Story by Karen Evenden
NORDEGG, ALBERTA — It’s occurred to me that sometimes the best part about visiting a place is the end of the trip; squabbling over the last piece of pecan pie, guzzling fresh coffee, looking over trip photos, returning borrowed sunglasses and the best goodbye hugs ever.
My visits to Nordegg always seem to end this way. Is this due to the nature of these mini vacations, which are often with a group of active friends or is it due to the location itself? I suspect it’s a mixture of both, but undoubtedly Nordegg is a very special place, which is perhaps why I return here so often.
Once a thriving coal-mining settlement with a population of more than 2,000 residents, Nordegg visitors can still enjoy a tour of the Brazeau Collieries Minesite Industrial Museum, which was designated a National Historic Site in 2002.
These days, however, the town is a tiny hamlet with less than 90 people and is hidden under the radar for many travellers. It is 315 kilometres southwest of Edmonton and about the same distance northwest of Calgary. Yet Nordegg is not aspiring to be a tourist destination, in fact it’s not aspiring to be anything more than what it is; a small municipality in one of the most scenic spots in all of Alberta. Situated in David Thompson Country, Nordegg is in “the backside of the Rockies.”
David Thompson Country, named for the 19th-century explorer who mapped much of western North America, is a nature lover’s dream. With more than 69 hiking trails, abundant lakes, so many trees that the birds are spoiled for choice and stunning mountain scenery, Nordegg is a find. Most of the visitors are not accidental tourists, but adventure lovers looking to get away from the crowd. This is a place where you can actually hear the brooks bubbling and taste water fresh from the spring.
NORDEGG: AN ALBERTA GHOST TOWN TO SEE
The town of Nordegg is hidden from the highway and unless there is a pressing need to stop for fuel before reaching Rocky Mountain House (if heading east) or Lake Louise (if heading west) then most people just drive on by.
If you have to make the turn in, the town is comparable to any other small ghost town complete with the obligatory tiny hotel, still tainted with the aroma of past miners’ cigarettes, a single quaint church topped with a steeple, and the central focus of the town, the multi-purpose gas/grocery/hardware store that always seems to be thriving.
Yet for those who stay longer than a gas refill, there are delights. Visitors will be irrevocably charmed by the unique character of the town. The nine-hole golf course has a mountain view that most private clubs can only dream of. Plus, on this course the only nuisance would come from the deer roaming onto the greens.
“The Beer Cabin” is aptly named. It’s a log cabin in the centre of town that sells beer. Don’t expect it to be a quick stop, as this is the place to hear and regale stories of the day’s hikes or wildlife viewing.
The Nordegg Heritage Centre provides an intriguing stop for passersby, with its historical displays, quaint gift shop and cafe. For the converted, this is a ritual not to be missed.
On my last visit, mouth-watering scents of freshly made pie and the faint groan of recently swept floorboards greeted my friends and me at the Miner’s Cafe. With my muscles throbbing from the weekend’s vigorous hiking and my cheeks aching from days filled with laughter, the imminence of the three-hour drive home, back to reality, should have been a sobering thought.
Instead, I felt content with the knowledge that this was the best weekend of the summer; and that warm pie and ice cream with friends, and the mountains I love, will bring me back again and again.
MORE ABOUT NORDEGG ALBERTA
More information: Visit the Travel Nordegg website for more on the Nordegg Heritage Centre and other local attractions.
Accommodations: Take a look at the Travel Alberta Central Guide for more information on places to stay in David Thomspon Country.
Nordegg Lodge: Telephone: 1-800-408-3294
Miner’s Café: Telephone: 403-721-2625
MAP WITH DIRECTIONS FROM EDMONTON TO NORDEGG
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