Join us for this winter walk as we circle pretty much the entire town of High River on the Happy Trails pathway system. We’ll pass through residential neighbourhoods, one badly damaged by last year’s floods, commercial strips, and one section where no development has taken place at all (yet). We’ll travel beside a river, a canal, and a man-made lake. Much of the trip is on a designated pathway (mostly paved) with a few sections that use city sidewalks. It’s a pleasant enough adventure and very interesting in its own right.
We were blessed with wonderful blue skies most of the day.
Our start is at the elementary school along High Country Drive NW. We like to walk about 10-15kms in the winter and this would give use the distance we desired. You can of course begin anywhere you like. The pathway system is extensive allowing one to do a short jaunt or something longer, like what we did, or anything in between.
Legs in gear, we’re on a sidewalk for a while. At a cross street we head right and intercept a path, that for a block, runs behind a row of houses. We go left here. The small pond seen is often made into a skating rink in winter but it’s not quite cold enough for that yet. To the right is the Highwood Golf Course.
We cross a road, turn right on a sidewalk and at the golf course clubhouse turn left onto a pathway. Along this section we find an old cassette tape in the snow – someone’s mix tape perhaps? Wow, that brings back memories – recording a selection of tunes from the radio for one’s girlfriend. It’s 1984 all over again…
We cross a small stream, the highway into town and turn right just past it. Now on our left is a couple blocks of houses that were badly damaged in the spring 2013 floods. We’ll look at them more closely on the return leg of this journey.
We pass over the Highwood River, turn right at the lights and heading west now, join up with another pathway making a line for the river. Just to the right was the site of the old CPR train bridge. Unused for some time, it was torn down this year. It could have made a nice pedestrian crossing but the town claimed it was responsible for much of the flooding last year – sigh – and so insisted it go. To check out an article I did on the massive old structure, refer to the article “Bridge hunting – High River Alberta”.
The trail here sits atop a larger berm which since our last visit has been heightened considerably. There is a large city park and campground to the left. At one point the trail once took to city streets for a time but now a new section is in place, beside a nice wooded area.
Turing south now, we pass an old stone house. It must be quite old, and one day I’m going to research it.
We turn left and walk beside 12th Avenue for the next couple clicks. For a while we pass houses, but later the road travels through a more commercialized zone. Along here are some very historic trees. Every now and then we see a sign showing the trail map (it’d be hard to get lost).
We cross over a couple streets and what was the roadbed of the railway branch line that once passed through town. A old-style drive in burger place reminds me I’m hungry. For the next while we walk by many car dealers (it’s a SUMMER SELLDOWN!), a lumber yard, a hockey arena, a hotel and all manner of other businesses. At a farm equipment agent I checkout some huge combines – they probably cost more then my house. I stop beside the Highwood Distillers, for a moment or two, to pay my respects to the liquor gods and their wonderful offerings. Highwood Distillers…I’m home…
At the RCMP offices, a nice train station looking building, we turn left and hit residential sidewalks again.
Soon we’re at the man made Sunshine Lake, which will become our lunch spot. We pick a couple nice rocks by some trees, soak up the sun and enjoy some yummy eats. It’s really a pretty good day.
On our way again, we travel behind a school, cross a canal and turn right, taking the path beside it. We’ll parallel that water course, the Little Bow System, for the next kilometre or two. At one point we have a view of Lana Lang’s house from the 1980s movie Superman 3. We pass a trailer park, one of two in quick succession and a natural wetland. To our right is nothing but fields, the only non-developed area we’ll see this day. In few years I bet houses will be popping up here. When crossing roads in the area, look both ways, cars travel fast here.
In no time we’re back at the point where the loop section started. Turning north now, we cross the river again and turn into the neighbourhood to our right. This section of town was devastated by the spring 2013 floods and pretty much every house here is now abandoned, many shifted from their foundations, and is boarded up. We walk the eerily empty streets as though in a scene from some surreal post apocalyptic movie. It’s sad, all these lives impacted in this way. The river here can be one nasty mistress at times.
On the out and back section again, we pass a crew doing some work on a flood mitigation dike. We noticed lots of new river-side barriers put in place since that event but can they really stop the mighty Highwood when its in bitch mode? History says probably not. The town is called High River for a reason.
Retracing our steps we’re soon back where we started.
Some might say this sort of walk is dull or boring. Come on! I guess it’s what you make it but we had a blast, but then we always do. Of course it could be the wine talking, we always bring some every trip to enjoy at lunch. No, wine aside, it was fun. A good walk, good company, good food, how could it be anything but?
Check out this interesting building from the area…
The mysterious Magnesium Company of Canada.
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: November, 2014.
Location: High River, AB.
Distance: 13.5km part loop, part out and back.
Height gain cumulative: none.
NOTE: all heights and distances are approximate.