Day 14 – June 20 – North Battleford, SK to Saskatoon, SK

We planned to visit the North Battleford Historic Site. That is why we came to North Battleford. Unfortunately it is only open from Wednesday to Sunday. The only other thing I thought we may go visit was the Western Development Museum. There are four of them in Saskatchewan, each one with a different theme. The North Battleford one was farm equipment. Since John and I both grew up on farms and we have toured quite a few museums with farm equipment we were pretty sure there would be no surprises there, so we went to the Visitor Center to see if there was something else. Turns out the Visitor Center is located in the Fred Light Museum which I had written down to check out but could not really find a lot of info on when I was looking at things to see and do in North Battlford.

The museum is housed in the former St. Vital Public Catholic School. The first building was erected in 1887 but by 1911 a larger buidling was needed. Fred Light was the son of a pioneer Mounted Police family of old Battleford. He was always very involved in the preservation and restoration of western historic artifacts and amassed one of the most comprehensive collections of firearms in Western Canada.

Because the buiding was once a school, the collections are displayed by themes in each room. There was the Battleford Room, an Old General Store room, a School Room, a Veterans Room, Gasoline Alley and the Gun Room,

Notice the painting of the young girl on the base of the lamp in the middle.

It is a lot easier to buy your butter from the store than to have to make it with these things.

Look, some of these are BC Okanagan apple boxes.

A painting of the Battle of Batouche which took place north of Saskatoon during the 1885 Rebellion.

Northwest Mounted Police patrol wagon.

The Veterans Room had one of the most impressive displays of uniforms I have ever seen. All branches of the military from WWI and WWII and the 1885 Rebellion were beautifully displayed. There was a wall-length cabinet of military badges that a fellow had collected and donated! Hundreds of them. It was really impressive

The most impressive room, though, was the Gun Room. Display case after display case of rifles, ammunition, revolvers; even one of swords, sabers and knives.

The cannon is a working model.

I think these may have been the oldest firearms in the collection. They are, from top to bottom: Portuguese Matchlock. Circa 1600’s. Belgian Flintlock, 64 caliber, 1762. London Cap and Ball, 64 caliber, 1762. Arabian Snaphaunce, 50 caliber, 1700. Virginian Squirrel, 38 caliber, circa 1830. And a Japanese Matchlock, 50 caliber, 1645.

After we left the museum we did a geocache Adventure Lab that took us to some of Battleford’s historic buildings.

The Town Hall and Opera House was completed in 1912 for a final cost of $40,000.

The Post Office is the second longest continuously run post office in Canada and the oldest post office in Saskatchewan. It was constructed in 1911. The town clock was installed in 1914. In 1987 Canada Post issued a 72 cent stamp to commemorate the heritage value of Battleford Post Office.

The Court House was built in 1907. It is still used by the community in its orginal role. The Court House is connected to the former Land Titles Building, also constructed in 1907, which is now a Municipal Heritage Building.

The final building was on a hill out of town. It was the Land Registery Office constructed in 1877.

As we were driving back down the hill to rejoin the highway and head to Saskatoon, John saw a sign for The Ridge and thought it was maybe a housing area so he turned off and went to see what was there. Turns out it was the original site of another historical building – Government House.

Government House. Between 1877 and 1883 the North West Territory, an area then comprising over two-thirds of Canada, was administered from this location. The building contained offices and chambers of the territorial council as well as the eight-room residence of the Lieutenant-Governor. It was damaged and looted during the 1885 Rebellion when it was the base of militia operations. After the territorial government was moved to Regina the building became one of Canada’s first Industrial Schools. The school was closed in 1914 due to increasing operating costs and the growing doubts over the wisdom of having off-reservation education. The Seventh Day Adventist Church rented it for $5 per year but had to do all the maintenance and renovations. They did extensive additions including a third story. The academy taught Grades 1-12 and closed in 1931. The remaining years were spent in the care of Oblate priests who bought it in 1931 and turned it into a seminary and St. Thomas College for Grades 9-12. By 1972 it was reaching the end of its useful lifetime and the order built a new seminary building on the property. The Old Government House burned to the ground in a vandal-caused fire June 7, 2003.

It rained off and on all the way to Saskatoon. We only stopped to have our lunch, find a couple of geocaches, and do a short tour around the town of Biggar. Love their town motto.

We did not drive this road today. We found a geocache at the turnoff and in the description for the cache it said to drive a little further and you would have a nice view of the road going south. And we did.

We arrived in Saskatoon at four, checked into our hotel, sorted a few photos and went for dinner at the hotel’s Irish Pub. (Sadly for John, they did not have Guiness on tap and he had to settle for a bottle. He was a bit disgusted that it wasn’t served in a Guiness glass though – it was a Kokanee glass.) After we had finished eating the sun came out. Our hotel is right across the road from the lovely, long Kiwanis Memorial Park that stretches along the South Saskatchewan River.

The Delta by Marriott Bessborough Hotel. The 10-story Bessborough opened in 1931. It was built for Canadian National Hotels, a division of Canadian National Railway and is considered one of Canada’s grand railway hotels.

University Bridge across the South Saskatchewan River.

Tomorrow we see some sights in Saskatoon.

