Believe it or not, this is my second writing of these 2 days. Last night as I was trying unsuccessfully to load a photo in WordPress, I cancelled what I thought was the photo, only to discover that the entire blog had been cancelled! After an hour of writing it was time to give up for the night! Let me see if I can recreate the literary masterpiece once again!
Our B and B in Moose Jaw provided us with an amazing breakfast to set us on our way. Our hosts Lois and John were delightful and after conversations with them and their guests we were off on our next adventure.
Our first stop was to say farewell to “Mac the Moose”, as well as pay homage to the Snowbirds as Moose Jaw is their home base.
Once back on the road it was off to the grocery store to do a small provisioning for the next few days. Finally we were ready to head out of town and to our next destination – Grasslands National Park.
The topography was pretty flat leaving Moose Jaw ( I guess it’s a good spot for airforce pilot training!) as we travelled south west. The rolling hills gave way to beautiful bucolic settings of fields of wheat drifting in the wind. (Although not too much wind today as the temps were once again in the 37C range!)of course I couldn’t resist the beauty of the old grain towers, or the abandoned feed sheds dotted across the landscape enroute.
We finally got the to entry point of the park and another 40kms on dirt roads to go before we saw our campsite! This country was rolling hills productive enough for cattle grazing, so we needed to be on the lookout for stray cattle crossing the road ( yes we crossed 3 Texas gates). One on the actually 19km entry road to the park we were granted a free 40 minute massage courtesy of the washboard road!
The vistas entering the Frenchman valley were vast. One of the park signs said one feels very small in this part of Canada, and indeed we felt like fleas!
We finally arrived at our campsite about an hour ahead of the park warden. I called the info number as the visitor centre was another 60kms away, and they told us to stay put, feel free to set up and “Bonnie” would be there from 3-7 to check us in.
The campground is little more than a corralled field. But campground amenities is not what one comes for…it’s the hiking! Unfortunately with the heat, after we set up camp and got checked in we were pretty dehydrated. So instead of a long hike, we opted for the interpretive drive along the road we had just entered. Back we went the 20 kms or so, and then we started at the beginning and learned a lot about the path we had just taken. Our first stop really acquainted us with the expansive nature of this park – horizons stretched into the far far distance.
The next stop was a fun “plain” that was home of an enormous colony of Prairie dogs. As we walked the short route, we could see and hear them scolding us to get off their turf! We had to really watch our steps as there were hole dug everywhere…including in the path created for tourists!
Our next stop talked about the prairie grasses that were indigenous to the area and how the park has been working to eliminate the cultivated varieties in favour of the original drought tolerant ones. The other thing we were on the lookout for were buffalo! We saw many signs of their presence, some quite fresh, but no sightings today! This area had a short hike along side a “coulee” which is a small valley that captures moisture and supports small trees and brush – a perfect hangout for hot buffalo!
We also saw some large granite boulders left by the retreating glaciers and used a rubbing stones for the buffalo. There were also signs of a bygone era where the indigenous of this land made there hunting camps and used granite rocks to support their teepees.
The next stop took us to a former corral and grazing area. It was alongside the Frenchman River and gave us a good look at the creator of the great ravines eroded into this valley. The river is little more than a creek by our standards, but certainly was powerful in its ability to carve this wonderful topography. We were certainly looking forward to seeing more of this fascinating park tomorrow!
Day 10 Grasslands National Park
Today we got up and had a hearty breakfast of back bacon and eggs and prepared a lunch as well to sustain us through the day.
We set out for the visitor’s centre at Val Marie and made a brief stop there to talk once again with Bonnie (She’s everywhere I swear!). She marked our map for our hikes to both the Eagles Butte as well as 70 Mile Butte ( the two can be combined almost like a figure 8.
We drove another 5 km to the parking area for our hikes and were off! First we skirted Eagle Butte.
We then took the offshoot to 70 mile Butte and started to climb in earnest. The switchback trails made it relatively easy to climb. We were just thankful that today’s temp was only around 25C and the skies were somewhat overcast so dehydration was not nearly as threatening as the day before.
The path wound up and up, and the vistas were beautiful!
We finally made it to the top of the 70m Mile Butte and what a view we had. According to the sign, it was given its name by the RCMP in the area, as they would use this not only as a lookout, but as a guidepost when they were travelling from the east – it would bring them close to Val Marie and a shallower crossing of the Frenchman River.
On the way down we passed through a number of coulees, with tracks indicating mule deer, antelope and jackrabbits were not far. We also noticed some interesting nests in the trees, and when when we ask Bonnie (yes we made one more stop at the visitor’s centre) she confirmed our belief that they were nests of some type of raptor ( golden eagles were seen hovering above in the sky).
When we reached our car, some others hikers had just witnessed a rattlesnake eat a prairie dog. By the time we got to the snake it was attempting to digest this it mound in its belly! Yes indeed, there are rattlesnakes in this park as well as black widow spiders often found in prairie dog mounds. (( yes indeed, we kept our distance and were on the lookout!!
We also spoke to Bonnie about whether it was worth it to drive to the west block of the park. She encouraged us to do so, as this is where we would see the badlands. So with lunch ready to eat. In the car we headed the 168 kms to the other side of this vast park to check out the Badlands Parkway.
This parkway (was actually a paved single lane road) took us to a number of lookout points. Again spectacular vistas of a harsh valley where settlers worked to the bone to eke out a living. There have been a number of dinosaur bone discoveries by hikers and you can see the white demarcation in the landscape that is evidence of the catastrophic meteor crash that turned the. Lush vegetation of the dinosaur era into a desert badlands.
Dan and I had seen nothing like this on the scale that it is here. We have both been to Drumheller and seen the badlands valley, but this as on a whole other scale.
It was time to turn around and head home to camp, but first we had to drive about 90 kms out of the way to fill up with gas! For anyone venturing to the park, make sure you come in with a. Full tank of gas, and plan your route accordingly. The nearest gas station to the campground is about 80 kms!
Back at camp by around 7 pm we made a quick dinner and then headed over to the visitor’s centre in the campground to try and take advantage of the wifi. As you heard. At the onset, it wasn’t particularly successful. While there was wifi, the bandwidth was narrow and didn’t really support photos…and besides, I cancelled my entire blog!! This one is getting written in word first!
As we readied for bed, we were hoping for a clear night to do some stargazing, but the overcast day held and we had a very very dark night at bedtime. Luckily I had to get up around 2:30 am and took a brief look out at the sky and the entire Milky Way before me! Stunning!
Until tomorrow and our next adventure to Dinosaur Provincial Park – Alberta. Stay safe, see. You then!!