buffymon (buffymonmon) wrote,

Finding Brokeback - Alberta 2008

 I´m home from my little trip overseas. I´m tired and having a slight case of the infamous J-lag but I was drawn to the computer to upload some pics and to try to make sense of all the impressions that are jumbling my brain. I have been away for three weeks and four of those days we spent driving around in Alberta, visiting BBM locations. I guess I wanted to come as close to the characters as possible. I had a great and weird time and here are some photos and some words and thoughts to go with them.

Finding Brokeback Day 1.
We picked up a rental car in Calgary and headed west on the Transcanadian highway. The firs stop was in Bragg 
Creek for Campsite # 1 and Elbow River for the "Sweet Life" and the "Maybe Texas" scenes. These two 
locations are located within 5 miles from each other. It was a very hot and sunny day. It was about a 5 km long hike 
to Campsite # 1 and we weren´t prepared for the heat - we had brought no water and were way overdressed. A lesson 
learned for the following hikes though.

Campsite # 1
Finding it was a bit tricky cause the path leading here from the dirt road was completely overgrown but we took a chance, 
knowing that the location should be on our right on the riverbank and finally I spotted a clearing. When I saw the campfire 
in the grass a yelled "yaay - this is it!" to my friend who had ventured off in another direction. I felt like a little kid on 
Christmas morning. My very first Brokeback location sighting! We spent about an hour or so here, taking photos and 
resting after the hike. There was unfortunately no water in the river though, as you can see in one of the pics. Except 
for the campfire and the log we also found the rack that Ennis and Jack uses to hang the elk meat from (see last picture)



"Sweet Life" and "Maybe Texas"
These two scenes were shot on directly opposite sides of the Elbow River, close to the Elk Falls. We visited here 
on a weekend so the place was rather crowded with people having picnicks. And Americans sure know how to throw 
a picnick. In Sweden a picnick would be to bring a basket with sandwiches but in America people bring pots and pans, 
barbecue grills and party tents!

Sweet Life
When we found the exact spot it was occupied but I asked politely if they could clear the area for us to take some pictures 
and they were nice about it and even got excited to hear the spot they had randomly chosen was featured in Brokeback. 
They took our picture and afterwards the two men of the group wanted their picture taken as well!


Maybe Texas
This spot is located just on the opposite side of the river from the Sweet Life location

Postcard mountains
Next stop was east of the town of Canmore for the postcard mountains. Very short distance from the freeway and 
very easy to find. Beautiful view.

We spent the night in Lake Louise before going deeper into BBM country the next morning.

Day 2.

Traveling south on Hwy 742 (dirt road) our first stop day 2 was for campsite # 2.

Campsite # 2.
We walked around the camp and looked for props. Suddenly my partner in crime (not a BBM fanatic) suddenly yelped 
and held up the sole of a shoe. Who knows who that belonged to ey? (Yes...I know...)


On our way back to the parking lot the rain began to literally pour down and it was followed by thunder and a hail storm. 
Both of us got soaking wet and in the end we just laughed as we walked the last meters to our car.

Cloudy skies over Brokeback

Me taking cover under a tree, not to much avail though. 

Mountain view

This view is visible in the movie and we drove past it. The middle mountain is called "The Fist"

"Gonna Snow Lake"
It´s here that Ennis and Jack are trading lies at the campfire. The spot is located right besides Hwy 742 and very easy 
to spot. When parked here we encountered a wolf who seemed completely unafraid of brokies. It just stared at us 
when I hollered, then continued with his business.


Jack Ascending
The mountain that Ennis looks toward and spots Jack on the mountain side

Mountain Highway
This curve was hard to spot and I can´t believe we actually managed to spot it amongst all the curves. I guess I just
had stared long enough on the screencap so that when we drove past it I recognized it immediately.

Me trying to get the right angle. 

The "I Did Once Lake"
Beforehand this was the location I anticipated the most to visit. It offers a beautiful view and the I Did Once scene 
is possibly my favorite scene in the movie. Located on the shore of the Kanananiski Upper Lake



The road Ennis drives off on after their argument with Jack watching him leave.

We spent the second night in a tipi at Sundance Lodge. Very cozy but freaking cold! In the wee hours of the morning 
we ended up sleeping in the car!
Today´s free advice: If you plan to spend the night in a tipi - bring sufficient clothing!!


Day 3.
We left Sundance Lodge early the third morning. Our first stop was for a hike to the Basque Bridge.

Basque Bridge


The Opening Scene
The beautiful opening shot were filmed south of the township of Longview. Easy spot to find due to findingbrokeback.com. 
We visited the place on a sunny day before noon, not at dusk as the film crew obviously did. Beautiful view from here, 
and it was easy to understand how Longview got its name. The mountains on the horizon are the Canadian Rocky Mountains.


After traveling south on Hwy 40 we at last reached Hwy 3 that goes from west to east. We soon arrived the small town 
of Cowley ( population about 200 I think) -  a town that doesn´t seem to have changed since the sixties. No doubt 
the reason why many street scenes were shot here. Being here really felt like I was in the movie - it was almost 
to the point of creepy, but in a good way. I could have spent many more hours here, just soaking up the atmosphere.