Day 13 – June 19 – Cold Lake, AB to North Battleford, SK

We left Cold Lake under sunny skies at 10:20 this morning and arrived at our hotel in North Battleford at 6:20. It is normally about a 3 hour drive from one place to the other and we really did not intend to take as long as we did to reach our destination. We just ended up wandering around some back roads trying to find the road to the historic Fort George & Buckinghmam House fur trading forts.

I had a route planned to follow today, but I looked closer at one of my map books and saw two historical sites that were not a large distance out of our way and since we had lots of time we decided to go with Plan B and check them out. So instead of heading due east out of Cold Lake we headed SW to Bonnyville. From there we were to take one of the numerous Range Roads that criss-cross the prairies and get to the location of the forts. Sadly our maps were not detailed enough and the Alberta Government seems to think everyone knows where all the roads lead so has not posted very good, if any, directional signs at intersections.

But we were not terribly put out as this was to be a backroads type of trip anyway, we just did not plan to see quite as many of them today as we did.

There are sizable lakes and ponds all over the place in these parts of northern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

John saw this patch of white fluff and turned the truck around so we could get a photo of it. I don’t know what the plant is, but it certainly had a lot of seeds to blow in the wind.

We finally found our way to the forts and walked through the interpretive center before following the path to the former sites of the forts run by the North West Company (French) and the Hudson’s Bay Company (British).

There was lots of interesting information on the placards in the interpretive center but I have chosen only the ones that talk about the fur trading and left off all the descriptions of the forts, etc. Not nearly so many information pics today. (Thank goodness you all say.)

In 1792 North West Company and Hudson’s Bay Company pushed the fur trade west along the North Saskatchewan River and built competing forts at this site.

Beaver pelts were used as currency during the fur trade years. Goods were traded by value according to the number of beaver pelts it took to purchase them. If you have ever seen one of the famous Hudson’s Bay blankets you may have noticed some lines extending in from the edge of the upper corner. Whatever number of lines are stitched into it tells the number of beaver pelts you would need to trade to buy that blanket.

It was a nice walk through the woods to the site of Fort George. It was quite a bit larger than the Hudson’s Bay’s Buckingham House fort. The forts were major trading centers for about 8 years. Fort George was abandoned in 1802 and burned to the ground sometime before 1809. There have been extensive archaeological digs at both sites.

The two forts were only about 500 meters from one another and in between they built what they called “The Plantation”, where they erected tepees to provide lodging for the aboriginal traders to stay in while conducting business at the forts.

The Buckingham House site had a large patch of wild strawberries and there were quite a few ripe ones so we enjoyed a nice treat.

The Alberta Provincial flower – the wild rose.


Canada Mayflower. This may be a delicate, small blossom but the perfume in the air was lovely as you walked past the patch on the trail.

We made a short stop to find an Earthcache at the Windsor Salt Works near Lindbergh. The informatin on the Earthcache said: “Most of the Windsor-brand table salt that we use to season our food is actually not mined in Windsor, ON, but in Lindbergh, Alberta. This mine produces about 400 tonnes of rock salt per day.

In 1946 companies drilling for oil and gas accidently discovered a thick bed of rock salt. The deposit is located 1100 meters below the plant. They draw nine million liters of water per day from the North Saskatchewan River and then pump it down wells to the salt beds. The water warms as it descends, dissolves the salt and is then pumped up another well. Each 10 liters of water carries over 2.75 kilograms of salt, which is pumped into large pans and steam-heated in evaporators until 99.8 per cent pure salt is left. The Windsor company believes there is enough salt beneath Lindbergh to last another 2000 years.”

There was a pretty little creek that ran on both sides of the road where we stopped to find the Earthcache.

There were two lovely herons at the creek. I didn’t get a picture of either of them, but John got this nice shot of one.

This fake eagle was atop a very high pole beside the road. No idea why there would be a need to do this, but there must be one. It would not have been cheap or easy to erect this.

All our wandering around today even had us back on gravel roads for awhile.

All Saints Anglican Church that was not near any town.

Our last stop of the day was at a National Park’s Historic Site that marked the last battle of the 1885 Rebellion.

It was a longer day than we had planned and we spent much longer on the road than we expected but none-the-less we enjoyed ourselves. Tomorrow we will tour the North Battleford Historic Site and then head south to Saskatoon. We had planned to visit Saskatoon on our drive across Canada in 2014 but there was a big music festival going on and there were no hotel rooms available. We decided to venture a bit southward on this trip to see some of the things we wanted to see in 2014, and then will head north again to Prince Albert in a couple of days.

Day 12 – June 18 – Cold Lake, AB

WARNING! WARNING! We spent almost three hours in the Cold Lake Museums. This is a very long blog, you may to want break it up into smaller reading bits. What can I say, I love museums.

The museums are located in the old radar station and are comprised mostly of CFB Cold Lake history, with an Oil & Gas section, a Heritage section and an Aboriginal section. There will be LOTS of photos of placards as I am too lazy to write down all the stuff I find interesting. The good – or bad – thing about taking the photos in a place like this is I get to choose the things that I like or find interesting. I bet if you looked at John’s photos there would be all-together different images. And, unusually, he took more photos today than I did.

We woke to steady rain but by the time we left the building at 2:30 it was sun and cloud. There had been a thunderstorm alert posted, but it never materialized.

