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Big Skies, Badlands, and the Open Plains of Canada

Posted on July 6, 2022

It’s been a long time since I was in the Prairies. I used to go to Winnipeg a lot for work (in a former life). I actually spent so much time there that I even had an apartment there. So naturally I would make a point to spend a couple nights there while heading west to the Pacific Ocean.

The Forks – Winnipeg, MB

I never really spent any time visiting The Forks, so this time it was a focus for me. It was here that I realized that as good as the camera is on my phone, it just didn’t have the range of features that I wanted going forward. So after visiting a couple pawn shops and being very disappointed, I stopped into a proper camera store and picked up a new Canon and a zoom lens. Most of the wildlife that I would encounter on this trip would not take kindly to me getting close enough to get a good picture, and I’m not stupid, so a simple zoom lens would help a lot with capturing some wildlife photos without putting myself in danger, or disrespecting the wildlife in general.

If you’re an aviation fan, make a point of stopping in at the Royal Aviation Museum located right beside the airport. It’s worth it! Going inside a vintage Air Canada plane was a real treat. Stay tuned for another video featuring the museum!

After a couple nights in Winnipeg, it was time to press on westward along HWY 1 (aka The Trans-Canada Highway) towards Saskatchewan. Now saying the Prairies is flat and barren is a bit of an understatement. Just don’t say “There’s nothing to see” to the locals. They’ve heard it all before, so try and be original and come up with something else. Haha

I decided to bypass the city of Regina because there’s nothing to…ahem. Anyway…moving on. Moose Jaw! Now here’s a small town that’s also flat but hey…they have Mac! Mac the Moose is the largest Moose in Canada and a neat roadside feature worth stopping to see. If you’re an aviation fan, there is also one of the SnowBirds jets on display there too.

After spending the night in a small town called Brooks, it was time to check off a Bucket List item…it was time to visit Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta.

Dinosaur PP is where over 60 species of dinosaurs have been discovered with more being unearthed nearly every year from the natural process of erosion. Being in this place with it’s truly amazing looking geology is nothing short of breathtaking. You can’t help but have this other-worldly feeling about the place as you stand in a spot rich with history from millions of years ago.

Next it was to Drumheller to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum where fossils are processed and studied. It’s at this facility where more has been learned about the late Cretaceous period than anywhere else in the world. There are an almost countless number of fossils on display (some are replicas cast from the originals though). The displays range from as recently as the Mammoth from 4000yrs ago, and other creatures back to over 400million years ago. This is what the Alberta Badlands is famous for and it didn’t disappoint. If you ever get the chance to check this place out…make it a priority.

This is when psychologically things started to change for me. Up until the Badlands, the drive just felt…repetitive. Hour after hour of the same view…vast, flat openness. So after being blown away by the scenery of the Badlands and seeing all the exhibits in the museum, and now Calgary, this is when the trip started taking on a different feel. Also known as Texas North, because it’s known for the whole Country Western theme, Calgary was a turning point and time for some shopping! Although a cliché, I figured when in Rome…

The best place to buy a proper Cowboy hat in Calgary is a shop called Smithbilt’s. This is their specialty and the official provider of Cowboy hats to the Calgary Police, so if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. Once you select a colour, you then have to decide on a shape/style, and brim width. They do all the customization right there in front of you. Check out my YouTube video of my hat being specially crafted just for me.

After that it was a trip to Lammle’s Western Wear which specializes in, you guessed it…country western clothes. Now I haven’t had a proper pair of Cowboy boots in decades so it was time for a new pair and some authentic Wrangler jeans and a new belt to finish off the look. Generally speaking, Cowboy boots have never been known as being the most comfortable of footwear and they really aren’t made for walking in. Not for long distances anyway. Fortunately for me, and my soft baby-like feet, the very first pair I tried on utilized some very modern technology and I found them far more comfortable than the other pairs that I tried. When all was said and done, the Cowboy conversion was complete and I must say, the Cowboy look suits me well. Actually…Calgary as a whole suits me well and it’s a place that I could see myself living in.

The biggest event of the year here is the Calgary Stampede, It was starting in just 10 days but my schedule didn’t allow for me to hang around for it, nor did it allow for me to return in time for it. This wasn’t on my list of things to do though, but it is now so one day I’ll make a point to return to Calgary to witness this event in person. I’ll be sure to wear my new boots and hat!

Calgary is the last stop in the Great Plains region known as the Canadian Prairies. Just 30min after leaving the city westward, off in the distance, the hazy outline of mountains began to come into view.

The Rocky Mountains were on the horizon.

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