was early in the season, the weather wasn’t great, and there was too much snow at the top to hike further. This would be Cathy’s first ride on it.

Upper terminal of the Jasper tramway
The first job of the day, though, was to move the motorhome. We had reserved the serviced site, #52J, for 2 nights, but decided to stay another night, and no serviced sites were available. So, for $27, we moved to an unserviced site, #30GG. What a difference! This is apparently a very old part of the park, and both design and maintenance are at a lower level. The site wasn’t nearly level, the trees were close, and even the picnic table was old and in need of paint. Oh well…

Unserviced site 30GG at Whistlers campground in Jasper
Planning for a full day of exploring, we were at the tram just after 09:00, an early start for us. I like to be able to see what makes this sort of rig work – large windows make that easy here.

Machinery at the Jasper aerial tram
Starting up on the 7-minute ride, looking to the west up the valley of the Miette River. Two busloads of teenagers followed us up on the next “flights”.

Riding up the Jasper aerial tram
Nearing the upper terminal at 09:28. The lower terminal is at 1,258 meters (4,127 feet), the upper is at 2,263 meters (7,424 feet).

Riding up the Jasper aerial tram
The view to the north. Look down, look waaay down, to the Jasper townsite at 1,062 meters (3,484 feet).

The view from the upper station of the Jasper tram
I really wanted to do some hiking, and the 1.2-km trail to Whistlers Summit looked to be about perfect. It’s a 400-foot climb to 2,470 meters (7,847 feet).

Whistlers Summit trail, Jasper National Park
Despite the signs, some people still build cairns at the summit, using the rocks that were put in place to mark the trail.

Whistlers Summit trail, Jasper National Park
Cathy started walking with me, but soon went off on a less-steep trail to the side. The elevation no doubt compounds the steepness of the trail.

Whistlers Summit trail, Jasper National Park
The summary of the complete trail that starts in the parking lot (not using the tram) says: “The final kilometre to the summit is a cake-walk compared to the rest of the trail. Weaving in and out of hyperventilating and often ill dressed tramway riders will give you an ego boost that’ll put a spring in your step.”

Whistlers Summit trail, Jasper National Park
There’s no shortage of excuses to stop and enjoy the views and catch your breath for a minute. There was plenty of huffing and puffing going on among the students on the trail as well as those of us not quite so young.

Whistlers Summit trail, Jasper National Park
The final climb crossed a few patches of snow even on the 3rd of June.

Whistlers Summit trail, Jasper National Park
The rounded summit of Whistlers Mountain. As hard as it is to believe at almost 8,000 feet elevation, it seems to me that a glacier must have rounded it off.

Whistlers Summit trail, Jasper National Park
The views from the summit were definitely worth the climb. This is to the north, with Pyramid Peak to the left.

Whistlers Summit trail, Jasper National Park
Mount Edith Cavell to the south.

Mount Edith Cavell from the Whistlers Summit trail, Jasper National Park
The summit monument seems an odd choice of places to live, but some hikers might be quite generous. These are Golden-mantled ground squirrels (Callospermophilus lateralis).

Golden-mantled ground squirrels on Whistlers Summit trail, Jasper National Park
None of the students, many very poorly dressed, lingered on the windy and chilly summit, but many of us did, savouring the views.

Whistlers Summit trail, Jasper National Park
Climbing some of the huge glacial erratics was irresistible to some 🙂

Whistlers Summit trail, Jasper National Park
Looking down on the Canadian National Railway, Pyramid Lake Road, the meandering Miette River, and the Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16).

The view down from the Jasper Tram
Rejoining Cathy at the upper tramway terminal, we decided to extend our stay by having an early lunch at a window table. The burger was very good.

A burger at the Jasper Tram
A glass of water wasn’t available in the cafe, only bottled water. Given the logistical problem of getting water up there, that wasn’t surprising. It was surprising to see water available for the dogs who come up on the tram or trail, though – two thumbs up, tram operators.

Dog water at the Jasper tram upper station
On our way back down at 11:30.

The Jasper Tram
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the town, and playing with Bella and Tucker at the leash-free park. I was surprised by the length of the VIA Rail trains – I thought that rail travel was still on the decline.

VIA Rail train at Jasper
Molly always lets us know when she wants to join her family outside. It doesn’t happen very often, and she’s always great with a harness and leash to keep her safe.

Our cat Molly relaxing with Murray outside the RV

On Saturday, we’d continue on to Hinton for a 4-night stay, after doing a bit of hiking at Mount Edith Cavell.

Exploring Jasper: Maligne Canyon

Day 40 of the trip – Thursday, June 2nd – was our first full day to explore the Jasper area, and with mixed weather, Maligne Canyon was our first destination. Cathy and I had tried to go there last September, but access was blocked for some reason. In March 2014, though, I’d hiked up the canyon floor on the frozen creek, and it was amazing, so I was looking forward to getting back.

We had camped at Whistlers Campground just south of Jasper, and loved it. On Wednesday evening, we were visited by one of the elk we were warned about as we registered. Cow elk can be very dangerous when they have a little one with them. We were very surprised by how far she was allowing her calf to stray, though.

Elk in Whistlers Campground, Jasper National Park
The calf elk came within about 50 yards of our campsite, but the cow came right to the edge of it. One of our idiot neighbours got charged by her when he pushed his luck to get a photo.

