Sunday, February 15, 2009

Palliser Country

Kananaskis Country - 1858

Lately, I found myself in Kananaskis Country and without a doubt this is my favorite place in Alberta and I visit as often as I can. The name Kananaskis was first given, by 1858 explorer John Palliser, to the pass (several kilometers to the southwest in the lead photo) over the continental divide, in honour of a Cree named Kineahkis who is said to have recovered from a blow to the head. Since then the name is given to a lake, a set of falls, a mountain range, an alpine village and a provincial park. The word "Kananaskis" comes from an Indian word that means either "meeting of the waters" or "man with tomahawk in head". Several months back, I scoured the Internet looking for a book that I had been desiring for my library for some time. I pulled out all stops in my quest for this book and finally ran it to earth. I found a original copy in a rare book store in Winnipeg. The book is titled 'The Palliser Expedition 1857-1860' by author Irene M. Spry and published in 1963. I will not tell you what I paid for this first edition hard cover book in pristine condition and signed by the author but it is worth every dime that I paid for it. The Palliser Expedition is the dramatic story of how Palliser conceived the idea of exploring the unknown country north of the boundary with the US, and of the far reaching journeys undertaken by the members of the expedition. Hard and dangerous, these journeys were made exciting by hunting for grizzly bears, and memorable by the dim, unimagined distances of lovely, lonely land. The Palliser expedition played a significant part in preserving that land and of course the area named Kananskis is still my favorite. Palliser explored the Kananaskis on horse-back, however today the best form of transportation is the one that brings the most delight - be it skis, hiking boots, a river raft or - yes a trusty steed. The Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre on Highway 40 and the Peter Lougheed Visitor Information Centre in Peter Lougheed Park are open year round and are a valuable resource.
They are staffed with knowledgeable people who answer questions, give out maps, guides and up-to-date trail conditions. Trails can be closed in the winter due to treacherous weather conditions and in the summer trails can be closed due to bear activity. Stopping to "check out the trails" is a year-round recommendation. So what are you waiting for, Kananaskis is waiting for you. See you on the trails that Palliser first saw in 1858.

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