Outside the building is one of three former big white globes. These covered the radar dishes. The one inside the this globe, which has been moved to side of the parking lot, still has the dish that collected data on width. The height one is inside the museum and the third one we saw yesterday at CFB Cold Lake.

It was not possible to get a photo of the dish as it pretty much filled the whole globe.

This is what the station looked like during its heyday. Note the long ‘corridor’ between the main building and past the radar dishes to the end. The rooms for Oil & Gas, Heritage, and Aboriginal Museums offshoot from this corridor. It is 724′ or 221 meters long and you walked the length of it to see the three display rooms and back again to exit the building.

The first room we entered was the old radar room. There was lots of different equipment lining the walls and information on how the radar system works.

The ‘height’ radar dish.

Radar scanners.

Every black dot and every ‘globe’ is a radar site. You can see they extend the full length of Canada’s northern coastline, even into Alaska.

How could you ‘forget’ to build the control tower at an airbase???

4 Wing CFB Cold Lake from the air circa 2019.

My favorite thing in this room was the ‘lavatory roll’ survey. Apparently some brilliant supply officer decided the Department of Defence was using too much toilet paper and issued a directive that the use be monitored so it could be determined if ‘they were getting their money’s worth.’

I have included the most pertinent correspondence written over the 9 months of this important survey. They are worth a read if you want to take the time. I still chuckle over the absolute absurdity of this and can only imagine some of the ‘reports’ that were submitted.

They had four former soapboxes on display. My two favourites are below.

The museum had displays about pretty much everything that happens and every service branch and squadron at the base. It was really well done.

The Dutch word for this French designed, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle translates to Sparrohawk. It was primarily designed to carry a Forward Looking Infrared payload. It saw active use in Canadian Forces missions in Afghanistan.

This large CFB Cold Lake crest is carved from wood.

The page below had fallen off the wall and was partially hidden behind an artifact. I was able to photograph this section which tells the beginning of the story that led to Charles Sweanor’s capture and subsequent roll in “The Great Escape.”

The photos of the 50 men who were executed were taken from German identification photos. The painting was done by Flight Lieutenant Ley Kenyon. His story is below the Great Escape stats.

A Sidewinder Wing Pylon & SUU-20 Bomb Dispenser.

John and I were both surprised at how small the bombs were in this thing considering how much damage they can do.

There was an entire wall of paintings by a Cold Lake artist and former member of 410 Cougar Squadron of CFB Cold Lake. Jim Belliveau, from 1993 to the present has been responsible for the design (and in most cases the actual painting) of over 50 aircraft paint schemes on over 10 different aircraft. We could not tell whether these were design paintings or images of the aircraft flying in their finery. The Canada 150 airplane design is on a T-shirt in the gift shop.

What happens when a large bird impacts a CF-18 Hornet windscreen at 600 km/hr and less than 100 m above ground?

One section of the very long corridor that led to the other three museums located here. We came first to the Oil and Gas Museum which was a room filled with large information boards telling about the geology of the area that makes it rich in oil and gas and details the extraction process, etc. I sat on a bench and rested my feet while John looked it over.

There were displays all along the corridor and this machine was sitting in one of them. I had never heard of a Graphotype so I looked it up on Google.

Graphotype was a brand name used by the Addressograph-Multigraph Company for its range of metal plate embossing machines. The machines were originally used to create address plates for the Addressograph system and mark military style identity tags and other industrial nameplates.”

Next was the Heritage Museum which had lots of ‘old’ stuff in it, some of which were things my mother or grandmother used.

A local amatuer historian named Denis Gardner was instrumental in getting the Cold Lake Museums started. He is also a very talented model maker. When he brought his farm, logging and other historical models to the museum he included his pirate ships. I only photographed the one.

There were hundreds, if not thousands, of other items I could have taken pictures of today, but I tried really hard to not photograph everything. I still ended up with 86 pictures and I think there are about 60 of them in today’s blog. John took 116, so I didn’t do too bad.

This Red River cart is carrying a birch bark canoe. I love models and miniatures. People that can make them amaze me, especially when they are so detailed.

When I was a child there was a Black Beauty horse somewhere that we would beg mom to put a nickel in so we could ride it. If you pulled on the reins it went faster. It didn’t have red eyes though. I don’t know why they painted them red.

Pick your shoe size for the cobbler to make your next pair of boots.

I tagged my daughter on Facebook and asked her if she wanted me to get this sign for her. She declined. Weird, I wonder why?

The final museum was about the Aboriginal Dene people.

Of course there were airplanes in the yard, but there we no id plaques to say what they were.

We rested our feet and had a PB & J sandwich and an orange for lunch then headed toward Cold Lake Provincial Park which is a very popular fishing spot.

The Cold Lake area is home to more than 200 bird species and the shores of the lake are important nesting grounds. The lake is one of the largest in Alberta.

We returned to the hotel to go through photos before dinner. Tomorrow we head into Saskatchewan and go to North Battleford.

Day 11 – June 17 – Slave Lake, AB to Cold Lake, AB

We woke to rain and it contined to rain heavily almost all day. Every once in awhile we would drive into a section where it wasn’t raining, but it didn’t take long to get under the clouds again. Consequently we did not get out of the truck very often.

Just before we reached Lac la Biche we turned off Highway 2 and drove 4 km to the Lac La Biche Mission Heritage Site. Even though the signs said they were open and that we should ring the bell to have someone come downstairs no one arrived. We took a couple of photos and as we were heading to the truck to continue our journey we saw a large group of children going from one building to another. All the staff must have been escorting the class on a tour.

