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Carson's Alaska Newsletter # 2
Location: Fort Macleod, Alberta Date: May 21,2003
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On the Road with Fred and Barb - Newsletter #2

May 18-21,2003 Great Falls, Montana to Fort Macleod, Alberta

Great Falls

Well it snowed all day - the radio indicated 4.5 inches fell. Fortunately most of it didn't stick and the next day was beautiful - sunny and in the 60's.

Great Falls' most famous attraction is the Charles Russell Museum. Mr. Russell was an artist who specialized in paintings depicting the cowboy way of life. What was really amazing was the variety of medium he used - oil, watercolor, pen and ink as well as sculptures. Entrance to the museum included admission to his home and log cabin studio which were nearby. It was a great way to spend a cold, wet day.

Rainbow FallsThe next day we drove along the Missouri River, looking for the Great Falls. But the hydroelectric dams along the river and the recent drought have left it dry. There's still some water flowing over a couple other falls but nothing like past years. We tried to visit the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center but it was closed on Mondays. But people told us it would be worth staying for so we decided to visit it the next morning before leaving for the journey into Canada. We were so glad we did.

The Interpretive Center traces the Lewis and Clark Expedition's route up the Missouri River, over the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean and back. It has some wonderful dioramas of scenes along the trail. We really got a feel for the hardships they faced and how instrumental the Indian tribes were in their success, providing food and horses as well as important geographic information. The exhibits are housed in a beautiful building that overlooks the Missouri River.

Fort Macleod

From Great Falls we crossed over the border into Canada. Every time we cross the border we get asked different questions and the rules about what you can and can't bring in changes. This time they didn't ask about fruit, potatoes or wood like they did last year. Instead we had to throw out any eggs and poultry, whether fresh, frozen or cooked. The reason they gave is that there is Newcastle disease in Nevada! Since this was near the beginning of our trip, we had emptied the home freezer of Costco chicken breasts. And of course we still had almost a dozen eggs. Now we've heard that a Mad Cow has been discovered in Alberta and the US is not letting in any beef from Canada. If this spreads it could be an economic disaster for Alberta as it is primarily a ranch area. Guess we better hurry and eat up our meat before we get to Alaska.

Flowers at CampgroundWe camped in Ft. Macleod for 2 nights. This is the first home of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the Northwest. It is also home to the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to legend, about 150 years ago a young Indian brave wanted to witness the plunge of countless buffalo as his people drove them to their deaths over the sandstone cliffs. As the bodies mounted, he became trapped between the animals and the cliff. When his people came to do the butchering of the buffalo, they found him with his skull crushed by the weight of the buffalo carcasses. Thus the name. The site is among the oldest, largest and best preserved of the many buffalo jump sites across the western plains. Thousands of buffalo carcasses and tools from 1500 years ago have been unearthed by archeologists. The Interpretive Center is a five story structure built into the side of the cliff until it is almost invisible from the road. The multilevel exhibits depict the lifestyle of prehistoric Plains Peoples and how a Buffalo Jump works. It's a very complex, and difficult process. And a fascinating set of exhibits.

We then drove about 40 miles south to the town of Cardston. The Remington Carriage Museum there has more than 250 19th and early 20th century horse-drawn vehicles. It's the largest collection in North America and includes, carriages, sleighs, hearses, and even a horse drawn taxi. The exhibits include old photos depicting life in the 19th century. You can even hop aboard an old carriage for a ride around the property. Very interesting and worth the drive.

Tomorrow we leave for a week in Edmonton. Looking forward to "the Mall".