Second step, Nordegg, Alberta to Red Deer, Alberta (Part II)
From Part I
It’s really kind of neat how things travel. I don’t mean obvious things like cars and people but rather small somewhat insignificant items like the pen I used for writing this blog entry draft…
Departing from Nordegg, Alberta the pen hitched a ride with me and headed east on David Thompson Highway 11. The distance from Nordegg to Rocky Mountain House, the first town, is approximately 90 kilometres.
The road from Nordegg to Rocky is paved highway surface. Normally the conditions are pretty good except for in the dead of winter when it can get a little sketchy in parts particularly around Misty Valley and Saunders. They take pretty good care of plowing it in winter but it can still get pretty rough at times when the winds come down off the Rockies. This is one of the two plows that are responsible for snow removal on over 400 kilometres of roadway.
Things I have witnessed along the stretch of highway between Nordegg and Rocky Mountain House include: multiple gigantic rainbows (not all at once but it is not uncommon to see a double rainbow here), orange sunsets reflecting off a blanket of smoke in the sky from forest fires, fog that lifts up in the air in small columns like pillars, sunbeams across the sky from the horizon, and lots of wildlife including: black bears, elk, deer, moose, coyotes, wolves, wild horses and a cougar.
Another place to stop on this stretch of highway is the Alex Fire Lookout. It is on the east side of the highway around Alexo area and marked with a sign and gravel road in fairly good condition that runs on an angle up the ridge. The photo below shows a view from about two-thirds of the way up that road of the valley below.
The highway takes you past two historical sites, Alexo and Horburg, both settlement communities whose foundations are now lost to history.
Alexo is a ghost town located at an elevation of 1,260 metres. This once thriving coal mining town included a hotel, cookhouse, bunkhouse, store and 30 cottages. The mine closed around the same time as Nordegg due to declining demand for coal. The town-site is gone and all that remains is a youth summer camp called Camp Alexo. There is lots to explore down the ridge from the summer camp. Hang a left at the Y-intersection and continue all the way down until you end at the North Saskatchewan River and connect with the Saunders Creek recreation area. I've included a link to the Wikipedia page on the interesting history of Saunders Creek.
Next down the road is Horburg, Alberta. Horburg is identified by the nearby gravel pits and the recreation area signage though not located side by side. According to Travel Alberta Horburg is a small campground with an excellent North Saskatchewan River access for boaters. There are 80 kilometres of hiking, mountain biking and OHV trails in the area.
The photo below reflects more the height of trees in the area than the colour. In fact during my time out west I saw very few red and orange trees that were almost drowned out by seas of yellow, brown and green.
And finally, we arrive at the third stop in the journey of the pen, the town of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. Rocky Mountain House has a long history dating back to 1799. According to Wikipedia “In September 1799, a group of Nor'Westers (North West Company employees) under John McDonald of Garth travelled upstream of Fort Augustus by canoe and horseback and established Rocky Mountain House.”
Rocky Mountain House has a population of about 13,000 and includes most of the amenities you need except there is no Walmart and only a limited number of international banking services. The town is almost industrial in nature and the area around the highway 11 stretch through the community constantly smells of exhaust so keep your window open a bit when you drive through. The Main Street of the town is rather unattractive following a streetscape remodelling in the past 5 years that included the construction of dismal concrete walls and a notable lack of vegetation or colour.
A little history, on December 10, 1799, France was the first country to adopt the metric system used by all countries in the world today except the United States, Burma and Liberia (and Trump says the US is a world leader, not in the metric system they are not). Rocky Mountain House did not actually become a firmly established town until 1912.
Alberta's biggest challenge is not their 'lack of history' but instead that they might have 'too much' history. So much of the settlement of the west and Alberta has been lost in time due the lack of sufficient records kept by explorers and settlers. As the next step of our pen's journey will take us out of Alberta I decided to mention the Historical Society of Alberta and their ongoing efforts to preserve the history of Alberta and Canada.
I separated this step of the journey into two parts so it isn't quite as long. The next part, or paragraph we'll say, is Rocky to Red Deer. I'll have it posted later tonight or tomorrow night. Until then let me know what you think by clicking in the comments below. If you don't see the comment section please click on the blog entry headline and it will appear with the refreshed page. Thank you, Kevin
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