The entries on Hiking with Barry blog are journal accounts of hikes completed predominantly in southern Alberta, British Columbia, Montana and the American Southwest. Barry Taylor's intent is to share his experiences and lifelong passion for the outdoors in the hope it will help others to improve the quality and diversity of their experiences.
Nora Tuckey's Grove is a quiet, peaceful alcove honoring a special woman who left a lasting impression in Calgary, Alberta.
Nora Tuckey left us too soon. A perpetual and memorable section of Sue Higgins Park in Calgary's south-east quadrant, bracketed between Deerfoot Trail and the Bow River at the east end of Southland Drive, pays lasting homage to her presence.
The park is open to everyone but particularly of interest to dog owners who can exercise their companions in large, fenced enclosures while unfettered pathway remains open to those who prefer walk alone or with friends along the Bow River.
Best positioned parking is achieved by entering the parking area at the east terminus of Southland Drive and parking in the large parking area as far west as possible where the 2009 BP Birthplace Tree Forest is clearly signed.
Bronze statues of Deux Chiens Assis (Two Dogs Seated) reside in the visible distance on a raised knoll adjacent to the BP Birthplace Forest.
Deux Chiens Assis, created by Sculptor Henri Alfred Marie Jaquemart in the late 1800s, were donated by the Devonian Foundation in 1978 to the City of Calgary Public Art Collection and subsequently displayed at Devonian Gardens prior to current presence near Nora Tuckey’s Grove adjacent to BP Forest.
French artist Henri Alfred Marie Jacquemart was born in Paris in 1824. and passed away in 1896. Henri studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1847 to 1879. Several of his works can be found in many museums world-wide including the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, France.
The view from the attending bench faces east towards the Bow River. Directly behind the bench and slightly to the south-west is a plaque with a brief summary of Nora's personal story and the contribution she made to this park.
The placard guards an enclosed area of mature trees and half a dozen picnic tables. This is an excellent place to enjoy a picnic.
The 2009 BP BirthPlace Forest is situated behind the grass-covered mound hosting Deux Chiens Assis. The dense forest hosts a broad range of tree types with three distinct trails covering the short north-south distance.
Noise from Deerfoot Trail is a constant and disturbing din which, in the future, could be substantially reduced with tall barriers, commonly used in the city for traffic noise reduction in communities, extending past the entire west boundary of Sue Higgins Park.
The three short trails through the 2009 BP BirthPlace Forest are different surfaces best described as 1. good crushed stone, 2. good dirt and 3. pleasant rustic.
Each is a worthwhile short stroll which can be repeated in loops for additional distance and time or used as a prerequisite for further worthwhile adventure throughout Sue Higgins Park and beyond.
This park hosts a diverse variety of spectacular forest, land and water features combined with bridges and links to other parks and the incredible Calgary Pathway System.
Nora Tuckey's Grove, in Sue Higgins Park in SE Calgary and adjacent to the Bow River, provides an exceptionally peaceful experience in the fresh air on Monday, June 10, 2019.
Hoodoos in the East Coulee are a perennial and unique attraction near Drumheller,Alberta, Canada.
The well preserved and fascinating erosion features at Hoodoos Trail in the East Coulee have long been a popular and magnetic attraction about a 20 minute, 25 KM drive SE of Drumheller. Stops along the way at the Suspension Bridge and/or the former mining community of Wayne near Rosedale will enhance and extend the length of the experience.
Expanded parking for the Hoodoos Trail remains crowded on weekends but is generally quieter on week days.
Ken, Dianna and I enjoy a packed lunch beneath shade trees at the historical and open-to-the-public Suspension Bridge at Rosedale prior to experiencing the short excursion across the Red Deer River.
A quick drive and walking tour of the Hamlet of Wayne, on the other (north) side of the highway from Rosedale, features multiple river crossings over mostly single lane bridges to visit to the historic Last Chance Saloon at the venerable RoseDeer Hotel.
Potential future hiking opportunities are observed for a future visit into this once bustling, coal mining community.
The easterly drive along Hwy 10 continues to parking at the signed and obvious Hoodoos location where weekday attendance is sparse. Main features have justifiably been protected and stairs have been installed to allow viewing with less long-term damage.
Additionally, the east section has been expanded to include further opportunity for observation, discovery and hiking enjoyment.
