More Canadian Badlands

CAMPGROUND: Writing-on-Stone Campground. Consistent with most provincial/state parks – nice and woodsy, mostly level sites, room between sites, firepit, picnic tables, electricity. No water at sights. $29/night. 4 stars out of 5.
LOCATION: Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in south central Alberta, about 50 miles southeast of Lethbridge.
WEATHER: Nasty in the AM as we were leaving Cypress Hills. Some sun later. High winds. High 68

It rained all night again at Cypress Hills. George had used an old blanket yesterday while working under the trailer. So, it was soaked and dirty. I gathered up all his wet things and took them to the laundry room at the campground to try to dry them a bit for today’s trip.

The fog was really thick as we left Cypress Hills. I would like to return here another time to do more hiking and exploring. We were just unfortunate with the weather on this visit.

We had to go north, west, then south again to get to Writing-on-Stone, due to the roads. In Medicine Hat, we saw the “world’s largest teepee”.

We stopped to do some shopping. George stopped at Home Depot to buy the parts to finish up his repair job. Since it was not raining there, he went ahead and fixed the tank problem right in their parking lot.

I bought a basil plant at Home Depot, then added it to my oregano planter. Yeah!

We were pleased that we would have paved roads on this trip, per the road map. We have had too much shaking of the Airstream on these gravel roads. BUT – just when we were approaching the provincial park, there was a “Road Closed” sign. Yep, we had to take a 15-mile gravel road detour around the closure. When we arrived at the campground, we filled up the repaired water tank. Let’s just hope the repair job works, as we have no fresh water at our site.

This is a beautiful park. There are hoo-doos all around. We can’t wait to explore. This is Tony backing into his site with the hoo-doos in the background.

We were happy that it was warm enough to sit out and enjoy a campfire, with drinks and roasted peanuts.

DINNER: Our turn tonight. We had been wanting to eat fish, but George has not been successful catching any. So, we bought some frozen bass and trout fillets. We wrapped them in aluminum foil, added soy sauce, lime juice, and sesame oil, and cooked the packets over the fire. Sides were steamed rice and Asian stir-fry veg. As they say in Japan – oiishi!

This can’t be Summer Solstice!

CAMPGROUND: 3rd night at Elkwater Campground
LOCATION: Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park in SE Alberta
WEATHER: In a word…..miserable! Rain most of the day. High 50. 30s in AM

We have a little ritual when it is cold, as it is here today….One of us gets up around 6:00, turns on the heat, then we stay in bed until the trailer has warmed up..

As we were having morning coffee, a deer rambled through our campsite. It is so woodsy and pretty here.

We decided today would be a day to stay around the campsite and do repair work. Tony and Jenny worked on a pipe that had become loose.

George drilled in some rivets where they had come loose. All that shaking on gravel roads…

As the day progressed, the weather worsened. I decided to bundle up and walk to the Visitors’ Center. It is hard to believe that today is the beginning of summer!

George discovered that our fresh water tank drain valve had broken and would not hold water. It is located under the trailer and probably got hit by a rock or something when we traveled on poor gravel roads. He spent about 4 hours under the trailer, on his back, in the freezing rain. He looked and felt miserable. He was soaking wet, and hypothermia was setting in. When he finished, we rushed him to the hot shower. He recovered over dinner.

DINNER: Tony’s turn. He cooked on his grill under the awning in the cold rain, while we sat cozily around their dining room table inside their trailer. Tony made beef stroganoff over egg noodles. Broccoli on the side. Really delicious.

Home on the range – now with photos

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Rock Creek
LOCATION: Grasslands National Park, in SW Saskatchewan
WEATHER: Mostly sunny. High 70

We joined the camp rangers for “Cowboy Coffee”. A ranger made coffee over a campfire like the cowboys used to do. One of the rangers lives on a ranch nearby and told us some tales of her life on the range. Fun!

We took a hike and could see our campground far below.

Red Adirondack chairs are the symbol of Canada’s national parks. They had placed these two at the top.

In addition to the campsites and cabins, there are a few tipis available for renting.

In the afternoon, we took another hike. This national park, unlike most, doesn’t have strict rules. Since there aren’t many visitors, they don’t have laid-out trails. You can just walk anywhere in the grassland area. They do post warnings about the need for orienteering skills, as it is easy to get lost out in these badlands. On this hike, we traversed hills and ridges, and down and over ravines. We came across a huge animal skeleton. Most of it was still intact. We think it was an elk or deer.

