Canada: Coast to Coast – The Prairies

“I think Canadians just do what needs to be done.” – Melissa, Kamloops

There’s an old joke that “the prairies are so flat, you can watch your dog run away from home for three days!”  I’m not so sure about that, but you can certainly see the weather for hundreds of miles!  I woke to sunshine but that wouldn’t last.  Overhead were cotton candy clouds on a pastel sky, the highway surrounded by hectares of brown fields as far as the eye could see, still too early for the crops to break the surface.  To the east, ominous black clouds hovered on the horizon.  I would be driving into weather but t would take two days to reach it!

Brooks Aquaduct

Leaving Drumheller, I continued along the Red River Valley to the aquaduct in Brooks, Alberta.  Again, I see how the railway has been prominent in the development of the country.  Built between 1912 and 1914 by the irrigation department of CP Rail, it brought water to 50,000 acres of land in southeastern British Columbia that would have otherwise been susceptible to drought.  The largest concrete structure in the world at the time, the aquaduct allowed for settlement in the area, promoted by the Railway that owned much of the surrounding land.  The structure remains as a National Historic Site, though new canals have been built since.

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Brooks Aquaduct

World’s Tallest Tepee

My little car buffetted by the northern winds crossing the prairie lands and at risk of being blown away every time I step out of my car, I make my way further east.

Seen from the highway as you enter Medicine Hat, the Saamis Tepee was originally built for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics in honour of First Nations heritage.  The tepee was moved to Medicine Hat in 1991.  Each of the story boards, shaped like a drum head, reflect the culture and history of the plains indians, including the Cree, Blackfoot, Ojibwa, Assiniboin and Stoney.  The tepee overlooks the Saamis archeological site, once a buffalo camp and meat processing centre, buffalo having been a staple food for the plains indians.

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Saamis Tepee

The panel below shows the five Chiefs who signed Treaty #7 between the Government of Canada and the Blackfoot Confederacy and a number of Stoney Indians, after vigorous debate of the terms of the agreement.

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Signing of Treaty #7

I can’t help thinking of my favourite Canada road trip movie, “One Week”, as I stand underneath the 20 story structure.  I’m a little more impressed than the main character in the movie was!

Moose Jaw Murals

Normally if you catch me wandering alleys with my camera, I’m looking for graffiti and street art.  But I’m in Moose Jaw and on the hunt for any of the 46 murals painted on the buildings downtown (feature image).  The murals depict the history and culture of the town, as well as honours the first responders and the pilots who train at the Canadian Forces facility nearby.

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A Fireman’s Prayer

In honour of Canada’s 150th, the Mosaic Mural project is creating 150 murals in every province and territory that, if put together, would create a mosaic over 365 meters wide and 2 1/2 meters wide.  Moose Jaw has participated and their mosaic is located on the side of the Visitor’s Centre dedicated to the RCAF Snowbirds whose base is in Moose Jaw.

Before leaving Moose Jaw, I stopped in at the farmer’s market for it’s seasonal opening day.  The small market positioned by Central Park, promotes local producers and I pick up a bottle of strawberry meade (honey wine) made at the Prairie Bee Meadery.  Not too sweet, not too dry, just perfect for sharing with a couple from Kamloops at an overnight along the road!

It was there I also met Keri and Sarah from Green Sister Gardens, an organic and bicycle-powered urban garden initiative. In a region dominated by large, commercial grain farms, the company stands out as a low-cost alternative to sustainable food production.  Established in 2012, the company began acquiring the use of front and back yards to develop urban gardens in the town of Medicine Hat.  In return, the land owners are provided fresh produce during the growing season.  The produce is sold at the farmer’s market, in small shops in town and local restaurants, delivered primarily on bicycle to reduce the carbon footprint.  If you’re in Medicine Hat on a Saturday morning, stop by and try out their sprouts!

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Green Sisters Gardens

The road across the prairies can seem long with the endless sky and miles of unbroken fields, but there is a simple beauty is the minimalism of the prairie lands.  And in the innovation of its people.

 

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