Views expand across the river valley with a small gain in elevation but the fascinating hoodoo formations beg for further exploration. Quality footwear with a good tread will increase safety and reduce risk. Terrain can be hazardous when the ground is wet.
The immersion in earth colors, combined with fascinating erosion features, challenging terrain and unique characteristics provide the fundamental ingredients for an exciting and rewarding adventure.
Fresh air and sunshine combine with an occasional breeze to mitigate the warmth.
Wandering around the periphery of the site, with unique features, allows quiet reflection and includes the potential to discover a fossil or evidence of long gone industrial activity.
Debris from past hoodoo formations litter the ground where thousands of years of erosion have eventually dissolved the softer sandstone supporting columns. This unique and beautiful landscape is a perpetual dichotomy of change.
This scene serves as a reminder of grand memories from past adventures in the more prolific terrain of the American Southwest.
Following this always rewarding tour of the Hoodoos, the drive back and through Drumheller is briefly interrupted for ice cream at the local Dairy Queen prior to travelling south and west for hiking in Horseshoe Canyon which must not to be confused with Horsethief Canyon which is further north past the Royal Tyrrell Museum along North Dinosaur Trail.
This short adventure at the Hoodoos Trail in the East Coulee near Drumheller, Alberta, Canada was enjoyed on Wednesday, May 29, 2019.
Horseshoe Canyon is clearly signed about 18 KM south-west on the Highway 9 access into Drumheller, Alberta.
This bizarre and incredibly beautiful badlands feature punctuates seemingly limitless stretches of rolling and relatively flat, monotonous prairie landscape. Horseshoe Canyon is a unique, beautiful and forever memorable hiking experience.
Clearly signed Horeshoe Canyon is a turn west to short arrival at parking for a fenced overview hosting large klinkers, informative signage, a covered picnic table feature and viewing platforms over thousands of acres of spectacular badlands erosion.
On this Wednesday, we have the entire facility to ourselves. Horseshoe Canyon is always crowded and busy on fair weather, Spring, Summer and Autumn weekends.
Access to the bottom of the canyon is via a paved segment of path east around fencing to the gravel ramp which can be augmented by wide, wooden stairs for descent.
The descent leads into the fascinating features unique to badlands. Winding trails at the bottom can be accessed from the wide gravel pathway reaching across the flat desert floor. The pending adventure should be limited only by personal experience, proper gear and common sense. Carry plenty of water.
Arrival at floor level of Horseshoe Canyon is entry into a bizarre netherworld of ancient times on our planet prior to human habitation.
The short section of fresh gravel wide trail will perform better when more foot traffic packs it down. This new area is obviously under construction and fresh new trails will allow old traffic-beaten trails to recover.
At the end of new gravel, Ken, Dianna and I decide to explore off-trail. What could possibly go wrong? Against the face of far canyon walls, the terrain is wild, fresh and real.
Pathways hiked are game trails and mostly dry stream beds. Sheltered wet sections on this day are mercifully brief and similar to hiking through glue. Sturdy boots pick up the mud and thigh muscles become curious about highly modified walking dynamics.
Dense brush often determines routing as our adventure heads predominantly west and south. Following an hour of fascinating progress through and past several canyon obstacles, spontaneous routing continues along the fascinating and challenging terrain. This is a uniquely beautiful place.
Animal, avian and reptile activity is visually present on predominantly, powder-dry ground. Generally, clear areas provide sensible passage. Frequently, progress is challenging through narrow fissures and dense desert brush.
The surrounding and total saturation in completely foreign terrain raises the threshold of awareness. The smallest features are examined carefully as the senses struggle to accept and process large volumes of new information.
Stark foreign surroundings host strange new plants combined with unique weathered shapes and forms, each a weathered portrait unfolding perpetually over thousands of years for observation in this unique and fascinating moment.
In the interest of time, and potential preservation of life within building and oppressive desert heat, the collective decision is to backtrack with a directional objective for location of a more gentle return trail on path used by people.
Heading towards the east wall on random trail soon intercepts a clear, flat and forgiving human trail. Longer views can be more fully absorbed and better appreciated when attention is less compromised by trail complexity.
Soon, one of the viewing platforms from the surface park complex peeks into view on the edge of the horizon. We are now clearly returning to our start point and within a short time the newly laid gravel trail is intersected for return to canyon top.
