As we had told you in our last blog, we were back in the Prairies. All around us were just wide open fields and blue skies. We had now arrived in the province of Saskatchewan and by coincidence we discovered that the clock had gone back by one hour. Not because we had already entered a new time zone, but because Saskatchewan is the only province in Canada that does not participate in winter/summer time. So the hour that we only expected to be added in Alberta, we already got.
We were on our way to Grassland National Park, bordering the United States. About 400 kilometers today we drove mainly on secondary roads and the prairie landscape hardly changed. Along the way we stopped for a cup of coffee in the originally French founded village of Gravelbourg where we had a nice conversation with a man who told us that few French people live there anymore. The service in the church on Sunday is attended by only eight French speakers. Nowadays it is workers from Mexico, Jamaica and other Caribbean countries who work for seasonal employment in the fields. Seasonal salaried workers make up 53% of the paid agricultural workforce in Canada.
The Grassland National Park consists of two parts. An East Block and a West Block and we chose to visit the East Block first. Under the motto “I know another abbreviation” we did not drive the last part on the usual highway, but instead on dirt roads, because according to the GPS that was 30 kilometers less. It wasn’t a time saver in the end, but we did see some wildlife like vultures and Pronghorn Antelope. Maybe even a coyote but the distance was too great to be sure.
The temperatures were now well over 30 degrees and since there is only grass and no trees in Grassland, there is also no shade to be found during the day. We therefore thought it would be a good idea to start walking early the next day. Today we considered a half day of rest. We deserved it. It was high time to unpack our awning and try it out.
At the end of the afternoon, we started the car anyway for a short drive along the 11-mile Badlands Parkway. At the last viewpoint we put ourselves on the typical red chairs we see all over Canada and enjoyed the peace and wide view. In our minds we saw the 5000 Indians led by Sitting Bull from America passing by who had just lost the slaughter at Little Big Horn.
We actually managed to get up at 6:00 the next morning and an hour later began exploring the park on foot. We were still surrounded by mystical morning fog.
The walk was 11 kilometers long and called “Valley of the 1000 Devils” Trail. We enjoyed the expansive views immensely which gave us a sense of freedom. That’s what gets you air. Along the way we even saw two moose in the distance and were surprised to see these animals here in the prairie. The temperature was rising and we were glad we started early.
On our way to the West Block section of the park, we also drove west again, following the U.S. border for 150 kilometers. In the West Block we drove the Scenic Ecodrive loop. This 22 kilometer long dirt road through the park has several viewpoints along the way where the history, but especially the current ecosystem of the park is explained.
Of particular interest were the only colonies of prairie dogs living in Canada. Cute creatures that stand upright on the lookout for approaching danger. When danger threatens they rush in the direction of a hole in the ground, look at the situation again and disappear under the ground when it gets too exciting. We also saw a single bison and, already outside the park, dozens of Rough-legged buzzards who wanted to feast on the numerous prairie dogs. At the top of the Frenchman River valley with beautiful views of the valley formed during the last ice age we spent the night.
We had recently cleaned the car, but there was little to be seen of that now. Because of all the dust of the past 100 kilometers on unpaved roads, the back was no longer white, but light brown. The front was transformed into a graveyard for grasshoppers. Literally more than 200 grasshoppers had found their final resting place there. It looked terrible and needed to be cleaned. One more errand and a coffee/Internet stop at Timmie’s in Medicine Hat and we drove on down the Trans-Canada Highway toward Calgary. The most memorable thing we did today was having a hot shower at a truck stop along the Trans-Canada Highway!
After spending the night in the Siksika First Nation village of Gleichen, we wanted to combine culture with nature. A nice combo, although the culture part had to be cancelled. The Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, which tells the story of how the Indians used to live here, was closed on Mondays. However, it was possible to walk outside along a number of information boards and visit a number of wigwams. We visited the last resting place of Chief Crowfoot. Crowfoot was the one who signed the last agreement with the white government in Ottawa. In our blog “Die indigenen Völker Kanadas” we have already told you more about it.
We crossed the Trans-Canada Highway northward and finally arrived in the Dinosaur region of Canada. In this region, remains of over 30 dinosaur species, including a complete T-Rex have been found. The whole area around the town of Drumheller is taking advantage of this and “milking” it with museums, go-kart tracks and other interesting activities for tourists.
We drove around on the 50 kilometer Dinosaur Trail, but only visited the Hoodoos and the Horsethief Canyon along the way. The Hoodoos are a natural phenomenon a la Turkey’s Cappadocia where the softer rock at the bottom erodes faster than the harder rock at the top, creating strange looking mushroom shaped rocks. We crossed the Red Deer River via a ‘cable ferry’ and paid Horseshoe Canyon a brief visit before once again ending up in a Walmart parking lot in the town of Airdrie, just north of Calgary. Calgary was our gateway to the Rocky Mountains, finally we were off to the mountains!