Beautiful drive out. The weather hadn't quite turned the corner but the clouds were moving in the sky and the roads were sparsely populated. Made good time out to Drumheller. On the way stopped off at Horseshoe Canyon. I had definitely arrived before the tourist season had begun. The parking lot at Horseshoe was closed (as were the outhouses unfortunately). Parking in the overflow parking lot, Max (my tripawd blue heeler) and I went to go check out the Canyon.
I hadn't been out to Drum in a couple of years, but looking at that view ... I knew I had made the right choice on where to check out on my shakedown run. Explored a bit around the top of the Canyon. There are trails that descend down into the coulee but considering that the parking lot was closed, decided to check out some of the surrounding gravel roads to see if there was some other views.
Found a spot around the other side of the Canyon and pulled just off the road to try and get a nice poser shot of the 'Cruiser. Since there was no cattle around for Max to chase, I let her out of the truck to run around and she wanted to pose as well.
Took a couple minutes to soak up the view and let Max run around. Got back into the 'Cruiser and headed into town. I've always like the drive into Drumheller. If you've never done it before I took a video to capture it. It's just a 20 second clip but it doesn't convey the previous hour and a half of driving along the prairies and then finally dropping down into the Red River Coulee.
As this wasn't exactly a planned trip, thought I'd head over to the big dinosaur and decide where to go next. If you're not familiar with Drumheller, a little backstory might be needed. Drumheller is dinosaur country. Also Passion Play country but let's forget that for now. Back in 1884, Joe Tyrell stumbled on some dinosaur bones. The pile of bones he discovered would be later called the Albertosaurus and they ended up building a museum to hold all the fossils and dino bones collected in the area. The Royal Tyrell Museum. Sounds impressive and it is a pretty nice museum but it was closed. So I didn't head there. I went to the World's Largest Dinosaur ...
Fun little roadside attraction built to cash in on those summer tourist dollars. I didn't come in the summer and I realized after a closed Horseshoe Canyon that I should probably check to see what was actually open at this time of year. Turns out not much is open at the crack of spring in the Canadian Badlands. Heading north to the museum is a beautiful drive but the museum itself would be closed. Also I wasn't sure if the ferry would be open. Decided to head southeast. There are a lot of outdoor roadside style attractions that way, that even if not open might make for a pretty good chance to take a photo. So I grabbed some old liquid dinosaur bones (gasoline) as a 'souvenir' and set off.
One of the only things that was open at this time of year was the 'Last Chance Saloon' and I planned to stop in there for lunch but it didn't open that day 'till noon. Needed to kill some time and on the way was the Star Mine Suspension Bridge. Hadn't been there since grade school, so decided to check it out. Originally constructed in 1931 for the Star Mine workers, it was rebuilt in 1958 by the Alberta gov't as yet another roadside attraction. Highlights the colourful history of Alberta coal mining for the tourists such as myself.
Max came with me across the bridge ... well until about the half way point at which time I realized what a shit dog owner I am. The bridge consists of metal grating and my pup being the stubborn and stoic dog that she is walked out without a whimper or complaint. However, when I looked down at my poor three legged dog, realized I probably shouldn't subject her to more of the bridge. Did get a nice iphone photo of her though.
So after trying to torture my dog, headed to the "ghost town" of Wayne. Getting to Wayne is a nice drive over a bunch of single lane bridges over the meandering Rosebud River. Didn't count them as I went but they call it the '11 Bridges to Wayne' so I'm guessing there are at least that many. Wayne used to be a bustling community of miners but in the early 20th century the coal started runnin' out in the valley and the town shrunk to almost nothing. Feel like "ghost town" isn't entirely accurate, it seems like a very nice hamlet or collection of cottages. Now amalgamated into the City of Drumheller.
Also in Wayne is the Last Chance Saloon. Touted as the oldest bar in Alberta. Nestled into the Rosebud River Coulee it's a pretty awesome little restaurant with the friendliest people running the place. Willing to bend your ear about the history of the place. As I ate, was also given a chance to browse through a photo album with pics from back when Wayne was a mining metropolis. The food was good and the beer was cold. Perfect.
After eating, headed out on the road south to see the rest of the Rosebud River Valley. Unfortunately the road didn't continue much further down that way and eventually I turned around and headed back across all them bridges to the Hoodoo trail. Which, if you thought there was Hoodoos along that trail, you were right!
These are just off the highway. If you've never seen them before, I'd suggest giving them a look while you're in the area. Wouldn't make a trip JUST to see the hoodoos however. Fond memories as a child but after being to Moab and seeing the hoodoos and rock formations there I have to say it is a little underwhelming. Still a nice spot for a hike to check them out and they've added a bunch of interpretive stuff since the last time I had been.
Next up was Atlas Mine. They've created a museum of sorts at the abandoned mine (closed of course) and it's a pretty cool little spot to check out. The last remaining wooden coal triple in Canada is here and at 7 stories is pretty impressive. Atlas was the last of over a hundred coal mines in the area and I'll have to come back and check out the site when it's open.
Was winding down. Thought I'd check out the "ghost town" of Dorothy. Should've explored it more but at least I got this shot of the grain elevator there. Don't think this thing it'll be around much longer. There are a few other buildings in town including two old churches. I'll be adding this to this list of places I need to check out a little better, next time I'm through the area.
After that, called it a day and headed home. Took my time however and tried to take as many backroads as possible. This province of Alberta is pretty beautiful from end to end. From the northern forests to the arid badlands in the southeast. From the west and the eastern slope of the Canadian Rockies, across the foothills and down into the prairies of the east. Alberta is home.