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Catch Up Edition - Okotoks to Pincher Creek

Okotoks Erratic, Fort Macleod, Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, Pincher Creek Rodeo, Oldman Dam

sunny 24 °C

Aug 18 to Aug 23 Days 88 to 93

Okotoks Erratic, Fort MacLeod, Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Rodeo in Pincher Creek, Oldman Dam, Waterton National Park

Distance traveled 300 km towing, 400 km local travel; trip total 13,900 kilometers

Gas prices $1.499/liter in Fort Macleod, $1,479 in Pincher Creek

August 18

We started our last morning in Okotoks with another brisk walk on the trails along the Sheep River. Another 35 minutes and 3.4 km. Our drive to fairly short today and we are in no hurry to depart. We hook TaJ up to Sully, stop by the tire shop for a re-torque on the wheel nuts and head out.
Out first stop is the Okotoks Erratic, a piece of the Rocky Mountains, carried by a glacier from somewhere up near Jasper and dropped onto the prairie. It is huge. It traveled about 600 kilometers to its current location. According to the signs, it most likely came from Mount Edith Cavell area. There is a very lively prairie dog community here is as well.


The River’s Edge RV Park is just OK. We are here to see a few local things and the location is good, but the facilities are sketchy, to say the least. The heat of the day is building as we get TaJ settled onto her site. It is close to the highway, but we are told it is not too noisy at night. Sure!
Fort Macleod is just a few minutes away and we head in for gas and groceries. Sully gets gas at $1.499/liter and by the time we get back and our groceries put away it is too hot to do anything but sit in the shade and read. It is going to be hot the next 3 days, with highs of 33 to 35 C (98 TO 102 F). The good news is this place is breezy and the afternoon winds make things comfortable, at least outdoors. Inside TaJ it is pretty warm.

August 19

We slept well, but the noise from the highway is a intrusive. A lot of engine braking from the trucks slowing down on the approach to Fort MacLeod, or accelerating back up to highway speeds. It cooled down enough that we were chilly in the morning. It as 11C (54 F) when we got up. The heat wave is continuing, but there is enough cooling that the nights are comfortable.

We had oatmeal for breakfast and headed off to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We got there early since the predicted high for today is 36 C (104 F) and the afternoon will be a scorcher.

The buffalo jump has been used by natives for about 6,000 years and the artifacts and buffalo bones are 10 meters (35 feet) deep below the jump. The entire area below the cliffs was used to process the hundreds of buffalo killed in a successful year. The natives stampeded buffalo herds off the jump, channelling them down a narrowing funnel towards the edge of the cliff. The conditions had to be just right for a successful hunt.

The buffalo were processed, the meat cooked, or dried right there at the base of the cliffs. The fur was cleaned and tanned. The last successful hunt was about 250 years ago. Of course, the white man slaughtered the buffalo in the 1800’s to near extinction ending any future use of the buffalo jump.


We finished our tour by 1pm and headed back to the campground. Both of us wandered over to the Oldman River, which runs alongside the campground. You can wade into the river to cool off. People have built small rock dams along the edge to create spots where the river’s flow is dampened. They put camp chairs in the river and sit with their feet submerged to stay cool in the super charged heat. We spent the hot afternoon reading in the shade of TaJ. In the evening it cools quite rapidly to the low 20’s, which is a welcome relief.

August 20

Rodeo Day! The Pincher Creek Pro Rodeo was on our agenda for this leg of the trip. We skipped the Saturday morning parade, but did take in the Western Vendors Market, in the Community Hall. Our here in the west, the local vendors sell western ‘stuff’, considerably different than what we would find on the east coast. It was interesting to see, but since we buy nothing that needs room for transportation back home, we passed on all but a small bag of local beef jerky.


The rodeo grounds open at 12:30 and we join a large number of people of a certain age, who are looking for the shaded spot in the outdoor arena. Once corner of the grandstand is shaded and we settle in to watch the preparations for the day. We’ve brought water, and books to read, but the locals are chatty and we engage in conversations with lots of people. A nice way to spend the 90 minutes before the show starts.
Promptly at 2pm, the rodeo begins, with Bareback Riding, then on to Steer Wrestling. Each event has about 10 participants so the action moves quickly.


A new event for the cowgirls is Breakaway Roping. The contestant only has to get the loop around the steer’s head, and when the rope ‘breaks’ away from the saddle the timing of the event ends. The winner in this was just 4.8 seconds from when the steer was released and the pursuit began. Not sure what purpose in the real world this skill would have.

