There’s a certain freedom to travelling in rural Alberta.
It’s more than the wide-open spaces and the ever-changing skies.
It’s also more than the relatively inexpensive gasoline prices, although they do add a certain allure to British Columbia travellers who are unfailingly hit with some of the highest gas prices in Canada.
It’s the fact that the province has a marvellous rural road transportation system and nearly 500 – yes 500 – provincial parks and protected places, where, as they say, you can make your own adventure. So no matter where you want to go, there’ll be a choice of routes with wide-open fields of canola, wheat and other grains as well as soaring mountains and a landscape once roamed by both buffalo and dinosaurs.
After a few days of hiking and resting and recharging at Drumheller, Alta., we decided to make our way to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park on our way to seeing buffalo at Elk Island National Park.
The entire Red Deer River Valley is stunning, a sort of Canadian miniature version of the Grand Canyon. And on the way to the buffalo jump we stopped at one of those 500 Alberta provincial parks, in this case the Tolman Badlands Campgrounds.
These campgrounds, on the east and west banks of the Red Deer River, are nestled in a relatively fertile area of the badlands.
They’re beautiful, have water, and to our liking, were wonderfully remote. In fact, we were one of two visitors to the site, even at the peak of visitor season.
But back to Dry Island Buffalo Jump.
A buffalo jump is an ancient method of harvesting these gigantic animals, forcing them to stampede over an embankment to their death.
As anyone who’s worked with cattle would know, a stampeding animal is beyond dangerous. It’s potentially thousands of pounds of fury with the kinetic force of a small runaway truck and the obdurate wisdom of a bulldozer.
The Cree used Dry Island Buffalo Jump to provide for their people.
On a wonderful summer day, we sat atop the buffalo jump as the wind caressed our skin and the smell of sage lifted from the prairie. And again we were alone, having the amazing vista to ourselves.
It was easy to imagine the chaos of the ancient hunt. And it was gratifying to see the beautiful valley with its meandering river and watch red-tailed hawks screeching in the wind.
This, we think, is the true Alberta advantage. An incredibly fertile place with vital agricultural and natural resources. A place that is steeped in history, yet focused on the future.
And a place, if you just give it a moment, where you can imagine buffalo stampeding on the very land on which you’re standing, while hawks circle in the air.
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Fiona Anderson and Paul Bucci, from Triumph Social, are travelling across North America this year, first by bicycle from Florida to California and now by truck and travel trailer from B.C. to Northern Ontario and back. Both are veteran writers, editors and social media marketers.
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