As a loyal and obedient Albertan, I have been mulling over the words of Alberta Tourism Minister Cindy Ady: “We’re hoping people will choose to visit parts of the province they haven’t explored before.”
More compelling is the doggy-command aspect of our government’s $5.6 million Stay program and the Travel Alberta Stay brochure now falling out of every newspaper in the province.
This outdoors writer can’t afford even the cheapest of the Alberta trips and spas promoted in the brochure, so I vowed to intensify my lifelong meanderings and pokings – into our at-home backwaters.
One recent fine May morning, after 45 years of cruising on by while vaguely wondering what was going on there, I stopped and really looked at what I now realize is a lowland mini- “glacier,” the only one I know of anywhere in Alberta.
This is on the immediate south side of Hwy 11, 17.3 km. west of its intersection with Hwy 20.
What we have here is a brushy hillside sloping gently north to the highway that was still shining white long after all snow has disappeared in the area, even back in the woods.
In some years, the white remains into mid-July.
Finally I think I’ve got it! The hillside has to be a wellspring of springs that keep percolating in winter and the water freezes into a thick ice sheet as it flows downhill toward the highway.
Then I went back more than 40 years ago to just west where the melting ice and summer spring flow formed a small pond which Fish and Wildlife stocked with brook trout back in the mid-sixties.
In those days, I learned some things about fly fishing there and, accidentally, just how frigid those “glacier” waters were.
But, as I recall, the usual stupidity in the form of vandalism eventually set in and the kindly landowner withdrew his consent to having the pond stocked and permitting public access.
This is a unique little watershed: slightly more than two km from the “glacier” to where it empties into the Medicine River.
Thirteen km. further west, Hwy 11 intersects with “Wall Street Road.”
Obedient to my minister Ady and also to Yogi Berra who allegedly advised “when you come to a fork in the road, take it,” I thought “what the hell” and turned onto a road I can’t remember ever travelling, even before, fairly recently, it started sprouting signs with that high-sounding name.
The road runs 25 km south, the first two-thirds of it paved, to Hwy 54 near where the North Raven River runs into the South Raven.
Search though I did for any clue about the origin of the road’s new name, all I could see was my kind of country: muskeg, brush, aspen bluffs, with some decent looking farmland and pastures here and there and modest human habitations.
It reminded me of the Mississippi settings of my beloved William Faulkner who, in his Snopes trilogy, has a character, Wallstreet Panic Snopes, thus named by parents who hoped that it would give him fiscal good luck like some of the panic architects had (it did).
I took my travels to the Internet for the name source of our “Wall Street Road” and gained no insight other than that the current Wall Street meltdown has all of Alberta going downhill.
I can only conclude that someone with a waspish sense of humour named our road.
Even better than Stay! is Stray!, which, by definition, you can never do on purpose.
Looking back again, some of the best secret “little places” I know for hunting, fishing, etc., have been located when we were off course, if not outright lost.
Strangely, you sometimes have problems finding the little gem ever again.
Recently déjà vu took place and I found again a rare and tiny pocket of wild pheasants near home that has been “lost” for the decade since I first strayed into it – simply by straying yet again.
Beau and I were following our usual route to Bigelow Reservoir, east and south of Innisfail, to check for crocuses and Hungarian partridges, when, suddenly, we were off pavement and onto serious gravel, but in the right direction and on a road I vaguely recognized.
All became clear when a wild cock pheasant in full breeding colours strutted across the road toward the cover pocket of several acres I recognized from that one time all those years ago I strayed heading to Bigelow.
That time there were pheasants everywhere, but we were in too much of a hurry to do any of the right things and we could never find the place again.
This time I recorded mileages and Range and Township road numbers on my pocket “Voice-It.”
A good thing too, because on our usual route back to Red Deer from Bigelow, there was no way we could figure out how we got off the pavement and onto that gravel road.
Bob Scammell is an award-winning freelance writer.