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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Big Slide

Tuesday, July 21
Blairmore to Waterton Lakes

Local Indians called it The Mountain that Walked and at 4:10 a.m. on April 29, 1903 Turtle Mountain did, in fact, move. In a sudden and devastating collapse, 90 million tons of limestone thundered down onto the coal mining town of Frank, Alberta, Canada. In ninety seconds what had been the north face of the mountain became, as it remains to this day, a marker for 58 of the 70 people killed in this calamity. That 530 inhabitants survived seems a miracle, to be sure, but an awful tragedy for those that lost their lives; and for their families and friends as well. Six hundred people in a coal mining town; I suspect they all pretty much knew each other.

A lot of time has passed. Gladys Ennis, 27 months old in 1903 and the last survivor of the slide, died 14 years ago at the age of 94. If Turtle Mountain has walked since 1903, it has only been baby steps. Except for the highway, the rubble was never cleared away. The town moved. Life went on.

It must have been a terrifying minute and a half. A mountain thundering down on the sleeping town, wooden buildings offering no defense against the onslaught. Now, I stand looking up at the scar on the face of the mountain. The morning air is cool, the sky is blue, there is no traffic on the highway. As I read the brief summary of the slide and its aftermath on the sign at the side of the road, I try to imagine what it was like. I cannot. It is just too peaceful here. Too nice a morning.

We are reminded from time to time of the possibility that we might not be here in 90 seconds. We could make a quick turn onto a new route, but if we are on the right road, there is no need. We can ride on. We just might get another day on the plains, in the mountains, cruising along the river. Enjoying the going. So it was today...

It is a grand morning. There is the promise of another day riding through a landscape that never misses a chance to surprise and awe with offerings of sweeping prairie and towering, rugged mountains. A destination that, we are told, will be one of the high points of the tour. So I swing back onto the small saddle, clip in to the pedals and leave the slide behind.

This is one of those days that is not best be described with words. So, here are some pictures. Enjoy the ride.

Clicking on a picture will open it in a larger size. For this one, you'll be able to read the story on the sign.

Today's Ride:      Tour Totals:
68.2 miles           237.1 miles
3261 feet             9509 feet


Anonymous said...

90 seconds can certainly make a difference in a life . . . thanks for sharing.

Spiffer said...

No time to waste. It's all precious.

Great pictures.