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.
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.
Full Circle Adventures offer the opportunity to enhance your hiking experience.
The natural world provides many opportunities to satisfy nutrition and healing needs. This learning experience supports a lifetime of opportunity to become more knowledgeable about the application of practical natural solutions to common maladies. Generations of civilization have been successfully applying these practical solutions.
Julie Walker provides leadership for this series of informational hikes which reveal the knowledge required to pursue your own individual initiatives while enjoying the benefits of the outdoors. Julie is also a knowledgeable and certified guide offering year round opportunities to hike and cross country ski within and near the majesty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Confirm current pricing when booking your educational adventure.
Contact Julie on her website at Full Circle Adventures.
Galt Museum offers a dramatic, modern profile when approached via the coulee behind Fort Whoop Up.
From the dramatic glass-enclosed Discovery Center at the back of the historic Galt Museum and Archives, the ascent trail from Fort Whoop Up swings right into exhibits of historical agricultural exhibits, local crop alternatives and water management interpretations en route to terraced gardens hosting statues of important historical icons who contributed to the early development of the region.
The current mixture of historic and modern components representing Galt Museum and Archives is preceded by a long and intricate chain of development steps beginning as early as 1888.
Circling through the gardens beside the current Galt Museum and Archives reveals an elaborate and fascinating collection of memorabilia spanning earliest days in Lethbridge to present times. Brass statues of benevolent and influential Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt and Elliott Torrance Galt guard the entrance to the refurbished 1910 extension of the original 1891 Galt Hospital. The hospital extension was opened by Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier. There is deep, rich and fascinating history here.
The entrance to the major component of the present day museum includes the spectacular Discovery Hall with changing exhibits and spectacular vistas across the historic river valley. Discovery Hall opened on May 6, 2006.
Trail behind the Galt Museum and Archives branches past modern art exhibits and trail junctions for the viewpoint lookouts above Fort Whoop Up. Although the attraction can be accessed via hiking trail from Fort Whoop Up, city access by vehicle is best done via Scenic Drive and 5th Avenue S.
Photographs for this brief visit around the exterior of the Galt Museum and Archives are captured on a hike from Fort Whoop Up to viewpoints at the top of Hoodoo Hills within Indian Battle Park near the High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada on Wednesday, September 20, 2017.
Viewpoints from Hoodoo Hills above Fort Whoop Up provide unique images from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
Fort Whoop Up is open to the public during summer, and seasonally closed past Labor Day. Outside summer months, one way of viewing the interior of the fort is to summit nearby Hoodoo Hills, where wooden platform viewpoints provide views down into the fort's interior. The trail begins at parking near the front entrance to Fort Whoop Up. This replica of the 1869 original fort is a reminder of one of several original American 'whiskey' forts constructed to facilitate trading. Fort Macleod and Fort Whoop Up were common destinations for soldiers and pioneer travelers heading west from Fort Walsh in Saskatchewan.
Hiking directly from the trail-head adjacent to the water trough near the east side of Fort Whoop Up parking, the obvious path soon arrives at a right-angle junction. Turning left provides a nearby opportunity to visit the sacred Medicine Stone, laden with memorial messages and protected by a stone circle and wooden pole barrier.
Back on original crushed-stone trail, the path continues past the face of Hoodoo Hills. Skirting the south face of the two prominent sandstone bluffs reveals a variety of tempting and heavily trodden routes ascending directing to the target viewing platforms at the summits. Picturesque crags in the surface support a variety of nesting birds. There are no obvious signs discouraging use of these trails which would substantially reduce erosion.
Personal respect for the terrain dictates remaining on main gravel trail passing the front of both major viewpoints to a clearly signed left turn entering and ascending a portion of the 3 KM (1⅞ mile) Coulee Trail Loop.