Being Sunday, almost all of the other campers left. We now have the campground almost to ourselves. Many campers buy firewood (as there are no trees here), then leave the extra at their site. George scrounged up a lot from vacant sites. We will have a nice campfire tonight.

DINNER: My turn. It was Mexican night tonight. We started with chips, salsa and margariitas. The main course was grilled shrimp quesadillas. I added charred green peppers and onions. Side dish was a coleslaw made wiiiiiith cabbage, radishes, and a creamy chipotle dressing.

We watched the last episode of the “Monarch of the Glen” DVD that Tony and Jenny loaned us. We wish we had more to watch – was a great BBC series.

A Day in Civilization..

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Elkwater Campground. See previous review
LOCATION: Within the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park in SE Alberta
WEATHER: A bit chilly. High 55. Low in AM about 40. Brrr!

We all got spruced up and clean (wonderful to have hot showers after 4 days in the boonies), then went to Medicine Hat, about 40 miles away. Tony and Jenny’s trailer needed some repairs and Tony wanted to buy parts to work on it.

We stopped at the Visitor Center where they couldn’t have been more helpful. We had a list of places we needed to hit. We asked about a laundry and wondered there might be one with internet. The Visitor Center guy called various laundries until he found one WITH wifi – Posh Wash. It is probably the nicest laundry I have ever been to. Both Jenny and I did tons of laundry while George and Tony went to the automotive stores. The laundry attendant was very nice and showed us the terribly dirty clothes she handles for the gas and oil workers. We finished the laundry chores, with hopes of looking quite posh 🙂

Medicine Hat, a city of 70,000, is called the Gas City, and it seems quite well-to-do. Nice homes everywhere with lots of new construction going on.

The Visitor Center had also recommended several brewpubs in the area. We went to this one for a very pleasant lunch.

Even though we are in the city, one gets a feeling for the Wild West. This tumbleweed blew by in front of the brewpub.

After lunch, we went downtown to the library to do some serious internet work. It is a great public library, and was full of residents. Afterwards, we strolled around downtown and hit a microbrewery to taste one of their brews.

It had been sunny in Medicine Hat, but it started to cloud up on our way back to the campground. We watched the temperature on car thermometer drop as we ascended to the park. We decided it was an eat-in night, rather than have a campfire.

DINNER: I rarely use the oven in the Airstream, but did so tonight, since it was so cool. I baked a lasagne with veggie burger, to keep the calories down. I jazzed up bottled pasta sauce with the burger, green pepper, onion, and garlic. I layered the lasagne with the no-bake kind of pasta (first time I had tried that). I sneaked in some spinach for body and vitamins. Sides were cheese bread and salad.

A Day of U-turns

CAMPGROUND: Elkwater Campground. Very woodsy. Super heated bathroom with hot showers. Almost level sites. Firepit and picnic table. Our site has electricity and water. Others have more or less. $29/night. 4 stars out of 5.
LOCATION: Inside the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. We are on the Alberta side. The east block is on the Satskatchewan side. We are on the far SE corner of Alberta, about 40 miles from Medicine Hat, Alberta
WEATHER: Much cooler. High 60. We drove through thunderstorms and high winds.

Leaving Grasslands National Park, we had to drive about 25 miles on a muddy, gravel road to the nearest paved road. This place is really off the beaten path. As we left, I counted only 3 sites occupied. This has been a unique experience here.

Our destination – Elkwater, Alberta. It wasn’t that far away as the crow flies, but we couldn’t get there directly. Our plan was to go west then south then west again, keeping off the TransCanada Highway. So, off we went. We stopped midway for groceries (pretty slim pickings in these little towns). Then, we went through the town where the world’s largest T.Rex was just discovered. We would have stopped for a photo, but the display was down a muddy road and it was pouring rain.

U-turn #1: We were going straight west, not far from our destination, when we saw a sign noting gravel for the next 40 miles. With huge thunderclouds looming in front of us, we realized it would be muddy and difficult to navigate. The map had deceived us! We decided to turn around and take the highway up and around. It is not easy making a u-turn with trailers on a narrow, country road. So, we retraced our steps back east, then north, then back west and finally south. This would take us to the east side of the park.

