20/5/17 - 25/5/17 17 °C
Ever use a calm, low voice to settle a yearling black bear? We happened upon a 'twice as big as a German Shepherd' bear about 5m beside a Waterton trail. He was busily munching on spring salad so didn't pay us much attention but was quite aware of our presence. Larry unholstered his bear spray just in case. We reported our experience to Park's staff who mustered some rubber bullets to aversion train him. Always a thrilling experience to bump into Yogi.
We left Waterton on a brilliant day and drove to Lethbridge, the first place we lived in as a married couple. Drove by our 'old love nest' then scooted about town to see the changes, and boy, there have been lots of changes in 40 years. Still very pretty though. Lots of elm canopied streets and blooming fruit trees. Like many smaller towns and cities, the expansion into Superstores, etc, affects businesses in the core.
Passing through Taber we headed north to Tillebrook PP, one of the BEST of Alberta's prairie parks. It's an oasis of trees hosting a chorus of songbirds. The May long weekend was a busy one but it was still nice. We could hear and see the CPR grain trains in the distance which was so appropriate given our location. Captured a couple of terrific sunset pics; like the sky was on fire. Watching clouds as they are reformed by the wind is a soothing pastime. We drove a short distance outside of the Park to visit the Brooks Aqueduct, a CPR irrigation engineering marvel from the last century.
On Monday we drove toMedicine Hat to visit the historic clay district and Medalta Pottery Works. This is where the bulk of Canada's pottery was mass produced from the turn of the last century to the mid 1960s. Of course, Medalta is most famous for its crocks but other ware was mass produced there too. A perfect storm of abundant water (South Saskatchewan River), the CPR, local sources of white clay and industrial technology allowed mass production of stoneware. Medalta is a must visit. Lovely gift store too. (Larry loves gift shops but Kathy makes the purchases).
After The HAT, we scooted east to Maple Creek then south to the Centre Block of the Cypress Hills in Saskatchewan. At an altitude rivalling Banff, these expansive, unglaciated hills are interprovincial in breadth (about 130km x 50 km). Lodgepole pine and trembling aspen dominate along with moose (we walked into a cow on an evening stroll), pronghorn antelope (saw small groupings of 2 or 3), beaver, white-tailed deer and coyotes. Did we mention the big views; see literally FOREVER, like 100km. We drove to Bald Butte to watch the sun set. (Larry said he did feel at home). An brilliant memory for sure.
The Meadows campground in CH is one of many. They are all fabulously well groomed: either prairie or forest. All have electricity and the outhouses are nicer then most persons' bathrooms. Larry was going to take a pic of one but Kathy closed the door. Something about 'Privacy Regulations,' she exclaimed!
Took a couple of pics of the Yellow Trailer parked in a field of yellow dandelions. Remember Donovan's 1962 hit, 'Mellow Yellow?' How about The Beatles, 'Yellow Trailering' or Sting's 1980's tune, 'Fields of Yellow?' Obviously, 'Weed' has always been 'very inspirational.' Cypress Hills (the Sask side) is more than worth a stop!
The next day, we drove the backroads through Ravenscrag to Eastend, Sask, the childhood home of the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Wallace Stegner. Stegner's 'Wolf Willow' and 'The Big Rock Candy Mountain' are classic prairie novels. We met the current 'writer-in-residence' there; he's from Copenhagen and finds the peace of the prairie to be very inspirational. After a picnic at the Lion's baseball diamond and playing catch, we drove to
Val Marie, Sask, the home of one of New York Islanders most celebrated players, #19 Bryan Trottier. More gravel roads beckoned south and east to Grasslands National Park and bison, black tailed prairie dogs and native prairie (never been cultivated or cattle grazed). STUNNING: a powerfulexperience leading one to see, feel and hear what it was like pre-conquest. We headed out on a hike to find ancient teepee rings and maybe a prairie rattler or two. No such luck! But we did find lots of pink granite bison rubbing stones, meadow muffins and prickly pear cactus.
Because the winds were ferocious (upwards of 90km/hr) and rain was forecast, we decided to pull up stakes and drive the Red Coat Trail Hwy13 to Weyburn, Sask's River Park Campground. Another 10/10. Barb (from Newfoundland) is the campground contractor and full of stories.
The next day we drove The Mounties' Trail thru Souris to Spruce Woods' PP in Manitoba. Lots of pump jacks nodding all along the way. The Park was flooded most recently in 2014 by the Assiniboine R., something the locals deal with in some way every spring. We were virtually the only campers there so it was quiet! We'd rate it a 9/10 and a great deal; only $23.00 including Power, showers, etc.
Today we're on our way to Bird's Hill PP north and east of 'Winterpeg.' We'll be staying for the weekend visiting some friends, exploring Lower Fort Garry and the Museum of Human Rights.
We're struggling a bit posting pics on the blog page so check out our 'public gallery' for all the places mentioned above.