It is a unique privilege to have the bottom of this colorful canyon entirely to ourselves.
Our hike in Horseshoe Canyon provides a fascinating glance into the nature of prehistoric times.
Carrying extra water is very important, particularly for children and elderly people. Drinking the water is more important than carrying the water and the load will be reduced in the process.
This special hike in Horseshoe Canyon, south-west from Drumheller, occurred the afternoon of Wednesday May 29, 2019. The return drive to Calgary requires an hour and a half drive predominantly through prairie on good paved road.
This special hiking day included an early morning drive from Calgary to cross the Red Deer River on the Bleriot Ferry for sightseeing at the Ghost Town of Rowley.
Lunch in the shade near the Suspension Bridge at Rosedale precludes brief hiking and exploration at the old, coal mining town of Wayne, Alberta.
Unique hiking at the Hoodoos Trail along Hwy 10 through East Coulee precludes this fascinating hiking adventure in Horseshoe Canyon SW of Drumheller. Grand memories are created.
Rowley is an easy access, authentic, rural ghost town north of Drumheller, Alberta, Canada.
Sam's Cafe became Sam's Saloon
Rowley is a short, ¾ hour drive through predominantly rolling prairie north from Drumheller, Alberta on Hwy 9 which morphs into Hwy 56. About 20 KM north, look for the clearly signed left turn from Hwy 56 into Rowley on about 5 KM of good, gravel road into the small, largely abandoned town. Aim for the three large grain elevators and find a convenient parking spot.
Ken, Dianna and I are here mid week and the tiny town in the middle of nowhere is quiet and civilized. Weekends are likely to be busier and there is a communal pizza night on one Saturday each month which is purportedly well attended in a party atmosphere.
Rowley was a most active community in the 1910 through 1920 period. The Great Depression left no town untouched. Within the 1980's the town's population was well on its way towards a single digit population. The history is interesting.
When the final passenger train passed through Rowley in 1999, income from tourist passengers ended and the picturesque town dwindled from a population of about 500 in the 1920's to the approximately 8 current residents with nearly all buildings vacated and in an advanced state of decay.
After parking in front of the Community Center under the shade of a tree, our, self-managed tour, ramble and investigation begins across from the railway box car at the old and authentic 1920's Rowley train station.
Pick the route you like the best.
From the train station, our self-guided and spontaneous tour rambles around and past restored train cars including a bright yellow caboose, the very large and restored grain elevators, and several derelict buildings overgrown with vegetation.
There is an opportunity to get up close and personal with abandoned heritage buildings prior to circling around to the main street where historic storefronts lend credence to the services provided in the heritage town.
When the last passenger train pulled through here in 1999 the town's economic fate was determined by cessation of passenger traffic. Population peaked around 500 people in the 1920's and gradually declined to non-sustainable by the mid 1970's.
Local residents decided to fix up the the old town site as a tourist attraction. This initiative attracted a successful Canadian movie production as the background for several movies including 'Bye Bye Blues'.
When the last passenger train passed through in 1999, loss of visitor income sealed the economic fate of the old town.
Heritage stores have been refurbished and maintenance is actively ongoing as features are expanded. Descriptive text is featured to embellish the history of each structure.
Some of the oldest structures are moving past constructive maintenance but there presence creates an eery reflection of better times long past. It is easy to imagine the pioneers toiling to maintain their farms.
Behind an overgrown and crumbling old farmhouse a moose is feeding in the large pond to the south. The place is far more alive than it appears.
Wandering becomes disorganized as newly revealed attractions beckon and route organization becomes impulsively dynamic.
The old schoolhouse stands firm within plenty of playground space and archival farming machines punctuate the landscape.
The old hospital on the main drag is in need of restoration and work currently underway on the adjacent United Church hints at the potential achievable.
This is a fascinating place. Rowley is not very big but there is a hike here to view and learn from the historical structures and long abandoned buildings being preserved for future generations. The effort seems well organized and the experience is uplifting.
Where we are going is often easier to determine when then opportunity presents itself to study where we have been.
This fascinating and rewarding visit to Rowley, about 40 KM (25 miles) north from Drumheller was enjoyed on the morning of May 29, 2019.