Ascending the full length of the formidable coulee begins the gentle and long climb on excellent trail initially through dense brush and morphing gradually to relatively barren grassland with evidence of past coal mining activity on surrounding slopes. Coal mining evidence is rife nearly everywhere along all the paths in the river valley. Lengthy section of well-constructed, wooden staircases, with integrally-placed, integrated benches for resting, relieve steeper sections connecting gravel components until long sweeping switchbacks complete the ascent to exhibits, memorial statues and flower gardens at the back of the Galt Museum.
Continuing path near the modern rear exterior of the Galt Museum swings north and west past modern art sculptures to the obvious entrance for the gradual descent trail to the viewing platform on the summit of the south Hoodoo Hill. The short, direct trail hosts regional interpretive plaques along the cinder trail. At the viewpoint, an extraordinary sight to Fort Whoop Up, directly below, reveals the detailed features of the fort's unoccupied interior.
Components of this specific experience include a brisk and refreshing breeze, combined with expansive and spectacular vistas across the Oldman River Valley within the city of Lethbridge. High Level Bridge is a constant, impressive feature on the horizon. There is rich, fascinating and palpable history here.
A glance right confirms the nearby north viewpoint. Terrain between the two viewpoints is short, rugged and composed nearly entirely of fragile prairie grassland interrupted briefly by an undetermined scramble across an unknown drainage feature. There are no visible direct trails. All things considered, the honorable and sensible alternative is the formal trail trek back via the route used for access, beneath the formidable power lines singing in the brisk breeze, to the cinder trail junction for a left turn to the next junction leading to the north viewpoint.
The next panoramic view features Fort Whoop Up down to the left and an impressive view across Baroness Picnic Shelters and the Oldman River Valley to the High Level Bridge in the opposite direction.
From the north Hoodoo Hill Viewpoint, trail returns to the junction and continues across open prairie grassland to eventually link into sidewalk along 3rd Avenue for the gentle descent to trail beginning at the Fort Whoop Up parking area.
Photographs for this excellent hike to viewpoints from the top of Hoodoo Hills above Fort Whoop Up are captured on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 within Indian Battle Park at Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
Baroness Picnic Shelters offer a grand view of High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
The Baroness Picnic Shelter is an interesting park just south from Helen Schuler Nature Centre and High Level Bridge within Indian Battle Park. Access is via the right turn just past Fort Whoop Up to a well-signed clearing on the left (west) side of the paved road. There is convenient and obvious parking near roadside.
The well-groomed park is an open area surrounded by dense forest concealing multiple hiking trail opportunities. Formidable wooden and covered picnic shelters offer protection from the elements. The tidy park provides a variety of unique playground, puzzle and exercise features for children of all ages.
An ancient gravestone under the shade of mature trees is further protected by a formal chain link border preserving the memory of young Henry Stafford who was born in Scotland on August 29, 1866, and the only child of William and Jane Stafford. Henry tragically lost his life on August 4th, 1883 at the age of 17. His parents, William and Jane, were larger-than-life founding members of Lethbridge, Alberta, who made significant contributions to the location and development of the city.
Unique playgrounds offer opportunities for exercise of muscles and mind with traditional exercise equipment mixed with an interesting variety of mind-expanding, land-based puzzles and games. The park is unique and imaginative. On this early morning, sunny, week day, the entire facility is nearly vacant for enjoyment of the amenities.
Cooking and dining shelters are impressive and well-constructed to provide protection from the elements. High Level Bridge looms overhead a short distance north and always offers a unique and awesome impression.
The real hiking opportunity is directly across the street where a formidable hoodoo hill is equipped with a long and impressive wooden staircase rising to three levels of viewpoints overlooking the valley. A few people are running up and down the formidable staircases to achieve an aerobic workout.
Along the short walk to the entrance at the bottom of the stairs, it is obvious many past visitors have compromised the steep slopes with scrambles directly to the top. While undoubtedly more adventurous, the deep ruts created are exposed to further damage by inclement weather. Barricades have been constructed to discourage further damage and to promote developing plant growth which may heal the damage over many future decades. Cleverly blocking access at road level might be a sensible additional protection.
