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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A beautiful weekend in Calgary and British Columbia!

Sometimes, so much awesome is packed into such a short span of time that later you think, "That was only a weekend?"

Brittany and I had planned on going to her family's home in Calgary, and to take a tour of Drumheller and the Rocky Mountains and while I was super excited for it, apparently, I wasn't excited enough. What I mean by that was, as usual, I was vastly under-prepared for how incredible things would be.

Leaving Edmonton early Saturday morning, we took the scenic route to Drumheller, the home of the dinosaurs! I apologize for advance here because I did not take any photos from the car, not trusting my ability or my cell phone camera's ability to yield anything other than "whoosh" lines, haha. Anyway, the scenic route was indeed that, as we saw rolling hills and field upon field of yellow. It was a really nice drive, punctuated with Brittany and I trying to answer Trivial Pursuit questions and singing to the music on her iPod.

Finishing on a literal high note with The Lion King's He Lives in You, we arrived in Drumheller, at the Royal Tyrrell Museum! I was pretty excited, I mean, I'm a space kid, I grew up reading books about space and other planets, but I was a kid once and that means that I still loved dinosaurs! I used to have the little dinosaur magazines which featured pieces of glow-in-the-dark dinosaur skeletons which you could assemble. Walking as briskly as we could without running, we made our way into the museum, and here is some of what I saw.

[I took 131 pictures this weekend, and while I will leave them on my public Dropbox for you to look at, I didn't feel like uploading all of them here and now. These are some of the highlights.]

Black Beauty
Dinosaur eggs
That last one was neat, being able to see the work being done on the specimen. There was even an interning student sitting at a desk cleaning a specimen while explaining what he was doing. Which, by the way, sounds like an awesome job, and I know a couple of my friends wish the Royal Ontario Museum had such positions available.

Next, we have ammonite, both fossil and gemstone, protected by Albertan provincial legislature, and really, quite beautiful to behold.

Coming up on your right, we have the famed Tyrannosaurus Rex!
This is one of those sights where my lack of camera skills really shows. Specially on exhibit, in this dark room, the T-Rex looked both menacing and majestic. It was stunning and wonderful to behold, and sadly, no picture, least of all mine, can do it justice. Still, it was a very impressive view.

In the same room, there were also other dinosaurs behind picture frames, which I thought to both be a very nice touch and an interesting concept; dinosaurs as art.

Moving along through the museum, we came to a large room which featured many dinosaur specimens. It was quite humorous, really, as we passed through a gate which had some text concerning the Precambrian era, I began "nerding out" by telling Brittany about the Precambrian extinction and she interrupted me to say, "Look to your right", and this is the first thing I saw:

And then I saw this!

(Kind of looks like the woman on the left is about to become lunch)

And, just in case one gets completely lost, they provided us with a helpful little sign:
And there were so many more, but I'll leave you to look upon them in your own time, as I really don't feel like posting all of them here. The museum was pretty spectacular and after hearing so much about it, I'm really glad to have seen it.

After a nice lunch, we made our way outside to the Badlands! I had been looking forward to exploring the Badlands for quite some time now; on the trip to Drumheller, the rolling hills and fields I had described earlier suddenly turned into these canyon-like gouges with multiple sedimentary layers which I found to be profoundly interesting. What was both funny and a little sad at the same time was how much I knew about these Badlands and the geological forces which created them. I have taken way too many classes concerning geology and geography. I was never really that interested in the processes but it was an integral part of my education in Earth and Space Science. Oh well, learning is learning, and while I don't like how much time I've spent learning it, I can't begrudge actually knowing so much about, well, anything. So, when we walked outside and starting alongthe trails of the Canadian Badlands, I grew very excited! I mean, I got to see sights such as this:
And these!

Now, with 100% more Brittany!

Sadly, and as expected, one is not allowed to run around and climb any part of the Badlands; you're expected to stay on the trail. Too bad, as both Brittany and I really wanted to. But, the sights were quite extraordinary and while I won't bore with you with processes, how cool is it to think that a giant pile of ice scraped these gouges out over such a long time?

With a little regret at leaving, but the promise of more adventures to come, we left the Badlands and drove the rest of the way to Calgary. Between catching some of the city skyline, and seeing the first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains off in the distance, my attention was fully taken. While I didn't get to see much of Calgary on this trip, I did get to see a city which looked to work in harmony with the surrounding nature; trees, hills, buildings, all working together, which was nice. I've spent a few years in Toronto, and while I won't be so mean as to say it's too urban, the way Edmonton and Calgary have attempted to integrate the natural with the urban has been refreshing.

With The Mask of Zorro soundtrack announcing our arrival, we turned onto the piece of suburbia which Brittany's family calls home. It was as nice and exquisite as I had thought it would be, with a piano in the front room, a study, office, and library at different points in the house, and paintings on the walls. Haha, no, I did not take photos, but they have a lovely home and I wanted to make mention of it here in case they read this blog. More importantly, their hospitality was very much appreciated. After having a nice dinner, we all went to bed with the promise of going to the Rockies early the next day!

