Sunday, April 20, 2014

Southern Alberta (Vulcan, Lethbridge, Milk River)

I had been planning for the long weekend of Apr. for about 3 weeks! A few first options had to be cancelled due to weather issues. Chinese Wall, Ptarmigan Tunnel and Cyrpt Lake were the first three plans which had been all put aside due to closures and amount of snow in the related area.
I eventually picked Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park and decided to check a few things before reaching there. Was not a very vise idea as you are about to see:
I wanted to start early to be able to see as much as possible. Another reason is I stop frequently both for rest and photography. As well I do not drive fast. So I left home between 05:45 and 06:00 AM it was, I think. My first stop was the Town of Volcan. But why a small Prairie town in the middle of Province?
I encounter the information in regards to this place in Google Maps although I have never been a die hard fan of Star Trek, I decided to visit the place. When I was a little in the old country and of course before the devastating Islamic Revolution which threw the country back to the Dark Ages I vaguely remember that the original Star Trek with William Shatner and Leonard Nemoi was being broadcasted. It was dubbed like all of the foreign movies and series so we kids in the school pretended we were Star Trek crew and we played the game. That's all I remember and this line: Spock. Do you copy? and of course and I would like to insist that was dubbed. The theme is another thing that I remember and I really liked it. Here after more than 12 years of living I never saw any movie or bought any DVD of the franchise. I must add that the series had been renamed to The Pioneers of the Space for the ease of audience I guess but one would ask the logic behind that. Of course it makes more sense if you see the difference in two languages. Anyways Vulcan is apparently is one of the world that Enterprise, the spaceship which carries the Star Trek crew, encounters in one of its countless voyages and it's a coincidence that a small rural community in central Alberta has the same name. 
One of numerous grain elevators in Alberta. This one on Highway 23 in Country of Vulcan
I thought it should be cool to visit the town specially when I realized that there is an Enterprise model and a Trek Center. The model is not as big as I originally thought but was not very disappointing either. I didn't see the Trek Center because I was early. I was there around 08:30 AM and the Trek Center would not open until 09:00. Plus I would have had to purchase something, Had I been to the place and I didn't want to so I just took a few photos and left the town with the hope that I visit it again later to take a photo of everything at night. I will like different and nice. And maybe I can manage my shyness and visit the place too. But did I get to the town? There is this exit on Highway 2 that takes you to Vulcan, easily could be found in any map. There was barely any car on the road may be 8 all the way to there and on both directions but when I headed for Lethbridge the road got busier. So Lethbridge was my second stop on my way to the park although I had not planned for that. The road was at a few spots so foggy that I had to slow down. Visibility was limited to 10 m. at times. Southern Alberta is all about vast farms, ranches and grain elevators. I passed a few giant one with trains lined up beside them. That's how they transport the grain. I made two stops in Lethbridge: I had a little walk beside the amazing 1909 train bridge over the valley of Old Man River first. It is the highest bridge of its kind in the world and just to prove to me that it still is working perfectly after 105 year a train arrived and passed over the valley. It was going so slow and I guess it was a precautionary measure. I was so stunned on the ground looking at the long train. It had so many cars that when the main locomotive reached the other side of the valley, the rest of the train had covered the enitre bridge and extended to the other side. I could not even imagine being the conductor of the train, in his little seat more than 95 meters above the bed of the river! I looked much higher form where I was standing. It requires lots of guts to go over an one hundred-year-old structure in that height! I then stopped in the town to grab something to eat before hitting Highway 4 to reach Milk River.
A train is passing over Old Man River Valley and through High Level Bridge in Lethbridge. It was breathtaking seeing the courage of men and also engineering used more than 105 years ago and still efficient today. Happily what had happened earlier to Quebec Bridge never occurred here.
It is about 40 km to the Writing-On-Stones Provincial Park from the town of Milk River. I have to say that I was disappointed to see this park. There was actually no carving on the stones by Native people. What I saw was the graffiti by the stupid thoughtless people over the eroding rocks. Although Government of Alberta has spend enough money to build a nice Information Center, picnic benches, information boards and everything else but just the issue with the history being destroyed is very heartbreaking. The other problem was choosing the wrong time of the visit. Had this visit done in June or even May, I guess I would have seen a much better scenery. But I was able to see the snow-capped Sweet Grass Hills. They are located in Montana and a good spot for a light, I would say day hike in future. Other problem and that was mine was being tired. I woke up very early and the long drive and the short hike in Helen Schuler Nature Reserve in Lethbridge had made me tired. The crowd was unexpectedly high and the information center was closed. The problem in Canadian parks is this stupid campground thing that makes the place miserable and unbearable. Noisy and busy. People mostly don't care about the nature. They destroy everything. In my opinion the Dinosaur Provincial Park that we visited last year was a better choice. However I would like to stress that all of the above factors were added up to make it not a very pleasant trip. In addition to that I was by myself. Had I have The Lady with me, it would certainly have been a better trip. Although I should not forget that her physical abilities are limited. I headed back to Milk River after about 30 to 45 minutes in there. I really wanted to do a long hike and at least cross Milk River but I was so tired to do so.

This plaque is put below the Enterprise model in town of Vulcan. Kligon is a character in Star Trek and this is its language. You can see the snow build up on the top of plaque. It was cold and slippery when I got there
I had to struggle with tiredness and sleepiness all the way back to Calgary. I stopped in Lethbridge again for a cup of coffee from McDonald's and couple of Hershey Pies from Burger King just to stay awake and then headed to Fort Macleod, a different route from the one I took in the morning. I wanted to take a few photos of the Wind Farm in the town but then I thought I would do that when I'm going to Montana in June, most likely and then decided to see Head-Smashed-Buffalo-Jump and headed that way but the giant board on the highway had a Closed Today below it so I pushed the gas and drove north. Even the famous real Fort Macleod in the town had this Closed for Season sign when I was driving by. I made a few stops and regardless of the strong wind, I got out and walk for a few steps to help me awake. By 08:30 PM I was back to the City. Generally the travel season in Canada is very short. If you really want to enjoy, you must travel between late May-early June and late August which is the busiest time and everyone is out. The only solution would be getting up early, seeing what you like and getting back. That is possible for natural attractions, mostly. As well as hike and climbing but not for other attraction that you need to pay admission. They open mostly when the majority of people are ready to visit, not the early birds! 
(Photo, Top: Writing-On-Stone-Provincial Park with Milk River running to east in the back)

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