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. 🙂

A road to nowhere?

CAMPGROUND: Rock Creek Campground inside Grasslands National Park. Nice, flat, gravel sites with picnic tables and firepits. Everything is new – one year old. Water available from hose near office. Vault toilet only and porta-potties. $25/night. Would rate it a 3 out of 5 stars for amenities, but atmostphere and views boost it to a 4.

LOCATION: Grasslands National Park – East Block. In SW Saskatchewan
WEATHER: Mostly cloudy. A few showers. High 70We had a leisurely morning at Bengough, then headed south and west, again through the Big Muddy. We followed Tony and Jenny across the lonely prairie. Our trip today was short – only about 2 hours of driving.

We assumed that we were approaching a town with a car show, as 12 Corvettes passed us along the highway. Sure enough, the next (and only) town was having a festival and there were a lot of old tractors, trucks, and cars on display.

We drove about another hour and saw a sign for Grasslands. It was 15 miles down a gravel road. This area is similar to the Badlands of South Dakota, but greener and not dusty. It is really barren and wide-open.The campground is small – 20 sites and a few cabins and tipis to rent. We are perched up above the rest of the campsite and have a 360-degree view of the valley. It is spectacular. About half of the sites are occupied – very quiet.The nearest town is the one we went through, about an hour away. The office staff told us that some people get here without realizing it is so remote, and don’t have enough food or gas for themselves. The office will sell an emergency meal package for people to cook, and back-up gas to get them to the next town. We are even too far out to get any radio reception.We are only about 2 miles from the US border – Montana – which is equally remote.

After setting up and settling in, we strolled around the campground, getting our bearings. We will be here 4 nights and plan to take lots of hikes.

DINNER: Tony’s turn tonight. He cooked some pork steaks with a dijon mustard rub coated with panko – really superb. I will have to try that sometime. Side was a medley of potatoes and vegetables. He cooked outside on his gas grill, but the winds came up when we were ready to eat, so we moved indoors.

BOOK: I finished “Sleeping in the Ground” by Peter Robinson. I don’t know how I selected this book, but I really like the author. It is a British detective series. The cool thing about it is that it takes place in a village where we did a housesitting assignment – in North Yorkshire. I rate it a 9 out of 10.

The Big Muddy

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Bengough Municipal Campground. See previous comment.
LOCATION: Bengough, Saskatchewan in SE part of province
WEATHER: Very nice. Mostly sunny. High 75

We checked out the small town of Bengough. Actually quite cute. It has an outdoor museum describing coal mining here in the early 1900s done by farmers, just by digging up hills on their farmland.

Today’s day trip was to the Big Muddy. It is a ridge of clay and mud hills in the middle of a flat prairie, caused by glacier movement.
20190614_0919466172585427851223345.jpg
This tallest hill is called Castle Butte.

20190614_095448.jpg

20190614_100527.jpg

The area consists of thousands of miles of rangeland. The cows roam freely. This guy wanted to check us out before he let us through his “gate”.

20190614_121421.jpg

We saw deer and pronghorns (antelope) running in the fields. There are no trees, other than the ones the farmers have planted as wind breaks.

20190615_073403.jpg

There are a lot of gophers running around. I watched this one right before he dived into his hole.

20190614_100153.jpg

We stopped at a tiny town, Big Beaver, where the only thing there is a store that has “everything”. And, it is true! Groceries of all types, clothing, restaurant, cafe, post office, farming supplies, etc. Amazing!

20190614_114914.jpg

Then, on to another town, miles away for lunch. We ate at the Jolly Giant Pub, named after a giant (an 8+-foot man) that used to live in the town. We read about him at the museum, and learned he died while in the circus.

20190614_141842.jpg

This campground is set up so that two RVs park in one area, each one facing the other direction, so there is a commons area in the middle. The campground lady stopped by to chat again as we were eating dinner.

DINNER: For my turn, I served shrimp cocktail as an appetizer. The main course was fettucini in a salmon cream sauce, with bits of smoked salmon, capers, and artichoke hearts. Side was peas and mushrooms. A bit of gourmet on the prairie!

The vast prairie

CAMPGROUND: Bengough Municipal Park. Small city park in a little town. About 20 sites. Full hook-ups on grassy/gravel level sites. No fire pits (due to fire scare). Picnic tables. Old, but clean bathroom. $29/night. 4 stars out of 5.
LOCATION: Bengough, Saskatchewan, in SW part of province.
WEATHER: Mostly sunny. Late afternoon storms. High 90

We had heard a funny noise coming from one of the tires when we first pulled in at Moose Mountain 3 days ago. This morning, before we took off, George wanted to check it out.

It is quite an ordeal to jack up the trailer and to take the tire apart. He spent a lot of time on it, and then decided it needed to be taken care of by a professional. So, we drove into the nearest town and luckily found a mechanic that could work on it. He kindly worked us into the schedule, and fixed the problem within 30 minutes. These internal parts had become tangled up. (I am sure there is a more technical description.)

Really bad thunderstorms, high winds (80mph), and hail were predicted, so we hurried to Bengough, our next destination. It was almost due west. It was a long stretch of nothing (about 180 miles), through the prairie. No trees, but thousands of these oil wells. We watched a storm approaching from miles away.

We arrived at this little park, got set up, and then sat inside to enjoy the thunderstorm – lightning, rain, and thunder all around us.