The first meeting/Aguirres trailer

The Goodbye Scene


Someone had carved "RIP Heath Ledger" on the ground in the alley


Chilling out, writing post cards and watching the trains pass by in Cowley



Fort Macleod
Fort Macleod is were the cast and crew had their accommodation while filming. It´s a quint little town with a old western 
feeling to it. Would LOVE to go here again. The Old Man River runs through the town.

The reunion scene
The town is so small that I found this before I had even started to look for it.  Located a block from the Red Coat Inn 
Motel where we spent the night. One of my favorite locations to visit for sure.



Cassie´s bar
Where Ennis is being picked up by Cassie. Located inside the Queen´s Hotel, one of the town´s oldest building as 
it was build in 1907 (as one of the pub goers very proudly informed me of)


Ennis/Cassie break up
Location: The Java Café. This café is now closed and all the tables have been disposed of - except for one. Guess which?

Yes, that´s right. Table # 25. I guess the owner knows about its history. According to the locals we talked to the café 
had to close of financial reasons, a fact that saddened many in the town. The pie they served is said to have been 
a real treat. What will happen to this place and the table, we wonder.


The Red Coat Inn (where the crew and cast stayed for two months, the owner told us.) The rooms were spacious 
and comfy and there was a pool and sauna available for the guests.

The Old Man River at sunset

Day 4.
The last day in Alberta saw us making our way from Fort Macleod up to the town of Beiseker just north of Calgary. 

The Lonesome Cabin
Where Ennis and Alma lived before moving to Riverton. Located west of the town of Claresholm. The area really is 
isolated with a whole lot of nothing around it. The last kilometer we had to park our car and hike because the road 
was in such lousy condition. The kitchen was also featured in the movie and it was quite visible through the windows.

The Divorce Cabin
Located on the same property as The Lonesome Cabin, still a few kilometres apart. Another abonded house surrounded 
by nothing and more nothing. The only thing here were cows, shooting us suspicious looks as we made our way 
to the house. This is the house were Ennis moved to after his divorce with Alma and it´s here Jack comes, full of hope, 
before once again getting rejected.


I believe this is the definition of the word "trespassing"


Rockyford is a tiny, tiny place (even smaller than Cowley) east of Calgary surrounded by the Canadian prairie. According 
to the owner of the only shop in town the town was "real busy" for a couple of months and there were crew members 
all over the town.

The Post office

About a month ago I visited the real Riverton postoffice in Wyoming, which is a very, very large impressive brick building. I wonder why they picked this little house for the movie.

The "Deceased postcard" scene

The Jack/Randall Scene

My least favorite scenes in the entire movie. A little pain, a red carpet and new curtains can obviously transform even the most dreary building into a posh dance hall.

Jack at the rodeo



Just before Beiseker we encountered roadworkers asphalting the road. I kept an eye open for Ennis.

Siesta Motel
The exterior of Motel 9 in Beiseker was used as The Siesta Motel of the movie. I´m so happy we were able 
to spend our last night here. I had phoned in advance but then the motel was full but Joanne, the owner, let 
us now we could try again later. I phoned again once in the US but didn´t get an answer so we decided to go 
there anyway, to take a chance, thinking that there weren´t any vacancies we could continue on to Calgary 
for accommodation. When we arrived the "no vacancies" sign was turned on but we figured we might just as well 
go in and ask to make sure. On the office door was a not letting us not that the owner was in the local pub 
we walked over there and at last met Joanne face to face. And behold! Just before she had left for the pub she 
had received a cancellation so she gave us a room key right then and there! Yay!
even turned on the Motel sign especially for us later on that evening so we could get our photos. The room was basic 
but spotless, Joanne was wonderful.


Ennis´s trailer
Not until I got here did I realize that our last BBm stop coincided with the movie´s last scene; Ennis´s trailer. It 
was filmed on a site that is used as a dump. The trailer is not there anymore, now it´s just a fenced-in grass 
area. The view that is visible through Ennis´s window is still the same though. It felt like a fitting end to our Brokeback 


Why not add "vandalism" to "trespassing"?

These four days were an awesome adventure like those you used to have when you were  kid. 
Just on a bigger scale. Alberta is a beautiful place in its own right and it´s a bonus that it happens 
to be the place where they filmed Brokeback Mountain. (a very pleasant one however). 
I think filming here was a bit risky however. It´s clear that Ang Lee isn´t trying to tell a big, 
romantic story about great love but rather a story about two flawed, very human, uneducated men 
in a homophobic rural society. But with a backdrop such as Alberta the movie becomes more 
romantic than the short story ever becomes. It´s almost as the nature tells its own story in the 
movie. However, it seems as Ang Lee was more than aware of this problem. As the creators of fingindbrokeback.com points out, it seems as Ang Lee sometimes ignored the more beautiful 
spots in favour of less striking ones. One example is the location for the Sweet Life scene 
at Elbow River. Just a few hundred feet down that river is a beautiful waterfall (Elk Falls) located 
but instead of filming here they chose to shoot the scene upstreams. I guess this was a way to 
keep the attention on the dialouge instead of indulging in pretty vistas and risk loosing the 
audience´s attention.

A big Thank You to the folks behind findingbrokeback.com, this journey would not have been possible without all your hard work and dedication.

Tags: finding brokeback, travel

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