The Drumheller community of Wayne resides in the East Coulee near Drumheller northeast of Calgary, Alberta. The 6 KM (3¾ mile) one-way drive into Wayne passes over 10 sturdy, single-lane bridges with the 11th bridge further along.
Lately the majority of recreation time has been spent with the living. Today is dedicated to visiting potentially interesting graveyards within easy reach of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Often it is challenging find a partner who shares an interest in spending spiritual time with the physically departed.
Welcome signage at the entrance to the Community of Wayne
Drumheller, Alberta is an hour’s drive northeast of Calgary. The initial destination will be the abandoned graveyard in the depression-era coal mining community surrounding the community of Wayne, about 10 KM ( 6¼ miles) southeast of Drumheller.
The population of Wayne peaked near 2,500 in the mid 1930s just prior to the collapse of the coal market. Current population of the community today is about 50 people. Wayne was a hamlet prior to becoming a community of Drumheller in 1998.
Wayne is the home of the famous Last Chance Saloon, established in 1913. At one time children were not allowed in the saloon on Sundays. This is a fascinating area rich in history.
Limited parking is available at the cemetery roadside memorial near the site of the old Rose Deer Mine. The graveyard (visitors discouraged) is situated high up on the bluff northeast of the memorial.
Many of the interned were relocated to a separate section of the cemetery in Drumheller. The climb, in desert-like terrain on a gorgeous, warm, sunny day, reveals crocus among other spring flowers in full bloom.
Hiking off-trail in running shoes and gaping around at spectacular scenery on the aggressive elevation is an amateur mistake. In an altercation with a Prickly Pear cactus, 2 inch cactus spines penetrate the side of my left shoe. This makes the remainder of the climb less comfortable.
The old Wayne graveyard is in an advanced state of decay. The next hour is spent on a lofty ledge at the edge of a grain field above Wayne photographing most of the few remaining markers. It is a reverent, calming and humbling spiritual experience.
Many graveyards have been wandered over many years including Boot Hill in Tombstone, Arizona, Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, and the graveyards of countless ghost towns in the American Southwest. They tell fascinating stories of courage, tenacity and sometimes ultimate demise. Often they identify times of famine, disease or plague when large portions of the population die in a short time.
Sometimes, by surname, family genetics are revealed where deaths shortly after birth travel through several generations. The adversity and sacrifice can only be imagined. They worked very hard in primitive conditions to help establish the country we enjoy today. The experience is humbling. The tombstones of the children are the most touching and it is incumbent upon me to spend extra time with them.
Following descent, removal of the cactus spines from the arch of the left foot is the first order of priority. One cactus spine has penetrated about an inch and requires pliers for removal. Ouch! Following a leisurely lunch at the local campground, the next adventure is to hike the entire 2 KM (1¼ mile) length of the abandoned Relief Hill Road, built in the 1930's as a depression make-work project. The road is still in fairly good shape with the occasional wash-out. Views into the coal mining valley below are awesome.
On the return hike there is an opportunity to drop off-trail from the road into the valley to investigate the sparse remains of the old Sovereign Mine (1940-1947). Stepping carefully around Prickly Pears, hiking back along the creek at the bottom passes a beaver dam. The breathtaking natural artistry of badlands terrain is always fascinating. At mid-day the temperature reaches 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) in the sheltered valley.
At day's end there is an opportunity to enjoy a well-earned, cold beer at the Last Chance Saloon, then head to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology along the North Dinosaur Trail, on the other side of Drumheller, to do a bit of shopping for gifts.
On the way home there is time to pay my respects with peace and reverence on a stroll through the Zion United Cemetery, east of Beiseker (Russian and German immigrants) and St. Mary's Cemetery in the quaint, historical town of Beiseker.
A day in the badlands surrounding Drumheller and along the Red Deer River offers far more attractions than can be absorbed in a single day. Crossing the eleven bridges to access the historical treasures in the tiny Community of Wayne is always an interesting day.