Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Grasslands National Park and Val Marie, Saskatchewan

It's a long twelve hour drive across the southern Canadian prairie to get to Val Marie Saskatchewan from our home, but we did it. We got back home in one piece too. Thanks to Ted for holding down the fort at home while we were out and about. I'm always grateful when there is nothing to do when I get back home, but to pick up where I left off. Thanks so much for pitching in to make a few days away from the chickens a possibility. I hope you've gotten your fill of eggs for the next little while at least.

We had a great time with many highlights for our memories. Wallace Stegner's Wolf Willow is my favourite touch stone for this part of the world, but I'm open to challenge on that. I have a deep fondness for this harsh area of the prairie.

Here is a set of images from the tour. The community spirit was remarkable and infectious. A harsh environment that has produced some very warm people.

The last of the prickly pear cactus was blooming. The Wallace cemetery, in The Big Muddy, provided a very close encounter with two golden eagles against a stunning vista of top notch elbow room on a spectacularly clear day.

Snoot found out what it feels like to slam her hand into a pin cushion cactus and I was crying for less restrictions in national parks about pestering the wild life. I saw only one rattle snake and one short horned lizard, but they were both memorable encounters even with a park guide watching me like a hawk. We saw several prong horned antelope and strange view of a mule deer sitting on it's haunches in a coolie that looked like some giant jack rabbit out of scene in Alice in Wonderland.

Everyone from far and wide, but especially town folk were all abuzz about the open mic night at the bar on Saturday night. The place was packed with Park students, workers and locals for a broad range of local talent on display. Our family had a great time with it and performed several songs. Snoot nailed the Weakerthans One Great City and Snoot and I got all of Kathleen Edward's I make the Dough, you get the Glory which was a lot of fun to do in public. I'm a shy guy when it comes down to brass tacks, but I got away with it all for the most part.

I'm going to have to get serious about washing the car. It is covered in canola oil and road grime. Through some areas of Saskatchewan on #18 they were dumping canola oil to keep the dust down on some of the gravel sections. Calcium phosphate is much more of a traditional treatment, but the tanker delivering the juice was very proudly displaying the details for us to understand. I can't get my head around dumping food on the ground when so many go hungry.

We too our pit dog Rose with us. When we got her as a 10 month old dog she could not be in close proximity to us for long without the stress would necessitate the unceremonious dumping of her stomach contents. She was the perfect travel companion. It's so nice to have her settling into adulthood at long last.

The Frenchman River was the life blood of the area. Moisture in a desert is really popular with animals and humans alike. I wish I had taken time to run there, but bike might have been more practical.

Mineral rich deposits were everywhere. Iron soaked rocks from rising organic matter and gypsum which I'd never seen before. It made itself know by sparkling against the sun like glass.

The Larson's were apparently the first to sell land to help build the park. Walking their farmstead was a keen reminder of how harsh the land is. They had build what looked like a smart horse barn into the hillside using the earth as shelter. There was a rabbit in there that was far too tame to believe.

The crew of us atop 70 Mile Butte


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