For anyone who has ever had me as a passenger in their vehicle, let me apologize here and now. I don't know what it is, but I seem to have some form of vehicular narcolepsy. Obviously, and thankfully, it only applies when I am a passenger and not a driver, but I just have a really hard time staying awake in a motorized vehicle. As excited as I was to see the Rockies, I feel asleep/was awoken by Brittany several times. At one point, I was awakened with the proclamation that I could cross British Columbia off my list as we had just crossed the provincial border!

Still, when I did open my eyes, I was able to see and capture some really amazing vistas.

At one point, we made a stop to see the Spiral Tunnels, an impressive feat of engineering. Working 10 hour shifts at $2.25/day, the workers managed to carve out two tunnels in the mountains, to reduce the gradient and risk of avalanche in the mountains to complete the Canadian National Railway. One interesting little fact was that when the two tunnels were eventually joined, as teams had been working independently up until that point, the two tunnels were only 5 cm off of alignment.
You can see the entrance here in the bottom middle of the picture.
A little diorama of the Spiral Tunnels

A better shot of the tunnel

After one or two quick stops, we took a tour of the Natural Bridge, carved out by the Kicking Horse River.

As Brittany's dad pointed out, it's really something to see the river, which had been flowing quite calmly for the most part, suddenly drop and churn toward, under and through this bridge. While it may not look like much, look how much water is pumping through it!

I especially love the little bit of commentary on that video.

For safety's sake, the Natural Bridge had an accompanying structural bridge so that tourists could see it all clearly without getting too close.

Skipping stones at the beach-like area beside the bridge
You could get really close to the water, too close for Brittany's liking (I felt like exploring)
I finally understand what ice-blue water looks like, you'll see it more in later pictures.
A view of the water as it's about to go under the bridge.
I like this photo.
I took this one for Danielle, my sister, who dreams of being a geologist someday.
I also like this photo.
The second last stop on our journey was Takkakaw Falls, one of the highest in Canada, and a magnificent sight to beyond. In fact, if you followed that link, you'll know that the name is Cree for how magnificent it is. Following a winding road, along hairpin turns, we made it to the sight, stopping for lunch before we took the short hike to the base of the falls.
There were a lot of people around the Falls that day, and I couldn't really blame them. The weather was beautifully sunny and bright, and the view was quite amazing. 

Anyone ever see Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Recognize that mountain? Looks the same to me.
You may have noticed that my shots of the Falls get closer and closer. That's because the Falls are quite open and everyone was scrambling along the rocks and climbing as close as they could. Like an all-too-excited kid, (which is a pun when you see what comes next), I climbed the rock-strewn path making my closer and closer to the base of the Falls. I joked that I should have brought a cup to try some of the water; it is running straight from a glacier after all. Brittany joined me and at one point, we turned around to see how far up we'd climbed:

These pictures are incredibly deceiving, and I'll show you why. At first glance, it looks like a nice little slope, "Oh cool, you've climbed the hills a little ways", but if you look closely, you'll see splotches of colour that don't look like water, rock, or tree, and you'll realize those are people standing at the bottom watching us climb.
Our last stop was at Lake Louise, which featured mountains, glaciers, and a chateau with a perfect view of the lake.

Weirdly enough, almost all of my photos came out quite dark. This first one, while bright and blurry is actually more accurate of a representation than the ones that follow, in terms of light and colour.

The water lacks lustre in these photos, but trust me, it was a beautiful ice-blue, almost a shiny grey. The sunshine was so nice, and it gave the mountains and the glacier a beautiful sheen, one which really drove home the definition of clarity. Brittany and I plan on coming back, maybe not to this spot, by one like it, and trust me, the photos will be better next time.

After being treated to a late lunch/early dinner at the chateau, we made our way back. Once again, the wonders of the Rockies, while being awesome in the truest sense of the word, was little match for the warmth and comfort of a moving vehicle and I slept at least half of the way back. It was a wonderful weekend, one which really relaxed me and made me feel not only happy, but refreshed.

In the Harry Potter books, the eponymous hero finds out that he must go back to his uncle's home every summer to recharge a spell to protect him from evil-no-nose as I sometimes call him, since most fear saying his name. This has always reminded me of how I feel the need to be refreshed by nature. I made the transition from middle-of-nowhere Dacre/Ottawa Valley, to Toronto, to Edmonton quite easily, but every now and then, I need to just go out and explore, get lost, and see what nature has done while I've been away.

Thank you very much for reading, I hope you had fun following me on my adventures. For now, I am going to rest. While it was a restful weekend, it was also so much fun, and that combined with working late this week and having to dance around the Edmonton Transit System's schedule, means I've grown a little tired this week. Remember, if you'd like to view all the photos, check out the Dropbox link above. I'll leave them up there for some time, but if you find the link doesn't work, it probably means I've taken them down and you should contact me if you'd like to see more.


  1. Jealoussssssss

    (I wonder how many times I've posted that as a comment here)

  2. 3, and while I don't wish your envy, every time only reaffirms how awesome my adventures are, so thanks!