Friday, October 22, 2010

Western Canadian Geography Primer - or, how our Thanksgiving weekend went

I was chatting with an Marie, American friend of mine who has never been to western Canada, a couple of weeks ago and she was wondering where we had actually traveled over the Thanksgiving (Columbus Day) weekend. So I thought I'd post a map and a few web pages for those of you who have never been up this way. In total, we drove 2100km (1300 miles) in 6 days. (By the way, this map is not the greatest - it doesn't have the major towns on it, but some of the little villages are named. I guess they were working with available space for names on the map, not size of community - but it gives you an idea).

We live in Wetaskiwin, Alberta ( because my husband is currently the Acting Director, but normally the Head of Curatorial at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum ( On our first day of travel (in orange on the map), Noel drove me to a meeting in Lacombe (, then drove back home to pick up Daniel and then the two of them picked me up and we headed to Calgary (through Red Deer, which is the major city between Edmonton and Calgary, and Airdrie and a number of small communities). For those of you who don't know, both Edmonton ( and Calgary ( are major cities of over 1,000,000 people. Edmonton is the capital of Alberta, while Calgary is the economic centre.

On day two (purple) we drove from Calgary to the Thomson Region of BC. To get there, you take the Trans-Canada highway - our pride and joy - the road that connects the east coast to the west. which is, at times, a two-lane road. Although that is changing now. Leaving Calgary you're immediately in the foothills, and soon find yourself in the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains ( I don't think anyone can drive through this area and not be overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. When I was 17 and just out of high school, I went to Europe on an exchange. Part of the trip included a journey through the Swiss Alps. I was really looking forward to see these amazing mountains, but when I got there I felt like I was in BC. I had spent nearly 20 years on the planet, living in very close proximity to one of the great mountain ranges in the world, and didn't really appreciate how special it was until I travelled to the other side of the world.

We drove through Canmore (, Lake Louise, Field, Golden (, The Rogers Pass (, Revelstoke ( and on to Sicamous (, Salmon Arm (, and then to Adams Lake. After Adams Lake, we went to Armstrong to visit my parents ( - OMG I have to really laugh at this. If you go to the Armstrong page, the first thing you see is a picture of a bunch of really happy people (city council, I presume??) standing around a pool, under the link for "BC's First Avian Case of West Nile Virus" - it looks like they are really happy for the publicity.

Day three (green) took us back through Sicamous, Revelstoke, The Rogers Pass and Golden, at which point we turned south. But between Sicamous and Revelstoke is a quirky little roadside attraction that we just had to stop at. The Enchanted Forest ( was started in the 1950s by Doris Needham - a woman who had a driving need to make little fairy tale figurines. Her compulsion lead to a charming little amble through the woods. A whole host of non-branded interpretations of the classic fairy tales. It was a staple when I was a kid, and they add a little to it every year. I would recommend it to anyone with kids under 8. I think Daniel is about at the stage to outgrow it. This trip through this time was much faster than the last one two years ago.

So, south of Golden you drive down the Columbia River Valley through Radium (where the famous hot springs are:, Invermere and down to Cranbrook ( where Noel and I lived when we met. I was there for 4 years before we moved to Calgary.

We spent two days in Cranbrook and then on day 6 headed back home to Wetaskiwin (blue on the map). We went through the Crowsnest pass, through Fernie (, Sparwood (, all the little communities of the Crowsnest Pass (, past the Frank Slide ( and the wind turbines at Cowley Ridge ( Then north through the stretch that has the fewest communities. You drive for over 100km without any services at all. Eventually you get to the very small community of Longview and then to Okotoks which is home to one of the greenest communities in Canada ( Then to Calgary and home.

So that was our jaunt through western Canada. 2100km of family driving fun. It's worth it just for the amazing scenery. I wouldn't suggest taking the drive in the winter (really October through April - although we were lucky, it was warm and we had no snow), but in the summer it can't be beat!
There you go, Marie. Hope you get a chance to read this.


  1. Very fun post to read, Sandi, though I have to say, I'm 34 and still haven't outgrown the Enchanted Forest. :)

  2. I know, but there's going to have to be a stretch between maybe 8 and 20 when it just won't be cool to go there.

  3. Hey Sandi-I'm honored! (or should I say honoured?) Very cool, especially the map & the links. Gives me a much better idea of your neck of the woods. Thanks so much for the effort! As I'm sure you figured, I would have read this sooner, but we were away. Keep 'er up, I like your blog. We agree about a lot of things....


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