River View Loop is a hike along the Oldman River in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
The early morning 83 KM (53 mile) northwest drive along Highway 4 from Milk River towards Lethbridge, passes through Warner, New Dayton and Stirling with brilliant sun rising rapidly into big, clear blue sky. A quick diversion into the Lethbridge Visitor Centre at the corner of Highway 4 and 32 Street S nets invaluable information from very knowledgeable staff along with a plethora of worthwhile maps, guides and recommendations.
The quick backtrack east along 24 Ave S (Highway 4) to 43 St S proceeds north to reservations for three days at the Quality Inn near the intersection with Highway 3 which divides north and south Lethbridge as well as providing rapid, straightforward access across the city. Like the majority of cities developed around a major river valley, Lethbridge is no exception to the confusing array of scenic, landscape-compromised, free-form routes which baffle direction-challenged adventurers.
Accommodation at the Quality Inn restores the availability of included buffet breakfasts to begin the day as well as the pool and hot tub benefits so welcome at day's end.
Activity for the remainder of this day will be spent gaining familiarity with the commute west across Highway 3 to parking at Fort Whoop Up, adjacent to Hoodoo Hills, for exploration of the trail complex emanating from Indian Battle Park near the infamous and imposing High Level Bridge aka Lethbridge Viaduct.
From parking at Fort Whoop Up, surrounded by unique and fascinating terrain, access to the Coal Banks Trail is nearby just south towards the river. Large, descriptive signage indicates the River View Loop Trail along the east bank of the Oldman River may be a worthy 6 KM (3¾ mile) round trip, easy and scenic initial objective.
The River View Loop Trail is accessed via Coal Banks Trail near Fort Whoop Up. Paved trail near the Oldman River heads southeast and passes beneath the multiple lanes of Fort Whoop Up Drive W which crosses the Oldman River. Past the major roadway bridge, the Coal Banks Trail, now in Botterill Bottom Park, continues southeast beside the east bank of the historical and impressive Oldman River.
Wide, paved trail gradually escapes civilization in the Oldman River Valley as the scenic route passes an irrigation canal and flow control station before another parking area briefly interrupts the continuation of the hike through forest along riverside. A trail side signs warns of a nearby and well-concealed Police Firing Range.
Construction at the University of Lethbridge is clearly visible crowning the top of sandstone bluffs on the opposite side of the Oldman River. Cool breeze from the significant Oldman River tempers the warmth of the day and provides accompanying melody to the natural beauty of brilliant blue water flowing through idyllic, lush and varied terrain with only a hint of urban incursion. The peaceful ambiance is palpable and soothing.
A significant junction of paved trail is clearly visible past the Police Firing Range. The continuation of Coal Banks Trail veers left and River View Trail begins to the right.
Just prior to the major paved trail intersection, a gravel road veers right to reveal a mandatory portage exit location allowing river craft to avoid a downstream weir dam and its associated serious undertows.
This gravel road diversion provides relief for paved trail as dirt trail adjacent to riverbank proceeds south in an enhanced and more remote hiking experience.
Rustic gravel trail intersects paved trail and the River View Loop curls through dense, mature forest. There is rustic dirt trail extension at the end point of the loop but no indication of where or how far it continues downstream.
The main paved trail reverses direction and soon links back into the original route. Again there are many trail offshoot options and hiking on dirt trail directly adjacent to the Oldman River offers the most scenic and sensually pleasing experience.
On the return route, approach to the Police Firing Range offers a short trail-side dirt road towards high and barbwire-protected chain link fence discouraging access to the restricted area. In the absence of gun fire, surely there would be little harm in checking out the view.
The compound contains an assortment of vehicles and obstacles, many riddled with bullet holes, that provide the opportunity to stage conflict simulations. Interesting.
Back at the main paved trail this return hike continues northwest along the canal towards Fort Whoop Up, which hosts a fascinating history but is open only for enjoyment and interpretive tours only during the summer.
The present day replica fort is in a different location than the original. The location of the current replica fort is about 9.6 KM (6 miles) downstream on the Oldman River from the original site at the junction with St. Mary River. The land, on which the original fort stood, remains protected as a National Historic Site.
The River View Trail reconnects with the lengthy and meandering Coal Banks Trail for return to parking at Fort Whoop Up. A quick drive around the area reveals a multitude of trail opportunities which will be researched in the evening following a swim in the pool, a good soak in the hot tub and an excellent dinner at nearby, within easy walking distance, Moxie's Grill and Bar.