Elk in Whistlers Campground, Jasper National Park
Bella watching the elk. Tucker wasn’t as respectful and wouldn’t quit barking so got put in the motorhome.

Sheltie-husky cross, Bella relaxing in Whistlers Campground, Jasper National Park
The cow bedded down for the night in front of our site, but her baby was nowhere in sight. The green boxes behid her are electrical lockers – for $1 you can lock your electronic gizmons in one and charge them up.

Elk in Whistlers Campground, Jasper National Park
The huge campsites at Whistlers really let visitors enjoy their surroundings, and we were in no hurry to get moving. At 10:30, though, we reached the top parking lot at Maligne Canyon, where this sign shows the trails and bridges.

Map of Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
Most people probably start their walk at the bottom of the parking lot where the canyon starts, but seeing the creek at the top of the parking lot puts the canyon into perspective. The creek there is just a normal Rockies creek.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
Then it suddenly starts carving into fissures in the limestone.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
Some wonderful formations can be seen.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
Then the creek drops into the canyon some 25 meters (80 feet).

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
The trail provides some excellent viewpoints, and 4 bidges across the canyon give even better views.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
A waterfall as the canyon gets deeper and deeper.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
Wedged in the narrow top of the canyon is what’s known as a chockstone. Some day, it and the canyon walls will erode to the point that it will drop into the canyon.

Chockstone in Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
Looking up at the first bridge.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
I found myself wanting to get down to the canyon floor at many points, including this one. There’s no way down, though.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
Another look at the spot above.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
The view up the canyon from the third bridge, which a sign says is 10 meters (33 feet) above the canyon floor. It feels deeper. At many points, the opening at the top of the canyon is very narrow, perhaps 1 meter (3 feet).

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
By 11:15 we were down by the fourth bridge, where the canyon starts to get much shallower.

Maligne Canyon, Jas per National Park
Looking down from the fourth bridge. This was a particularly impressive spot to see from the ice, looking up.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
The next two photos are of a waterfall as the trail nears the canyon floor.

Small waterfall in Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

Small waterfall in Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
This large pool is as far down the canyon as we went. Somewhere just below this pool is where I began the hike up on the ice.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
At 11:50 we were back at the first bridge, and it started to rain. By the time we reached the car, the rain was very heavy. Perfect timing.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
Back in Jasper a few minutes later, the sun was out again, so we took Bella and Tucker for a town walk.

Welcome to Jasper, Alberta
Jasper the Bear used to be very visible on the main street, but now he’s tucked away in a tiny park pretty much out of sight.

Jasper the Bear in Jasper, Alberta
Back at the rig, some quiet time while the sky dropped some more moisture.

When the rain eased off, we decided to drive up to Pyramid Lake, which has some excellent hiking and photography. With this weather and flat light, neither worked for us.

Pyramid Lake, Jasper
Pyramid Lake Resort.

Back in Jasper, we took advantage of some sun to run the dogs at the leash-free park. Nobody else was there, but it had potential for future visits during our stay. The fence is very impressive, designed to keep out even the largest and most agressive wildlife.

Leash-fre dog park in Jasper, Alberta
Lac Beauvert was our next destination. Along the road, the forest area was all closed due to elk calving.

Closed area at Jasper due to elk calving
The light didn’t show off the colours that gave Lac Beauvert its name (“beautiful green lake”). That’s the gorgeous Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge on the far shore.

Lac Beauvert, Jasper
Back at our campsite for dinner.

RV at Whistlers Campground in Jasper
Barbecued steak and a nice Okanagan wine – a fine way to end the day.

RV at Whistlers Campground in Jasper

For Friday’s adventure(s), we’d be looking at the aerial tramway, and Mount Edith Cavell.

A Grizzly Experience on the Icefields Parkway

We didn’t get the sunshine we’d expected for our drive up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper on Days 38 and 39 of this journey – Tuesday, May 31st, and Wednesday, June 1st – but we did get the best experience either Cathy or I have ever had with a grizzly bear.

Meeting the grizzly was made possible because the only level spot at the Peyto Lake parking lot was taken, so we moved back to Bow Lake for Wednesday night. None of the campgrounds along the Parkway were open for the season yet, so our choices were very limited, but there are few other places along the highway that have a view like this.

RV at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
I had parked in front of a sign warning about a grizzly frequenting an area that the map showed we were right in the middle of, and at 7:20 pm, I saw a bit of a traffic jam down the highway. The cause of it showed its head shortly – the grizzly, and it was coming our way.

A traffic jam at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta, caused by a grizzly
The bear was walking along the grassy bank of the highway eating grass and flowers non-stop, which is how they get their digestive systems back in order after the long winter. About 10 minutes after I first saw the bear, it was right behind our motorhome. By the rather small size and general look I think it was a 2-year-old sow. Her silver-tip coat was particularly beautiful, and she was in very good condition.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
The traffic jam had moved down to the parking lot that we had been the only vehicle on, and at 8:00, the bear walked across the highway, between the vehicles, to start eating on the lake side of the road.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
The bear-jam at 8:07 – she can barely be seen just to the left of the garbage cans. Over the next few hours I saw some of the stupidest behaviour around wildlife that I’ve ever seen. A woman from the tan car with the backup lights got too close to the bear, and when she rushed back to the closest door (I assume the bear moved towards her, though I didn’t see it), it was locked, and it took a very long time for the driver to figure out how to unlock it.

