A Bad Day With A Camera

Jurassic Lark

My wife had to attend a professional development day for her school division in Drumheller, Alberta, so I was pressed into chauffeur duties. Drumheller is mainly known for one thing: Dinosaurs. Not live ones, of course, but for being home to one of the richest dinosaur fossil beds in the world.

Tyranosaurus Rex, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21

The town capitalizes on it. It’s all dinosaurs, everywhere you look in town from the monstrous tyrannosaurus rex that towers over the north entrance of Drumheller to the murals and benches.

Don’t tug on Superman’s cape, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21
Vagabond velociraptor, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21
Timid Triceratops, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21
Benched brontosaurus, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21

The dinosaur statues are maintained by a small army of volunteers and people are encouraged to pose with them and take selfies to post to Instagram and Facebook with the appropriate hashtags to put more eyes on the town and draw in the next tourist.

There are all manner of dinosaur-themed go-kart tracks, bumper boats, souvenir shops selling fossils (they really aren’t) and then there is the big grandaddy of tourist attractions for the dinosaur deviants, the Royal Tyrell Museum. It’s a massive facility that is all things dinosaur to everyone.

Entrance of Royal Tyrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21

I had thought of visiting the museum myself while my wife was at her workshops, but the museum was overflowing with tourists. I didn’t feel like trying to spawn upstream through them so I went for a walk on the Badlands Loop that is next to the Royal Tyrell. It’s normally packed, but not in February with snow on the ground, so I hit the trails.

Badlands Loop 01, Midland Provincial Park, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21
Those goddamn stairs, Midland Provincial Park,
Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21
We all need more love, Midland Provincial Park,
Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21
Badlands Loop 02, Midland Provincial Park, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21

There’s nothing like going up and down slippery, snow-packed trails to discover just how out of shape you are. I did make it to the end of the hike, but I was feeling it after. I took one more look into the packed museum and made tracks for my car where I waited for my heart to slowly repay its oxygen debt to the rest of my body.

Dinosaurs are a great draw for the town, but not everyone is benefitting. Much of the place looks tired and run down. I did spend some time poaching images of weary-looking businesses, which I love.

NN News, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21
Jim’s Auto, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21
Diana Restaurant, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21
Liquor Store, Panoramic, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21

One of the run-down businesses that I have been meaning to photograph for years is the Waldorf Hotel. It’s the scuzzy kind of place you’d have found me in back when I drank. I would love to get that vintage neon sign at night, yet in five years of living in the area I never even managed to get it in the daytime. Now I guess I can claim to be halfway there.

Signage, Waldorf Hotel, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21
Brick-a-brac, Waldorf Hotel, Drumheller,
Alberta, 2024-02-21
There’s always a pigeon, Waldorf Hotel, Drumheller,
Alberta, 2024-02-21
Cactus Jack’s Bar, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21

If you see healthy businesses in town, you know that they are the ones getting a chunk of the tourist trade. The ones that are not part of large chains are usually upscale gastro pubs and tea houses.

Vintage No. 2 Kitchen and Grill Signage, Drumheller,
Alberta, 2024-02-21
Lois + Ani Tea Shop, Drumheller,
Alberta, 2024-02-21
Side stairway, Lois + Ani, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21

There is one curious and original attraction on the outskirts of Drumheller several kilometers past the Royal Tyrell Museum. It is darned cute. It is the six-person Little Church.

The Little Church Revisited, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21
The Little Church, Drumheller,
Alberta, 2024-02-21
The Little Church, Interior, Drumheller,
Alberta, 2024-02-21

Horse Thief Canyon was my last stop before making my way back to Drumheller High School to pick up The Missus. It was an interesting experience for me.

Horse Thief Canyon, Panoramic, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21
Horse Thief Canyon, Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21

I used to go on the occasional day trip with my mother when I was very small before she went blind and could no longer operate a vehicle. I do remember being in Drumheller with her and going to a long-gone restaurant called Fred & Barney’s which was named in honour of the Flintstones. Everything in Drumheller is dinosaur-themed, even half a century ago. I remember eating Dino Nuggets at Fred & Barney’s with my mom, and I remember walking around the badlands while being hot and grumpy and scared of the rattlesnakes I had been warned might be hiding under a rock or something. I didn’t recall being at Horse Thief Canyon with her until I did.

We visited at some point in the past, but it didn’t come back to me until I stood at the edge to capture a panorama. I suddenly remembered Mom hanging onto the back of my t-shirt to keep me from climbing down the steep hill at that exact spot because I wanted to see the canyon from the bottom. She wasn’t upset with me, but she won the tussle and I remember her laughing about it and getting a hug when she had me back on solid ground. I’m not sure if we went for Dino Nuggets or we went home after, that part is gone. It was still nice to retrieve that moment of hearing Mom laugh and that big squishy hug.

The artist having a good day with a camera, Midlands Provincial Park,
Drumheller, Alberta, 2024-02-21

I managed to get some exercise, I got more pictures I was happy with, and I even retrieved a good memory of my deceased mother that had been missing for decades. Today was a good day with a camera.

Note: All images in this post were created using a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra mobile phone except for the images of the Waldorf Hotel, Cactus Jacks, and Vintage No. 2 Kitchen and Bar. The latter photos were created using a Canon EOS R5 with an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM Mk I lens attached.

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© 2024 Sean D. McCormick

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