Iceland 2021 – Reykjavik

Today I embarked on my first trip out of Canada since October 2019. I would have travelled sooner, however the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked havoc on the entire globe for the last 18 months. I’m very fortunate that Canada’s vaccination rollout program occurred as quickly as it did, and I was fully vaccinated by July 2021. Iceland was one of the few countries that I was interested in visiting, that allowed fully vaccinated people to travel there.

This marks my 2.5th time visiting Iceland. I had previously visited Iceland in Summer 2014 with my dad, and I had a brief stopover in 2018 when I completed my France trip, which you can check out here. Getting there was a bit different this time, because usually I fly from Edmonton or Vancouver with Icelandair, however those routes were temporarily paused due to the ongoing pandemic. This time I flew WestJet from Calgary to Toronto, and then Icelandair from Toronto to Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. I originally paid $1420 for an economy class return ticket, however I paid an additional $230 to be upgraded from economy class to business class for both of the departure flights. Previous trips to Iceland showed the economy class prices to be about half of what I paid. This is my first time experiencing the new business class seats on Westjet, and Icelandair, since they both refreshed their aircraft during the pandemic. I must say I was very impressed by both.

At the Calgary airport they verified that I had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that I had a negative anti-gen test prior to check-in. The Calgary to Toronto flight was on an older Westjet Boeing 737-800. Roast beef and mashed potatoes were served for dinner, which was actually quite food. Hot meals are a new thing for Westjet since they launched their new business class, but I think they have a hit here. The flight was quite smooth, with exception to the last 45 minutes approaching Toronto, due to a storm in the area.

In Toronto they again verified that I had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that I had a negative anti-gen test prior to boarding. The Toronto to Reykjavik flight was on a brand new Icelandair Boeing 737-8 MAX. The new business class seats are adorned in incredibly comfortable grey leather. Their older seats were more a blue leather colour, and were not the most comfortable. An incredibly generously sized dinner was served, which included chicken kababs over couscous and vegetables, alongside some fresh meats and cheese, and a cake for desert. I skipped eating the cake, as I’m not the biggest fan of sweets.

Upon arrival in Reykjavik I grabbed my bag and went through customs, which was very easy, and almost the same as usual, except I had to hand them some paperwork that I had pre-filled online. After exiting the airport I went and picked up my rental car, which was a Kia Picanto from Blue Car Rental. The daily rate was about $200, which is about the same as pre-Covid times.

After picking up the car I started a day of exploring, before I was able to check-in to my hotel at 3pm. First stop was Snorrastofa, a cultural and medieval center named after Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson. I didn’t go inside, as I was just fascinated by the architecture style, which I would characterize as Medieval, and perhaps Art Deco (the white building).

Next stop was Hruanfosser & Barnafoss, two waterfalls located right next to each other, and about a 75 minutes drive North of Reykjavik. Hruanfosser is definitely the cooler looking of the two waterfalls, and is a series of waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming over a distance of about 900 metres out of the Hallmundarhraun, a lava field which flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjökull.

After taking in the gorgeous views of Hruanfosser I drove back to Reykjavik to check out the Reykjavik Art Museum Kjarvalsstaðir, one of three art museums run by the same company. This building was opened in 1973 and was the first building in Iceland specifically designed for hosting art exhibitions. Kjarvalsstaðir houses the works of one of Iceland’s most influential and recognized artists, Jóhannes Kjarval. The exhibitions at Kjarvalsstaðir focus primarily on modern art paintings and sculptures. Architecturally the building is considered a great example of Nordic Modernism, however I would say it closely resembles that of some Brutalism traits.

Perlan, a prominent futuristic looking building situated on top of Öskjuhlíð Hill, was the next stop. The site where the building is situated started out in 1939 as a single hot water tank to supply enough pressure to push water up to a 10 story building anywhere in Reykjavik. Over the next two decades five more tanks were built, however were later torn down and six were reconstructed in the later 1980’s. In 1991 the six hot water tanks became the base of Perlan, a building open to the public, housing a planetarium, exhibition of the role of water in Icelandic nature, a photographic exhibition, and “Wonders of Iceland”, which is an exhibition that shows Icelandic nature, glaciers, geysers, and volcanos. The tanks are still in use, and each hold 5 million litres of hot water to supply to city.

Perlan overlooks Reykjavik Airport (RKV), which only serves internal flights within Iceland and to Greenland due to its shorter runway lengths of only 4000 an 5100 feet. The first flight from the airport occurred in September 1919. Regularly scheduled flights started to occur in 1940 by Flugfélag Akureyrar (now Icelandair). The airport in its current form was built by the British Army during World War 2, and originally only had a grass surface. After the war the British Army handed the airport operation over to the Icelandic government. The airport underwent some renovations in 2000. There’s a lot of controversy over the airport as its considered noisy, takes up a lot of useful area near downtown, and poses a safety risk. There’s a few options being considered including leaving the airport as is, demolishing and building a new one close by, or demolishing and moving all flights to Keflavik International Airport.

