"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Calgary, My Enchanted Land, and the End of the Road?


The only thing on my schedule for today was a visit of Fort Calgary. It's a small museum, but the exhibits about the NWMP and the history of Calgary are quite interesting. I was accosted at one point by a retired RCMP officer who proceeded to talk my ear off for about twenty minutes about his career, his uniform, Mountie training, career opportunities within the force, his son who is serving at the detachment in Inuvik, our mutual feelings about Ottawa vs. The West, and more. It was really interesting!

As I was about to leave the fort, the lady at the admissions desk called me back and gave me some information about another museum that might interest me that is only open tomorrow (more about that tomorrow *g*) and then she gave me information on a walking tour of downtown Calgary, a scenic detour on the way to a cemetery, details on how to find a particularly interesting gravestone, a brochure about a rock garden that is a must see, and, finally, a map illustrating filming locations in the Calgary area. Whew!

I did only part of the walking tour, which was mostly a gentle stroll down Stephen Avenue, Calgary's former main street. The architecture was exquisite!!! During a pre-WWI boom, a lot of Calgary's original wooden buildings were replaced by sandstone structures that really reflect the amount of wealth coming into the city at the time. The Doll Building was my favourite:

The Hudson's Bay store left me awestruck. It takes up a whole block!

I then returned to my car and proceeded to Spiller Avenue, from which she told me I should take the steepest side street I could find and that I would know why at the top:

Next on the list was the cemetery. There, I took a photograph of this grave:

You won't know who he is. Most people wouldn't. But he employed two people who you will know about, even if you didn't know that they spent some time working in Calgary and that they probably met up here, while working for this gentleman. History remembers these two men as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The Reader Rock Garden was attached to the cemetery. I enjoyed clambering up and down the stone paths even if there wasn't much in bloom at this time of year.

It was two by this point and I had nothing else planned for the day. So, I took a gander at the movie locations map. You wouldn't believe the number of major Hollywood pictures filmed in the Calgary area, everything from Robin Williams' 'RV' to Clint Eastwood's 'Unforgiven' to Ang Lee's 'Brokeback Mountain' (a lot of which was filmed near the town on the outskirts of which I'm currently living).

My Enchanted Land

Until the late '90's, I could recognize a certain landscape, or a variation thereof, in numerous movies, but I didn't realise that it was truly one landscape from one region. It was a landscape of mountains, plateaus, and valleys; the perfect setting for everything from 'Legends of the Fall' to 'The Edge', movies set in a gentler time or about a rough wilderness. Then one day I watched the dueSouth episode 'Call of the Wild' and recognized this landscape in it. I did some research and discovered that my enchanted land is called Kananaskis country and it is in Alberta.

Why my enchanted land? There is a book I reread many times in my youth called 'Cat, Herself.' It tells the story of a family of tinkers in Scotland. Tinkers are travelers not unlike the full-time RVer. The main character, Cat, had a grand-mother who referred to Ben Loyal as her enchanted land. The expression stuck in my mind.

So, looking at the movie locations map today, I noticed a route marked the Kananaskis trail. It looked like perhaps three to four hours driving time total.

I wanted to go, but I hesitated. What if my enchanted land turned out to be two beautiful peaks surrounded by condos? Perhaps I should do what I did in 1998 when I purposely avoided Sherwood Forest, just leave it as a land out of dreams.

But I was so close. I decided to go.

I'll let just a few of the pictures I took tell the rest of the story.

The End of the Road?

There is so much work here in Alberta, more jobs than there are workers. From an employment point of view, this should be the end of the road for me until the spring. But I really don't think that Miranda could be made comfortable enough to endure a Calgary winter and I've endured enough miserable winters in the mobile home to know what I'd be getting into. But all these jobs! So, I'll confess that I'm looking, just for curiosity's sake, for an indoor place where I could park Miranda for the winter and live in her, like a heated garage or plane hangar.

To give you an idea of what the employment situation is like, let's go back for a moment to my very first morning in Alberta, back when I was in Lloydminster. I decided to treat myself to a Tim Horton's coffee before pushing off. I went in, ordered my coffee and muffin, and was about to leave when someone called to me. It was the manager. He wanted to know if I owned the RV outside and, if so, if I'd be interested in a couple of weeks worth of work.

I haven't shared that story because I felt no one would believe it. But the woman at the museum today did and she said she had a job for me for the winter if I wanted it.

That doesn't make actually looking for work particularly appealing.


Julie said...

Wow! Breathtaking views. I don't think your enchanted land dissappointed you.

Who knew that Calgary was part of NWT at some point. Anyway, not me the historically challenge.

Raven said...

Part of Manitoba and all points was were the NWT way back when.

A brief history of the Canadian west and the NWMP:

-fur trading was set up here because they were running out of beavers in Europe;

-fur trade here thrived and it was in the best advantage of just about everyone to leave the west wild to support this industry;

-fur trade fell because of changes in fashion;

-government decided it was time to open the west to settlement;

-Sir John A. MacDonald didn't want to see the west opened up the way it was in the US, with all the lawlessness, so he proposed that a special police force be created to patrol the opened up territories;

-the Canadian west was settled in a fairly peaceful fashion thanks mostly to the NWMP;

-when gold was found in the Klondike, the Mounties made sure it wasn't a free for all and the rush wound up being one of the most civilized of its type

Well, that's *part* of the story. :-)

Bast said...

The museum job sounds so tempting...

Raven said...

Knowing my luck, she just needed me to polish all the RCMP stuff for sale in the gift shop!