Last week I had the good fortune to travel with my family to Southern Alberta. I had travelled there once before about fifteen years ago, but this was the first time I had been there with my children. The province of Alberta is significantly different from British Columbia, and there is a lot to see. Its geography is unlike BC’s, and, because of this difference, Alberta has something we seldom find here- dinosaur fossils. The good things about travelling within Canada are that you don’t need extra identification such as a passport, the people and services are familiar, and best of all, you can use Canadian money. All these benefits made the trip uncomplicated. While we were there, we went to three interesting places: The Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks and the premiere “Star Trek” museum in Canada, Trekcetera, in Vulcan.
After travelling the steep and winding highway through the Rockies and the rolling prairies from Calgary, we entered the ominously named Badlands. The Badlands was given its name by the European settlers who found the land difficult to cultivate or travel across. The First Nations respected the area with its unique geological formations and giant fossilized bones for its spiritual significance. The town of Drumheller is the home of the Tyrell Museum which showcases the variety of dinosaur fossils from the late Jurassic period, 75 million years ago and extinct invertebrates from the Precambrian period 500-300 million years ago. Admission for the family to this world class museum was only $30 and the parking was free! A trip to Drumheller is not complete until you visit the geologically unique “hoodoos” formed by the erosion of sandstone by the rains and winds that pass through. The “mauvais terre” are like nothing you will see here in BC.
Next on the itinerary was Dinosaur Provincial Park where many of the fossils in the museum originated. We took a guided tour of a small fraction of the park. I would recommend that you drench yourself in mosquito repellant and sunscreen before venturing among the hoodoos and sagebrush of this unforgiving environment. Within five minutes of stepping out of the car, I was bitten a half dozen times. At the same time the temperature was 37 degrees Celsius. It is difficult to imagine the effort required to haul out the stone and bones during the ”great dinosaur rush” of the early twentieth century. Each bone fragment needed to be meticulously prepared and carefully hauled by a team of horses over a solitary dirt road. Over five hundred dinosaurs have been excavated from the park.
In the evening, as we rested our feet by the pool and watched the television, we learned that down the road in the town of Vulcan a museum of another sort was having its grand opening. Being with two of the three biggest fans of the sci-fi television show “Star Trek” (Louise from Communications 12 being the third), we had no choice but to take a detour to the town with the same name as the home planet of Mr. Spock. For 29 years Vulcan has hosted “Spock Days” in on honour of the TV show. “Trekcetera”, Canada’s largest museum dedicated to the show was supposed to open during Spock Days in early June, but it was still under construction. Only divine intervention can explain why they waited until my in-laws, the biggest Star Trek fans in the galaxy, were in the neighbourhood. The museum boasts a formidable collection of costumes and props from the different Star Trek programs that have aired over the last five decades. My favourite piece was undoubtedly the costume worn by the cybernetic organism (cyborg) Seven-of-Nine. All I can say is robotics has come a long way in fifty years. If, by chance, you happen to end up in Vulcan, which is not easy to do, check out Trekcetera.
In my quick trip zigzagging Southern Alberta I enjoyed many great sites. If you want an interesting and relatively inexpensive “Staycation” I would recommend you travel to our neighbour across the Rockies. It may be a long drive, but it is worth every penny.
(August 11, 2013)
(Includes all 2002 to date Weekly Features with descriptions)