Photographs for this post are captured along a small portion of the Coalbanks Trail and the River View Trail, accessed via the Coalbanks Trail from Indian Battle Park near the replica of Fort Whoop Up along the Oldman River within Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada on Tuesday, September 19, 2017.
Edworthy Park offers excellent hiking opportunities featuring dramatic views and fascinating history.
Edworthy Park is located in central SW Calgary. For this excellent inner-city hike access can be achieved by vehicle via Sarcee Trail, then east on Bow Trail, to well-signed turns for Edworthy Park and north on 45th Street noting the speed-reduced zone past Wildwood School. A left turn onto Spruce Drive heads west past cell phone towers at Woodcliff United Church to the right turn onto narrow, twisting road descending slowly and carefully past hikers and cyclists to a sweeping left turn near the bottom for angled parking on the approach to a restricted-access, private dwelling adjacent to the expansive Edworthy Park picnic and playground area.
Access can also be achieved by parking on the north side of the Bow River near the bottom of Shaganappi Trail and walking south across the Harry Boothman Bridge (Edworthy Bridge) over the Bow River near Angel's Cappuccino and Ice Cream into and through Edworthy Park, past the railway tracks on the south side and through the picnic area/playground to the trail-head at the southwest corner.
From the angled parking area, a short walk to the end of the road reveals a cul-de-sac with well-signed, gated and restricted access road continuing to a private property adjacent to an informal, public, gravel trail heading uphill near a tiny stream.
The well-trodden trail gains modest elevation over a short, wooden platform bridge where a mirror pond subdues the progress of more aggressive drainage with pooling water beneath a large, mysterious and colorful drum laying on its side. Two trail junctions offer uphill access to the dog walking park near the top of this Broadcast Hill slope following a robust and extended ascent while the lateral trail through forest proceeds west above an older and private dwelling below. The main structure appears to be an old heritage dwelling with well-weathered, wooden roofing shingles whose presence will soon be hidden by new spring foliage on dense surrounding forest. The private home oversees large groomed fields framed by the privacy of dense surrounding shrubbery.
A short trail branch to the right provides a viewpoint with a memorial bench overseeing the heritage dwelling below as well as long views across the swelling, blue-green Bow River to the colorful Alberta Children's Hospital and beyond to the Calgary Downtown skyline.
Continuing west, the hike navigates a large patch of, soon to be gone, winter ice and introduces a bit of off-trail adventure. As this mildly undulating trail section descends gently beneath power lines towards the railroad tracks and Bow River level, a triangular intersection features
1) an important historical feature,
2) a trail returning east along the railway tracks and
3) today's choice to swing left on old, gravel road heading west over ground showing evidence of crushed red brick from pioneer times.
The old road heading west parallels railroad track for a short distance before single-track trail eases left and gains gentle elevation into forest. Old fencing and the occasional trail-side oddity stands testament to past industrial activity.
Developing spring foliage permits surrounding views as undulating trail crosses runoff creeks in the valleys between high points providing sweeping city views across Shouldice Park to the Calgary Skyline in the far distance. Occasional patches of open landscaped terrain on the left reveal large, isolated private dwellings perched above and surrounded by forest on these lower slopes of Broadcast Hill.
Following an excellent forest section featuring a stand of Douglas Fir, the trail opens to grassland beside an old post fence with remnants of historic telegraph cables still clinging to intact glass insulators from more comfortable, and less frantic, eras past.
Dirt trail descends gracefully to bypass a larger drainage for a short walk, on comfortable margin, to adjacent rail lines before a short return ascent to trail along fence line beneath telegraph line continues west above the railroad tracks. An explosion of subtle lavender crocus poke through tall wheat-colored grassland. Sweeping vistas across grassland and over the Bow River reveal recreational facilities and the popular dog park south from the river-adjacent picnic area.
Shouldice Aquatic Centre resides nearthe sharp bend in the Bow River whichhosts the TransCanada Highway traffic bridge over the Bow River and the historic John Hextall Bridge beyond in Montgomery near the demarcation line between the communities of Montgomery and Bowness.
