Lille Ghost Town

At the tail end of summer we hiked to Lille, a ghost town located in Crowsnest Pass, which is located in Southern Alberta. The town was originally incorporated in February 1904 as a purpose-built coal mining community, and eventually grew to about 400 people. The mines in Lille closed in 1912, due to collapsing coal prices, increased production costs, and the very poor quality of the coal. The town withered away until its last person left in 1916, and the town was finally dissolved in 1919. All that remains today is the Bernard-style coke ovens that were imported from Belgium, the foundations of the Lille Hotel, and a huge pile of coal slack near the ovens. On the Bernard-style coke ovens you’ll notice a bunch of numbers, which were used to reassemble the ovens after they were transported from Belgium.

There are two options to complete this hike. If you have a low clearance car it’s suggested to hike the 15 kilometre return trip from the Frank Slide Interpretive center, however if you have a higher clearance vehicle, or are crazy like I am, then you can drive down a very bumpy unmaintained logging road to get to a grassy area, which turns the hike into a more manageable 6.3 kilometre hike. I drive a Toyota Prius, and have a lot of experience navigating high clearance roads, so I don’t recommend this in a low clearance vehicle unless you trust your skillset. Be prepared to take 20-30 minutes to drive those 9 kilometres. Overall, the hike is fairly easy, and can be completed by most people, including children.

Colorado – Day 4 – Georgetown Railway & Forney Museum of Transport

Today is we slept in until about 8:00am. We got ready and checked out of our hotel. We had a bit of time to kill before our trip on the Georgetown Railway Loop at 10:00am, so we decided to grab some coffee at the Happy Cooker Restaurant. The lovely lady there named Michaela gave us the coffee for free. We walked around town for a bit sipping our coffees to kill some more time.

10:00am was fast approaching and it was time to drive the short distance to the Georgetown Railway Station, about a mile away. The Georgetown Loop Railroad was originally completed in 1884, and was considered quite the engineering marvel at its time. It linked Georgetown and Silver Plume. While these towns were only 3.2 kilometres (2 miles) apart, they have 183 metres (600 feet) in elevation differential between them. Engineers designed a corkscrew route that traveled nearly twice that distance to connect them, slowly gaining the elevation required. The route includes horseshoe shaped curves, 4% grades, and four bridges; the most famous being Devil’s Gate High Bridge. The Georgetown, Breckenridge, and Leadville Railroad was former in 1881 under the Union Pacific Railroad. It was utilized to haul gold during the Gold Rush, and later on Silver Ore from the mines at Silver Plume, until 1893 when Colorado and Southern Railway took over the line and used it for passenger and freight use until 1938. The line was dismantled in 1939, and was later restored in the 1980’s to be used as a tourist railroad.

The train ride up to Silver Plume took about 30 minutes. What a breathtaking journey! It was so neat riding on the old train. Our locomotive, Number 111, was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Pennsylvania in 1926. It spent most of its working life in Central America before returning to America in 1973 to Sundown & Southern RR in Hudson, Colorado. Despite that, it was never run and was auctioned off in 2002 to the town of Breckenridge, Colorado for display at the Highline Railroad Park. It remained there until 2008, when it was acquired and restored between 2013-2016. This was the first time it was used in over 50 years!

On the way down from Silver Plume we were dropped off at the Lebanon Mine. The mine consists of six levels and was used from 1878 To 1893, when it was closed due to silver prices plummeting. The mine produced a profit of over $250 million (which is $5.2 billion in today’s money). After the mine tour we re-boarded the train and took it back down to the Georgetown Terminal.

It was time to eat some lunch, so we went back to the Happy Cooker Restaurant to have grilled cheese sandwiches. It turns out a staff member had quit that morning, so they were very short staffed, hence the free coffee. They didn’t even have time to ring in the coffee.

Following lunch we drove to Denver and visited the Forney Museum of Transport, which was established in 1961. The museum has over 500 exhibits on display. What an incredible museum! It was one of the best museums I’ve ever visited.

It was time to checkin to our hotel, the Hampton In. & Suites Denver Tech Center. After checking into our hotel we went to Holidaily Brewery for a flight of beer. The majority of the beers there are gluten free since one of the owners is celiac.

After having dinner we went to Darcy’s Bistro Pub for dinner, which was next to our hotel. I had two mini brisket sliders, and dad had some Irish Nachos.

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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Sparwood, Fernie, Frank Slide

As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 2.64 million people so far and taking the lives of 184,000 people as of the writing of this article on April 22nd 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. We visited Sparwood, Fernie, and Frank Slide.

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 3800 kilometers on it, and it costs just pennies per kilometer to drive. The average fuel consumption is under 4l/100km.

The journey had a bit of excitement along the way because I had a catastrophic tire blowout along highway 3. It resulted in a 3 hour delay, with a $300 service call from OK Tire in Pincher Creek, about a 30 minute drive away. I ended up having to purchase new all-season tires for a total of $960 including the $300 service call. We made the best of it though.

The first stop was Sparwood, British Columbia. I hadn’t been here since 2005, when I rode through on my Yamaha R6 on my way to my friend Hadrian’s cabin. Sparwood is home to the world’s largest truck, the Titan 33-19, which was produced by General Motors. The Titan was conceived in 1968 in the General Motor’s offices in London. Six years later it was a reality and was showcased in the American Mining Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1974. It was used in the Eagle Mountain Mine by Kaiser Steel in southern California until 1978. In 1978, Kaiser Steel moved the Titan to its coal mining operation near Sparwood. The mine was subsequently acquired by Westar Mining in 1983, and the Titan was eventually retired in 1991. The mine was acquired by Teck Corporation in 1992 and offered the Titan in preserved format as a public monument in 1993. The Titan was fully restored by the end of 1993 and put on display, despite having its engine removed.

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The next stop was Fernie, where we walked around for a bit and took pictures of the old buildings, and I flew my drone over the beautiful old court house. Fernie was founded in 1904, and currently has a population of 9200 people. Fernie was originally founded because of Crowsnest Pass coal mines, which still continue to operate to this day. Like most single-industry towns, Fernie endured several boom and bust cycles throughout the 20th century. Today the town survives with a seasonal focus on skiing in the winter, and coal mining year round, but not as strong as it once was.

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The final stop was Frank Slide, where a rockslide buried the mining town of Frank on 4:10am on April 29th 1903. It was estimated that 110 million tonnes of limestone rock slide down Turtle Mountain and buried the town, which had a population of around 600 people. Approximately 90 of the 600 citizens died during the slide. The town was named after Henry Frank, who owned the Canadian-American Coal and Coke Company, which operated the mine that the town was created to support. The town was founded in 1901.

The cause of the slide was a multitude of factors. Mining left the formation in a constant state of instability, as well as a wet winter and cold snap on the night of the disaster. After the slide the railways was repaired within three weeks, and the mine was quickly reopened. The town was relocated in 1911 because of fears of another slide occurring. The town’s population doubled to 1200 by 1906, but quickly dwindled after the mine was closed in 1917. The community now is part of the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass and has a population of 200.

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

Check back soon for my next adventure. In the meantime wash your hands religiously, maintain physical 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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