Cars watching a grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
By 8:25, we could have rented out viewing windows in the RV! I ended up taking 184 photos of her. Some, like this one of her with the bear warning sign, are rather funny 🙂

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
I’d never had a vantage point like this for bear-viewing before. Opening the window beside the driver’s seat for many shots, I could hear her munching the grass.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
She was about 10 feet away for some of the shots like the next two.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
That’s snow behind the bear, and there was a lot of garbage around the parking lot, including an appalling amount of used toilet paper.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
This candidate for the Darwin Awards was actually charged by the bear, though she didn’t charge directly towards him, and broke it off quickly. Even at the point show in the photo, though, she could have easily gotten to him before he reached his car.

Grizzly bear charges man at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
One of several “Selfie with Grizzly” photos we saw being taken, some of them far too close to the bear.

Shooting a selfie with a Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
We went to bed at about 10:00 pm with the bear action still going on. The dogs didn’t get their usual before-bed walk. When I got up at 05:45, the lake was calm and stunningly beautiful – perfect to get out and take a bunch of photos.

Dawn at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
Well, it was a perfect morning for photos except for the grizzly 60 feet from the door 🙂

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
This is my favourite of all the photos I shot, with the lake reflection as the background. What a magnificent animal.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
With no traffic and nobody getting in her space, the bear wandered freely across the highway and back again. I took advantage of her time on the far side of the road to get the Tracker ready to be towed again (just putting the key in the ignition and turning it to Acc – everything else needed was still in place).

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
Molly watched the grizzly for a while the night she arrived and again the next morning. There was no reaction from her except obvious curiosity – pretty cool to see my little Adventure Cat in a situation like that.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
At about 07:30, we had to leave, mostly because the dogs hadn’t had a walk for more than 12 hours! We returned to the Peyto Lake parking lot, where a fairly heavy rain started, but we got the kids walked, and then made breakfast. A tour bus arrived a few minutes after 8. There’s a brutal schedule to be way out here at that time of the morning – a 05:00 wakeup call in Jasper? And then to see the most beautiful lake in the Rockies on a day like this 🙁

RV in heavy rain at Peyto Lake in the Canadian Rockies
Back on the road, we stopped at a “Viewpoint” that actually had no special view.

RV at a viewpoint on the Icefields Parkway
I found a rough trail that led down from the “viewpoint” to a road and perhaps picnic area that were abandoned decades ago, and this lake, which might be Mistaya Lake. It’s probably lovely on a nice day – with rain and clouds, not so much.

Lake along the Icefields Parkway

We went back to bed, with the excuse that the rain might stop or at least that there might be some improvement in our views – the “nap” lasted almost 3 hours! 🙂 And when we got back on the road at 11:40, nothing had changed.

A small band of sheep was on the highway near Saskatchewan Crossing.

Sheep on the Icefields Parkway
We stopped for a few minutes near the summit of Sunwapta Pass, at about 1,900 meters elevation (6,234 feet).

Near the summit of Sunwapta Pass on the Icefields Parkway

Snow in June - near the summit of Sunwapta Pass on the Icefields Parkway
We’re always looking for hints about which breeds went into making Tucker – there’s apparently some dashhound in there 🙂

Our little dog Tucker on the dash of the RV
Our draft plan had me going for a steep high-country hike in the sunshine at Parker Ridge at Sunwapta Pass – with the weather we got, a brief photo stop was it.

The Icefields Parkway at Sunwapta Pass

Just before 2:00, we arrived at Whistlers Campground in Jasper, where we had a full-hookup site booked for 2 nights. We began our Jasper exploring with an early diinner at the D’ed Dog Pub – I love their Wild Game burger.

Into the Rockies: Cochrane to Peyto Lake

Cathy and I both love the Rockies, and especially the Icefields Parkway and Jasper, so had been looking forward to getting back on this trip. On Day 38 of this journey – Tuesday, May 31st, we headed west, with no particular destination in mind other than somewhere up the Icefields Parkway. The extra day in Cochrane had eliminated our planned overnight at Lake Louise, so we’d just go up the Icefields Parkway until we felt like stopping.

The temperature had dropped to freezing in Cochrane when I got up, but the weather forecast looked very good for our week in the Rockies.

Weather forecast for Cochrane, Aberta
We got off to a late start after a lengthy play in the leash-free dog park along the Bow River, some grocery and wine/liquor shopping, and then a big late-breakfast at Smitty’s, but at noon were on Highway 1a headed west.

Alberta Highway 1a west of Cochrane
The intention was to stay off Highway 1 as much as possible, so when most of the traffic turned towards the freeway at Bella’s home town, Morley, we stayed on 1a and it got very quiet as it got more scenic.

Alberta Highway 1a west of Morley
At the cemetery just west of Morley, a funeral blocked the highway for a few minutes, and in the middle of that, an ambulance and fire truck needed to get through.

Funeral and fire truck emergency on Highway 1a west of Morley, Alberta
For a few miles, the freeway (Highway 1) is the only option, but at least the scenery is spectacular, even if it goes past too quickly. Traffic was surprisingly light, though.

Highway 1 West near Banff
We took the first exit onto the Bow Valley Parkway, a narrow, winding road with plenty of pullouts to enjoy the scenery.

