A Sunday Drive and a Teaser

Last weekend we had the chance to team up with Chris and Connie from BigDoer.com. We had a very specific objective in mind, which I am not going to tell you about yet.

I first met Chris and Connie just over three years ago when we all attended the Alberta Grain Elevator Society (AGES) conference in Nanton, AB.  I was already very familiar with their work and explorations so it was actually quite a big deal for me to finally meet the people behind the blog.  I guess with so many interests in common, it was only natural that we seemed to get along and ended up becoming good friends.

So, with all four of us loaded into our Kia Rondo, we set off to the south on Sunday morning.  We would check out the Maycroft school, our main [for now] secret objective, grab some lunch beside Racehorse Creek, check out some familiar sites in Coleman and the Crowsnest Pass, grab gas in Lundbreck, and then beat it for home.  It was a bit of a whirlwind trip, given that I think I could easily spend a month in the Crowsnest Pass and never be bored.

In an odd twist, I didn’t really take that many photos.  When I went to download the contents of the memory card from my trusty old Nikon D90, there were only about eight photos.  I didn’t take any pictures in Coleman or Blairmore.  Heck, other than a quick orbit of the Maycroft school (and the secret objective), the drone barely even saw the light of day.

I guess sometimes you just so involved with enjoying the moment you don’t think about documenting it.  Kind of nice when that happens…

Old Pump

Great old-style gas pump

Lundbreck, Alberta

Lundbreck, Alberta

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A Couple of Short Videos

There hasn’t been much exploring going on lately.  There have been a couple of opportunities to get out for some shorter walks and fly the drone.  Nothing really interesting in a local history context, just getting outdoors and enjoying the nice weather during our ever-so-short “summer” season.

Bearspaw Dam:

Some Random Road Allowance NW of Cochrane:

That’s it for now.  There are a couple of weekend road trips coming up and that should provide some good source material.

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Turner Valley and High River

My mother was visiting us for a couple of days while she was on vacation.  We took advantage of one of my mid-week days off to go for a drive and check out some sights south of Calgary back on May 16.

Our first stop was the Chuckwagon Cafe in Turner Valley.  Always a favorite of ours for breakfast when we’re passing through.  Since we arrived later in the morning I decided to try a lunch offering for a change of pace.

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After “breakfast”, we carried on to the Turner Valley Gas Plant where I took the opportunity to shoot some drone footage of this most unique and interesting location.

From there we moved on to High River and, more specifically, the Museum of the Highwood.  It is really good to see that they are still going strong, even after the fire of July 2010 (wow, that long ago already??) and the floods of 2013.  The big exhibit was a collection of artifacts from the TV show “Heartland“, which seemed to be attracting a lot of attention while we were there.  Certainly that was my mother’s main reason for wanting to visit this little museum.

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Another highlight for me in High River is the Wales Theatre, which also has recovered from the devastating floods of 2013 and is once again showing films, just like it has since 1927.

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On our way back home we made two more quick stops.  The first was in Aldersyde where I had to check on the leaning church to make sure it was still in place, which it was.

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And, finally, a drive by the ranch used as the main set for Heartland.  Located near Millarville, it is a privately-owned property and all you can really see from the public roadway is the barn.  I first discovered this location thanks to Geocaching, long before I had ever even seen an episode of the show.  We weren’t the only people who were there checking out the scenery, so I suspect the little dead-end road gets more than its share of traffic from curious fans.

So, that’s it for now.  Time for me to go to work so I can afford to buy gas to do more touring this summer.

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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.

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November 11, 2013 “Moon Over McDougall”

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September 30, 2011

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September 2, 2012

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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)

Sources:

Fedeyko, M. (2017, May 22). A Piece of History Burns Down. Retrieved May 22, 2017, from https://cochranenow.com/local/a-piece-of-history-burns-down

CBC News. (2017, May 22). Oldest Protestant church in southern Alberta destroyed by fire. Retrieved May 22, 2017, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/mcdougall-stoney-mission-church-fire-destroyed-1.4126736

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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

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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.

Cheers!

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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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