The continuing trail stretches straight towards the small community of Bowdale, encased by the sweeping exit from Sarcee Trail to the TransCanada Highway as the roar and rumble of a passing freight train interrupts the serenity and shakes surrounding ground.
On the far side of the river, secluded parkland compressed between Shouldice Athletic Park and the beautiful Bow River hosts the daily dog walkers entertaining their partners with sticks thrown into the river for immediate and enthusiastic retrieval.
Although continuing informal trail complex provides the opportunity to walk the short distance home, the car remaining at Edworthy Park invites a return on trail initially taken predominantly through field and forest above the railway line. Familiar features present new perspectives as trail eases through lush evergreen forest occasionally dipping into gullies still servicing winter thaw. Along the way, subtle side trails meander into short sections of moss-covered rock alcoves which undoubtedly entertain those seeking fantasy and solitude.
Back at the triangular intersection, the opportunity presents itself to become more familiar with the Brickburn historical presence. A historical marker tells the story. What began as a quarry and modest brick plant became the Calgary Presssed Brick and Sandstone Company which serviced burgeoning city development between 1905 and 1931. Calgary's original City Hall used sandstone blocks from this quarry. Many Calgary brick buildings constructed from the plant's product include the Mewata Armory.
At it's height of activity, the original facility was churning out 80,000 bricks per day and occupied nearly 100 people. The complex at this location hosted dormitories, a small school, a post office, and a small church. Much of the brick was shipped by rail to other cities. Some of these bricks are at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta.
Touring the flat terrain between stands of trees reveals little evidence of prior occupation beyond the occasional depression in the ground which may or not indicate previous industrial activity. A mound of brick debris at the west end, behind the corner signage, has largely grown over or has been consumed by nature and subsequent development over time.
Return to Edworthy Park is achieved via old and heavily traveled road between the Brickburn archival marker and the railway tracks. Passing private land adjacent to the well treed, private dwelling is protected by high chain link fence, shrubbery and forest augmented by many 'No Trespassing' signs justifiably pleading for privacy from surrounding public land and traffic.
A loop around the end of the chain link fence adjacent to the railroad line enters the well-appointed playground and group picnic area for easy return to angle parking near the trail-head. There is huge hiking potential within Calgary and surrounding communities for physical conditioning opportunity and gear acclimatization prior to tackling trail in the mountains and gaining elevation as the snow line recedes.
The nearby Douglas Fir Trail, a short distance east in Edworthy Park, which was heavily damaged by water runoff and closed for safety and repair, has now reopened and is another excellent inner-city hiking alternative featuring trees marginally older than I am.
Photographs for this Calgary inner-city hike were captured on informal trail between Edworthy Park and Bowdale Crescent, along the railway line and the Bow River on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 following a lengthy and challenging 2017/2018 winter season.
The 2018/2019 winter season is making last year look better.
Bull Trail Park occupies west Oldman River Valley near High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
There are many entry points into Bull Trail Park along the west side of the Oldman River Valley. One opportunity begins by hiking north from the dyke junction at the south end of Elizabeth Hall Wetlands past the popular par 3 Bridge Valley Golf Course.
The trail gains modest elevation on slightly rolling terrain which soon passes beneath the impressive High Level Bridge (Lethbridge Viaduct).
Continuing on gently rolling single track trail follows the curl of the west bank of the Oldman River with giant construction cranes visible in the distance above the prominent University of Lethbridge. Scenery and ambiance are stunning. Evidence of the Helen Schuler Nature Centre and Indian Battle Park are well camouflaged behind forest along the far-side, east bank of the Oldman River.
Hard pack trail beneath impressive banks reveal significant evidence of past coal mining activity. Brief stretches of trail are black over crushed coal with the occasional remnants of ancient slack heaps nearby.
The Galt Museum is clearly visible crowning the top of the Oldman River Valley east side.
This hike is through rich history and open ground soon transitions past a major drainage through lush and dense forest of mature trees. The variance in terrain adds significantly to the quality of this hiking experience.
North Bull Trail ramps out through grassland to meet Coal Banks Trail crossing the river over multi-lane Whoop Up Drive Bridge.
South Bull Trail continues south on the other side of the tunnel passing beneath Whoop Up Drive Bridge to create a continuing hike through Bull Trail Park South before turning right to ascend bluffs and meeting University Drive.
