Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Day 676

     Cochrane was established in 1881 as the Cochrane Ranche, after Matthew Henry Cochrane. It became a village in 1903 and incorporated as a town in 1971.

     Matthew Henry Cochrane was born November 11, 1823 in Lower Canada, the son of Irish immigrants. He was a Canadian industrialist, livestock breeder and politician, serving 31 years in the Canadian Senate. His Ranch in Alberta was one of the largest in the British Empire.

     We walked the ranch, which was originally over 40,000 hectares, but because of modern development and changing times, only a fraction of the original ranch land is left. 

     As far as the eye can see, was originally this ranch. Now, a superhighway and development occupy this once cattle laden land. 

He rode tall in the saddle

when I went to take a closer photograph, my flash startled the horse and threw him. 

Technical Stuff:

Fort Macleod, Alberta, Ca to Cochrane, Alberta, Ca: 131.1 miles

2 hours 57 minutes

9.9 MPG

Diesel: $3.00/gallon

Frank, Alberta, Canada

Day 675

     We are now at Crowsnest Pass in Alberta, Canada. Rivers born in Canada’s Rockies carved passes eastward to Hudson Bay or westward to the Pacific Ocean. This one was long used by Indians.

     Searching for gold in 1873, Michael Phillipps was the first white man to cross the Canadian Rockies through this unexplored pass. The Crowsnest Pass is the lowest through the Rockies passes on the Continental divide in this area

     Tidbit of Information: A continental divide is a ridge of elevated terrain that separates the drainage basins of a continent. Rivers west of this divide will drain toward the Pacific Ocean, rivers east of the Divide toward the Atlantic.

     Henry L. Frank was born in Ohio in 1851. He was a self-made entrepreneur who invested in various enterprises. He had various coal mines in Montana, where he was active in politics and the community. In his home city of Butte, Mr. Frank was a prominent business man, being one of the heaviest mining operators and real estate holders.

     In 1901 rich veins of coal were discovered in Crowsnest Pass.      Frank developed the Canadian-American Coal and Coke Company to mine the base of Turtle Mountain in the Pass. Native oral history refers to Turtle Mountain as “the mountain that moves.”

     He built the town of Frank, named after himself, to house the mine workers and stores to support them. The town’s grand opening was on September 10, 1901. The mine was a success, and by 1903, 600 miners worked and lived in Frank. 

     We wanted to view this historic mining community, so we drove to Frank. Standing on one of the main streets, on the edge of town, this is what we saw: 

     At 4:10 in the morning of April 29, 1903, the tip of Turtle Mountain broke loose, slid down and decimated part of the Village of Frank.

     The primary cause of the “Frank Slide” was Turtle Mountain’s unstable structure. The rock layers of soft sandstone and hard granite, stacked like slippery playing cards, simply slid into the valley. 


Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta, Canada

Day 674

     I never heard of a buffalo jump until I visited the Buffalo Jump in Montana (see day 667). Now, I come upon one here in Alberta, Canada. In Montana, the starting point was the plains leading up to the jump, which we hiked, then hiked to the top of the jump, a 3 mile jaunt.

     Here, the interpretive center is at the base of the jump, were the Indians dressed the fallen buffalo. From there you take an elevator 6 stories up to the top of the jump. The intervening 5 floors tell you the history of the area, and a detailed description of how the jump was set up. 

     Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is situated at the very southern end of the Porcupine Hills. They are a separate geological feature, not part of the Rocky Mountains. West of the Jump, is a natural U-shaped basin where the buffalo, grazing, were rounded up for the kill.

     Long lines of small rock piles, called cairns, were built in the Gathering Basin. The cairns, spaced 5 to 10 meters apart, stretched many kilometers west into the gathering basin and formed the drive lanes. (Since we are in Canada, I have to use their measurements.)  Like a funnel, the lanes converged to a narrow exit at the cliff. Several young men, the buffalo runners, located a herd and slowly directed them into the lanes. Buffalo saw the cairns as solid walls and moved deeper into the funnel towards the cliff. At the last moment the buffalo were startled into a stampede. Unable to stop, they fell from the cliff.

     A successful hunt probably killed several hundred buffalo. When the killing was over, buffalo carcasses were dragged downslope to the level prairie for butchering. 

     If you were the Indian that was tasked with urging the herd on, this was your view:


     The interpretive center had really cool carpeting. 


         In Blackfoot, the name for this site is Estipah-skikikini-kots. From what I can gather from this buffalo hide drawing, this is how the cliff got this name: 

     In 1812, a young brave wanted to witness the plunge of buffalo as his people drove them to their deaths over the cliffs. Standing under the shelter of a ledge, he watched the great beasts fall past him. The hunt was unusually good that day. As the bodies mounted, he became trapped between the animals and the cliff. When his people came to do the butchering, they found him with his skull crushed under the weight of the buffalo carcasses. Thus, they named the place “Head-Smashed-In”. And now, you know the rest of the story.

Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada

Day 673

     Fort Macleod, in Alberta, Canada, was established on October 18, 1874, with the arrival of the North West Mounted Police, led by Colonel James F. Macleod. James Farquharson Macleod was born September 25, 1836, in Drynoch, Isle of Skye, Scotland.

     The original fort was erected of log walls, rough planking, sod roofs and dirt floors. It was located on an island in the Old Man River valley, about one mile east of the present town. The island, now known as Macleod Island, was chosen for the site of the fort as it was both a picturesque and defensible location. However, it diminished in attractiveness with the arrival of spring flood waters, which rendered the site practically inaccessible. By 1884, the NWMP relocated their quarters to the south bank of the Old Man River.

     The Northwest Mounted Police had been formed to protect Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Territory. This interest was being threatened by the American whiskey traders who were trading deadly “firewater” for buffalo hides, wolf skins, and other items of value. The arrival of the NWMP put an end to the illicit trade in the Blackfoot, Blood, and Peigan Indian territory of Canada. Moreover, they established an official federal presence in the North West Territories, which were being eyed by the United States for possible annexation, and effectively opened the Canadian West to settlers. Fort Macleod was the first permanent police post in the British North-West.

     The town soon followed, and incorporated in 1892. It became a bustling settlement, complete with a main street and a variety of commercial interests providing services to the region’s ranching industry. Development proceeded until 1906 when a fire destroyed most of the wood frame shops and businesses on Main Street. As a reaction to the fire, a law was passed requiring future buildings to be constructed of stone or brick, thereby changing the look of Main Street forever.

     Let’s not forget Dudley Do-Right, of the Northwest Mounted Police:

Technical Stuff:

Shelby, Montana to Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada: 131.9 miles

3 hours 13 minutes

9.4 MPG

Diesel: $3.00

Shelby, Montana

Day 670

     Shelby was named for Peter O. Shelby, General Manager of the Montana Central Railway, which operated from January 25, 1886 to 1907. In 1907, the Montana Central ceased to exist after it was made part of the Great Northern.

     We stopped here because it is the closest town to the Canadian Border, which we want to reach in the morning. 

     We have met up with the other RV’ers whom we will be spending the next 3 months with on our trip to Alaska and back. Our new adventure starts tomorrow

     Barbara and I have updated our phone plans so they work in Canada. If there are no more blogs, you know that didn’t work. 

Technical Stuff:

Great Falls, Montana to Shelby, Montana: 85.5 miles

1 hour 53 minutes

9.0 MPG

Diesel: $2.99

Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana

Day 669

     Master Sergeant Rob Turnbow explained to us the current workings of Malmstrom Air Force Base, just outside the city of Great Falls, Montana.  We learned that Malmstrom AFB is one of three US Air Force Bases that maintains and operates the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.      Airfield operations began on  November 30, 1942 when the first B-17 Flying Fortress landed at the newly constructed base. Originally named Great Falls Army Air Base, later Great Falls Air Force Base, the facility was renamed Malmstrom Air Force Base on October 1, 1955 in honor of Colonel Einar Axel Malmstrom.

     Colonel Einar Axel Malmstrom was born July 14, 1907 in Chicago, Illinois. (Who names their son Einar? No wonder he spent his life in the Armed Forces.) He enlisted in the Washington State National Guard on May 12, 1929 as a Private and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on May 25, 1931. He served a distinguishing carrier as a fighter pilot, including vice wing commander of this base, attaining the rank of Colonel. He died while flying a jet airplane that crash on August 24, 1954.

     Ok, who knows what this is:

     The missileer went to the bathroom, and I took this photograph. Don’t tell anyone, it’s top secret. 

     How, you may ask, do they get the minuteman missile into the silo? They use a Transporter/Erector.      The missile is loaded into the Transporter, like a torpedo, it then positions itself over the silo and erects upright. The missile is lowered by a waiting elevator. Today, a state of the art diesel powered unit is used. 

Buffalo Jump, Montana

Day 667

     The Spanish first brought horses to the North America Continent in the 1500’s. How then did Indians here kill the buffalo for food and clothing? Here in the Northern Plains of what is now Montana, they came up with an ingenious method, which they had used for 1200 years before the Spanish arrival. 

     They found a cliff and stampeded the buffalo over the cliff. Once the animals were driven over the cliff and incapacitated, they would be slaughtered and their meat, hides, and bones used by the hunters to feed and clothe their families and to make various tools and weapons, and of course, gulf clubs:

     We walked across the Plains to the cliff. 

     Then hiked the mountain to the top of the cliff

     From there you can see the prairie leading to the cliff from which the buffalo were stampeded. 

     Is that blood from 5,000 years ago?

     At the beginning of our hike, just over 3 miles round trip, we got the usual warning of rattlesnakes. Barbara heard a rattlesnake as we crossed over a ravine, and we saw this bullhead snake toward the top of the cliff: