“My pizza’s sweet and it’s amazing!” cries my six-year-old nephew, Tyler, holding a slice aloft as we explore The Market at Medalta, a Thursday night summer jaunt in Medicine Hat. His tasty Bee Sting pizza from Il Forno Vagabondo’s wood-fired oven features honey from local producer, Sweet Pure Honey.
We’re seeking fresh southern Alberta adventures, and the many and varied landscapes of the Canadian Badlands seem to touch us wherever we roam, even in this busy farmers’ market.
Diversity Drives The Badlands
Past the stalls selling plump tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers, my nephew clambers to make figurines at Medalta in the Historic Clay District’s 45-minute pottery class for kids. He gets his hands dirty with clay from quarries in and around the Cypress Hills. What the boy wiggles in his fingers when he’s done makes me smile – it’s a misshapen mini-dinosaur.
Fairly fitting as yesterday we visited the Royal Tyrrell Museum at Drumheller before driving south to Dinosaur Provincial Park for a guided hike. But there’s a lot more to the badlands. I love exploring Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park for its panoramic view of the countryside, including Quarry No. 4, which we’ve just learned was once the clay source of Medicine Hat’s pottery, brick and tile industry.
These days, Medalta features a museum, art exhibitions, classes and artists in residence. Yet strolling past the foundations of an original beehive kiln – where during its heyday, the factory made and shipped hundreds of thousands of pieces of pottery across Canada – we recognize the vibrant past is always in sight in the badlands.
History and Indigenous Culture
Yesterday, before the Royal Tyrrell, we toured the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site near Drumheller where light from our miner’s lamps bounced on underground walls, leading inside the conveyer tunnel. The mine echoes a time when coal was king, when the valley was lined with black rock seams and teemed with miners. The East Coulee School Museum nearby gave us a glimpse into the lives of the children of coal mining families.
Later, on our wagon ride at Fort Whoop-Up National Historic Site at Lethbridge, it’s the headdresses and artifacts from the descendants of Thunder Chief that fascinate my nephew.
At Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, 100 km (62 mi) southeast of Lethbridge, we see where Indigenous people carved and painted ancient stories on the sandstone cliffs. At night, watching the stars on the private deck of our comfort camping tent close to the playground, my nephew decides he’s going to be a palaeontologist – just as soon as he’s old enough to pronounce it.