Probably one of the most beautiful parts of Canada, Alberta has been all about the nature for us. There has been so much to see in Alberta, that it will require two posts to cover it all. A bit of history: Alberta was a part of the Northwest Territories until 1905 when it finally split away to finally get provincial status on its own. It is the largest producer of oil and gas products in Canada, and the second largest exporter of natural gas in the world. It has, of course, the two most popular National Parks in the entire country: Banff and Jasper. If you aren’t from Canada and you have advertisements on TV for travel in Canada, chances are most of the pictures or video footage will be from these two parks, Lake Louise in particular. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Alberta has more than just great parks.
We started by driving from Waldheim, Saskatchewan to the Elk Island National Park which is about 500kms away. The park was very beautiful and we enjoyed the scenery. After sorting out the campsite details we went for a drive to look for animals. The park is known for its conservation of bison and has the largest population density of ungulates in all of Canada. We didn’t see any bison that night, but as we were passing a pond to go back to our campsite, I saw a glimpse of a beaver threw the reeds by the side of the road. “That’s a beaver!” we both said at once. For most Canadians it’s not a big deal to see beavers, but before that day I had only ever seen one or two in my life. We saw about a dozen beavers all feeding on the grass roots in this pond, including a small family of three. They were so cute! Nobody else driving by stopped to look. I think they thought I was taking pictures of the sunset, which was also nice.
Elk Island is only about half an hour from Edmonton which is where we went next. We got to stay with Zafrina and her husband Jesse. I worked with Zafrina (Z. Z. used to be her initials…I’ll always remember that) at a loose-leaf tea shop in Abbotsford for a brief moment of my life about 7 years ago. Everything seems to be 7 years ago. Anyway, Zafrina and her husband moved to Alberta years ago and were kind enough to host us for a night. Thankfully, their cat Mojito also endured our presence, albeit a bit begrudgingly. I cannot believe I forgot to take pictures of them all! I didn’t even get a crummy selfie on my phone! You’ll just have to imagine a tall guy with dimples and a shaved head, a tiny Sri Lankan woman with a bob, and a tabby cat with a sarcastic look on her face.
We spent our time in Edmonton basically only seeing West Edmonton Mall, which is the largest mall in North America, apparently. It does have a roller coaster, a huge swimming area which looks like a beach, a sea lion that does tricks, about 800 shops and heaps of options for food and coffee. It is also where I finally FINALLY bought a brand new pair of glasses. I have been sporting my brownish-yellow frames for five years and the lenses are getting scratched and hard to see out of. Mostly because I kind of ruin all of my belongings through carelessness, which is a habit I wish to break. Anyways, I got a new pair of similar looking frames which are a dark rose colour and thankfully Callum wasn’t too traumatized by the change, though he noticed it straight away. I also had the most wonderful pedicure in about 9 years at this mall. My feet were in pretty rough shape. I apologized to the aesthetician before and during her work on my feet. That’s what lotsa hiking and sun exposure will do, I suppose. Callum basically lived at the book shop for the five hours we were there.
We drove down to Red Deer after that, which is where I was born while my parents lived in Alix. I don’t remember it though as I was still a baby when we moved to BC. Red Deer is also where a good friend from high school lives with his wife and daughter. Dustin and Cassandra hosted us for a night and it was so cool to catch up on each other’s lives and have nice long chats about everything. Dustin is a hunter and served us something I’ve never eaten before: deer burgers. They were delicious! Little Liesel was a darling…I always teased Dustin about having kids one day and it has finally happened. It was very special to meet her.
After Red Deer we made a bit of a detour towards Drumheller in order to drive through the very small town of Alix and try to find the church my dad pastored at millions of years ago. We found it, but I found out later that day that it was not the original building or location he worked at. We made our way to Drumheller later that afternoon. Drumheller is where you go to see dinosaurs. It is actually quite an important location in the world for palaeontologists. We went to the Royal Tyrrell Museum and saw a bunch of bones and I was suitably impressed. It was really neat, especially the tyrannosaurus rex. Being there makes you kind of in awe of these creatures, and you take a moment to realize, “wow, they were really here”…not that I ever denied it, it’s just that dinosaurs aren’t really on my radar a lot in my every day life.
While in Drumheller, we saw the badlands and the teeny tiny hoodoos and Horsethief Canyon, where I did a little painting while Callum ran around the rocks and paths that you can go on. This part of Alberta was very beautiful. We were lucky with weather as I can imagine it could be rather dreary if it was cloudy or rainy.
Next we drove on to Calgary and made it to Studio Bell, a music museum which is all about music in Canada, showcasing the history of it, famous singers, interactive music demos, and famous instruments such as Elton John’s little white song-writing piano. It was a very interesting museum. We only had an hour to look around before they closed so if you go, make sure you have at least two hours to spend there.
We wandered around Calgary after that and found out that there was a free Shakespeare play being shown at the Prince’s Island Park. So, we got some takeaway and walked with our picnic blanket to the park. We watched “As You Like It”, which I’d never seen or read before but enjoyed immensely. Callum said after that he didn’t really know what was going on—he was just watching the moving people. I explained the story after to him. “Why didn’t you tell me this before we watched it? I would’ve understood what was going on!” he said. “I’ve never seen or read it before,” I reminded him. “So, you got all of that….just from watching it?!” he asked. Yes, buddy. I studied Shakespeare in university so I know a thing or two.
We drove to Wal-Mart after that, planning to park there for the night. Our van felt a little funny as we were driving. It was veering to the right as Cal drove and we both went “Uh-oh”. We made it to Wal-Mart and then parked. We got out and what do you know it, the passenger front tire was flat. It was 10pm so there was nothing we could do about it, so, we just went to bed and the next morning the tire was down to the rim. It was a holiday and everything was closed BUT guess what? We were at Wal-Mart. They have a mechanic department with tires for sale. I called CAA (roadside assistance) and the guy came within 20 minutes, told us he couldn’t change the tire, but he pumped it with air so we could drive it the 100 meters to the mechanic side of the store, and within a couple of hours we were good to go again! I mean, a flat tire is not fun and kind of inconvenient, but how amazing that we managed to get to a mechanic that was actually open the next morning!