14 Sep

It was a very windy night at Bridge View RV, 60mph winds gusting through the Coulees (geographical term for small hills with water at the bottom and a predominant local feature), blasting us every so often and shaking haRVey vigorously. Monday morning, Canadian Labour Day holiday, was still very windy, we rang and booked a site in Henderson Lake RV before setting off to the trestle bridge, we hoped the lake campground would be more sheltered. Lethbridge was very quiet; the population seemed to have moved out of town for the long week end so we found no difficulty parking haRVey and enjoyed the walk along a well made path which brought us right underneath the 314ft high bridge. No sooner had Robert said he would love to see a train travel its one mile length than, as if by magic, we heard the unmistakable rumble, it looked like a toy train high above us even though we had climbed quite a few steps to a viewing platform so by now were half way up the height of the bridge. The bridge is celebrating its 100th year this year and we marvelled at the feat of engineering which replaced five smaller bridges with this remarkable one, shortening the train’s journey considerably and being more economical as heavier trains were able to cross the new bridge.

We took a drive through the downtown area but chose not to stop, driving on to the campground next to the lovely Henderson Lake Park. It was still windy on this side of town but after setting up we set off for a walk around the manicured park and lake before tea time. On the far side of the Park from the campground is the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden and next morning we again set ourselves against the strong wind blowing directly down the lake and park to visit the garden.

The garden was laid out in 1967 to commemorate and strengthen links between Lethbridge and Japan and at the gate we were greeted by a Japanese Lady who gave us background information pointing out the route to take for our tour. This took us briefly through a treed area with a wishing well and then into the two storey pavilion building where a Canadian young man (dressed in Japanese robe) gave us further information, the pavilion had been constructed firstly in Japan and then transported to Alberta when it was sure everything was perfect for it to be put in the garden. Looking out over the water and beautiful manicured garden around the pavilion there was little to see (to a lay eye) which could not be described as perfect, a landscape in miniature and very restful. Walking along the path from the pavilion the lake in the park beyond became a part of the garden too, creating a wonderful vista, Henderson Lake Park is also beautifully cared for and the two enhance one another.

We had planned to walk from the garden a short way along the main road to where Google maps indicated the local ‘Real Canadian Superstore’ was situated, we only needed milk. After half an hour and no sign of the supermarket we asked a young lady walking in the opposite direction and were informed it was still some way off to the superstore (Don’t trust everything you read on the internet!) As there was a small garage supermarket over the other side of the road we crossed (dual carriageway) bought the milk then made our way to the Pizza Hut in the next block and treated ourselves to lunch, expensive milk!

Next morning we drove to the supermarket for fuel and food and it was 3 miles from the campground and a good mile and half from its indicated position on Google!

Fort Macleod, around sixty miles from Lethbridge is the historical town surrounding the site of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrival in Western Canada. We had a site at Daisy May Campground which was not as Wild West as it sounded, and thankfully the wind which had been blowing hard since Waterton almost a week ago seemed to have abated. The Fort Museum was almost deserted; in the whole time we were there I believe we saw around six other visitors. Now the children are back in school everywhere is very quiet it does however allow us to wander and take our time viewing the exhibits and taking in the history.

(www.nwmpmuseum.com)
While we do not underestimate the journey taken by Col. Macleod and his party, it seemed that quite a number of the men were seeking adventure and had an idealistic view of what was in front of them. We also questioned the reason they set off on an 800 mile journey with no provision for drinking water, rejected the well worn traders routes in favour of making their own, resulting in sickness for both men and the animals they were relying upon from either lack of water or drinking bad water they came across. They did however succeed in befriending and forming allegiance with the Native American tribes in the area they crossed. The area was notorious for the activities the illegal and murderous whisky traders who passed from the northern States into Southern Canada and the Indians welcomed the law and order to end the problems the whiskey caused.

The week end weather was set fair and by now we had decided the Alberta Prairie landscape was not our favourite to date. We decided to head back to the mountains and drove along highway 22 north, stopping overnight at Chain Lake Provincial Park. On Saturday morning we continued our journey and were pleased to be once again climbing into the foothills of the Rockies, this time the Eastern slopes. This landscape certainly appeals to us both and the grandeur of the 10,000ft plus mountains never becomes as boring as the mile after mile of mostly flat ranch land we had left behind.

The prospect of a nice week end had not escaped the locals either and our destination campground in Peter Lougheed Park was almost full, we were certainly lucky to get one of the last spots with electricity, necessary now the overnight temperatures are around 4 degrees C! We lunched at the Interlakes Panorama viewpoint while awaiting the appointed time for check in, a blue lake with majestic mountains and lovely sunshine allowed us to picnic and enjoy the fresh air.

A trail from the campground (Whisky Jack trail and totally opposite way to the lake– but we did not know this for sure until next day) made an afternoon walk for us and a happy discovery for Robert, the forest was hiding a wealth of mushrooms and his foraging nose was well and truly exercised before I decided we should turn around as we were not heading for the lake as he insisted we were. Sunday morning was again a blue sky morning but very cold with it and at 10.30 am the outdoor temperature was still only 7 degrees C. Our days exercise was to be The Boulton Creek trail, so with brown paper bag (for collecting) and foraging nose primed and ready we set off in what we were fairly sure was the correct direction, en route to the trail head we spoke to a French Canadian couple, also out walking (and much more seasoned hikers than ourselves we perceived from the conversation) who were just as mesmerised by the lack of signage and poor map availability for the park as we were. We have come to expect a certain level of information when we visit the Provincial Parks and Peter Lougheed being such a popular place with lots of trails for hiking and biking seems very devoid of basic maps and way markers.

We had not walked very far before an abundance of various fungi were apparent and Robert, who had been reading up in his Mushroom book overnight, began probing and identifying various species, some hopefully being edible. After a short uphill climb we were rewarded with great views of the mountains, standing out clearly against the blue sky’s, some areas showing small amounts of what appeared to be fresh snow and other areas having glacier like accumulations, it does not seem long since the last snows melted away but very soon these mountain tops will be white again. The trail carried on through the woodland and then dropped down to the creek running in the bottom of the valley. It was much warmer here as the sun was finding its way through the trees, we followed the creek back to Boulton Bridge then the final half mile or so back to the campground was uphill again and very much warmer than when we left around an hour and a half earlier.

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