Monday, 22 June 2015

On The Cowboy Trail

It was a good day yesterday. Not only did my daughter give birth to a grandson for me, but I managed to escape the prison that is my apartment without the elevator. We are on the road again, our goal this time being Inuvik and Alaska. Katherine has never seen the north, nor the midnight sun. It will be an adventure once again!

Our path yesterday took us west out of Calgary and up Alberta Highway 22, also known as the Cowboy Trail. The trail stretches from the Crow's Nest Highway to the south all the way to Mayerthorpe, Alberta in the north. As the name implies, it slices and curves its way through ranch and farmlands for the full length.

From the Crow's Nest north, the highway is one long ribbon, winding its way through the Porcupine hills, along the eastern edge of the Rockie Mountains. These great peaks are visible beside you for most of the way. Then, as it nears Calgary, the texture of the highway changes, from a swooping, curve through bare foothills it comes to a sudden stop at Highway 22X, the crossroad into Calgary. At this junction the Cowboy Trail assumes its new character, a slice and dice of long straight sections that run for many miles, each interrupted by a solid jog westward to keep the trail in the foothills instead of veering off into prairie.

The terrain itself remains hilly, but there are trees in the northern section, especially once you get past Cochrane and Cremona. Each of the jogs at the end of a straight stretch takes you through a small town, places like Sundre, Caroline, Rocky Mountain House, and Drayton Valley. These jogs cut into the forest, those forests becoming thicker and more prevalent the further north you go. Oh, there are still plenty of farms and ranches, oil works too, but the forests become the dominant feature as you move towards the end of the trail.

Mayerthorpe, at the top end of the trail, is the site of one of Canada's RCMP tragedies, a place where four Mounties were senselessly murdered by an angry man with a rifle and plenty of ammunition. The town hosts a memorial to these Fallen Four. We took the time to visit, and to remember these men, and the other men and women who have died serving their communities.

From Mayerthorpe it's a short jog down Highway 43 to Whitecourt, another town focused around logging, oil, and farming. It's where we ended our day. Today we are onward to Dawson Creek, BC, the start of the Alaska Highway.

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