My wife just graduated recently with her master’s degree, and last April she had been applying to co-op jobs for the summer. She ended up getting hired at a public library in a small city that I ended up falling in love with.
Medicine Hat, Alberta
Anyone who knows me, knows that I just will not shut up about how much I love Medicine Hat. It has the potential to come up in almost any conversation. When we first moved there, I had no idea what to expect, and I was a little nervous. I hadn’t lived in Alberta since I was 12 years old, and it wasn’t filled with a lot of good memories. One of the first things I learned though, was that this is the sunniest city in Canada!
The very first morning we were there, we drove over to the giant teepee and took a selfie of us in our new home. It ended up being the first of many many photos that I would take over the course of the summer. A summer that I had off work. The first such summer I had ever experienced since I was 16! I admit, I was definitely looking forward to that!
We visited the tourist centre nearby and picked up all kinds of maps and information about the surrounding area to plan for when we had time to explore. I quickly decided upon a goal for the summer. I was going to spend my time walking every single one of the trails within city limits. Each day, I would wake up and while my wife went off to work, I got ready and hit the trails. I would usually walk for a minimum of 3 hours a day before making my way home again.
I would consult my city map, choose an area, and head on out! I took my time exploring and made sure to appreciate all the things that I found beautiful. Turns out, I find a lot of things beautiful. I ended up creating a facebook album devoted to the photos I took while exploring, and every day was filled with amazing sights. Sometimes I couldn’t believe that even though I was usually seeing something similar to another day, it always had a special beauty from a new angle. There was never a day in which I didn’t see something I loved or appreciated.
When I returned home each day, I would make myself some lunch and carefully colour in my map with a sharpie to show that I had walked that area. I continued to do this every day, wherever I went. I found special charm in the mundane, everyday things, like these motivational words painted on a large set of stairs on the steep side of a coulee. Things like this easily made me fall in love with the city more and more.
I quickly realized that I was going to run out of trail very soon, and then decided to cover more and more of the city streets. Even in the residential or commercial areas, I was always able to find something to make me smile, laugh, or appreciate life just a little bit more. One day I found a deer happily nibbling on a plant in someone’s front yard and wasn’t startled when I stopped right beside it to take a photo. You never know what nature is going to show you or when, and I really enjoyed looking for it.
When it comes to shopping, there’s a number of wonderful local shops to explore, but my favourite is easily Mcbride’s Bakery. There’s so many delicious breads and other treats produced fresh every day, and it became part of our weekly life to visit the bakery. Their gouda croissants are the best I have ever had in my life. I loved having a local bakery to visit and have fresh delicious food to purchase and support the local community. The owners and staff are always friendly and welcoming, and every day that we have shopped for bread since we left Medicine Hat, it just hasn’t been the same. There’s more on some of our other favourite places below.
One day the City of Medicine Hat posted a contest on their facebook page, encouraging community members to be active, get outside, and send them photos of the area. I immediately started writing an entry. “Stand aside, everyone!”, I thought. “This is literally all I have been doing for the entire time I have lived here!”
Oh don’t worry, I definitely won the contest. Thank you so much to the city for running such a cool contest and giving me an awesome prize pack. It even came with a gift card to The Keg, where Andrea and I ended up having dinner for our first anniversary. I was incredibly grateful for such an awesome gift.
The trail system is beautifully manicured and very well designed. Medicine Hat is an extremely walkable city, with a wonderful mix of trails and roads to take you where you want to go. I know that city probably better than most of the people who have lived there for years and years, and it’s just because I took the time to explore, learn, experience, and love.
It was in this experience that I learned just how much I value nature and it’s beautiful, perfect scenery. I have found myself stopping to admire a view and let it linger in my eye for a moment, and taking a photo of something many times since, and I will always attribute this “stopping to smell the roses” attitude to Medicine Hat.
There are many days that I didn’t go out walking, and instead went to the gym for a few hours a day. Their leisure centre had been recently renovated and all the equipment was brand new and beautiful. I absolutely loved that gym, loved the equipment and especially when I was doing 2 hours of cardio on the elliptical. The screens had both cable and youtube capabilities which allowed the time to pass by without a second thought. My workouts have never felt so good or seemed so effortless. It’s really nice to keep moving while not really thinking about how long you’ve been in the gym.