A local lady came by to collect our money. She was a real character. She sat inside with us and chatted a long time – probably relished the opportunity to meet new people. We talked a lot about the sorry state of politics – in both USA and Canada.

DINNER: The storm cleared, and Tony set up his gas grill for his turn to cook. He did the Mennonite smokies (similar to brats) with all of the trimmings plus sauerkraut. We put up our awning under the picnic table, and dined “al fresco” as it turned out to be a beautiful evening.

Beautiful day in Saskachewan

CAMPGROUND: 3rd night at Fish Creek
LOCATION: Moose Mountain Provincial Park – SE Saskachewan
WEATHER: Mostly sunny. High 73

Since we didn’t want to repeat the tick invasion, we took our morning hike on gravel roads, all around the campground. There are a lot of seasonal RVs parked here, but the people are not here, yet, so it is still very quiet. It will have a much different feel in a few weeks when the 400+ sites are all occupied.

We spotted a few wild Alberta roses that are just starting to bloom.

We did a little wifi work in the park’s office. I booked 2 nights in a campground near Calgary after we leave Tony and Jenny. I got the only site still available for those nights. July 1 is Canada Day, and like the 4th of July in the USA, it is a very busy time for campgrounds.

Then, an afternoon hike around one of the neighborhoods of the village located within the provincial park. There are some new homes being built, quite large and fancy, and then these cute, older cottages, all interspersed

Back at our Airstream, George worked on replacing the screen on the window that was shattered a few weeks ago. Airstream had replaced the glass window, but the screen still had a tear in it. One thing we really like about this campground is that they provide free firewood. It is nice and dry, so burns very well. George got a fire going, and I kept it stoked.

DINNER: My turn. I made some hummus for an appetizer. It is easy to do, since I brought my immersion blender with me. For the main meal, I made chili. I added sausage cooked on the campfire grill, and served the chili over weiners roasted on the fire. I toasted the bread from the local bakery to accompany it. We ended up moving to Tony and Jenny’s site to eat as it started to rain, and we could huddle under their awning. Jenny made some zucchini bread earlier today, so that became our dessert.

After dinner, we watched a DVD – an old BBC show called “Monarch of the Glen”. We had seen a few episodes a long time ago on PBS, and Tony and Jenny loaned us this one. Very cozy on a chilly, rainy night.

Yikes……Ticks!

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Fish Creek
LOCATION: Moose Mountain Provincial Park – SE Saskachewan
WEATHER: Mostly sunny. High 68

Since it looked a bit like rain, we made a day trip into a little nearby town. It was quite cute. Jenny got her hair cut while we hung out at a nice coffee shop. We bought some flax seed bread from the village bakery and some “smokies” – like brats – made by local Mennonite ladies.

After lunch in our trailers, George went to check out fishing while Tony, Jenny, and I did one of the provincial park hikes. It was called the Peninsula Trail and followed the lake around for about 2 miles. A nice workout in the woods – we got our fix of communing with nature. Maybe we communed TOO much……Tony discovered a tick crawling on his pants while we were hiking on the grassy trail.

After we finished the hike, I found one on my leg. Then, Jenny found one on her shirt. Back at the trailers, we had naked body inspections (each couple separately) and found more. Jenny won with 6; I had 3; and Tony 1. After a shower, we still felt like something was crawling on us. This is the warning sign in the bathroom…

The campground is full of ground squirrels. They are not the usual type – I don’t think they climb trees. They are pretty tame. This one was checking out our grill…

We visited the golf course that is part of the park. It is perched on a cliff overlooking the lake below. We had a drink and admired the views.

DINNER: Tony’s turn. He made a really delicious Greek salad and grilled Greek-style chicken that we ate on pita with tsasiki sauce. Whoever cooks also does the dishes. It is nice to have every other day off, and helps to conserve water.

Westward Ho! Through Canadian Provinces

CAMPGROUND: Fish Creek Campground. In a provincial park, so lots of trees. Gravel sites. Full hook-ups available, but we have electricity only (all we really need). Nice grills. Picnic tables. Very good showers and bathroom. $30/night. No views of the lake, but we are nearby. Free firewood. 4 stars out of 5.
LOCATION: Moose Mountain Provincial Park in SE Saskatchewan
WEATHER: Glorious! Sunny . High 72

We took our time enjoying our last morning at Riding Mountain. I fixed hashbrowns and eggs for breakfast. I took a shower, as you never know what the next campground’s facilities will be like.

Today’s trip was about 180 miles, south and west. We avoided the TransCanada Highway #1 (much like the US interstate system), and instead drove on secondary roads. We saw only one vehicle per half hour. Big fields, mostly wheat, dotted with oil pumps. Things seemed pretty prosperous. Near the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border a wolf ran across the road in front of us.

It is nice to slow down after driving so many miles from Mission, Texas to the Airstream rally in Ohio, and then to Winnipeg. We will be making our way slowly west, visiting several interesting-sounding parks and landmarks. We have driven about 2500 miles so far.

We had our pick of the campsites. How different it will be in 2 weeks, once school gets out on June 26. The campground office folks told us that the campground’s 400 sites are totally booked for the summer. Two deer munching on grass greeted us at our site.

Inside the park is a small town, an inn, golf course, and general store. After unhooking, we drove around a bit and used some wifi in the park’s office.

DINNER: My turn again. Asian stir-fried rice with chicken, peppers, broccoli, garlic, ginger, egg, mushrooms, and onions, in a soy/sesame oil sauce. Pretty good, and a great way to use up leftover vegetables!