McDougall Church: Gone

We were coming home from a long weekend of fun.  I had just turned off of the TransCanada Highway onto Morley Road, both to escape the Victoria Day traffic as well as because Waze always suggests that route when navigating home from the mountains.

Emily was browsing her Facebook news feed on her phone.  Suddenly she let out a gasp and said “Oh.  My.  God.”  I quickly glanced over and could see she was visibly shaken by whatever it was she had read.

“What is it?”

She hesitated and took a moment to compose herself.  “Don’t drive off the road when I tell you.”

“Tell me,” I implored.  My mind was racing, wondering what it was she read that had such an impact.  Had someone we known died?

“McDougall Church burned down.  It’s gone,” she said.

Immediately I felt ill.  I completely understood why she had reacted the way she did.  Here we were, just minutes away from driving past the little white church on Highway 1A when we learned it no longer existed.  It was like a tablecloth being pulled out from under a set of dinner dishes by a magician.  Except, this was a rookie magician just learning the trick — nothing was left standing and everything was in chaos.

Sure enough, the charred remains soon came into view.  A blackened wall still standing.  Gone was the small bell tower, the pristine white walls with green trim standing proud and strong against the prairie sky.  All gone.

We talked about the church most of the way home.  How we both always expected it would be burned down at some point.  Given its location, it seemed inevitable; easily accessible by road yet far enough away to be free from watchful eyes of passerbys.  Being the oldest anything always seems to make things a target for those with no appreciation for history or who cannot wait to destroy that which others enjoy.

We spoke of the volunteers who worked tirelessly to maintain the church, to run the tours, to tend to the grounds.  I thought about Sarah Harvey, whom I had met on a couple of occasions during presentations at the church.  Her passion was palpable, her knowledge of the church and of Morleyville always growing and being shared.  What must she have felt?  Knowing how much the loss rocked us, we couldn’t fathom what she must have felt like when she heard the news.

While I can’t recall the first time I visited the church, it seems like it had always been one of my favorite places to visit.  When Emily first started coming to Canada to visit me, it was one of the first places I took her, eager to share the experience.  When I wanted to practice night photography, the church was the first place I thought of going.  When we wanted to go out to watch a meteor shower, the church was the place I suggested immediately.  Making the trek out to Dead Mans Flats for our monthly curry dinner?  Yes, I always took the route down 1A so we could see the church, to check in on our old friend, to reaffirm that what was always there was still there, majestically set against a backdrop of mountains that had to be seen to be believed.

Farewell little church.


November 11, 2013 “Moon Over McDougall”


September 30, 2011


September 2, 2012


Emily visits the church for the first time.  September 2, 2012

Previous postings about the church:

Revisiting McDougall Church (February 10, 2017)

Perseid Meteor Shower (August 13, 2016)

Historic Calgary Week 2016 (August 2, 2016)

Historic Calgary Week: McDougall Church (August 8, 2013)


Fedeyko, M. (2017, May 22). A Piece of History Burns Down. Retrieved May 22, 2017, from

CBC News. (2017, May 22). Oldest Protestant church in southern Alberta destroyed by fire. Retrieved May 22, 2017, from

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Nordegg: The Video

While I should have been packing up the trailer so we can get on the road for the long weekend, instead I found myself in the basement putting the final touches on my video from our trip to Nordegg.

I already have my next project in the works, which will be a video from the old gas plant in Turner Valley.  The footage was shot last weekend but I only got around to pulling the files off the drone and onto the computer now.  While it is nice to have some projects/ideas in the pipeline, it is equally frustrating to have a queue build up.  I would much prefer being able to work on the projects immediately, but that just isn’t practical.

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Trip to Nordegg

Once again, my limited number of free hours has caused my latest posting to be a long time in coming.  Once an idea for a post has formed itself in my mind, I find myself mentally drafting it in bits and pieces in my mind before I actually get a chance to sit down at the keyboard and put something together.  Often it is written over the course of several days, resulting in posts that are disjointed and not written to the standard to which I would normally attempt to achieve.

This posting is the result of a road trip Emily and I took on Sunday, May 7.  Having a rare mutual day off together and — even rarer — no concrete plans, we decided to take the day and set off along the Forestry Trunk Road from the point where it meets Highway 1A west of Cochrane up to the former mining town of Nordegg.

The weather was cloudy and we would encounter several minor rain and snow showers along the southern part of the road.  As we worked northwards, the sun began to shine through occasionally and it ended up being a very pleasant day.