Bow Valley Parkway
Some of the peaks along the Bow Valley Parkway are extremely impressive.

Peak along the Bow Valley Parkway
Just before 3:00 pm, after a short stop at Canmore for a load of fuel in the motorhome, we started north up the Icefields Parkway.

Icefields Parkway
The shoulders on the Icefields Parkway are wide enough to pull a car over to take photos, but they’re not quite wide enough for the RV and there are relatively few pullouts for a route like this, so it was handy having Cathy to shoot on request 🙂

Icefields Parkway
Bow Lake is one of my favourite spots along the Parkway, and I suggested it as our overnight location, but Cathy wanted to continue on a few miles to Peyto Lake.

Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway
The last time I hiked up to Peyto Lake it was still frozen. This was much better! The blue is so vivid that it’s quite shocking when you first see it. I’ve always pronounced it “Pay-tow” but a sign there says that it was named after a guy whose name was pronounced “Pee-tow”. Note that the far end of the lake is shaped like a wolf’s head.

Peyto Lake, in the Canadian Rockies
The viewpoint was fairly crowded, so we took Bella and Tucker for a walk on a higher trail where we only saw a few people, and one family was only on it because they were lost. We were soon up into snow, which the kids thought was just fine, but deep snow blocked one side trail I wanted to check out.

Bella and Tucker playing in a patch of snow in June
Between the patches of snow, the first flowers, of a half-dozen species, were blooming

Spring flowers at Peyto Lake in the Canadian Rockies
We went back to the main viewpoint 40 minutes after our first look, and it was much quieter, allowing for a portrait of Cathy with the kids.

Cathy Small and her dogs at Peyto Lake in the Rockies
The parking lot at Peyto Lake isn’t very RV friendly, as there’s only one small level spot (and it was occupied by a truck-and-camper who looked like he wouldn’t be leaving), so at about 5:30 we went back to Bow Lake, where Bella crashed right after a short post-dinner walk.

Bella asleep on the couch in the RV
The view out the RV windows at Bow Lake is much better than at Peyto Lake.

Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway
I parked in front on a warning sign about a bear who’s cruising this area – who knows, we might even get to see a grizzly during our stay.

Did we ever see a grizzly! A few of the nearly 200 photos I shot of her over the next 12 hours will be in the next post 🙂

A Visit to a Private Car Museum

A couple that were on my 2015 Yukon Quest tour have a large collection of cars, trucks, toy cars and other stuff in De Winton, just south of Calgary. I’ve had a standing invitation to come for a visit, and finally made time to do that, on our last full day in Cochrane. Cathy wanted a quiet day, so it was also a good opportunity for my daughter and I to have some time together just by ourselves.

Andrea drove to Cochrane to pick me up, and we took her new Honda, a car that I helped her buy but hadn’t had aride in yet. She correctly assumed that I wanted to head south on Highway 22 rather than the freeway, Highway 2 – much more interesting.

Highway 22 south of Cochrane, Alberta
I had expected a farmyard out in the country, with vehicles in all states of repair and ruin around it, but was completely wrong. Curly and Marj have a beautiful acreage overlooking the Bow River, and you’d never know what’s in those buildings, although the old highway signs along the driveway hint at it. Curly built the house out in the country in 1970, but Calgary has grown and he’s now surrounded (at a respectable distance) by very expensive homes.

Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
After catching up for a while around the kitchen table, we began the tour in the single-car garage, where an immaculate 1937 Packard 120 convertible sits, with every other square inch of the garage filled with collector plates. All of their vehicles run, and get taken out occasionally.

1937 Packard convertible Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
I told Andrea that Curly had 4,000 curling club pins, but he corrected me – he has 40,000 of them! For some reason I noticed this one, which he didn’t have any information about. It’s from the North West Highway System, which took over control of the Alaska Highway from the U.S. Army after World War II. A very rare pin, I’m sure. He also showed me his pin from Carcross – they had 2, but the early one (1950s perhaps) has been elusive so far.

NWHS curling pin at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
From the house, we went out to the main garage, and te sight when we walked in the door stunned me – it’s by far the bets collection of kid’s pedal cars I’ve ever seen. Among the 100 or so is this dual-cowl phaeton, with pedals for both kids. Most of the cars have bene restored, but a few are in exceptionally good original condition.

Kid's pedal car at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
In his 80s, Curly is quite a character – I enjoyed travelling with him and Marj, and this visit was wonderful. The beer cooler that Curly is riding around the garage on will go 12 mph! 🙂

Rideable beer cooler at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
I love Bantams from the 1930s, and Curly has 6 of them.

Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
One of the most impressive cars in the collection is this massive Stutz Black Hawk – a 1929, I believe.

Stutz Black Hawk at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
The hood ornament on the Stutz is a bust of Ra, the Egyptian sun god.

Stutz Black Hawk at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
Here’s a before-and-after pair of photos of one of his more unique tractors, a 1920s Toro.

1920s Toro tractor at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta

1920s Toro tractor at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
This is an ice-cream maker that they fire up when car clubs come to visit 🙂

Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
This is an Ottawa Mule Team Tractor, built in Ottawa, Kansas. Ottawa built about 250 tractors between early 1949 and July 1951 when a flood destroyed the factory. The hoods on this model were made from fuel drop-tanks from P-51 Mustang aircraft.

