The first attraction we came to after crossing into Alberta was Lake Louise, a world famous glacial lake, situated with a view of the glacier that is its source and surrounded by tall mountains. As we entered the immediate area, there was a retail complex with many food, gift and tourist stores.
I did recall a side trip up a steep, winding road to Moraine Lake that we did not take when we were last here, since we did not have a tow car and did not want to take a chance with the RV we owned then. This time, we parked our coach on a large lot down the highway from the Lake and used our tow car to tour. Up this road we went, and at the end, the parking lot was overfull. Many vehicles were parked along the side of the entrance road for a good distance back from the lake. Tourists then walked up to Moraine Lake. In my opinion, it is even more stunning than Lake Louise. Slides 3 and 4 give some idea of the beauty. This Lake is surrounded by seven mountain peaks which when combined with the Lake were featured on the back side of the old, paper $20 Canadian bank note. Slides 5 and 6 give you a view of those peaks. Apparently the image used for the bank note was captured by climbing a fifty foot high moraine deposited rock pile, immediately adjacent to the wood floating in the lake in the first couple of slides. We did not make the climb, although some adventurous tourists (mostly young people) did.
We left the area and travelled down towards Banff, however we missed the exit and quickly decided that we really had explored it the last time we were in the area and decided to drive to Canmore, AB. We drove through that town, with its unique and varied architecture a blend of old and modern ‘Art Deco’ styles. As we left Canmore, we decided we were going to get to Calgary by day’s end. We drove to there and were not too excited about the campground options on our route. We fuelled up and since the adjacent service centre had parking available, we stayed there. This may seem unusual to those who do not travel by RV, however when you have all the comforts of home with you, there really is only a need for a space to stay, that is safe and relatively quiet.
As it turns out this was a fortuitous decision, since shortly after we stopped, it began raining and the temperature fell noticeably. We awoke the next morning to a 3⁰C (37⁰F) temperature and a brisk wind. It was cold and pouring rain! My plan when I got to Calgary was to visit a business acquaintance, who lived in the south-east area of the city. Since we were in the north-east quadrant I had to drive through heavy traffic and pouring rain there and back. While I was away, Jane found a campground 50km (30 miles) east in a town called Strathmore. Upon my return we drove there through the heavy rain. The campground was near capacity however, we were able to find a very nice site and waited for the rain to finish. While there, we learned that the Lake Louise area and much of the route we travelled the day before, had been blanketed with snow and that wet snow fell in northwest Calgary during the afternoon. We considered ourselves very fortunate to have missed the snow and also to have enjoyed the previous day’s sunshine while exploring the two lakes. Timing is everything! We stayed the weekend in Strathmore and watched the regional baseball tournament (of older players in their 30-50’s) in the park, as the weather warmed up again.
On Monday, we ventured back on to the TransCanada Highway and Slide 7 gives you an idea of the typical prairie panorama. As far as you can see, there were grain fields as far as the eye can see. Of course, with the fields comes the storage units featured in Slide 8 and the regularly spaced grain elevators alongside waiting rail cars. The grain trains seem to go on forever and something that we had never seen before was a diesel-electric locomotive placed in the middle of the rail cars as well as two or three locomotives at the front. I guess the longer trains require a boost to keep moving.
We knew that Alberta was also a beef producing Province we were surprised by the number of pastures with beef cattle in them. The rolling hills are more suitable to grazing than farming and Slide 9 (while not the best photo given how far the cattle were away from us) give a sense of the large herds. As quickly as those herds were passed we were back to grain, hay and soybean fields using every available part of the acreage (Slide 10). Today these fields provide other sources of income, with Slide 11 showing the oil and gas installations surrounded by grain.
You may notice some flaws in the pictures. This was caused by a couple of factors. In Alberta (and other Prairie Provinces) there are few rest areas or pullouts off the highway where photos can be taken. This means that photos are taken through the RV windshield. When driving at this time of year, there are hundreds of yellow and white butterflies everywhere. Unfortunately some are killed as they impact the windshield and front of vehicles. We saw cars and trucks with grills covered in butterfly wings and while we did not have too many wings we had lots of spots where they impacted the RV. A daily cleaning was in order. Add to that the honey bees and you have a pretty sticky mess. Cars that were not regularly cleaned were pretty grubby looking. Thus the photos were taken through the messy windshield.
We’ll explore Saskatchewan in our next message.