Why Alberta?

One Sunday afternoon in late spring, Tom and I were talking over the telephone about one of our favorite subjects, travel, theorizing about places we might like to visit during the summer.

The usual suspects were mentioned: London, Scotland, Turkey, Sicily, Greece, Iceland, Morocco, and more. But summer airfares combined with the idea of visiting too-touristy places during the peak season caused us to look around at different options.

Tom was playing with Google Earth (a wonderful, fun program for people who love geography; if you haven't used it, it's free). This program lets you "fly" over parts of the world and zoom in on them, and Tom hit Lake Louise.

We were both brought up on National Geographic, and we had actually talked in the past about how Lake Louise appeared to be an incredibly beautiful locale. Exploring it on Google Earth just reinforced that concept. The Canadian Rockies, wildlife, lovely mountain towns, hiking, glaciers, mountain lakes and waterfalls—what's not to like?

Dinosaur National Park, Alberta

Albertasaurus, Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumehller, Alberta

View along the Icefields Parkway, Banff

While doing our research (one of my favorite parts of travel), we discovered Dinosaur Provincial (National) Park in southeastern Alberta. Well, that set our itinerary.

We would fly in to Calgary (the green star on the map), rent a car, drive to Dinosaur National Park, then drive across Alberta to the Rockies. We would spend our first night in the small country town of Brooks (see the green blocks on the map, bottom right corner), then spend the next day at the Dinosaur National Park (in the Badlands).

Then we would drive up to the town of Drumheller, which bills itself as the "Dinosaur Capital of the World," with the "World's Largest Dinosaur." It is also home to the stunning Royal Tyrrell Museum of paleontology, a massive collection of fossils that this part of Canada is famous for.

After touring the museum and driving the "Dinosaur Trail," visiting "hoodoos," the Atlas Coal Mine Museum, and the East Coulee School Museum, we would use the secondary roads to drive from Drumheller to Jasper, in Jasper National Park.

The road from Drumheller would take us through Torrington (site of the famed Gopher Museum) and Rocky Mountain House, through the unbelievably dramatic Saskatchewan River Pass, and finally onto the famed Icefield Parkway, the road that connects Jasper, Lake Louise, and Banff.

We would first head north to Jasper, then work our way south. After 2 days in Jasper, we would spend 2 days exploring Lake Louise, and a final day touring Banff, before driving back to Calgary for our return to Chicago.

Along the way, we would see bears and elk and deer and mountain sheep, new birds for my bird list, massive glaciers, spectacular waterfalls and gorges, the most perfect rainbow I've ever seen in my life, and dramatic views of the Rockies every which way we looked.

Click the link in the lower left corner of each page to follow the trip. Hope you'll enjoy it!

Looking for Dinosaurs and Hoodoos