The Notre Dame des Victoires Mission began in 1853 in a log cabin beside the Hudson Bay Company post, 6 miles east of the current location. In 1855 they moved to this site to set the property up as a depot for supplying their missions in the Peace, Athabasca & Mackenzie Districts. Within a few years the complex grew to include a convent, church, flourmill and granaries, a sawmill and various storehouses & sheds.

We stopped during a rain lull to find a geocache hidden at the All Saints Ukranian Orthodox Church of Sandy Rapids.

We arrived at our destination for the next two nights about 2:30 and drove out to the Canadian Forces Base.

Construction of what would become known as RCAF Station Cold Lake began in 1952 at the height of the Cold War after a nearby site in Alberta’s “Lakeland District” was chosen by the RCAF for the country’s premier air weapons training base. The chosen location for the base was west of the former Town of Grand Center (now part of the City of Cold Lake), and was based on factors such as low population density, accessibility, weather, suitable terrain, and nearby available land for air weapons training. The facility is operated as an air force base by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and is approximately 35 km (22 mi) south of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR), which is used as practicing grounds by CFB Cold Lake’s fighter pilots. The weapons range spans land in both Alberta and Saskatchewan and covers 11,700 square kilometers.

Candaian Forces Cold Lake Base is an independent town with all of the usual amenities – grocery stores, gas station, sports center, splash park, swimming pool, baseball field, golf course, school, several churches, a family resource center and a large health care facility with ambulance service. We even saw a Tim Horton’s. There are several differnt residential sections plus barracks for the annual cadet camps held from June through August.

Timber wolves, indigenous to the Canadian north where this unit is situated, are well known as skilled hunters and fearless fighters. The three heads illustrate all round watchfulness and readiness, symbolic of the unit’s role. The Motto translates as “Northern Sentinel”.

CFB Cold Lake’s primary lodger unit is called 4 Wing and we saw many places and things like benches with the 4 Wing moniker.

Our drive around the base consisted of stops at a lot of different displayed aircraft. I know as much about airplanes as I do dinosaurs, but at an air force base I guess it would be considered a requisite to photograph a bunch of them.

C-18 Hornet. The air frame for this aircraft was also used by the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Swiss, Malaysian, Finnish and Spanish air forces.

CT-133 Silver Dart, often called the T-Bird, it is easily identifiable by its wingtip fuel tanks.

The CFSA Freedom Fighter was also used by the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Venezuelan Air Force.

Since this is an Air Force base and not an army base there was not very many military ordinance around. This QF 3.7 inch MK-3 Anti-aircraft gun was the only one we saw. It was built by the General Electric Company starting in 1941. Production capacity eventually reached 300 guns per month. This gun was also built for the UK, Australian, New Zealnd and India Air Forces. In it’s history it has been used by 14 nations and remains in service today by the Nepalese Air Force.

Another Silver Star. These planes were first flown in 1952.

This was my favourite. It just looks so sleek. It is a CF-104 Starfighter. It was used by the Canadian Air Force from 1963-1984. Canadair produced 200 of these planes for use by the RCAF and 140 for Lockheed. The Lockheed version was also purchased and used by Japan, Germany, Turkey and the United States Air Forces.

The CC-129 Dakota was built by Douglas Aircraft Corp in the USA as the C-47. Over 10,000 C-47 Dakotas were built, starting in 1933. During its peak this aircraft was used by over 40 militaries worldwide. Today it is still in use by some, but mostly as a cargo aircraft with small private carriers.

In Canada its primary roll was a transport aircraft, but post WW 2 it was used in a variety of other roles including Search & Rescue, target towing, and as a navigation trainer for CF-104 Starfighter pilots.

This particular airplane entered service in 1944 and after modification in 1962 served in France. In 1967 the plane became part of Base Flight at CFB Cold Lake where it was used as a CF-108 Starfighter navigational trainer, which is why it has a large conical nose which earned it the nickname Pinocchio.

Throughout its service life this aircraft accumulated an astonishing 1,246,666 flight hours. It spent its last 3 years in Winnipeg before being retired in 1989 and moved back to Cold Lake for preservation. The plaque below may be a little hard to read, but I thought it was quite a fondly worded history of this plane.

Before we left the base a couple of hours later we stopped at the viewing area near the airstrip and watched a few of the planes that we had seen take off as we toured around come in for landings. A couple of them did a ‘touch and go’ where they landed and then immediately went airborne again.

This one is rising off the tarmack after setting down briefly for its ‘touch and go’.

Earlier in the afternoon we had seen these two planes rise into the air together and as we were at the viewing area they came in to land together. They set down, one slightly behind the other, at the same time. Awesome flying to watch.

We left the base and headed to Cold Lake to find our hotel but made one more stop to see the two planes outside the Cold Lake Museum; which we plan to visit tomorrow. Both of these planes display a large red X on the tail which indicates that they were training aircraft.

Day 10 – June 16 – Grande Prairie, AB to Slave Lake, AB

We had nothing planned that we were going to stop and see today, but, as usual we found things. I am enjoying this small town, less traveled route so far.

