In case you’ve forgotten, we left Kelowna only to have our faculties assaulted by an elf, then an extremely rude Samantha, we were confronted with terrorist addicts, then upon reaching Revelstoke encountered a near death experience. Hopefully part two is a little more relaxing.
The previous day from Kelowna to Noah’s Arc we had only driven a few hours before arriving at a reasonable hour in time for a much needed happy hour. Kananaskis, however, was significantly further. We expected it would only be a few kilometers past Canmore, Alberta and on the highway. This seemed a short distance even though the map depicted some dark green areas and little gray bumps around Golden and Banff. We soon learned that those little gray bumps were the Rocky Mountains. We were to drive the beast, faulty gas gauge and all, over the Rockies.
With little knowledge of how an 18-year-old (almost ready for antique plates) motor home would travel where David Thompson and his adventurers struggled in previous generations, we set out to climb some very big bumps. We reached Golden without difficulty and even did a little tour of the downtown. It seems Goldenites dislike visitors as there were no signs telling weary travellers where the actual downtown was and we only stumbled upon it by accident. In reality, a motor home does not stumble anywhere, but upon driving down the main street local residents glared at us as the motor beast barely cleared a group of outdoor patio chairs. I don’t think 29 foot colossuses commonly find their peaceful little downtown. Escaping a possible lynching, we located the highway and travelled on to Lake Louise, Banff, and finally Canmore. With our numerous stops to let dogs piddle and ol’ Ron stretch his tennis bruised knees, about 6 hours after leaving the Ark we expected to be settling in for the night. However, passing Canmore we encountered signs for the Kananskis River and Kananskis Country, but where was the Mount Kidd RV Park, our intended destination? Michelle had gone eerily silent for a change. Suddenly there was a sign saying: “Turn Right to Kananaskis Village”. Another sign informed us it would be 28 kilometers to the Village and Mount Kidd RV Park was several more kilometers thereafter. Kananaskis did not appear to be on our way to Drumheller.
Having reservations at Mount Kidd we journeyed on, finally arriving at our little rest place some 8 hours after our departure. Mount Kidd was a surprising delight. The campsites were very private, somewhat similar to a standard government campground, yet all the amenities, and more, were provided. They had tennis courts, a swimming pool, volleyball courts, baseball diamonds and many miles of paved bicycle path. The only shortcoming I might note of Mount Kidd RV Park were the showers. Once again those dastardly showers! After the Noah experience I was optimistic of even greater indulgences as we ventured into formerly wealthy Alberta. On the little camp map I noted there were two shower houses, both a biking distance from our camper. Come morning I biked to the closest one with my usual shower paraphernalia. In blissful anticipation, I opened the shower door to be greeted with a conspicuous sign informing me $2.00 tokens were required to start the shower and they could only be attained at the camp office. It was 7:00 AM. Would the camp office even be open? Gathering up my gear I biked to the opposite end of the campground and found the camp office. Drat, it was closed. Circumnavigating the building looking for a possible open window to violate, I found a door ajar and the cherished token dispenser in plain view. Watching for any RCMP officers that might be patrolling the area, I submitted my toonie and obtained the cherished token. Skulking back to the shower house, I became aware that there was no information on how long a token would allow one such as me to actually revel in my much anticipated warm shower. I was, consequently, forced to rush through my ablutions before hearing a resounding clunk as my waterful experience ended after 2 minutes. Of note there was no way to adjust the temperature that never reached beyond the tepid range. Why don’t they standardize these damned showers based on Noah’s benchmark? Arriving back at the beast about an hour after I had departed, the poodles were frantic in worry that they would not enjoy their usual morning promenade through the woods to make their daily deposits to the land.