Ottawa Mule Team Tractor at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
There was a lot to see, and the tour could have gone on for hours, but our time was limited, so after an hour we went back to the house for a beer and more chatting. I was pleased to hear that Marj considers our Yukon Quest tour to be the best she’s ever been on, and friends have already signed up for the 2017 tour. This is the view from their back deck. The large building is the new Calgary hospital, and below it is a 10,000-acre ranch owned by the Burns meat-packing family.

The view from Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
By 3:30, we were back in the city, having taken the freeway for the return trip.

That evening, Cathy attended my grand-daughter Kylie’s softball game, at a field close to the Calgary airport. The game was the reason that we’d added a day to our planned stay, and we were both very glad that we’d made that decision – it turned out to be an extremely good day from start to finish.

The next day, May 31st, Cathy and I would head into the Rockies for a few days.

Cars, Trains, and Softball in Airdrie, Alberta

Day 36 of the trip – Sunday, May 29th – was a wonderful day full of family activities in Airdrie. For Cathy and I, this day, like every day, started off with lots of play time with Bella and Tucker in the leash-free park, then we made the 1/2-hour commute to Airdrie, a very rapidly-growing community just north of Calgary.

We had arranged to meet Andrea and the girls at a Show ‘n’ Shine at the girls’ high school, W. H. Coxford. I had no idea what to expect, but the quality and variety of cars was excellent. Those are 1932 and 1935 Chevrolets in this photo.

1932 and 1935 Chevrolets
The buffalo above the license plate on this 1940 Ford was an annual pass to the National Parks in 1940.

1940 Canada National Parks buffalo pass
The heart of this 1988 Tiffany is a 1988 Cougar, to which fiberglass front and rear clips were added. About 500 were built between 1984 and 1989 – only 2 are known in Canada.

1988 Ford Tiffany
The school’s culinary class did a great job of handling food for the event – the cheese burgers, for $4.50, were very good.

Car show at W. H. Coxford high school
The quality of the work on some of the cars like this one, was exceptional.

W. H. Coxford high school
I’d seen photos of early Ford Speedsters (this is a 1929), but had never seen one in person. Now that would be as fun project! The owner of this one is happy to drive it with just a mechanical restoration.

1929 Ford Speedster
Some head-turners stayed out on the road rather than being part of the show, like this race-ready 1968 Camaro, complete with narrowed rear end and wheelie bars.

1968 Camaro, complete with narrowed rear end and wheelie bars
Detail on a 1969 Roadrunner.

1969 Roadrunner
Bella and Tucker were great in the crowd for almost an hour and a half, but then they were ready for some play!

Our dogs Bella and Tucker play-fighting
Our next stop was at the Airdrie & Nose Creek Railway at Iron Horse Park. With rides on little 1/8 scale trains for only $3 each, this was a lot of fun.

Airdrie & Nose Creek Railway
The city leases the land for the 1.6 km of track, and volunteers handle everything, from building the trains, track, trestles, buildings, etc, to selling tickets and working as engineers and conductors.

Airdrie & Nose Creek Railway, Alberta
Some of the trains like this one can handle a substantial passenger load, up to about 40 people.

Airdrie & Nose Creek Railway, Alberta
This little steam train may not have as much tractive power, but sure looks like fun to work on and operate.

Airdrie & Nose Creek Railway, Alberta
It takes about 20 minutes to go around the 1.6-km line, but another 1 km of track is almost complete.

Airdrie & Nose Creek Railway, Alberta
After dinner, our final event of the day was going to grand-daughter Kylie’s softball pitching practise. A pitching coach had been brought in, and seemed to make a big difference in a short time.

Softball pitching practise
The Prairies are great for storm-watching, and we’ve been getting lots of them, especially in the afternoons. Trees and mountains are great, but they sure block the views! 🙂

Approaching storm at Airdrie, Alberta
The girls wanted to take Bella and Tucker to another leash-free park before Cathy and I went back to Cochrane, and we ended up at this one (Airdrie has several). I wasn’t dressed for the cold rain and wind that arrived, though, so watched from the car, and with no other dogs there, it was a pretty short stay.

Dog park in Airdrie, Alberta
Alberta has been quite productive for adding good personalized license plates to my collection – PLMRHMR on this plumber’s Hummer is pretty clever 🙂

Our original plan, and campground reservation, called for us to leave Cochrane on Monday, but a combination of weather and a request from Kylie to attend a softball game caused us to add another day, and it turned out to be a very good idea.

A Visit to the Calgary Zoo

Our planned 5-night stay at Cochrane to visit family ended up being extended by a day, and it was a busy time with lots of activities as well as quiet times with my daughter, Andrea, and her family.

The Bow RiversEdge Campground is perfect for us, and makes the 1/2-hour commute to Airdrie, where my daughter lives, worthwhile. The 144-site campground just opened in 2005, is run by the Lions and Rotary clubs so earnings go back into the community, and the quality of the facilities and the maintenance is at a very high level.

Bow RiversEdge Campground, Cochrane, Alberta
The sites are a reasonable size, with hedges for privacy, a patch of grass, and a picnic table and firepit. The cost is $44.10 per night including taxes. Apparently the free wifi is sketchy so I pay $16.95 per week for a faster service.