Northern Alberta is oil and gas country as well was farming country and as we left Grande Prairie this morning we saw quite a few jack pumps in the farm fields. I counted 11 in one field.

The growing season is just starting up here.

We went into the bush to find a geocache and I discovered a bonebed. Well not a dinosaur bonebed but the remains of some large animal, perhaps an elk or moose.

A good friend of ours at home was the former minister at the Presbyterian Church in Wahnam, Alberta. This is the old one in a small heritage park that was locked up. I think the one she served in years ago is now a senior’s center.

Another geocache we found today. This was a clever ‘hide’ because it was not hidden at all. The cache owner had made a cute little mailbox and put the cache container into it. All the cars that drove past here every day would never even notice it.

There were many small lakes and ponds beside the road and in the fields, several of them with beaver lodges.

We pulled into an unserviced camping area beside the Smoky River and had some lunch.

When you cultivate and seed farms measured in sections (one mile square) you need a big tractor.

There is a small railway museum in McLennan from the days of the Northern Alberta Railway, so we stopped to check it out – and had an ice cream cone and some mini-donuts.

Well, there was another incentive. Somewhere on this caboose is a nano (size of my little fingernail) magnetic geocache. It has not been found very many times and we did not find it either.

McLennan bills itself as the Bird Capital of Canada because of the large flocks of migratory shorebirds and waterfowl birds that concentrate on the shores of Kimiwan Lake.

We wanted to see St. Paul’s Anglican Church and Rectory but they were both locked. These two buildings have been a part of McLennan for over 80 years. After the rectory basement flooded in 1997 it was deemed unsafe and slated for demolition. A group was formed to save it in 1998 and in 2006 the project was given Municipal Heritage Site recognition.

There were three of these huge lilac bushes at the Rectory. As you can see one of them completely covers the sidewalk. The blossoms were just coming out and the perfume was lovely. The bees were happy too. I do not know which variation of lilac they are. They are more delicate and a much softer colour than at home.

About 25 or so kilometers from Slave Lake a big storm cloud settled overhead and washed the truck for us. The rain only lasted a few minutes and then the cloud moved on.

We arrived in Slave Lake about 5:30, checked into our hotel, went for dinner, then drove out to Devonshire Beach to find an Earthcache. Devonshire Beach is found at the south end of Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park and is recognized as one of the 10 top beaches in Canada. It is a 1.5 kilometre stretch of natural and groomed sandy beach which is part of a 1500-year-old sand dune complex. Devonshire Beach is a unique environment in Alberta and the beach is an important habitat for rare plants such as the sitka willow, which is adapted specifically for this sandy lakeshore environment.

Owners of Earthcaches like to see photos of you to prove you were there as there is no log paper to sign with this type of geocahe. The coordinates of an Earthcache will take you to a place of geological or natural interest. The description of the cache explains the features of the place where you are standing or that you can see. To claim the ‘find’ you need to answer questions that are related to what you see and what the information describes. We have stopped at a lot of very interesting places to log Earthcache finds. John took this photo of me at Devonshire Beach to post with my ‘found’ entry about the dunes.

Tomorrow we head to Cold Lake very near the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. Cold Lake is home to a large Canadain Air Force base and we will tour it either tomorrow afternoon or Saturday. We are staying two nights in Cold Lake before motoring into Saskatchewan.

Day 9 – June 15 – Dawson Creek, BC to Grande Prairie, AB

We didn’t leave our friend’s place until after 11. It is only a one and a half hour drive from Dawson to Grande Prairie but there were quite a few geocaches along the roadside that we planned to try find.

We are in the northern prairie now with the long straight roads.

After a week and a day we finally entered the next province. Lots of people would do the same distance in a day or a day and a half.

The landscape is now all farmland and flatland.

We pulled into a small park and campground to find a geocache. There was a motorcyclist who had stopped to eat his lunch and he asked if we had seen the big plaque on the rock. The park name was the Sudeten and that was where his grandmother was from.

The Sudetenland is the historical German name for the northern, southern, and western areas of former Chzechoslovakia which were inhabited primarily by Sudeten Germans. The plaque told the story of how the park came to be and why it had that name. It is a little hard to read, but if you zoom in to see smaller sections better you should be able to read it. It is a pretty amazing story.

The community of Hythe needed a new fire hall. The projected budget was $1.2 million. Neither the town or the fire department had access to that amount of money so they drew up their own plans and began to build it themselves with volunteer supplies and firefighters, as well as many community members doing the work. It took a year to complete and came in at 1/3 the cost. There was a geocache hidden in one of the old fire hydrants they had lining the driveway. Apropos for a long-time volunteer firefighter to find.

The community of Beaver Lodge has a large beaver at the entrance to town. John had pulled over to the side of the road to look back and take a picture of it. He also captured the one below, which surprisingly is all in focus with two moving vehicles.

Large grain elevators of different types are near every town and many large farms.

The description of a geocache up ahead along the highway said it was near a new dinosaur museum. I had seen nothing about a museum in my guide books so we decided to go see some more fossils.

First discovered in 1974 by a local high school teacher along the Pipestone Creek, the finding of this horned dinosaur, Pachyrhinosaurus Lakustai, was so significant it led to the creation of the musuem, which opened in 2015 near the community of Wembley. The Pipestone Creek bonebed is one of the densest mass fossil sites in the world. The size of a football field, hundreds of dinosaurs were frozen in time here. With the sheer size and scale of fossils the creek was nicknamed the River of Death.