Close to Perlan is Nautholsvik, a small neighborhood overlooking Reykjavik Airport, which includes a beach, and an artificial hot spring, where hot water is pumped into a man-made lagoon. It provides to beautiful views of airplanes landing, and boats coming and going.

Reykjavik Art Museum Asmundarsafn was the next stop. This is the second of three art museums run by the same company. The building was designed, worked in, and lived in by the sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson. The white dome structure, built between 1942 and 1950, is surrounded by Sveinsson’s sculptures in the garden, and houses his work all throughout on the inside.

It was time to check-in to my hotel, named Hotel Muli. This is a self-service hotel where you’re provided with an entry code to the building and lockbox, where you can obtain your key. The room was newly renovated and had a fairly comfortable bed, as well as a nice rainfall shower. One thing to note about the hot water supply in most of Reykjavik is that it’s supplied by geothermal water, so has a bit of a Sulphur smell. It doesn’t bother me, but is noteworthy to others. I took a three hour nap before continuing on with my daily adventures.

It was time for me to eat some dinner. I walked to Islenski Barinn, which is highly regarded for its well-priced quality focused food. I ordered a Reindeer Burger and a beer. The burger was delicious and reminded me of an even more tender elk burger, which makes sense as they are both from the same family, however elk are typically much heavier than reindeer.

Next door to where I had dinner is the National Theatre of Iceland, a beautiful Art Deco building designed by Icelandic architect Gudjon Samuelsson. The building was built in 1950, and showcases Samuelsson’s beloved basalt columns. Another building similar to this is the University of Iceland’s Main Building, also designed by Samuelsson. I explored that building on a later day, so be sure to check back on a later post.

Close by is Hotel Borg, a beautiful Art Deco hotel that was opened in 1930. The hotel was originally built by Jóhannes Jósefsson, who competed in the 1908 Olympics, travelled around America in a circus, and then after returning to Iceland in 1927 felt like building a luxury hotel.

Next to Hotel Borg is Reykjavik Cathedral, a cathedral church built in 1796, and reconsecrated in 1879 after a large restoration.

Close by is Parliament House, located on Austurvöllur Square. The building was built between 1880 and 1881. Two additions to the building occurred in 1902 and 2002. The main building was built using hewn dolerite, a subvolcanic rock similar to volcanic basalt. Today only a handful of parliamentary items take place in the Parliament House, with most taking place in adjacent buildings.

It was getting late, and I was quite tired so it was time to head back to the hotel for some sleep. Be sure to check back shortly for the next installment in my Iceland series. In the next installment i visit the famous Fagradalsfjall Volcano Eruption, hike the Krysuvik Geothermal Loop, and attempt to visit the Blue Lagoon.

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Hamilton Lake Hike

On July 17th 2020 Dad and I drove to Emerald Lake to do some hiking. Dad decided to hike around Emerald Lake, and I completed the 9.3 km (return) hike to Hamilton Lake in the beautiful Yoho National Park. The hike has 864 metres of elevation gain, so it’s quite the grind up to the top.  The hike took me just under 3 hours to complete, but the sticker time on the hike is closer to 5 hours. I would budget 4.5-5.5 hours.

When we arrived at Emerald Lake it was just after 10am and the water was completely still. I’ve never seen it in this mirror-finish before and was quite in awe.

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After taking in the beauty of the lake I started the grind up towards Hamilton Lake. There was a few scenic portions towards the top, including a waterfall, but the majority of the hike was in the woods.

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At the top you’re presented with a gorgeous view of the pristine glacier fed lake. It had only thawed a few days prior and was extremely cold to the touch. Throughout the hike I hadn’t run into a single person on this entire hike, which allowed me to enjoy the trail all by myself.

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Dad and I met in Emerald Lodge for a beer afterwards. our timing was near perfect; within 7 minutes. We both enjoyed an IPA beer in the lodge, which was quite empty due to the lack of tourism in the area because of COVID-19.

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Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary 2020

Last weekend Julie, my Mom, and I visited the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. It was the second time that my mom and I have visited, and this time we brought along Julie. Mom and I last visited in 2018; you can view my post here.

Both of them thoroughly enjoyed visited the sanctuary. There were a few changes this times due to COVID-19; people had to sanitize their hands before entering the complex, and they also had to have their parties separated by 2 metres, which actually made for a better experience in my opinion.