U-turn #2: We realized that the road through the park, to get across the park to our campground, might be closed due to the rain. So, we turned around again, and admitted that we would have to get on the TransCanada Highway after all, for a bit. Back east, north, west, and south again.

U-turn #3. For almost the entire day, we have driven through the grasslands, then huge ranches with some crops just starting to pop up. Then, suddenly, high hills with cypress trees appeared before us with a picturesque lake below. Wow! There are several campgrounds in this area, and we overshot the exit for ours. So, we made our final u-turn of the day, and entered our campground. It was a long day on the road – from 10:00 AM to 7:30 PM.

It was sure worth it. This is a beautiful place. We are anxious to explore.

DINNER: Tony made a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp with a yummy spice. I really want to get his Caesar dressing recipe.

An even longer hike in the Saskatchewan Badlands!

CAMPGROUND: Rock Creek
LOCATION: Grasslands National Park, East Block – in SW Satskatchewan
WEATHER: Sunny and hot (80) in the PM; rain in the evening

Tony and George decided not to hike again today. They both were recovering from yesterday’s 8-mile hike and had things to do around our trailers. So, Jenny and I took off on our own. Like yesterday, we packed a lunch and water bottles. Jenny even brought a compass. (We laughed.)

This trail was called the Red Butte Trail, as a rocky outcrop of reddish colored mesas was our destination. Unlike yesterday’s trail, the beaten path through the grass quickly petered out. All we could see around us for miles and miles was grassland. Thank goodness Jenny had brought her compass! We weren’t laughing now!!! With our vague map and compass, we headed north and west hopefully toward the Red Butte.

We enjoyed some wildlife moments….down in one gully, we scared up 3 sage grouse, an endangered species here, then later a deer, and a huge jackrabbit. It looked like a kangaroo!

We walked and walked, not knowing where we were. We consulted our map, then the compass, and kept on. Finally, after about 5 miles, when we were ready to give up, we saw the Red Butte. Time for a lunch and rest. Tony had packed Jenny a cute lunchbag with notes saying “I love you” and “Be safe”

The wind really picked up and the sun was blasting down. My face and arms were terribly sunburned and windburned.

We decided not to even try to find a trail on the return trip. Instead, we set the compass for southeast (since we had gone northwest out to the Butte). It was a shorter route, but much more strenuous. There were a lot of steep hills to climb. Finally, we spotted the road leading to the campground in the distance. We made it! I took the last sip of my water, and we descended down to the campground after a grueling 10 mile trek.

I think I had a bit of heatstroke. I cooled down with an outdoor shower and rested.

Refreshed, we sat outside at the picnic table with Tony and Jenny, recounting our day and watching a big thunderstorm develop.

The storm finally hit us, so we moved indoors for dinner.

DINNER: My turn. It was simple but good. I sauteed together sliced smokies (like mini brats), cabbage, and onions. Side was lima beans. Tony and I are planning our next menus, with a plan to hit a grocery store tomorrow as we leave the Grasslands and continue west.

A very long hike in the Canada Badlands

CAMPGROUND: 3rd night at Rock Creek

LOCATION: Grasslands National Park, East Block. In SW Saskatchewan
WEATHER: Mostly cloudy. Perfect for hiking. High 65

We got an early start for today’s hike. The map showed a 8-mile route (4 miles each way) through the grasslands, ending in The Valley of the Thousand Devils. We carried lots of water and a picnic lunch.

We had the vast wilderness to ourselves. There was a lot of up-and-down hiking, but we tried to keep a good pace. We encountered two skeletons, probably young deer torn apart by coyotes. We passed several buttes, some an interesting red color.

Jenny is a great photographer and took several photos of the beautiful, delicate flowers.

The end of the trail was a fabulous view of the valley below. While we rested, we read the hiking trail brochure which categorized this trail as “very difficult”. Good thing we hadn’t read that before we started out!

We rested and ate our lunches.

Tony even got in a little nap.

Then, the return 4- mile hike to the campground. It was reassuring when we could see it in the distance.

As we were exhausted, we rested. There are not any showers in this campground, so George tried out our outdoor shower.

We made a campfire and shared some drinks and appetizers.

DINNER: Tony made a one-pot wonder – a dish of hamburger, vegetables, and potatoes. Reallly hit the spot.

We went to bed embarassingly early. 🙂