Visiting Alberta, Canada in September 2017

In what has become an annual event, the Intrepid Trio (Ed, Susan, and Michael) again visited Canada during the late summer. This time, our goal was Alberta, the Canadian province just above Montana.

2 September, Kamloops, British Columbia

Picked Ed up from SeaTac and headed north. Lunched at a teriyaki place in Shoreline on a beautiful day in Seattle. Took the non-Vancouver approach to the Canadian border, and soon reached Highway 1, the cross-Canada road that does for vehicles what the railroad had done more than a hundred years before. I don't remember much of the trip to what turned out to be Kamloops, our stop-over point, but we might have already seen some of the 5,000+-foot summits we would see for the next couple weeks. As we neared Kamloops, we saw evidence of the wildfires affecting BC (and, later, AB and Washington State). Had a fine dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. Firefighters in the morning.

3-4 September, Riverview B&B, Okatoks, Alberta

Had no end of trouble finding this, as my Garmin could not locate it. Even a road map was missing from certain sections of this area. The house itself is like something out of Dynasty (the TV show about a really wealthy family). It has numerous bedrooms, part of which are set aside for B&B purposes. The family living in the house includes the daughter of the actual owner, an Alabama native who moved to Alberta some thirty years ago. Said owner appears to have acquired quite a bit of land in the area, some of which he's donated to the local university. Although both the wife and husband are elsewise employed, the B&B seems to be an attempt to derive a bit of income from now unused space, the house having been built to house the owner and his extended family. Where owner, et al, is now wasn't clear but he appears to be in the area.

The family running the B&B was not intrusive, and lives in the house. The husband told us of his experience dealing with the flood that visited the area in 2013. I had read about this, when reading about Heartland. Looking at that Wikipedia article, I realize that before this Sep 2017 trip, I had not heard of most of the places mentioned.

However, we were in this area mostly because of the Canadian TV show called Heartland (which had then fixed the location of this Canadian adventure). The show is filmed around the area of High River, Alberta. The exact location is not publicized, as the show has a world-wide following with visitors from as far away as Japan. It was probably in production during our visit, as the show appears to be only partially complete as the broadcast season begins. Many episodes show the ubiquitous snow that covers the area throughout the winter.

As Heartland is primarily about rescuing horses, engendering much contact with that formerly vital animal, Ed signed us up for a trail ride. This is where you get on a horse and ride throughout the countryside with a guide. We were the only two guests with Jordan, our lovely guide. I would like to say that we would have followed her anywhere, but the reality was that Ripley and Babe—our horses—were only going to be going where THEY wanted to go. Mostly, this was right behind Jordan and her horse, so everything worked out pretty well. The scenery was beautiful (see almost any outdoor scene from Heartland) but when you got right down to it, it's pretty boring. Fortunately, the three of us were able to carry on reasonable conversations, and we eventually ended up back where we started.

Jordan suggested that these rides were no thrill for the horses as they could execute them blind-folded by now. She didn't point out another fact—she herself had done the rides past any point of interest. Ed and I agreed that probably only women would have the patience to take strangers on a trail ride more than once, which was all right with us.

We were sent to the Chuckwagon for lunch. Unfortunately, several thousand other people had gotten the same recommendation. We moved next door to lunch at the Eau Claire Distillery, the only customers. For about ten minutes. Then the thousands waiting in line next door found their way there.

It was a good thing we had superb breakfasts at The Riverview.

Sometime during our Okotoks phase, we visited Christ Church, also known as “The Log Church.” We had visited The Museum of the Highwood in High River, and had a wonderful and enlightening talk with the attendant. She pointed out that the Log Church wasn't far, and we recalled that at least a couple marriages in the Heartland show had taken place there. It was built in 1896 and features logs placed vertically as its walls. Very folksy. And we met the couple that takes care of the place, and had a great conversation with them.

Speaking of thousands, this Labor Day weekend saw most of Canada trying to get into Banff and Lake Louise. Only a couple thousand succeeded, the rest milling around causing all sorts of traffic problems. We put off any attempt at Banff for another day.

We needed to pick up Susan coming into Calgary later the next night, so went into that city after leaving The Riverview, had a wonderful lunch, and spent a couple hours at the Glenbow Museum. Oh, and we ascended the Calgary Tower, which looks over most of Calgary.

5-7 September, Blackstone Hotel, Canmore, Alberta

We secured our reservations in Canmore, a Banff alternative (thank you), had a good meal at The Table, then went into Calgary to pick up Susan. All were tucked in by 3am.

I introduced Ed to Starbucks For Breakfast, a short walk from our Blackstone Hotel. Joining us were a few hundred millennials, all arrayed in their Active Wear and ready for the many activities the Banff/Canmore area offers. Our own included a successful attempt on Lake Louise (see picture), hanging around in the incredible Fairmont Chateau. It is both fun to see as well as to hang out with people who can afford the place.

Canmore is a pretty cool place, and many visitors would be happy just to hang around the shops, every now and again popping outside to look at the mountains. Although I cannot imagine driving there in winter, I could see hiring some Sherpas to carry you in. Or perhaps dogs pulling a toboggan with you in it. The mountains must be even more spectacular with snow everywhere.

Invited to dine with a high school chum who lives in the area—Nancy Boone Vermette, we made our way to their log “cabin” in Nordegg, north of Banff, after a brief visit and lunch in Jasper, another cute town. Of the places we visited, only the Fairmont Chateau could contend with this ‘cabin’. Chef Dennis served us part of a moose he had shot (not necesarily for us), and we agreed it was wonderful. Who'da thunk it.

We finished off our visit with an hour at the first national park for Canada: Cave & Basin, and then the Intrepid Trio split into a Dynamic Duo returning to Maine and a Solitary Single driving back to Nordegg for a couple more days in mountain paradise.

Eating was wonderful everywhere we went (well, you might do better than the High River Inn Restaurant), as has been our experience throughout Canada.

8-9 September, Dennis & Nancy Vermette, Nordegg, Alberta

Back in Nordegg, Nancy treated me to walks in the country and a view of her work on Dorothy Sayers (from a conference on whom in London she had just returned). My parting gift was a couple pieces of apple pie by Chef Dennis. It's a wonder I could leave.

10 September, "Courtyard" Cranbrook, British Columbia

But leave I did, and made it as far as Cranbrook. I arbitrarily chose Frank's Schnitzel & Steak, a memory I will choose to retain over that of the motel I also arbitrarily chose. But some reading of Peter Whimsey's first published murder mystery, some sleep, and an early exit led to twelve hours of magnificent mountain driving between Cranbrook and my Longview home.

Written by Michael Broschat, September 2017