Road Trip - More Southern Alberta
Trip Start Aug 28, 2011
41Trip End Jan 02, 2012
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Dave, Lisa and McKenzie have gone to Kelowna for Thanksgiving so we are on our own for the weekend. We decided that another road trip was in order so with maps and GPS in hand we headed for the Pumpkin Festival near Barnwell. What fun! The cars were parked as far as you could see along the roadway but we arrived late enough that we found a spot near the farm gate
We followed Hwy 3, through towns with names like Purple Springs, Grassy Lake, Burdett, Bow Island and Seven Persons, all the time wondering about the history of these communities and how they got their names. This area is really rural and sparsely settled but the McCain Plant and the Roger's Sugar Plant provide an outlet for the crops grown in the area.
Wheat is used as a rotation crop on many of these farms and we saw examples of summer fallow practices (land cropped in strips alternating with strips lying fallow). In the early 1900's this was touted as the way to let the soil recover from then impact of cropping and for dealing with the lack of moisture in the region. When combined with the deep plowing practices of the time, it was also a factor in the wind erosion that prevailed during the Dirty Thirties! Speaking of the Dirty Thirties, I recently stumbled on a book "Happy Land: A History of the Dirty Thirties in Saskatchewan 1914-1937". by Curtis R. McManus. This book was published in 2011 and is available in print but can be downloaded free of charge from the University of Calgary site. It discusses the impact of settlement in this very dry part of the Canadian West, an area that extends into Alberta and, before the prairie grasses were plowed under, served as range land for cattle
But I digress. It was late in the afternoon before we got to Medicine Hat so we stopped for a snack, did a bit of a drive-around and decided we would like to come back and spend a few days in the area. It seems to be a fairly lively town with a number of places we would like to check out. We did stop in the Rotary Park along the South Saskatchewan River before heading back via Hwy 524. Unlike on Hwy 3, we drove for miles without seeing habitation. This is a higher ridge of land, totally treeless. I can only imagine it in the winter. It stretches through provincial grazing land and some wheat land where fields stretched as far as the eye could see without a break. It is beautiful wild Alberta. The road across this land is a good paved road. Why does it merit this attention?
To the south, the cliffs that edge the South Saskatchewan River can be seen in the distance. Near the Bow River crossing, we drove along beside the bed of an old railway that ran through this area at one time and spotted an old but long trestle across the river
The sun was getting low in the sky so we made few stops along the way. A friend grew up in the Vauxhall area and I was anxious to see the town before it got dark. A short stop and a drive through of the town and we headed south back to Taber and home via Hwy 845 from Coaldale to Raymond past the Wilson siding where much of the local crop is loaded aboard the trains.
A lot of miles but a great day!