Showers aside, I managed to bike every inch of the paths between Wedge Lake and Kananaskis Village. It seems the area was pretty well untouched by human-kind, at least Caucasian ones, until the 1970s when Bill Milne, a local adventurer, encouraged some provincial politicians to open the area by building a road. There had been some coal mining in the Kananaskis Valley around the turn of the century but this eventually died out and the one remaining mining town was demolished in the 1960s.They, consequently, developed a massive recreational area. By 2000 there was about as much recreation as the people of Alberta could stand and the provincial government prohibited all future development, calling it Kananaskis Country. Current recreation includes several campgrounds, some second-rate washrooms, two golf courses, two hotels, a holiday ranch, two alpine ski areas (Nakisha and Fortress Mountain Resorts), and a competitive cross-country ski area (the Canmore Nordic Centre) which was the venue for cross-country skiing events during the 1988 Winter Olympics. Most of the development is within Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and along the Highway 40 corridor that parallels the Kananaskis River. Kananaskis has many kilometers of hiking, cross-country skiing, and horse trails.
Kananaskis Village is like a mini Whistler with a ski resort, destination hotels, a couple of golf courses, a small store, and not much else. Very quaint. There are, apparently, bears everywhere if you are to believe the locals. Most of the souvenir T-shirts depict people running from bears and bears enjoying a hardy meal of tubby tourists. Everyone is recommended to carry bear spray. I never saw any bears but almost ran into a couple of deer on my bike. Another time I was walking down the banks of a large river bed with the poodles when I saw 7 elk crossing a clearing. Both dogs were off leash and paused, not sure what to do. After all these are 3-foot-high lap dogs. They just stopped and looked without uttering a sound or darting after the alien intruders. I think they were very happy when I put them on the leash and lead them towards the elk. They were joyfully not required to make any decisions.
After a bear free night in Kananaskis we learned that Drumheller could only be accessed through Calgary and we would have to retrace our steps to reach our destination. We also learned that there are no gas stations in Kananaskis, at least none that we could find, and Michelle was still not talking to us. After our near death experience in Revelstoke we did not wish to let the little gas needle fall below three quarters. So with white knuckles we ventured back to the Trans Canada Highway while compulsively glaring at the faulty needle. We found the highway without catastrophe and were grateful to pull into a nice gas station under full power even though the price was even higher than in Kelowna.
With Michelle guiding us through a bustling Calgary and on to the flatlands of central Alberta, we were astounded to witness the bright yellow canola fields against the dark blue, almost black, skies that threatened us with a prairie storm. Avoiding the storm we followed the signs to Drumheller. With much anticipation, and about two kilometres from our destination, we could not see any sign of Drumheller. Had it gone missing? Suddenly we descended into a huge crevice in the earth. A monstrous river must have cut a large valley in this vast tableland where someone had decided to build a town. The Westerners had landed.
Arriving in Drumheller about mid afternoon, we soon found that our RV park was about 20 kilometers out of this bottom-dwelling city. Returning to the tablelands, we drove past such interestingly named towns as Rosebud, Dorothy and Finnegan before finding the HooDoo RV Park. It was a very nice park near the river but the, not so friendly manager, told us they were completely sold out and we would reside in an open field by the highway. Begrudgingly we rumbled past some very nice foliage-laden sites with happy smiling faces to find our new home next to a family of about 12 rampaging progenies, also relegated to the barren field. Setting up the camper I toured around on my bike but found there was nothing to tour 20 kilometers from nowhere beside a raging highway. I did learn, however, that the local Hoodoos, whose name adorned our open field campground, were nearby. Hoodoos are sand columns etched out of the earth by erosion with a large quantity designated as a park a short distance from our field. I found it interesting that silly tourists, such as myself, were seen clamouring over and around these Hoodoos that probably took a million years to construct. I expect it will take much less time for them to be dismantled in this manner.
