September 22, 2007

O Canada

Tom McCann's Headstone
 Tom McCanns Headstone

Days in Yorkton:
We are traveling once again, this time in Canada. Starting a couple of weeks back, we spent some time in Yorkton. Yorkton is in Saskatchewan between Winnipeg and Saskatoon. This is the place where Betty's great-uncle, Thomas McCann, immigrated to in 1903 after leaving Eden Valley. Tom raised a dozen children there. One of them, Joe, still has a widow, Frieda, living in Yorkton. Among our many activities there, we spent an evening talking to Frieda. She had a wealth of information. One of the things that she told us was that Tom's youngest son, Dan, was still alive and living in Red Deer, Alberta. We spent many hours at the library, digging for information about the family. We also wandered out to the city cemetery and found the grave sites of many of Betty's cousins. All in all it was an interesting visit. Unfortunately, it was drizzling, so it was a wet visit to the cemetery.

Jim and Lise:

Press HERE to see a slideshow
from Canada.

On Jackfish Lake
 On Jackfish Lake
Bill, Julia, Jim, Betty, Lise and Matty
 Bill, Julia, Jim, Betty, Lise and Matty

We arrived in Edmonton a week ago last Thursday. We came to visit with our dear friends, Jim and Lise Nicholson. We met them in 2004 in the Czech Republic. A year later they visited us in Argentina. They have become marvelous friends.

We had dinner with their daughter, Lyette, and her children, Julia and Mathew. We ate and drank and drank and ate. The meal was marvelous and the wine was too too much, if you know what I mean.

On Friday, we moved to their lake cottage, an hour west out of Edmonton on Jackfish Lake. It is a beautiful lake home that has just gone through a major renovation, including an addition. It was a totally laid back and comfortable atmosphere. We had to go out twice-a-day that day and everyday on the lake in Jimís new boat, as the motor needed breaking in. In the evening Julia and Matty showed up with their father, Barkley. It was another evening of good food and drink.

Saturday was more of the same, fishing, drinking, boating, eating, fishing, etc. The days were warm and sunny, perfect weather for mid Alberta. In the evening Lise cooked an outstanding example of Alberta beef. It was a wonderful roast beef dinner. It was a totally enjoyable evening.

Sunday was our final day on Jackfish Lake. It was much like the previous two days. I found it very relaxing and peaceful. I love being on the water. In the evening we returned to Jim and Lise's home in the city.

Jackfish Lake from the Nicholson Cottage Deck
 Jackfish Lake

Monday, we picked up the Nicholson's travel trailer and headed south. Near Edmonton, there is a fairly flat prairie. Gas well heads can be easily spotted in the fields of wheat and barley and canola. As we moved further south the flatness broke into rolling low hills. The gas well heads disappeared to be replaced by oil well heads. Alberta is rich in oil where 200 to 400 new wells are dug each year. It is a pity that they charge so little for the royalties. And it is crazy that in a province that produces so much oil the cost is 33% greater than the USA. That's right, gas costs about $4 per gallon.

Dry Island Buffalo Jump Park
Dry Island
More of Buffalo Jump Park
 Buffalo Jump Park
Ferry Across the Red Deer River
Bleriot Ferry
Around Drumheller
 Around Drumheller
In and around the Jasper Park Lodge
 around the Jasper Park Lodge
Athabasca Water Falls and River
 Athabasca Water Falls
Parting Shots in the Mountains
 Parting Shots in the Mountains
More Nicholsons
 More Nicholsons

After Red Deer and Three Hills, we drove to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Canyon. It was a place were thousands of years ago the local tribes organized buffalo drives that forced beasts over river bluffs so they fell 50 feet. The canyon was stunningly beautiful, resembling a bit of the Bad Lands of South Dakota. The dry island is a mesa in the canyon where the rivers cut around a piece of land. The flora and fauna on the dry island has not been touched by human hands in a thousand years. After stopping at the canyon, we passed by a Hutterite communal farm. There are many of these communes in southern Alberta. We took the Bleriot Ferry 50 meters across the Red Deer River. We stopped at Horse Thief Canyon, which is an area of small canyon and breaks formed by gullies and coulees. Finally, we arrived in Drumheller, where we kicked back to enjoy a warm and sunny late afternoon and evening.

