Where to Embrace Nature in Alberta July 21, 2018 · 9 min. readWhile the thoughts and opinions are my own, this article was brought to you by a third party. Also, this article may contain affiliate links.
After a long, dark, frigid winter, Canadians love the few months of summer we get every year. Once the snow melts and the mud dries, we are out hiking, picnicking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, climbing and exploring this wonderful country of ours.
Of all the provinces to explore, Alberta ranks at the top of many adventurers' list. From hoodoos to waterfalls, mountains to valleys, deserts to tundra and everything in-between, Alberta offers any outdoorsman the perfect place to embrace nature.
If you're heading to Alberta to explore the great outdoors, you'll want to stop by Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. I have stopped in Cypress Hills several times over the past few years and I find it more and more beautiful every time I visit. Cypress Hills is a geological miracle, sitting right across the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and not too far from the border into Montana. Having been saved by the roving ice sheets that once tore through the area, Cypress Hills towers over the nearby landscape. It offers a wide variety of places to hike, bike, stand up paddle board, canoe, kayak and camp.
If you visit Cypress Hills, be sure to take the short drive up from Elkwater Lake to Head of the Mountain. Here you can see the northern hills of Montana, over 100 kilometres away. I made this trip a few years ago and was amazed by how far I could see!
A few hours away from Cypress Hills is Lethbridge. This bustling city was formed around a nearby river and lake, which provides a wide variety of aquatic sports and games. If you prefer to stay dry, however, Lethbridge also has plenty of hiking and biking paths available.
Like Cypress Hills, the terrain around Lethbridge is ridged and hilly, providing plenty of places to take in the nature. Lethbridge is also home to the Lethbridge Viaduct, a towering bridge that crosses the city from above. This bridge is perfect for a photoshoot, a hike or to sightsee while in the area. At over a century old, this bridge is an iconic representation of the ingenuity and determination of early Western settlers.
For nature enthusiasts. Crowsnest Pass is another sought after destination. Along this stretch of highway are communities sprinkled through the mountainous landscape. Decades ago, travelling to all of them in a single day would be daunting, but today it's a common occurrence. Thanks to e-cycles that can be picked up throughout the area, visitors can jump on a bike and travel the 23-kilometres of pathways that connect the communities.
While this area of the province has much to offer, two of the biggest highlights are the Bellevue Mine Tour – which takes you 300 metres deep into the old Bellevue mine – and the famous Frank Slide. Frank Slide is known throughout Western Canada as being the site as one of the largest natural disasters in Canadian history. In 1903 the nearby Turtle Mountain collapsed, and with it came 90 million tones of limestone down onto the community of Frank below. Today the town is an ocean of rocks and stone, a ghost of what once stood there.
Just south of the Crowsnest Pass is Alberta's newly designated provincial park, Castle Provincial Park. This park opened in 2017 with the purpose of being one of the most accessible parks in all of Canada. Often, provincial parks can be difficult to explore. Here in "flat Saskatchewan", for example, it isn't uncommon to find ropes and foot holds to help people climb up and down sharp drops in our parks. In Alberta that's even more extreme, and Castle Provincial Park strives to solve that problem. Throughout this park are a myriad of paths, roads and inclines all made as accessible as possible.
The park even has the first-of-its-kind "Icon Explore" e-trikes, which allow people with disabilities to explore the nature with their friends. It would also be handy for people like me, who can't ride a bike, to go biking with my family and friends.
The final place to explore nature this summer in southern Alberta is Waterton Lakes National Park. By itself, this park is stunning, being home to the iconic Prince of Wales Hotel. The mountains surrounding the hamlet of Waterton are easy to climb and offer several waterfalls to explore.
Having been to Waterton several times, I can talk all about the beauty of the region, but that isn't why the park made my list. Last year, the same year Castle Provincial Park was opening, Waterton was under siege by a roaring forest fire. It tore through the landscape, torching trees, jumping rivers and decimating communities. Thankfully, the hamlet of Waterton was saved. Today the park is regrowing, with young saplings appearing beneath the charred remains, and new plants emerging from the ashes. The determination of nature to always regrow and return is inspiring, and something we should all strive towards.
Ever since visiting the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg last summer, I've wanted to include more about First Nations culture on my blog. Being of European descent, I often feel I am culturally blind to First Nations culture, and I noticed a severe lack of it in my writing. In fact, I feel in past articles a lot of my focus has been on European history in the New World, with only a side note regarding First Nations history. Now, I am trying for there to be more equal representation in my blog.
To finish off my #BucketlistAB series, I thought this article would be the perfect place to flip the tables, and instead focus on First Nations culture, with a European side note. Sometimes it is impossible to talk about one without the other, but I tried to focus more on the First Nations people and their story in this article. Please let me know what you think in the comments below.
Imagine the bustling streets of New York, then times it by ten. Add a dash of Chinese culture, a wallop of nature and half dozen fish balls that don’t actually contain any fish, and you have the beautiful city that is Hong Kong.
At 7.2 million people, Hong Kong is a dynamic city with an incredible history, towering skyscrapers and a unique mix of English and Chinese that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. While Hong Kong has existed for a millennium, it was officially founded in 1842 to solidify a truce between Great Britain and the Qing dynasty of China during the First Opium War. A decade after the British took control of Hong Kong, the Black Death swept into China, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It would remain part of Hong Kong’s life for a century.
During World War II, Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese. For three years and eight months the British-Chinese culture of the city was destroyed, replaced with Japanese text, language and art. The booming city of 1.6 million people was slashed to only 600,000. Japanese occupation was incredibly harsh for the Hongkongese, being the darkest part of their history. Japan ceased occupation on August 6th, 1945, in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For forty-two more years, Hong Kong was controlled by the British, with the reunification between Hong Kong and mainland China finally occurring in 1997.
Most people know how to ride a bicycle. They learned sometime as a child and never forgot. I am not one of those people. I tried learning when I was a child, a teenager and an adult, and I have never mastered the two-wheel contraption. Whenever I see a child zip past me on a bike, I get a little jealous inside. I've always wanted to learn, but it's just something I've never been able to do.
On my recent trip to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Alberta, I explored several of the many biking paths that wind through the area. The paths are also hikable, so I walked them instead. Although I've visited Cypress Hills several times, I never get used to the hills and lakes throughout the area. With dozens of kilometres of trails, you can spend a weekend there and never do the same thing twice. Although hiking around the park was incredible, I imagine it would be a lot more fun, and a lot easier, to bike it instead.