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Their wolfhound pup named Finn, who was born in 2018, was all grown up now. It’s amazing to see how big he grew!

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Scott was our tour guide this time. First he took us to the Yamnuska Pack (high wolf content except Nikki), which included Kuna (3/4 White and Grey), Zeus (Black and Grey), Nova (Full White), and Nikki (white, grey, brown).

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Afterwards we were taken to the low content Cascade Pack, which included Rue, Loki, and Rocky.

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After the tour we explored the Rundle Pack (Nakita & Lark), Castle Pack (Kasha, Horton), Grotto Pack (Ruby & Enzo), Temple Pack (TK & Kaida), Norquay Pack (Kiba & Shadow), Galatea Pack (Freya & Odin), as well as their goats, and husky mascot.

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Banded Creek Connector Bench Hike

As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 7.05 million people so far and taking the lives of 403,000 people as of the writing of this article on June 7th 2020. I was supposed to take an Eastern Europe roadtrip starting on March 18th 2020, ending on April 7th 2020. This trip has been postponed until further notice, but I will complete it when it is safe and socially acceptable to do so.

Despite these sobering statistics Canada has started to re-open the economy, and with that they have also re-opened the Provincial and National Parks. On May 24th 2020 Julie and I decided to go on a moderate difficulty hike called “Banded Creek Connector Bench” in the Bragg Creek area. This hike was my third hike of the season. I typically have a goal of completing 20 hikes per year, so I’m well under way already.

The hike was a 6.1 km long hike with 222 metres of elevation gain. It took us approximately 2.5 hours to complete, including a fifteen minute rest at the small wetland area at the end, and another fifteen minute rest at the small lake a bit further along. The trail conditions were fair, with a few muddy spots in the middle.

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Next week I plan on going on a hike with my friend Sara to Boom Lake. Stay tuned!

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Birds, Coal Mines, Gas Plants, Portraits, Oh My!!!

It’s been exactly a month since I last posted on my blog. Where have I been? I’ve been fairly busy taking pictures of Birds, Portraits, Gas Plants, and Portraits during this COVID-19 pandemic. As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 5.2 million people so far and taking the lives of 335,000 people as of the writing of this article on May 21st 2020. I was supposed to take an Eastern Europe roadtrip starting on March 18th 2020, ending on April 7th 2020. This trip has been postponed until further notice, but I will complete it when it is safe and socially acceptable to do so.

Since my last post I drove east of Red Deer on April 23rd to a work site to take some drone photos of an oil processing facility. My drone props suffered a catastrophic failure and the drone fell 45 metres to the ground, but lived to tell the tale.

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On April 26th I visited the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary with my friend Hadrian. I managed to get a few photos that I was fairly happy with.

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On May 1st I drove out to the Atlas Coal Mine to take some photos. This ended up being an expensive day as I obtained two driving infractions on the way out which will cost me $616 and 6 demerit points. I was falsely accused of a few things, which I will be fighting in court. Anyways look I got a few useable photos…

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On May 2nd Julie and I visited the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary with my friend Hadrian. I again got some photos I was fairly happy with.

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I also visited my parents that weekend and got some cute pictures of their dogs.

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On May 9th Julie and I visited Carburn Park with Hadrian and his wife Stacey. I got a few useable shots and ended up meeting a lovely lady named Cindy who had a beautiful Burnese pupyy named Charlotte. Cindy kept in touch with us and I ended up doing some photo’s for her family on May 17th, but I won’t be posting them to respect their privacy.

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On May 16th my friend Sara and I drove out to Kananaskis to attempt to hike Jumpingpound Mountain, but when we arrived there was still over 2 feet of snow on the ground. We will wait a few more weeks before we start the hiking season since this winter we received a fair amount of snow in the mountains.

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With hiking season fast approaching make sure to stay tuned for beautiful landscape pictures. I have plans to complete roughly 20 hikes this year.

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Brooks Aqueduct, Red Rock Coulee, High Level Bridge

As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 1.34 million people so far and taking the lives of 74,000 people as of the writing of this article on April 6th 2020. I was supposed to take an Eastern Europe roadtrip starting on March 18th 2020, ending on April 7th 2020. This trip has been postponed until further notice, but I will complete it when it is safe and socially acceptable to do so. In the meantime I am following government guidelines and maintaining physical distancing from others.

Last weekend I needed to get out to get some fresh air. I didn’t want to be around others so I decided to drive around Southern Alberta with Julie to take some drone shots of some of my favorite places, as well as explore something I hadn’t heard of (Red Rock Coulee) until I did some reading online. This 800km journey was completed in my new to me 2018 Toyota Prius PRIME, which I picked up about a month ago. I’ve already put 3000 kilometers on it, and it costs just pennies per kilometer to drive. The average fuel consumption is under 4l/100km.

