Oh Canada: The Lethbridge Edition!

We are happy to be in Canada! For the past several years, the kids and I have had a routine during our annual pilgrimage to Mecca the Motherland.  We drive eight hours, overnight at the Holiday Inn in Billings, MT., swim at their pool, eat at Cracker Barrel and then drive 9 hours the next day to Calgary where we spend about 10 days with my parents and at the Calgary Stampede before driving to British Columbia and playing at the lake for a week.

We shifted our schedule this year because our week at the lake fell earlier on the calendar and I wanted to spend time with my parents prior. So, the kids and I skipped our own beloved 4th of July celebration in our neighborhood leaving poor Jamie to fend for himself, and arrived in southern Alberta to celebrate Canada Day. We stayed with my best friend Stacey’s sister Heather’s family and had a blast! Heather lives in the “big city” of the region–Lethbridge is about 80,000 people. My mom was raised in nearby Raymond, a small Mormon town that is the center of the universe and so many of my childhood memories.

As we pulled into Lethbridge, the directions I printed off didn’t match up with the streets. Lost without my GPS and Siri in a different country I followed a random car into a neighborhood and pulled into their driveway. Creepy, right? Not for Canadians. A mid-20s young man hopped out of his car and gave me directions. They were a bit confusing so he kindly offered, “I’ll tell you what: it’s only a couple of miles away. I’ll drive over there and you just follow me.” That, my friends, is Canadian hospitality.

That night, Heather’s husband Will suggested we bike down to the Lethbridge Bike Park. I’ve driven through Lethbridge countless times as a kid en route to Raymond, but I’ve never really experienced it. Nor did I want to. Southern Alberta is mostly prairies and farm fields–nothing too impressive in terms of adventuring but I quickly realized I’d underestimated its charms.

Heather and Will live near the ridge of a beautiful river valley, The Lethbridge Nature Preserve. There are three ecosystems in this 196-acre park:  the prairie, the coulees and the floodplains  that contain Fort Whoop-Up, Helen Schuler Nature Centre and the High Level Bridge.

Canadian vernacular: a coulee is a steep-sided v-shaped valley or ravine. The name “coulee” was first used by early French Canadian voyageurs crossing the Great Plains. The Lethbridge High Level Bridge, called a viaduct by Canadian Pacific Railway engineers, is the longest-highest bridge of its type in the world. When the bridge was completed in 1909, it was described as one of the “wonders of the world.”

Its steep descent into the river valley certainly was wondrous.

As we crossed the Oldman River, we saw not one but several beavers. If you look closely on the shoreline, you can see one of them right before he enters the water. It was like our own private “Welcome to Canada!”

We had a blast at the mountain bike park and I only almost died once, which I deemed a successful outing. The kids loved racing on foot as well.

There is a steep set of stairs leading up to a pavilion overlooking the bridge. I asked Heather if it was still an active bridge for trains and right as I asked that question, wouldn’t you know what came chuggling along?

The pumpkin sunset was a nice touch as well.

It was 9:30 p.m., the sun was dipping behind the clouds and we reluctantly turned back home, preparing to climb the steep hill to Heather’s house  (see it in the above picture in the distance). Will had his daughter on the back of his bike, otherwise would have blazed past us all. I somehow made it up without stopping; Heather later said I powered up it, which was an exaggeration in that I almost died and a turtle could have passed me but gosh darn it, I didn’t dismount even once. 

But let’s back up a bit. Just when I thought the night couldn’t get any better, we had one of my favorite moments of our time in Lethbridge. Hadley was in front of me, had coasted down a small hill and was gaining speed to ascend. I looked over to her left–a deer was a stone’s throw away running beside us. I panicked–he was going to cut across the path and crash into Hadley but I held back from shouting out to alarm her.  She glanced at him, he returned her gaze and for about 30 magical seconds, it was Dances with Wolves: Deer Edition.  That deer raced her, pedal-for-pedal, stride-for-stride. I’d never fully recognized how agile, smooth and majestic deer truly are. When she went faster, he sped up. I didn’t breathe the entire time, she squealed with delight until the deer finally sped ahead, crossed the path and quickly disappeared from view.  It was one of those moments of wonderment when you’re just so glad to be alive.

And then we climbed the hill of death and nearly died.

Lethbridge, we’ll be back to experience more of your charms.


In case you missed our other Canadian adventures this summer:

Oh Canada: The Lethbridge Edition

Oh Canada: The Canada Day in Raymond and Waterton Edition

Oh Canada: The Calgary Edition

Oh Canada: The Banff/Canmore Edition

Oh Canada: The Lakehouse Edition

Oh Canada: The Kettle Valley Railway Trail Edition

 Oh Canada: The Edition Not in Canada



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