Tower of Babel by Moraine Lake
Head to Moraine Lake and go up to the Rock Pile. Now look left, the tower you see is what you will conquer!
This hike isn’t for everyone, it’s an hour of two of going straight up loose scree but it ends with an amazing payoff for the amount of time you spend hiking. You end up on top of the towering spire with amazing views of Moraine Lake, Consolation Lakes and Mount Temple. The best part is being able to enjoy these views in the living room; over the years people have built a couch, chairs, TV and table with rocks.
Give me a call at work (Cathedral Mountain Lodge) and I'd love to share tips on the best route to take to get up here!
The very middle or the centre of Alberta is marked with a statue of a bear and there is a trail going to it. The access point for the trail is located a little of halfway between Swan Hills and Fort Assiniboine along Highway 33 (Grizzly Trail). It's about a 3 kilometre hike to the centre from the road. I've read there are two trails but I only saw one. I guess it was an ATV trail which was about 1/4 muddy and had to walk through the trees to avoid the muddy wet spots. The trail is fairly well marked with signs and there is a picnic area at the centre.
God Bless Alberta. Where else can you take a bunch of dead animals, stuff them, dress them up like the local town folk and call it a museum. In Torrington they did just that. Torrington seems to have a love-hate relationship with gophers. These little critters destroy the local crops but because of the museum they bring in the tourist dollar from all around to a town that would literally see almost no tourists.
The museum itself is about the size of a large trailer and has around 40 different exhibits of stuffed gophers. The taxidermy is done quite nicely as well as the paint job for the sets. There is a fat book of newspaper clippings of the museum and a guest book with people from literally all over the world. The gift shop is quite lackluster but the idea of the museum makes some of the souvenirs interesting. Entrance to the museum is $2 for adults. The town fire hydrants are painted as gophers and there is a 12 foot high statue of a gopher named Clem T. GoFur.
Torrington is located about a hour north of Calgary. It is 30 km east of Highway 2 on Highway 27. The museum is quite easy to find in Torrington because of all the signs. It is on the corner of 1 street and 2 avenue.
I did spend a little time in Calgary in 1994 on my first trip to the area but on my recent pass in 2008, we just drove through. It was a Sunday, quite dead, and we still had a lot of driving to do so a stop was out of the question. We did, however need to use a restroom so could not resist to stop in the Olympic Park. Home to the 1988 Winter Olympics, it is still used for things like kids hockey leagues and general recreation.
It was a cold blustery afternoon so we took a very brief look around, used the restrooms and got back on the road. D posed for posterity on the medal stand next to the Olympic flame. Notice she is in the gold position, one she very much deserves after her 2008 hiking/backpacking/camping outing!
The World's Largest Wagon Wheel and Pick is located in Fort Assiniboine. Fort Assiniboine is located about 80 minutes northwest of Edmonton near the Athabasca River along Highway 33 and has a population of around 200. The pick is 20 feet while the wagon wheel is 24 feet and was opened on the 20th of July, 2005. Right next to it is a museum in the fashion of a Hudson Bay fort. It was closed when I was there.
Whitla is a truly off the beaten path place. It is a place that before I started my journey across the Prairies I had never heard of, but it is a place with a unique, wistful atmosphere that I will never forget. There was a heavy summer silence, broken only by the cry of a kestrel soaring above the grain elevators.
I couldn't better this evocative description of the place: "Whitla is a whole street of abandoned buildings. Located 20 miles southwest of Medicine Hat, it is a real ghost town. The town began with the opening of the area to homesteading in 1908. It was named for R. J. Whitla, a Winnipeg merchant who visited the district in 1885 when it was a mere siding on the newly built Turkey Track Railway. In 1910 there was a general store followed by a lumberyard, a hardware store, a farm machinery firm, a Union Bank, several cafes, and three auto repair shops. During 1917 drought, dust storms, grasshoppers, and rabbits began consuming the crops and chasing the settlers away. The exodus from Whitla had been gradual throughout the 1920s and increased noticeably through the ‘30s and ‘40s. By the end of World War II, the town had all but vanished." H.B. Chenoweth.
Twenty years ago, when I was there, only two grain elevators remained. Now, even they are gone, but hopefully the descendants of that kestrel still patrol the Whitla wheat fields.