Vistas back across the Baroness Picnic Shelter and Park provide clear perspective of the Oldman River Valley crowned by the University of Lethbridge on far-side banks. The relentless stair climb, with the opportunity to enjoy spectacular views, offer opportunities to rest at platforms with benches. A sturdy and picturesque, wooden gazebo crowns the top of the initial, steepest section of the route. Most staircase sections of the hike to the top are augmented by gravel trail for others like myself who prefer the consistent ramp angles as an alternative to stair steps.
Past the formidable gazebo, a more gentle incline hangs left and continues upwards to prairie plateau at the top. Views are breathtaking. The unique nature of the roof garden at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre is clearly visible past the geometric support structure of the High Level Bridge.
When there could apparently be no further improvement on this outstanding and adventuresome experience, a freight train begins to make its way across the High Level Bridge, travelling east towards the hilltop. The scale of sound and sight create an impressive and indelibly-memorable experience as the camera works hard to capture the unique imagery.
The train, which is longer than the bridge, stops on the bridge for unknown reasons. Perhaps the full weight of the train is used to test bridge dynamics and integrity or more likely there is a checkpoint or necessary stop within the city for fueling, or load transfer, before the impressive train span can continue to a potential destination thousands of miles to the east. The essential inner child is alive and well.
Trail from the top continues across prairie grassland towards Brewery Gardens in the city. The 3.3 KM (2.1 mile) loop towards Brewery Gardens provides the opportunity to visit a variety of unique attractions before continuing past Fort Whoop Up on the return route to Baroness Picnic Shelter and Park. The alternative this day is to descend the wooden stairs used for access. The vistas on this blue sky day are no less spectacular on the way down than they were on the ascent.
Viewpoints at the gazebo, and along the way, provide a fascinating perspective of beautiful, unique and diverse terrain. The unique Helen Schuler Nature Centre is clearly visible on the north side of the High Level Bridge. This short hiking adventure, with multiple extension options, across from Baroness Picnic Shelter, is worth the time and effort.
There are multiple hiking opportunities in the immediate area which provide a wide variety of experiences with negligible travel time between hiking trails. Trail branches and connections can vary the distance, duration and effort substantially to create the day which best suits individual participants.
Multiple hiking opportunities within the City of Lethbridge offer a wide range of unique opportunities which appeal to a broad range of historical and exercise related activity in a unique, often surreal landscape.
Photographs are captured on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at Baroness Picnic Shelter Park within Indian Battle Park just south of High Level Bridge and the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
Coulee Climb is a hiking trail near Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
Following the exit from Highway 3 heading west, paved road into Indian Battle Park passes beneath and past the dramatic and impressive High Level Bridge. Just beyond Fort Whoop Up, a well-signed right turn swings north and passes Baroness Picnic Shelter and Park before continuing beneath the High Level Bridge again to terminate at a small paved parking lot adjacent to the Helen Schuler Nature Centre.
Inside the Helen Schuler Nature Centre (check hours of operation), which is a specifically designed structure promoting environmental efficiency with limited environmental impact, a rack of brochures just inside the entrance hosts a wide range of interesting and informative literature which includes hiking brochures for three adjacent interpretive trails including the Coulee Climb. The two other self-guided trails are Oxbow Loop and Nature Quest.
The short Coulee Climb hike, with a significant vertical component, offers the opportunity for some exercise and fresh air while learning about the nature and function of a coulee. There are several auxiliary benefits to this hike which include phenomenal views across the Oldman River Valley combined with up close and personal interaction beneath the fascinating High Level Bridge (Lethbridge Viaduct) which opened in August of 1909 to facilitate heavy rail traffic across the expansive Oldman River Valley.
This trail is best negotiated from the north trailhead to the south, ending at the Coal Banks Kiosk which is also an informative and historically interesting experience. This short 2.4 KM (1½ mile) hike provides a diverse range of unique and fascinating experiences.
