Trip Report - Kamikaze Trip to Calgary

May 17th, 2003, 04:25 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Trip Report - Kamikaze Trip to Calgary

Dear Fodorites

First, a thank you to those who answered my questions in my Kamikaze Trip in Calgary Area - Critique Welcomed - thread.

For anyone curious, herewith a brief report on how it went. Note: Kamikaze is Japanese for "divine wind" and as you'll discover, a wind blew all right, but it sure weren't divine. : - )

Day 1 - April 23: Arrival in Calgary, Glenbow Museum.

It's unseasonably warm and sunny for our arrival. As we ride our hotel's shuttle from the airport, it's clear that little in the way of precipitation has fallen in some time - the ground is parched and cracked in places.

Transportation in from our airport hotel to downtown is easy, since we're not far from the " C train " which gets us downtown in just under 30 minutes. At the Glenbow museum, we spent most of our time at the exhibit focusing on the culture of the people most commonly known as the Blackfoot. I enjoy the exhibit, even though I find myself challenging many of the curators' conclusions.

Day 2 - April 24. Calgary to Lake Louise via Banff.

The forecast is for rain the next several days; I try to think of water-hungry ranchers, and not grouse. And because it is for rain, I am not as grateful as I might otherwise be to discover that we've been upgraded to a 4WD SUV.

We arrive at the Banff Springs Hotel in time for lunch. The sun still makes a brief appearance, so the famous view is still in evidence. I like the "old hotel" atmosphere of this hotel, although of course it is waaaay above our budget for an actual overnight stay.

Driving the Bow Valley Parkway, we stop in awe as two bachelor elk appear out of nowhere, it seems, and amble unconcernedly across the highway. Before the trip is done, we'll see at least ten more elk, two deer, and a mountain sheep. No mountain goats though.

There's still snow in patches in Johnson Canyon, which means that our sneaker-clad feet can only make it as far as the lower falls. But it's a far enough hike anyway - I contracted a cold a few days ago, and alas, it's getting worse.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
May 23rd, 2003, 12:32 PM
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LOL, I can see I have thousands of devoted fans. But notwithstanding, here is the rest of the tale.


Friday, April 25, 2003. It rained all night last night, and over breakfast it becomes evident that Lake Louise is in for a significant, if wet, snowfall. As my cold is now in its worst stage, I?m happy to have an excuse to spend the day recovering at our hotel while my husband does laundry chores and amuses himself in the hotel games room.

Saturday, 26 April, 2003. As we check out, the hotel desk clerk advises taking our time returning to Calgary: visibility east of Canmore is reportedly poor. This, in our largely tv-and-telephone-less hotel, is our first hint of things to come. As it is, we heed our clerk's suggestion, and elect to spend the day west of Calgary. After finding the Icefields Parkway closed due to conditions, we wind up spending the morning watching elk feed near the train tracks in the town of Field, in Yoho National Park. This town, although it is but twenty minutes west of Lake Louise, is largely snow-free. After a quick tour of the nearby Natural bridge and Emerald Lake, we head back to Calgary in the early afternoon. We find that Banff, too, has had but little snow, although flurries are now falling.

