Rural Alberta, Calgary
The Rothney Astrophysical Observatory (RAO) is an offshoot of the University of Calgary's Department of Astronomy. The Observatory is located just outside of Calgary, off Highway 22X. It takes about forty-five minutes to drive from downtown Calgary to the observatory; there is no public transporation. The interpretive center is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from noon to 4:00 pm and admission is free. From May to October the observatory hosts monthly open house nights where you can actually see the stars through a telescope. Admission to these nights is $5 per vehicle. 2007 dates are April 21, May 19, June 23, July 21, Aug 18, Sept 22 and Oct 20.
As you approach the observatory you will drive up a narrow, one-lane country road. Note the signs to your left as you come up the hill. If the sun was located at the top of the hill at the interpretive center, each sign would indicate how far from the sun that planet was. Inside the interpretive center there are a number of displays about the observatory and astronomy in general, and around the interpretive center are several telescopes (to be used only on open house nights). The RAO is home to the third-largest telescope in Canada and also houses one of a handful of telescopes in the world that are dedicated to finding asteroids.
One question though: With all the high-tech equipment at the RAO, why do they still have so many rotary phones?
After leaving the Calgary Stampede, we hopped into Carolyn's boyfriends big 4WD truck and headed southwest of the city, ending up in the foothills of the Rockies not long after passing through the small community of Bragg Creek. The Elbow River starts its life in the mountains not far from there and continues eastward until it soon merges with the much larger Bow River in Calgary. All along the upper reaches of the Elbow are nice picnic and camping sites as well as a few walking trails in the Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area, where it is possible to get out and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
We stopped for a picnic beside the river (see my 'Restaurant' tips for the details) before we made the easy walk on the trail to Elbow Falls. On a sunny and warm day like we had, this was an amazingly relaxed and peaceful spot to be as we admired the simple beauty of this small waterfall. In this picture, some people have arrived on the left bank in All Terrain Vehicles, so you can get a rough idea of the size of the falls from them.
You used to be able to jump off cliffs in to the river in Seebee, but when I say, "You're probably not allowed to anymore." my Mom always snips "You were never were ALLOWED to!"
So who knows?
We like to stop here at the dam to let the dog have a little stretch before pushing on to Banff and beyond.