Day 87 – September 1 – Medicine Hat, AB (Cypress Hills – West)

We had driven through the eastern side of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park yesterday on the way to Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan. Today we drove the western Alberta side, although we crossed into Saskatchewan again as we drove through the park to go to the Conglomerate Cliffs.

Elkwater Lake

The marina at the town of Elkwater.

The beach at the town of Elkwater.

As we were having dinner last night I looked out the restaurant window and noticed a very familiar mauve/grey haze in the sky. I said to John that it looked very much like forest fire smoke. When we woke up this morning we discovered I had been correct and Medicine Hat was very smoky. We drove through smoke about half the way to the cliffs. The smoke covered a lot of the distance at this viewpoint, which normally allows you to see into Saskatchewan.

Reesor Lake was created when a dam was constructed at the valley end where two small lakes were located. It is a managed rainbow trout fishery.

The Conglomerate Cliffs are at the end of about 40 km of primarily gravel road. We could have seen them yesterday by driving 10 km out of Fort Walsh and then taking another road about 10 km to the cliffs. We didn’t think of it so today we drove up through the trees on the Alberta side, across the very flat plateau and over to the cliff and the view over the Battle Creak Valley.

Battle Creek Valley and Adams Creek.

I was happy that this area was not smokey. The view was pretty amazing. Someone told us the smoke was coming from fires in Oregon.

We ate our lunch at the cliff top and then headed back toward Elkwater via the loop road across the plateau again and exited the park.

Our second planned stop for the day was the small community of Etzikom, population about 32-40. I had read in my CAA guide book that they have a windmill museum and wanted to check it out. The museum is located in an old school that was going to be torn down because it was no longer being used even though it was structually sound. A ‘heritage group’ formed and turned it into a museum with different displays in each of the classrooms.

The stage area in the gym was dedicated to a lady’s doll collection that was given to the museum after she passed away. All three walls were full of beautiful dolls.

I didn’t get a good photo of all the Holiday Barbie dolls. I think she bought every one that came out and they were all still in their original boxes.

The old gymnasium was a heritage display with blacksmith area, mercantile, school room, and a two-room ‘house.’

There was a basket of potatoes in the mercantile.

They had been made out of old nylon stockings. Very realistic looking spuds they were too.

One of the classrooms had partitions to create rooms of a house.

Another classroom was the wildlife exhibit with many birds and animals of the Alberta plains.

Cypress Hills is cougar country. Just like at Grasslands where they warned you what to do if confronted by a bison or rattlesnake there were instructions about what to do if you encounter a cougar. Running was not one of the suggested responses. Make yourself big and intimidating, use your bear spray and if attacked fight back. My tactic would be to not go hiking in cougar country.

There was a display of First Nations artifacts, and a geology display with rocks and minerals, and a paleantology display with fossils found in the area. There was also a room full of organs and pianos, accordians, a concertina and old record players with 78 RPM records.

Once we had viewed all the classroom displays we went outside to see the windmills. A historian named Walter J. Webb said, “It wasn’t the gun that settled the west – it was the windmill.” Before the introduction of windmills for pumping water, much of the west was barely habitable. Early settlement on the windswept plains was confined to areas which possessed springs, streams or shallow groundwater. The upland areas were unoccupied until windmills and mechanically drilled wells tapped the resources of the unidentified groundwater.

Windmills have all but disappeared now, but in the late 1800s and early 1900s they could be found on almost farm and in every town.

This mill – called the “Wild Rose Mill” was designed and built for a museum on a vineyard in Massachusetts. In 1993 the owners gifted it to the Canadian National Historic Windpower Museum in Etzikom, Alberta.

The Leduc-Blacksmith windmill was produced in limited numbers in a blacksmith shop in Leduc and they were only used in that area.

The pyramid shaped one on the left is the “New Ideal” power mill. It was manufactured in Brandford, Ontario from the 1890s to the 1920s. It is also a post mill – the windmill itself is mounted on a center post and the building was built around it primarily to keep dry the grain that was stored in the hopper inside. This mill also ran a stone sharpener, a saw, a washing machine, etc.

There were about six or seven windmills that all looked the same to us but were in fact different models manufactured by different companies. The only real difference we could see was the counter-weights.

The one above was The Monitor (Vaneless), one of the most common vaneless mills. It is recognized by the distinctive ‘football’ shaped cement counter-weight. The name “Monitor” is after the shape of the counter-weight. It resembles the first submarine used during the American Civil War – the USS Monitor. They were made from 1918 to 1940.

The Dempster No. 14 was the last vaneless windmill produced by Dempster Mill Manufacting Company of Beatrice, Nebraska. It was produced from 1923 to 1941. These mills may often be found ‘defaced’ with the ‘horse-shaped’ counter-weights pirated by windmill weight collectors. (Who knew that hobby even existed?)

Same sort of windmill, different counter-weight, different manufacturer. The Challenge Spearpoint came on the marked in 1912 and was sold until 1920. It was made by the Challenge Company and was a self-oiling vaneless.

The Boss was one of the more common mills made in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s Bull counter-weight stands proudly with his nose always pointed toward the wind.

St. Savior’s Anglican Church. Build in Foremost in 1914 and moved to Etzikom in 1990.

We left the museum at closing time and drove back to Medicine Hat to find dinner and settle in for the night.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.