Tag Archive: Alberta Canada


Why I support organizations like the World Wildlife Fund is simply because I was surrounded by wildlife for so many years . I lived by myself in the Kananaskis Country of Alberta and later in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains for over twenty seven years. With my horses and cats to keep me company. Before arriving in Canada – from the United States – in 1976, I had lived in cities, mostly Europe. I also did not have the luxury of growing up in a “Huckleberry Finn kind of childhood”, like Monte Hummel, President Emeritus & Chair, Legacy Giving, World Wildlife Fund. On the contrary, when I was two years old, World War II had started in Europe, and our country during the bombardments in the years 1940 until 1945 was completely destroyed. Not the kind of childhood one likes to remember, but must. Being in Canada and reminded of the war regularly.

Not long ago I received a book from Monte Hummel titled Wintergreen, Reflections from Loon Lake. I did not even know where Look Lake is: “Loon Lake is a resort and vacation/retirement community off Highway 97 just north of Cache Creek in British Columbia, Canada.” In it, he wrote: “To Renata Sch., I hope this little book reminds you of an important place in your life.” [signed: Monte Hummel]. It sure does, to me always Alberta comes to mind, although since 2002 I have resided in British Columbia. The memories of Alberta and my animals are so strong that I even have ‘AB with a banner and the wild rose’ tattooed on my leg, together with a horse, and a dream catcher. Among others.
My large piece of land in the foothills was bordered by miles of Crown Land. My nearest neighbor almost a mile. To get groceries I had to drive with my truck into town, one hour. In winter the snow was at times five feet high and trees down. I always had to take my chain saw with me and cut myself out of my place, to even get anywhere. Of course, being alone has also its draw backs, many accidents, no medical services anywhere. I survived !
In winter, my resident moose cow came by, she always had her calf near my home. Lots of white tail deer abound. We also had the occasional wolf, bear, and cougar. The grizzly bear, dangerous. I recall a particular incident when I had to drive though the bush with my 4-wheel drive truck to the little saw mill to pick up lumber for my fences. Arriving at the site, I did not see the usually present lumberjack. All was deserted. The only thing I noticed was a yellow wildlife service tape strung around the trees, KEEP OUT sign. Grizzly Bear. In fact, a Grizz had taken down a cow and the fresh kill was still there. On my way up to the saw mill I had also met another truck with two guys – white in their face – leaving at high speed from the opposite direction.
Many times in winter and summer I rode alone with my horse, through bear country. Important is, to make some kind of noise, if it’s only singing. I never had any bear spray on my. Useless anyways. In the high country, when I see fresh bear scat on the trail in the bush, I quietly get out and on my way, return to where I came from. Reason is, that my horse can easily get scared, dumping me. Not a good idea, with a large animal that is scared of a mouse.
One such incident in the Kananaskis: A lady rider with her horse, running into a cougar, the horse bolted, turned and she was thrown. The cougar – being a cat – then jumped the horse and injured the poor animal seriously. I saw the horse later in the barn. The rider had been lucky.
I also had a cougar den at the other end of my property – half a mile down – where I had done some logging. With my horse, I just get out of the way.
Smaller animals, we had plenty. Including a visitor who arrived at my house and played on my porch one winter, a snow white weasel, beautiful creature
[ http://www.aitc.sk.ca/saskschools/animals/weasel.htmla ], not shy at all. And in my large pond a family of musk rats. My duck family returned annually in spring to have their babies on my pond. Usually they have seven, which is typical I suppose. Where they hang out in winter, I do not know. At this elevation, snow usually started around Thanksgiving in October, and often stayed until beginning of June.
What I learned about wildlife is, no wild animal is really dangerous or harms you, if you treat it right and with respect.

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Surviving Alberta Winter

Twenty seven years I spent in Alberta, north west of Calgary in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains as well as south west in the Kananaskis country [ http://www.kananaskis.com/ ]. Despite the cold winters, Alberta for me is still the most beautiful of Canada’s provinces. The landscape east of Calgary coming from Saskatchewan is rather flat and undulating, towards the mighty Rockies wide open skies and those wonderful mountains are a sight to behold. It is easy to imagine that the temperature during already cold winters is always at least ten degrees colder outside the cities. North west of Cochrane (which is the next town west from Calgary) I had snow up to five feet at times. The same when we lived almost ten years in Bragg Creek, a small hamlet south west of Calgary [ http://www.braggcreek.ca/ ], the snow was so high that I had to pull my old Dodge truck with my car over the acreage across the snow using my lariat, in order to be able to go to work in Calgary. Every morning up at 6 AM, driving down town to Calgary. When a blizzard hit the city, it had been impossible to drive home after work. I tried once, took me 3 hours slowly for twenty km. No heating in my car either.
When working up north on contracts, I needed to drive every weekend between Millarville [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millarville ] from my large acreage to downtown Edmonton. Friday after work down and Sunday night back. Many times during that winter I was the only driver coming out of Edmonton and driving south. We called this – highway No. 2 – the ‘killer highway’ because of the many accidents occurring during iced up winter roads. I counted at times at least fifty vehicles upside down and inside out in the ditches. Driving slowly, I made it. My ranch near Millarville was steep uphill, a quarter of a mile to the house, walking and leaving the car in front of my gate. Once my front door was frozen, I had to break in else to face freezing to death.
How did we survive ? As the saying goes: “There is no such thing as a cold winter, only bad clothing.” We wore arctic clothing and heavily padded overalls – like worn in the oil fields. Long underwear of course and heavy gloves and high padded boots. I had been in Fort McMurray as well working temporary for Suncor oil company in 1987. In winter. [ http://www.suncor.com/default.aspx ]. Lucky for all of us contractors, it did not last long, as one of their buildings blew up and all contractors had to leave. Today, living by the Pacific Coast, and warmer climes, I could not take that cold anymore.

