Cypress Hills Camping

Shortly after arriving home from our 2014 Cypress Hills Camping Tour we all received and email from Harry Lillo. 

“Next year will be a busy year with our National Tour (mtfca50.com) so we may want a shorter camping trip. I would like to suggest a three day tour to Johnston Canyon. There is a National Parks campground as well as the cabins/resort about 1/2 mile away. Any interest?”

“That’s a no-brainer,” I thought. From Johnston Canyon it is about an hour’s drive in in a T in either direction to the Banff townsite and Lake Louise, through some of the most beautiful real-estate on earth. Even better it is only about 150 km from our house.

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Johnston Canyon August 15, 2006

 

Marge and I had just finished driving about 450 km each way in stifling heat from Calgary to Cypress Hills pulling a camping trailer behind our 26 T pickup. I knew Marge would appreciate the shorter trip.

Last year six couples from the Foothills Model T Ford Club trailered our Ts to Vegreville in East Central Alberta then made a 4 day loop, camping near St Paul, Cold Lake and Elk Point.  Its amazing how many car guys invited us over to visit their collections.

 

Along the way one car guy invited us to view his collection which included several acres of cars from the 20s to 0s.

Along the way one car guy invited us to view his collection which included several acres of cars from the 20s to 50s.

We even received an invite to the air base for a photo op.

4 WING COLD LAKE, 4 WING IMAGING, 23 JULY 2103, 409 SQN, camping tour article, Photo by: Corporal (Cpl) Audrey Solomon

4 WING COLD LAKE, 4 WING IMAGING, 23 JULY 2103, 409 SQN, camping tour article, Photo by: Corporal (Cpl) Audrey Solomon

 

Margie and I camped in style in our T while the others slept in tents.

2013 Camping Tour

Marge tidying up the campsite at the Cold Lake Campground

As Peter Kable will attest, the problem with camping in your T is that once you get it set up you can’t go anywhere. For that reason I was already building a vintage style camping trailer to fix that problem.

2013 Camping Tour

Chris Bamford and Tom van Dijk setting up camp next to Glen and Ann McDonald’s roadster.

This year I realized that if we plan to camp in our trailer, a long distance from where we live, we will need a double length car hauler or comfortable seats in our T.  We opted for the comfortable seats.

Leaving Hussar after a delightful lunch with Peter and Kristen Anderson

Leaving Hussar after a delightful lunch with Peter and Kristen Anderson

We left a day early for Cypress Hills. Along the way we stopped at Peter and Kristen Anderson’s place in Hussar for lunch and stayed that night in Dinosaur Provincial Park. The steep grade down to the campground was the first real test for our electric trailer brakes. Glover Ruckstell made the trip back up a possibility.

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The “badlands” topography forms a fitting backdrop for an area where dinosaur bones still litter the ground.

Part way up the hill we descended to reach the campground. The paved road is out of the photo to the left.

Part way up the hill we descended to reach the campground. The paved road is out of the photo to the left.

Day two found us cruising South in the arid heat on the Trans Canada Highway. On the way I popped a tinfoil dinner into the manifold cooker and about an hour later we enjoyed lunch at Police Point Park in Medicine Hat.

Marge partially pre-cooked the tin fold dinners so that we only had to finish them off in the manifold cooker.

Marge partially pre-cooked the tin fold dinners so that we only had to finish them off in the manifold cooker.

After turning South on to Hwy 41 from the Trans Canada we faced a gruelling 50 km uphill climb in 34 C, 90 F plus heat. Along the way the van Dijks caught up to us and Margriet and Marge traded places. Thank you Margriet, Marge had been sitting on the sunny side of the truck for 3 ½ hours and was pretty much cooked at that point. We were all glad to find some shade at the campground.

From the Head of the Mountain looking toward the Sweetgrass Hills about 100 km to the Southwest

From Head of the Mountain Viewpoint looking toward the Sweetgrass Hills about 100 km to the Southwest

The Cypress Hills tower above the plains and are one of the few areas in Canada not covered by glaciers during the last ice age. Major James Walsh of the North West Mounted Police and early resident of Cypress Hills became famous when he and three other Mounties confronted Sitting Bull and several thousand Sioux who had crossed the border to Canada looking for food and avoiding US authorities some months after the Battle of Little Big Horn. Sitting Bull respected Walsh’s courage and they eventually became friends. (http://www.historynet.com/sitting-bull)

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Cypress Hills supports the largest cougar population east of the Canadian Rockies.

On Tuesday, July 29 we toured as a group around Elkwater and drove to the highest point in the park. At and elevation of just over 4,800 ft, Head of the Mountain Viewpoint is about the same hight as Banff townsite and is the highest point between the Canadian Rockies and Mont D’Iberville in Labrador. The ecology of the hills is similar to the mountain parks to the west and a dramatic change from the arid plains below.

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On Wednesday we took back roads to Fred and Teri Holt’s place near Medicine Hat where we received royal treatment. The Holt’s have collected and restored an impressive stable of vintage cars and automobilia. It quickly became clear that the Holt’s cars took a second place to the people in their life.

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Teri Holt and Marge Wolff sample Model T churned lemon ice cream while Kristen Anderson and other look on.

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Rick and Linda Skibstead and Kristen Anderson cool off in the 37 C / 99 F heat.

A few of Fred and Teri's pristinely restored cars.

Rose Lillo checking our one of Fred and Teri’s pristinely restored cars.

Thursday we followed the high plateau to a vista overlooking Reesor Lake. The hill down to the lake was exciting and more than a little scary, especially for the Ham’s who were on their first tour in their recently restored 1921 touring, purchased new by Chuck’s grandfather.

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Just around the corner is a drop off that would make a fine winter downhill ski run.

Theresa and Steve Reesor were gracious hosts at the Historic Reesor Ranch originally homesteaded by Steve’s great grandfather.

Reesor Ranch

 

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On the way back to camp we stopped at the Reesor Lake Campground and visited while several of the driver tightened worn brake bands and tuned low bands for the difficult hill climb ahead.

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Keith Robinson visiting with Ann and Bruce Brander

 

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Peter Anderson tightening his bands prior to climbing the steep and windy hill back up to the Cypress Hills plateau.On

On Friday Marge and I  drove as far as Rosemary and camped in a friend’s farmyard.  Saturday we left about 11am for Calgary.  As we passed Hussar we could see clouds building over the mountains so I loosened the reins of the T and let it go. It performed admirably often reaching 50 mph, not bad considering we were loaded with camping gear and pulling a trailer. We beat the storm which ended up going south of Calgary.

80kph

 

Here is a link to Tom van Dijk’s photos: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/d3nbf6g5kikd8hr/AAD_4qbA2vnhQb84cMZV-tOva

Also a copy of Tom’s GPS data:

Total distance:      178 miles ( 294 km.)

Elevations :           Camping                               4150 ft (1265 m.)

                               Lookout                                4775 ft (1455 m.)

                               CoopGasstation Hwy 1        2423 ft (738 m.)

                               Fred Holt                               2470 ft (753 m.)

                               Hwy.41/Reesor Rd                4700 ft (1432 m.)

                               Reesor Lake                          4025 ft (1227 m.)

                               Reesor Ranch                      4150 ft (1432 m.)  

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