The Philip J. Currie Museum is named for a renowned Canadian paleontologist.

A model showing what a section of the bonebed looks like.

It is a good thing some of these animals had big bodies because their heads were huge!

This skull shows all the parts the scientists have glued together to make it complete.

There were two sand pits like this where kids (or adults) could use the brushes to expose the fossils. In reality the paleontologists use jackhammers, rock picks, and hammers and chisels to remove the bones.

We had not intended to see more dinosaurs but it was interesting. I don’t think I will go to another museum for awhile. As I said, I am not a huge dinosaur person, but we had the time today, so why not?

We got to Grande Prairie at 5 and moved into Mountain Time again so our clocks are an hour ahead. We called our friend Ryan and arranged to meet him for dinner at a nearby restaurant where we had a great visit until 9. Tomorrow we continue east to Slave Lake, about 3 1/2 hours away.

Day 8 – June 14 – Dawson Creek, BC

After a lovely breakfast at Brian & Marilyn’s we left for a day of sightseeing around Dawson Creek.

First stop had to be the Mile 0 Marker in the middle of the street commemorating the beginning to the Alaska Highway.

Next we went to the Visitor’s Center and the Station Master’s House which are located on Highway 97 near the beginning of the Alaska Highway on the north side of Dawson. The Station Master’s house and the Natural History Museum are located in the same building and the Art Gallery is next door in the only remaining old-style Grain Elevator.

The entire street used to be lined with the huge grain elevators. Now they have boring round ones.

The Station Master lived in quarters attached to the railway depot. He was in charge of organizing all the goods and people who came and went on the trains. His job became exceedingly busy between March and May 1942 when 10,000 American troops and 600 carloads of tractors, bulldozers, fuel and supplies arrived from Edmonton to be distributed along the route for the planned highway to Fairbanks, Alaska.

The rooms in the Station Master’s house were small and it was hard to get photos that looked like anything. The only one I kept was this one from one of the upstairs bedrooms. My cousin Denis gave me the same book as the blue one with the cocker spaniel on it for my third birthday!

There was a natural history musuem on the other side of the Visitor’s Center. It primarily showcased taxidermy examples of birds and animals from the area. There were a few First Nation buckskin jackets and some dishes and other household things.

Wolf, Grizzly bear, small black bear with a salmon, beaver, Mountain Goat and porcupine.


Moose and Bison
A large collection of different owl species

I liked this display of all the different grains that are, or were, grown here. They had been entered in a fall fair. They are – front left to right – Brome, Oats, Fesgue, Alfalfa, Wheat. Flax. Back left to right – Barley, Canola, Timothy, Rye.

When we concluded our tours of the museums, we walked past the big grain elevator, through the parking lot to the big Alaska Highway sign. There were motorhomes parked from Quebec, Iowa, New York and Illonsis. I guess after two years of going nowhere people are eager to go places a long way from home.

The Kiskatinaw Bridge is along an old section of the Alaska Highway. The original road was very rough and built very quickly using the most expediate route. In the mid-1950’s parts of it were moved or curves were straightened to make a road more navigable by public traffic. It took quite a few years before it was all paved.

Though there were many timber bridges built by these civilian workers, the Kiskatinaw Bridge was the only one still in use until the last year or so when it was closed to traffic. It is also one of the most unusual, curving nine degrees along its 162.5 metre (534 foot) length.

The bridge, the first of its kind in Canada, was built in 1942-43 by Dow Construction of Toronto. The bridge is a three span, timber truss structure built 30 metres (100 feet) above the stream. Approximately 500,000 board feet of creosoted British Columbia fir were used in its construction. The fir was shipped from coastal B.C. to the railhead at Dawson Creek.

A little to the right of center in the image above is a dark upright speck. This is a mountain biker who was riding along the riverside. Where he came from and how he got down there I have no idea.

A new Kiskatinaw Bridge was built on a new section of highway in 1978. The old one could no longer deal with all the weight from the oil and gas and forestry trucks that go back and forth from Dawson Creek to Fort St. John.

The bridge was about 10 or so kilometers up the Alaska Highway out of Dawson Creek and when I was looking at the map I noted that it was only another 40 or so kilometers to Fort St. John. I am pretty good at geography but I always thought it was much further away. Since it was so close and we had lots of time we decided to go up.

We drove around town for awhile just to check out the place and also tried to find several geocaches. But were constantly thwarted by vehicles in the way, people nearby, missing caches or some, like the small one that was recently hidden if this awesome sculpture located at the recycling depot that we just could not find. We searched for awhile, sticking our fingers in all the holes we could and running them under all the ledges, but no luck.

Our daughter’s fiance works at the big Site C Hydoelectric dam being constructed on the Peace River. We had been told it was only a couple of miles out of Fort St. John and there was a viewpoint so you could see it. We never did find the viewpoint despite John driving around on quite a few roads.

We headed back to Dawson to tour the Alaska Highway House that had lots of artifcats and information on the building of the Alaska Highway. Somewhere between 2020 and today the building was demolished. I don’t know where all the items went. Rats. They may have been moved to the Community Hall at the Hertigage Village we saw yesterday because there was quite a good display there.

