One of Travel Alberta’s recent pitches encouraged residents to explore rural Alberta and its small towns. Last summer, I did just that and became acquainted with a number of small towns. Rimbey has a great thrift store. Caroline Meats in Caroline offers quality fare for barbecuing. The Parkview Restaurant in Lamont has yummy Chinese dishes.
My favourite town was Trochu, 240 kilometres from Edmonton at the junction of Highways 21 and 585. After passing through to the Tolman Bridge East campsite on the Red Deer River, my first impression of a dusty ghost town was replaced by the pleasure of discovery.
I now shop at Trochu Family Foods on Arena Avenue for every camping trip. The staff set the tone for the town. Town secretary Kim Helmer sums it up nicely when she observes, “Kind people and the friendly atmosphere make Trochu inviting.”
As an antidote to camp food, eat in town. The Store, as it is simply known, on Arena Avenue offers tasty hamburgers grilled up by Denise Frere. Rob Frere, her husband, is a second-generation owner, with a wealth of knowledge on local history inherited from his history-loving parents.
On a sunny day, take your lunch to the Trochu Arboretum a few blocks away. This delightful botanical park is attractive with trees, flowers, flitting birds, a Japanese-style fishpond, and plenty of benches. Entry is free but a donation is welcome.
Murals of the town’s past dot Arena Avenue. Blackfoot people have lived in the area for centuries. Forty kilometres from Trochu, Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park is a must-see attraction. No camping is allowed, but the views are awesome and swimming in the Red Deer River is wonderful.
In 1905, an aristocratic French citizen named Armand Trochu established the Ste. Anne Ranch Trading Company. Buildings from this endeavour are preserved for viewing.
Also on Arena Avenue, the Trochu & District Museum is open May through August. Many of the fascinating artifacts were collected by Lorene and Louis Frere, a couple committed to preserving the town’s history.
While writing this article, I learned of more attractions. I love to swim, and the Trochu Community Swimming Pool and Brian’s Splash Park are open in the summer. Entrance ranges from free to a family rate of $12.
Another gem is Henry’s Shoes on Main Street. Town social media director Jamie Collins notes that it’s a favourite for bus tour visitors. First comes lunch, possibly at Sweetgrass Café a few doors down, then a dive into the shoe store. Vern Rist is the second-generation owner, presiding over 18,000 pairs of shoes and other items.
Main Street will soon have a facelift with a hefty grant from the Canadian Community Revitalization Fund.
The Trochu Golf and Country Club is noted for its superior greens. The club features nine holes on a hilly course overlooking a picturesque valley. An electric cart is recommended. Call for a reservation.
For a final treat: look up at the 12 metre high white golf tee marking the course. It’s the world’s largest tee, but one might ask, “Are there actually any others?”
Alberta’s small towns offer accessible antidotes to Edmonton’s bustle and noise. Travelling close to home is cost-effective. Trochu may inspire you to search afield. The town’s website is town.trochu.ab.ca. Contacts for everything in this article can be found online.