Motorhoming is a learning experience. With each trip one finds out something new that must be done or shouldn’t have been done. In this instance, after a few hours at the HooDoo RV Park, a terrible smell of sewer began wafting through our vehicle and seemed to cling to the walls. People began circumnavigating our home by several meters. Our neighbour with the rampaging kids came over to enquire if we had some sort of odor problem as he had thought his daughter was experiencing a bad case of Gingivitis but after a thorough brushing the smell persisted. I had been diligent in flushing our black and gray tanks but to no avail. Reading the very lacking motor home manual, I learned of various techniques to overcome this problem but throughout the trip, on occasion, a rather sickly smell would continue to meander through the cabin. Outsiders did not seem to notice, or they were gratefully too polite to comment, so the problem was partially solved.
Come morning we drove off pretending we were not the guilty culprits and set out to actually see Drumheller, the Dinosaur Capital of the World. We became graphically aware of this distinction as we rounded a corner and were confronted with a Tyrannosaurus rex about 200 feet tall….and this was only the tourist information center. Roaming the streets of Drumheller, we became aware that the community had completely embraced the dinosaur theme. On every corner there was some quaint little depiction of a dinosaur. There were cute little statues of a dino riding a motor cycle, dinosaur benches, dinosaur photo ops, and a very angry Tyrannosaurus rex head protruding from a grocery store wall. I was unsure if they were trying to attract, or deter, customers. Almost every business had some form of dino-something within its title. I expected Fred Flintstone to be seen sauntering down the street at any moment. The most famous attraction, of course, is the Royal Tyrrell Museum. We managed to make our way to the museum and spent an afternoon enjoying the amazing presentations within. A truly incredible experience and well worth the drive.
After visiting the museum, I learned that Drumheller is known as the dinosaur capital of the world because of the high concentration of fossils located in the area. Millions of years ago the Drumheller area was tropical which created a great environment for plant growth and where dinosaurs flourished. As the theory goes, a cataclysmic event wiped out all the dinosaurs leaving only their bones to be discovered millions of years later.
In the 1880’s, J.B. Tyrrell came to the present-day Drumheller looking for coal and found the skull of a dinosaur near the Red Deer River. The dinosaur he found became known as the Albertasaurus and so began the collection of dinosaur remains that are sought after by museums all around the world. I even saw an Edmontosaurus at the museum. Coal was also discovered and the Calgary-Drumheller railway was opened in 1913 bringing with it settlers. The Drumheller coal rush heated up after Samuel Drumheller bought land in the valley and sold it to the Canadian National Railway to develop a town-site. A famous coin toss was made between Samuel Drumheller and Thomas Greentree, the previous owner, to decide who would name the town. The coin fell in favor of Samuel Drumheller…obviously. Between 1911 and 1979, 139 mines were registered in the valley and over 56 million tons of coal was shipped across Canada. The last coal mine, The Atlas, closed in 1979 signaling the end of the coal mining era in the valley. Today, agriculture is the biggest industry in the region followed closely by oil and gas. Tourism is the fastest growing industry in the town with thousands of people visiting each year to see the World’s Largest Dinosaur, Royal Tyrrell Museum, and Atlas Coal Mine .
After a very exhausting day visiting all of the sites that Drumheller had to offer, we decided we didn’t wish to drive 20 kilometers out of town to stay in a barren field next to a highway…and besides, we had heard they may have installed odour detectors in our absence and were actively barring our entry. As well the two showers and two toilets for 200 sites, approximately 1000 people, was even less desirable than the Mount Kidd experience. Consequently we visited a few RV parks in downtown Drumheller and found a nice spot at the Dino Nest Campground. (See everything has some sort of dino theme!) Although our actual site was little better than the HooDoo site, we had easy access to town and I spent a half day terrorizing the trails around Drumheller. It was very enjoyable.
After the third day we left the little town that is everything dino, stopping for my inevitable steeped tea, and headed back to the wild west. We spent a soggy night in Canmore and a final night in Malakwa where showers similarly served to challenge but, somehow every day, I managed a warm, if not tepid, shower and arrived in sunny Kelowna clean and well visited. We had survived hell and back.