Bye Bye USA, Hello Smashed-in-Head and Parts North

Awoke to much rain, wind, and cold for the border crossing and trip onward to Calgary. So much fog that it was hard to get any good photos. Here’s what was in my rear view mirror as I hit the border:

Told you it was pretty...

Apparently, Canada is very glad to see me:

At times, the misty fog cleared and I was able to see some of the farms and grasslands in southern Alberta…

Grain elevator in Craddock, AB

This is a big windvane that welcomes you to Buffalo Junction

Passing through Lethbridge, I saw the Canadian-Pacific Railroad’s High Level trestle bridge spanning the Oldman River. At 314 feet high and 5,327 feet long, it is the longest and highest trestle bridge in the world (and it is still in operation).

Okay – so far I’ve seen ‘Home on the Range’ and now Oldman River (get it? Old Man River? I crack me up sometimes)…

Despite the cold and rain, I could not pass up visiting Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump near Fort McLeod. I’m not making this up. It’s pretty famous up here.

Story is – plains tribesmen used to kill buffalo by rounding them up and stampeding them through these narrowing gullies until they reached a cliff and … tumbled over.

Grasslands just before you reach the cliffs at the end of Porcupine Hills

This was a big deal. Literally, hundreds of buffalo would run off the cliffs seen here:

Here’s how it worked. Buffalo are very social animals and the herds are led by dominant females (what else is new?). They also have really bad eyesight. The aborigines that lived on the plains would make a bunch of noise, sending the herds into a stampede. Tightly bunched, only the lead animals had any chance of seeing what was in front of them.

The cliffs are about 90 feet high

The layout of the land was such that there was a rise just before the cliffs which prevented the lead buffalo from seeing the drop-off. So, over they went. Hundreds of them plunged into what was called the “killing field” below.

The killing field was between the cliffs and the path seen here

Hunters would roam among the piles of buffalo putting any survivors out of their misery. Then the butchers would drag the carcasses to flat lands where they would skin them and prepare the meat (which was enough to get them through the tough winters).

So, how did the place get its name? Legend has it that, during one of the stampedes, one of the young Blackfoot men wanted to see the buffalo jump from underneath. Unfortunately for him that day, it was an extra large herd and he became buried in the pile of landing buffalo. By the time the tribe had dug him out of the pile, his head was mush.

Final score:   Blackfoot tribe: thousands    Buffalo: 1


Today’s Travel:  386 miles

Total Travel To Date:  3739 miles


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