Friday, October 18, 2013

On the Road – Calgary to Banff

If you’ve been following our trip to Alberta Canada via my blog, you may have begun to wonder if we were really going to ever get over to the main attraction, the Canadian Rockies!  The answer is yes…and this rather verbose blog tracks our drive from Calgary to Banff and the Rocky Mountains.

We don’t like super highways, expressways, freeways, or whatever you want to call them unless a) we’re in a hurry, or b) we’re using a freeway to reach a point that we’ve been to many times before…and we already have visited attractions along the way.  In this case, we opted not to take the Trans-Canadian Highway, but instead to follow Highway 1A which is a 2-lane highway once it clears the metropolitan area.  The drive was quite leisurely with minimal traffic and lots of countryside to enjoy…
Along the way we came across this historical church.  The McDougall Memorial United Church is located along Hwy 1A on the north bank of the Bow River, near the town of Morley. The church was constructed in 1875 and it is listed in Canada’s Register of Historic Places.  FYI…Morley is a ‘First Nations’ settlement within the Stoney Indian reserve in southern Alberta.

The Morleyville Mission was established in 1873 and it was relocated to its present site in 1875, when construction on several mission buildings, including the McDougall Memorial United (formerly Methodist) Church, began in earnest.  The mission was at the vanguard of Methodist evangelical efforts in southern Alberta, representing the first permanent Protestant mission in the region and serving the Native tribes in the area, particularly the Mountain Stoney peoples living along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. It was also a pioneering settlement, featuring southern Alberta's first permanent homestead, its first herd of breeding cattle, and the first Protestant church…as well as one of the province's first trained teachers - Andrew Sibbald. (This latter fact is interesting to me as Sibbald was my maternal grandmother’s maiden name)
For more information regarding this historic site and for a link to Canada’s Register of Historic Places, just go to 

For this photo, all Laurie had to do was turn to the right after shooting the picture of the church…and snap.  Quite a vast and scenic vista with the foothills and the peaks of the Canadian Rockies rising in the distance!

Laurie took this photo as we moved along lightly traveled Hwy 1A toward the mountains.  Sometimes these windshield photos come out pretty well!
The Canadian Rockies have many high peaks and ranges, such as Mount Robson at 12,972 feet and Mount Columbia at 12,293 ft. The Canadian Rockies are composed of shale and limestone but they seem more ‘green’ than does much of the American Rockies.  A great deal of the Canadian range is protected by parks and a World Heritage Site.

As we approached the mountains, the forests appeared along the highway. 
The Canadian Rockies extend from the south to the north for about 900 miles.  They are about 93 miles wide and they occupy approximately 69,000 square miles…about the size of the entire state of Missouri.

We passed through a few smaller towns before we had to get back onto the Trans Canadian Highway as we neared Banff.  These towns included Kananaskis, Exshaw and Dead Man’s Flats.  We don’t recall which of those towns provided the view of the Rockies shown above…
There are many theories that attempt to explain the name for Dead Man Flats.  One story ties it to a murder that took place in 1904 at a nearby dairy farm.  One brother was accused of killing another, whose body had been dumped in the Bow River…but the jury acquitted him by reason of insanity.  I prefer the theory that states that two or three First Nations (Canadian Indian) people who were illegally trapping beaver noticed a warden approaching in the distance.  Since they didn’t have time to flee without being spotted, they smeared themselves with beaver blood and pretended to be dead.  The warden was fooled by their trick and he ran for help.  With the coast clear, the trappers took their beaver pelts and escaped.
Whatever the real reason, the fact is that the town was called ‘Pigeon Mountain Service Centre’ until 1985 when it changed its name to Dead Man's Flats to encourage tourism.

The last town we passed through before we reached Banff was Canmore. 
The Canmore Hotel is the second oldest continuously operated hotel in Alberta, and is one of the few landmarks remaining from Canmore’s mining history.  This was the choice meeting spot for railway workers and miners — even after the mine closed — and became the center of cultural and social gatherings in the town. 
The hotel was built by a French Nobleman, Count Eugene de Rambouville. For unknown reasons the Count had fallen into disgrace with his family and fled France, making his way to Canmore.  The Count lived in the town long enough to build the hotel, completing its construction in 1890.  It was one of four grand hotels in the area and it’s the sole survivor.  To learn more about this historic hotel, or perhaps to invest in its preservation and future operations, go to   
The town of Canmore was officially named in 1884 by the Director of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  He named it after Malcolm III, a former King of Scotland…who was also named Canmore.  In its early days, Canmore was a coal mining town.  In 1886, Queen Victoria granted a coal mining charter to the town, and the No. 1 mine was opened in 1887.  The coal mining industry in Canmore boomed well into the 20th century, but by the 1970s the market for coal had diminished, and in 1979 the mines closed. 
For the curious who actually read all of my text, I’d never heard of Malcolm III, so here’s a link:

And we finally arrived in Banff!  Little did we know that we’d arrived on a ‘holiday’ weekend.  We learned that the first Monday of August is a civic holiday in most Canadian provinces.  It is commonly referred to as the August Long Weekend… In Alberta it is officially called Heritage Day.  Only Quebec, Newfoundland and Nunavut do not celebrate this holiday. (For curious non-Canadians, go to to learn about Nunavut).
In any case, although this photo really doesn’t show it, traffic over the weekend was wall to wall!  Apparently 'Calgarians' flocked to Banff to share the area’s beauty with all of us tourists… Much more on Banff to follow!
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by and checking out my long winded blog for the day!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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