During the many years living in Alberta’s wilderness outside of the big cities of Calgary and Edmonton, along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains NW of Calgary, I have encountered situations which to most city dwellers may seem frightening. [This post continued from my last posts – on Alberta Wilderness.]

The best way to start a story is at the beginning. When we first came across the US/Canada border into Canada. Somewhere North of New York State and Ontario late April of 1976. It was still cold. Our home so far had been our old Volkswagen (Square Back – I call it my ‘Hobomobile’), an antique you might say, in which we (myself and my nine year old son) had spent weeks travelling up North from New York State (Syracuse University). Then traversing Canada going West towards Edmonton, Alberta, where I was meeting a friend – we had done some projects in Geneva, Switzerland together in 1974. To make this short: I needed a job as a single mother (my husband had passed away end 1974). In Edmonton things fell into place somehow. One of the commitments was to travel up north to Slave Lake, Alberta, to meet someone who promised to help.

[ http://albertaparks.ca/lesser-slave-lake-pp/activities-events/winter-activities.aspx ]  A long trip with an old vehicle on Highway 2 north from Edmonton [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberta_Highway_2 ], a highway which later in all those years in Alberta I got to know as “the killer highway”, especially in winter. And winter up there starts early and ends late. Tough going. Car trouble, oil leaking, and more. On the way up it struck me as my first impression of real wilderness. Not many homes along that highway, once in a while a stop at one forlorn house in the middle of nowhere, driving into the yard, to ask for motor oil. There were mostly Natives – a glimpse at the Native First Nations [ http://atc97.org/first-nations/athabasca-chipewyan-first-nation ], busy processing hunted beaver in their yard. For us – a different world from what I had known in Europe, or for that matter the almost two years at Syracuse University, New York State. We made it to Slave Lake with that old Volkswagen, running on two cylinders. Meeting my contact at this great lake, in the midst of constructing a house there. Slave Lake is huge and was still at this time of year covered with big ice floes . My slides showing select images starting from Ontario, across to Alberta and up North to Slave Lake, Alberta.  . And the way back to Edmonton ? My Hobomobile finally gave up its life on the road.

During the many years living in Alberta’s wilderness outside of the big cities of Calgary and Edmonton, along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains NW of Calgary, I have encountered situations which to most city dwellers may seem frightening.
(This post continued from my last post – on Encounters with Grizzly Bears [ https://renataveritashistory.com/2014/05/29/alberta-wilderness-stories/ ]).

With our horses we went from Alberta in the Foothills West of Calgary across the mountains towards Jack Lake. [ http://www.albertawow.com/campgrounds/Two_Jack_Lake/Two_Jack_Lake.htm ].
It was a long hike across steep terrain. Near the Two Jack Lake campgrounds, there were also sites specifically set up for horses and riders to overnight in big green armee tents. Upon arrival, I noticed that the entire site had been enclosed with high razor wire. Which during the night was electrified. We stayed three nights in those tents.
At that time nothing particular happened, but the ever present danger of Grizzly Bears in the vicinity could not be overlooked. That was mainly what this fencing was about.
From there after three days back to home – the horses in trailers. My little Q.Horse gelding was one to not load easily. Three guys were needed to coax him into the trailer. Poor thing !
(NOTE. Did not take a camera at that time – but offer a video of another trail ride NW towards Banff, organized by my friends of the Bar C Ranch, then good old Lester B., owner. Bar C today became a big resort [ http://www.bar-c.com/barc/home.html ] )

Grizzlies are scary in a sense, because they are unpredictable and large enough to take
down a cow. Which they often do. But more caution should be given to the big cats, like the cougar. On my 80-acre ranch NW of Calgary in the Foothills, I did have – apart from my resident moose cow – the occasional cougar. Hiding in those enormous wood piles left behind by the loggers. (Next post – the logging operations). Meanwhile news of a “cougar shooting” right here in our neck of the woods: [ https://renataveritashistory.com/2014/06/03/they-shot-a-cougar-vancouver-island/ ]

ALBERTA WINTER

ALBERTA WINTER

Image Although I feel for those poor souls in Europe, and their snow and cold troubles, I have to admit what comes in mind is: “There is no such thing as cold weather, there are only wrong clothes.” (As we always say here in Canada where snow and cold can occasionally last from between September and June in certain areas, especially Alberta.).In Alberta, the last heavy blizzard usually arrives in May each year. Despite, Alberta is one of the most beautiful Western provinces. No wonder that many movies – Westerns – are made right there.

For over 25 years I lived in the Rocky Mountain Foothills, west of Calgary.

Remembering the winter of 1997 – minus 50 degrees Celsius for a week. I had a ranch and horses, and they had to be fed. Getup at 5 in the morning, go out there with heavy clothing, and lug some hay bales around to the guys.

I also recall the many months I had to work up north on a computer contract, travelling 400 km one way between southwest of Calgary and downtown Edmonton. There were times I saw dozens of cars in the ditches, upside down and inside out, myself almost the only person on the highway – driving slow, slow (30 km/hour) to get there.

Then again we also had good times. When still living in the midst of the Kananaskis Country southwest of Calgary (best ski areas around), we often went out with the horses, wearing very heavy clothes when riding, then stopped somewhere, made a fire, and had something to eat and drink.

One can adjust to the situation. One can also find it good exercise to have to dig out a car, or shovel snow.

Since 2002 I am living in Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada’s Pacific west coast, milder weather. Sometimes even miss the snow.