Part VI – Chapter 7 – 2010

Above is what Turtle Mountain, in the Crowsnest Pass, looks like today after ninety-million tons of rock broke off in 1903 and slid down into the valley below.


In Waterton Lakes National Park, the hike around Linnet Lake was closed in the fall of 2017 because of the Kenow wildfire, which destroyed thirty-eight percent of the park, 190 square kilometers, including fifty percent of the vegetation and eighty percent of the popular hiking trails.

Linnet is where Charlie intended to begin his hiking project in mid-July of 2011 as a symbolic gesture.

He wanted to see if he could somehow connect the spirit or feel of his hiking with the sense of freedom he’d known as a hippie in Montreal in his university days, and also with the freedom he’d known in his more recent Harley Davidson days, both of which he’d absolutely loved. And still missed. A lot.

Starting back in 1992, in mid-July, he’d fire up his Harley, an FLHTCU, and head down to Sturgis, North Dakota, the home of the biggest bike rally west of the Mississippi. And he wanted to imbue his hiking with that same feeling, that same sense of freedom.

Linnet is a unique lake as explained in the two signs below.

BJ really liked all this biology and geology stuff. Especially the geology. But Charlie wasn’t that keen on it. So, in a sense, BJ is responsible for the inclusion of the following signs. Charlie, at best, would simply skim-read a sign or two to please her. So you have Charlie’s permission to do the same if you wish.

I did have a longish passage in my novel about the three-toed salamanders in Linnet Lake, but I took it out. Unfortunately, they’re verging on extinction in Alberta. If you’re interested, though, you could Google them to find out more.

The second hike, if you can call it that, was the Buffalo Paddock Trail.

One of the other signs claims that sixty-million bison were slaughtered during a one-hundred-year period, mostly in the nineteenth century. Only one thousand survived out of all those sixty million. That tidbit was, for Charlie, the most interesting part of this so-called hike.

He and BJ often drove around on the road inside the compound, especially at calving time, to see the newborns.

Red Rock Canyon, the third of his three easy hikes, had lots of things that fascinated BJ, but left Charlie mostly disinterested and confused. He did love the colours of the rocks, though, especially when they were wet.

Linnet Lake
Charlie, illegally, picked up a number of these argillite rocks and took them home. He especially liked the red ones.

But signs like “NICKELS DEEP” didn’t interest him at all.

Charlie tended to skip stuff like this.

The two of them usually walked along the left side of the canyon, crossed over a bridge in the trees up ahead, then came back along the right side.

Red Rock Creek
The most popular part of the creek. People often wade in the water down below and sit on the rocks and picnic.

A better look at the redness of the argillite rocks. There may be some green argillite in the last two photos, but I’m not sure.

On the right side, coming back from the bridge in the trees, they walked over lots of examples of mud cracks and ripple marks in the sedimentary rock from when Alberta was on the very edge of the North American Plate and often under the Belt Sea, which was one of the many inland seas that kept flooding North America.

This was all before British Columbia even existed.

And ripples turning into the rock formation below simply didn’t make sense to him. But then, he’d never spent any time reading about all that stuff.

But he did think the claims about the mud cracks sounded more credible.

They’d intended to go to Frank after they completed his practice hikes, but it was too late, so they went to Twin Butte for Mexican.

That’s the town of Frank a way over there as seen from the parking lot at the Interpretive Center.

The Town of Frank, AB
Frank, Alberta

Too bad they were so late with the hikes, though. Charlie had been really looking forward to the all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet at the Grizzly Bear Grill.

And if they had gone to Frank, they would have driven past Turtle Mountain and the Interpretive Center. Frank had been located at the base of Turtle until they moved it after the slide.

Turtle Mountain
It has an elevation of over 7,000 feet.

At 4:10 a.m. on April 29, 1903, ninety-million tons of rock slid off the mountain, buried the Old Man River and the train tracks, as well as part of Frank, then blasted across the valley at seventy mile an hour and climbed 500 feet up the mountains on the other side.

Approximately seventy to ninety people were killed, making the Frank Slide the deadliest landslide in Canada. And up until a few years ago, the largest. Most of the dead are still under the rubble. The dead may or may not include a camp of migrants at the base of the mountain who were looking for work. Some say they’d left. But no one knows for sure.

The Base of Turtle Mountain
The debris from Turtle Mountain

In the recent photo above, looking down from the Interpretive Center, you can see the Old Man River and the train tracks on the other side of the highway.

And from the highway, looking north, this is what you see.

But as far as Charlie was concerned, Mexican at Twin Butte would be every bit as good as the buffet at the Grizzly Bear Grill. And he’d have his usual. Two enchiladas, one chicken and one pulled pork, Spanish rice, and refried beans. And, of course, two Labatt 50s.

The Twin Butte General Store
First opened in the 1930s, then refurbished and reopened in 1996

Anyway, those are the three shortest and easiest of the seventeen trails listed in the park’s hiking guide, which Charlie would hike in 2011, the year he’d turn seventy. Nothing like the Akamina at 18.3 kilometers with an elevation gain of 950 meters, just under a kilometer, of course. But a good start.


Copyright © Glenn E. Christianson, 2017- 2022. All Rights Reserved.



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