Monday, April 29, 2024

Hitting the ground running: Trout Creek Canyon, Willow Creek Falls, Calgary, Head Smashed In

Walking the Willow Creek Falls Trail

The early Pasque flowers

Calgary's new Central Library's futuristic design

Calgary's powerful skyline

The Stephen Avenue walking mall in Downtown Calgary 

 We've been back from the UK and Ireland just a week and in that time we've been moving quickly.

We went for a look at the Trout Creek Canyon near York for the kelsea (a failure), a hike to the Willow Creek Falls on the Front (a great success), off to Calgary for a birthday celebration at the opera (failure), a visit to the spectacular library, and a play (both successes) and our first visit to Alberta's Head Smashed In buffalo jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (a great success). 

It would be hard to beat Willow Creek.  While it appeared to have a lot of snow, it didn't and we could proceed to the Red Hill, which we ascended several hundred feet.  Along the way we were treated to an early show of alpine wildflowers:  Pasque, Douglasia, Yellowstone Draba, buttercups, and even Glacier lilies.  The Front appears to have scant snowpack this time of year portending potential fire danger this summer.

We failed to find kelsea in bloom at Trout Creek, although it was greening up.  Nonetheless, the trip there is always rewarding with a trail that wends its way through steep limestone walls.

We've so enjoyed our local buffalo jump, the First Peoples Buffalo Jump near Ulm, that we detoured on the way back from Calgary to see the Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, which is much more developed and highly preserved.  The jump center hikes up four floors of stairs to the top of the site, which draws views of Glacier, Waterton and the Canadian Rockies in the distance.  The walk down through the center is past highly developed exhibits explaining the buffalo jump and the centrality of the bison to the native culture. Our First People's site is the largest buffalo jump in the world, according to Wikipedia.  Why wouldn't it rate a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation as well.  Katie and I thought we'd bring up the topic with local tourism officials.

Covid had erased our regular visits to Calgary these past four years, so it was great to be back.

It was my 76th birthday present and included tickets to the Calgary Opera Company's presentation of Wagner's Ring Cycle prelude:  Das Rheingold.  I had been thrilled by a Chicago Lyric Opera production about 10 years ago.  I wasn't so thrilled this year. What ruined it for me was the set.  The orchestra performed on stage, and much of the action --- the Rhein Maidens, the Niebelungen --- performed in the orchestra pit which was almost impossible to view.  Calgary's Jubilee Auditorium is not a particularly great place for views to begin with.  The costuming was Star Wars knockoff, and digital light backdrops, cartoonish in nature, turned me off.  The orchestra and singers performed well, but I was far too distracted by the set and costuming to enjoy the show.

The trip was redeemed by the next day that included a visit to Calgary's new(2018)  $245 million Central Public Library, a visit to the Mountain Equipment Coop store, and an original Calgary play at Theatre Calgary of the life of American sculptress Selma Burke, which was quite good.  Burke did a sculpture of FDR that was used on the U.S. dime.

At nearly 2 million people, Calgary is growing rapidly.  My first visit was exactly 50 years ago and the population then was 443,000.   That's a growth of almost 5 times!   Driving to our hotel at the airport we were in four to eight lanes of traffic.  The Deerfoot Trail was packed any time of day or night we got on it.  I was totally intimidated.  

Luckily, the city's amenities make up for its congestion.  We enjoyed our time on the walking mall, and a chance to sample many kinds of ethnic foods.  Most impressive is the variety of the city's skyscrapers, and public buildings.  The library was a prime example. The buildings now dwarf the Calgary Tower, which when I first visited, was the tallest building in downtown Calgary.  The city is down right beautiful architecturally.

My intimidation will probably reduce the frequency of my visits in the future.

The Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump center near Fort McLeod, Alberta

At the buffalo jump.  This will have to serve as my 76th birthday official photo

The buffalo jump terrain

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