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Thursday, 18 July 2013

Red Deer River Journey - Part Ten


“The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.” - Charles Kuralt
prickly pear cactus
Drumheller was once a coal mining community and still remains a business hub in this region. It supports the agriculture and booming oil and gas industries, as well as being what has become a major tourist destination. This section of the valley is what most Albertans and visitors picture when they think of the Red Deer River. Tourists descend into the valley on highway nine and visit the famous “Hoodoos” and Royal Tyrrell Museum.

I began searching for a place where I could beach my canoe, while I drifted through town. I spotted a potential boat launch next to a motel and I pulled in and tied up my canoe. It turned out to be part of a privately owned oilfield company’s property, but it was the last possible place I could have stopped, so I walked through the yard and over to the hotel. After I checked into my room, I began the arduous task of unloading all of my goods from the canoe and transporting them through the yard of the oilfield company, up the street and over to my hotel room. It was hot and tiresome work and I noticed people watching me and wondering what on earth I was up to. Finally it was down to the canoe and this was the part I was dreading the most. I planned on lifting the canoe over my head and portaging it over to the hotel. This was something I hadn’t attempted to do since I was in Sundre and I was a lot more tired by this point.

Finally someone came over from the oilfield company to ask me what I was up to. I explained my circumstances to him. He told me to wait by the canoe and said he would be back in a little bit. After several minutes he reappeared, driving a tractor/forklift. He lifted my canoe out of the river and carried it across the yard and over to the front of his business, where he allowed me to chain it to his sign. I thanked him for his help and went back to my room and crashed onto the bed in a heap.

One of the greatest surprises for me was the generosity of my friends and many strangers that I had met along the way. Even though my journey down the Red Deer River was a solo effort, I would have never managed to get very far without the help of others. I found total strangers were constantly wishing me luck, giving me words of encouragement and helping me along the way. This is one of the main lessons that I learned from my trip. There are a lot of good people in the world. It’s something I had forgotten and this regained belief has affected my outlook ever since. I did expect to learn some things from my adventure, but perhaps this was the most important thing of all.

I spent the next day taking it easy and wandering around Drumheller. The place was packed with tourists. Children paddled in the fountains next to the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus Rex, trying to beat the heat. It’s impossible to escape the ubiquitous dinosaurs. Their statues litter the sidewalks and most of the businesses have a depiction of, or a name referring to the prehistoric beasts. I even saw a “Dalmatian-osaurus” in front of the fire hall. Perhaps it’s overkill, but I think most Drumheller residents regard the prehistoric theme in a spirit of fun.

The Last Day

“A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pin cushion cactus in bloom
A good friend arrived from Calgary to canoe the next stretch of the river with me. We sat up late into that warm summer’s evening, talking and drinking next to the water. The next day, with the help of a taxicab, we arranged to canoe from Newcastle Beach downstream to East Coulee. Circumstances dictated that this would be the last day of my journey. We had an enjoyable time as we canoed together out of Drumheller, under the footbridge at Rosedale and past the hoodoos.

The hoodoos are formed when the umbrella of a hard cap rock protects the softer clay underneath it from the forces of erosion. Other than Lake Louise, these mushroom shaped formations are probably the most photographed scene in the Province of Alberta. This small area is one of the most well known and heavily visited spots in the prairies.

My friend caught her first goldeye on the way to our destination. I should have brought her with me the whole way. She really knew how to paddle and was very energetic. Soon enough we could see the Atlas Coal Mine on the south bank and we knew we were drawing close to the East Coulee bridge. We hauled the Prospector out of the river and put it on top of her Jeep Cherokee and we were off. My trip was over. Or so I thought at the time...

1 comment:

  1. So it's not only the river we learn about but the people on the river. I often wonder if you were five miles off the river and talked to the people who live in that area, what would you learn.