Aug 6, 2013

Summer Fun #10

Subtitled: You Can't Sleep Three in a Civic

We were up and at 'em and after a hearty breakfast, we were on the road to Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump. We got there shortly after it opened, and it was still pretty quiet. We were scooped up by the world's most awesome interpreter, Edwin.  He started chatting with us about the information and artifacts and then suddenly said, "Come with me!" He took us to what looked like an education room, used for school groups and the like. But here was a buffalo robe  we could try on!

I am nowhere near fierce enough to carry this off! Although it made it clear why the buffalo was so important to the Blackfoot's winter survival. I could totally imagine snuggling into this hide and staying completely toasty even though winds howled and temperatures dived. Until I had to pee, that is. Maybe I rocked the spear?

Poor Avery was nearly squat by the buffalo hide. 

Boo! He emerges from the snow-covered trees and gets ready to... tell a joke?
 Edwin also let us explore some replica artifacts- stone hammers, bow and arrows, tools made from antlers, bones, wood and bound with sinew, etc. He also drummed for us and sang the most hilarious song- I felt just so honoured that he took so much time with us!

Mountains of buffalo skulls- a sad reminder of what was lost to greed, malice and ignorance.

Learned many interesting things- and bought a beautiful necklace... made in China!
One thing I did learn that surprised me (which in hindsight, I don't know why it was a surprise!) was that this site has been used for at least 6000 years (and they have found artifacts up to 9000 years old in the area), but that there were spaces of up to 1000 years where it was not used at all. This jump was one of many that were used, and many factors went into selecting which place was appropriate. And! I don't know why I didn't know this, but the Blackfoot used dogs (wolves and coyotes) as pack animals before Europeans brought horses.

We headed off to our packed sandwiches and anticipation of our next destination: Frank Slide. We cracked the cooler, distributed lunch and readied ourselves for the hour's drive. And then, the car didn't start. Nothing. No whine. Not a rumble. Not even a weak gasp. We reviewed our options (was it an alternator, or battery?) and decided step #1 would be to get a boost. If that didn't pan out, we'd pull out our good old AMA card, which has only been used on one other occasion (the time we locked the keys in the van).

The interpretive center's parking lot is down the hill a little so as to not disrupt historically sensitive land. They provide a good-humored driver for those who don't want to trek up the hill. He noticed we were having trouble and when I asked if he had booster cables he immediately went in search of them. We settled in to eat our sandwiches and in short order he returned with cables and back-up in the form of Edwin and another staff member. We pushed the car into position and sure enough, the boost did the trick! Off we went!

Pointed to Frank Slide, elation slipped away as reality creeped in, we decided to detour into Pincher Creek and get the car checked out. We were scared to turn it off in case it didn't start again! A Fountain Tire said they could see us in a half hour, so we quickly scouted out options for all outcomes- walking distance to places to eat, sleep and buy books and magazines.

The news was as good as could be expected! We needed a new battery, and they had one to put in. In the end, our detour lasted less than an hour. Onward ho!

At a roadside pullout sits the "Burmis Tree", which is old. And dead. Apparently it fell over some years ago and the good people of the area rigged it up into a standing position again. I felt totally safe standing under it.... 

Ah! Frank Slide. Avery prepared herself for a video reenacting the event, and Mark followed suit.

They say it is not a matter of if, but when, more of Turtle Mountain will come sliding down that slippery slope.
It is overwhelming how much material came crashing down that mountain, but even more amazing that more human damage wasn't done. Just the edge of the town of Frank was buried. We learned that this area has the heavy honour of being the site of some of Canada's most tragic events. In addition to Frank Slide, there have also been some high-fatality mine accidents.

And with that discovery, we were off to visit Bellevue Mine! It was just up the road, but darn near impossible to get to as there was a street festival in the middle of town. After skirting the crowds this way and that, we made it to the mine at 5:29. The last tour left at 5:30. I bet they were happy to see us!

They warned us it was cold, and gave out ponchos to help. I was struck by the thought that they could have skipped this  kindness in retaliation of our underthewire arrival. Good people found at Bellevue Mine!

What an awful place to work. Miners were remarkable people to endure such conditions day in and day out.  
Avery worried her way through the whole tour. Any time the guide paused to ask if we had any questions, she had the same one. "How much further do we have to go in here?"  In hindsight, maybe the mine tour was not the best choice after learning about mine collapses and such. We all got out alive, however, and headed out in search of supper.

After eating, it had started to rain a little. Our plan was to stop at the Leitch Collieries and/or Lundbreck Falls on our way back. As we passed the Colliery, it really started to pour, and tours were over for the day anyway so we decided to move on by. The falls would be a better bet, we hoped. We got less than a half kilometre up the road when we ran into a traffic block. The road was closed due to an accident. We were only about the 5th or 6th vehicle to get stopped, so it had just happened. We decided to turn around and check out the colliery after all. It seemed a better option to get wet doing something interesting over sitting in traffic wondering how long you were going to sit there.

