Royal Tyrrell museum & canyons

Day 4
Tuesday July 19th

Wow - was that a noisy night, the B&B might well be called Taste of the Past but the trains at 5.00am were a blast from the past, literally ! Their sounded their air horns as they approached Drumheller and were loud enough to wake the recently deceased. How anybody living here could get used to them I don't know.

Breakfast made up for everything - fruit salad followed by devilled eggs, followed by homemade croissanty things glazed in some sweet substance. The kids went straight back on the bar billiards after breakfast whilst we got ready to hit the museum, David was particularly enamoured with the bar billiards and any time there was 10 seconds to spare he was on it.


Royal Tyrrell museum

The museum was about 5 miles North of the town, it was raining when we arrived which meant that none of the outdoor activities were on that day.

This is a working museum so in addition to all the skeletons you could possibly want to see there was a section behind glass where you could watch the staff prepare new arrivals for examination, unwrapping the coverings and extracting the rocks.

The whole place was very well done, justly deserving its fame, the main museum was set out by period, Triassis, Jurassic... with an additional section devoted to underwater development. Several of these areas had animated displays and television talks each suitably short for children and with comfy seating around many of them.

Off the lobby there was a lecture theatre where larger shows were held at set times taking you behind the scenes explaining the complete process from discovery to display. These were hugely entertaining with integrated cgi. The narator also appeared in many of the tv displays around the museum providing continuity and humor.

Jude and the kids soon got ahead of me as I stopped to take the occasional photo, an situation oft repeated throughout the holiday.

By the time we left it was lunch and everybody was hungry, I made them all wait though as I insisted on climbing to one of the lookouts since the rain had temporarily stopped.

Lunch was back towards town in a local cafe with a train set running around the ceiling. Their speciality was pancakes so we all indulged ourselves, I'm not sure that peaches and cream pancakes are an appropriate lunch time meal but they were good. Whilst we were in there it pelted down with rain and the car was in a huge puddle when we came out but at least the sun had broken out again.


Horsethief canyon

Heading north was a driving loop, up the North Dinosaur trail across the Red River and back down the South Dinosaur trail. Horsethief Canyon sounded interesting and river crossing was supposedly an old chain ferry.

The road wound along the valley floor before climbing up the east side where there were the first nodding donkey oil wells that we had seen, a gravel track led off to the valley rim to overlook Horsethief Canyon. Compared to Drumheller the valley had narrowed considerable but was just as flat along the floor and just as steep on the sides.

Carrying on along the top the road soon turned and headed down steeply towards the river where the chain ferry was waiting for us, bright and white in the sun.. It was only a 5 minute crossing and quite surprisingly free. The road then climbed back up the valley sides and went along the top before dropping back down into Drumheller.

Horseshoe canyon

From here we headed off back down Highway 9 towards Calgary where Horseshoe Canyon was, we must have passed it on the way in but not known it was there a mere few hundred yards off the road. This is where I learned that maps are deceptive in Canada, Horseshoe Canyon looked about the half the distance of the dinosaur trail but we were still cruising along at 90kph half an hour later.

Just when I was about to turn around convinced that we must have passed it we found the gravel turning. A large car park at the top of the canyon with a few smelly hole pit loos and a magnificent view of the canyon with its verdent bottom. Unlike Horsethief Canyon it was possible to climb down this one so I scrambled down an old steep muddy stream and waited for the others to follow; Jude came down a more sedate path.

This is what I climbed down

Back to town for tea where we hit a steakhouse. Most of the eating houses seem very empty and I can't decide whether it's the wrong time of night, the wrong time of year or whether it's always like this. I introduced Chris to real ribs on the bone, we shared a full rack (13 ) betwen us as it was cheaper than two half racks.


©2005 Rob Hayward