It was time for dinner so we found a local restaurant to eat and then returned to Brian and Marilyn’s for the night. Tomorrow we head east across the BC border into Alberta and the city of Grande Prairie where we will be meeting another long time friend for dinner.

Day 7 – June 13 – Tumbler Ridge, BC to Dawson Creek, BC

There was a Closed sign on the hotel restaurant but we could see people sitting at tables so we went in to ask if they were open thinking they may have forgotton to turn the sign.

They were only open to hotel guests and any outside orders would have be take out as half of the power was off in the building. We had breakfast and checked-out. The receptionist had just pulled our receipt from the printer when the all power went off again.

We got a bit worried that the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery that we could not visit yesterday due to the town-wide power outage would be closed again, but they must be on a diffferent grid and were still open.

I do not have a deep interest in dinosaurs and cannot tell one millenia from another, nor recognize any of the different ‘aurs’ or ‘opods’, but I do find it interesting to see the things that have been unearthed. And, since the discovery of the dinosaur tracks by the two boys in 2000 coincided with the closure of the largest coal mine and the departure of half the population; thus in a large part saving Tumbler Ridge from becoming a ghost town I was keen to see what they had collected.

Many of the items are replicas or molds for a couple of reasons. Some of them are huge and weigh several tons and some of them are still out in the mountains embedded in the rock.

The Dinosaur Discovery Gallery is housed in a former Elementary School . When the mine closed and so many people left there were not enough children for two elementary schools so they were amalgamated into one and the other was used for the Dinosaur Gallery. Not being a purpose-built museum to display so many heavy or large artifacts they keep most of them in a large shed on the property and make casts of others.

As usual with me in any musuem I take a ton of photos of the items that interest me and the information about them. I have trimmed my selections down a lot here but there are still quite a few fossils and bones and such. Feel free to scroll down and bypass it all. I won’t mind.

There was a brand new case with several fossils of 350 to 500 million-year old fossilized coral. These were just discovered recently and they have not had time to make up the labels. Discoveries are literally being made every day in this area and one of the most exciting things for the paleontologist is that the Tumbler Ridge area has fossils and bones, etc. from at least three different prehistoric eras. The world-famous museum at Drumheller, Alberta has bones, and tracks from one era only.


They have replicas of each of the three species of dinosaurs whose tracks were found along Flatbed Creek.


I was quite impressed to see such detailed fossil impressions of fish. This whole area was once a massive inland sea stretching the full length of North and South America.

Large adult Therapod track.
Hadrosaur footprints. 73 million years ago. The first complete skeleton of a hadrosaur has been found here.
Bones from the skeleton of the Hadrosaur

After we left the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery we headed out of Tumbler Ridge on the road to Dawson Creek. We have friends there that we have not seen in 32 years and are going to stay with them for a couple of nights while we see the local sights.

We made one stop on the way and hiked into Quality Falls which was a little waterfall that drops in a narrow canyon. The trail was 2.5 km round trip and there was quite a few steep downward sections but overall it was a pretty good and I huffed and puffed and limped my way there and back.

The Tumbler Ridge is home to a large windfarm owned by the Meikle Corp.

The Dawson Creek area is farming country. Many, many tons of grain are grown up here every year. Dawson is also the official Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway built by over 11,000 American soldiers and 16,000 Canadian and American civilians in 1942 when it was believed there could be an invasion by the Japanese into North America through Alaska. We will be learning more about that as we tour around Dawson.

When we arrived in Dawson Creek we found the Walter Wright Pioneer Village and spent an couple of hours wandering through all the old buildings and looking at the artifacts and displays.

Several of the buildings are original and have been moved to the site. Most are replicas and quite a few of them were construction projects for the local highs school woodwork classes.

St. Paul’s Anglican Church. Built and financed by community volunteers. the building is still sturdy after being moved three times.

We finished touring the Heritage building at 4:30 and drove over to our friend Marilyn’s house where we met her husband Brian, had dinner and then visited with three of Marilyn’s (now-adult) kids and spouses and a granddaughter. It was a really nice evening catching up on each other.s doings over that past three decades.

Day 6 – June 12 – Tumbler Ridge, BC

We woke up to sunshine again and decided to do the hike to the dinosaur tracks before visiting the Dinosaur Gallery in case it decided to rain. The hike was 1.5 km each way through pine and spruce forest. We kept up a steady conversation or John whistled as we walked to alert possible bears to our presence. The trail was pretty good and we went up a few banks before going steadily downward to latbed Creek.

The foot prints in the rocks at Cabin Basin belong to these three dinosaur species and we saw footprints of each of them.

Ankylosaur footprint. The toes are the easiest to make out, the deeper round part is the main foot.
Ornithopod footprint
The meat eating Theropod. The elongated thin cracks are the creature’s claws.

We saw two men digging dirt off the rock that contained many dinosaur footprints. They were clearing the bottom edge of the rock shelf of buit-up dirt to reveal more footprints. One of the men came over to us right away and pointed out several tracks for us.

We took the short trail to see where the two boys (age 8 and 11) discovered the first dinosaur tracks in 2000.

The boys filled the dinosaur tracks with baby powder to make them more visible.

We could not get to the original site as it was across the creek which was flowing full and fast with spring runoff.

Flatbed Creek

The large flat rock shelf on the opposite side of the river is where the boys spotted the tracks after one of them fell off their inner tube as they went over the rapids and clambered ashore. Floating down the creek is popular in summer. These kayakers were doing the more adventurous version today.