Bow RiversEdge Campground, Cochrane, Alberta
The more time we spend in Cochrane, the more we like it. Many other people apparently have the same feeling, because it’s growing very rapidly, so some of the things that we like about it may not last.

Cochrane, Alberta
Cochrane’s location on the Bow River, in the foothills of the Rockies, is certainly part of its draw for Cathy and I. This is the view looking southwest over Cochrane on Highway 1a.

Cochrane, Alberta
Our first day was spent close to “home”, as the motorhome was at Crystal Glass getting the windshields removed and re-installed. Even Molly got to join the dogs and us relaxing at the picnic table, and for a ride in the car. She’s turned into quite an adventurer 🙂

Our cat and dogs at the campsite in Cochrane

We got the motorhome back mid-afternoon, and I sent a note to Crystal Glass’ head office: “I want to publicly pass on my thanks to Bart Gretz and his crew at the Cochrane branch for exceptional service. I had both windshields in my Class A motohome installed by All-West Glass in Whitehorse a month ago, and by the time I hit southern BC they were leaking badly (I had to put a bucket under the worst leak on heavy-rain days). I couldn’t find a shop in Kelowna who could fix it, but called ahead and Bart said to bring it in when we got to Cochrane. The original installation was so bad that the windshields had to be removed and re-installed. Bart explained and photographed the problems, explained what he had to do in detail, and even dealt with the Whitehorse shop who agreed to pay for the job. A few hours later we were back on the road with at-least-as-good-as-new windshields, and could continue on our journey stress-free. My wife and I can’t thank them enough.”

One of the attractions of Cochrane generally and the campground specifically is the leash-free park that runs for a kilometer or so along the Bow River, with a gate into it 100 yards or so from our campsite. It’s a multi-use park, and the leash-free section ties into more of the park, so some cyclists and walkers are apparently not happy about it, though we saw no indication of that.

Leash-free dog park in Cochrane
Bella got to play with 2 of her sisters again, and at various times during that 2 hours, other dogs of all sizes joined in. The park has been wonderful socialization for Tucker, who was getting more and confident each day, even approaching the largest dogs.

Leash-free dog park on the Bow River in Cochrane
We’ve always wondered which breeds went into making Tucker. In Cochrane, we met 2 miniature Australian shepherds, and if you add a big tail and change the colour, they’re pretty much identical to Tucker. We spent many hours at the park – the kids always came away happy and tired, which s a great combination, especially when we were going out on an activity that they couldn’t go to.

Leash-free dog park in Cochrane

Cathy and I went to an Open House at my grand-daughters’ high school, and (as usual), I regretting not taking my camera, because they put on a very impressive show. W. H. Croxford is a P3 school – a private public partnership – and the facilities are programs they have are quite incredible to an old guy who started school 60 years ago in a 2-room, 8-grade school. Talking to some of the teachers, I have no doubt that this school has played a big part in the development of girls that this grandpa is very proud of.

Our first “tourist” activity with Andrea and my grand-daughters was a visit to the Calgary Zoo. I’d been there before, but it was Cathy’s first visit. I love seeing the penguins.

Penguins at the Calgary Zoo
I have mixed feelings about zoos, but I doubt that there’s any doubt about the educational value of a zoo that’s as well run as the Calgary one is. Having underwater viewing of animals like the penguins is pretty cool, and the animals seem to enjoy it as well – a safe way to get up close and personal to some of those odd 2-legged animals walking by.

Penguins at the Calgary Zoo
Big cats are particularly special to me – as well as their beauty, it may be their apex-predator position that impresses me. The contradictory part of that is that big cats and brown bears are 2 of the animals that I most dislike to see in cages.

 at the Calgary Zoo
We arrived at the tiger enclosure just before feeding time. Now that’s a display of power! I’d like to tell you more about each of the animals I’m posting photos of, but I’m writing this in Jasper, and it may be quite a few days until I have Internet access for long enough to do more than just post what I write rather than do background research to pass on as I prefer to do.

 at the Calgary Zoo
We heard a few interpreters around the zoo – Greg did a particularly engaging job at the rhinoceros pen. Easy to hear, easy to understand, and even fun.

Interpreter at the rhinoceros pen at the Calgary Zoo
A rhinoceros wasn’t built to win any beauty contests, but Greg’s talk about them will have everybody appreciate them more when they walk away.

A rhinoceros at the Calgary Zoo
Beside the pen of the massive Komodo Dragon, who wasn’t being very photo-friendly, were some of his much smaller cousins who were 🙂

Lizard at the Calgary Zoo
I was surprised to hear, and then see, that some people are afraid of butterflies! This huge one, 7-8 inches across, was right inside the door of their habitat, where they fly free among visitors.

Butterfly at the Calgary Zoo
This looks like a really good place for a butterfly to spend its short life – constant good weather, plentiful food, and no predators.

Butterfly at the Calgary Zoo
I used to find bats to be quite creepy (watching too much TV as a kid perhaps – bats are always creepy on TV), but I find them to be quite intriguing now.

Bats at the Calgary Zoo
The gorilla cage turned out to be my favourite spot this time. Watching this mother and her new baby was very special. Does seeing this sort of tenderness help us understand that gorillas deserve to have their wild habitat protected by doing things like recycling our cellphones as a poster beside the cage says? Perhaps. But for an animal this intelligent to spend its entire life in jail…

Gorilla with her new baby at the Calgary Zoo
My girls having a chat with a rock hyrax 🙂

Rock hyrax at the Calgary Zoo
Who doesn’t love meerkats? They are just sooooo cute! Getting some warm sun on their tummies drew a good crowd 🙂

Meerkats at the Calgary Zoo
The underwater viewing windows are the best place to get a good look at the hippos.