On this overcast day, the return hike is via the same route used for access. There are many options and side trails to extend and enhance the quality of the experience.
Light, intermittent drizzle accompanies the final couple of kilometers and actually enhances the experience as increased humidity enhances the intensity and presence of natural aroma from the surrounding, diverse variety of plant life.
The final short stretch past Elizabeth Hall Wetlands to parking is a fitting end to a spectacular day hiking experience.
This hiking tour through southeastern Alberta in the fall of 2017, which includes day hiking experiences in Brooks, Medicine Hat, Cypress Hills, Milk River and Lethbridge, is predominantly motivated by smokey conditions from massive forest fires in the mountains west of Calgary. On this fascinating tour there were huge opportunities to experience unique cultures and historical diversity, hiking on well-developed trail systems, often within river valleys, badlands or near lakes.
Photographs for this hike in Bull Trail Park along the Oldman River Valley near High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada are taken on September 21, 2017.
Elizabeth Hall Wetlands occupy a section of historical terrain north from High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
The exit from Highway 3 West over the Oldman River Valley is not signed, (at this time of writing), for Elizabeth Hall Wetlands, however, signage for the exit to the Bridge Valley Golf Course will lead to the exact location. At the end of the road, Bridge Valley Golf Course is on the right and the gate to parking for Elizabeth Hall Wetlands (originally known as the Oxbow Lake Nature Area) is clearly signed on the left. Can't miss it.
A clearly defined, short, gravel link leads from the parking area beneath mature trees to a reddish brown, crushed brick loop trail circling the picturesque pond in the center of the interpretive pathway around the outside edge of the 15 hectare (37 acre) parcel. Soon, deteriorating wooden pilings along pond banks hint of past industrial activity. Interpretive signage along the path introduces a wide variety of plant, avian and small animal occupation. Dogs and bikes are not allowed here for obvious reasons.
On warm, sunny days, painted turtles basking in the sun are abundant. The main trail loop is about 2 KM (1¼ miles) long with options to lengthen for special wilderness experiences spanning an hour or more. This is a great place to sit, ponder and become absorbed by the special beauty of the minute detail.
Hiking north along cinder trail adjacent to the fenced-in, par 3 golf course, and towards the prominent High Level Bridge in the distance, passes a well constructed beaver dam whose occupants, on this day, are out and about within the company of a wide range of large and small birds. The cool air encourages discovery beneath heavily overcast skies desperately doing their best to avoid raining down on this idyllic location.
The crunchy, red cinder trail continues to curl north past wetlands alive with life and sound accompanied by the rich, pungent aroma typical of wetlands. Past the golf course, and in closing proximity to the High Level Bridge, the Elizabeth Hall Wetlands trail turns left across the flat top of a well constructed dyke controlling water flow from the adjacent Oldman River. Trail also continues straight ahead over gray-white crushed rock trail into Bull Trail Park travelling south past forest and beneath the High Level Bridge. This additional opportunity will be investigated following completion of the Elizabeth Hall Wetlands loop.
The far side of the dyke ends at the west bank of the Oldman River. Following the left turn, several nearby trail opportunities provide access to trails descending into wetlands surrounding the pond. The most prominent, signed entrance descends wooden stairs to excellent trail through forest to the Wildlife Viewing Blind.
The Wildlife Viewing Blind provides the opportunity to view and photograph surrounding terrain hosting abundant wildlife within relative anonymity. Portals within the high wooden walls of the blind permit excellent photographic opportunities.
Dry path through forest departs from the blind and continues south through the lower section of the wetlands. There are several opportunities to take trail branches up to the higher periphery trail level but the quiet forest walk provides an excellent alternative and more wilderness-like hiking opportunity until wooden stairs provide return to the Oldman River level.
Further south past the forest section hosting the viewing blinds, another opportunity near the north end of the pond provides steep path, or stairs a bit further along, to floating platform surrounded by marine growth. The viewing platforms offer close range observation of avian and amphibian life near water level. Exit from this special experience returns to the main tail which continues north to loop around the floating driftwood gathered at the end of the pond within imperceptible water flow.
Narrow, alternative path skirts the top of the bank as a superior experience alternative to less intimate formal path. Eventually they combine near the return to parking. Surrounding terrain fascinates at every observational level. This is a special place which is likely best appreciated at the most quiet times. On this day, I have this beautiful place virtually to myself.
