The Un-Beijing Road Trip

Last year’s birthday trip was to be my last for a while I vowed. I would be 50 when I got back so I really should start acting my age I reasoned. It was a big trip and I really should save up my money and holiday time for a trip with my wife I thought. But even as I repeated this over and over, I knew I was lying to myself. As fall approaches every year I find I get rather restless and just have to get out somewhere.

My trip to Beijing for my 50th birthday was an amazing adventure. I loved spending the time with my sister and brother in law and without them I would of never have been able to get there. I saw so much that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever see. I ate a few things that I normally wouldn’t try (and lived to tell the tale). And I even had chocolate cake on my birthday (not very good chocolate cake, but still cake). I survived the hustle and bustle even though I don’t like crowds. Maybe it was telling myself that was just the way it is here and going with the flow was the ticket. I do know that no matter how crowded someplace is now, my new motto is, “It isn’t Beijing busy.”

I started looking at Google Maps back in June to see where I would get away to this year. I wanted to get away but not spend a couple days driving as I was only going to have 4 or 5 days off. I looked long and hard at going to Vancouver Island so I could check out the areas I’ve never been to but decided the ferry would cost me almost as much as my gas would. I looked at going north towards Yellowknife to see if I could find some northern lights but decided it was too much driving to be able to enjoy it and it’s cold up north.

The west block of Grasslands National Park was where I decided to go. Six years ago I took a quick tour through the east block of the park and passed right by the west block on my way home and decided it would be worth spending some time there. I thought of it as my anti-Beijing trip. Not anti in a bad was because I really did enjoy the city, but anti because I was betting there will be next to no one around when I’m there.

So, early in the morning of  Thursday, September 29th, 2016 I hit the road heading south east.

The only exciting things I saw between home and Medicine Hat were a couple Pronghorn Antelope just west of the hat, but they were a bit far from the highway to get any photos of.

My quick stop for fuel and lunch turned into well over an hours visit to Medicine Hat as I also needed some food for my camping trip and the Sobeys there was so nice I wandered around in it longer than I should of.

Topped of my fuel again at Gull Lake, Saskatchewan as the only fuel anywhere near the park are card locks and I didn’t want to use credit if I didn’t have to.

Still nothing catching my eye till I was headed east towards Cadillac, SK and these trees in the field were it.


It didn’t take too long to figure out that hand holding the Sigma 150-600 mm Sport lens I borrowed from work for my trip was a bad idea. Those trees are not nearly as sharp as I’d like them to be.

A little further down the road I came across a hawk sitting on a fence post. I got a shot of him but couldn’t get any closer to get better photos.


Nothing else exciting to see along my route and I pulled into Val Marie around 4 pm. I paid $62.80 for 4 nights of camping and was soon on my way to the Frenchman Valley Campground.

I was about two thirds of the way to the campground when I saw this pretty little Sharp Tailed Grouse on the road. As I slowed down she bolted off into the grass. (A theme I’d see again and again over the next few days.)


I pulled into the campground and drove through it to find myself a spot. As there are no trees there I could see the whole thing from the entrance but I still drove around. There were a few spots already take and I settled on site number 1 as it was close to everything but seemed farthest away from other sites.

As I was cleaning up from supper a few Bison came over the hill and wandered past the campground in the early evening light.


They were quite a ways away but I still took a few photos.

With the light fading rapidly I got my bedroom in my truck ready for the night. By the time I was done it was good and dark and the stars looked wonderful. Seeing the Milky Way is pretty incredible when you are used to seeing just a few stars. I was feeling pretty tired from the drive and the clouds were moving in so I went to bed early and hoped to find some good stuff in the morning. My air mattress felt low already and I had just pumped it up. This is probably not a good thing.




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