Hippo at the Calgary Zoo
And finally, a photo for Cathy, of her favourite animal, the giraffe. High on our bucket list is a trip to see lots of them in the wild.

Giraffes at the Calgary Zoo

That takes up to end of Day 35 of the trip – lots more Adventures to come 🙂

Alberta Ranching History at the Bar U Ranch

Compared to the mileages we’ve been putting on in recent days, Day 32 of the trip – Wednesday, May 25th – was a fairly long one, with a historic site stop that was much longer than I’d expected.

We needed to drive a total of 258 km (160 mi) – 142 km (88 mi) from Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump to the Bar U Ranch, and then another 116 km (72 mi) to the campground we had reserved for 5 nights in Cochrane. This is the maximum mileage I like to drive in a day with the motorhome – I set 240 km (150 mi) as the limit when I planned the trip, though a few are above that for various reasons. Clicking on the map will open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump to the Bar U Ranch, and then to Cochrane
The overflow parking lot at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump was a magnificent place to start the day off. This wonderful light was shot at 06:02.

Dawn at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta
In the dawn light, the large interpretive centre almost disappears into the hillside among the cliffs. When we went to bed, we weren’t sure whether or not we’d go through the interpretive centre or not. We were ready to hit the road by 7:30, though, and given what she’d seen on the trail below the cliffs and what I’d told her from my visits to the centre, Cathy didn’t feel that we needed to stay for 3 hours or so for her to go through it.

Dawn at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta
Heading west towards Bar U Ranch on Highway 540 just before 09:00. This country has a really good feel to it – any of the early pioneers who arrived on a day like this must have thought they’d reached their Promised Land.

Heading west towards Bar U Ranch on Alberta Highway 540
We had a bit of time to kill once we reached Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, as it doesn’t open until 10:00. A long dog walk and a look at the sculpture out front easily took care of that time, though.

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site
“A Question of Survival” is a larger-than-life-size bronze by neighbour Rich Roenisch. It’s based on an encounter with a pack of wolves by George Lane, who bought the ranch in 1902. It was dedicated on June 27, 1997.

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Alberta
The ranch headquarters was built out of the wind along Pekisko Creek. The ranch was established in 1882, and at its peak, the ranch, operated by the North West Cattle Company, held 157,960 acres of leased grazing land. The park is now 148.43 hectares in size (367 acres), and has 35 historic structures. It was purchased by Parks Canada in 1991, with assistance from the Friends of the Bar U Historic Ranch Association, and Bar U Ranch National Historic Site opened to the public in 1995. Canadian Cattlemen magazine has published a good summary of the ranch’s history.

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Alberta
As Cathy and I left the visitor centre, a cowboy asked if he could walk with us. Of course! The cowboy, Don Wilson, is a long-time interpreter at the Bar U, and we quickly learned that he and his wife spent many years in Dawson City! We ended up spending an hour and a half with Don, and I have no doubt that he could have continued telling us stories about the ranch for another few hours.

Interpreter Don Wilson at the Bar U Ranch
In 1909, George Lane started a Percheron draft horse breeding operation after importing stud and brood mare stock from Le Perche, France, and the Percherons, which were exported in large numbers to Great Britain in particular, were a significant factor in making the ranch world famous. At one point, over 1,200 Percherons were on the ranch.

Percheron draft horse at the Bar U Ranch
The quality of the construction of some of the buildings at the ranch is notable – this is the Pekisko post office.

The historic Pekisko post office at the Bar U Ranch, Alberta
Other notable work is being done by park interpeters today – the harnesses and saddles made in this shop are works of art.

Harness shop at the Bar U Ranch, Alberta
The bunkhouse has been restored to really look like it would have in the ranch’s heyday, with the area around each bed being heavily personalized by the ranch hand who was based there.

The bunkhouse at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Alberta
Among the many famous visitors to the ranch from around the world was Edward, Prince of Wales, who visited the Bar U in 1919. He was so impressed that he bought an adjacent ranch, which he named the EP (Edward Prince) Ranch – it’s listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Alberta
A back corner of the main ranch complex.

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Alberta
We were invited to join a group of students at the chuckwagon for some cowboy coffee.

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Alberta
In charge of the chuckwagon, and the artist behind making exceptional cowboy coffee (and bannock as well, we hear), is Don’s wife, Myriam Wilson. She was an interpreter at Dredge #4 in Dawson City in the 1990s when I was running regular bus tours there. I wish I could say that I remember her well, but I have only a vague recollection – we met a lot of people, and had little direct contact with the interpreters. She and Don have been here since 2001, though, and are both extremely good at what they do – Myriam is a powerhouse 🙂 One of the things that I noticed was that the kids are told that this is their ranch – when asked “whose ranch is this?”, the correct answer is “mine!”. I like that a lot.

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Alberta
As Cathy and were walking back to the RV just after 1:00 pm, another pair of Percherons came by with a wagon load of kids. Look at the hooves on those horses – almost the size of a dinner plate, and with no “hoof feathers” like Clydesdales have, and which cause lots of problems.

