Day 5: Wednesday, September 18

Our Last Full Day In The Badlands

We woke to a very misty, damp and cold morning. We got up around 8:00 and started our day. We decided to try the free breakfast at the Econolodge where we’re staying. Although continental buffet in style, there was lots of choice on hand; it was OK and got us through the morning.

For today’s agenda we decided to try going to the Badlands Historical Museum, which as far as we knew opened at 10:00AM. We also planned to tour the East Coulee School Museum today (which also opened at 10:00) and also take in tours of the Atlas Coal Mine, which ran later in the day.

At about 10:00, we got our day bags and walked to the Badlands Historical Museum thinking it would be open. It appeared to be closed for the season as the displays were all covered and it definitely had a “Closed For The Season” look about it. We had earlier suspected it was closed but had to try going anyway just to be sure. Ah well, there’s always a “next time”.

At this point we returned to the hotel, climbed in the mighty Santa Fe and headed out on the Hoodoo Trail, bound for the East Coulee School Museum. East Coulee is a small village about 13 miles southeast of Drumheller. It was once a thriving coal mining town with a population of over 3,000 people. Before the coal mines shut down, the town’s heyday was the period 1928-1955, when the mines were working full blast and turning out hundreds of thousands of tons of coal. Today, the community has about 200 permanent residents. At its peak, the school we were about to tour had around 300 students enrolled. We found the school museum and toured it – what an amazing place! The proud coal mining past of this area has been lovingly preserved in the School Museum; thoroughly engrossing and enjoyable. We met the manager there who gave us a bit of Drumheller/East Coulee history; what a knowledgeable and friendly woman. We spent quite a bit of time touring and photographing the School Museum:

At about 1:00 we set out for the Atlas Coal Mine, which is a National Historic Site. We had signed up for the 2:15 tour called “The Tunnel”, which was to take us into what was left of the coal mines [the Atlas Coal Mine have many interesting and interactive tours – you can find out more here].

We arrived and had quite a lot of time to stroll around the grounds looking at the old mining equipment. At 2:15 we met our guide, Stuart, and our group of about 8 people. Stuart gave us a little coal mining preamble and we then donned our hardhats (with lamps on top) and proceeded to climb in the near-darkness waaaaaaaay up the low-roofed tunnel which had wooden beams sticking out all over the place (we all bonked our heads several times on the beams, hence the hardhats). How exhausting for us out of shape folks! We finally reached the top, at which point Stuart took us into what remained of the one existing mine. After a bit more touring he took us down the steep steps leading back to the ground, where we returned the hard hats and concluded the tour.

The tour was about an hour and a quarter in all. We spent another half hour exploring the grounds and looking at the scary-looking mining equipment that had maimed and killed so many men over the mining years – kind of creepy in a way, actually.

We left the Atlas Coal Mine and arrived back to our hotel in Drumheller at about 4:30. We wanted to have a fairly early dinner at the Vintage Kitchen & Bar tonight (we loved the food so much from our previous visit we had to return), so we went out to the restaurant at about 5:30. What an excellent meal. We each ordered a burger which proved to be one of the best we’d ever eaten. Vince had a Blackjack Burger and I had the Cowboy Burger. Awesome food.

Feeling very stuffed and a bit weary from our tunnel climbing experience earlier in the afternoon, we returned to the hotel at around 6:30. Vince read and I got caught up on this daily journal.

So ends our last full day in Drumheller. It has been a wonderful and highly enjoyable experience but tomorrow we pack up our stuff and hit the road for Rowley, Trochu and Red Deer. Off to bed at about 10:00.

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