Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fort Walsh and Cypress Hills

JJ and I drove to Fort Walsh National Historic Site in the Cypress Hills on the Saskachewan side of the border shared with Alberta. Our visit was two fold: research for my Mountie story, and to see if I could find a Mountie to use for promotional purposes with my story. The Cypress Hills are the highest land elevation east of the Rocky Mountains. (I can't remember at the moment if the Laurentians in Quebec are higher.)

Fort Walsh was part of the Old Forts Trail which ran from Fort Benton, Montana up to Edmonton, Alberta and other places.

To get to Fort Walsh, we had to go down this hill, across the valley, and up a steep, winding road. This road with hairpin turns is so steep, you're advised to unhook your trailer/camper and leave it in a designated parking area for that purpose. Once you get to the top of the hills, you cross the wide plateau you see at the top of this photo. After several kilometres, you find the visitor's centre with the actual fort down in the valley below.

We took a bus from the visitor's centre down to the fort where two young Mounties greeted us. They really look young and yet this is the age of most of the recruits back in the 1870's which this fort represents.

This is the fort guardhouse, of particular interest to me because of my story. If you look closely into the cells, you'll see they are only the length of a bed - or a mattress - and back then, people were smaller and those beds were short!

JJ tried out the cell for size.

See what I mean about the height?

Not sure if I like him in there, though.

This is an authentic cooking tent for when they were on the road. Inside is a box stove where the staff created cinnamon buns as a treat for us visitors. (Small piece, but great taste.)

An exciting part of the day was this mock trial using visitors as law-breakers. Very entertaining. The Mountie presiding over the court was an excellent actor and kept the crowd in stitches. This staff operates on a minimum staff and I was amazed at the multi-tasking and role-playing of these members. Not to mention once court is over, he does a quick change out of his uniform and into civilian clothes and then drives the bus.

JJ took advantage of the offer to test out the Mountie beds for softness. NOT!

The barrack building consists of sleeping quarters as well as a mess hall for dining and recreation.

Lookee here... I finally found someone who looks like the fictional hero of my Mountie story. His name is Michal (Me-hal) and he'll be used in all my promotional material for the character, Remy Bisset.

Thank you Michal for taking the time to pose for pics. Someone has already asked me if you were a model in your former life. *grin

This is a scale model of Fort Walsh. They have a legend with little buttons that you push and a red light will glow to show the corresponding building. Excellent workmanship but I didn't get the modeller's name.

We missed the bus after we finished taking photos and instead of waiting an hour for the next one, JJ and I walked back up the hill. As you can see, it's about a mile up. That was my exercise for the day on top of all the other walking around.

We left Fort Walsh behind and headed over to Conglomerate Cliffs to take a few photos from the top of Cypress Hills looking east...

... and looking northeast. What an exceptional view!

The trip to Fort Walsh and the Cypress Hills was so worth our time. The staff - especially Tracy and Michal went beyond any employees I've met anywhere. They spent invaluable time with me ensuring the research for my Mountie story was accurate. But the rest of the staff both down at the fort and up in the visitor's centre were welcoming and attentive to our needs. Kudos going out to the Fort Walsh National Historic Site.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Brine Shrimp and Giant Birds

JJ and I are on a western road trip en route Calgary to pick up Jess, but we have things to see before we get there. One of those places was Chaplin Lake on the Transcanada highway between Moose Jaw and Swift Current.

Chaplin Lake is a huge salt lake and the Brine Shrimp are so good, shorebirds come from all over to dine on the tasty morsels.

Here's some shrimp on display at the Chaplin Lake Interpretive Centre.

We climbed the observation platform and JJ availed himself of the giant binoculars to check out the big salt mine.

I couldn't pass up an opportunity like that...

Those Brine Shrimp are an important food source enabling the Plovers to grow to spectacular sizes.

In fact, this American Avocet seems to think JJ is a shrimp!

The next time we go through Chaplain Lake, I think we'll take a tour of the actual lake for a close up of the shorebirds and other going's on.

Have you ever been to a salt lake such as this? Any other salt mine?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Anita in New York

I'm back from the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference in New York City and am blogging today with a post, Anita Mae At RWA in New York  over at the Inkwell Inspirations blog.

This was my first view of New York after breaking through the clouds. You can see the lighted Empire State Building on the right and the Chrysler Building on the left at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island which I blogged about in my Inkwell post  19th Century Mission Coffee House and my post here called,  It Can't Be June.

While flying, I'm not usually scared of the landings, but I did fret a bit when we seemed to be heading right for the Hudson River as we headed down to LaGuardia Airport. I mean, I've heard several news stories of planes crashing into the Hudson River and it seemed we were taking the plunge as well except no one else on board seemed concerned. Why didn't anyone tell me the runways were on the water?

Another misconception of mine was Times Square. I've seen the huge New Year's Eve ball drop on many holiday occasions and knew Times Square to be a location in New York. What I didn't know was that Times Square isn't one intersection in the city, but an area several blocks long.

This photo is of the northern end of Times Square. On the other side of the white tents is a stage where they were readying the display for the Transformers Premiere which took place later that evening.

And this is a photo of Times Square looking south. It's the one with the huge New Year's Eve ball drop as shown below:

I've added 2 photos to show the Ball Drop because althought it's big, it doesn't look big among all the electronic billboards that light the night below it.

This is one of the sights that caught my eye. I call it a vertical parking lot although I'm sure it has a more official name. And then at the top is two towers which I'm guessing are for water. I asked the hotel housekeeping staff, but even she didn't know what it was for. There's one on almost every roof top, though. Anyone know what it is?

I really missed being able to see the sunrise and sunset while in New York and then one evening as I walked west along a street, the setting sun kissed my face.

I loved the view from my room on the 38th floor. So many things to see.

After the Rita and Golden Heart Gala Award Show, we went to the top floor of the Marriott Marquis for a revolution while enjoying the view. It wasn't the outside view that caught my attention but the inside one. Take a look at this delectable chocolate fountain:

More photos on the way.