Red chairs and night sky

Woke up around midnight feeling like I was laying right on plywood. Yup, as I suspected, my mattress is flat. I guess having it put a way for 6 years might not have been a good idea. A whole lot of tossing and turning over the next few hours ensue as I try to get comfortable enough to get some more sleep. I finally decide at 6:30 am that it’s not too early to get up. I’m going to have to put all the extra blankets I brought under my sleeping bag for softness. Luckily it’s warm enough that won’t be a problem.

I could hear Bison lowing but there were none in site. Sound travels well in the still air as they are over the hill on the west side of the campground. By the time I was done breakfast and the associated dishes I decided to explore around the campground a bit. There is a trail out of the campground up over the hill to the Belza Day Use area that I thought I’d check out. I can still hear Bison in that direction so I cautiously crest the hill looking for them. I can see they are hanging around the area I’m heading to so I walk a bit closer and stand still waiting patiently for them to move along. They move off a bit so I move forward and wait again. One of the bulls keeps looking over at me but I’m far enough away the he decides not to bother with me. They finally moved off far enough for me to go look at the viewpoint. I shot a couple photos of the Bison but I wasn’t happy with what I got so I deleted them and will just have to reach into the brain cells for those memories.

As I’m looking over the valley I spot this young lady.

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I wandered off to check out more of the lookout area and when I came back I thought my doe was gone, but with careful searching I found her.

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Can you spot the deer?

At least I think it’s her. While I stood on top of the hill 3 deer emerged. I know I took some photos of them all but I don’t have the files and there is no gaps in my file numbers so I have no idea of what happened to them.

Even though Lynda wasn’t with me I decided to try and find all the Red Chairs in the park. These ones weren’t even hard as they are in view from the viewpoint. Their location isn’t on the map and apparently they are elusive as for some reason I only took one photo of them and it is not even close to sharp. Maybe I should go back to coffee in the mornings.

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I did sit on them and do a view from the chair panorama though.

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There are a couple of Bison down on the flat near the middle of the photo but good luck seeing them.

I did a bit closer shot of the river because it reminded me of a reverse giant question mark.dsc04357

I was enjoying sitting in the sunshine with all the peace and quiet but decided it was time to head back to the campground. Along the way some of the bushes caught my eye.

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Was going to hang out at the campsite for a while and explore the immediate area when one of my neighbours had their propane alarm go off. Even with the wind blowing the sound away from me it was quite annoying so I hit the road in search of adventure.

I didn’t get very far from the campground (just down the road and around the corner) when I made my first stop. The former Larson homestead still has a few rough looking building on site. There is a 1.4 km trail that takes you around the area.

These Bison were on the flat across the river.

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They are farther away then they look.

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As I started along the trail I met Brent and Cheryl Reid, the couple who’s propane alarm was going off. Nice couple from Comox, BC. We chatted for a while and they went off to disable the alarm so not to bother anyone else and I continued along my walk.

I could certainly find colour but it’s pretty low to the ground in this area.

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The path winds along the river.

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The Frenchman River with the Larson homestead in the background

It’s a pretty easy walk through the grass. I didn’t see any wildlife but found something interesting to catch my eye. At first I thought it was an egg that was smashed but realized it was a dried out mushroom someone had stepped on.

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The yellow wasn’t all that bad, still not the red and oranges of eastern hardwood forests, but not bad.

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Leaving the Larson Homestead I got all of a couple hundred meters and stopped at the Black-tailed Prairie dog town. Grasslands National Park is the only place they live in all of Canada. They look like really big gophers to me. Was hard to just shoot them with a camera.

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I headed south again and came across a couple male Ring Necked Pheasants. I got shots of them from the seemingly prerequisite distance.

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The west block of Grasslands is currently in 3 parts with “land in transition” in between. I headed out of the part I was in to go look for more red chairs in the far SE corner of the park.

Not far from the park gate I just left is another massive Prairie Dog town and I saw a Badger and had time to get exactly 1 photo of him.

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He disappeared down a hole and in the 10 minutes or so I waited for him to come back out I got nothing. The Prairie Dogs went about their business once he was out of sight.

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The map I was following wasn’t exactly accurate and I only drove into 1 driveway by mistake. I found the red chairs after I drove by the area and out of the park. Once I did that I had a reference point to go back to find them. It was easy once I knew where to look. At least this time I got them in focus.

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I did a view from the chair shot like usual.

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It’s a long way to anywhere from up here.

I had my lunch and decided I’d do a few photos of myself in the chairs. With Lynda at home I had to substitute a body to take her place. Last year while we were in Vancouver we went to the Aquarium and decided souvenirs were cheaper than going in. Lynda bought me a stuffed shark and I named him Jeremy Sharkson, Esquire. Jeremy came with me as he’d been cooped up at home for about a year. He was happy to get out and pose – for the most part – till he got hungry.

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Since it was just a flesh wound, I decided to head back towards the campground.

No map needed to get back and as I got to the first Prairie Dog town I’d stopped at there was a lone Bison walking towards the road.

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I just stayed out of his way and let him cross.

It was a bit too windy to sit at my campsite and read so I went into the Centre they have there to read. The bonus was there were lots of power outlets so I could recharge my phone and make sure my camera battery was topped up.

I couldn’t help but notice how many insects were inside and just outside the windows so I figured I’d try to get a photo or two.

1st up was one of the massive spiders I found. It was hanging outside in front of one of the windows.

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There were a crap ton of wasps inside so I thought I’d see if I could find an angle that looked cool.

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I sat around and read for a couple hours before I had to get supper underway. Once that was all done and cleaned up I had more time to kill before it got dark. It was a clear night and it looked like I might be able to try some night sky photography.

I hauled my big ass tripod back up the hill to where the red chairs were. It was a bit harder to find them in the dark but I managed.

Being able to focus was a challenge. I cranked up my ISO so I could have fairly short exposure times but it was still hard to see enough to focus on stars. I used my flashlight to light up the chairs and focused on them.

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I still didn’t get the chairs as sharp as I’d like but the sky looked pretty damn cool. I have never been able to get photos of the Milky Way before. It was pretty damn cool.

I tried to light the chairs up but with my ISO where it was, no matter how little light I tried to put on them it was too much. I tried using my flash at low power and it looked like they had been nuked. I tried my penlight and while not as bright as my flash, it was not going to be usable. So I got between the light and the camera and it wasn’t what I was looking for, but it was better.

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My final solution was to shoot an exposure for the chairs and I and layer it with one of the sky. My Photoshop skills are not the greatest, but it’s good enough for me.

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I played around for about an hour before I started getting tired. I could see the trail without my flashlight so I followed it back down the hill. It wasn’t the “official” trial so it ended at the campground fence. Getting over the fence wasn’t the problem but once I was over it, there was no more trail to follow and it was darker than the inside of a cow there. I didn’t want to turn on my flashlight and disturb my fellow campers so I slowly made my way towards my campsite. Unfortunately, where I crossed the fence was at the only campsite in the entire campground that had any bushes around it. I thrashed my way through the bushes, avoided stepping on their tent and found the road through the campground. No one yelled at me so I was hoping they were sound asleep.

Crawled into my softer than plywood but harder than an air mattress bed a couple hours later than the previous day. No cake this year but all in all, a good day to turn a year older.

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