This adventure will continue south along a repeat of the west side of the pond adjacent to the golf course. The hike continues south past the dyke into Bull Trail Park North for the enjoyment of trail beyond and beneath High Level Bridge and above the Oldman River along the steep, formidable banks of the Oldman River Valley.
Photographs for Elizabeth Hall Wetlands are captured on the overcast day of Thursday, September 21, 2017 on the west side of the Oldman River in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
Brewery Gardens provides an entry point to spectacular vistas near High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta.
This beautiful garden was originally a dumping site for coal ashes generated from nearby Sick's Lethbridge Brewery which operated between 1901 and 1990. The garden was created in 1950 to stabilize the slope and horticulturally enhance immediate and surrounding terrain.
From this city access point curling beneath the High Level Bridge, the garden occupies land behind where the Brewery once stood. In the past, a small bridge beyond parking accessed a Tourist Hut since removed.
Colorful gardens beneath majestic evergreen trees create impressive landscape stretching westward along the slope. A rock garden waterfall features stone steps and the predominant welcoming sign beneath imported evergreens dominating views west and south. From the viewpoint, visitors can absorb spectacular river valley vistas and hike into the matrix of trail opportunities within the river valley, view the University of Lethbridge, or the infamous and impressive High Level Bridge constructed in 1909.
On paved path past Brewery Gardens, the bridge cairn at trail side and the time capsule behind Brewery Gardens are also nearby. This time capsule was placed during the City’s centennial celebrations in 1985. The capsule was opened in 2010 and is scheduled to be reopened in 2035 and 2085. It is highly unlikely I will have a shot at either of those but I hope you are able to take the opportunity to participate. Brewery Gardens is an ideal place to enjoy a short (or longer) hike within the area of the Oldman River Valley and the Helen Schuler Nature Center.
Brewery Gardens photographs are captured in early morning light near the High Level Bridge at Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada on September 21, 2017.
Coal Banks Trail is a wandering 30 KM+ trail system throughout Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
Coal Banks Trail is an interconnecting pathway system accessible from many locations throughout the City of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. The major trail system is largely paved and also a valuable resource connecting an amazing array of unique historical to modern day attractions. The Lethbridge Visitor Center can provide a useful map which will aid substantially in navigation.
An example entry point for the pathway system begins near Fort Whoop Up within Indian Battle Park just south of High Level Bridge crossing the Oldman River Valley.
A short walk from Fort Whoop Up towards the Oldman River leads to good signage and a map board where the Coal Banks Trail pathway continues south beneath formidable Whoop Up Drive Bridge. The busy multiple-lane bridge also has a walkway which is accessible nearby with stairs to link the Coal Banks Trail to additional trail in Buck Trail Park South and Buck Trail Park North to Elizabeth Hall Wetlands along the other (west) side of the Oldman River. This hike will continue south along the river's east side.
Paved pathway proceeds through forested sections along a picturesque canal and past a concealed police firing range to the signed trail junction where Coal Banks Trail continues uphill on the left. Riverview Trail continues straight ahead and the short loop, with river adjacent alternative trail, is worthy of the time to include in this Coal Banks Trail hike.
The clearly-signed and paved Coal Banks Trail heads left on a gentle uphill rise past river valley forest into golden prairie grassland embellished with colorful blooming wildflowers and sweeping vistas across rolling prairie. There is waning evidence of past mining historical significance and narrow, unofficial pathways on the coulee bottom and over ridge tops providing a heightened wilderness experience. Construction for expansion of the University of Lethbridge crowns the far-side, west bank of the Oldman River.
The return route is via the same path taken. Prickly Pear cactus, well camouflaged in the grassland, require sturdy footwear or significant caution. The barbed spines are sufficiently robust to penetrate soft shoes and can be difficult to extract. The route back to parking at Fort Whoop Up in Indian Battle Park is a reverse repeat of access. There are many substantial opportunities to extend hiking on the Coal Banks Trail along both sides of the Oldman River.
The Coal Banks Trail offers significant opportunities to explore the Oldman River Valley and to link into other trail alternatives within the city.
Photographs for this short hike at day's end are captured Wednesday, September 20, 2017 on a portion of the Coal Banks Trail which meanders along both sides of the Oldman River Valley within Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.