A REALLY BIG ROCK (Okotoks Erratic)

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As much as I’m interested in geological features, I really didn’t want to bother with a detour to a certain huge boulder, called the Okotoks Erratic, even though it was conveniently located in the countryside near our temporary home in the southern part of Calgary. Tessi and I had been busy touring around Alberta and I was ready for a break. I veered onto one of the assorted highway ramps to usher us back to the urban swarm. The turn-off was, however, the wrong one. It shot us out of the sprawl to head us in the general direction of the tourist attraction. I decided I might as well check it out, but then my GPS suffered a lapse in function (a “brain fart” for those familiar with the expression) and redirected me back into the city. I guess—if I could manage to negotiate my way—I was going to indulge in a break after all. When we eventually returned to the house, Lynda, our host offered to take us for a tour the next day, which would include the lone boulder. Her schnauzer, Phoebe, and their other temporary housemate, Lauren, rounded out our sightseeing crew.

...a humongous boulder plunked down in the middle of a vast grassy, flat terrain.

The Erratic Called Okotoks There it was—a humongous boulder plunked down in the middle of a vast grassy, flat terrain. The flatness is eventually interrupted with the foothills, but they’re far off. The Rocky Mountain range decorates the horizon. That’s all there is to the Okotoks Erratic. Yet, I found it intriguing (and it really is easy to get to). I’d actually say it’s two rocks; nevertheless, it’s apparently considered one that has split. The incongruous landmark is part of the Foothills Erratics Train—a band stretching from Jasper National Park to northern Montana that’s dotted with the pebbles, rocks and boulders carried along by glacial ice on its journey many millennia ago. They were left abandoned along the route when the ice melted. At 9 m (30 ft) high, 41 m (135 ft) long and 18 m (59 ft) wide, the Okotoks—the name was derived from the Blackfoot word for “rock”—Erratic is the biggest known glacial erratic. A Run The rocky feature sits far from the highway. A graveled path joins it to the parking lot. We all hopped out of the vehicle including the dogs, which we left untethered. Phoebe doesn’t stray far from her mom, unlike Tessi, who does wander but will listen when I call her to stay nearby. Between the threat of bears in the woodlands of the countryside and the temptation of hares—so different from our bunnies at home—bouncing around the densely populated neighbourhoods of the city, she hadn’t been permitted much freedom. And to add, there was no one else around to feel bothered by the dogs’ presence—always an important consideration. Tessi followed her nose as she darted back and forth through the lush grass while I lingered along the path, shooting lots of exposures of the erratic amid the sweeping landscape under the cloudy sky. Lynda and Phoebe strolled well ahead of me. Lauren stopped often to snap her own shots. A Climb When we reached the boulder, we wandered around the large broken chunks littered throughout the long grass at its base. My inner mountain climber encouraged me to climb the rocky structure—or, realistically, one of the more easily attainable lower sections of it. I handed Lynda my compact camera to take candids. Once on top, I leaned on the main piece to pose for the camera while Tessi gazed up at me—curiosity evident in her eyes. I enjoyed my mini adventure, but in researching later I learned that it’s recommended not to pursue any climbing (and preferable to stay on the far side of the roped barricade). Though quartzite, the material the erratic is made of, is very hard, it easily chips and breaks. Also, there are fading hieroglyphs in danger of being destroyed. Oops. (I really need to overcome my tendency to experience first and research later.) After a wander filled with much picture taking, we left the lone boulder for other travellers and future generations to enjoy, assuming they’ll have an easier time getting to it than I did. For More Info
  • An erratic, according to my dictionary, is “a rock or boulder that differs from the surrounding rock and is believed to have been brought from a distance by glacial action.”
  • Alberta Culture
  • Foothills Erratics Train 

(c) Cheryl Smyth, 2014

Check out my TC Dog Travels Facebook page to see more pictures of our visit.


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