This is for my dad- it's the power house!

It's a wet power house.
We didn't take many pictures here because of the rain, but in addition to the power house, there was a manager's residence and a HUGE building that held cokers. I tried to walk to the very end of it, and never made it. I was walking through brush and got absolutely soaked. My shoes squished when I walked and my jeans were falling down from the water weight in the legs. Time to give up this crazy notion of funintherain! We did read that the operation was the largest of it's time, but ended up being too ambitious. Of the 64 or so cokers installed, only half were ever put into use. The coal industry was very volatile and markets dried up in an instant. (A colliery was a place to clean and sort coal.)

Heater blasting, we sat in the car and looked at the lineup of vehicles still waiting for the road to open. We settled in with books and joined the waiting.

9pm. Still waiting. Ambulances have left the accident scene.

9:30pm. Still waiting. Sun is gone, and there is not enough light to read by. We sent a delighted Avery to squirrel through the folding back seat into the trunk for snacks. And the pair of jeans Mark brought in case he got cold during the day. I put those on and give up on my own ever getting dry.

10pm. Still waiting. A few RV's have joined us in the Colliery parking lot and look like they are settling in for the night. I text the people whose farmyard we are staying in; I don't want to freak them out when we come driving in in the middle of the night.

10:30pm. Still waiting. We are all trying to nap. Not so easy in a civic. I am grateful to have dry pants.

11pm. Still waiting. I have given up on playing scrabble on my phone. There are only 2 bars of service here, and about 1000 waiting people are all trying to use them.

11:30pm. Still waiting. We drive to a new spot in the parking lot for fun. It looks like Avery might have fallen asleep. She has the comfiest option in the backseat. No lights are on in any of the RVs.

12am. Hark! What light in yonder window breaks? Do my eyes deceive me, or are they starting to let traffic move? We sing the hallelujah chorus and join the snaking turtle. Or turtling snake, if you prefer.

We made it home about 1:30am. Just think, in my college days, that was calling it an early night!

'Til tomorrow!

Aug 5, 2013

Summer Fun #9

We decided to make a quick trip to southern Alberta just to tour around and see stuff. This was largely inspired by a part of the grade 4 curriculum; my daughter learned about Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump in school and we chose to run with her curiosity.

We headed down the highway and landed in Calgary at lunch time. We were lucky enough that one of our friends was available to meet with us, and we spent an awesome afternoon eating at Diner Deluxe and visiting with Katharina. I have been to this restaurant before when in Calgary for the Canadian Scrapbooker Magazine's Scrapbook Carnival. It was featured on the Food Network show "You Should Eat Here" at some point, and I was excited to share it with my family.
Full and happy! Doesn't Katharina add some class to the family? Love that girl!

It is a totally unassuming looking place- but filled with good home cooking and made from scratch burgers.
Onward! When we decided to head to Southern Alberta, I was originally thinking we could rent a cabin somewhere or maybe even get all crazy and crack out the tent. In my search, I found Roelofsen's Guest House near Fort Macleod. It sounded good on the website, so we decided to give it a go. I sent the owner a range of dates that we could travel and asked her if she had a three night stretch available. Done!

So. We didn't really know what we were getting into. It was all very casual to book, but we liked that it had a full kitchen so we could have breakfast at home etc. The website even promised that the fridge would be stocked for us with all our breakfast needs. We were not sure what that really meant, so we decided to get to the guest house before going to a grocery store.

We found the place easy enough (yay GPS!) and were met with our cheery host. She quickly got us installed and we were off to find out what we had got ourselves into.

In short, I would whole-heartedly recommend this place! It is in the middle of a farm, so if you are at all opposed to seeing your dinner walk around, this may not be the place for you. Otherwise, it was pristine, and when they stock a fridge, they really stock a fridge! We were delighted to not only find eggs, cereal and toast for breakfast, there was also a nice selection of fruit, cold cuts and frozen pizza! The kitchen was equipped with everything you could wish for and there was even a bar-be-que on the huge deck!

We started to read how to play chess. But then we stopped. And played checkers. My kid is a shark!


Breakfast and lunch!!!!

And the best part- critters to pet!
Inspection over, we determined we did not need to stop at the grocery store after all. But we did need to find supper, so off to town we went. After we ate we looked around and found an historic graveyard. Naturally we went in! That's what everyone does on vacation, right?

There was a special section with original and beyond members of the NWMP. But this headstone really caught my attention. Anyone know if the log is significant? And wouldn't you love to know the story here?
And with that, we were off home to sleep. 'Til tomorrow!