Once we left my aunt and uncle’s farm, we moved on to exploring a rather unique area of Alberta, referred to as Canada’s Badlands. The Badlands encompass a large area of the province, but probably the most visited town is Drumheller, a couple of hours East of Calgary.
The Drumheller area is famous for its landscapes, but even more famous for the discovery of a large amount of dinosaur fossils. The town really focuses on this, and it’s dinosaur central on the streets. There’s even a huge model dinosaur near the tourist office – pay $4 and you can climb to the top in the inside and look at the town through its mouth; which is exactly what we did…can you tell that we have been on the road too long now?
We heard that the excellent Tyrrell Museum in town is a fascinating look at the dinosaur history, but we (perhaps foolishly) gave it a miss to explore the landscape in the area instead. The Prairies conjure up images of just flat land and big sky, but the area around Drumheller is anything but. Large crevasses have created huge scars in the landscape, with layers of rock exposed, making the area look otherworldly. In some areas, toadstool formations called Hoodoos dot the rocks, making it a popular tourist stop to get out and wander around.
A little further down the road from the Hoodoos, is Wayne, which was a prosperous area in the early 1900’s due to coal mining, but is now virtually a ghost town. The Last Chance Saloon is still there providing a respite for weary travellers, but other than that, it’s been left to disappear into the land. The drive out to Wayne is beautiful, crossing 11 single track bridges over the Rosebud river, as you make your way into another scenic valley. The whole area is stunning, and I was very surprised at how it varied from the area around the cattle farm, debunking the myth that Alberta is just flat prairie.
The other area of the Badlands that we chose to explore was very different indeed. Vulcan, located South of Calgary was a must stop for a very specific reason – Star Trek. The town of Vulcan had its name way before Spock appeared on the television in the 1960’s, but capitalizes on sharing its name with the home world of the fictional character.
The actual town is one of the sleepiest places we have been to on the entire trip; almost no one was out on the streets, except for a few crazy Star Trek fans like myself. There is a small Star Trek museum, containing various memorabilia and costumes, where I got to hold an actual phaser prop that was used in the Next Generation films. The tourist centre is made up to look like a star base and is full of merchandise (where I purchased a few things, but, left the Spock Ears for the hard core fans). There is also a replica of the starship Enterprise that greets you as soon as you enter the town.
There are some great things dotted around town, where the authorities have decided to have a bit of fun. The street signs are all Star Trek themed, and even the cross walks have the Starfleet insignia stencilled in them. Various Star Trek murals have been painted on buildings, and you stumble across little nods and inside jokes everywhere. It was surreal, but a lot of fun…
We left Vulcan for Calgary, the largest city in Alberta and gateway to the Rocky Mountains…. clutching a Spock T-shirt in my hand.