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First stop was Brooks Aqueduct, which is a defund aqueduct originally built by the irrigation division of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company in 1914. It was made of reinforced concrete and provided irrigation to the area for over 30 years. It had a capacity of 25 cubic metres (900 cubic feet) per second and provided water to over 113,000 hectares of land. Water to the aqueduct was provided by the Bassano Dam, and built as part of the same project on the Bow River. In 1934 the aqueduct was refurbished. In 1969 the Alberta and Canadian governments assumed the responsibility of maintaining the aqueduct, but it had already fallen into disrepair and was shut down. It is now considered a National Historic Site of Canada and is fenced off. I was very lucky in 2011 when I was able to walk on top of the Aqueduct before it was closed to the public.

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Our second stop was Red Rock Coulee, a Provincial Natural Area near Medicine Hat, Alberta. The area features large spherical red coloured boulders, some measuring up to 2.5 metres (10 feet) in diameter. These formations were formed from the erosion, exposing the concretions of shale, sandstone, siltstone, bentonite, and brown ironstone. This place reminded me of the Devil’s Marbles on my trip to Australia in 2016.

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The third and final stop was High Level Bridge in Lethbridge. I decided to fly my drone here, albeit it being a tremendously windy day. I regret my decision later, because it ended up crashing after only 5 minutes of flying due to not being able to combat the wind. Damage is minimal, but I have to wait until Amazon delivers me some new propellers. High Level Bridge was constructed between 1907 and 1909 at a cost of $1.3 million by the Canadian Pacific Railway company. The 95 metre tall bridge spans 1.6 km over the Oldman River near Lethbridge, Alberta and provided a solution to extremely steep grades that hampered railway operations for the company. The grade was reduced to only 0.4 percent and saved over 8.5 km of track. Transport of the steel to the bridge required 645 railways cars, and another 40 cars contained the equipment required to build the bridge. The bridge is the largest railway structure in Canada, and the largest of its type in the world.

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A video of this adventure can be found on my YouTube channel here.

Wash your hands religiously, maintain social distancing to flatten the curve, and stay safe. See you soon!

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Abandoned Turney Valley Gas Plant

As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 525,000 people so far and taking the lives of 24,000 people as of the writing of this article on March 26th 2020. In Canada COVID-19 has infected 4000 people and taken the lives of 40 people. We’re not yet under mandatory lockdown, but we’re required to maintain social distancing. This didn’t stop me from taking a small drive to Turner Valley to fly my drone over the abandoned Turney Valley Gas Plant, which was built in 1914. At its peak, the Turner Valley Gas Plant was the largest gas processing facility in Canada.

In 1911 a man named William Herron collected a gas sample from the bubbling banks of Sheep Creek and sent it off for analysis. He then purchased Micael Stoss’ farm on the banks of the creek where the Turner Valley Gas Plant currently sits. On May 14th 1914 wet natural gas sprayed out of a well at “Dingman Number 1” and forever changed Alberta’s economy with the rise of the oil and gas industry.

The Turner Valley Gas Plant was established to process the oil and gas found in the Turner Valley area. It was the birthplace of western Canada’s petrochemical industry and underwent multiple changes over the decades.

Early production used a simple knock out system to remove water from the naphtha. The Calgary Petroleum Products company purchased the facility and built a small compressor and absorption plant, which later burned to the ground in 1920.

In 1921 the Royalite Oil Company built a new compressor station, a gasoline absorption plant, and a pipeline to Okotoks. In 1924 new separators were installed to recover gasoline before and after the absorption state, and new scrubbers to remove hydrogen sulfide, making it the first propane plant in Canada, and the second Sulphur plant in Canada.

The 1925 Seaboard-Kopper soda-ash scrubbing plant operated until 1952. The only surviving building from 1921 is the structure that housed the gasoline absorption plant. At it’s peak in 1942, the Turner Valley oilfield produced almost 10 million barrels of oil per year. It’s Horton Spheres were built in 1942, which made aviation fuel during World War 2. The Turner Valley Gas Plant operated until 1985, when it was decommissioned.

In 1988, Western Decalta Petroleum handed over the decommissioned facility to the Province of Alberta. It underwent $20 million in rehabilitation and cleanup before being opened as a preserved historic site to the public in 1995.

Turner Valley Historic

The historic image is not my own, and is subject to copyright of the original owner.

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Wash your hands religiously, maintain social distancing to flatten the curve, and stay safe. See you soon!

If you like the content that I produce and want to donate money towards the upkeep of my site, my travel, or buy me a cup of coffee please feel free to contribute towards it. I really appreciate it.

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