May 29Hotel: Fairmont Palliser Calgary
Saying goodbye to the Rockies
Our last full day in the Rockies. We didn't really have any plans for the day but we had to be in Calgary tonight as my wife was flying back home early tomorrow. We were looking at things to do/see along the way to Calgary, or near Calgary. I had noticed the Dinosaur Park and the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller
on our maps, that sounded like a neat detour.. although it was clear on the opposite side of Calgary from the mountains. We also thought about driving around Kananaskis
Country a bit.
We showed up at the breakfast buffet at the hotel right at 8 which is a bad idea as all the tour groups are arriving then for breakfast; better to come before 8 or after 9. We checked out of the hotel and headed off down the Trans-Canada Highway. Much quicker to Banff
this way but definitely less scenic than the 1A we had taken a few days before. We noticed the bridges and culverts that had been built for animals to get across the road; I had seen these before in Alaska. They are still in the process of building them here.
We stopped in Canmore
for gas and to pickup some maps of the area. There was a loop route through Kananaskis country that would take a few hours to drive; we decided not to do the full loop route and only drive down as far as the village.
Horseshoe Canyon, near Drumheller, Alberta
We were leaving the mountains behind, the speed limit here went up to 110km from 90. Reaching the turnoff to Kananaskis Country (Hwy 40) we headed south. Soon after we saw a dark blob by the side of the road, a bear! We pulled off the road some distance away but it had already seen us and bounded off into the trees. A short distance later we saw another bear, a mama and her two cubs.. Four bears in just a few minutes! They also ran off into the trees so we weren't able to get a good picture here.
We reached the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis village around noon; this is a big ski area in the winter apparently. We grabbed some sandwiches for lunch then headed back up Hwy40 back to Hwy 1 then east. The mountains were behind us now as the view changed from snowy peaks to treeless rolling prairie. We decided to skip driving through Calgary itself and took a detour via Cochrane and Airdrie on the way over to Drumheller.
The surrounding area is all very sparsely populated; all farms and dead straight roads in all cardinal directions. Pretty uneventful until we reached Airdrie; which was a huge community of brand new 'pod people' houses as I like to call them. I guess it's only a few minutes north of Calgary proper and has become a new suburb. We continued on towards Drumheller, stopping at Horseshoe Canyon about 2:30. Quite impressive! The area around Drumheller is all amazing badlands, carved out of the surrounding prairie. The area is also a huge source of dinosaur fossils; Drumheller is known as the dinosaur capital and they take advantage of that.. there is dino-schlock everywhere in town. The worlds largest dinosaur is here, a 60-foot tall T-rex statue. You can climb up inside its mouth and look out over town! We decided to pass on that though and headed straight for the Royal Tyrell Museum, just outside of town.
Lonely Alberta road
This turned out to be quite a gem, a great museum with hundreds of fossils of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. It's also an active museum, you can see the technicians working on cleaning fossils. Highly recommended place to visit!
After the museum, we headed east of town to the Hoodoos; the ones here turned out to be much more impressive than those near Banff.. there were several here looking like huge rock mushrooms. Quite blazing hot here too in late afternoon.. this part of Alberta is very dry. Finally we set off for the long drive back to Calgary.. which took about 2 hrs of straight, boring driving. Arriving in Calgary we headed straight for the Palliser hotel. This was an older hotel with a grand lobby but older rooms. We had been upgraded yet again to a Jr. Suite; a huge room but the bathroom was tiny in contrast. I went to go find a place to park; it being Friday evening (8PM) I hoped to find an open parking spot.
It took awhile as many of the roads around the Palliser were blocked or closed due to construction, I had to drive in circles or 4-5 blocks out of my way to get to the next street. I finally found a spot only a block away from the hotel. This was the last night of our trip; tomorrow my wife was heading back home and I would take the bus up to Edmonton
for the developer meeting. We didn't really get to see any of Calgary though.