We made a couple of stops along the way.  The first was near Mountain Aire Lodge.  I had to take advantage of a break in the precipitation to capture some drone footage of the bridge, a building hanging over the edge of the river bank (obviously a remnant of the floods of 2013), as well as a herd of wild/feral horses on the ridge above us.

Further along, we stopped at Ram Falls Provincial Park, which became our mid-afternoon lunch break.  Ram Falls offers a wonderful short walk down several flights of stairs to a lookout in the canyon.  We even were greeted by some local wildlife which posed nicely on the cliffside for some photos.

Ram Falls

Ram Falls


Local Wildlife

We would make one more quick stop at the spot where the Forestry Trunk Road crosses the North Saskatchewan River.  Again, this was mainly so I could bring the drone out and shoot some more footage.  I’m slowly gaining confidence in flying it over water, which likely means one day it will end up at the bottom of a lake or something. 😦

After several hours of driving, we finally pulled into Nordegg.  We knew we were too early in the season to do a tour of the old mine site, but we were OK with that because trying to drive the scenic route to Nordegg AND do a tour would be too much to accomplish in one day.

I was lucky enough to do the tour back in July of 2002 but I am very interested to see in what has changed over those 15 years.  During that visit I only had my digital camcorder for taking still photos and the quality of those images is horrible.

The last time I had been to Nordegg was in August of 2014.  I was sad to see that the old hotel, which had been so prominent on my previous visit, was now completely gone with no evidence of its existence remaining.

I haven’t had the chance to put together any drone footage from Nordegg yet, but will try and get to it during the next week or so.  After today I am working the late shift, which usually means I get an hour or so each morning to work on my recreational products and getting that video complete is going to be a priority for me.


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It’s Just a Fence, Right?

With work taking up a lot of my time lately, I haven’t been able to get out and do a lot of new exploration.  I’m going to try and revisit some old trips or ideas and use those as a source of new material until I get a chance to do some road trips again.

Today’s post was inspired by a fence I walked by in the Calgary community of Bowness in March of 2017.

It's Just a Fence

I walk by the fence.  I hardly notice it at first.  After all, it’s just a fence, right?

Something draws me back to it.  I take out my cell phone and snap a photo.  I’m sure if any of the neighbors witnessed me taking the picture they must have asked themselves what I was up to.  Why would anyone be interested in an old fence?  After all, it’s just a fence, right?

Maybe it wasn’t the fence that drew me in.  Maybe it was the lot sitting behind the fence.  A lot covered in brown grass and weeds and piles of dirt.  Maybe it wasn’t all the things present on the lot but what wasn’t on the lot.  There was no house.  Just an empty expanse where, undoubtedly, a house once stood.

Yes, it must be the emptiness of the lot that brought my attention to the little fence.  As I stand in the morning sunlight and gaze at the fence, I begin to wonder about the story behind the fence.

Obviously at some point this was someone’s yard.  Someone’s house once stood on this spot.  This fence, now with missing pickets and peeling paint was once a source of pride for someone.  Someone took the time to build it and to maintain it.  What stories could it tell us?  I can imagine an old man carefully applying coats of white paint to it while his wife sits in a porch swing sipping lemonade, contently watching him work away.  That vision fades and is replaced by that of a sullen teenager, begrudgingly slapping paint on the fence, all the while wishing he was somewhere else.  Or, perhaps, a father and son, working away in the July heat carefully hammering in nails to keep the pickets attached.

Does the fence represent a happy memory for someone?  How could it?  After all, it’s only a fence right?

Perhaps the home was occupied by a young boy and, upon seeing the girl from his class that he has been anxious to talk to walking down the street, he rushed out of his front door and jumped over the fence to catch her before she got too far down the street.

I think to myself that this fence must have many stories it could tell.

I search Google Street View to see what was here before.  The first image was captured in September of 2007.  The fence looks much like it does now, except there is a row of overgrown bushes growing along its length.  Some time between April 2009 and May of 2012 those bushes were removed, leaving the fence more exposed and exposing the empty the lot behind it.  There will be no clues as to what was here.

I walk away from the fence and casually glance down at the photo on my phone.  How is it possible that such a simple fence captivated my attention?  I think to myself “Maybe I can make a blog post about it one day.”  I chuckle and think “Nah, there’s no way — after all, it’s just a fence, right?”





