The Great White North

It’s the kind of locale we dream of stumbling upon as travelers.

It’s remote, off-the-grid. There is no mention of it anywhere in Lonely Planet.

There are few, if any, tourists. It’s as ‘local’ an experience as you could ever hope to find. It teems with the natural beauty of large rolling fields, multi-toned forests, and crumbling farm buildings speckling the countryside. For anyone inclined to explore the outdoors, there are any number of entertaining options. And if you’re up late (or early, as it may be) at the right time of year, expect to be treated to flashes of green and yellow northern lights dancing across the sky.

It’s the Peace River Country in the northwest corner of Alberta, and it also happens to be where I grew up. And upon my return after a two year absence, I’m looking at it in a whole new way.

It’s no longer the place I couldn’t wait to get away from. I don’t care that it doesn’t have the energy and amenities of a big city. It’s quiet, it’s remote, and it’s oh-so-beautiful.

The Dunvegan Valley is still one of my favourite places in the world, especially in fall as the colours begin to turn.

Dunvegan Valley

Picturesque trails are ample and peaceful.

Alberta lake

This picture was taken just outside my old backyard. I don’t remember the sunsets ever being this brilliant.

Alberta sunset

This is the farm that my grandmother grew up on. I can’t believe I had never been there before, and could have taken pictures for hours.

Blue Hawk Farm

If I was not suffering from a permanent travel bug infestation (and, they could do something about the chilly winters), I could see myself living there again. The only thing it is missing for me is the challenge of exploring somewhere unfamiliar, of fumbling my way around with maps and a dictionary to translate.

So it clearly can’t be my “undiscovered gem”. But maybe it can be yours.

27 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • September 27 2012

    So beautiful! One of the things I like about living in the US Pacific Northwest is my proximity to Canada, one of my favorite places to visit, which I do a couple times a year. I haven’t been to this part (yet), but I love all the wonderful, beautiful, and outdoorsy areas of British Columbia and Alberta I’ve been to.
    Margaret recently posted..‘Tis the season to roast green chiles

    • September 28 2012

      You are well situated to see some of the best scenery in the world, for sure! Love the Pacific NW! This would be quite a venture for you (about an 8 hour drive north of Calgary), but worth it if you’re looking for some peace and quiet!

  • Ter
    September 27 2012

    Chris sure appreciated the Peace Country this last time around.

    It sure is purdy….but I still couldn’t live there, I think.

    • September 28 2012

      It’s the winter that scares me still. But I really did love this last trip home, really looking at it in a whole new way.

  • September 27 2012

    So pretty. It reminds me a lot of rural Ohio, actually, which is definitely beautiful in its own way.

    And that sunset photo? Stunning.
    Amanda recently posted..Visiting Gallipoli as an American

    • September 28 2012

      That is one thing Alberta is famous for – amazing, gorgeous sunsets. In fact, we have a post coming up on just that! 🙂

  • Kate
    September 27 2012

    What a beautiful place to grow up…did your grandmother like it?

    There is something very peaceful and open about all of these pictures.

    • September 28 2012

      Yes, she did! And the entire family (she has a BIG one!) have some very fond memories.

      It is VERY peaceful up there, almost too much so, as I’m always tempted to just sleep my days away when I’m up there. 🙂

  • jan
    September 27 2012

    These are beautiful scenes, so different from anything in Australia. I would love to visit it, but do not see myself living there. I am glad you got to photograph the farm you grandmother grew up on. Those memories are precious.

    • September 28 2012

      It is a far cry from Oz, that is for sure! Dare I say I’m not sure anyone from Australia could handle the winter…!

      • Linda Hale
        October 2 2012

        I think you would be correct in saying that Dalene. Here in Brisbane, I have friends who are in shorts and t-shirts all year round. I on the other hand, being a Kiwi who married an Aussie, would love to have a go at the winter.

  • September 28 2012

    Beautiful! Yet another Alberta destination that I wouldn’t have thought of even after living here most of my life.

    • September 28 2012

      Time to take a drive north! 🙂

  • September 28 2012

    Very pretty place to grow up! Funny enough, when I see childhood friends post sunsets from my own hometown, I think exactly the same thing. I definitely don’t remember such stunning sunsets. Or perhaps I just didn’t appreciate them then.
    Jennifer recently posted..Sarajevo’s War Tunnel

    • October 2 2012

      Pretty sure it is a ‘lack of appreciation’, at least it is for me. Same with northern lights – I used to completely ignore them sometimes growing up, now, DAMN but I wish I saw more of them!

  • September 30 2012

    Beautiful! Now the secret is out – it’ll be the new hot tourist destination in Alberta!

    • October 2 2012

      Haha, my relatives up there will probably hate me for that! 🙂

  • October 1 2012

    Love the photos guys its everything I imagined remote parts of Canada would look like and more.
    Chris recently posted..Schoenbrunn Palace

  • Margyle
    October 2 2012

    Of course it can be your undiscovered gem… I’m always rediscovering places I’d already been to time and time again! Each time you learn something new or come back from a new place it colours the old in new shades.
    Even still… thanks for the tip! Looks worth checking out.

    • October 2 2012

      Very true Margyle, but it will never be “undiscovered” in the same sense as somewhere else around the world. I.e. I kept comparing it to our three months in remote Turkey: similar size area, no tourists, etc. That was an exciting adventure every time we left the yard, and could definitely not be achieved in the place where I grew up! That being said, I was able to “discover” new places on this visit that was such a nice surprise!

  • October 6 2012

    Beautiful spot. We never made it that far north, but did spend 10 months around Jasper National Park. Just like New Zealand, but on steroids!

    • October 7 2012

      LOVE Jasper. It would have been just a few hours north of you there!

  • October 6 2012

    How beautiful, and peaceful. I am a big fan of Canada but have only seen small parts of BC and Ontario and Quebec. I would love to see Alberta next year!

    • October 7 2012

      We have fortunately been ALL over the province on this trip home (our family and friends are quite scattered!), and there really is SO much beauty in Alberta. I hope you make it here!

  • Kate - CanuckiwiKate
    March 16 2013

    Too funny I just came across this post via your epic Finland trailer post… I’m going to be driving across Canada with my boyfriend this summer, from Vancouver to Halifax, and I’ve got a friend in Yellowknife who casually mentioned that YK is *only* 18 hours north of Edmonton, and we’re seriously considering factoring this sidetrip into our go-with-the-flow plan…. which would take us straight through Peace River!

  • Rod Webb
    August 23 2014

    I too am from that area and agree, it is beautiful.
    In fact, I am restoring a 1930 International Harvester truck which , I am told, hauled the logs that built the barn in your picture! I just took the very same picture a week ago with my dad as he explained what he knew about the truck. Records dating into the 20’s and30’s for the area are hard to come by so would love to know more about your grandmother and her family.We have traced the property back as far as 1948 but believe the prior owner may have also owned the truck prior to its sale.

  • Jenna Anderson
    March 10 2015

    Hi Dalene!
    I am from Northern Alberta as well! These photos are amazing! I definitely know the feeling of coming back and seeing home in a whole new light. Being away made me really realize just how beautiful rural AB really is.

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