My Family’s Famous Here?

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North America » Canada » Alberta » Waterton Park
August 31st 2019
Published: September 1st 2019
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We say our goodbyes to LeeAnne and Steve. We only met them two days ago, but we feel like we’re leaving long lost friends. We both feel so much better about Emma being here in Canada now that we know that these great people are keeping an eye on our baby girl.

Today we head to the Waterton Lakes National Park which is about two hours south of Lethbridge, and very close to the United States border. It’s a long weekend for Labour Day here in Canada and Steve and LeeAnne warned us that the traffic would be heavy. Steve said that we should particularly watch out for cars with Saskatchewan licence plates. It seems that Saskatchewan, which is the next province across to the east from Alberta, is renowned for being absolutely pancake flat, and its drivers are notorious speed freaks because in their own province they never have to worry about going around any bends. The standard line apparently goes that if your dog runs away in Saskatchewan you don’t need to worry too much because wherever it’s gone you’ll still be able to see it two days later.

Most of the land along the route seems to be crops, and we pass lots of large irrigation channels.

We meet up with Emma and Michael in the small town of Waterton Park which is on the shore of Upper Waterton Lake. We’re on the edge of the Rocky Mountains again, and there are towering peaks all around us. There was apparently a very bad fire here two years ago and the forest around the town is still badly scarred. No buildings in the town were lost which seems a bit miraculous given the obvious scale and severity of the blaze. The town is very cute and crawling with people here for the holiday weekend.

Upper Waterton Lake extends well south into Montana in the USA, and Waterton Park is less than ten kilometres from the border. I ask Michael whether there’s a fence along the border, given that the current US President seems to have a bit of an obsession with fences and walls. Apparently there’s no fence, but a swathe of forest has been chopped down to mark the border, and the whole area is swarming with sensors, cameras, and all sorts of other high tech gear to detect potential intruders. The US probably thinks this is to keep out all those undesirable Canadians, but I reckon it’s the Canadians who should really be worried. I would have thought the forests south of the border would be crawling with Americans desperate to try to make it to somewhere where they’re a bit less likely to get caught up in a gun massacre, and where their leader wasn’t standing behind the door when the tact and diplomacy were being handed out.

As we drive into Waterton Park I am very excited to see a large sign advertising “Blakiston & Co Adventure Rentals”. My mother was a Blakiston, and Blakiston is my middle name. It’s a very unusual name in Australia, and there were no Blakistons at all in the Melbourne phone book the last time I looked (admittedly that might have been a while ago; I’m not entirely sure whether they still have phone books). My maternal grandparents had three daughters a son, and the son then had three daughters, so there goes the name from our line of the family. I’d read before we came here about two local landmarks, Mount Blakiston, which is the National Park’s highest peak, and Blakiston Falls. These were apparently named after the English explorer Thomas Blakiston who explored western Canada in the late 1850s. After a bit of further research and consultation with the holders of the family history I was told that he was indeed one of my anscestors, and was, like me, descended from the Blakistons from County Durham in northern England. Our family tree has apparently been traced back to a Blakiston Knight who was buried in Durham Cathedral, I think some time around the 1400s.

I briefly consider whether we should try to scale Mount Blakiston during a few spare hours tomorrow afternoon, and plant a flag on top of it. I’m not quite sure exactly which flag, or where I might get it from, but the whole flag issue becomes a bit moot when I find out that it’s very steep and rocky, not to mention nearly 3,000 metres high, which might be just a bit of a stretch given I’m not sure I remember us packing too many ropes and crampons when we left home. We decide we might settle instead for a gentle hike to Blakiston Falls.

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1st September 2019

It is always hard to leave people you feel a connection with.

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