Travel Diary 3: Dinosaur Territory

First of all, whoever managed to get Drumheller called the ‘Dinosaur Capital of the World’ was a genius, great marketing. You Google dinosaur and museum and it comes up as one of, if not the top result with the Tyrell Museum. I remember being a kid and visiting on a class trip. Despite the fact that it has been many years and a decent growth spurt later, I still feel small out here. 

But we’ll get to that.

Morning dawned and I woke up Meg by blaring the Jurassic Park theme. She hit me with a pillow. It was well deserved and absolutely worth it. 

We made it out to Horsethief Canyon, it’s a pretty short out and back hike on average, but quieter than some of the Midland Park trails can be – probably because the trail here isn’t super marked. More of a choose your own adventure! We slipped and scampered a bit (whether I fell is up to interpretation, I think of it as an impromptu but controlled sitting down in the dirt) and we were both pretty dusty by the time we reached the end, but man was the view gorgeous. And hey, didn’t fall in any cacti so I call that a win! 

Like I said, the hike in general is super short so we had a proper mid-morning breakfast off the side of the trail on one of the bluffs. One thing I would recommend for anyone taking this hike is good shoes and lots of water. It wasn’t too hot but the badlands can get pretty dusty. When we got back to the car the reservoirs in our packs were lower than we expected. 

With our warm-up hike complete (seriously we were only out there for like an hour), we started to our next destination: Hoodoo Trail.

Now if you’re looking at a map and thinking, hey April, why would you go all the way up to Horsethief Canyon first when Hoodoo Trail was only five minutes from your campsite? And to that I reply: Dinosaurs.

Hoodoo Trail and Horsethief Canyon are about a half hour apart, and right between them? The Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Meg has joked about getting one of those kid leash-backpacks when we go there because of how excited I get. And there may be some truth to it. 

Alberta, and the badlands specifically where Drumheller is located, has some of the richest fossil laden rock in the world. So having a museum and massive paleontological focus in the area is just basic sense. The museum has a hushed, library quality to it. Once you enter there aren’t any windows, and they keep the lighting focused on the displays and interactive areas so walking areas are a bit dimmer. It’s oddly peaceful, almost reverent particularly when you look up at a massive, fully complete fossilized skeleton of a T-Rex and don’t get me started on the ichthyosaur (yes I had to double check I spelled that right!) As I touched on earlier, you really realize how small you are. Those particular displays are probably my favorite; Meg loves the main Dinosaur Hall and posing with the triceratops. We both agree that the “underwater” Burgess Shale exhibit still freaks us out. Something about walking on glass, no matter how thick, messes with my head. And yes, even though the displays are probably fiberglass, plaster, or something, I half expect them to move.

Mid-afternoon finally took us to Hoodoo Trail; the entrance is kind of weird. Right off the highway there’s a large parking lot and a couple viewing areas around a bunch of the smaller hoodoos as well as a few little ‘shops’ for water, coffee, snacks and ice-cream. 

It was definitely busier than Horsethief, if we’d come earlier it might have been quieter so that’s something to remember for next time. Past the viewing/entrance area, there’s a sort of free for all winding trail. From the bottom it looked like ants scurry around a hill with everyone there. Like Horsethief there were certain areas that were definitely easier to climb than others, most people with kids seemed to stick near the bottom with older groups going higher. Of course the higher you went the looser some of the rock was so we had to watch our step. Definitely glad I was wearing proper hiking shoes if only because it kept my ankles steady in some spots. And of course the higher we went the more amazing the view. We were lucky it was a clear day and could literally count the layers in the sandstone across the highway. 

The whole hike takes about two hours if you’re powering through but we stopped for water breaks and to chat with fellow hikers as we went. So by the time we reached the top it had been a little over three hours for us, but man was it worth it. The sun was just starting to dip as we got there and it was absolutely breathtaking seeing the sky hit that perfect red-orange. There was no other way I would have wanted to spend the last few hours than watching that moment. 

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