Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Few Days in Canada: Alberta and Saskatchewan

September 12, 2017
While planning our route to Havre Montana we realized that we were going to be less that 40 miles from the border crossing at Wild Horse.
When would we be this close to an opportunity to visit these Canada provinces again?
Not knowing the answer to that question we pointed the wheels North and headed for Alberta.

Medicine Hat, Alberta is the closest city to the border crossing so we opted to stay there. We found a great coffee roaster on our first afternoon in town. Mad Hatter Coffee Roastery has a great downtown location and is staffed by friendly knowledgeable people. We sipped our double shot Americano’s and spent an hour talking to local folks about places to go and things to see in their city.

The one thing that they all agreed was a don’t miss is Medalta Potteries.
Medalta’s once flourishing Clay works are preserved as they were in 1912.  The factory’s production line was state of the art for the early 20th century.

It is amazing to walk around the once bustling factory and breath in the air that still smells of clay. We were able to watch actual film of craftsmen and laborers performing the backbreaking work that it took to keep the production line going. Imagine lifting and carrying 100 lbs of wet clay many times over the course of a day, or pulling carts of green ware by hand, or painting plate after plate with the same details, or attaching handle after handle to teapots and teacups.

The room sized round kilns are now exhibit rooms. It felt odd to walk around in rooms where temperatures were once high enough to fire pottery.

Medalta made everything stoneware and pottery. We were familiar with their huge stoneware crocks that are used for food storage. The museum has examples of them in sizes from 1-40. Oddly the measurements are in american gallons because the original equipment was purchased second hand from a company in Ohio.

Medalta made dishes, for hotels and railroads and schools and hospitals.
They made giftware for business promotions and promotional dishware for tourist attractions.

We saw examples of beautifully colored mixing bowls and bakeware.
Even the bricks that line the iconic beehive kilns have Medalta’s name on them.

We found Nipper, in Alberta!
Our favorite find of the day were sets of salt and pepper shakers designed to look like Nipper the RCA dog. Nipper still lives in Albany NY at the top of what is now the Arnoff Moving and Storage Building on Tivoli Street. The 28 foot tall terrier is a Capitol District landmark and we did not expect to find him in Alberta.
The facility is still a working pottery and is a community hub in the Historic Clay District. There is a weekly Market showcasing food and other goods made by local vendors.
An ongoing hands on education program provides learning opportunities for children and adults.

Fun Fact: Medalta got it’s name from the town of MEDicine Hat and the postal code ALTA, short for Alberta.

Fort Walsh, Cyprus Hills, Saskatchewan
Fred and I have been following the story of Sitting Bull since we left South Dakota.  
Fort Walsh in Saskatchewan is the North West Mounted Police Outpost that was charged with keeping order in the Northwest Territories. We thought it was going to be a quick drive through Cyprus Hills Interprovincial Park to the fort but the Western gate of the park was closed not allowing through traffic due to the danger of wild fires. We made the trip anyway. The long way around was a lovely drive through Canada’s Northern Plains and Badlands and then up into the elevations of Cyprus Hills.

Uniform of the North West Mounted Police
Sitting Bull, unwilling to surrender to US forces, led about one thousand of his people to the Cyprus Hills near Fort Walsh the Summer after the Battle of Little Bighorn.
We wanted to hear stories of the time that they spent in Canada.

In Fort Walsh Sitting Bull and his followers had to obey the laws of Queen Victoria's England.
Sitting Bull was met by a delegation from the fort lead by by Commander James Morrow Walsh. Walsh explained to Sitting Bull that if he wanted asylum in British Territory that he must abide by British law. That law included the understanding that Sitting Bull and his warriors would not use their position in Canada to make raids in the United States.
Sitting Bull agreed to the terms and spent the next 4 years living in the Cyprus Hills. He grew to be friends with Commander Walsh who became an advocate for the Hunkpapa Leader and his family.
Life in the Cyprus Hills was difficult. Buffalo were not as plentiful this far north and he became dependent on the Canadian government for rations. His younger warriors grew tired of life in exile. Canadian government officials encouraged him to surrender as relations between the countries became strained.
Hungry, weary and wanting to find peace Sitting Bull with 180 members of his group surrendered at Fort Buford in the Summer of 1881.

Fred Here:
I have liked the name Medicine Hat having read about the area in a few western books. Plus a person I met at RPI hockey games back in the early ‘80’s was from Medicine Hat. So on Tuesday Morning we traveled about 287 miles from Glasgow, Montana crossing the border at Wild Horse up into Canada to a little campsite called Ross Creek RV Park, Medicine Hat Alberta.
One of the stops we made was to the Canalta Center Hockey Arena, home of the Medicine Hat Tigers hockey team of the WHL.
We walked around the arena, got a look at the ice, took a few photos and got a new shirt (Medicine Hat Tigers) and a few gifts for the boys.
I got to talk with a very nice lady who was in charge of season ticket sales. She was so nice and just loved talking about the Tigers players and the team in general.
This was just a great day. Would like to go back and see a hockey game.

Fred and the Medicine Hat Hockey lady talked for a very long time and actually exchanged email addresses. She offered to provide him information on any former Tigers that he was interested in learning about and encouraged him to come back and visit again.

We enjoyed a great three days in Canada, adding two new provinces to our map. The border crossings were smooth and pleasant and none of our produce was confiscated this time.

The little side journey reminded us how much we are enjoying this flexible lifestyle that allows us to indulge in spontaneous changes in plans.

Mad Hatter Coffee Roastery
513 #rd St SE
Medicine Hat, Alberta

Medalta and the Historic Clay District
713 Medalta Ave SE
Medicine Hat, Alberta

Conalta Centre
2802 Box Springs Way NW
Medicine Hat, Alberta

Fort Walsh
Cyprus Hills Interprovincial Park
Maple Creek, Saskatchewan


  1. What a great side trip, Bonnie! The Sitting Bull story is fascinating!

    1. We are enjoying learning more about him, although I don't think enjoy is the right word. He was a fascinating leader and not at all the fierce fighter that we were lead to believe in American History.