Trail beginning at the base terminus of the coulee is a wide and well-graded gravel ramp rising gently on trail adjacent to grassland banks hosting a wide variety of colorful and diverse shrubbery. The trailhead is also the obvious delineation point between lush cottonwood forest on the river plain and the challenging parched conditions within the coulee. The route continues uphill through 12,000 years of history where relentless drainage has created these coulees culminating in the formation of the present day Oldman River Valley.
More challenging portions of the trail are supplemented with wooden steps along the relentless route ascending alternate sides of the coulee. The swing south onto a long stretch of wooden stairs begins the climb towards the base of the High Level Bridge framed dramatically by clear blue sky. Expansive views of the Oldman River Valley begin to take shape with constant modification and scope as higher altitude is relentlessly achieved.
A wide variety of avian life flutters about performing the duties of their daily existence and seemingly accustomed to being comfortable and accepting of human presence. No doubt they entertain local custodians who assist in their feeding and care.
The historic bridge began its service in 1909 and has carried heavy railroad traffic for well over a century across a river valley which frequently entertains high wind. From the base of this massive structure, the bridge doesn't seem like a good idea. Surely the heavy burdens endured for decades must have an impact over time. From a significant distance the bridge is an awesome sight.
From beneath the bridge the range of feeling is quite different and definitely a unique photographic opportunity. Geometric forms and shadows create a mosaic of images deeply in conflict with surrounding, free-form river valley scenery. Each footstep alters the nature of the images. Photographers are at the mercy of an infinity of form, shadow, and content within an endless array of fascinating compositions.
A matrix of trail surrounds the base of the bridge columns as altitude is relinquished beginning the decent to the base of the coulee. Eventually formal trail ramps down the side of the coulee through desert-like terrain until a civilized wide and evenly-sloped ramp terminates at the Coal Banks Kiosk.
This small museum and interpretive center is constructed at the entrance to old coal mining shafts. Fascinating exhibits of coal mining artifacts are combined with historical information which documents the history of this specific mining operation as well as providing an overview of the massive mining operations which fired the furnaces of homes, businesses and economic development throughout a good portion of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Larger than life, pioneer entrepreneurs forged an industrial revolution within this newly developing nation. Long ago, a 2,100 ft (693 m) Incline Rail System carried coal from the mine to the surface 300 m above for linking to the narrow gauge railway line. This likely explains the well graded trail near the beginning of Coulee Climb. This particular mining operation ceased production in 1893.
Coulee Climb is an excellent way to begin a sunny autumn day. The short tour, which may consume one or two hours for the average participant, offers a wide variety of experiences with plenty more options immediately nearby. This early morning, sun rising into clear blue sky day offered the coolness of morning air to counteract the warmth of exercise while providing a cornucopia of unique images embellished by unique structure and moving shadow. What a phenomenal way to start the day.
There are three major interpretive trails which begin from parking at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in the Lethbridge Nature Reserve. Coulee Climb, documented here, is one. The Oxbow Loop explores a nearby Oldman River delta and riverside where swales nourish new growth during high water. The Oldman River is sourced at Mount Lyall in the Rocky Mountains and flows about 350 KM (218 miles) to join the Bow River and create the South Saskatchewan River.
The other formal trail emanating from the Helen Schuler Nature Centre is Nature Quest which offers multiple options and 12 interpretive stations tending towards the Baroness Picnic Shelters and the Oldman River.
On the other side of the Oldman River from the Lethbridge Nature Reserve are the picturesque Elizabeth Hall Wetlands.
For every kilometer of formal trail, there are several times that distance on informal trails which provide multiple hours of exercise and exploration opportunity. The entire river valley hosts a matrix of quality hiking opportunity.
Photographs on the short Coulee Climb trail are captured near the Helen Schuler Nature Centre within the Lethbridge Nature Reserve on Wednesday, September 20, 2017.