Saturday, 12 July 2014

Day Tripping: The Frank Slide

What an absolutely beautiful day! It was warm/hot, the temperature somewhere in the low 30’s, and hardly a breeze or a cloud in the sky. Both Ginny and I had the day off, which in itself is a treat. What shall we do, was the question.

Then we both heard it, faintly at first, but it gradually got louder and louder; the mating call of the V-Twin. Let’s go for a ride. But where? West. Mountains. One can never go wrong with that choice.

After a quick fuel stop, we jumped on Hwy 3 westbound and headed out of Lethbridge towards the mountains. A coffee break at A&W in Fort MacLeod with a shared order of their awesome onion rings, and we were back on the highway.

We stopped at the base of Turtle Mountain where these pictures were taken. I’ve driven through that famous spot many times over the years, but never stopped to take in the scenery. For those of you not familiar with this part of southern Alberta’s history, the following was taken from the tourist information sign on the side of the highway where we stopped.

“In the early morning of 29 April 1903, most of the almost 600 residents of the coal mining town of Frank were asleep. At the coal mine, the night shift was down in the mine, and a few men were working on the surface in the mine buildings.

“At 4:10, a crashing thunderous roar filled the dark, sleeping town and spilled out into the Crowsnest Pass. A wedge of limestone over one kilometre wide, 425 metres long and 150 metres deep, had broken from the crest of Turtle Mountain. It smashed apart as it slid downwards, breaking into boulders that rolled and bounced down the side of the mountain, and spread across the valley.

“In about 90 seconds, homes, buildings and lives were destroyed. The rocks covered part of Frank, closed the entrance to the mine, and swept away the mine buildings and those working in them. The miners underground managed to tunnel their way to the surface. The slide had also buried a construction camp, livery stables, tents, a store, and some ranch buildings. Seventy people are known to have died.
“The sound of the slide had been heard kilometres away, and clouds of limestone dust hung over the Pass for quite a while. While daily life gradually returned to Frank, the slide remained an imposing presence. As one resident commented, ‘the slide is always with us.’”

Well there you have a bit of a southern Alberta history lesson. More than 110 years later, the Frank Slide really still is “an imposing presence.”

After taking a couple pictures, it was back on the bike for the return ride to Lethbridge. All in all, our trip was just shy of 300 km. It really was an awesome day.

I wonder where we’ll go next.

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