Baroness Picnic Shelters offer a grand view of High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
The Baroness Picnic Shelter is an interesting park just south from Helen Schuler Nature Centre and High Level Bridge within Indian Battle Park. Access is via the right turn just past Fort Whoop Up to a well-signed clearing on the left (west) side of the paved road. There is convenient and obvious parking near roadside.
The well-groomed park is an open area surrounded by dense forest concealing multiple hiking trail opportunities. Formidable wooden and covered picnic shelters offer protection from the elements. The tidy park provides a variety of unique playground, puzzle and exercise features for children of all ages.
An ancient gravestone under the shade of mature trees is further protected by a formal chain link border preserving the memory of young Henry Stafford who was born in Scotland on August 29, 1866, and the only child of William and Jane Stafford. Henry tragically lost his life on August 4th, 1883 at the age of 17. His parents, William and Jane, were larger-than-life founding members of Lethbridge, Alberta, who made significant contributions to the location and development of the city.
Unique playgrounds offer opportunities for exercise of muscles and mind with traditional exercise equipment mixed with an interesting variety of mind-expanding, land-based puzzles and games. The park is unique and imaginative. On this early morning, sunny, week day, the entire facility is nearly vacant for enjoyment of the amenities.
Cooking and dining shelters are impressive and well-constructed to provide protection from the elements. High Level Bridge looms overhead a short distance north and always offers a unique and awesome impression.
The real hiking opportunity is directly across the street where a formidable hoodoo hill is equipped with a long and impressive wooden staircase rising to three levels of viewpoints overlooking the valley. A few people are running up and down the formidable staircases to achieve an aerobic workout.
Along the short walk to the entrance at the bottom of the stairs, it is obvious many past visitors have compromised the steep slopes with scrambles directly to the top. While undoubtedly more adventurous, the deep ruts created are exposed to further damage by inclement weather. Barricades have been constructed to discourage further damage and to promote developing plant growth which may heal the damage over many future decades. Cleverly blocking access at road level might be a sensible additional protection.
Vistas back across the Baroness Picnic Shelter and Park provide clear perspective of the Oldman River Valley crowned by the University of Lethbridge on far-side banks. The relentless stair climb, with the opportunity to enjoy spectacular views, offer opportunities to rest at platforms with benches. A sturdy and picturesque, wooden gazebo crowns the top of the initial, steepest section of the route. Most staircase sections of the hike to the top are augmented by gravel trail for others like myself who prefer the consistent ramp angles as an alternative to stair steps.
Past the formidable gazebo, a more gentle incline hangs left and continues upwards to prairie plateau at the top. Views are breathtaking. The unique nature of the roof garden at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre is clearly visible past the geometric support structure of the High Level Bridge.
When there could apparently be no further improvement on this outstanding and adventuresome experience, a freight train begins to make its way across the High Level Bridge, travelling east towards the hilltop. The scale of sound and sight create an impressive and indelibly-memorable experience as the camera works hard to capture the unique imagery.
The train, which is longer than the bridge, stops on the bridge for unknown reasons. Perhaps the full weight of the train is used to test bridge dynamics and integrity or more likely there is a checkpoint or necessary stop within the city for fueling, or load transfer, before the impressive train span can continue to a potential destination thousands of miles to the east. The essential inner child is alive and well.
Trail from the top continues across prairie grassland towards Brewery Gardens in the city. The 3.3 KM (2.1 mile) loop towards Brewery Gardens provides the opportunity to visit a variety of unique attractions before continuing past Fort Whoop Up on the return route to Baroness Picnic Shelter and Park. The alternative this day is to descend the wooden stairs used for access. The vistas on this blue sky day are no less spectacular on the way down than they were on the ascent.
Viewpoints at the gazebo, and along the way, provide a fascinating perspective of beautiful, unique and diverse terrain. The unique Helen Schuler Nature Centre is clearly visible on the north side of the High Level Bridge. This short hiking adventure, with multiple extension options, across from Baroness Picnic Shelter, is worth the time and effort.
There are multiple hiking opportunities in the immediate area which provide a wide variety of experiences with negligible travel time between hiking trails. Trail branches and connections can vary the distance, duration and effort substantially to create the day which best suits individual participants.
Multiple hiking opportunities within the City of Lethbridge offer a wide range of unique opportunities which appeal to a broad range of historical and exercise related activity in a unique, often surreal landscape.
Photographs are captured on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at Baroness Picnic Shelter Park within Indian Battle Park just south of High Level Bridge and the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.