Fam Tour 2018, Part 2: The Cowboy Trail

Fam Tour 2018, Part 2: The Cowboy Trail

After our stop at Custom Woolen Mills, our team of travelers trundled off to Carstairs to have a coffee break at the Carstairs Community Golf Club. This lovely home of the Ironwood Restaurant welcomes many golfers throughout their season from the local area and the city of Calgary, only 30 minutes or so to the south. We enjoyed homemade goodies from the kitchen and a freshening up of our coffee while representatives from the Club spoke to the many recreational opportunities we have in the region. We then took a swing by the Rodeo Grounds, and continued our jaunt to the west.

The landscaping at Carstairs Community Golf Club creates an inviting entrance.

Our next stop was at Silver Willow Sporting Club just west of town. Owned and operated by Don & Gwen Day for over 30 years, the Day family welcomed us for a tour of the facilities. Due to restrictions of operating hours (because shotguns are rather loud) we couldn’t get a feel for squeezing off a couple rounds, but we learned how the sport has raving fans, and that the Day family has built relationships around the world through their association with and participation in many competitions.

The operation has grown considerably over the years. Aside from welcoming members and non-members for sport shooting experiences and competitions, they host group events and offer gun safety training and shooting lessons. Their on-site store has apparel, supplies and shotguns by recognized brands like Browning and Winchester, and is Alberta’s only Zoli dealer.

Gwen is also a professional artist, and has been accepted into the Federation of Canadian Artists. You can see her art on display in the clubhouse at Silver Willow. The clubhouse and other spaces on the property and their on-site shop is what one might call “luxuriously rustic”, log cabin structures with fine amenities and furnishings, all solar-powered to reduce the draw on the electric grid.

Don and Gwen Day, our hosts, showed us the café lounge, cookhouse, on-site store and clubhouse where guests can relax after a day of target practice… all created with tasteful attention to detail.

Our bus then took us out to the outskirts of Cremona where we arrived in time to see the near-completion (and now long-since complete) restoration of the Mountain View Heritage Centre. The large 113-year-old red barn is easy to spot from Secondary Highway 580.

This was in June 2018, and since then the Heritage Centre has been hosting numerous events – weddings, corporate meetings and markets – since they opened later that year. The 1915 Heritage House on the property has also been renovated and is equipped to host meetings and teas for up to 40 people. (I didn’t get to have a peek in there at the time, so I will have to take a drive to check out the Sunday in the Country & Trading Post. See their website for details.)

The timing of our visit was excellent, because we got to see some of the original construction of the barn features before the new structure replaced or covered it. It gave me pause to wonder as a nearby neighbour recollected the history of this barn and the area… the memories that must be embedded in those worn out old boards must be quite something. Looking at the up-to-date pictures on the Heritage Centre website, it’s gorgeously finished. How heart-warming to see that they stayed so true to the original design.

The next stop was to water our horses, or so to speak. We ventured a few miles further west to Water Valley for a hearty lunch at none other than the famous Water Valley Saloon. When I moved to the area 35 years ago, I was told tales of how visiting the Saloon in those days was a party not to be missed.

And yes, there is a literal hitching post to tie down your horse in front of the saloon. I kid you not.

However, times have changed, and the Saloon is every bit of a family restaurant as any down-home experience could be. Children are welcome in the saloon between the hours of 11:30 am and 8 pm.  VLT Lounge, games room, pool are all available for the 18+ crowd. The Saloon hosts events too and will create a menu to suit, as they did for us. As expected, we had a hearty meal ready and waiting for us, and enjoyed a well-deserved break from the long day on the bus.

Charming rustic Western décor graces the Saloon… but really, what else would befit the name? Next door, the Water Valley General Store welcomed some cyclists with ice cream cones and cool drinks. And just down the block is a unique, artsy, funky shop that warrants further exploration…

Our last stop of the day was a real cherry on our sundae. A trip to Fallen Timber Meadery was the perfect way to end a sunny Tuesday afternoon. Nathan Ryan and his team welcomed us for a tour of the meadery and shared its origin story… something about he and his brothers drinking beer and dreaming big? All kidding aside, Nathan and Colin began down a microbrewing path and diverted to making mead, otherwise known as honey wine, and the rest – as they say – is history.

 A sampling of flavours from Fallen Timber.

We were fortunate to get a tour of the production facilities, and even got up close and personal with a hive of bees. The trip to Fallen Timber is so worthwhile, and now that they are open for tours again, a $15 fee is well worth it to get the tour, tasting, and souvenir glass.

Better bring your wallet too, because it’s certain you won’t leave empty handed. The on-site store has not only mead and glassware, it has jars of honey and other cool artisan articles that make for real conversation starters!

Ah, Meadjito, my favourite.

Two blog posts covered Day 1 of our 2018 Familiarization Tour. I’ll be back with Day 2, where we explore more of the “main corridors” of Mountain View County, Alberta.

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