We went back to the Cabin Basin area and saw that the men had revealed quite a few new tracks.

The fellow told us that in this area the rule of thumb is that if you flood a space with water and it pools in places, those are dinosaur tracks. Since the boys first discovery thousands of tracks in several different locations have bee discovered, as well as bones.

Every depression in the rock, we were told is a dinosaur track.

We hiked back to the truck and drove to the Dinosaur Gallery which is located in a old school in a residential area of Tumbler Ridge only to find it closed due to a power outage.

We decided to go find the four geocaches that are hidden in the township, but could only find three of them because the fourth is hidden inside the library and it was closed because it is Sunday. It would have been closed anyway since there was no power anywhere in the town and everything that was supoosed to be open was locked up until it came on again.

One of the caches was a nano (which is about the size of my little finger nail) hidden in this huge mining bucket. It could hold 15 cubic yards of material in each shovelful.

We decided to go back to our hotel room and have some lunch and wait for the power to come on again. Apparently a transformer blew at 11 AM and the estimated time to have power on again was 7 PM. It did not get back until 9 so no Dinosaur Gallery today. We have a short drive to Dawson Creek tomorrow so we will go before we leave town.

Thankfully we were able to have dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was the only place in town that was open for food, and consequently was busy all day. They offered a limited menu of pizza or salads, sandwiches or things like burgers which can be cooked on the gas grill or chicken nuggets which go in the deep fryer. We had pizza and bought large enough ones to have leftovers for our lunch tomorrow.

So our day’s activities were a little shorter than planned, but John had a good nap and I did some research on things to see and do along our planned route across Canada. It was actually quite nice to have a lazy afternoon.

Day 5 – June 11 – Tumbler Ridge, BC

The weather is slated to be sun and cloud today and tomorrow and four days of rain thereafter. We know how often the weatherman is wrong so we decided to take the drive to Kinuseo Falls today and go to the dinosaur gallery and trails tomorrow. That way if the rain came a day sooner than forecast we would be indoors for some of it.

Kinuseo Falls are located on the Murray River at the northern tip of the 63,000 hectare Monkman Provincial Park. The falls are 68 kilometers south and west of Tumbler Ridge on a gravel road.

The first documented reference of the waterfall was made by surveyor R. W. Jones in 1906 when he was looking for navigable passes for the Grand Trunk Railway. The first photograph was taken in 1914.

We left Tumbler under sunny skies and the further we went toward Monkman Park the darker the clouds became and the more rain that came down.

We drove past the abandoned Quality Coal Co. facility. There is only one of the original three mines still operating in the Tumbler Ridge area. After the two mines closed the city lost half it’s population, but the discovery in 2000 of dinosaur footprints and the subsequent finding of thousands more prints, plus a bone bed and other bones, and even skin fossils has helped tourism become a big draw. Tumbler Ridge holds the richest dinosaur deposits anywhere in BC.

The coal silos at the abandoned Quality Coal Co. facility.

We were thinking our viewing of the falls may be a wet one, but by the time we got to the parking lot the rain had moved on and we had nice sun and cloud again.

It was only a short walk to the lower viewing platform at the top of the waterfall. You could really see the power and volume of water flowing down the Murray River and over the edge. Kinuseo Falls falls measure 197 feet (60 metres), slightly taller than Niagara Falls, though it obviously doesn’t move the same volume of water. 

The best view of the falls is from the upper viewpoint which was a 650 meter hike along the mountainside.

You can take jetboat tours to the base of the falls and when we were at the upper viewpoint we saw three jet boats approach. Two of them branched off to the right fork of the river,but one came down the visible left fork.

The pilot had to really push the power on the jetboat to get it this close to the base of the falls and then the strength of the water prevented him going further. I am pretty sure everyone on the boat got wet though.

We headed back toward Tumbler Ridge with the intention to hike up to Barbour Falls along the way. Again it clouded over and began to rain. And again the sky cleared.

The beaver who made this big lodge probably did not have to work too hard to find his building supplies. There are branches littered all along the shore of the little lake.

Barbour Falls Trail is located at the end of 11.3 km of narrow, boney gravel road. When we pulled into the parking lot there was only one vehicle and the fellow was trying to get the spare tire down from under the truck to replace a flat. John had quite a time doing the same thing when we had to change our first flat on the Dempster Highway in the Yukon Territory in 2018, so he went over to lend a hand.

The couple was from the coast and Miranda was finishing her 6th of 7 weeks practicum in speech therapy in Tumbler Ridge. Shandor had come from Vancouver to spend the week with her. They had just found out they were going to have a baby in January. After the tire was changed we decided to do the 800 meter trail together so we could talk along the way to alert any neighbourhood bears. They were very nice and we had a great chat as we walked along. There was a geocache hidden at the waterfall viewing area and Shandor actually spotted it before we had begun to look for it.

On the drive back to Tumbler Ridge we saw a White-Tail deer ahead on the roadside. She did not want to have her photo taken I guess, because she wandered into the bush quickly so we were unable to get any good photos.

We arrived back in Tumbler Ridge at 4:30 and took a little drive around town before heading to the hotel so John could work on uploading Sunday’s worship service on the church website.

Tomorrow is dinosaur day.