Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump has element of surprise for humans and buffalo.
Just like the buffalo from thousands of years ago, you'll be hard-pressed to see Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site until you are on the doorstep. For you, its because the award-winning building is tucked under the cliff. For the buffalo, it was a sad fate, but that same cliff was what the First Nations people depended on for survival. A visit to Head Smashed In is another must-do on your #BucketListAB adventures.
In Blackfoot the centre is called "Estpah-skikikini-kots" but to make it easy we'll just say Head Smashed In. The history behind the name dates back thousands of years to when a young Blackfoot wanted to watch the buffalo plunge off the cliff. He hid below the cliff not thinking about what could be the outcome of his decision. He was found crushed under the pile of buffalo.
Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump is one of many historical sites in southern Alberta that you can visit on the same excursion. Check the Alberta History website to learn about Leitch Collieries, the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre and the Remington Carriage Museum. Or visit the full version of this story on the SnowSeekers website.
Telling of the legends, folklore and history
Inside the centre, the story of life on the prairie unfolds, following the nomadic life of the First Nations. The presentations start on the top floor displaying how First Nations people survived though thousands of years with only their skills, strength and spiritual beliefs. As you descend through the levels, you move with time until you are standing under the trio of buffalo that dominate the cliff inside the building. Below them is a replica of the archaeological digs that uncovered the past hidden in the soil beneath our feet.
"I like to call the buffalo a "Four-legged Walmart," says Quinton CrowShoe, Marketing and Special Events Coordinator at Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. Crowshoe is a direct descendant of those people that followed the herds. "Our ancestors used almost every part of the buffalo to survive."
Be one with the buffalo
The Piskun program is very popular experience Mondays and Fridays throughout July and August. The three-hour immersive experience not only tells guests about buffalo hunting, it has them experience it for themselves. Right from the traditional Blackfoot blessing where sweet grass is burned to learning to use an ancient spear thrower to tasting dried buffalo meat; the guests are involved. They participate in a mini buffalo jumping, re-enacting roles from buffalo runners to driving buffalo (people get to be buffalo too) to spearing the animal (no, you don't really spear anyone!). Not only is it educational, it's a fun experience for the entire family.
Other special events are held throughout the summer including hikes to the drive lanes where you can see the Rocky Mountains to the west and well, forever to the east. Geocaching, drumming and dancing events, and harvest celebrations are also held. Check the full line of events on the official site here.
Head Smashed In is open year-round, and here's a hint - the quiet winter is the perfect time to slow down and absorb it all. Interpreters from the Blackfoot Nation have wonderful stories that have been passed on through generations.
Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site is 160 km south of Calgary on highway 2. Watch for the giant metal buffalo sign at Highway 785. Turn west and in 16 km you will still be looking for the building, but it's there hidden in the cliffs.
Snowseekers.ca is an excellent source of other destinations, festivals and events in Western Canada.
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
Last week Ford Canada flew my sister Krystal and I out to Prince Edward Island to take part in their Cross-Canada #FordEcoSport Tour. We were only the fifth of fifteen groups that will take part in the tour, so be sure to follow the hashtag to see what everybody is getting up to as well.
Our section of the tour was probably one of the longest in the program, as we had to drive from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to Saint John, New Brunswick, then to Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec and ending in Quebec City. The whole distance is about 1,020 kilometres, which is about 10 hours of driving, assuming we didn't stop to see anything along the way.
Canada's 150th birthday cannot be complete without visiting the country's capital city... but which one should you visit? While Ottawa is the current capital of Canada, there have been four other capital cities, and it has changed seven times. It started in Kingston (1841 – 1844) and then moved to Montréal (1844 – 1849), believing it to be safer from the Americans. After the citizens of Montréal burnt it down, it rotated between Toronto (1849 – 1852 and 1856 – 1858) and Québec City (1852 – 1856 and 1859 – 1866). Finally, it was placed right on the border between the two provinces in Ottawa (1866 to present day). This tour ventures into each of these five cities and explores what makes them so unique.
Since the capital flip-flopped location seven times, it would be much more convenient to go through the cities geographically then historically. If we started in the West, we would start in Toronto, Ontario, Canada's biggest city. While G Adventures only mentions the CN Tower and Kensington Market, there is much more to see in this city. You could visit the 18th century Casa Loma Castle, stroll through the artistic Graffiti Alley, visit Ripley's Aquatic Aquarium, or go drink and dine in the Distillery District. Looking for more outdoorsy stuff? Check out the Toronto Islands, the famous High Park or the Toronto Zoo. You can even take a boat out onto Lake Ontario and see the city's iconic skyline!