Alberta, sans vampires


We were four days, more or less, in Alberta last week, flying out from Seattle on Wednesday morning. It was a new--and therefore smaller--model airplane and passengers were warned that they might have to check some of their carry-on items at the door if it wouldn't fit in the new--and therefore smaller--overhead luggage racks. Why do people insist on bringing full-size backpacks with sleeping bags into the passenger compartment, as well as suitcases and bags and God knows what else? Don't get me started. It was a smooth enough flight though worries (unfounded, it turned out) of turbulence meant no coffee or other hot beverages. Somehow we managed to survive, being very brave.


The Calgary airport seems to be mostly empty space, as if it were built during more hopeful economic times, for a boom that hasn't happened. Although the prairie around Calgary continues to be eaten away by ugly urban sprawl in the form of identical subdivisions of identical brown split-level houses, a cancer of development. But the Calgary airport is quite clean and I like the friendly folks in the red vests and white cowboy hats offering free rides on the carts.


Calgary was only a way station, where we transferred from plane to bus for a two-hour drive into Banff, within Banff National Park, in the shadows of Mt. Rundle and Mt. Cascade. We were attending the annual Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. The grand prize of the book half of the festival went to Jim Herrington's The Climbers, a book into which Mighty Reader poured countless hours. Be sure to read the opening essay by Greg Child (author of Over the Edge among other books). Banff is grand and it's always nice when every presentation ends with an exhortation for attendees to buy some books to support small publishers and book sellers.


The view from our hotel window, facing west.


The full moon setting, around 6:30 AM.


Banff National Park, detail.


The Alberta prairie, lovely in its emptiness.


À bientôt, Calgary! You see in the near distance one of those new identical unsightly subdivisions, and spaces being scraped flat for more of the same. They go on for mile after mile. From the highway the roofs of these houses seem to crest over hills like horrific brown waves, an advancing flood of I-don't-know-what. Ruskin pointed out the importance to human dignity of beautiful homes for the working class. In Calgary, they are erecting hectares of mud-brown mazes, sheds for bodies rather than houses for immortal spirits.

12 comments:

  1. In the final photo, why does everything look like a dried mud desert? Why is nothing green? Looks like a scene out of Star Wars.

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    1. The snow makes everything look uniformly pale, even the prairie grass, which is everywhere, and possibly quite pretty in the spring when it's green. I've never been to Calgary except this time of year. The parcels of land in the foreground of the last photo have been stripped to make room for progress. Good times are coming.

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  2. i stayed in Calgary for a week, attending an dehydrator school; it was, then, a great place to walk at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers...
    Banff was spectacular; we hiked a lot and saw a grizzly once; a geologist's paradise...

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    1. Beautiful examples of tilted block mountains; you can really see the forces of nature at work there.

      No bears, but plenty of mule deer, elk, ravens and magpies. I did have a bottle of Grizzly Paw Grumpy Bear Honey Wheat beer, though. No doubt the brewers think that's an aggressive outdoorsy name for a product, but I can't help picturing a sozzled Paddington calling for another round.

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  3. Oh, I love Banff--those milky, green-talc-colored glacial lakes. The Rockies without quite so much litter and without so many people stomping tundra with boots. Everywhere one loves is being overtaken by sprawl, it seems.

    Have you seen that youtube talk about art and psychology between Marc Mayer, Director of the National Gallery of Canada, and Jordan Peterson? Somewhere in it, Peterson waxes ecstatic about the beauty of Europe and its value and (rather comically) mourns the ugliness of Canadian architecture. Works for the states, too.

    You were noble to read that long comment, by the by. I'll try to come back more often now that the year's six big journeys are done.

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    1. But we also really like Vancouver, a city of charm and beauty! Though I haven't been to the Vancouver suburbs, so what do I know? I'll look for that Mayer/Peterson talk.

      That long comment held my attention all the way through. Honesty is an attractive artistic choice.

      I haven't been posting with much frequency at all of late; time seems so short and though I accomplish almost nothing, I seem to be quite busy.

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    2. I haven't been to Vancouver in many years, but I had a good time and good food when there.

      Me too. Three children and a mother growing older and a husband who loves to travel and a house to clean and so on. Busy.

      Perhaps it was a little too honest!

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  4. i got tangled up trying to unmonkeywrench my computer and ended up with my own blog: http//muddlet.wordpress.com... all comments and criticisms welcomed...

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  5. In 2000, when my childhood best friend got married, he was very clear about not wanting the standard caveman bachelor party, so the two of us flew to Newfoundland to hike in a national park, climb a rather unnerving mountain, and see the distant peninsula where Vikings landed. It was glorious, and although the topography in Calgary is rather different, I appreciate you sharing these photos with us. Made me wistful...

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    1. We dream of going to Newfoundland one day, but first we'll probably mount an expedition up to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. I'm getting too old for mountains. Last year we went on a 12-mile hike around the rim of a glacial valley in the North Cascades and I was pretty sure I'd never make it down the last two miles of switchback trail. But I sure love the view from up there, I really do.

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  6. Such fine photos! It is, however, GREG CHILD, whose credits include "Mixed Emotions," "Over the Edge," "Thin Air," and "Postcards from the Ledge" who wrote the main essay in "The Climbers."

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    1. It looks like I'd conflated Mr Child with Mr Powter to come up with Mr Childs, who at least is a real person. Fixed now, ta.

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