The worlds' largest tractor weather vane is located in the town of Westlock which is about an hour northish of Edmonton. Westlock is on the intersection of highways 18 and 44. The weather vane itself is located on the westren edge of the town in the area of the tractor museum (I didn't visit the tractor museum). Go west along highway 18 and you should see it quite quickly, I don't remember the exact road it's on. It's a functioning weather vane as I saw it move around in the wind.
After observing several hikers using walking sticks we visited an outdoor supply store and got the salesman's take on their advantages. We finally chose Leki walking sticks, the Cadillac of sticks. The telescoping rods were sturdy, comfortable to hold, and the shock absorbers were a real plus. After getting used to the initial rhythm of walking with the new sticks we soon found their great advantage. We covered more ground with more stability and we arrived much more refreshed. We increased our hiking distances by 2 and 3 fold.
Our initial paths were at Lake Maligne and nearby Moose Lake. We would highly recommend walking sticks for those wanting to enjoy their hikes at a different level. Don't discount the value of the shock absorbers in a high end stick.
The Legacy is the world's largest bucking saddle bronc horse & rider. It was created for the 100th anniversary of the Town of Ponoka (the town got it's name from the Blackfoot word for elk). Ponoka is located around 1 hour south of Edmonton and 5 km east of Queen Elizabeth 2 Highway. The statue itself is located along the west side of highway 2A in Centennial Park. Centennial Park also has a mini golf and a museum near by.
Rowley is one of Alberta’s ghost towns, although not completely deserted. There are still 10 or 15 people living. Some of the old buildings are restored and the village has even a coupel of museums. The Railway Museum is situated in an old railway carriage, close to the weathered grain elevators.
During our visit on a grey and rainy Sunday old shops, buildings and the 'famous' Sam's in the ‘main street’ Saloon were closed for visitors. But normally this saloon is the heart of the copmmunity.
We reached Rowley through typical rural Alberta landscape with grain and cole seed along the dirt roads. The ghost town is located north of Drumheller: first take Highway 9, follow Highway 56 and after 10 km turn left on a gravel road (3 km) to Rowley.
You can not miss these ‘Cathedrals of the prairies’ when driving in the eastern part of Alberta (or in Saskatchewan). After we turned off Highway 9 in Oyen to drive to Leader in SK we soon could see this impressive landmark of the hamlet of Acadia Village.
There is just one (from three) grain elevator left and a very tiny piece of the railroad with a caboose. The people of Acadia restored this impressive landmark and nowadays it is a museum. We got an impression (video and explanation of a guide) of how these large structures handled the millions of bushels of grain grown in the agricultural areas of Alberta.
Next to the museum is a tea house / gift shop with crafts made by locals.
Turn off Highway 9 to Oyen and further along Highway 41 to Acadia Valley.
Walk to the top of Sulphur Mountain (2.285 m); it will take about 75 minutes. Enjoy the forest with lots of squirrels and the wonderful views over Banff, Bow River Valley and surrounding peaks.
The track is signposted at the car park near the gondola station. When we reached the top, we really could say: "we made it to the top".
We went down with the gondola and didn’t have to pay for this ride (a tip of our host of Odenthal B&B; see accommodation tip).
... and no bigger than an orange seed.
The unique Banff Springs Snail lives in the warm springs of the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.
The snail is no bigger than just 5 mm, so you will find it hard to see these very tiny animals.
See for more info: http://www.pc.gc.ca/nature/eep-sar/itm3-/eep-sar3a_E.asp
On your way to/from Banff to Lake Minnewanka (north of Banff) at least take one time the Minnewanka Loop.
It is a very scenic drive along the 'Two Jack Lake' and we were surprised by the amount of 'big horn sheep', which were grazing along the road and close to the water. I'm sure you will most probably see (lots of) these nice animals.
Close to the lake and car park are several picnic spots.
Lake Minnewanka is situated just some kilometres north of Banff and will take about a 15 minutes drive. It is not so overcrowded like other places around Banff.
Just sit along the lakeside in the middle of the impressive scenery of the Rocky Mountains, take a stroll to Stewart Canyon or enjoy one of the boat tours (daily from mid May to mid October).
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Pyramid Lake Road, 5 km from Jasper, Jasper, Alberta, T0E 1E0, Canada
Good for: Business
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