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Arrowwood – The Video

Given how little drone footage we took in Arrowwood last week, the resulting video is pretty short and is mainly composed of still images, some of which I used in my original post.  Regardless, you can check it out on YouTube.

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A Quick Trip to Arrowwood

“Couple visits small town in Alberta and what they found missing will shock you…”

Oh, if only I could bring myself to use clickbait-style headlines like that!  Anyway, on to the article…

On Good Friday, Emily and I found ourselves with a mutual day off — something that seeming hadn’t happened in forever.  Naturally we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and load up the dog, drone, and camera gear in the car and head off to Arrowwood.

While the main purpose of our trip was to replace our Geocache which had gone missing a few months ago.  With the sudden increase in the price of gas, combining trips is going to be important this summer.

Some background on the town from one of the signs in the park:

The name Arrowwood is derived from the bushes that grow along the east and west Arrowwood Creeks.  Construction of the first grain elevators and CPR station started in 1924 and the railroad arrived in town on June 22, 1925 when the line was completed from the east.  Arrowwood was incorporated as a village in 1926 and reached a population of 500 in the late 1920s.  The rail line closed in 2002 although some of the elevators had started disappearing before then.  At one point, there were seven elevators in Arrowwood.

We think Arrowwood is a great little town — it has a water tower, a grain elevator, a couple of old churches which have been converted into private residences, and a cute little Co-Op store.

Well, it HAD a cute little Co-Op store.  One of the first things we noticed upon turning onto Main Street was that the store was gone!  Yes, it had been closed when the new Co-Op opened along Railway, but we certainly did not expect to see the old store destroyed, especially because it appeared to be in decent shape.

I had to try my hand at a “Then and Now” shot.  Using a photo of the Co-Op I had taken in November of 2015 on my phone, I did my best to line up the shot.  Not only is the building gone, but the retro-style lamp which was standing guard over the solo pump is also now missing.  I hope someone salvaged it rather than it ending up in a landfill somewhere.


November 2015 (top) and April 2017 (below)

Another interesting thing in Arrowwood is the section of old siphon which is housed in a small wetland park near the southeast corner of town.

According to the sign in the park, water from the Bow River near Carseland is moved through a canal to McGregor Lake for irrigation purposes.  To get the water across the West Arrowwood Creek valley, a siphon was used.  Apparently the first siphon was built in 1936 and a second one was added parallel to the first one in 1951 to increase the capacity.   The original siphons were both replaced by a concrete siphon in 1991.  A piece of the original wooden version was donated to the Arrowwood Restoration Society and placed in this park.

The sign mentions the siphons were located 7km northwest of Arrowwood.  On a previous trip we drove around trying to see if we could spot the new concrete version but were unsuccessful.  The sign also mentions another which carries (present tense!) water across the East Arrowwood Creek valley to the northeast of town.  Two more things which require further investigation!

On a side note, there used to be a wooden siphon northeast of the town of Vauxhall which was replaced by a canal in the mid-90s.  Somewhere I have some pictures of it as it was being demolished but I can’t seem to find them.  That was also a Bow River Irrigation District project and was likely done as part of the same program that replaced these ones near Arrowwood.  The timeframe certainly fits.

That’s all I have time for right now as I need to leave for work soon.  The wind was very strong so I didn’t get much drone footage, but I did capture a few seconds of the grain elevator.  Once I get done with the edits I’ll put it up on the YouTube page.



Main Street is quiet on Good Friday


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Badlands — the Video

Finally!  It took multiple attempts to get this together after Windows Movie Maker kept crapping out on the clip of Wayne for some reason.  I had to split the video in two, compile each half separately and then put the two compiled versions together and compile yet again.  After spending about four hours on Sunday putting together the final version, I was not going to let some technical glitch stop me.

Last night I uploaded it YouTube (not published publicly) and showed it to Emily.  That’s when I discovered that when I split the original Movie Maker project in two, I only cut the video track, not the audio.  That resulted in the second half of the video having the same soundtrack as the first half.  Simply unacceptable!  So, I had to do the whole process again and then upload it one more time.

Despite the technical glitches, I am quite happy with it.  As I have mentioned many times before, I am doing this blog with zero budget so I rely heavily on free tools like Windows Movie Maker.

I love the Dorothy footage.  It is such a shame that the roof blew off because now it is only a matter of time before the elements claim the old girl.  You can see as I fly overhead how rotted things are up top.  I have to admit, being able to see inside the elevator from above does make for some haunting footage, hence the tone I decided to assign to that portion of the video.

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