Percheron draft horses at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Alberta

Spending over 3 hours learning about the ranch’s history, I’m rather saddened by the fact that I knew almost nothing about it, and Cathy had never heard of it. The ranch played a pretty significant part in Alberta history, and it should be much better known. “The Bar U and Canadian Ranching History” by Simon Evans looks like a worthwhile read to get more in-depth.

Taking Bella and Tucker for a walk, I had a look at some of the horse-drawn equipment that’s used around the ranch.

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Alberta
Looking east from the parking lot as we prepared to leave. Pretty country.

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Alberta
Heading north towards Cochrane on Highway 22 at 2:00. It’s probably faster to take the freeway, Highway 2, but Highway 22 offers much better scenery and a few small towns.

Highway 22, Alberta
The first stop when we reached Cochrane was Crystal Glass to have them check out the windshields. The manager said that the installation had been so poorly done in Whitehorse that they both had to be removed and re-installed. That made me very nervous – if one was to break, we’d have a real problem. But with the windshields now barely hanging on and with heavy rain forecast that night, the crew duct-taped the windshields and I said that if the weather forecast was decent, I’d have it back first thing in the morning.

Just after 4:00, we checked in to the Bow RiversEdge Campground, which ranks very high on the list of our favourite campgrounds, for 5 nights. The next days would be full of family visits and activities in the Calgary area.

Mounted Police Museum, & Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

The 31st day of the trip – Tuesday, May 24th – was so varied that I broke the journal up into 2 posts, the first about our coal-country stops, and this one about Prairie history – the Mounted Police, and buffalo.

We didn’t put on many miles this day – only 109 km (68 mi) in this second part of it. Clicking on the map will open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Frank Slide Interpretive Centre to Fort MacLeod and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
We reached The Fort Museum (Museum of the North West Mounted Police) in Fort MacLeod just before 3:00 pm, later than I’d planned on, so I unfortunately felt a bit of pressure to “git ‘er done”. There’s a parking lot across the street, but it’s quite small and not big-rig friendly if it gets busy. Admission to the museum was $18 – $10 for Cathy and $8 for me. The NWMP Musical Ride is performed here (this is not the official RCMP Musical Ride), but performances don’t start until July 1st.

The Fort Museum (Museum of the North West Mounted Police) in Fort MacLeod, Alberta
The museum isn’t as large as I’d expected, as much of the focus is local, but it’s still very good. This model shows the original North West Mounted Police fort.

Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
The life of a North West Mounted Police constable in a remote detachment in the early days, with the bedroom, office, and jail, all basically in one room.

Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
When I first saw this display, I thought that visiting the Mounted Police cemetery would be a good addition to the museum visit, but during the research for this post, I discovered that the wooden grave markers were replaced with marble ones in 1962, and for me, that would have hugely lessened the impact of the cemetery visit.

Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
“Signing of Treaty #7”, by M. Lindstrom. Treaty 7 was a peace agreement between the Queen of England and the Blackfoot, Peigan, Blood, Stoney, and Sarcee Indians that secured land for the government to build the transcontinental railway. Signed on September 22, 1877, it made provision for each Native family to receive one square mile of land, for each band to receive cattle and farming equipment, and education and medical services for Native children.

Painting 'Signing of Treaty #7', by M. Lindstrom
I found the fort to be a bit challenging photographically, but there are some excellent subjects and shooting locations, and having the site virtually to ourselves made it easier.

Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
Churches always intrigue me, and the fort’s little chapel was no exception.

Chapel at the Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
The chapel has two lovely stained glass windows.

Chapel at the Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
The centre of the fort’s parade square, with symbols which would have been meant to impress upon visitors the power of The Queen’s justice.

Parade square at the Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
We left the museum just before it closed at 5:00, and less than half an hour later were at the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site. This is a powerful place that I’d been to 3 times before, but this was Cathy’s first visit.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
UNESCO designated Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump as a World Heritage Site in 1981 as one of the world’s oldest, largest, and best preserved buffalo jumps, a site where, starting some 6,000 years ago, Native people hunted bison by stampeding them over a cliff.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
The interpretive centre was closed, of course, but we walked the loop trail below the cliffs, and signs along the trail told some of the story.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
Below the cliffs, archaeologists have found layers of dirt, stone rubble and bones over 11 meters thick, accumulated over thousands of years.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
After our walk, we moved the RV over to the overflow parking lot – there were signs in the main lot stating that overnight parking isn’t allowed, but we didn’t see any signs prohibiting it in the overflow lot, which has a superb view. Bella and Tucker were happy to be able to play there, even on-leash (dogs aren’t allowed on the trail), and the bawling of distant cattle intrigued them.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
A huge number of wind turbines, many of which we passed on the drive to Fort MacLeod, can be seen in the distance, beyond the Old Man River.

Wind turbines and the Old Man River
Our very content little girl that evening 🙂

Our sheltie cross Bella
Cathy and I had seen 5 deer on our walk, and as darkness started to settle in, 3 of them showed up and were very curious.

Two of the deer cleared the fence beside us easily, but this one took a couple of minutes to decide that she could make it, after searching unsuccessfully for a way around it.

This was a beautiful spot to spend the night. On Wednesday, we had one stop to make before settling in at Cochrane for 5 nights.