Travellers often find it difficult to appreciate where they come from. What is familiar is rarely awe-inspiring. When I returned to my hometown of Grande Prairie, AB, I was confronted by a massive amount of snow, ridiculously frigid weather, and a town full of familiarity but basking in a whole new light.
I’m getting sick and tired of hearing British Columbians tell me how much Grande Prairie sucks. Okay, fine – it’s not that gorgeous, new, or exciting. It’s completely comprised of liquor stores, lifted pick-up trucks, and rig pigs. It’s a pretty crappy town. But it’s MY crappy town. (And hey, at least it’s not Fort Mac.)
Grande Prairie has finally designed its first postcard. The large Montrose Cultural Center has completed the additional rooms that comprise the art gallery. The Brewhouse is my second home, and my own backyard is a winter wonderland.
Maybe I’m just too used to Alberta—or even Canada—to fully appreciate the natural beauty that covers this land. When my Danish cousins came to visit, they were blown away by Kakwa Falls, camping in the wilderness, and the legitimate threat of bears. They could barely believe that our little city is a full 5 hour trek north of the next big city, on a straight highway lined with nothing but trees.
On November 10, 2013, the temperature dropped to -29 degrees Celsius. Snow fell and my nose turned pink. It was colder in GP than it was in Yellowknife. Grande Prairie regularly hits 40 below. I’ve experienced snow in May and had to wear a parka in July. Vehicles slide through icy intersections uncontrolled. Alberta is not for the faint of heart.
The snow is currently dusting the prairies like a layering of flour over a yellow patchwork quilt. The horizon stretches on forever, making the clear blue sky seem endless. The air is brisk, crisp, and cold. In the spring, the frozen Wapiti River will transform into a playground for boats, floats, and off-roading vehicles. There are endless activities to engage in in the summer. It all depends on who you know.
I’m not trying to turn Grande Prairie into a tourist destination. I’m not saying it should be. The city certainly has its faults. But Grande Prairie is an experience—a real, authentic opportunity for foreigners to appreciate the “Texas of Canada” and the Great White North. Once we allow ourselves to view GP from foreign eyes, the city is no longer crappy. It’s exciting, intriguing, and even – dare I say it – beautiful.Photo by Miriah Hodgins