Cycling the Alberta Prairies

Kelly’s write up about cycling the Alberta Prairies during our cycle trip across Canada in Summer 2016! Click here to read Michael’s write up of cycling across the Prairies.  

A couple of rest days in Calgary and then a couple more in Airdrie was exactly what we needed before Cycling the Alberta Prairies! We had the chance to rest, clean our gear, buy new gear, replace some broken and lost things, eat a whole lot of food and drink a whole lot of beer. So, as you can image we were feeling a bit more ‘normal’ and more enthusiastic about the cycle ahead!

Horseshoe Canyon and the Start of the Prairies

Once we left Airdrie the Prairies became quite apparent. Suddenly there were yellow canola fields, pastures, meadows and wheat farms everywhere. The land also flattened out – though there were still a lot of small hills along the way (which we weren’t expecting). The wind picked up and we spent the day battling a strong head wind. The first of the trip, but not the last.

We spent the night camping in Horseshoe canyon – a stunning canyon just outside Drumheller. It was at Horseshoe canyon where we started to see Prairie Dogs (this is actually where we spotted the most Prairie dogs of the whole trip). Prairie Dogs are totally adorable! They are Canada’s quokkas. A quokka is a marsupial found on an island just off the coast of Perth and they are the happiest, little fur ball in the world, and totally adorable!

quokka selfie
My cousin with a quokaa
prairie dog, Cycling the Alberta Prairies
Prairie dog at Horseshoe canyon, which we discovered while cycling the Alberta Prairies

Drumheller: The Dinosaur Town

In the morning we cycled onto the tourist town, Drumheller. To get to Drumheller we had a steep descent into the Coulee. It was an awesome and very pretty cycle! It also meant we smashed out 20km in less than an hour.

Drumheller is famous for it’s dinosaurs. As soon as you enter the town you will start to see plastic dinosaurs everywhere. We headed straight to the visitor center to see the world’s largest plastic dinosaur. It was actually pretty awesome! You could even pay to climb up to the mouth of the dinosaur. I have to admit, I am a fan of the various, “world largest” items.

We spent a bit of time chatting to the lady in the visitor center and mapped out a plan. We decided to head down highway 10 to check out the Hoodoos (rock formations on a smaller scale to those in Cappadocia, Turkey) and then cycle the quiet 570. Before we head off down this route, we made a quick, but important stop at good ole’ Timmy’s for some sugary treats and a coffee.

The Hoodoos

Highway 10 was stunning, though quite touristy. We cycled through the coulee (like cycling in a gorge or narrow valley) for most of the day. The Hoodoos were quite cool – worth the stop! Not as impressive as the rock formations we seen in Turkey, but still completely different to anything we had seen in Canada so far.

After the Hoodoos the traffic disappeared. There were still a couple of small towns we cycled passed, but we knew we would get to a point that this would end. At the end of the Coulee, in the very small town of Dorothy, we stopped in the shade and had a long rest.

Chilling with the dinos at Drumheller
Chilling with the dinos at Drumheller

Road 570: Entering the Prairie Plains!

From Dorothy there was 300km until the next town, which was also in the next province, Saskatchewan. There were very limited services along the route, so we weren’t sure where we would be able to get water. We decided to take this route due to the lack of traffic. Cycling the Alberta Prairies was challenging!

The first night we camped at a community hall in Coulee. Coulee consisted of a farm, a community center/ school (which didn’t look like it was being used) and a camp of construction workers. Luckily this meant we could fill up out water at their camp.

The next day was shit! Strong headwinds, lots of mosquitos, little change in scenery and lots of bloody hills (I thought the Prairies were flat – what I friggin’ lie). To fill up our water bottles we had to detour off the road about 6km to the trading post at Big Rock (Big Rock consisted of a trading post, a house and a campsite). The trading post was like an oasis, with cold drinks, hot drinks, free wifi, free water and friendly staff. I didn’t want to leave. I would have happily lived there for the rest of my life instead of getting back on the 570, but unfortunately, that wasn’t an option.

Haunted Shacks and Ghost Towns

We headed back to the 570 and continued towards Saskatchewan. Finally, we got a nice long descent. When I reached the bottom, I turned around to see where Michael was and noticed a huge black storm cloud was making its way for us. Fortunately, there was an abandoned house in the field, so we decided to head over and check it out.

SASKATCHEWAN ON TWO WHEELS
Where we slept for the night

Now, anyone that knows me would also know I’m a big wimp. I hate anything that could potentially be haunted, I hate scary movies, I hate all that horror crap! I was not planning on sleeping in an abandoned house that looked like it hadn’t been lived in for 50 years. Michael must have been able to tell, just by looking at me that I wasn’t too impressed with the idea. Every horror movie I had ever watched that featured ghosts or haunted houses, started to go through my head. How the hell was I going to sleep in that shack?
Fortunately (or unfortunately), the storm hit! It was bad. Later we learnt just how bad it was – roads had washed out, farms flooded and some areas even got hail. We had no choice but to camp in the haunted shack (by this time I had already decided it was haunted). Surprisingly, I had a good sleep. The storm distracted me from the sounds from the ghosts, that along with being so exhausted from cycling in a headwind all day, meant I passed out pretty much as soon as my head hit the mat.

Cycling the Alberta Prairies

In the morning we woke to clouds, but the storm has pass. We managed to get some pretty awesome photos in the shack. I was in shock that I actually managed to sleep in a haunted shack – something to tick off the bucket list!
We packed off and got back on the 570 to the Saskatchewan border. We may have finished cycling the Alberta Prairies, but really the Prairies had only just begun!

Are you planning your own cycle tour? If so, check out  this article about Accommodation Options for Cycle Tourists.

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