The Badlands

Located at an hour and a half east of Calgary, the Badlands are considered one of the richest dinosaur fossil beds in the world. At the bottom of a canyon sits the town of Drumheller, home to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology and a number of dinosaur and fossil-related tourist attractions.

We stopped here for lunch with the hope that the rain would stop and we could hit the 25-km Hoodoo Trail in search of hoodoos, or tall thin spires of rock. At a restaurant just off the main street, I discovered that a vegetarian may have a hard time finding a veggie burger outside of Calgary or Edmonton. While looking at the pizza menu, I discovered "the Albertan," which was topped with barbecue sauce, ground beef and green peppers. Yes, beef appears to be the mainstay of the Albertan diet, and the further north you travel, the more likely you are to find barbecue sauce served on a wide variety of meats.

The rain did not let up, but we nevertheless set out for a walk across a long suspension bridge. On the other side, amidst the scent of sage, I took a few steps and felt myself slide down the incline. My cousin Rina was about ten feet ahead of me.

"I think we should turn back," she said. "There's a long slide print here followed by what appears to be a butt mark. Let's look for hoodoos elsewhere."

After a 15-minute drive, we did indeed spot some small hoodoos from the road. We stopped and were disappointed that they were so small, but after slipping and sliding up some inclines, we saw some spectacular formations, which sometimes resembled frightening faces. According to Blackfoot mythology, hoodoos were giants whom the Great Spirit had turned to stone for their evil deeds. At night, the petrified giants were known to awaken and hurl rocks down on any human passersby.

Although we were satisfied with these hoodoos, we continued on the trail by car with the hope of finding even larger ones until we hit a gravel road. My cousin said that gravel and dirt roads were dangerous if we didn't have a four-wheel drive vehicle.We headed back and eventually came upon Horse Thief Lookout, which gave us a spectacular view of the canyon below.

Afterwards, we drove across 11 single-lane bridges and eventually ended up in the little ghost town of Wayne, Alberta. The wooden sign read "Welcome to Wayne, pop. 2,789," which was crossed out with 27 written next to it. In its heyday at the beginning of the 20th century, Wayne was a coal-mining town. The main attraction today appeared to be a large sheep pen with pallets nailed together forming a makeshift fence. In addition to a few trailers and small homes, there was the Rosedeer Hotel and the Last Chance Saloon, a pretty big bar for just 27 people, unless of course, they serve sheep.

As the rain continued, we left the Badlands and headed back to the highway. Large Hutterite colonies are another common sight from the highway in the farmland surrounding Calgary. I was told that some colonies welcome outsiders, while others require you to make an appointment in advance. Although an odd site to this Easterner because of the religious cult connotation of large groups of people living on compounds, I was nonetheless curious. The prosperous Hutterites originally hailed from Germany, but persecution forced them to leave a long line of countries before finally settling on the Canadian prairies. We saw a colony from the highway and decided to pay a visit. Two 10-year-old Hutterite boys with European accents sold us some radishes and potatoes.

Getting back to the highway proved a little problematic. The rain had made these gravel roads muddy and slippery. My cousin was noticeably nervous about getting stuck in the mud far from a paved road outside a Hutterite colony. I wasn't sure why until she showed me this video when we got home.

PS, The Hutterite woman is a man, and if the refrain of this video is not your cup of tea, just cut to the last minute of the video to find out who did not assist these brothers in mud and how they eventually got themselves out.

Related posts:
Prairie Towns
Alberta: Prairie Sky


Anastasia | June 7, 2010 at 8:06 AM

It sounds Like you had a relitavly Good time, Hopefully next time Your out this way the weather is better and you can come to Heritage park, In calgary.

Heather | June 7, 2010 at 9:48 AM

I had a wonderful time, and I haven't even written about the pi├Ęce de resistance yet--Banff and the mountains. Thanks for stopping by. H

Anonymous | June 7, 2010 at 7:12 PM

Seeing those rock formations would make getting stuck in the mud worthwhile. Gorgeous photos!

Heather | June 7, 2010 at 7:23 PM

Hey thanks! I will always have fond memories of the Badlands! Mud or no mud.

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