One thing you notice right away is that the cowgirls are every bit as ‘’into’’ this as the men. The women’s horses are pretty and functional, while the men’s are just functional. Manes and tails are groomed, some of the horses even have glitter on their rumps.

Junior Steer Riding is next, for teenage Bull Rider wannabees. Then it is Tie Down Roping, an actual cowboy skill, used to secure young cattle for branding, etc. This had 10 contestants and 6 of the 10 failed to rope the calf, let alone tie it down.


A couple of trick rides filled in the Intermission with a very entertaining show. The most entertaining particpant of the entire rodeo was this enthusiastic sheepdog who helped herd the animals back into the compound. For a small dog, he put up with no guff:


Ladies Barrel Racing is a big thing in rodeo. In this rodeo, only 13 riders compete in each of three ‘’shows’’ over the weekend, but there are another 36 riders who compete without an audience in what is called the ‘’slack’’ between shows, or, in other words, in an empty arena. They must circle 3 barrels spaced around the arena. Each rider gets just one chance to do the ride over the run of the rodeo. The winner is usually under 15 seconds.


Team Roping was the second last event. In this one, two cowboys must work together to rope a steer. The first loops the head and the second one must then catch the back feet to take the steer off its feet. This is also a real skill in the cowboy world and not a made-up event for entertainment.

Last up of course, is Bull Riding. This is the premiere event of the rodeo. Highly skilled riders, pit their abilities against 1500-pound bulls for an 8 second ride. The bulls are named and rated and spend their lives as rodeo animals. Some have never been successfully ridden. The cowboys are competing for the chance to join the season finals rodeos, where the prize money is large. Only 3 of the 7 riders in today’s event successfully complete the ride.


We had a good day at the rodeo. It was an interesting slice of life that we would not have known existed except for our attendance today. The people in the stands embrace the rodeo way of life. Most of the people here were in blue jeans, cowboy shirts and hats.

August 21

We had a slow start to our day. It is only 40 kilometers to our next campground at Oldman Dam and checkout at River's Edge RV Park is 11:30am. A morning shower, leisurely breakfast and we were still hooked up and ready to pull out by 11:00am. Castleview Campground has 30 sites, only 8 of which are occupied. The camp is located on a bluff overlooking the Oldman River Dam, which is primarily flood-control, but does have a small hydro electric facility.


The area abounds with wind turbines. There are about 100 within sight.


The rest of today is spent shopping for food and alcohol in Pincher Creek, and watching thunder storms build and then dissipate all around us. We got a light sprinkling of rain, but otherwise, just more of the same prairie heat we have been having for the past 3 weeks. A good thunderstorm would be a welcome change.

August 22

Our visit to Waterton National Park! We finally got to visit this gem of the Rockies. Jenny has been here many times when she lived in Lethbridge but this our first time here together. We leave the campground early, and arrive at Waterton Townsite at 9:30am, on what is going to be another sweltering day. Our plan is to do the Bear’s Hump Hike, a 1.4 km one-way climb up a hill to an overview of Waterton Townsite and the Waterton Lakes. The hike is steep, 225 meters of elevation gain, and we work our way across switch-backs and steep sharp ascents.

The hill was tree covered until 2018 when a massive wildfire swept over the area, almost burning Waterton to the ground. It is now open to the sun and the day’s warmth overwhelmed my ability to make it to the top. I crapped out 1.25 km in, leaving Jenny to make it to the top. I sat on a bench and awaited my love’s descent so we could finish the hike together. In total we were 2 hours on the trail to do around the almost 3 km roundtrip.


We had a picnic lunch at Cameron Bay, and visited Cameron Falls on the way out of town. We arrived back at Castleview Camp around 3pm, caught a nap, a shower and did some reading. The weather is supposed to break overnight, with thunderstorms in the forecast.


For our firends back in Nova Scotia, who feed chipmunks: this is a picrture of a robust, well-fed Chippy!


August 23

We did have an intense period of lightning and thunder just past midnight. It lasted about 2 hours, and we got brief rain showers. We woke to cooler temperatures and it appears the heat wave has broken. Highs for today are predicted at 23C (78 F). So this blog post brings us up to date as of this morning.

Next up for us: Dinosaur Provincial Park, near Brooks, then Medicine Hat

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 17:54 Archived in Canada Tagged okotoks_erratic head_smashed_in_buffalo_jump pincher_creek_rodeo olman_dam waterton_national_park

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