On Tuesday, we spent a good part of the day at Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. I have visited a few museums that tried to tell the story of dinosaurs, but none had ever done a good job of it until I reached the Tyrell Museum. All of Alberta is rich with dinosaur fossils. The area along the Red Deer River and around Drumheller is particularly rich in fossils. Not only is this a museum, but it is a working research institution. In the late afternoon we went to see a rather strange rock formation called a hoodoo. Then we drove back into a long dead-end canyon, crossing ten bridges before stopping at the Last Chance Salon. We ordered steaks. They gave us two slabs of beef and told us to cook Ďem ourselves, which Jimmy did for the four of us. The food was good. The old place was great.

On Wednesday, we broke camp at nine in the AM. We headed through the big sky county of the Alberta plains and traveled to the mountains. We stopped at Lake Abraham, the source of the North Saskatchewan River that winds its way to Edmonton and eventually to Hudson's Bay. A few miles later we were on the Banff to Jasper highway. We had to stop for gas here; it cost more than $5 per gallon. We were deep in the Rockies now. The larger mountains soar to 11,000 feet here. We passed several glaciers and waterfalls. We arrived at the Whistler Campgrounds just south of Jasper before five PM. After setting up camp, we got our first look at the town of Jasper. It is an old railroad and tourist center. The main draw for the tourist is the wildlife and winter skiing. The tourists come from all over the world. We saw lots of European and Asian travelers. We had dinner at an old hotel in town and then headed back for camp.

After breakfast, we were back in Jasper the next morning. We stopped at Bear Paw Bakery for more coffee and rolls. We spent the next couple of hours in the Jasper - Yellowhead Historical Society Museum. I enjoyed the little museum, but it is not for everyone. Jim and Lise picked us up around noon, and we went to check out the Jasper Park Lodge. This is an old five star lodge that the rich and powerful have visited for years. While on this visit we sited our first elk. It is mating season and they are so horny that we have been warned to stay clear. A short drive from the lodge is the Maligne Canyon. It is a deep narrow canyon that takes runoff from Lake Maligne. The canyon draws a lot of tourists. After this we drove back into town for ice cream and then back out to see one of the magnificent water falls, of the Jasper National Park. The Athabasca Falls and River were a beauty to behold. Yes, I have seen bigger; but the setting, the power and the colors were a sight to behold. We drove back on the old road to Jasper. After a long day, we made it back to camp to rest and relax. Lise and I play a couple of games of Cribbage. She is one heck of a card player. I lost two more games to her that night.

Yesterday, Friday the 21st of September, we broke camp at 9:31 AM. We drove on the highway 16 toward Edmonton. I saw a number of elk on the side of the road. One had a great rack of antlers. An hour or so down the road we turned off at Pocahontas. Ten miles back in the mountains we found the Miette Hot Springs. The little spa was great. The waters were hot and comforting. The smell of sulfur was in the water. It was wonderful. We did not spend long there, maybe a half an hour in the water. It was great. From there we headed back to the highway that would bring us back to Edmonton about five in the afternoon. We had covered more than 1000 miles since departing Monday. We dropped the travel trailer off at the farm. The farm is where their son Dave Nicholson and his wife Gloria live. We had met Gloria the Monday before, but Dave was still a mystery man. He works several hundred miles to the north, coming home on the weekends. The last time we visited, their children were in school but we finally got to meet Owen and Danielle.

We had not planned to be in Edmonton so long, but our hosts had other plans. The Nicholsons have been the most wonderful hosts we have ever known. Their wonderful family was a joy to meet and know. The Canadians that we met along the way were warm and good people. It was great to really get to see this rich, rich land. It is rich in soil and minerals. It is expensive. The Canada that I saw looks richer and better off than the USA. It seems to be a land of opportunity, too. They cannot get enough workers for all the jobs available. And the jobs pay incredibly well. Unlike the USA, they welcome immigrants from all over the world. If you are one of my young readers that live abroad who is looking for a fantastic place to live and work, then Canada is the place to be.

We hope to move on today. We plan to be in Canada a couple of more days. You can expect another entry in the next week or so.

Pyramid Lake and Mountain
 Pyramid Lake

Posted by bill at September 22, 2007 12:02 PM