The further east we drive the Trans-Canada, the more snow is in evidence. Forty minutes or so west of Calgary, we spot a local TV camera man taking footage of a bus, now empty, that has left the road. We pull into the parking lot of our Calgary airport hotel, and find that we are obliged to wade up to our knees in slushy, wet snow from car to the door. At the desk, we learn that the storm has been fierce indeed, with unconfirmed reports of 45to 50 cm total accumulation (18 to 24 inches) in the space of but eight hours. Still, we are cheered at the news that the worst of the storm has supposedly passed, so we're confident that we'll still be able to make our long anticipated visit to see the Tyrell museum on the morrow.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
May 23rd, 2003, 12:34 PM
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Sunday, 27 April, 2003. As we set out for Drumheller under overcast skies and snowflurries, I can?t be more pleased with our lucky car upgrade to the four-wheel-drive SUV. Even the number two highway, the main transportation connection between Calgary and Edmonton, is in less than ideal condition. Large sections of the number 2 are covered with slippery, packed snow, and the carnage of yesterday is evident: many, many abandoned cars lie in drifts just off the road. Yellow caution tape banners, placed there by traffic police after they checked the cars for stranded occupants, billow from the car rooftops. The exit to a place called Balzac is blocked by an abandoned tractor-trailer that jack-knifed as it attempted to ascend the off-ramp. Meanwhile, traffic today is slow, very slow. We are actually relieved when the time comes to exit to highway 72, even though our eastward track will see us following on the tail of the slowly retreating storm.

The relief is short lived. It is soon clear to us that the retreat of the storm is only too slow. Although the road is clear in the valleys, on the bluffs the infamous prairie winds blow snow across the road and across our field of vision. Not that there is much to see; this is open, almost treeless prairie, and we have for the most part only telephone poles and the odd scattered farm house for company. As we drive, we pass through stretches where, when glancing out of our left, i.e. northward-facing windows, one cannot distinguish between the white, bright sky and the equally white, bright ground. One sees a wall of white, and nothing more. Columbus, it seems, was wrong; the world is flat, it ends just north of the highway passing through Beiseker, Alberta.

On we drive, into increasingly bad conditions. The road narrows to one clear lane, and at times into one snow-covered lane. This means that at times we are playing an unwilling game of ?chicken? with oncoming traffic, such as it is. In the interim, I entertain visions of horn-rimmed spectacled curators anxiously watching the doors of their empty museum, wondering if anyone is going to show up today. Will they be surprised!

And then?.we reach the junction of highways 72 and 21, at the point where 72 becomes highway 9. Several cars and transport trucks have pulled over at the intersection, the drivers conferring amongst themselves. One of them, a man who looks the type who actually uses a three-quarter-ton pickup for its intended purposes, gets back into same and attempts to ascend the hill ahead. Nope.

And so our dreams of dinosaur viewing come to an end, at an intersection just forty-four kilometers southwest of Drumheller. We head south to the Transcanada, and head back to Calgary to spend the rest of the day at the zoo.

And here endeth our adventure. We enjoyed it, despite all. Thanks again to all who helped.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
May 23rd, 2003, 03:18 PM
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Hi Sue, It's good to see that you had a good time despite the setbacks, and manage to look back on the situation with some levity! I have to say, though, I'm rather happy to be visiting in the summer; your tale made me shudder, and I'm from snowy New England!

Thank you for an extremely interesting report.
Molly2 is offline  
May 23rd, 2003, 03:29 PM
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Not everyone who reads a trip report, posts, Sue. I loved the title of your report, by the way and had read the first part before you posted the second.

As someone who has done the area--but in summer--I enjoyed reading your reports. I guess April is still snow season in the frozen north.

See any polar bears? OK, guys, this is a joke--A JOKE.

I hope you get to see the Drumheller Museum some other time as it is a world class museum. When I went to Alberta, I was just astounded by it as I really did not expect such a wonderful museum in that location.

Another interesting site to see in the area is in Southern Alberta near the American border: Smashed in Head Buffalo Jump. I found it fascinating to learn how the Native Americans killed buffalo before the Spanish brought the horse into North America.
LaurenSKahn is offline  
May 23rd, 2003, 04:25 PM
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That was indeed a fierce storm and we have had a few since - so sorry you didn't make it to Drumheller but maybe next time? Today it is beautiful and sunny, no wind and the hills are wonderfully green due to all of the recent moisture.

Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump is indeed worth the visit, in fact my sister did some of the drawings there, so I am suitably proud of that.

Do come back, it is unusual to have such large snow falls this late in the year, I wish it had been nicer for your visit.
2jacks is offline  
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