The staff at the leisure centre was incredible as well. I enjoyed my morning interactions with the lady at the front desk and the head trainer who was in charge of the gym. I remember both of their names still, and while they may not remember me, I appreciated both of them a lot in my few months there.
As we are now moving from Ontario back to BC, we have just passed through this wonderful community yet again, and we planned to spend an extra day here just because! Sadly I was not able to finish the only small piece of trail that I wasn’t able to walk back in summer due to construction, and thus complete my my trail map, as it’s still under construction. But rest assured, I will happily visit again!
We did, however, visit all the places we loved in one incredible day….
First we set out on a two hour walk around the stampede grounds and all the surrounding trails. Once we worked up an appetite for second breakfast, we set off to our favourite store….
Mcbride’s bakery! We picked up a half dozen croissants and had an awesome conversation with the owner. We then took our croissants over to the teepee and had another hour walk through the coulee. In this next photo, I truly thought life was perfect, but then it got even better later in the day.
We then visited the public library, where Andrea worked last summer, and we barely made it through the doors before many of her former co-workers were all coming out from everywhere to greet us. It was so exciting to see everyone again, and even I had enough interaction with everyone throughout the summer that I truly felt at home around all her co-workers. It was positively wonderful. Visit the library everyone; the staff is all amazing!
Next, we headed off for lunch to our favourite cafe, Zucchini Blossom. It’s a beautiful little spot that is pretty much perfect in every way. Food is delicious and all the decor and small touches really make everything feel so happy and lovely. You just can’t help but enjoy yourself. The smokin’ chipotle salad is my favourite!
We went over to Police Point Park and had another half hour walk, while also taking some time to just sit on a bench and watch the river flow by for awhile. It’s one of those places where it just helps you feel at peace with the world.
Admittedly, this day was full of hiking just to eat more awesome food, and really, what’s wrong with that? You hike some, you eat some!
Next up was ice cream! The best soft serve ice cream I have ever experienced in my life is located at Swirls. Literally anything on the menu is awesome, but specifically the “Arctic Swirls”. It’s their version of a DQ Blizzard, except about 1000x better.
We even managed to fit in a break from the outdoors to check out Avengers: Infinity War at the Cineplex on opening day before heading out to dinner at Skinny’s BBQ.
And hold the phone, because that’s when our day truly went over the top. We had no idea our favourite local BBQ place had moved locations and ended up with a HUGE upgrade. They’ve exploded into a full restaurant on the outskirts of town. You can tell that their success in the city has really taken off to new levels. The new location is absolutely incredible. The decor is awesome and the food is just as perfect as it ever was. We definitely ordered more than we could eat, and could not have been happier. Easily the best dinner spot in town.
I can honestly say that as soon as I entered the city limits again, I felt right at home. It’s amazing that those 4 months of my life last summer will have such a lasting effect forever. As we have explored many of our favourite places today, and spent 4+ hours walking all over the city, I said so many times that this was the perfect day. If I could live this day over and over again in a loop until the end of time, I would be so happy. So many beautiful sights, absolutely perfect food, incredible weather (25 degrees and sun, sun, sun!).
There’s so many things I don’t cover in this post about the beautiful buildings all over town, but here’s just one example of the unexpected beauty found on almost every corner.
While I could write for days and days on how much I love this city, I know that I should draw this to a close with one final thought. While walking around, exploring a city and falling in love with it, I lost 50 pounds in those 4 months of summer. And that’s including the many delicious trips to all those restaurants I mentioned in this post, and so much more.
I also weigh 110 pounds less than when I arrived in Medicine Hat last year, on this date exactly. As I walked the trails again, guiding my wife around everywhere, I couldn’t believe how much better I felt than last year, but also just how proud I am of myself in general. This city will always have played a huge part in my weight loss journey.
If Medicine Hat ever needs to hire an ambassador for the city, I am available! Trust me, this post coming in at almost 2000 words doesn’t even begin to describe my love for this city. I guarantee that I can, and will, continue talking and raving about Medicine Hat for the rest of my life.